Month: November, 2018

We Have A King, His Name Is Jesus

Text: John 18:33-37        

Introduction

Grace, mercy and peace from him who was, who is, and who is to come.  “We have a Pope!” is the announcement given by the Senior Deacon at the Vatican upon the election of new Roman Catholic Pope.  The announcement is given from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and for millions it has serious implications.

I prefer the announcement we have hear from this pulpit: We have a king, and his name is Jesus!” 

 1.Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last festival in the Christian Church year.

  1. Today we celebrate that Christ is the king of all creation, we believe Christ existed with God before all creation, and that Christ was the agent of creation.
  2. Today we celebrate that Christ is the ruler of all nations, ruler of all kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers, dictators and religious leaders. They all may have their moments in history and then fade away and die. Only one king outlives them and all the nations of history: Christ the King.
  3. Today we celebrate that Christ is the ruler of individual lives, that the kingdom of God is the primary teaching of Jesus when he lived on earth. Jesus wanted disciples to enter the kingdom.  He told parables about the kingdom and teaching about the kingdom and worked miracles about the kingdom.  Jesus wanted all people to be part of his kingdom.
  4. Today we celebrate Christ’s promised return on the last day, a day of supreme joy for all who call Jesus Lord, an event that has not yet occurred.

II.  In doing so, we look at the lessons for today for further definition of who we are talking about, namely the Son of man, whose kingdom will last forever.

  1. From our Old Testament lesson in Daniel 7, we hear the following words, Verse 9-10: “As I looked, thrones were set in place…“ Verse 13-14: “In my vision at night I looked, and there was one before me like a son of man…”
  2. Our Epistle lesson, (Revelation 1:4-8): read…
  3. Our Gospel lesson, (John 18:33-37) Jesus was brought before Pilate. We know from secular historian Josephus, that Pilate had ruled Judea for some 10 years.  In those years there were no less than 32 riots and upheavals from the people against the dominant Romans.  During the Passover celebration at Jerusalem, a time when the population of the city increased by thousands, Pilate came from his residence in Caesarea along with 600+ armed troops.  Pilate was nervous about this Jesus who had been brought before him.

EG: A pastor mentioned that his grandson told his mother at bedtime prayers, “I don’t need to ask God’s help with anything today.  I’ve got it all under control.”  Everything under control.  Really?

  1. In our gospel lesson, it appears that Pilate’s notion of being in control is challenged. Josephus, a secular historian of the time, notes that in a 10 year period of Pilate’s rule, there had been no less than 32 riots and upheavals in Jerusalem that had to be put down.  Once again his control as the Roman governor is being challenged by the powerful Jewish religious establishment.  They knew how to play hardball according to the world rules.  But you know who really challenged Pilate’s notion of his kingdom?

III. Question: Are you the king of the Jews?

  1. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus before him and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say that of your own or did someone else.”
  2. Is Christ your king? Take that question personally.  Do you say Christ is King on your own, or do you say it because people around you say it?  Do you say Christ is King on your own or because everyone else is singing, “Crown Him with many crowns,” and you’re just singing along?  Am I a Christian when it is convenient, or am I a convicted follower of Jesus Christ?
  3. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king? For this reason I was born and for this reason I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  This is the Good News.  We are here, for whatever the reason, listening to the truth Jesus is giving us.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Conclusion 

While the 2nd and final coming of Christ is a future event, it is present with Jesus.  The absolution we speak is a heavenly reality.  The Spirit who empowers that absolution is also a present reality.  The citizenship of heaven which is ours is no future reality, but a real and present thing to say about us.  The Word of God says that this is enough for this day.

Lo!  He Comes with Clouds Descending” LSB #336, 1 & 4

The One Who Endures

Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) – Deacon Rex Watt

Daniel 12:1-3 / Hebrews 10:11-25 / Mark 13:1-13

+ 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.  We are nearing the end of the Church Year.  Next Sunday is the Last Sunday of the Church Year we call Year B in the three-year lectionary cycle.  We will transition from reading and hearing about our Lord Jesus’ second coming in the Gospel of Mark, and begin to read and hear about Jesus’ first coming in the Gospel of Luke as we enter the season of Advent.  But before we can begin Year C in the lectionary cycle, we need to come to the end of Year B.  We begin that this morning in the 13th chapter of Mark with Jesus sitting on a hill looking across the Kidron Valley toward the Temple, one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

Herod’s Temple, a refurbishing project of the temple originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel following the Babylonian Captivity, was some 35 acres in footprint, and took a little over 80 years to remodel.  While it was not “officially” listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it  ranked right up there amongst the marvels of first century construction.  Some of the largest stones used to construct the Temple measured about 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 3 ½ feet tall!  No wonder the disciples were impressed.  As Jesus and His disciples were coming out of the Temple itself, they said to Him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”  And Jesus responded with words that shook them to the core, “Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

You know that those words took them by surprise.  There is no more discussion recorded until we see Jesus and His disciples sitting on the Mount of Olives, about a 25 minute walk from the Temple itself.  They were sitting there probably admiring the beauty of the countryside, the Kidron Valley, and the view of the Temple itself when four of his disciples could no longer hold it in.  They had to know!  They come to Jesus privately and ask, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”  They wanted to know when, and how, it would all end.  And I’ll bet that you want to know too!

Jesus’ response wasn’t quite what the disciples were looking for.  And I’m willing to bet that it isn’t quite what you’re looking for either.  If the plethora of End Times programs, books, movies and podcasts are any indication, Christians are infatuated with the idea of the End.  We want to know which Blood Moon is going to be the last one before Jesus returns; we want to calculate the number of years since the re-founding of the Nation of Israel in 1947 to get a jump on the Rapture; we read our Bibles with the newspaper open to see what’s going on in the world and then try to fit current events into the Bible rather than let the Bible dictate how we see current events.

I think that the first sentence Jesus speaks in our pericope for today, and the last sentence, are key to everything He has to say both to His disciples and to us.  “And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray…. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’”  My brothers and sisters in Christ; everything in the middle of those two sentences, is peripheral.  All the wars and rumors of wars; nations rising against nations; kingdom against kingdom; earthquakes, famines, persecutions; even family divisions are not the main point.  Jesus, your Jesus, does not want you to be led astray.  He wants you to be saved.

We certainly have our share of false prophets today.  But that’s nothing new.  Solomon wrote that there was nothing new under the sun.  Moses warned the Israelites over 3,400 years ago about the coming of false prophets and we read about them throughout the Old Testament.  Jesus warned about wolves coming in sheep’s clothing.  Paul wrote, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Ac 20.29)  The Apostle John wrote about the Antichrist (one who speaks against/falsely about Christ) saying that even at his time, “…many antichrists have come.”  False teaching, especially false teaching about the end times, has plagued the Church since it’s earliest days.  In our modern era we’ve seen William Miller, founder of the Adventist Movement, who predicted that Christ would return in 1843.

John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren who created the Rapture doctrine and Dispensationalism which is prevalent throughout American Evangelicalism; Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who made numerous false predictions about building the New Jerusalem in Western Missouri and that the lost tribes of Israel would be restored; Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who predicted the world would end in the battle of Armageddon in 1914; Hal Lindsay, who as a disciple of dispensationalism, wrote The Late Great Planet Earth where he claimed to detail the movements of the armies lining up for the great Battle of Armageddon, which would in all likelihood take place during the late 1980’s  (By the way, he’s still on television trying to figure out what went wrong!  I don’t suggest you waste your time!); Pat Robertson who claimed Christ would return in 1982; Benny Hinn who predicted Jesus would return in 1993; Harold Camping who predicted numerous dates; Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claimed to be the Messiah; Jim Jones; David Koresh; and the list could go on!  Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus says to you today, “See to it that no one leads you astray.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

“But how do I know if I will be able to endure to the end?” you might ask.  The temple in Jerusalem, that grand structure that had the disciples awe struck, didn’t last; it didn’t endure.  The Romans came in 70AD and sacked the city and tore the temple to pieces just as Jesus had predicted, leaving not one stone upon another.   But that’s the way it had to be!  Why?  Because the old had to give way to the new.  The Old Covenant must give way to the New Covenant; and Jesus is the New Covenant!

Our epistle readings for last week and this week show us who it is who endures.  We read last week that “Christ has entered, not into the holy places made with hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own…But as it is, He has appeared once for all…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”  And as we read this week that the Old Covenant priests stood daily offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which could never take away sins, “…Christ…offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…[by which] He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (and that’s you, my friends!)  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord; I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’”

My dear Saints, your dear Jesus came into the world and took upon His body all of your sins and lawless deeds.  He is the one who stood before councils, governors and kings on your behalf.  He is the one who was beaten, brought to trial and delivered over to death on your behalf.  It was His body that was nailed to the Cross, along with your sins, so that His shed blood could wash away all of your unrighteousness.  He was laid in the tomb and raised from the dead, so that when you are laid in the tomb, you also will rise from the dead.  All this He has done for you and now appears in the presence of God on your behalf.

The disciples in our text today were overly impressed with the Temple.  The people in Jesus’ day also were overly impressed with the Temple.  After Jesus had cleansed the Temple of the money changers and was challenged by the Jews who asked Him for a sign to prove He had authority to do such things, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”   The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”   But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”  (Jn 2:19-21)  Dear Saints, “see to it that no one leads you astray.”   Contrary to popular “Christian” teaching, there will not be a new Temple built, at least not with God’s approval.  Jesus is the New Temple.  And you, dear Saints, are part of that new temple, having been baptized into Christ wherein,

“…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph 2:19-21)

Unlike Herod’s Temple, which did not endure, Jesus endured all for you.  Because He endured to the end for you, you also, in Him, will endure to the end and be saved.  Amen.

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

On Being All-In

Text: Mark 12:38-44

Introduction

People watching is a favorite activity for many.  It happens in places like grocery stores, malls, sporting events, even churches.  Our text is a people-watching story. Imagine this setting: on one of the walls of the temple there were 13 offering boxes, about the size of a suitcase, made out of metal.  There were signs at each box, with a slit on the top where people could place their offering.  The signs may have said something like building maintenance, utilities, another for the rabbi’s salary, and for widows and orphans.  The room was jammed with people pressing to make their contribution as they saw fit.  It would have been great for people watching.

1. Outward manifestation of holiness is useless if the heart is not all-in on Jesus.

    A.  People watching at the temple

  1. In our text we find Jesus in the last week of his ministry in Jerusalem. He continues to be at odds with the religious leaders of the day, and the relationship is aggravated and testy.  Still, Jesus as a teaching rabbi, warns his followers about the scribes, who wore long robes as a mark of distinction so as people would notice and stand in awe of them.  They were not salaried and as such they lived off the generosity of benefactors to the point of usurping the homes of the poor.  They loved titles, honors, sought out the best seats at gatherings and banquets, and determined to be noticed with long prayers and association with men of greater rank.  They made sure everyone in the temple noticed their generous alms giving.
  2. Then came a little old lady. No one noticed her.  She was almost invisible to the busy, noisy crowd.  She approached the offering boxes.  Into one of the boxes she drops in two small coins, worth less than a penny.  Jesus whispered to his disciples, “Do you see that little old lady over there?  She gave her last penny from the abundance of her heart; she gave everything she had.”
  3. At other times of the day you might find her at a busy gate or corner in the city, begged for food or pennies to buy food. Whatever the circumstances, her faith internally shone, her faith trusted Jesus to look after her.

   B.  Other examples

  1. We notice that the widow of Zarephath in our Old Testament lesson did as asked by the prophet Elijah. She had only enough flour and oil for one more meal, and assumed she and her son would at die of starvation after this last meal.  Yet she bakes a pancake for Elijah, then for herself, then her son, knowing there would be nothing left after this meal.

EG: Grandma Schmidt lived a life that revolved around her reading of Scripture and a prayer life that was both admirable and praiseworthy, though she would immediately disagree with any positive commendation.  Her offerings were always $20 each Sunday out of a weekly budget of $100.  She was a woman of God, living each day as God gave it.  So many lives were touched – and changed – because of her being all-in with her trust and faith in her heavenly Father.  She was satisfied with her confidence in the Lord looking after her.

  1. The challenge to being all-in

       EG: It’s not that easy being green (Kermit) – see printout –

  1. How much is enough?

1. I do admire those stars of entertainment or sports who write checks for $100,000, and with some fanfare donate the money to a charity. If Bill Gates donates ten million to eradication poverty and disease around the world, that’s admirable.  Way to go Bill and Melinda Gates.  If the person who is homeless donates $10 and then needs to stand on a corner to beg for money for food, they will receive their reward.  And the widow’ mite, with no publicity, gives her all.

2.  The contrast in our text is clear. Among those who seek to serve God, there is the need to recognize that Jesus asks us to be all-in, to have full confidence in his direction for our lives.    We are the Lord’s, and that’s not because of degrees earned or awards received, or because of positions in society or amid a religious organization, but purely because of his grace and being right with him through the blood of Jesus Christ.

3.  But can we meet the example of the widow in our text? Jesus sees us as we are, be it green and easily blending in the world around you.

EG: Children’s drawings or crayon-colored art work displayed with pride by parents / grandparents and displayed on the refrigerator door – God notices the little things, he smiles, he treasures them, and he delights in them.  He sees us, imperfect as we are, and he smiles. That’s your life, that’s my life on the His refrigerator.

In conclusion I ask two questions: one question is easy and the other is hard.  The first question is easy: why was the widow so generous?  The second one is hard: What would it take for you and me to be like the widow?  Amen

sdg

Expectations

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26) – Deacon Rex Watt

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 / Hebrews 9:11-22 / Mark 12:28-37

 

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

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

Expectations.  Expectations are a part of daily life, aren’t they?  If you are employed, your boss has expectations about the quality and quantity of your work; and you have expectations that you will get paid fairly for your efforts and that your job will be there tomorrow.  If you are a student, your teachers have expectations about your attendance and homework assignments; and you have expectations that they will teach you things you will need to know in life.  If you are married, your spouse expects you to be a source of support and encouragement; and, of course, you expect that your spouse will reciprocate.  If you are a parent, your children expect you to drop them off to wherever they want to go, feed them, clothe them, and have an extra $20 in your wallet at a moment’s notice!  And you expect your children to behave and be nice.  Our lives are full of people who have expectations; expectations they want from us, or expectations they want us to fulfill.  And we have our expectations.  Everybody has expectations.

The people in Jesus’ day had expectations.  Some of them were expectantly waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.  Others, while in the back of their minds knew that their scriptures foretold a coming Messiah, had their own ideas about what that Messiah might look like.  When Jesus shows up on the scene, He didn’t exactly fit their expectations.  Our Gospel text for today is the conclusion of a string of questions and challenges and testing that various Jewish leaders put to Jesus.  It all started back in the 8th chapter with the Pharisees demanding a sign from Jesus to validate His claims.  They later questioned Him about divorce, paying taxes to Caesar, how to obtain eternal life and even what happens with respect to marriage after death!  Many questions were put to Jesus about various aspects of God’s laws.  Finally, in this last story of the string, a scribe, an expert in the Law, comes to Jesus and askes, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Here’s a guy who is the legal beagle par excellence!  Scribes were the experts in all things pertaining to the Law.  They knew not only the 10 Commandments by heart, they knew all 613 commands found throughout the Old Testament writings: the 248 positive commands (you shall do this!), and the 365 negative commands (you shall not do that!).  He had just witnessed the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees in their failed attempts to trap Jesus, and asks what appears to be an honest question.  “Let’s skip the small stuff Jesus and get right to the point.  What is it, bottom line, that God expects of me?”  And Jesus responds right out of our OT lesson, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29b-31).  Jesus sums up the entire 10 Commandments, and all the rest of the OT commands in this concise statement, “Love God; and love your neighbor.”

Sound familiar?  It should.  The explanation of the Small Catechism picks up on this and says this saying of Jesus distinguishes the two parts of the 10 Commandments: love for God (commandments 1-3), and love for neighbor (commandments 7-10).  Question 15 in the new 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation says, “The Ten Commandments are God’s Law, His good and loving will for the lives and well-being of all people” (pg. 53).  Then question 16 asks, “What is God’s will for our lives?”  And the answer is: “God wants us to trust Him above all else, to love Him, and to love our neighbor.” (pg. 53)

How are you doing with that?  Have you loved God perfectly today?  Have you loved Him with all your heart – so that there is nothing in this world you love or trust more than Him?  Have you loved Him with all your soul – so that there is nothing in this world you consider a higher good than your Heavenly Father? Have you loved Him with all your mind – so that this world offers nothing more exciting or interesting or important than the living words of God?  Have you loved Him with all your strength – so that nothing in this world is able to pull your eyes off the prize of God’s goodness?

And what about that second part – to love your neighbor as yourself?  Husbands, have you always loved your wives with the self-sacrificing love Jesus has shown his Church?  Wives, have you submitted to your husbands with the faithful humility with which the Church submits to the Lord Jesus?  Have you always given your employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay – or do you do as much as you can to do as little as possible to get by?  Students, do you do the same?  Have you shown the highest kind of love to your neighbor or family member who doesn’t know Christ by giving him/her the reason for the hope that is in you – or do you just keep quiet whenever the topic of religion comes up?

Dear saints of Redeemer, as we reflect on what Jesus tells this scribe, this expert in the law, and look at our lives in comparison, about all we can do is fall to our knees and cry out for mercy!  Neither you, nor I, have loved God today, or any other day for that matter, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Nor have we really loved our neighbor as ourselves.  Oh, we can be pretty good at faking it – good enough so that people around us think that we are pretty good people.  But God sees our hearts; your heart, my heart.  He sees the self-centeredness and the selfishness that lives there by nature.  We fall short, and we know it.  This morning if you have come to the realization that you fall short of God’s expectations for you; if you have come to the realization that you cannot by your own efforts, reason or strength measure up to God’s requirement that you “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength,” if you have come to the realization that you need a Savior; you, like the scribe in our text, are not far from the kingdom of God.

The scribe, upon hearing that he was “…not far from the kingdom of God” said no more.  In fact, the text tells us that no one said anything more!  I guess they were comfortable with just being close, at least closer than those other folk.  As if close is good enough.  My dear saints, close is only good enough in horseshoes, hand grenades, and atomic bombs.  With the kingdom of God, you are either in, or you are out.

As we saw a couple of weeks ago, what is impossible with man, is possible with God.  Upon seeing that no one dared to ask Him any more questions, Jesus poses a question to them, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.’  David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?” (vss.35-37)  Jesus poses this question to them to get them to see that the Christ, the son of David, is also the Lord.  The Christ will not be a mighty warrior come to throw off the shackles of Roman rule, but the God-Man; Lord of heaven and earth, and son of David, a man after God’s own heart.

And so, Jesus came; God in the flesh.  He came to do the impossible.  The very One who demands perfect love from us; the very One who knows that we cannot render that love, has responded by showing His perfect love to us.  He showed us that perfect love by becoming one of us, by placing himself under all the same divine expectations that you and I are under and by placing himself alongside the same people you and I call neighbor.  He showed us that perfect love by living a perfect life of perfect love, by loving God with all His heart, His soul, His mind and His strength; and by perfectly loving His neighbors in our place.  He showed us that perfect love by taking all our loveless acts, all our half-hearted devotion onto Himself – and then offering Himself as the perfect payment for all our sins.  “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12).  That blood of Jesus, shed on the Cross for all of your sins, was applied to you in the waters of your Baptism.  Your Lord Jesus Christ has secured your eternal redemption and brought you into His new covenant so that you “may receive the promised eternal inheritance”  (Heb 9:15).  My dear Saints of Redeemer, you are not just “close” to the kingdom of God, you are “in” the kingdom of God, because your Jesus has walked in the law of the Lord for you; He has kept His testimonies, sought Him with His whole heart, was forsaken by His Father so that you won’t be.  To Him be praise, glory and honor now and forever.  Amen.

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