SERMON FOR THE 8TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz
How can we know who is a prophet sent by God and who is a false prophet? Is it possible to look into a man’s hearts to reveal his true motives? No. However, Jesus does say that we will be able to recognize a prophet sent by God by their works. He says, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”
What does good fruit look like? What does the bad fruit look like? Is good fruit recognized simply because we like our pastor? Or is bad fruit recognized because we are bothered by a pastor’s perfect hair and his obnoxious and continuous smile? No. Rather recognizing good and bad fruits are more substantial than these emotionally-based preferences. Instead, St. Paul gives warning to prophets, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Paul clearly states what a true prophet of God is – an overseer and a caretaker of the Church of God, which Jesus obtained with his own blood.
However, there is a warning to the Church of Jesus – For Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and those who know His voice are His sheep. Yet Paul warns, “From among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” This warning concerns the sheep within the Church. Jesus calls them, ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jeremiah describes these wolves in sheep’s clothing to “speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Today, we would be foolish to think all would conform to the Words of Jesus – Or that the Church would be free from false teachers. Instead, some come with visions of their own minds and twisted things, teaching lies in the name of God. Lies concerning the gift of good works, the gift of marriage, the gift of life,

SERMON FOR THE 8TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 8-10-2014
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz
How can we know who is a prophet sent by God and who is a false prophet? Is it possible to look into a man’s hearts to reveal his true motives? No. However, Jesus does say that we will be able to recognize a prophet sent by God by their works. He says, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” 
What does good fruit look like? What does the bad fruit look like? Is good fruit recognized simply because we like our pastor? Or is bad fruit recognized because we are bothered by a pastor’s perfect hair and his obnoxious and continuous smile? No. Rather recognizing good and bad fruits are more substantial than these emotionally-based preferences. Instead, St. Paul gives warning to prophets, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Paul clearly states what a true prophet of God is – an overseer and a caretaker of the Church of God, which Jesus obtained with his own blood. 
However, there is a warning to the Church of Jesus – For Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and those who know His voice are His sheep. Yet Paul warns, “From among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” This warning concerns the sheep within the Church. Jesus calls them, ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jeremiah describes these wolves in sheep’s clothing to “speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Today, we would be foolish to think all would conform to the Words of Jesus – Or that the Church would be free from false teachers. Instead, some come with visions of their own minds and twisted things, teaching lies in the name of God. Lies concerning the gift of good works, the gift of marriage, the gift of life, and the gift of salvation, have been twisted by workers of lawlessness – Leading sheep away from the flock. Convincing many that Jesus did not actually mean what He said. These twisted teachings should not go unnoticed by the sheep of God, instead, the Church of Jesus needs to affirm Truth in Love – and not respond in twisted retaliation.
In reflection to this Gospel reading, Johann Gerhard teaches, “Christianity does not consist of mere words, in merely confessing Christ and boasting of it, but in action and in deeds.” This is not the heart of Christianity, but this is Christianity. All the actions and deeds are those of Jesus Christ – For he is the healthy tree that bears all good fruit. In Christ’s mercy and grace, we are at times able to bear good fruit to our neighbor in love, but in our sinful nature, we are the bad fruit because we are workers of lawlessness. We all desire works in order to obtain our own salvation. It’s what we know…
Generally speaking, in school, a student cannot receive a high grade without doing the homework. Or at the job site, a person cannot receive a promotion without working hard. In most aspects of life, work equals benefits. This has been engrained in us since childhood. Many of us want to work hard enough so that we are not indebted to anyone. We want to do things our own way – But even with well-intended religious works, Jesus warns us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me…”
This is because Christianity is not about doing enough religious works or trying to find God’s one specific will for your life. Not that good works or praying to better understand opportunities that God presents in your life are bad things – in fact, these are blessings and privileges from God. Rather, Jesus says Christianity is “the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.” The surprising part is, you are not the ‘one’ that Jesus is speaking of – He is speaking of himself. He is the one that came to do the will of the Father – And he did this for us in our place.
False prophets will tell you, in order to get God’s favor, you must pray more, or read the Bible more, or do more acts of mercy, or bear witness to Christ more. In order to get God’s favor, you must clean up your life before God will truly love you, and then “it shall be well with you.” Then you will begin of course of a holy progression. This can be confusing because doing these things, praying, reading the Bible, doing acts of mercy, or bearing witness to Christ, or cleaning up one’s life, are all good things. But the problem is when stipulations are placed on these gifts of God to be some sort of means of salvation. This replaces the work that Christ has done on the cross with our efforts. At that moment, the Gospel taught by the Church of God is twisted into a work-based religion – Replacing God’s good news with lies, turning us away from the truth of the Gospel.
In the beginning, these teachings seem innocent and well-mannered, like a sheep from the flock, but this is an example of ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. These lies are false prophets filling you with vain hopes and they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They are workers of lawlessness and are falsely prophesying for others to join their work of lawlessness. They waste effort to work in vain and twist Jesus’ good news. These false prophets will hear Jesus words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” – And left to our own accord, we are no better off than they are.
Jeremiah warns us, “Behold the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart.” Our judgment is coming. Our evil actions will be paid and we will pay. Every one of us bears bad fruit and will be thrown into the fire.
Yet, there is one healthy tree – And upon there, we find the one good fruit hanging on it. We see more than a prophet, but the Son of God, hanging on that tree. We see our bad fruits nailed into his hands and feet. We see our sin covered by his blood, the same blood Christ obtains the Church with. We stand silent as the storm of the Lord and his wrath has burst upon the head of Jesus. The anger of the Lord was not accomplished until Jesus spoke, “It is finished.”
For on the Day of Judgment, it will not be us saying “Lord, Lord,” – but Jesus speaking for us to the Father: “These are my sheep, and they hear my voice, and I know them.” Until we hear Jesus speak these words, he has given us pastors to proclaim his words to his people. He has given us his body and blood, and he has called us his children in holy Baptism. For our bad fruit has been taken away. In exchange, we have been given the good fruit of forgiveness from our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PRAYERS

Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.

In peace, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For love and fear and trust in God above all things, that among the changes of this passing world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are to be found, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.

For faith to live in the promises of Holy Baptism, for pardon and remission of all sins, for chastity of heart and life, for love to consider others better than ourselves, for wisdom to use our wealth in God-pleasing ways; let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.

For this congregation, its mission and its people; for the ability to meet the needs that arise as we do the work God has given us to do; and for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.

For the pastors and teachers and congregations of our Synod, that we would be given grace to be united in our confession of the truth and conviction to faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For all who are inquiring into the faith and for all who catechize, that the Holy Spirit would work through His Word to grant and strengthen faith, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For our nation, that our public servants be granted wisdom to know what is right, honesty to speak truthfully, and courage to serve as God wills, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

In thanksgiving for the work our Lord has called us to. In petition for those who are unemployed and underemployed and those seeking to employ that relief may be granted and daily bread received with thanksgiving, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.

In thanksgiving for the life of St. Lawrence, for His heart of charity and service and for his strength in martyrdom; For all who suffer persecution for the holy name of Jesus, especially those presently pursued by Islamic militants in Iraq, that God would grant safety according to His will and a faithful and a clear confession of Christ as we know it is His will, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

In thanksgiving to God for His revelation that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us; in petition for those who rage against the name of Christ that they would be led to true repentance and see in Christ crucified and risen God’s love to take away the sin of the world, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the sick and suffering and recovering, especially for Darice and Lou and Janet and Alvin and those we name in our hearts…that God would grant healing according to His merciful will; for those in mourning especially the families of Flo and Irma that the comfort of the risen Christ would soothe their sorrow and give joyful purpose as we await His coming again, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the faithful who have gone before us and who are at rest, that Christ would bring us with them to the unending joy of His feast, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 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