TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF ORDINATION
THE REV. MICHAEL HENRICHS
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST - JUNE 19, 2016
LUKE 8:26-39; GALATIANS 3:23-47; ISAIAH 65:1-9
JESUS COMES TO YOU DOING STRANGE AND WONDERFUL WORK!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear members of Our Savior – dear guests – dear Pastor Henrichs, Rachel, Caleb, Mary;  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever (Galatians 1:3-4).  Amen.


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh; Jesus comes!  Always one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He comes!  As God’s “yes” to every promise (2 Cor. 1:20) as fulfiller of the law and the prophets He comes! (Luke 24)  With rest and refreshment for burdened souls (Matt. 11:28-30) He comes!  The reason His Church gathers together in worship each week is because Jesus comes!  The reason a seminary candidate was called and ordained and installed to serve Zion Lutheran Church in Avon, South Dakota twenty years ago on the fifth Sunday after Pentecost is because Jesus comes.  The reason Our Savior, White Fish Bay called Pastor Henrichs to serve them over a decade ago is because Jesus comes to His gathered people. 


Risen from the grave He comes to you each week through the proclamation of His Word – through the speaking of Christ (Rom. 10:17).  He comes among His gathered people each week serving them with holy food – His very body – His very blood – to forgive and heal and strengthen them.  The healing He provides each of you is not disconnected from the healing He bestowed upon the man in the country of the Gerasenes.

TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF ORDINATION
THE REV. MICHAEL HENRICHS
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST - JUNE 19, 2016
LUKE 8:26-39; GALATIANS 3:23-47; ISAIAH 65:1-9
JESUS COMES TO YOU DOING STRANGE AND WONDERFUL WORK!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear members of Our Savior – dear guests – dear Pastor Henrichs, Rachel, Caleb, Mary;  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever (Galatians 1:3-4).  Amen.


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh; Jesus comes!  Always one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He comes!  As God’s “yes” to every promise (2 Cor. 1:20) as fulfiller of the law and the prophets He comes! (Luke 24)  With rest and refreshment for burdened souls (Matt. 11:28-30) He comes!  The reason His Church gathers together in worship each week is because Jesus comes!  The reason a seminary candidate was called and ordained and installed to serve Zion Lutheran Church in Avon, South Dakota twenty years ago on the fifth Sunday after Pentecost is because Jesus comes.  The reason Our Savior, White Fish Bay called Pastor Henrichs to serve them over a decade ago is because Jesus comes to His gathered people. 


Risen from the grave He comes to you each week through the proclamation of His Word – through the speaking of Christ (Rom. 10:17).  He comes among His gathered people each week serving them with holy food – His very body – His very blood – to forgive and heal and strengthen them.  The healing He provides each of you is not disconnected from the healing He bestowed upon the man in the country of the Gerasenes.


"That man had demons!  Jesus asked him “What is your name?”  and he said “Legion,” for many demons had entered him.  And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.  A strange text for the anniversary of an ordination – one might think – but it’s been given to us – so let’s hear.   


What is not strange about this event, scripturally speaking, is the presence of the demons themselves.  From beginning to end Scripture reveals the presence and effect of Satan and his legions.  A murderer and a liar he accused Job before God.  He entered Judas to betray Jesus and sifted Peter like wheat. He filled the heart of Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit.  He buffeted Paul with a thorn in the flesh and hindered his travel.  (Job 1) (John 8:44) (Luke 22:3) (Luke 22:34) (Acts 5:3) (2 Corinthians 12:7) (1 Thess. 2:18).  You see, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:12).  As St. Paul  wrote to the church at Corinth – Satan masquerades as an angel of light and sends out his messengers as apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). 


The church father, Chrysostom, said “An angel of light is one who is free to speak because he stands close to God.  This is what the devil pretends to be.”  Our Confessions teach “He holds everyone captive who has not been set free through faith.  Against the devil the power of Christ is needed” (Apology, IV, 142, 130).   That’s why Christ called Pastor Henrichs to serve you – and that’s why Jesus continues to come among you to do His strange and wonderful work. 


When Jesus stepped out on land and met this man, He did so from waters of rest calmed by the authority of His word.  Disciples had roused a sleeping Jesus with the cry Master, Master we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves…and there was a calm.  (Luke 8:22-25).  Now He deals with a storm of demonic forces tormenting this man.  For a long time, he had worn no clothes nor lived in a house.  He was isolated - without self-control – living in misery.  He was deeply burdened and defenseless.  He was experiencing a living death – even living among the tombs.  His problems were not psychological but satanic.  


Our deepest problems stem from the same source for our human nature is too weak to resist the devil by its own strength.  While not physically possessing us as with this man, the temptations of the devil and his legions can burden and isolate and insulate us from eternal realities and from earthly duties.  They tempt us to hang out in the graveyard of our own understanding – isolated by self-pride or self-pity – tantalized by this world’s entertainment and stuff – as if these quickly passing things are the main thing.


In the deepest way, just like the man in our text, we are completely helpless to change our situation.  The downward drift of our sinful nature does not disappear.  The fetters of the law (the guardian that Paul spoke of to the Galatians) enrage us – or make us stubborn – or give us false security – or crush our hope – but they have no power to rescue us.  We are held captive under the law.  (Gal. 3:23-25).  That is why you continue to hear from the mouth of your servant that you are not strong enough to master the law or to handle the lure of Satan and his legions.  Your native idolatry – your unbelief – your desire to be on the throne must be laid bare. 


In this light – consider how easily we seek to judge God’s work.  Is it not instructive how we question the wisdom of Jesus’ work in the destruction of the pigs?  We easily forget that all creation groans under the curse of our sin and that death quickly comes to all animals.  But – the thought then comes - would Jesus cause the economic loss of what belonged to the citizens of this region?  We are like that – you see – forgetting that these were God’s animals who said…every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).  As always Jesus’ work is for us and at this one place and at this one time - by Jesus’ strange and wonderful work - unclean spirits are now in unclean animals in an unclean death.  The Greek indicates they were literally “choked” – a word that occurs only here and in the parable of the sower where thorns choked the seed.  The fate of the swine is a pale reflection of the fate of hearers of the Gospel who let the cares of the world choke faith in Christ.  Yet our supposed superior sensibilities and reason can presume to fault Jesus’ strange and wonderful work.


Dear Christians, Satan would even use pigs to sidetrack our thoughts and our joy in Christ and His eternal gifts!  See the wonder!  See how beloved this man was to God!  Naked and out of control - on the verge of self-destruction - alone and isolated and in the midst of death - destined for the abyss – along with his inhabitants he was!  And just like that he is a temple of God!  This former madman was sitting calm on the hillside.  The people went out to see…and they came to Jesus and found the man…sitting at the feet of Jesus (the position of hearing His teaching), clothed and in his right mind…The authority of Jesus changed his life!  It was a new day, a new beginning, a new life for this man.


As Jesus’ work drove Satan from this man’s life and left him properly clothed so His ongoing ministry through his pastors today - to you through Pastor Henrichs - has not changed.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ?  That’s the clothing you need – from waters of rest.  That’s the clothing that gives you a new day, a new beginning even today!  The Word of God teaches that we are conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own – and He has claimed you!  That is why the devil was renounced with all his works and ways as you were baptized.  Luther’s Baptism rite includes a command of exorcism…“depart, you unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Beloved Jesus drove Satan out of you at your baptism and He has given him no permission to enter you again.  Pastor Henrichs pictured remembrance on his office door of Christ’s strange and wonderful work at this baptismal font flows from such eternal things and gifts. 


As Jesus’ work left this man in his right mind and sitting at His feet His ongoing ministry through His pastors today – through Pastor Henrichs to you - has not changed.  When the risen Christ opens minds to understand the Scriptures – the right mind sees Jesus – crucified - risen - ascended - preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus comes to you through His preached Word doing His strange and wonderful work of crushing and healing of killing and making alive.  Through the preaching of Christ demons are sent from and kept from where they ought not be – inhabiting man – created to be sons of God (Luke 3:38)


The man you have called is insufficient for all of this – for the office you have called him to (2 Cor. 3:5).  Not that he believes he is sufficient to claim anything as coming from him but his sufficiency is from God who has made him competent to be a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.


Twenty years ago – candidate Henrichs was rightly focused on being a minister of God’s new covenant – the sum and substance of which is the New Testament in Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.  His clear focus caused a bit of a stir in the South Dakota District.  The District President at that time called me and asked about this new candidate and a request he had made to be the celebrant for the Lord’s Supper at His ordination service.  This is a wonderful practice (not strange at all) – but it had become strange (very rare) in our synod congregations.  Conversations proceeded and so did Holy Communion at the ordination of Pastor Henrichs.  That good practice is becoming more frequent in our circles.  It rightly confesses the work of a minister of the new covenant – so that God’s people are not denied the opportunity to receive this strange and wonderful work of Jesus as they gather to receive His gifts.   


How quickly those twenty years have passed.  How much has changed in those two decades.  Societal decay and increasing governmental intrusion work to constrict the confession of Christ in the public square.  Who could have pictured the highest court in our land unable to recognize what God’s gift of marriage is?  The external threats in our land and other lands against the strange and wonderful work of Christ are real and rising.  But threats from the inside are even more dangerous and deadly. 


As he was installed to serve you – your pastor promised faithfulness to God’s Word and also to be constant in prayer for those under his pastoral care.  You - in turn - promised to pray for him always that in his labors he may retain a cheerful spirit and that his ministry among you may be abundantly blessed.  How easily that constant/always prayer for one another slips away!  How necessary repentance is!  How constant/always is our need for God’s holy absolution!  How total and freeing His absolution is – removing all that we in our sin do and leave undone. 


To rejoice in the completeness of God’s forgiveness given to you in Christ, consider the abyss spoken of by the demon to Jesus.  The abyss is the place of eternal destruction for Satan and those who follow him.  Of the eternal torment in the abyss we read in Revelation, He will drink the wine of God’s wrath poured full strength into the cup of his anger and he will be tormented with fire…(Rev. 14:10).


The wine of God’s wrath poured full strength into the cup of his anger is what Christ the Lord entered our human story to drink in our stead.  By sin and death surrounded this is the very cup that caused Jesus’ prayer of agony and bloody sweat in Gethsemane.  Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.


See how beloved you are to God!  See how He sends the power of evil reeling!  Jesus drank the full strength of God’s wrath because He was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  While the demon-possessed man could not be bound by chains and shackles, the Son of the Most High God allowed himself to be bound in Gethsemane and led away to the cross.  In that strange and wonderful work, in that once for all sacrifice, peace with God once more is made.  Satan’s accusing head is crushed.


Oh, the devil will certainly continue to tempt you and accuse your conscience seeking to make you despair.  At times you may feel isolated and buffeted and even on the edge of destruction.  But Christ is a rock of refuge to which you may continually come.  In Christ, what sin is Satan going to accuse you for before God’s throne?  Jesus suffered for the whole mess of your sin – all of it – He even drank the torment of the abyss as your substitute.  It is finished!


Beloved of God – see the wonder!  See how He sends the power of evil reeling.  From the depth of the earth – from the darkness of death - God brought Him up again!  Now the risen – living – serving Christ comes into your midst bringing freedom, light and healing.  Every week He comes to you doing His strange and wonderful work.


Pastor Henrichs there are many reasons to give thanks for a congregation that supports and encourages you in so many ways and for God’s gifts to you through two decades of service in the public ministry.  Members of Our Savior there are many reasons to give thanks for Pastor Henrichs and Rachel and Caleb and Mary and your life together.  But together - most of all on this day - give thanks for your partnership together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because He continues to come to you to do His strange and wonderful work you are free to…“Return to your home and declare what God has done for you.”  And he went away proclaiming through the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.


In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a