Jon’s Posts

Sermon on the Circumcision and Name of Jesus

The following homily was preached at the LCMS International Center chapel this morning by The Rev. John Fale, Interim Co-Director of the Office of International Mission.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived (Luke 2:21).

“I am not chicken, I am Joshua!” my 3 yr old grandson exclaimed defiantly. Joshua has a natural cowlick that is in the center of his head. His parents accentuate the cowlick by wetting his hair and bringing it up to a peak that runs from front to back. So I had been calling him chicken. Finally, on the third day, he had had enough. He wouldn’t stand for it any longer and he responded sharply, “I am not chicken, I am Joshua!”

Joshua John was the name given to him by his parents at his baptism. He knew it. He was confident of it and no one, not even his Papa, would tell him otherwise.

In the Old Testament lesson for this week of the church year, which marks the circumcision of our Lord and the giving of His name, God commanded Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the children of Israel with what has come to be known as the Aaronic blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Num 6:22-27) With this blessing, God told Moses, the priests put the name of God upon the children of Israel and with His name He promised to bless them.

Jesus—the name chosen by the Father and communicated to Mary and Joseph by Gabriel—because he would save his people from their sin. Jesus was the name the Father placed upon His Son.

Jesus came for one reason—to save people from sin. He came into this world, born of a virgin to save you. Each one is the chief of sinners. It has to be that way, or there is no room for Jesus in the Inn of your soul. Regarding yourself as chief of sinners empties you of your own self-righteousness, so you are prepared to receive this Jesus, who is Immanuel, God wrapped in human flesh, and to receive the gifts He brings: forgiveness, everlasting life, and freedom from the curse of the law.

Jesus. It is the name above all other names, Paul told the Christians at Philippi. It is the name at which every knee will bow.

What a blessing from God that we are privileged to have the name of Jesus placed upon us, with all of the blessings, rights, and benefits, connected to this name.

We receive that name in Baptism, when Satan is cast out and the living Lord abides with us. We continue to receive the name of God as God’s priests today place His name upon His people with His words of the Aaronic blessing, and we are promised, we are guaranteed that through that name we receive the blessing of God through that name..

This is the name that we can call upon in every trouble, in every prayer, in every praise, and in the giving of thanks. What a holy name that has been given to us with many blessings.

Yet, we profane God’s name and sin against the name that was given to us when we use His name in vain: cursing, swearing, lying, and deceiving others. To Luther’s list I would add that we sin against this holy name when we use His name to manipulate others and to get our way, which is so tempting especially as we are involved in the work and the life of the church. The Law of God accuses us, lays open our dark hearts, and exposes our sin against His name. Yet, thanks be to God, the Law also leads us to the mercy of God in the name of Jesus, the One who saves His people.

Thanks be to God that we have this name, which assures us that our sins against His name are forgiven in the blood of Jesus. Because of His mercy and promises, He will not withhold His name from us because He wants to bless us through His name:

This new year, use this wondrous name often!

  • Use the name of Jesus as you pour your heart out in prayer.
  • Use the name of Jesus when you are weak and helpless, that his grace may be sufficient for you.
  • Use the name of Jesus if in this new year you or a love one is call by God to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and this Good Shepherd will comfort you with his rod and staff.
  • Use this name when you feel forsaken and abandoned, and you will hear his voice speak to you, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
  • Use the name of Jesus when you face your worst fears, knowing that he will send his angels to watch over you and guard you.
  • Use the name of Jesus when you are tired—tired of your sin, tired of the sin of the world that hurts you, tired of the sin our fellow employees who hurt you, tired of the sin of your family and loved ones who hurt you, tired of the constant battle with Satan, tired from the burden of your own guilt. As you use this name that has been given to you, Jesus tenderly invites you, “come to me, you who are tired and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you for my burden is easy and my load is light.”
  • Use the name of Jesus when you are grateful for all that God has given to you, joining one another in the psalms, hymns, and songs of the church that give him thanks and praise.

Through faith, God gives you the name of Jesus. With His name you receive all the benefits of His perfect life under the Law, all the benefits of His shed blood that covers sin, all the benefits of His resurrection that swallowed up death.

You see, in the name of Jesus, nothing can harm you, nothing can overcome you, and nothing can destroy you.

I teased my grandson with the name of chicken, but he knew better and he was able to confidently rebuke me. This year, I guarantee you that Satan, the Law, and your conscience will taunt you. When you are accused of being nothing but a damned sinner, unworthy of the love of God, nothing but a hypocrite, nothing but a fake, worthy only of death, I want you to remember that you know better. Your name is Christian! When you are accused, you may look Satan, the Law, and your conscience in the eye and reply defiantly with childlike confidence, “Yes, I am a damned sinner. I am unworthy of the love of God. I am a hypocrite and a fake and deserve nothing but death. But what of it? I am also a child of God, blessed with His name. The blood of Christ has taken away all of those things and He has put on me His righteousness! They cannot harm me. He has freed me from you and all those things that seek to hold me captive.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, begin this New Year with that confidence and go forth boldly, living each day joyfully and to the fullest, because God has placed His name upon you.

Amen.

Sermon from LCEF Conference

Listen to an exceptional sermon preached at November’s LCEF Conference in Raleigh, NC by Dr. Jon Diefenthaler, President of the LCMS Southestern District.

Dr. Jon T. Diefenthaler from Parabolic Media on Vimeo.

On Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor the men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces. It is a time to give thanks God for these brave men and women — many of whom returned home with grievous injuries and others who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

As we reflect on the service and selflessness of our military veterans, this is also a good time to give thanks for our LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces. Since the Civil War, LCMS pastors have served as military chaplains. Today, there are more than 200 LCMS military chaplains — some serving on active duty here in the U.S. and overseas, some serving with Reserve and National Guard units, and some serving as chaplains with the Veterans Administration, Civil Air Patrol and Federal Bureau of Prisons.

A special insert to the November Reporter introduces the church to some of the LCMS chaplains serving today. In the cover article, Chaplain Michael N. Frese writes about the “constant danger” he and the troops live with daily in Afghanistan.

“There is nothing like death to focus us more clearly on life,” he wrote. “In this dangerous environment, I am God’s mouthpiece to share with them the life that Christ has won for them on the cross.”

You can also watch and share video interviews with Capt. Frese and others here.

The special Reporter insert also provides information about Operation Barnabas — a network of care to military members and their families as well as veterans. Local congregation-based Operation Barnabas chapters are now forming throughout the LCMS to serve veterans and service families in their communities. To learn more, see page 2 of the insert.

Finally, Chaplain Mark Schreiber, director of the LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces, has written a special commentary in observance of Veterans Day.

Please pray for our veterans, chaplains and military personnel. In addition to Ministry-by-Mail, LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces provides “God’s Word of Encouragement” to chaplains for distribution to those they serve. Your gift will provide materials for chaplains, service personnel and veterans and for everything Ministry to the Armed Forces does!

Think Tank on Campus Ministry Announced

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Last month, President Harrison wrote a “Pastoral Letter about Campus Ministry” to the church and signaled that the Office of National Mission (ONM) was prepared to take direct leadership once again in support of campus ministry.  He mentioned that the ONM was at work coordinating a task force as well as initiating plans for a national campus ministry conference in the future.  As the Executive Director of the ONM, I want to update you on our plans.

First, a President’s Think Tank on Campus Ministry has been scheduled for January 3–4, 2012, at the International Center in St. Louis, Mo.

The following individuals have been invited, and have agreed to, participate in the meeting:

  • Mrs. Anne Bakker, Mt. Pleasant, Mich., ISM director at a full-time campus ministry
  • Mr. Andy Bates, St. Louis, Mo., Career and Technology Education specialist, St. Louis College at Meramec
  • Mr. Phillip Fischaber, Tulsa, Okla., college student, LSF Regional representative
  • The Rev. Dr. Erik Herrmann, St. Louis, Mo., CSL representative
  • Mr. Jon Jensen, Metro St. Louis, Mo., executive director, LCMA
  • The Rev. Mark Kiessling, St. Louis, Mo., LCMS Youth and Young Adult Ministry
  • The Rev. David Kind, Minneapolis, Minn., full-time campus pastor, Higher Things vice president
  • The Rev. Dr. Paul Maier, Kalamazoo, Mich., COP, Praesidium (Third Vice-President)
  • The Rev. Richard Manus, Fenton, Mo., LCMS campus ministry counselor (1998–2002)
  • Dr. Angus Menuge, Mequon, Wisc., CUS professor, commissioned teacher
  • Mrs. Martha Milas, Champaign, Ill., Board for National Mission
  • Miss Shaina Mitchell, Muncie, In., full-time campus ministry deaconess
  • Mrs. Marcia Mittwede, Round Rock, Texas, ISM, Inc. co-president
  • The Rev. Max Mons, Iowa City, Iowa, full-time campus pastor
  • The Rev. Ian Pacey, Tucson, Ariz., full-time campus pastor
  • The Rev. Prof. John Pless, Fort Wayne, Ind., CTSFW representative
  • The Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz, Huntington Beach, Cali., parish pastor
  • Dr. James Tallmon, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Board for National Mission
  • The Rev. Jay Winters, Tallahassee, Fla., full-time campus pastor, LCMA Board Member, former LSF Advisor
  • Mr. Greg Witto, Charleston, Ill., full-time director of campus ministry, DCE, LCMA Vice President
  • The Rev. Marcus Zill, Laramie, Wyo., full-time campus pastor, Christ on Campus executive, Higher Things

While we would love to have more participants, this geographically diverse and well-rounded mix of laity, commissioned and ordained ministers represents well those who are presently engaged in campus ministry (e.g., LCMA, ISM, LSF, CoC, etc.) and incorporates those with significant past campus experience and others who can contribute in giving input and direction to our office. The Think Tank also includes two representatives from the National Mission Board, one member of the Council of Presidents and representatives from both seminaries and one of our Concordia universities.

Second, I have also formed a steering committee to begin preparations for a future national campus ministry conference. That committee includes:

  • Rev. Marcus Zill, Laramie, Wyo., Chair
  • Mr. Andy Bates, Wildwood, Mo.
  • Miss Shaina Mitchell, Muncie, Ind.
  • Rev. Max Mons, Iowa City, Iowa
  • Rev. Jay Winters, Tallahassee, Fla.

This committee will start work as soon as possible but will also have the opportunity to gain valuable input from the other Think Tank participants at the early January meeting.

Thank you for the tremendous amount of helpful advice and input that so many of you have given to our office in the last couple of weeks.  We look forward to working with all of those above—and the many more whom they represent—as we give shape to this new direction for campus ministry in our beloved Synod together through the Office of National Mission.

We will do our best to keep the church up to date as plans continue to materialize. As always, we value your ongoing input and covet your prayers as we seek to strengthen our work on our nation’s college campuses for the sake of the Gospel.

Peace,

Rev. J. Bart Day
Executive Director of National Mission
bart.day@lcms.org

Reformation Sermon at Historic Trinity—Detroit, Michigan

President Harrison preached at on John 8:31-36 at Historic Trinity Lutheran Church this past Reformation Sunday.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

The choir, handbells, brass, and organ played at the three services offered that morning.

President Harrison also preached at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church, Frankenmuth, Michigan that afternoon at a choral vespers service. The choir, brass, and organ led the singing there as well.

Rev. Jon D. Vieker
Senior Assistant to the President