World Wide Wolfmueller

Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity

Two Sermons

Aurora, Colorado is still reeling from the recent shootings. I have been wondering what I and the people of Hope Lutheran can do to help, but the only thing I know to do is to pray and preach. Below are two sermons, preached this last weekend, to bring the comfort of the Lord’s word to hearts torn in two.

Here is the little sermon from our special Saturday evening prayer service:

John 10
‘A God Who Bleeds’
Prayer Service
The Eve of Trinity Seven | Saturday, 21 July 2012

Dear Saints,

The devil comes to kill and steal and destroy. He delights in every drop of blood split, in every tear, in every heart-broken, family torn in two, every last breath. The devil loves death, he loves violence, he loves darkness; he loves this tragedy that has unfolded in our neighborhood this week.

But he is never content. He kills, and he wants more. He destroys, and he wants more. The devil is not sitting back tonight, shaking the dust off his hands, content with the pain already inflicted, he wants more. He wants you wrapped up in the chains of the fear of death. He wants your mind and heart to be draped with despair.

As the dust settles around in Aurora, the devil comes to you to tempt you, to tempt you to anger, to tempt you to fear, to tempt you to despair, perhaps worst of all, to tempt you with the idea that because you are suffering God has deserted you, has left you to yourself, that God is far away.

“Where is God in all this? He must hate you, or worse, He must not care.” That, dear friends, is the devil’s voice, the devil’s temptation, and we’ve heard enough of that voice.

We are gathered here this evening to hear the voice of Jesus, your Jesus, who is not a stranger to suffering. Listen, Jesus is not a stranger to suffering. You do not have a god who sits far off, who is distant, who sits on top of the mountain, or is beyond the clouds, who is looking the other way. No, you have Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the one who doesn’t just watch over the sheep. He lays down His life for the sheep. He takes His life and His righteousness to the cross for you. You, dear friends, have a God who bleeds, who bleeds for you, who suffers with you, who hears of the death of His friends and weeps, weeps over death, and fights against death for you. Jesus stands under the devil’s torment, under God’s wrath, under the condemnation of the law, stands with you, stands in your place, and suffers for you.

And if your Jesus suffers for you, then He will certainly suffer with you. When you suffer it does not mean that God is far away. He finds you in suffering; He saves you by suffering. When your friends and neighbors are suffering it does not mean that God has forsaken them or abandoned them. He can’t. He loves them, He loves you too much.

Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” so that you never would. He prays Psalm 22 so that you can pray Psalm 23, “Yeah though I walk through he valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with with.” It the shadow of death, He is with us. In the shadow of violence, He is with us. In the veil of tears, He is with. He cannot leave you or forsake you, He has bound Himself to you, written His name on you with His blood, claimed you as His own and promised you life, His life, eternal life.

Jesus is not far away. The One who died for you now lives for you, prays for you, helps you in time of trouble. He sends His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to comfort you with His presence and His promises, His forgiveness.

And it is His forgiveness, at last, that sets us free, even from the fear of violence, even from the fear of death. For in life and in death you are the Lord’s, your life is His, and because for you to live is Christ, for you to die is gain. Amen.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO

Here is the sermon from Sunday, the Feast of Mary Magdelene.


John 20:1-2,10-18
‘The Lord Gives, the Lord Takes Away…’
The Feast of Mary Magdalene | 22 July 2012

Dear Saints,

The task before us this morning is the worship of God, that is, that we would receive gifts from God. That is what worship is, worship according to the Gospel. We look to our Jesus with faith, hearing and believing His promises and His words. We cry out to Him in time of trouble and we trust that He hears our prayers and answers them.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will hear you, and I will deliver you,” (Psalm 50:10).

We had something like this on Wednesday night, when we were studying the Lutheran Confessions. Melanchthon was writing about the obedience that the law requires, not just an external righteousness, but much more.
But they [the Ten Commandments] also require other things placed far above reason: truly to fear God, truly to love God, truly to call upon God, truly to be convinced that God hears us, and to expect God’s aid in death and in all afflictions. Finally, it requires obedience to God, in death and all afflictions, so that we may not run from these commandments or refuse them when God lays them upon us. (Ap IV (II).8).

This last part is the tough part, to receive from God death and afflictions, to cry out with Job, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Let’s just take out that middle part, eh Job? “The Lord gives, blessed be the name of the Lord.” That’s how we would have it, but Job here is a true Christian, and this is his faith on display, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

How is it that the Lord’s name is blessed when He takes away? How is it that the Lord’s name is blessed when there is a movie theater filled with corpses? How is it that the Lord’s name is blessed as we walk through this life filled with sorrow, filled with loss, filled with senseless violence and rage and hate and loss and pain and tears and confusion and chaos?

We, I think, always want God to do something about it. “God, if you are so big and good, why don’t you stop all this nonsense?” We want God to act according to His strength, that, after all, is what we would do.

But the Lord’s solution to all of the troubles of this world is not, not yet, to exercise His strength. Jesus does not come to this world with guns blazing against the wicked; He does not bear the sword. He comes to us in the midst of our death and sorrow and sin and meets us here. He, in fact, comes in weakness; He comes in shame; He comes in lowly humility; He comes with a cross, with the slaps of a Jewish guard, the whip of a Roman soldier, with three nails driven through His body.

The Lord’s solution to our problem is not to take them away, but to sink Himself into them. The Lord’s solution for our sin is not to wipe it out, but to have it all placed on His back. The Lord’s solution to our death is not to obliterate it, but to breath His last breath, to be laid in the tomb.

The way Jesus comes to fix or problems is not at all the way we expect Him to, it’s not the way we would do things. If we had all that power, we’d use it. But this is why Jesus is the Christ, and you are a Christian. Jesus does all things well. This, His cross and resurrection, are the best.

Which means, as we continue to walk through this veil of tears, our only hope and comfort is the cross. The only answer to our questions is the death of Jesus.

How many of our neighbors, do you think, are asking the question, “Does God love me?” What do you think? I suspect that many of our neighbors have simply concluded that God hates them, or doesn’t care, or that there is no God. If you look around you, at the things happening in this the great temptation, to determine what God thinks about you by how things are going. If things are good, God is smiling; if things are bad then God is frowning. We’ve called this doctrine “Lookaroundism”, you learn about God by looking around, but this is a false doctrine. If you, dear friend, want to know what God thinks about you, then you look to the cross.

There you see His only begotten Son writhing under the pain of your sin, suffering the punishment that you deserve, dying for you, and there you know, without question, that God loves you, and nothing can separate you from this love, no violence, no devil, no bullets, no mad man; not sickness, not pain, not death. This love of God for you is so certain and sure that even if the earth is destroyed it stands, unshaken, and you stand with it, with Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)

Now, to Mary Magdelene, who knew this. She had, Luke tells us, seven demons, and she was rescued from them by Jesus. She was there, looking on, as Jesus was crucified, and she watched as the men took Jesus off the cross and laid Him in the tomb. Mary was there Easter dawn with the other women, but just seeing the open tomb sent her running to find Peter and John. She came back with them, and lingered after they left at the empty tomb, weeping. She sees a man she takes for the gardener, and asks where the body of Jesus is, but this is no gardener, it is Jesus. It is Mary, then, who is the first person to see Jesus risen from the dead.

That’s our Gospel text, and it’s nice to have a bit of Easter in the middle of the summer.

She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

And that word is enough, the voice that sent the demons from her, the voice that forgave her sins, the voice that cried out in agony from the cross, the voice that is now full of life and peace. “Mary.” She throws her self at Jesus feet.

But He comforts her. “Don’t cling to Me.” You, Mary, will always have Me. I will ascend to the Father and therefore be with you always, I will never leave you or forsake you, because I’ve died for you, and destroyed your death. I’ve died for you, and forgiven your sin. I’ve died for you, and made a way for you through death to life, eternal life in the resurrection.

Dear saints, Jesus has died for you. He has risen for you. He has ascended for you. He has promised to be with you always, even in affliction, even in death. This we know for sure, and thus we can say with Job,

The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+ + +

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO

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