Month: March, 2019

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Second Sunday in Lent, 2019 – Deacon Rex Watt

Jeremiah 26:8-15 / Philippians 3:17-4:1 / Luke 13:31-35


+ 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.  Have any of you heard about the young lawyer who posted on her Facebook page an image of one of those annoying minions along with this caption, “My goal in life is to tick off at least one person every day.  So far, I am 6 months and 27 days ahead of schedule.”  Have you known anyone like that?  Surely there is no one in this congregation like that.  Surely, we would never think of the Lord Jesus that way, would we?  And yet in today’s Gospel we see him picking what appears to be a fight with the Pharisees, and King Herod.

Jesus has been battling with the Pharisees for some time now, exposing their hypocrisy, their legalism, and their self-righteousness.  They always seemed to come up on the short end of the stick with Jesus, so this time, they try a different tactic.  They thought that they could intimidate him.  “Get away from here,” they say, “for Herod wants to kill you.”

Did Herod want to kill Jesus?  Could be.  Jesus proclaimed the same message that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   John’s bold proclamation got him in trouble.  He called out Herod for his illegal marriage to his brother’s wife, and it cost him his life.  It could be that Herod, hearing that Jesus was proclaiming the same message as John, would have wanted him dead.  But in the end, after Jesus had been arrested Herod didn’t condemn him.  He and his troops “treated him with contempt and mocked him,” then sent him back to Pilate, who was the ruler who ordered the crucifixion.  Still, Herod was not a person you wanted to tangle with.

Jesus’ response was basically, “Go and tell Herod that I will not be intimidated.  I have some work yet to do, and I will finish my course.”  These are prophetic words.  They are pointing to his arrest, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  They cannot be taken for three literal days, for all the events between our text and chapter 19, where Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, takes more than three days.  Coupled with the statement, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem,” and it is clear what Jesus is indicating.  He is God’s final prophet, just as we heard at his Transfiguration, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

People don’t like to hear prophetic words.  When I use that term, I am not speaking about words that foretell the future.  While the Old Testament prophets often spoke concerning the future, most of their preaching was preaching of repentance.  Those are hard words.  Just ask Jeremiah!  His preaching of repentance got him into a lot of trouble.  But that’s a prophet’s job.  A prophet is one sent by God to faithfully speak God’s word.  And people today, just like in biblical times, don’t want to hear such speech.  They don’t want to be confronted with God’s word because they have become too comfortable with their sin and unbelief.

Does the Church today still faithfully speak God’s prophetic word?  We live in a very casual and permissive society today.  People have become all too comfortable with their sins; comfortable with adultery, which they call having an affair; comfortable with fornication which is now called living together; comfortable with homosexuality which is called an alternative lifestyle; comfortable with the murder of innocent babies, now called a choice.  Every night violent crime, profanity, and pornography are cabled into our living rooms and the world calls it entertainment.  People have become comfortable with greed, being convinced that the only way to succeed in the world is to lie and cheat and steal just like everybody else.

Perhaps the Church today has grown fearful of proclaiming God’s prophetic word.  Perhaps we have allowed the world to intimidate us; bully us; convince us that it is more loving to overlook such sins rather than confront them.  Do you know what the most quoted Bible verse is?  It’s not John 3:16.  It’s “Judge not, lest you be judged.”   It appears that the Church has become increasingly tolerant of sin, speaking words that don’t offend anyone, but those are not God’s words.  The world needs God’s words.  The Church needs God’s words.  Any you, my brothers and sisters, need God’s words.

It’s time once again for the Church to say, “Thus says the Lord.”  It doesn’t matter what the laws of our land allow, it doesn’t matter what society permits, or what everyone else is doing, tweeting, or posting on social media.  God will not tolerate sin.  Your sins, my sins, or societies sins.  Repent, or you will perish.  That’s the prophetic word that you and I are sent into this world to proclaim no matter what our vocation might be.  Oh, sure.  It will tick some people off.  But if they don’t hear God’s Law, they would never know of God’s mercy and grace.  They would never truly hear the Gospel.  They would never truly know Jesus.

When you look back into Old Testament history you will see that the faithful prophets always dearly loved their people.  Jeremiah spoke harshly about the people’s sin and rejection of God, but listen to the depth of his love for them.  Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
(Jer 9:1)  Jesus also lamented over his people.  Do you hear the anguish in his voice, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (vs 34)

Do you sense the depth of his love for his people?  Do you hear how he longed to save them?  He was willing to die for them.  He was willing to go to the cross for them, but they were not willing to hear his word, they were not willing to repent of their sins, they despised the final prophetic word sent to them and they crucified him.

Can you hear Jesus today lamenting over the world that you and I live in?  Can you hear him lamenting over this community you and I live in?  Can you hear him lamenting over you?  In the depth of his love for you he was willing to suffer and die on a cross for your sins.

On that first Easter afternoon, two disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus when, they were met by a stranger who asked why they were so downcast.  They told him about Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and deed, and that they had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.  “They had hoped.”  Those are probably the saddest words in all of Scripture.  Imagine their surprise, and joy, when the crucified and now risen Savior revealed himself to them through the opening of the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread.  Yes!  Jesus is a prophet.  He is the Prophet.  But he is more than a prophet, he is your crucified and risen Savior.  The forgiveness of all your sins, no matter what they are, was delivered to you in your Baptism.  You, dear saints of Redeemer, sit here today with all the same joy and hope that those two disciples on the road to Emmaus had as they walked with Jesus, because your Jesus, in your Baptism, in your hearing of his word, in your reception of his own very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion has brought you into the New Jerusalem, the Holy Christian Church.

During Lent we walk with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem.  We re-create what he has already done.  Today, we see Jesus lamenting over his beloved city, Jerusalem.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…but you would not!”   But you and I know the rest of the story.  There will be a day when Jesus returns again, and again he will cry out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”  But this time the cry will not be one of lament and anguish.  It will be a cry of joy from the lips of our Lord himself as he sees the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  When that day come, we will hear our Savior say, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem; O George, George; O, Mary, Mary; (insert your own name there); how I have longed, for you!”  Amen.

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

Jesus Alone

The Transfiguration of Our Lord / Deacon Rex Watt

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 / Psalm 99 / Hebrews 3:1-6 / Luke 9:28-36


+ 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.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  We are bombarded by a plethora of voices these days.  Everywhere we go, everywhere we turn someone is speaking to us.  Think about it: the voices of newscasters, the voices of government leaders, the voices of songwriters, the voices of You-Tubers, bloggers, and Tweeters; the voices of television writers and movie stars, and all too soon the voices of political candidates.  Take a moment, if you will, and account for the assortment of voices you hear each day and consider what they are saying.  Consider where the voice is coming from.  Is this voice the voice of God, or is this a voice that will lead you into the captivity of sin, death, and the power of the devil?

The first voice recorded in the Bible is the voice of God saying, “Let there be light” (Gn 3:1), and there was light.  That voice of God called into existence not only light; but the heavens and the earth; vegetation; the sun, moon and stars; and all living creatures on the land, in the air, and under the waters.  After all these things had been created, God did not cease to speak.  He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gn 1:26)  He also went on to say, “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gn2:18), and He also said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gn 2:16-17)  Adam and Eve did not listen to the voice of God.  Instead they were persuaded by another voice; another voice that would lead them into the captivity of sin, death, and the power of the devil.

There is a lot going on in our Gospel text for today.  It speaks to us of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  This Sunday is a transition, the culmination of the Epiphany season where we have witnessed various manifestations of Jesus over the past several weeks, to the beginning of Lent where we will walk with Jesus who has set his face to go to Jerusalem.  After this mountaintop experience, Jesus is going to go down the mountain into the valley of the shadow of death, to rescue you and me from our captivity to sin, death and the power of the devil.

But before he does that, he has one more manifestation for us, and boy, what a sight it is to see.  He takes Peter, John and James up on a mountain to pray.  This was about eight days after Peter made his confession that Jesus was the Christ of God.  Jesus would get away often to pray.  Before the end of this chapter of Luke we are going to see Jesus setting his face to go to Jerusalem.  He knew what lay ahead of him.  He needed time to pray.  Peter, James and John were three of the first four disciples called by Jesus.  They seem to have become some sort of “inner circle” to Jesus.  He had taken them into Jairus’ house when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and they would be with him in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his betrayal and arrest.  Here they are on the mountain top, and boy did they get a show!

While Jesus was praying “the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” (vs 29)  It’s as if Jesus was becoming something “other” than what he was.  The term used for “dazzling white” indicates flashes of lightening.  In Matthew’s account, it says that his face “shone like the sun.” (Mt 17:3)  Imagine with me looking directly into the sun, and while you are doing that you see flashes of lightening, one after another, so intense that it makes the sun look like a nightlight!  I don’t care how asleep you are…that would wake you up!  And awake the disciples became.  I don’t know about you, but I identify with these guys.  Prayer is hard work.  I find it difficult to stay awake during extended times of prayer.  Maybe it’s because I am not cognizant of whose presence I am in while I pray.  Hebrews tells us, dear Saints, that when we pray, we enter the very Holy of Holies, the very presence of God himself.  We are, in a manner of speaking, on a mountain top, face to face with the glory of God.

The disciples “saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” (vs32)  One of the three, John, would later write, “…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)  And Peter would later write of this event, “…we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…. for we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Pet 1:16,18)  These three men saw the glory of God that Moses longed to see, but was denied, when he was placed in the cleft of a rock.  But now Moses is here, in the Promised Land, from which he had also been barred from entering; along with Elijah.  What a sight!  The two greatest figures in all the Old Testament: Moses the representative of the Law, and Elijah the representative of the Prophets right here, with Jesus, in glorious appearance, on this mountain top.  No wonder Peter didn’t want to leave!  Would you?

While there is so much to see with all this spectacular flashing of light and glorious appearing of these major figures in Biblical history, I want you to listen.  Listen carefully to what is being said and who is saying it.  Thee are three conversations going on in this text: the conversation between Moses, Elijah and Jesus; the conversation between Peter and Jesus; and then what God the Father has to say.

Moses and Elijah “were talking with him” our text says, “and spoke about his departure.” (vss 30-31)  This speaking about his departure is unique to Luke, and it is the Greek word for “exodus.”  We often get the idea that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus and that they are the ones strengthening Jesus for the work he is to accomplish at Jerusalem.  I think it’s the other way around!  Jesus is pointing out to Moses and Elijah just what it was that their work and their prophecies were pointing toward!  Moses had prophesied, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen.” (Dt 18:15)  And Jesus is telling and showing Moses, “Hey!  It’s me!  I’m the guy!  You are now with me in the Promised Land, and you now get to see my glory!”  And to Elijah, the Old Testament harbinger of the Messiah, Jesus is saying the same thing, “It’s me!  I’m the one you were pointing to!”  “And my Exodus?  It’s not just a freeing of people from a life of slavery from cruel rulers to a land flowing with milk and honey; it will be a freeing of people from slavery to sin and leading them to the promised land of eternal life.”  Jesus made this abundantly clear while speaking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Lk 24:25-27)

And then there is the conversation of Peter, if we can call it a conversation.  Typical Peter.  Open mouth insert foot.  He just doesn’t get it.  He’s so enamored with the flashing light, the glory, and the presence of the two greatest figures in all Israelite history that all he can think about is making three booths, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah so that they all could just stay on this mountain top and bask in the light.  Who’s to blame him?  Wouldn’t you?  But Peter’s focus is on the wrong thing.  He’d focused on the here and now.  He’s already forgotten that just a few days ago, after he made is profound confession that Jesus himself said that  he must “…suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (vs 22)

Peter loved mountain top experiences.  We all do, don’t we?  You go to camp, you go to a conference and you get all jazzed up spiritually and you don’t want to “go back home.”  You know that when you “go back home” that you will have to face the realities of daily Christian living, and it’s not all mountain top experiences.  My dear brothers and sisters, for every mountain top, there are at least two valleys.  It’s in the valleys that we live and move and have our being.  But take heart, Jesus is going to come down that mountain and walk with you…or maybe I should say, you are going to walk with him, for he has already been through the Valley of the Shadow of death, for you.

This brings us to our last conversation.  “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’” (vs 35)

Listen to Jesus!  He’s the chosen one of God!  The writer to the Hebrews opens his book with, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” (Heb 1:1-2)  Do not get enamored by Moses’ or Elijah’s, or Benny Hinn’s, or Deepak Chopra’s, Joel Osteen’s, the Dali Lama, Buddha or any other so-called spiritual guru.  Jesus is God’s Chosen One.  Jesus is the one who lived his life in perfect obedience to God’s Law, for you.  Jesus is the one who suffered, bled and died on the cross for your sins.  Jesus is the one who was not only buried but was raised from the dead for your justification.  And Jesus is the one who ascended into the very throne room of God and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High, having completed his work on your behalf.

None of those other guys I mentioned, or anyone else, has done all that, or any of that, for you.  Dear Saints of Redeemer look to Jesus.  Listen to him!  “For this Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way” (Ac 1:11) for you!

When the cloud dissipated and the voice had spoken, “Jesus was found alone.”  And they were silent.  Nothing else to say.

The first voice recorded in the Bible was the voice of God saying, “Let there be light” (Gn 3:1).  We have seen the true light which enlightens everyone, who came into the world, dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.  The last voice recorded in the Bible is his voice saying, “Surely I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:20)  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

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