This Is Victorious Faith

“In due time…” As I studied 1 Peter 5 this week, that phrase jumped out right off the bat.  THere’s another one like it: “a little while.”  Two pretty small phrases that probably wouldn’t form the usual opening sentences for a sermon on 1 Peter 5, but what is usual now?  What is normal?  Given the circumstances of the last couple of months these two simple, seemingly insignificant modifiers have a great deal of meaning for us to consider, don’t they?

It began March 16.  Is everyone going to remember that day for the rest of their lives?  That was the day that it all shut down.  Stay home, quarantine, self-isolated, social distancing, facemasks, gloves, disinfecting, sanitizer, PPE (personal protection equipment) and all of the other things related to the coronavirus became the vernacular that has altered our lives. 

That was 70 days ago.  I counted.  Does that seem like a long time?  I guess that depends.  If it’s 70 days of vacation in your favorite spot in the world, if it’s 70 days of celebrating the championship of your favorite team, if it’s 70 days doing something you love, if it’s 70 days of eating your favorite foods with no effect on your waistline, if it’s 70 days of something great, well then 70 days is not long at all, is it?  But if it’s 70 days of blizzards and below zero, if it’s 70 days of blazing 100 degree scorching draught, if it’s 70 days of prison time, if it’s 70 days in a coma, if it’s 70 days in self-isolated pandemic, if it’s 70 days of being hunted down like prey, if it’s 70 days of something that is not so great, well then 70 days seems like forever.

Do you notice what’s wrong with that mentality?  It’s all about me.  It’s about what I like or don’t like.  It’s about my schedule.  It’s about my perspective on things.  And that is what gets us into trouble in this life.  When everything revolves around me, when my point of view is all I can see, when I am all that matters, then where is the room for the Lord?  Where is his power?  Where is his deliverance?  Where is his timing?  Where is the faith in his plan?  Where is the honor and glory he deserves? And where is the place for others, for serving, for selfless love, for giving rather than receiving praise?

We all have this struggle.  It is born in us, inherited from our parents and their parents before them, we naturally only care about ourselves.  And that’s so dangerous.  It’s dangerous because what if I can’t do it by myself.   What if I need help?   And I do.  You do, too.  Because there is a lion who is prowling around looking for someone to devour. 

I guess it’s true that on your own you could be alert, you could be of a sober mind as Peter encourages in verse 8.  Another translation for the word “sober-minded” is “self-controlled.”  That really only involves you.  You have to be the one that is alert with your own eyes.  You are the one that has to be free from distractions.  You are the one who has to say no to any of the things that tempt or confuse.  You are the one that cannot be consumed by excess or desires.  You are the one that has to stay away from any form of mental or spiritual drunkenness. It’s true that being alert and sober is what you and I work on for ourselves.

But where do you think you get this kind of self-control and sober mind?  Do you think that comes from being selfish and arrogant?  Do you think that comes from keeping the focus on yourself all the time?  Do you think it comes from seeing everything from your own point of view?

Peter has the answer for us.  He says the way to be alert and sober-minded, the way to resist the danger of the prowling lion is to stand firm in the faith.  That is having an object other than yourself to keep your eyes on, and not just any kind of faith will do for this.  It has to be a specific kind of faith in a very specific kind of object.  It has to be faith in the kind of object that has defeated the prowling lion who is hunting for you.  It has to be faith in the one who can lift you up out of harm’s way at the right time.  It has to be faith in the one who cares for you and can take all of your anxiety.  It has to be faith in the one who can make your suffering last only a little while and who can restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  It has to be faith that you don’t have alone but connects you to others who are going through the same thing you are.

Does such a faith exist?  Is there one who can take my gaze off of myself?  Is there one who can take my focus off of my perspective?  Is there one who can make 70 days seem like a day and a day like 70 days, or how about a thousand years?  Is there one who can give me something different to look at than my ideas of what should happen in the coming weeks and months?

There is such faith and Peter tells us where it comes from in verse 10: “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…”  It doesn’t come from me.  It’s not about my timing, my perspective or my ideas.  This faith is given.

From the God of all grace… That’s the God I have needed over more than just the last 70 days.  I’ve needed the kind of God who sees someone selfish like me, someone near-sighted, someone lacking patience, someone who doesn’t always have his eyes open and alert, someone who doesn’t remain self-controlled, someone who is good at whining, someone stubborn and selfish, someone who is such an easy target for the roaring lion – he sees me exactly as I am with ALL GRACE.

He’s got all the selflessness.  He’s got all the service.  He’s got all the mercy.  He’s got all the willingness.  He’s got all the love.  And it’s all for me.  It cannot possibly be deserved.  Not by me with my sinful heart, sinful attitude, sinful words, and sinful actions.  It cannot possible by earned by you.  Not with your sinful condition that is identical to mine.  This grace is so free and full from the God who loves us enough to put in motion a plan that makes absolutely no sense, not for someone like me and someone like you.

With this grace God called you… Something pretty cool happened last Saturday and this past Thursday.  Maybe you saw it in the email I sent out to our church members, maybe you watched the virtual services.  At Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, graduates were given assignments into the ministry as teachers and pastors.  They were given their first call to teach or to preach, their first classrooms or pulpits, their first students or members.  God did the work of preparing them through the work of our church body and our ministerial education schools.  God opened a spot.  And God is now sending them out as called workers in his church. 

It’s very similar to what happened for all who believe.  No, not all of God’s people get a call into public ministry as a pastor or teacher, but we all are called by the gospel into God’s family.  I know that because it’s the only possible way for me and for you to be a believer.  I would much rather look at myself and focus on what I like and what I want than humble myself under someone else.  I would much rather fix my problems and pain than casting them onto someone else, because then I get the credit.  I would much rather hunt down any foe with my own skill, because then I can show that I am able to conquer anything that comes my way.

I have to be called away from all of that.  I have to be removed from my own peril.  I have to be dragged away from the sinful selfishness that only cares about myself.  And God’s grace has that kind of power.  The call of the gospel, the good news of someone more powerful and more caring and more transformative than me, is the only way to God.

And it leads us to his eternal glory…  No, it’s not an earthly solution that can undo 70 days of craziness.  It’s not a cure for a disease that will last me only as long as my heart can keep beating.  The grace of the eternal God that called me out of darkness leads to his home. It’s the place that goes beyond my perspective, my timeline and my thoughts.  It’s his, the God who loves me and protects me and guides me from my first breath to my last and than endlessly longer than that.  It’s his heaven that last forever, and through his gracious gift that called me to faith, it’s all mine.  And all of it is yours.

And the object of this faith?  It’s Christ.  The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…  Jesus is one who crushed the prowling lion’s head.  Jesus is the one who cares for you by taking all your punishment for sin and all your anxiety about the past, present and future.  Jesus is the one who has power and authority to rule with a might hand and lift you up when the time is right.  Jesus is the one who gives you the strong, firm, and steadfast foundation.  Jesus is the one who makes eternity yours because he took away the sting of death. 

Does all this sound familiar?  It’s what we have been talking about for the past 43 days.  This is the joy we have because of Easter.  We have victory no matter what in Christ, because through faith in him we have the God of all grace.  He’s on our side. Day after day, he guides us and protects with his might hand.  Through faith in Jesus we have the call to eternal glory, where a little suffering and a little bit of time cannot begin to compare. Through faith in Jesus it’s not about our time, our perspective, our plans. 

That’s why I really enjoy how this section ends compared to how it begins.  It begins talking about waiting for God to lift you up “in due time.”   There are these encouragements to be alert and stand strong as we resist the devil here on earth.  But Peter ends by point us to what really matters.  That’s what God has done over the last 70 days, and that’s what the God of all grace will do forever.  To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.


Eater 2019

Revelation 5:11-14
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.


(This was a day of confirmation, as you will note throughout the sermon)

Not all of you here today know Jordan, but you should because she is the best.  Isn’t that right, Jordan? You’re so great at everything.  You did such a good job on Thursday night at Examination.  Even though you were nervous, you answered questions about the Bible and Jesus very well.  Even though a lot of people might consider what you said to be foolishness and nonsense, even though some people would make fun of you for studying the Bible and being here today, and even though God says being a Christian is not and never will be easy, you are here.  And that’s awesome.  And do you know what else is awesome? You’ve been here a lot at church.  You have been a part of the Children’s Christmas service a bunch of times, reciting, reading, and singing.  You’ve been at Sunday School, sometimes even when you were tired or under the weather, but you still came.  Jordan, you’ve made it this far, and we are all so happy for you.  We can’t wait for the service to be over so we can all get pictures with you and eat cupcakes and celebrate because, Jordan, you deserve it.  Is this getting awkward for you, yet?

These are the types of things we should be thinking and saying, if Confirmation is your graduation from the Bible.  These are the types of things we should be thinking and saying, if Confirmation is all about what you have done to get here.  Jordan, these are the types of things we should be thinking and saying, if you are just that amazing.  Then, the theme for today should really be Jordan’s life is our praise.

But that’s not the theme for worship today.  You and I and all of us are not here because this is all about Jordan.  This is not your graduation.  And quite frankly, Jordan, you don’t deserve all sorts of praise today.  Over the past three years of Catechism class, you didn’t get every answer right and you didn’t learn all of your memory passages perfectly.  Over the past three years of Catechism class, there was some daydreaming, there were sometimes when I caught you not paying attention because you were finishing up some French fries from Wendy’s, drinking some Dr. Pepper, or talking with your neighbor.  Over the past three years of Catechism class, you didn’t have 100% attendance.  You weren’t at every Sunday School class.  You missed church every once in a while.  You weren’t always excited and happy about being up front for the Children’s Christmas services.

But, Jordan, you are not alone in that.  If we brought up every person here today and put them in the front row and started talking about them, we could say a lot of nice things.  But, Jordan, you know what else we would have to say about each and every person here?  Just like you, they have not been perfect.  In fact, all of you have been a whole lot less than perfect.  Each and every one of you have failed to live up to God’s standard.  You have failed to love God fully and completely.  You have failed to use his name properly.  You have failed to read and study God’s Word and worship like he wants you to. You have failed to love others in the same way that you are willing to take care of yourself. You have failed to respect and honor your parents and all those in authority.  You have failed to keep hatred, lust, gossip, jealousy, out of your heart and mind.  You have failed to carry out the actions that are pleasing to God and refrain from those that are displeasing to him.

That means the theme today cannot be Bill’s life or Val’s life, our praise.  Not Scott, not Carol, not Linda, not Aaron, not Alice, not Courtney,  not Jerry, not Amy, not Jim, not Tim, not Lynn, not Gary, not Perry, not Sherry, not Terry, not Barry.  Not one of you can put your name in that spot on the front of the worship folder and think that praise should be yours.

I forgot another name.  The theme today is not Tom’s life, our praise.  Yes, the pastor is not above God’s law.  Yes, this pastor is not above anyone here, because I have failed too many times to count.  Every single thing that God points his finger at you about, he points his finger at me.  Therefore, this church is not about me.  This worship service, this sermon, is not about me.  If that were the case, we would be in deep trouble.  Because then this church, this worship service, this sermon would be about a sinful man, and I cannot save a single person, not even myself.

But Jordan, you know all about that, don’t you?  You know what’s wrong with you, and with me, and the whole world. God’s Word has taught you the law that shows your sins.  And God has taught you that you can’t change your position.  You can’t change your sins. God has taught you that you cannot by your own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ or come to his side.  God has taught you that there is no way that you can earn God’s love and buy your way into heaven.

So, there has to be someone else who does is perfectly for you.  There has to be someone who can rescues you and me and the world.  There has to be someone who can remove our sins from our record.  There has to be someone who loves us enough to take our punishment for sin, because that’s the only way that you and I can be saved.  There has to be someone who we can praise for giving us the indescribable gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  There has to be someone who receives louds songs of joy and gladness from people all over the world and even from the holy angels because of what he did.

Jordan, by God’s grace with the power of his Word, he has taught you that there is:  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise… To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

You know, it’s often a sad thing when someone close to you dies.  One way people try to cope with loss is to talk about the good times, right? You remember and talk about all the fun and all the positives.  But you can’t do that forever and ever.  You talk about them for a few days before and after the funeral.  You have fond memories for a while but not forever and ever.  Because eventually your memories fade.

My first grandparent died when I was a senior in high school.  Grandpa Tessmer was a dairy farmer.  I still have some memories, but I can’t remember everything.  And it will only get less and less as time passes and I get older.  Then, I will die and so will all the other people who knew him.  And so in less than 100 years no one will remember Glenard Tessmer.  No more fun stories, no more praise, no more honor.  Nothing.  The same thing will happen to me and to you, Jordan.

But for people who make huge sacrifices, for people who win huge victories, for people who do things that are so amazing, they do get remembered in history books, in museums, in schools, online, and stuff like that.  But those people do not get to personally receive the praise and honor and glory.  They are dead.

This Lamb we are talking about is completely different.  This Lamb who was slain can actually still receive and thanks and praise and honor and glory, because even after he was killed for us, even after he died in our place, even after he took the punishment that we deserve, even after he sacrificed himself to save us, he did not stay dead.  No, the tomb could not hold Jesus.

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

The Lamb of God who died for your sins and mine and the sins of the whole world, he came back for us.  Jesus came back from the dead to save us not just from sins, but also to save us from death and hell.  He came back from the dead so that we could live with him forever.

And guess what we will be doing for the one who saved us from sin, death, and hell?  Guess what we will be doing for the one who destroyed the power of the devil for us?  Guess what we will be doing in the perfect paradise that was purchased for us by Jesus and freely given to us in the gospel?  Guess what we will be doing for the one who sits on the throne of heaven and loves us from all eternity?  Guess what we will be doing for the one who made us and everything in this world and then made us his very own children through baptism?  Guess what we will be doing?

That’s right!  We will be giving him all the praise and honor and glory.  We will be worshipping him for all the things he has done to save us.

But we don’t have to wait to do that, do we?  Jordan, that’s why you are here.  Because God has changed your life.  He has given you a place in his family.  He has promised to love you and take care of you and protect you and uphold you and guide you and bless you.  And so, we get to say thanks right now.  Sinners that we are, through faith in Jesus, we get to live as God’s children right now.  We get to worship him right now.  We get to give him praise right now.  We get to live for him right now.

Jordan, that isn’t going to stop after today, is it?  Jesus is still going to be worthy of our thanks and praise, because he conquered death for us and purchased heaven for us.  It isn’t going to stop when you get to high school, is it?  It isn’t going to stop when you go off to college somewhere, is it?  It isn’t going to stop when you get married, is it?  It isn’t going to stop when you have kids of your own, is it?  I know you think that’s crazy, but I was in your seat just 20 years ago.  Life goes by pretty quickly!  But it doesn’t matter what happens to us, because Jesus will always be the one who loves us, saves us from our sins, removes the sting of death, and brings us home to heaven.  Jesus is the one who does everything for us.

And so, today on your confirmation day, Jordan, it’s a good day to praise the Lord.  And it will be a good day tomorrow, and next Sunday, and a year from now, and 10 years from now, and 100 years from now, and forever and ever in heaven.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”






Revelation 7:9-17

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”



Last week was a great reminder of the power God has.  God can use the foolish things of this world.  God can use the weak things of this world.  God can use the lowly things of this world.  He can use humans to accomplish the most death-defying feat.   What I mean by that is God can use the mouths and the works of sinful humans beings to get the gospel message out into the world to save people from death and hell.

Remember how he did that with a simple German theology professor?  That kind of person should not be such a big deal, and yet some authors and historians rank Martin Luther in the top 10 (some as high as 3) of the most influential people in the entire world.  But it’s not like there was something so special about a law student turned monk.  There was nothing that significant about his upbringing or devotion to religion that would make the rest of the world take note.  There was nothing amazing about how he became a professor of little Wittenberg University and then a Doctor of Theology.  There have been tons of professors and doctorates through the centuries that have had very little impact on the world.  There wasn’t much about this man, Martin Luther, that made him special.

The single thing that made Martin Luther so influential in world history is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  See the gospel made him ask questions of the deceptive church leaders, write little pamphlets and papers about the problems he noticed, stand up to the authorities, live as an outlaw, translate the Bible into German, use the new technology of the printing press, advocate for the peasants and children, write hymns and catechisms, and leave a legacy that the world simply cannot ignore. The gospel did it all.  The gospel has that kind of power.

Do you know why the gospel can have such an impact?  Do you know why the gospel can turn lowly good-for-nothings, fishermen, tax collectors, farmers, monks, professors into names that are known throughout the world?  It’s because the gospel saves people.

That’s not a cheap advertisement.  Without the gospel the only reality in the world is death and hell.  Without the gospel every single person is doomed to be destroyed by the devil and his evil for eternity.  Without the gospel the only thing you would know is sin.  Without the gospel everyone is dark, lost, and alone forever.  Without the gospel this world is all you have – this world with its polarizing politics, its destruction and devastation, its rape and murder, its greed and lust, its selfishness and pride, its racism and hatred, the list goes on.  That’s all you have.  Sure, there are some sunny days and happy times, but it would all be for nothing.  You live.  You die.  It means nothing.  Your existence really has no value to anyone.  You are pointless.  That’s life without the gospel.  There is no reason for anything and there is no love for anything, except yourself.

Think of it.  You might say, “I could still have my spouse, my kids, my parents, my friends.”  Without the gospel those relationships would only mean something because of what they do for you.  You would enjoy having parents who didn’t leave you at the hospital.  That’s nice for you.  You would enjoy having siblings because then you’re not bored at home with mom and dad, then you can have someone to play pranks on and blame when stuff gets broken, you would have people who could help you as a kid.  It’s good for you.  You would have friends who can do things for you like help on homework, be the other kids on your team, all that kind of stuff.  And that is nice for you to have.  You would maybe have your own spouse of maybe just a live in, because who wants that kind of commitment anymore.  You could have a person satisfy your desires and appetite for a while hopefully.  They could help you with a lot of things around the house and for life.  They could even help you with kids.  And you would want kids to increase your happiness and give you someone to have control over and mold.  Oh!  It’s so sad to look at life without the gospel of Jesus.  So often that is exactly what we are guilty of because we are only looking at ourselves.  Our vision is so narrow and it’s so utterly pointless.

But in the gospel, you have life.  You have meaning.  You have a purpose.  You have a family.  You have a home.  You have it forever.  Because in the gospel you have a God who is not an overlord who rules you like measly subjects or a company owner who wants you to work for him. The second reading says you have a God who wants to love you like children.  He wants to be your Father.

God did everything to make that real for you.  The gospel says that he planned a way to make sinners into his children.  Jesus came to take your sins from you.  You didn’t give them up, he took them from you and removed them from your life when he died in your place. Jesus exchanged his perfection for our sinfulness, his righteousness for our guilt.  He took the punishment that we deserve and gives us a life that is worth more than anything this world could give.  He came back from the dead so that this life you have as a child of God would not just be for years on earth, but for eons upon eons for eternity in heaven.  That is how much God loves you.  That is how much the gospel accomplishes for you.

It turns you from sinners into saints.  Yes, that is what you are.  Like I said at the introduction to this festival day, a saint is not someone who lived a special life or made a specific sacrifice or something that we should remember.  A saint is not someone who went to heaven with the job that they would someone stand in for God every once in a while.   Why would you want a dead person to help you, when you can have the Lord of heaven, the Creator of all things, the Rock of our salvation, the Spirit who set you apart and called you by name help you and care for you?  Can a dead person even do anything after they are dead?  No, not at all.  But God lives.  Jesus lives.  And because he does when God looks at his children he does not see the sin.  He sees the holiness of his Son.  He sees his perfect, pure child.  He sees a saint.

When he looks at all of us together he sees the communion of saints.  Yeah, when we say those words in the creeds we aren’t just talking about believers who have died already.  We’re proclaiming that we believe God can turn us sinners into his holy people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and faith in him alone.

That is the gospel.  And we want the gospel to do that for more people.  We want more and more people to know that life is not what I make of it.  Life is what Jesus has made it for me.  That gospel mission is what changed the world after Jesus ascended into heaven.  Christianity spread all over the world.  That gospel mission is what changed the world again when the pure light of the gospel was hidden by an oppressive church.  The voice of the midair angel has never stopped, and it won’t now.  That’s God’s promise.

And you would think that life for people with this gospel mission, for people who believe in Jesus, for the saints of God, you would think that life would be easier for us.  That’s just not a promise God has ever made, that your life on earth is going to be the best.  The Gospel reading is where Jesus says the opposite.  Your life on earth won’t be the best, but it will be blessed when you are poor in spirit, when you mourn, when you are meek, when you are merciful, when you are pure, and when you are persecuted for your faith in him.  All of those things are a part of life now, to point the saints of God to the home that really matters.

To so many this doesn’t seem worth it.  To so many fixing the brokenness of this life and trying to get my life on earth better is all that matters.  Is that you?  Do you yearn for better days on earth?  Then your vision is too narrow.  The devil is setting you up for failure, for eternal failure.  See, in the gospel, God promises something much better than earthly fixes and pleasures.  The gospel mission gives a vision like the one John sees.

READ v9-17

To people who have been changed by the gospel, to saints who are looking for something better than this world, God gives us a glorious vision of what victory really looks like.  There is a time and a place God has set for all his saints to enjoy this glory, peace, joy, and victory.  We don’t know when our names are going to be called, but when they are we will be taken out of this world.

I just love hearing the verse where God says the ones in white, his saints, are all those who have come out of the great tribulation.  That’s as good as this world gets for believers.  It’s a tribulation.  It’s a place where too often we complain about our homes or hungers, about the weather, about work, about failed relationships.  It’s a place where we cry and weep.  It’s a place that is broken and dark with sin.

But we have the gospel of Jesus.  We have the blood of the Lamb who makes us clean in God’s eyes.  We have the new eyes of saints who look at this world, not as home but as the journey there.  And along the way, God gives us the good news of Jesus so that can help others from every nation, tribe, people and language with their broken lives as well.

And here’s his promise for you: the gospel that we have as his saints now on earth will always lead to this glorious vision of heaven and saints who are with the Lord forever.  Amen.


10.29.17 Week 5

STILLDaniel 6

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”



What would possess this man to do such a thing?  He takes a stand that is not popular at all.  He goes up against the governing authorities of his day.  If he won’t amend his way of life to fit in with the norm, the possibility of death becomes much much more likely. And yet, he doesn’t change.  Why?  Don’t you think it has to be something so important and vital that he could not live without it?

That’s the familiar story of Daniel before us today.  He is living and working in the kingdom of Persia.  He is successful, trustworthy, and powerful.  The king of Persia, in fact, had plans to make this exiled Jewish transplant his number two in command over the whole kingdom.

But the other rulers and administrators don’t like that idea at all.  You see, they see something odd about Daniel.  He marches to beat of a different drummer.  He doesn’t play the same political games.  He is honest, humble, and upright.  Ironically, those are not the traits they are looking for.  They want to find a way to get rid of him.

What would possess another man to do something so very similar in a different place and at a different time?  He takes a stand that is not permitted by the church or empire.  If he won’t amend his way of life to fit with the norm of his day, the possibility of death becomes much much more likely. And yet, he doesn’t back down.  Why?  Don’t you think it has to be something so important and vital that he could not live without it?

That’s the familiar story of Dr. Martin Luther.  He is a monk and theology professor living and working in little old Wittenberg, Germany.  He had no power whatsoever, because that was being craved and consumed by the pope and councils in the catholic church and by Charles V, the emperor.  But that did not stop him from going against the grain and taking a stand.  And because he did, here we stand 500 years later in a different place and at a different time in a Lutheran Church.

What made men like Daniel take a stand?   In the 2000 years between Daniel and Dr. Luther, more people were put to the test, more people were persecuted, more people were even killed for standing up in a similar way.  What could cause such an uproar that it shook the whole world back then and still does 2500 years after Daniel and 500 after Luther put up those 95 theses? What was so important to Daniel and Dr. Luther that they could not imagine life without it?

It really comes down to a single question: who gets the glory?  The rulers who were against Daniel wanted the glory and praise for themselves and for the king.  Luther’s opponents in the church coveted and carried supreme authority and control.  The glory and praise always went back to Rome.

Today, the question still remains.  People take a stand – or they kneel – or they take to social media to put the glory, the praise, the attention where they think it should be.  What is important to them, what is praiseworthy, what is vital for life – that is what it’s all about.  And the list is extensive: racial equality, justice equality, marriage equality, protecting our natural resources, the end of sexual abuse, fixing the problem of global warming, education and on and on it goes.  Many of these things are very worthwhile, very important even.  Some would say that life as they know and like it would cease to exist, that the world would be a far worse place without some of these things.  Who is getting the glory, when these are the things upon which people take a stand.

What is it for you?  What is vital and important?  If a person looks at your life or your Facebook posts, what is the thing that you can’t imagine life without?  Is it your family – parents, children or siblings?  Your job?  Your income?  Your personal goals?  Your hobbies and interests?  Your favorite teams?  Your pets?  Your politics?  Your possessions?  Your routine? Your religious observances?

If these are the things most important to you, can any of them give you the peace and security you need? Can any of those ideals or goals lead you in a direction that will always keep you safe from the chaos?  Can any of those possessions and passions stay with you when everything is falling apart, when people don’t like you, and when your life hangs in the balance? Can any of those things to which we give such devotion and allegiance silence the voices of evil?  Can any of those things stand the test of time and cut through the course of history with unequaled power and authority?  Can any of those things shut the mouths of lions?

Then, they obviously should not be getting so much glory.  They should not be such a huge part of life.  They should not be the things that we put on the list of vitally important for my life.  There is only one thing that can be on that list.

Here’s what happened to Daniel.  At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions…”

When it comes to the good and honest man that Daniel is, there is only one who gets the glory. When it comes to standing up to the other rulers who are trying to get rid of Daniel, there is only one who gets the glory.  When it comes to shutting the mouths of lions, there is only one person who gets the glory.  It’s not Daniel, but it’s the Lord God who made him who he was.  It’s the Lord God who had the power that Daniel trusted.  It’s the Lord God who had to control over his creation and shut the mouths of the lions.

And so when history leads us to a similar man, who gets the glory?   When it comes to boldness to stand up to the corruption and false teachings of the church, when it comes to the authority on which this whole movement began, and when it comes to the message that could not be quieted or quashed in Wittenberg and Germany and throughout Europe, there is only one who gets the glory.  It is the Lord God who stand up to the corruption and false teachings.  It is the Lord God who has supreme authority.  It is the Lord God who has a message that will not be removed from this world until he says it’s time.

500 years later, nothing has changed.  The Lord God, and he alone, gets the glory.  We are not here today to praise Daniel.  We are not here today to praise Dr. Luther.  We are not here today to praise any pastors, teachers, or missionaries who have gone before us.  We here to give all our best praise and glory to God alone.

And do you know why?  It’s not just because he can do cool things like shutting the mouths of lions for a night.  It’s not just because he can turn a lowly priest and professor named Luther into one of the most influential people this world has ever known.  Those things are certainly impressive, but there is more.  God alone gets the glory because of the things we have been talking about this past month, the essential truths of God that have been boldly presented, professed, and proclaimed by prophets and priests of the Old Testament, missionaries and ministers of the New Testament, professors and princes of the Reformation, and still to this day by people just like us.

Remember back to the beginning of this month, what were the children of Israel doing?  Nothing that deserves the glory!  They were wallowing and wailing at the Red Sea.  But God showed them how he saves people when told them to be still and parted the sea, let them go safely through, and then swallowed the Egyptian army up entirely.  Only the Lord saves people.  It’s Christ and Christ alone.   Then, we saw a much smaller group of Israelite people after they had returned from exile.  They heard from God’s Word and saw how it stands alone, not as a book of rules or advice, but as the Words of a God who loves you, forgives you, and powerfully protects you. Only God’s Word proclaims those things for someone no matter what the circumstances.  It’s Scripture and Scripture alone.  Next, we saw King David get a bold promise from God, not because he earned it with a good life or deserved it because he was king.  Instead, God gives his undeserved, unearned, unconditional love to people because that’s who he is and what he does.  It’s called grace and it’s God’s free gift of salvation.  It’s grace and grace alone.  Last week, we saw Abraham get a much bigger perspective than he could ever come up with on his own.  God showed him how when he makes a promise he keeps it even if we can’t understand how or when it will work.  God still does that same work through the Word and sacraments when he plants faith in people.  Only trusting the Lord will give you this bigger perspective and usher you to eternal life in heaven.  It’s faith and faith alone.

Notice, that the focus for Daniel, for Martin Luther, and for us on this 500th anniversary is not “I hope God still gets all the glory.”  It’s not “God should get all the glory.”  It’s not “it would be nice for God to get all the glory.”  It’s not even “I hope God gets some of the glory.”  No! the phrase is: Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone Be Glory.

This is the God who not only shut the mouths of lions for a night but has also silenced the voice of the one who still prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Lutherans loves to sing it this way: “He’s judged the deed is done. One little word can fell him.”  God not only protected Daniel and Luther from physical danger, but he provided the one word that saves us from eternal danger, CHRIST! We have a God who has stepped into history for us.  He has conquered our enemies.  He has removed our fears.  He has provided an eternal home for his people.  And he gets all the glory.

Daniel was willing to do that even though it meant a night with the lions.  And because he did, do you notice what happened?  The great king of Persia, Darius, wrote to all the nations in all the earth a note this note that gives God all the glory: “May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

That lowly German professor was willing to give all the glory to God along.  And because he did, do you notice what happened?  With his nail strokes on the church doors 500 years ago, God shook the foundations of the church with reverberations the whole world has heard ever since.

I guess a good question to ask yourself on this 500th anniversary of the Reformation is: who will do that now?  Who will be like Daniel and Luther?  Who will give God and God alone all the glory? Who will shout his praise and his glory with their words and in their life?  Who will give God alone the glory by saying God still gives, God still works, and God still speaks?  Who will give the glory to God alone by telling their friends, relatives, and acquaintances that we are saved not by what we do, but by his grace alone through faith alone?  Who will give the glory to God alone by sparing no expense to send well-trained pastors and teachers, maybe even your own children, into our communities across America and around the world with the same message that went out from King Darius: The Lord is the living God and he endures forever… He rescues and saves…?  Who will do it?  Brothers and sisters in Christ, and fellow members of the church of the Lutheran Reformation… we will!

To God Alone be Glory! Amen.




(This week, Jesus’ sermon is not so much in the form of his words, but from his appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration and from the Father’s lips.  As we finish the season of Epiphany and get ready for Lent, we get a glimpse of God’s glory in the person of Jesus.  Only a man with power from heaven could save us.  He gives us the message we need from this mountain: God is here to give his people salvation that came from heaven and provides an eternal home for us.  Listen to him and you will not be disappointed.)

Matthew 17:1-9

1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”


It’s all about the glory.  That’s how a lot of these competition shows work.  I’m no expert, but I think most of the intrigue is wrapped up in the glory.  Who’s going to be left standing at the end of the episode?  Who’s going to have the best voice?  Who lost the most weight?  Who will she choose?

I think they’re all a bunch of nonsense, because there’s one huge flaw: what happens after the glorious reveal?  What happens when it’s all done? After fighting over one man and doing anything, and I mean anything, to get him, the Bachelor never has love.  What he has is someone who won a competition.  He doesn’t have someone who will get a bucket for him when he is sick or make his favorite meal once a month.  After the dress is picked and the wedding day comes, then where does this fancy and pricy dress go?  I know in my house it sits in a box in the back of a closet.  When all the pounds are shed, then what happens?  This person who just lost 200 pounds is out of the spotlight.  There’s really no glory in maintaining a diet and exercise plan.  No one watches that show.

The glorious moments on TV are just that, a few fleeting moments.  The glory fades and life gets back to normal. Do you think that is how Peter, James, and John felt as they walked down the mountain?

They had seen his miracles before.  They all knew who Jesus was.  He was God’s chosen one.  He was the Savior of the world.  But they had never seen Jesus glorified like this.  Even during all the big moments of Jesus’ life, he didn’t morph like this.  Sure there were angels singing at his birth, but he was actually quite a normal baby lying in the manger.  The people of Nazareth saw a little boy grow up like little boys normally do (except without any of the mischief).   The miracles were certainly out of this world, but at those times Jesus didn’t change.  He changed the lives of other people with his divine power, but his appearance never resembled God on earth… until now.

Peter, James, and John witnessed something that wasn’t even a little bit normal.  We say that a bride shines on her wedding day. We use the expression that expectant mother glimmers during pregnancy. When a child is born with an elevated bilirubin count (that’s called jaundice) we might talk about the orange glow.  Those things aren’t really happening; it’s a metaphor.  But on this day, it did happen.  Jesus’ face actually lit up like that big ball of hot mass that we wish would make it warmer right now.  His shining face and clothing brought grown men shaking to their knees.

And then, Moses and Elijah showed up, too.  Moses and Elijah both had their own glorious moments.  We heard about Moses on Mount Sinai today.  He witnessed the glory of God as he received the Ten Commandments. God’s prophet, Elijah, saw God’s power on Mount Carmel, when fire from heaven consumed his burnt offering.  Elijah saw God’s glory when the fiery chariots took him from this earth.

These two didn’t show up to give Jesus a pep talk, but it was all a part of the glory that Jesus was given.  Moses is the one who was given the Law.  Elijah is one of the most powerful prophets of the Bible.  Do you see what’s going on here?  Jesus’ eternal identity is revealed in all its glory.  He is the Almighty God.  But along with his power, Jesus is also the one who fulfills all of the Old Testament laws and prophets.

On the top of that mountain, God shows us what kind of Savior he sent to us.  Can you blame Peter for saying, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one fore Moses, and one for Elijah”?  I would want to stay in that moment as well.  But they didn’t.  After this gush of glory, after seeing Moses and Elijah, and after hearing God voice his love and approval of the work Jesus was doing, everything went back to normal.  The glory and the grandeur, the big reveal was done.

Do you ever feel that way?  You know, like those shows on TV.  The glorious reveal is exciting and uplifting, but then it doesn’t last.  Do you feel like the disciples walking down from the mountain, just wishing you could stay longer and get another glimpse?

Let me tell you what I’m talking about.  Life as a Christian starts out great.  Whether it happened when we were baptized as a baby or, for some, when a friend, spouse, or neighbor introduced you to the God who saved you.  God’s glory was bursting as he opened up our hearts and minds to a love that we didn’t think was possible. God’s Spirit planted faith in each of our hearts.  We were changed from darkness to light.  We learned things about our God and our Savior that opened up a completely new life for us – a life that isn’t about rules or opinions or making up for past mistakes, but a life of grace, good news and forgiveness.

But then the glory of it all started to fade.  It happens after confirmation, as if studying God’s Word regularly is only for kids. It happens when life gets really challenging at the loss of a job or a loved one.  It happens when friends and family start to make you the butt of their jokes.  It happens when rumors start to tear God’s family apart.  It happens when temptations come at a fever pace. It happens when guilt keeps you up at night.  It happens whenever we fail to regularly see and hear what great things our Lord has done.

Getting farther and farther away from the glory of the Lord, we become convinced that it is less and less exciting to be a part of God’s family.  Like defiant children we start to plow our own path beyond where we should be.  We start to find more acceptable or more pleasurable avenues. The wonder of the Christian life fades.  We start to say things like, “Lord, maybe it isn’t so nice to be here.”

Today, Jesus clears up some of those misconceptions about the glory of being his follower.  And it happens after his glorious reveal.  While the four of them are coming down the mountain, Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  Jesus isn’t being selfish here.  He’s not the type of guy to keep good news to himself.  What he is doing is telling us that his job isn’t finished.  You see, God’s plan isn’t about earthly glory.  Sure it would be nice to have a fatter bank account and a life filled with earthly honors, but God doesn’t need you to have those things now because he has something better waiting for you. Jesus came down from that mount because there was something more important than earthly glory and power.  Jesus had to finish his work.  That’s what made him leave the glory and power of heaven and live in a place that was lacking it.  God loved you so much that he set aside glory and power so that your eternity could be filled with it.

Today as we have a brief glimpse of the power and glory of God and hear his voice boom from the clouds, we get a preview of what’s coming.  We get a preview of what Jesus has won for us.  And he didn’t do his saving work with power and glory.  He did it with the most brilliant display of love and humility.  Just think of his betrayal, his anguish, his arrest, his “trial,” how he was used as a punching bag, how he was stripped of his dignity.  Think of his physical pain and suffering, and then think of his mental pain and suffering as his Father abandoned him to suffer for the sins of the world.

You and I are allowed to witness Jesus’ glorious reveal along with those disciples because God wants us to know that Jesus is the right one for the job.  What’s the job?  It’s not bringing you glory and power for your lives on earth.  Jesus’ job wasn’t to make people afraid of God’s power.  Jesus’ job was to save you from darkness of your sin.  Jesus’ job was to remove your guilt forever.  Jesus’ job was to restore our broken relationship with God.  Jesus’ job was to give us a home in heaven.

Did you remember those words Jesus uses? “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  Unlike the participants in those TV shows, who have to keep the results quiet until the show airs and unlike the disciples who had to keep this transfiguration silent for a while, we get to speak up because we know what happens.  We know that Jesus’ work didn’t end with suffering and death.  It ended in life.  He rose from the dead.  We are about to start that journey this week as we walk with Jesus down from this mountain to Mt. Calvary.  But let’s never forget that his journey ends at the empty tomb.

So take note of what’s going on today.  Pay attention to the sights and sounds.  God has a message about Jesus for us, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  Listen and learn from Jesus over the next 6 weeks during Lent.  We are going to see him do things for us that no one else can do.  And don’t worry about your problems and guilt.  Jesus calmly reassures us, “Don’t be afraid.” This is not like one of those garbage shows on TV, where the glory wears off in the weeks and months that follow.  This is God showing us the glory of our Lord Jesus.  He is your God and your Savior.  And always will be.

This is the kind of show that will never get old.  Yes, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Amen.