Month: September, 2018

Losers Win

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20) / 23 September 2018 / Deacon Rex Watt

Texts:  Jeremiah 11: 18-20 / James 3:13-4:10 / Mark 9:30-37

 

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen+

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus’ ministry is changing direction.  For the first 7 ½ chapters of Mark’s gospel we see Jesus going about His public ministry preaching, teaching, healing, feeding the hungry and performing miracles over nature.  The disciples witness all this activity, and when Jesus asks them what do they hear the people saying about Him, they tell Jesus that the people think that He’s either John the Baptist come back to life, or Elijah, or maybe one of the prophets.  Then when Jesus asks them what they think, Peter answers, “You are the Christ.”  Finally!  Someone gets it!  Or do they?

When Jesus then begins to teach them what it means to be the Christ; that the Christ must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed; but will rise again after three days; Peter, who made this great confession says in effect, “No way Jesus, we’re not going to let this happen to you!”  You’ve heard the story before.  You remember how it goes.  Jesus responds to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Peter was certainly having his ups and downs.

Shortly after Peter’s downer, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves, and there Jesus is transfigured before them, and when they had come down from the mountain they came upon the scene which was the gospel lesson for last week.  A man had brought his son to Jesus for healing, and since Jesus wasn’t around (He had been up on the mountain) the man asked the disciples to cast out the evil spirit.  They couldn’t do it.  So, Jesus steps in, and does what Jesus does; he saves the day.

Our gospel lesson for today picks up after that event.  Jesus again takes His disciples on a road trip, off by themselves.  He wanted to be alone with them because He wanted to teach more about His future, His plans.  “What do you think boys?  Peter, James and John heard Me speaking with Moses and Elijah about my departure.  They heard My Father’s voice.  Suffering, death and resurrection is going to be the way I go; and the way you will eventually go too.  Sound like a plan?”

Well, no, it didn’t sound like a plan.  It sounded like a crazy man talking.  They didn’t understand and they were afraid to ask Him; probably remembering the last time Jesus brought this up and how Peter spoke up and Jesus ‘put him in his place.’  Besides, they had other things to talk about rather than all this dying business.  You know…like who among them was the greatest.  You can almost hear their discussion; Peter says, “I’m greater because Jesus chose me first!”  John says, “I’m greater because I’m the disciple whom Jesus loves the most!”  Judas says, “I’m greater because Jesus trusted me with the finances.”  James says, “Wait a minute fellas, I was up on the mountain also!”  They all had their arguments.  Can you just see it?  Here is Jesus talking about the cross and His disciples are preoccupied with glory.  Jesus is looking to lose His life for the world, and His disciples are angling for power positions in the kingdom.

Isn’t this how it always is?  Even among us?  The Apostle Paul resolved to know nothing in his preaching and teaching except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and we want to hear anything but this death and resurrection talk.  We want to hear 10 steps to a better marriage; 9 ways to be a better parent; 8 steps to a more abundant life; 7 steps to financial security; 6 steps to spiritual growth; 5 things you can do to improve your prayer life; 4 ways to improve our sex life (really!); 3 easy steps to be a better witness; 2 things you can do to support your church; but the one thing we don’t want to hear is all this talk about us being sinners and that Jesus suffered on our behalf, died our death, and was raised for our life.  We don’t want a dead and risen Jesus, we want a power Jesus, a Jesus who will make us great and successful, a Jesus who will make us winners.

Isn’t that how we think?  We want to be first.  First in line, first to be the one who gets to go at a 4 way stop, first to be chosen on a team.  We want the gold medal, not the silver or bronze.  And heaven forbid we should settle for a participation ribbon.  We admire winners and look down on losers, and if God can help us become winners, then that’s the kind of God we will follow.  Failure is not an option.

We want our kids to be winners too.  We want to give them the best opportunities, the best education, the best of everything so they will turn out great.  It’s a competitive world out there.  We’ll do whatever we need to give them the edge.

But Jesus has an entirely different plan.  Not power, but weakness.  Not glory, but a cross.  Not the greatness of winning but the greatness of losing, losing His life for you, laying down His life as our ransom from Sin, Death and the Devil.

To make His point, Jesus takes a little child and puts him in their midst, and says, “You want to be great in the kingdom?  Then bend down and receive this little child, because when you do, you will be receiving Me, and not just Me, but My Father who sent Me.”

The impact of what Jesus is saying may be lost on us a bit.  We idolize childhood, glamorize it, coddle it, and even prolong it.  Children have become the most important persons in our modern society, assuming of course that they make it past abortion.  It’s all about the children.  But it wasn’t that way in Jesus’ day.  Children were considered among the least of society.  Dependent, helpless, time and energy consuming.  You couldn’t wait for them to grow up, to become productive members of society; to marry off your daughters or put your sons to work.

Yet Jesus places Himself precisely in the position of a little child.  To bend down and receive this child is to receive God’s Child, the Child born of a virgin and found in a manger in Bethlehem, the Child who will become the man of sorrows, the Child who hung on a cross for you, the Child who is the servant who suffers for the salvation of His enemies, which include you and me.

Do you, like the disciples in our text want to be great in the kingdom?  Then don’t be like the disciples!  You must become small and insignificant.  Do you want to become a winner in God’s eyes?  Then you must become a loser in this world of “winners.”  God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Isn’t it interesting that we often end our lives much the same way they began?  We become as children again – dependent on others, not terribly useful.  Some today even suggest that those lives have no value.  They want to remove those lives in much the same way they remove the lives of the unborn.  No matter how great we once were in life, no matter how much wealth we had, how many degrees we earned, houses we owned, people we supervised; in the end we become as helpless as children.  And finally, in our death, we become the least of all, which brings us right back to where Jesus was going all along – to death and the grave; to resurrection and life.

Billionaire Ted Turner, the media mogul, who admitted that juggling four girlfriends was “easier than being married” (and he ought to know, he’s been married three times), once said, “Christianity is for losers.”  While he was making it plain what he thought of Christianity, he could not have been more correct!  To be baptized dear Saints of Redeemer, to be a Christian, is to be a child of God.  Did you get that?  A Child of God!  Like that little helpless child in the midst of the disciples, utterly helpless, totally dependent on Jesus who has His arms wrapped around him, Jesus wrapped His arms around you at your baptism.  He gave you faith, and you have come to believe.  To be a child of God, baptized and believing, is to lose your life in order to save it, to become nothing so that Christ can be everything, to die in order to rise, to be joined to Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection.  You, dear Saints of Redeemer, losers in the eyes of the world, have already won.

Faith doesn’t ask who is the greatest.  Faith looks to Jesus up on the cross and says, “There!  That’s greatness!  That’s what it means to be great.”  And through the cross of Jesus, faith looks out into the world and sees Jesus precisely where the world would not look: in the least, in the lost, in the little, in the child.  May God grant us this kind of faith.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

This sermon is based off a sermon delivered by Rev. William Cwirla at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, CA on September 23, 2012, and modified by Deacon Rex E. Watt.

Lord I Believe, Help My Unbelief

September 16, 2018  / Pastor Don Mossman  / Text:  Mark 9:14-29                    

Introduction

His name was Traugott Dalke, member at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Aldergrove.  He was a simple man, semi-retired, living on a small farm with his wife and disabled daughter on out edge of town.  Traugott was a man of faith who didn’t put on airs.  So when I visited him in the hospital after a heart attack, he greeted me with a smile.  I remember his words in the ICU.  He said, “I know who has called me by name and made me his own.  I know who had come into my life at baptism, and I know who I belong to now, in this hospital.  “So, Pastor Mossman,” he said, “While in my life I have had my questions and doubts, I know that “whether I live or I die, I am the Lords.”  His faith was much more than a spark or bent reed; his faith was comparable to a blazing furnace.  Today, Traugott is with Jesus, not because he reached a particular level of righteousness he had earned, but solely because of Jesus.

Her name was Elizabeth Morrison.  We called her Aunt B or Beth.  One visit that Valerie and I made, she asked me, “Donnie,” what about death?  I do believe in Jesus, and you know, I think I’ve been a pretty good person, lived a pretty moral life and did my share of charity work.  What do you think?  Is it enough.”  I was given an opportunity to remind her of a faith that she had been baptized and confirmed in at Grace Lutheran Church, Calder, SK.  Now 80 years later, she’s questioning Jesus.  Her doubting faith was similar to the confused father who had brought his son to Jesus to be healed.  Can you help us or not?  And his prayer is similar to many of us who have had occasion to pray, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

  1. The reality in which we live.

          A.  The questioning of the followers of Jesus

  1. Jesus, Peter, James and John had just returned from Mt. Transfiguration. They come upon a number of people arguing with the disciples.  When the crowds saw Jesus, they ran to meet him.  Jesus asks, “What’s going on?”  What are you arguing about?”
  2. Then a distraught father, even with his doubts about Jesus, steps forward and says, “Teacher, I have brought my son to you. So I asked your disciples to cast out the demons, but they were not able to do so.”  “Can you do anything for me?”  Jesus: “If I can?  Are you kidding?  I can and I will.”  All things are possible for the one who believes.  Immediately the father cries out, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

B.  The questions surrounding us and within us

  1. If you were to believe that human efforts help save us, you would among 50% of Americans who claim Christ as Savior who do.  I haven’t always been the example that some people look to for guidance and direction.  I question at times whether God is concerned about our society, our country.  And my prayer life is erratic at best.  Marriages fail, loved ones die, and the results of the medical tests are not what I wanted to hear.  Lord, if you can do anything to help me, can you do it?
  2. We are a long way from the NT times. Things are different today.  Jesus doesn’t walk among us now.  So the question presses us, Can Jesus help us or not?  Does he have any authority over what afflicts me the most?

2.  The faith in which we live

A.  Jesus’ total willingness to be involved in our lives. 

  1. In my life I have been blessed to work with and to walk beside some giants of faith. They have served as district presidents, teachers, professors, mothers, fathers, and certainly pastors.  There are giants of faith among us here at RLC.  Nevertheless, not all of God’s people are giants.  The men and women described in Isaiah 42:3 are those whose faith is as a bruised reed or a smoldering wick.  They are people whom Jesus loves and whose faith at times wobbles and wonders.
  2. Lord I believe. Can you help me?  I have had the privilege of answering that question with the authority of the resurrected Lord.  The Jesus who now lives and reigns in our hearts and in heaven, in whose name we began this service and with whose blessings we will leave this service, can do and does what he says.  He has the authority to forgive you of all sins and he has.  You were given that promise in Baptism, you receive it as from our Lord Himself in Holy Communion.  So your sins cannot separate you from God.  That means that your weakness, your troubles, your sorrows, only have a short season to live.  They do not, they will not reign endlessly.  Jesus reigns.  No authority in heaven or on earth will stop him. “Nothing will separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
  3. We recognize our unworthiness, but at the same time we recognize it is not dependent upon the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of one’s faith. “Though devils all the world should fill…”  LSB #656, vs 3.  One little word, namely Jesus.  It is dependent upon the power and love of Jesus, the constant in our inconsistent lives.

Conclusion

E.G: Trimming shrubs here at RLC; forgot battery for trimmer.  Used Ross Abbe’s electric trimmer.  Proceeded to cut the extension cord.  No power whatever the source.  We need to stay connected through the power of the Word etc.

 

The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18)  (September 9, 2018)

Isaiah 35:4-7a / James 2:1-10, 14-18 / Mark 7:24-37

By Deacon Rex E. Watt

 

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

At one time or another every parent has probably wondered, “What is the greatest gift I can give my child?”  Think about it.  What would that gift be?  Would it be a well rounded education?  If so, then special effort would be made to live in a community with good schools, to provide music or dance lessons, encourage sports activities, and the like.  Would it be a happy and pleasant childhood?  Then I suppose special effort would be made to spend quality time with your children, provide a home life with minimal stress and conflict, and plan exciting family activities and vacations.  Maybe it would be a life free of health concerns.  If so, you are like the Syrophoenician woman in our Gospel reading for today.  She wanted health for her daughter.  She had probably been to all the Hellenistic trained doctors in her area – and the Greeks were known for their advances in medical studies; after all, Hippocrates “the father of modern medicine” and his followers were all Greek – yet to no avail.  When this itinerant Jewish rabbi came to town, she sought him out.  She would do anything she could to provide good health for her child.  I would suppose that today we would be sure that annual checkups were made, would plan healthy home prepared meals and be sure our children got sufficient exercise.  I think most parents “would give anything” for their children to receive a good education, enjoy a happy, safe and healthy childhood.

What is the greatest gift you can give your child?  I am going to suggest that it is more than a well rounded education, a happy and pleasant childhood, or even good health.  As important as these may be, I suggest to you that the greatest gift you can give your child, no matter how young or old they may be, is Jesus.

That sounds too simple, doesn’t it?  It’s the standard Sunday school answer to every question, right?  Right!  It is!  And it is exactly what every child of Adam and Eve need.  Your children, my children, no matter how young or old they may be, need Jesus.  Jesus is going to say in not too many verses from now, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk 8.36-38)  What good is the best education in the world if in the end, the brightest and best among us end up in hell?  What good is a happy and pleasant childhood, and life, if in the end Jesus says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt 7.23 & 25.41)

You’ve made a good start.  You brought your children to the font and made sure they were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; the name of the Triune God.  There, at the font, you gave them Jesus.  There, at the font, your children were re-born, “born again, from above” with the water and the word just as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.  You have accomplished for your children one-half of the Great Commission, as it is commonly called.  But there’s more.  Just like after you gave natural birth to your children, you nurtured them by feeding them, clothing them and providing shelter for them; you nurture your little ones spiritually by bringing them to church, Sunday school, maybe even VBS and Confirmation class. Your children have received a good start, you have received a good start.  At the font, in Baptism, the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for the whole world has been given to you, personally; and to your children.  But that’s not all there is to the Christian life.  After we read in Acts 2:38-39, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children…’”, we read in Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  After baptism comes community; comes instruction; comes worship.

Today is Rally Day, a day when we focus on the second-half of that Great Commission.  You will see on display out in the social area all kinds of ministries and opportunities to be involved with in the communal life of Redeemer Lutheran Church.  As baptized believers you have been brought into the communal life of the Church (capital “C”), as well as the communal life of Redeemer.  Take a look around and see where the Holy Spirit may lead you to share in that communal life.

Part of that life, a big part of that life, is Christian education.  Not only for your children, however old or young they may be, but for you yourself.  Those early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.”  When you come to church, when you bring your children to church, you hear the Word of God read and you hear the Word of God proclaimed; and, God willing, you hear the apostles teaching.  You hear that God has created you and all creatures.  That God provides for all that you need to support your body and life.  That He defends you and protects you.  That He does all this, not because of any merit in you, but out of His own fatherly divine goodness and mercy.  That Jesus has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; all with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death…all for you.  That the Holy Spirit has drawn you into the holy Christian church, the communion of saints; given you the faith to trust in the Gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation; and keeps you in the one true faith.

Peter proclaimed on that first Pentecost day, “the promise is for you and for your children…”  You are here today because someone brought you to the font; someone shared the Gospel with you; someone taught you the faith; someone prayed for you.  Someone gave you the gift of Jesus.  Maybe you feel as a parent that you haven’t done as good a job as you’d like to have done in spiritually nurturing your children.  Maybe you feel that you, yourself, haven’t been spiritually nurtured as well as you’d like.  I’ve got good news for you my friends.  It’s never too late.  Today is the day to begin.  “Now is the time of God’s favor,” says Saint Paul.  “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6.2)  The Word of God that you expose yourself and your children to, the Word of God that you teach your children is the one thing that will truly last forever.  “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever” writes Isaiah. (40.8)

I don’t often get into spiritual discussions with my clients at the funeral home.  Recently, however, a client shared his burden with me that his dying wife was not a believer.  He had become a believer in Christ later in their marriage.  She was a scientist, a medical professional.  She mocked his faith.  He prayed for her continually; he didn’t know what else to do.  As he made pre-arrangements in light of her terminal condition, he shared his story with me.  It brought him some comfort to find out that he was dealing with another Christian.  We made her arrangements, and as we then do, we waited.  Finally her time came.  When he came back in to see me and schedule the rest of the details, he was in tears, tears of joy, because his prayers were finally answered.  Shortly before her passing she confessed her belief in the Jesus he had previously shared with her.  No, my friends, it’s never too late.

Long after you and I are gone and our children have raised their children, and have seen their children’s children come to the baptismal font of life, nothing else will matter but that we have taught our young ones to know Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin.  Nothing else will matter – certainly not the money we saved, the businesses we ran, the houses we lived in, the education we received, or the friends and memories we made.  None of that will matter.  The only thing that will matter will be the Gospel – the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, which brought life to us and to our children.  That is the greatest gift you can give to your child; the gift of life, real life, eternal life, in Jesus Christ .  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17)

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9 / Ephesians 6:10-20 / Mark 7:14-23

By Deacon Rex E. Watt

“Appearances Can Be Deceiving”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  Appearances can be deceiving.  A young mouse begged his mother to let him take his first look at the world outside the mouse hole.  “Very well,” she answered, “but don’t stay long, and come back and tell me everything you see.”  The little mouse had not been gone five minutes, when he came dashing back into the mouse hole as fast as he could run.  “My dear, whatever happened?” asked his mother.  “Oh, mother,” said the little mouse, trembling all over, “there are such strange creatures out there!  First I saw a pretty animal, with soft, striped fur and yellow eyes.  When she saw me she waved her long tail as if she were glad to see me.  But then I saw the most terrible monster!  His head was all red, and his feet had long claws.  And when he saw me, he opened up his mouth and let out a horrible shriek of ‘Cock-a-doo-dle-do!’  I ran away as fast as I could.”  “My dear,” said his mother, “that pretty creature you saw was a cat, and she likes to eat young mice like you for dinner.  And that terrible monster was nothing but a rooster, who only eats seeds and grain.  Next time you go out, be more careful, and remember never to judge others by their looks.”  [The Cat, The Rooster, and The Mouse; Aesop’s Fables]

Yes, appearances can be deceiving.  Some of you have probably encountered situations where appearances were deceiving.  The house you purchased may have looked really good to you when you first walked in, but over time you discovered hidden problems that cost you a bundle of money to fix.  Maybe it was that used car you bought that turned out to be a lemon.  We’ve all heard stories about art forgeries, counterfeit designer clothing, purses, and watches.  We’ve even read stories about people who try to pass themselves off as one thing only to discover that it’s all a sham, like Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the NAACP in Spokane who claimed African-American heritage despite being born to white parents.

It’s a theme we see all around us in our modern culture.  People wanting to look successful, or caring and compassionate, maybe even pious when they really are not.  It’s not just a modern thing.  It’s what we’ve been seeing in our Gospel lessons for several weeks now.  People following Jesus only because they wanted more bread for their belly, but not the Bread of Life for their soul.  Religious leaders who are more interested in following the letter of the Law, rather than the Spirit of the Law.  I’m sure you’ve met people like that.  I have.  I’ve been one of them.  Maybe you have too.

Jesus, in our Gospel text for today, gets to the heart of the issue, no pun intended!  After chastising the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocritical in their application of the Law, Jesus calls the people to him and tells them “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him,” but it is “the things that come out of a person [that] defile him.”  When the disciples get Him alone, they ask Him what he meant by this.  Jesus goes on to explain in a little more graphic detail that people like the Pharisees, like the disciples themselves, like you, and like me, focus on the external, rather than the internal.

We are just like the Pharisees!  We put on a pretty good show.  Jesus called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Mt 23.27)  Like the Pharisees, we are quick to notice, and maybe even comment on the external sins of others rather than the sins that lurk deep within ourselves.  You know what those sins are which lurk deep within your hearts.  Jesus rattles off a list that brings embarrassment and shame to each one of us.  “Evil thoughts; sexual immorality; theft; murder; adultery; coveting; wickedness; deceit; sensuality; envy; slander; pride; and foolishness.”  How many of those sins have you committed this week?  This weekend?  Today?  This morning since you walked into this church?  “All these evil things come from within [out of the heart]” Jesus says, “and [it is] they [that] defile a person.”  The Pharisee’s problem, your problem, my problem isn’t whether we wash properly before we eat (although that is a good thing to do; and I don’t want any of you young people to go home and tell your moms and dads that Deacon Watt said that it’s ok not to wash your hands before dinner!); our problem isn’t whether we wash properly, or what we eat or don’t eat, whether we go to church on the “right” day of the week, dress in the right clothes, don’t drink, dance, smoke or chew and don’t go with girls that do!  Our problem is our heart.

Our hearts, your heart, by nature is evil and corrupt to the core.  We call this condition, Original Sin.  We inherited it from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Death was the ultimate penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin, and the fact that all mankind experiences death is evidence that we all inherited this Original Sin.  David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  David was not confessing that he was born out of wedlock.  There is nothing in scripture that gives any indication of that.  He was confessing that from conception, he was a sinner, a person infected with Original Sin.  Many people think that they are a sinner because they sin.  Scripture teaches, as does our catechism, that we sin, because we are a sinner. (LSC Question 20; 2017 edition)  Did you catch the difference?  I’ll phrase it a little different:  Are you a sinner because you sin?  Or do you sin because you are a sinner?  You, dear saints of Redeemer, sin because you are a sinner.  And that’s a problem.

Jesus tells us in our text that there is nothing from outside of us that by going inside can defile us or make us unclean.  He also tells us that the things inside of us, in our corrupt and evil hearts, defile us and make us unclean.  It is our natural state according to scripture.  What on earth can we do?  Nothing!  It takes something completely outside us to wash us clean on the inside.  God looked at His heart, not ours, to devise a plan for our salvation.

It wasn’t anything inside us that paid for our sins – no good, pure thoughts of the heart, no outward action that would please the strictest Pharisee.  It was the God of Heaven, infinitely above us, completely outside us, in the person of Jesus Christ, who came to earth and took on our flesh, your flesh, your corrupt sinful flesh, and paid the price for your sin by giving His life for you, and me on the Cross.  Look away from yourselves, and all the masks and fronts that you put up to impress people and hide your sins, and look to Jesus – up there on the Cross – see His pure, undefiled, sinless heart broken, pierced through for your sin, my sin, the whole world’s sin.

And then, the Holy Spirit, from outside us, comes into our sinful hearts and brings the cleansing balm of Jesus’ death on Calvary’s Cross.  He comes to us in the waters of Baptism, which washes away our sins in a miraculous way.  He speaks to us, not in a whisper from within (our sinful hearts could play all kinds of tricks on us with that!), but in God’s external Word – in the preaching you hear from this pulpit; in the words of absolution spoken to you after your confession of sin; when you hear, read or study the Bible – and that Word declares you clean, pure, holy, forgiven.

And there is something else from outside you that you can receive into yourselves which will cleanse your hearts.  Every time you come to this Altar and receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus, your Jesus, He purifies you and brings you forgiveness so real that you can taste it and touch it.  Here, like Moses, you stand on holy ground.

Dear saints of Redeemer.  Appearances can be deceiving.  But you, who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with His righteousness.  You have put on Christ.  You are clothed in His armor and are “able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  You have not only put on Christ, you have Christ in you – literally.  When you stand before God the Father on the last day, there will be no deception of appearance.  When He looks at you, He will see His Son, Jesus, and say, “Welcome home.”  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.