Sermons

In a Little While

Easter 5, May 19, 2019 — Deacon Rex Watt

Acts 11:1-18 / Revelation 21:1-7 / John 16:12-22

 

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +

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

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  Dear saints of Redeemer, a riddle: What occurs once every minute, twice every moment, yet never in a thousand years?  The answer: the letter m.  Riddles can be fun, but they can also be confounding.  For Samson, the riddle that he told to the Philistines, “Out of the eater came something to eat.  Out of the strong came something sweet” was fun (Jdg 14:14), but for the Philistines it was confounding.  Let’s try another one.  The one who makes it, has no need of it.  The one who buys it, does not use it.  The one who uses it, cannot see it or feel it.  What is it?  While you mull that one over, let’s take a look at what appears to be a riddle for the disciples as Jesus winds down his Upper Room discourse in our gospel lesson for today.

We are in the season of Easter, but our text for today takes place Maundy Thursday night.  The disciples reacted with puzzlement to the words that Jesus spoke to them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (v 16).  To us, looking back, that’s not much of a riddle.  We know that in a little while the Lord will bring redemption, life and salvation into the world.  But the disciples?  They were confounded.

“In a little while” – tomorrow from the perspective of our reading – Jesus will go to his death.  In a little while the disciples will see him arrested, tried and convicted, beaten, and hung on a cross to die.  And then they will see him no longer when the stone is rolled over the mouth of the tomb and sealed shut.  Within 24 hours of Jesus speaking these words, “In a little while…” the disciples experienced exactly what Jesus described.  They would have great sorrow.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament…you will be sorrowful,” Jesus told them.  And indeed, they were.  They were crushed.  Their master, their teacher, on whom they had pinned all their hopes and dreams was dead.  What would happen now?

The authorities had killed Jesus.  What might they do to his followers?  It was an unsettling time for the disciples.  That’s why they were locked away in that upper room “for fear of the Jews” the Apostle John wrote.  He should know.  He was there!  But here in our text Jesus assures them that even though things might seem very grim, that would not be the end of the story.  “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  There is another “little while” coming, and they will see Jesus once more.  Jesus is referring to his resurrection with this second “little while.”  After Jesus’ crucifixion and burial on Friday, it would be only a little while, on Sunday, until they see him again.  And when Jesus was raised, and they saw him, their spirits were raised also.  “You will be sorrowful,” Jesus told them, “but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

To explain this sorrow to joy transformation Jesus uses the illustration of a woman giving birth.  Being a guy, I’m sure that I cannot completely relate, but I’m going to give it a try.  When a woman goes into labor, the labor pains increase in frequency and intensity, until the woman feels like she is being torn apart and can’t take it anymore.  Although this pain is very intense, it is, relatively speaking only for a short time, and gives way to a surpassingly wonderful joy, joy that a new life has come into the world.  It is a joy that lasts much longer than the pain that she has just gone through.  And so Jesus concludes his illustration by telling his disciples, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

How the disciples did rejoice when they saw Jesus on Easter day!  Not only was their master alive, they also began to understand why he had to die.  They saw the nail marks in his hands and feet, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and it all was beginning to become clear.  This was all part of God’s plan all along!  It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and die for sinful mankind.  It was the only way for our sins to be atoned for, the only way for death to be overcome.  God’s Holy Son must die for sinners like you, like me, and like those disciples, or else we would all be lost forever.  But now the risen Lord shows us that his rescue mission was successful and complete.  Sins forgiven; death conquered.  New life, resurrection life, given and received.  Good Friday and Easter–together they do all that.  From death to life.  From sorrow to joy.  A little while, and a lot of joy.

Dear friends, Christ gives you a joy that no one can take from you.  It is a joy that runs deeper than your circumstances.  The world will hate you–and we see evidence of that all around us these days, increasingly so as the world’s hostility against the Christian church grows.  The world will hate you, even as they hated Jesus.  The world will rejoice at the church’s misfortunes.  But no one can take our joy–a real, true joy–that we have in Jesus from us.  It’s too great and too deep for them to touch.  For we know, –the Holy Spirit has embedded this faith in our hearts–we know that our Redeemer lives, and, oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives: He lives, and because he lives, we will live also.  We live as God’s dearly loved children. We live, our lives joined to Jesus forever in Holy Baptism.  The bond is too strong to break.  Your salvation dear saints of Redeemer is secure, come what may.

Testing and trials and troubles will come.  In this world, in this life, we will have tribulation.  For one thing, our sinful tendencies have not totally vanished.  We still stumble and fall, and we need to be picked up and set back on the right road.  Our own sin perplexes us.  And the world around us will persecute us, mock us, make fun of us Christians, speak evil against us.  On top of that, the devil will tempt us, try to draw us away from Christ–through the desires of the flesh, through the deceitfulness of the world’s false values, through the discouragement that comes when we think God doesn’t care for us.  And so, there is this battle we must fight now for a little while.

“A little while.”  There it is again.  Like the disciples, we endure a “little while” of anguish and sorrow, as we await our Lord’s return.  For Christ has ascended and gone back to the Father, and we don’t see him here with us right now.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t with us.  He is.  It’s just that we don’t see him with our eyes.  And our life doesn’t look all that magnificently perfect either.  So, we have a “little while” of our own that we must go through.

But it is just a little while, relatively speaking.  The suffering and the sorrow may be intense, there’s no denying that.  But in the big scheme of things, when compared to the eternal future that lies before us, the sorrow now is just for a little while.  The better time is coming–Jesus himself is coming, he is coming again–when everything will be restored and made new.  “Behold, I am making all things new!” our returning Lord declares.

And so, for now we have our “little while.”  But it’s a little while that leads to a lot of joy!  Because even now we have that joy, a significant taste of it–Easter joy, and that’s a joy that no one can take from us.  It’s the joy of sins forgiven.  It’s the joy of knowing our Savior is risen and lives forever.  It’s the joy Jesus gives us through the Holy Spirit, our Lord’s “going-away present,” so to speak, the Spirit testifying to our Spirit that we are indeed God’s children.  And it’s the joy of knowing that Christ will come again to take us home.

We began with a riddle.  Here it is again: The one who makes it, has no need of it.  The one who buys it, does not use it.  The one who uses it, cannot see it or feel it.  What is it?  A coffin: a casket.  And the one who uses it will not need it long, for in a little while the Lord will come again, and for his redeemed, all the sorrows of this world, including death will be turned into the all-surpassing joy of resurrection to eternal life.  May God grant this to us all.  Amen.

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

Recognizing Jesus

Easter 3, May 5, 2019 — Deacon Rex Watt

Acts 9:1-22 / Revelation 5:1-14 /John 21:1-19

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +

 

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

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  Dear saints of Redeemer, Jesus kept his promise and did what no one in human history has ever done before or since – he raised himself from the dead.  He told his disciples earlier in his discourse on the Good Shepherd, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from my Father.”  (Jn 10.17-18)  He had even told the Jews early on in his ministry, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  (Jn 2.19)  And the Apostle tells us that Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body.  In this body, he made many appearances for 40 days after his resurrection, giving his disciples, and us, ample opportunity for this truth to sink in.  For a long time, the Christian Church has made it a custom each year during the 40 days after Easter to focus on the joy and wonder of the resurrection appearances of Jesus.  Today we will look at his third appearance as recorded by John.

Jesus, prior to his ascension, promised to be with us always, but he chooses when, where, and how he makes his presence known.  He often reveals himself to us in places, ways and times we don’t expect.  You and I are called to walk by faith, and not by sight.  We walk by faith when we take Jesus at his word, recognizing that he does not lie to us, and trusting in his promises to reveal himself where he said he would be.

Jesus, our redeemer, has risen from the dead.  The Hebrew Scriptures foretold it in Psalm 16.9-10, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”  Jesus told the apostles that he would do it, and Jesus had, before our text today, already appeared to his disciples after his resurrection several times: Mary at the tomb, the two walking on the road to Emmaus, the upper room twice.  Besides these appearances in Jerusalem, he had promised to reveal himself to the disciples in Galilee.

We don’t know precisely when this appearing took place in our text for today.  The disciples obviously stayed in Jerusalem for a while as the preceding chapter of John’s Gospel informs us.  But there was a 40-day period between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and we are somewhere in that 40-day period here in Galilee.  The disciples, some of them anyway, had obviously travelled back to Galilee for whatever reason.  Maybe they found it hard to wait for the Lord’s promise to be clothed with power from on high.

Waiting has its challenges, doesn’t it?  We don’t like to wait, do we?  It’s hard to wait for those test results from the doctor.  It’s hard to wait for that “right person” to come along.  It’s hard to wait for that son or daughter to get their act together.  Given our current cultural climate, it’s getting harder and harder to wait for our Lord’s return, isn’t it?  Sometimes we feel like throwing the towel in, don’t we?  Dear brothers and sisters, we must fight the temptation to become weary in well doing as Paul says in Gal 6.9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  We must not be caught napping like the parable of the ten virgins.  We must use the time profitably as Paul exhorts in Eph 5.15-17, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Maybe, just maybe, that’s what these seven disciples of Jesus were doing in Galilee.  Making the best use of their time, doing what they know to do.  Fish.

They had been out all night casting their net overboard on one side, then the next, to no avail.  As the day was dawning a stranger from the shore calls out, “Hey guys, have you caught anything?”  You got to love it!  A boat load of professional fishermen saying, “Nada!”  Then the stranger yells out, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  So, they do…and they catch such a load of fish that they were not able to haul it on board.  Just then, John, one of the seven, probably re-living a previous fishing experience (found in Luke 5) realizes that the stranger is Jesus and blurts out, “It’s the Lord!”  Recognizing that it’s Jesus, Peter throws himself into the sea and makes for shore.  The others bring the boat in dragging the great catch of fish with them.  When they get there, they find Jesus preparing a breakfast on the beach, just for them.

This is the third time recorded in Scripture that Jesus’ followers didn’t recognize him after his resurrection.  First, there was Mary at the tomb.  She thought he was the gardener until he called her name.  The second was the two men on the road to Emmaus who didn’t recognize him until he broke the bread and gave it to them.  When their eyes had been opened, they exclaimed, “ Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”  In our text today the disciples did not recognize Jesus until he replicated an earlier miracle, which was recorded for us in Luke 5.  The point being, dear saints, we do not, in fact we cannot recognize Jesus unless he reveals himself to us.  The question is, “Will we recognize our risen Savior where he promises to reveal himself?”

You see, you and I were born in sin, incapable of seeking after God (Rom 3.11) or understanding the things of God (1 Cor 2:14).  We were, as Paul said, “…alienated and hostile…” to God (Col 1.21), “…dead in [our] trespasses and sins…” (Eph 2.1).  But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5.8)  Your Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for your sin so that you could receive the righteousness of God in its place.  And it wasn’t just that Jesus died; he was buried and actually rose again, by his own power, “for our justification”  (Rom 4.25), as Paul says.

In your Baptism, God called you by name (Isa 43.1), just like he did to Mary at the tomb.  And when he called, your eyes were opened, and you recognized Jesus, just like Mary did.  When you hear Scripture proclaimed in its purity your hearts burn within you just like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  You recognize your Shepherd’s voice as he calls to you from this pulpit or from the pages of your open Bible.  As you come to this altar to receive the true body and blood of the Lord Jesus, your eyes are opened to recognize that you are kneeling on holy ground, in the very presence of God himself.

You weren’t at the open tomb that first Easter morn.  You weren’t in the upper room on the night that Jesus was betrayed, or after his resurrection when he showed himself to his disciples.  You weren’t walking along that road with the two disciples when Jesus revealed himself to them.  Nor were you in that boat, or even on the shore, when Jesus revealed himself for the third time to his disciples.  You wouldn’t recognize Jesus if you saw him.  No, you weren’t there, and you cannot go back there.  But you don’t need to…because Jesus comes to you.  He calls you by name; whether its “Simon, son of John; or Saul; or Al or Linda, or Richard or Pam, or Sally; or…just go ahead and insert your own name in there.  He calls you and enlightens you with his gifts so that you may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity.

And what are the great gifts he’s given you?  It’s not health, wealth or happiness.  The greatest gift he has given you is forgiveness of your sins.  Dear saints of Redeemer, if you have forgiveness of your sins, you have everything!  Without forgiveness of our sins, nothing else matters, here in time, or there in eternity.

Do you recognize Jesus?  He is here; today; sitting right beside you; calling out to you just like he did to Peter and Paul saying, “you are a chosen instrument of mine, to carry my name; Follow me!”

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +  Amen

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

Expectations

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 — Deacon Rex Watt

Isaiah 65:17-25 / 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 / Luke 24:1-12

 

 

+ 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.

“Alleluia! Christ is Risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!”  We expected to hear those words this morning, didn’t we?  It is Easter after all.  It is the time of the year that the Church talks a lot about the resurrection of Jesus.  It just goes with the territory so to speak.  But it was not always so.  Just look at our gospel text for today.  On that first Easter morning, the women came to the tomb of Jesus not because they thought He was alive; they came bearing spices needed to prepare His body for proper burial.  If you remember what took place on Good Friday, Jesus hung on the cross from about 9:00 am until 3:00 pm when He cries out with a loud voice and dies.  And after He dies Luke goes on to tell us that a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked Pontius Pilate for the body of Jesus, wrapped it up quickly in a linen shroud and placed it in a tomb nearby because, “It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.”  God forbid that they should do any work on the Sabbath.  No, the women did not come to the tomb that first Easter morning expecting to find a live Jesus, they came expecting to find a dead Jesus.

They aren’t the only ones who had expectations when it came to Jesus.  Take the two on the road to Emmaus, which is the very next story we find in Luke’s gospel following our reading today.  While they were walking along the road, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”  After Jesus had asked them what is was that they were discussing along the way, they said they were discussing Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and had him crucified, and how they had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel from its bondage.  They may well have had previous connections to a party called the Zealots, who were all about throwing off the Roman rule in Palestine.  With Jesus of Nazareth’s death, their political dreams were dashed.

And then there was that large crowd of 5,000 who were fed miraculously by Jesus.  After He fed them and left for the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the next day the people got into their boats and followed Him there not because of the sign that He had done, but because they wanted more bread.  They expected Jesus to be their bread basket.

Remember when the people of Capernaum wanted to keep Jesus around as their medical plan after he healed Simon Peter’s mother in law and a bunch of other people in town?

Even His own disciples had expectations of Jesus.  They argued among themselves as to which of them was going to be greatest in the kingdom they thought He was going to establish.  Why even James and John’s mother got into the act by coming to Jesus and asking if her two boys could sit, one at His right hand and one at His left when He came into His kingdom!

People had all kinds of expectations of Jesus.  And on the day that Jesus died, all those expectations died as well.  But all that was about to change.

When the women got to the tomb with the spices they had prepared, they found the stone that covered the opening of the tomb had been rolled away.  They had been wondering all the way from town how they were going to get inside the tomb to finish preparing Jesus’ body according to custom.  They must have been relieved when they arrived and found the tomb open.  But when they went in, they did not find what they expected.  The tomb was empty.  They did not find the body of Jesus.  What they did find were two men, the other gospels call them angels, dressed in dazzling apparel, who said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and on the third day rise?”

These words dear saints of Redeemer are among the sweetest words in all of Scripture.  Your Jesus is not in a tomb.  He has risen.  These women who came to the tomb were the first to hear those powerful words that have changed the course of world history, “He is not here, but has risen.”  They couldn’t keep it to themselves so they ran off back to town and told the apostles, and all who were with them, what they had seen and heard.  Unfortunately our text tells us that, “these words seemed to them an idle tale,” which could be rendered in Greek as ‘pure nonsense.’  It was beyond their wildest expectations.  But that’s the way God works.  He doesn’t work according to our expectations; He works beyond our imaginations!

Peter, being Peter, ran to the tomb to see for himself.  Looking in all he saw were the grave cloths, and he went away wondering what this all meant.  Later, Jesus will come to him and restore he who denied his Lord three times, and he will become one of the boldest witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus recorded in the New Testament.

Today, your Jesus works in ways beyond your imagination.  He became flesh to take upon himself all our sins; yours, mine and those of the whole world.  He went to the cross to bear the punishment for those sins, was buried, and as we heard today from the mouth of the angels, raised from the dead.  His resurrection is the beginning of the new creation promised by our Lord, of which we heard in our OT lesson.  Reborn of water and the Holy Spirit you were made partakers of that new creation in your baptisms.  And in a few minutes we will by faith, according to the Word of Christ himself, find His resurrected body – not in a tomb, but right here at this altar in His Holy Supper.  Rejoice dear saints of Redeemer, for He is risen, He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Amen.

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

The Other Side of Judgement

Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 7, 2019 — Deacon Rex Watt

Isaiah 43:16-21 / Philippians 3:4b-14 / Luke 20:9-20

+ 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.  Amen.

Many things in life have two sides: coins; football, baseball and basketball games; and arguments just to name a few.  It has been said that if you visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and take time to walk around the statue of our 16th President, that you will see his countenance change from one side to the other.  On one side, he looks downcast, as if he is considering the consequences of the war that tore his country apart, costing the lives of over 600,000 people.  From the other side, there seems to be a slight smile on his face, as if he is considering the freedom so many people gained, and that his nation was no longer divided but united and stronger than ever.

The parable of the wicked tenants also has two sides.  It speaks a severe pronouncement of God’s judgement upon the house of Israel, particularly its leaders, for their rebellion and rejection of God’s grace.  However, our Lord also speaks this parable to us today, as members of the new Israel, the holy Christian Church – the “others” referred to in verse 16.  Fortunately for us, it is not a pronouncement of judgement or Law.  This parable lets us view the other side of judgement: God’s grace in Christ.

One the one side, the parable summarizes Israel’s wicked response to God’s patient dealings with them and His judgement upon those who reject His grace.  God had graciously brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, “making a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters” as our OT reading depicted.  He brought them into the Promised Land, which He gave to them, and made them a nation to be reckoned with despite their continued rebellion and apostacy.  Israel would sin, and God would send a judge.  Israel would sin again, and God would send another judge.  Israel sinned again in asking for a king, so that they could be like all the other nations around them; and when the kings led the people astray, God would send prophets.  One after another.

Jesus picks up on this when he tells the parable.  He purposely uses the image of a vineyard because over and over in the Jewish Scriptures, Israel is likened to a vineyard (Isa 5:7).  Jesus tells the people that a man established a vineyard and let it out to tenant farmers.  A tenant farmer was not the owner of the land, he worked the land for the owner, and he could keep a portion of the fruit of the land as his pay; but the crop, the fruits of the land belonged to the owner.  When harvest time came, the owner sent a servant to collect his due.  The tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  So, the owner sent another, and the tenants not only beat this one, they treated him shamefully and sent him away empty handed.  Third time is the charm, right?  The owner sent a third, and this one they wounded and cast him out.

If that were your employee, what would you do?  Every time that you send a representative to collect your rent, your share of the crops, they keep getting treated worse and worse. So, what would you do?  I know!  You’d send your son, wouldn’t you?  Your beloved son.  Your only son.  “What!!” you say?  “Are you nuts?  I’d fire those good for nothing tenants and get me some new ones.”  Alas, dear saints of Redeemer, God’s ways are not your ways.  The owner of the vineyard (the Greek text says ‘Lord’ of the vineyard) sends his son, his beloved son, his only son.

“But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir.  Let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’”  And they did just that.  They did it in the parable and would do it for real in a few short days.  They killed the son alright, but they got the inheritance thing all wrong.  Jesus concludes the parable by telling the people that the owner (Lord) of the vineyard will come and destroy those wicked tenants, but he’s not going to hire new tenants; he’s going to ‘give’ the vineyard to others.

When the people heard this, they were aghast!  “Surely not!” they said.  “μή γένοιτο”  May it never be!  A phrase used by the Apostle Paul frequently when he is stressing that something is not possible.  “ No way Jesus!  Not possible!”  Then Jesus “Looked directly at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?’  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”   Jesus is looking directly into the eyes of the people and saying, “Look at me…read my lips!”  He is the rejected son.  He will be killed.  He will be the stone rejected, but become the cornerstone, the foundation stone of a new vineyard – the Church.

The Apostle Paul clearly enumerates that Jesus is the cornerstone of this new household of God in his letter to the Ephesians: “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross….  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but 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 2:11-21).

You dear saints of Redeemer are part of the new people of God.  Paul says that you who are in Christ, are a new creation (2 Cor 5.17).  He wrote, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, [even] upon the Israel of God” (Gal 6:15-16).  You, dear saints, are part of the “new thing” that God promised to do as foretold by Isaiah.  You, dear saints, have believed the Gospel; that Jesus became flesh for you to fulfill the commandments of God that you could never fulfill on your own; to suffer God’s wrath on your behalf, and die the death appointed for you on Calvary.  This Jesus, your Jesus, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and the Jewish leaders thought they had won the victory and the inheritance would be theirs.  But God had other plans.  Jesus rose from the dead and became the cornerstone of a new people of God.  In your Baptism you were made part of that new people of God.  You have received that “water of Life” promised by Jesus to the woman at the well.  It is the “water in the wilderness, [the] river in the desert” that gives you drink during your earthly pilgrimage as His chosen people, a people whom He formed for Himself, that you might declare His praise.  He gives all this to you purely out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you.  Purely out of His grace, which is the other side of judgement.  Amen.

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

Don’t You Love a Good Ending?

Fourth Sunday in Lent – Deacon Rex Watt

Isaiah 12.1-6 / 2 Corinthians 5.16-21 / Luke 15.1-3, 11-32

+ 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.

Our Gospel text for today is the third parable in a series that Jesus tells in response to the criticism he’s been receiving from, of all people, the fine, upstanding, church going crowd – the Pharisees.  He is being accused of fraternizing with “those people.”  You know, the ones not like you.  The tax collectors and sinners.  When they grumbled and said, “This man receives sinners and eats with them”  he told them a parable.

We commonly call this parable “The parable of the Prodigal Son” or the parable of the lost son.  And the younger son does live up to that title, doesn’t he!  His request for his father to divide the inheritance was tantamount to wishing that his father was dead.  Not only that, but his request put the family business at risk because now the father has less working capital with which to run the family business.  What a selfish, greedy child!  Sound like anyone you know?  As we read on in our text we see that this selfish, greedy child frittered away that precious capital on himself with reckless living until it was all gone.  He apparently didn’t spend it on anything of value because when it was all gone and a famine arose in the land, he had nothing to fall back on.  No savings, no jewelry to hawk, not even any friends anymore, for the text says, “…no one gave him anything.”   At least he had enough common sense to get a job!  But the only work he could find was feeding pigs, a humiliating job for a Jew.  No one, not even one of his newfound drinking buddies, bothered to help him out.

Then Jesus tells us that the young man woke up.  He came to his senses.  The light bulb went on.  “If dad would take me back, even as a slave, my life would be better than this,” he reasons.  So, he packs his meager belongings, and on the way home he rehearses his apology.  “Dad, I messed up.  I’m not worthy to be called your son, but if you could find it in your heart, would you give me a job as one of your hired hands?”  While he is rehearsing this speech to his father and approaching his home, Jesus tells us, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion.”  Dad runs out to greet him as though he were the dignitary!  Dad throws a filet mignon on the grill, arranges a welcome-home banquet complete with a DJ, and in front of everyone, puts a ring on the kid’s finger, a pair of Santoni shoes on his feet, and a Giorgio Armani suit on his shoulders.  Whaaat, you say?  “This isn’t fair!” you protest.  But who said God is fair?

The story now turns and introduces probably the most neglected character in the parable, the older son.  The older son comes in from working in the fields, hears all the music and joyful celebration, and asks one of the servants what’s going on?  The servant tells him about his brother’s return and his father’s joy that he has come back home safe and sound.  This older son is not pleased and says to his father, “Why, I’ve slaved for you all these years and never disobeyed you.  I never gave you any grief, yet you never threw me so much as a pizza party!  This self-centered, disrespectful, maverick son of yours returns and you pull out all the stops for him.  Do you really think that I’m going to join in and celebrate his return as if he were some sort of hero?”  This older son, like the Pharisees, thinks that he’s justified in looking down on those “other people”, you know, those who aren’t like him, even if it is his own brother.

I suggest to you that this section may be the main point of this parable.  Recall that Jesus is telling three parables in answer to the Pharisee’s charge, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  All three parables talk about someone, or something, that was lost and gets found.  All three parables talk about the celebration and rejoicing over the sinner who repents.  Yet this parable has one more character.  An older son who thinks he’s one of the 99; an older son, who, like the Pharisees thinks that he’s been the faithful, obedient child and that if anyone should get a party thrown if their favor, it should be he!  Why all this inordinate celebration over “those people?”

Let’s look closely at this older son’s reasoning.  “Look, these many years I have served you…”  Served?  Really?  Then why do you use the word “slaved?”  This older son literally thinks that he is in a “slave/master” relationship with his father.  That what he does for his father is as a slave working for his master.  Ironically, this older son is placing himself in the very relationship that his younger brother sought, because he (the younger boy), having wasted the gifts given to him by his father thought that that was all that he was worthy of.  But what does his father call him?  “Son!”  He was not a slave – but a son.  Any work he does on the property, he does on property that he will inherit.  It’s all his!

“And I have never disobeyed…”  Really?  Like you’re not being disobedient right now as we speak by refusing to join in with the family celebration?  “You never gave me a young goat…to celebrate with my friends.”   This older son would prefer to celebrate, not with family, but with his friends.  Is this an indicator that this older son’s primary affections may not really lie with his father after all, but with his friends?  It gets pretty telling in his next statement, “But when this son of yours…!”   Wow!  He won’t even acknowledge his brother!  John Wesley comments on the significance of the possessive pronouns in this story by writing:  A thousand of these delicate touches in the inspired writings escape an inattentive reader.  The elder son had unkindly and indecently said: This thy son.  The father in his reply mildly reproves him, and tenderly says, This thy brother.  Amazing intimation, that the best of men ought to account the worst sinners their brethren still. (John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, pg. 184)

The father then turns to his older child and says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  Could there be any more comforting words?

We are not told how this story ends for the older son.  We don’t know whether he accepted his fathers pleading to join the celebration of his little brother’s return, or not.  So, you might ask, “Rex, how come you titled this sermon ‘Don’t You Love a Good Ending?’ when we don’t know how it ends?”  It is because dear Saints of Redeemer, you do know how it ends!  You know that God welcomed you back into His good grace, even when you were alienated and far from Him.  How He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live the life you cannot live and to die the death that you deserved.  How Jesus took all your sins upon Himself in His baptism and nailed them to the cross in His crucifixion.  How He was raised from the dead for your justification and ascended into the heavens to sit down at the right hand of God.  When you became His child in your baptisms, your heavenly Father brought you into His family, called you Son/Daughter, declared that all that He has is yours, and that He would never, ever leave you.  Since God has done all this for us, how dare we ever begrudge it when God’s grace is extended to others, no matter how unworthy they appear to us.  After all, we are all beggars.

“’Come unto Me, ye wand’rers, And I will give you light.’  O loving voice of Jesus, Which comes to cheer the night!  Our hearts were filled with sadness, And we had lost our way; But Thou has brought us gladness, And songs at break of day,”  (LSB 684:2)

“O Christ, our true and only light, Enlighten those who sit in night; Let those afar now hear Your voice, And in Your fold with us rejoice.”  Amen.

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

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.

The Teacher

Seventh Sunday of Epiphany — Deacon Rex Watt

Genesis 45:3-15 / 1 Cor 15:21-26, 30-42 / Luke 6:27-38

 

+ 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 have been travelling with Jesus over the past several weeks from the time that the wise men came to offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child, to his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist where we heard the voice of God declare, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  We watched him turn water into wine; walk out of a crowd trying to kill him; heal many who were inflicted with infirmities; cast out demons; and provide a miraculous catch of fish.  Each of these Sunday’s readings manifested the divinity of Jesus in a material or physical way.  Last Sunday, and today, we see Jesus manifested as “The Teacher.”  Notice that I said, “The Teacher.”  It is conventional wisdom to consider Jesus as “a” teacher, maybe even a “good teacher” but certainly not “The Teacher.”  We heard from Pastor Wildermuth last week that Jesus taught with “unconventional wisdom.”  In our Gospel lesson for this week, we hear some more of that unconventional wisdom.  If Jesus is “The Teacher” then his words must trump the teachings of all others.  If Jesus is “The Teacher” then his words lay claim on my life, and your life.  If Jesus is “The Teacher” then it’s no longer what I think, but what he says.

We all have had teachers in our lives.  Some good, some not so good.  Some remembered, some you may want to forget.  What made a teacher good and remembered by you, or not so good in your mind, probably wasn’t what they taught, but how they taught; who they were.  After all, math is math.  History is (or should be!) history.  If I ask you to recall who your favorite teacher was when you were in school, I suspect it would be a teacher who took a special interest in you or was able to make a boring or difficult subject “come to life” for you.  Someone has said, “The mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; but the great teacher inspires.” (William Ward, Progress Magazine, December 23, 1992)  No matter who we remember as a great teacher, they pale in comparison to Jesus.  Jesus is the greatest teacher who has ever taught.  When he opened his mouth, people listened.  They were, as Matthew said, “…astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Mt 7:28-29)

In our text for today, Jesus takes the heart of his teaching to an unexpectedly deeper level by commanding that his disciples love their enemies.  There is a lot of what we call “Law” in these verses.  There are several imperatives, commands to obey.  Love your enemies is one of them.  Conventional wisdom is that you hate your enemies.  You have heard the saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?”  Jesus here is turning that on its head.  And he tells us what love for an enemy looks like.  It is doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them.    Later in Luke’s Gospel we see Jesus demonstrating this very teaching.  He is on the Cross, between two criminals, being scoffed at and ridiculed by those standing by and having his clothing being auctioned off by the roll of the dice when he says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”(Lk 23:34)  We see this teaching in practice in the early Church when Stephen is being stoned for his testimony about Jesus when in Acts 7 we read, “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (7:59-60)

Jesus goes on to tell us more about how this love gets worked out in life.  He tells his disciples, and us, that if anyone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also.  I’ve heard someone say, “If someone strikes me on one cheek, I’ll let him strike me on the other…but I’ve only got two cheeks you know.  Third time’s the charm!”  I think that attitude misses the point here.  A slap on the cheek is a physical insult.  Insults are not life threatening.  We need to keep in mind the context in which we find these verses.  The reading today is part of a larger reading that began last week and is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain.  He said in verse 22-23, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”  If you are being hated, cursed at, abused or slapped because you bear the name of Christ, rejoice!  If those things are happening to you because you are being a jerk, face the music!

And it’s not just insults we are commanded to bear, but Jesus commands us to give.  When John the Baptist was asked by the crowds who came out to him to be baptized how they should then live, he told them “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none.”(Lk 3:11)  Notice Jesus takes it up a notch.  “…and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.”(vs 29)  The cloak was the outer garment, the tunic was the inner garment, closest to the skin: one’s undergarment!  Jesus wants us to give even if it means we give the clothes off our back.  All these commands demand something of us that we are not normally, or naturally, willing to do.

He goes on to give examples of what we are not supposed to do, which is exactly what we normally do.  We love those who love us.  We do good to those who do good to us.  We give, or lend, to those whom we know can give or give back with interest what we have given them.  Jesus says sinners (the unrighteous) do all that.  What benefit (and that word is actually “grace”) is that to you?  It’s not “grace” to do something because you know you are going to get the same, or more back!  Grace is an undeserved gift.  And that’s exactly what Jesus is telling us to do.  “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…”(vs 35)  That’s grace. And that, dear Saints, is what God has done for you.

Your God, while you were yet enemies, sent his Son to die for you on the Cross of Calvary.  While you were yet enemies of God, desiring to follow the desires of your own heart, your Lord Jesus endured ridicule, insults, abuse, was hated by his own people, mocked, beaten (not just slapped), and stripped naked for you.  He endured the unimaginable pain of crucifixion for all your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world.  You know which sins those are.  I’m not going to stand here and point them out to you.  You can examine your own life according to the 10 Commandments, and if you are like me you fall on your knees and beg for God’s mercy.  And God is merciful.  His Son, Jesus not only died for your sins, but he was raised from the dead for your justification before God.  His resurrection proves that God has accepted his sacrifice for your sins.  Because Jesus lives, you also will live.  God has been merciful to you, and you, dear Saints, can be merciful just as your Father is merciful.

Jesus overthrows the conventional wisdom of human culture emphasizing the Father’s ways of love and mercy.  God is calling you today to practice self-sacrificing love.  Pray for guidance and patience as you put God’s ways into practice in your life.  The God of all mercy will hear your prayer.  He is ready to strengthen and forgive you.  As your teacher, Jesus does more than simply tell, he does more than just explain, he even goes further than demonstrating or even inspiring you…he does it for you.  You dear Saints can love, because he has loved you.  The Lord will lead you to love the ungrateful and the evil, just as he has loved and cared for you.  Amen.

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

Touched by Holiness

Epiphany 5C

February 10, 2019 / Pastor Dennis Wildermuth

Luke 5:1-11 & Isaiah 6:1-8  / “Touched by Holiness”

 

The human heart is a great battle ground between good and evil, between certain natural human inclinations, and the good that God intends for us.  Or in the words of the eldest brother, Dimitri, of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s great novel, The Brothers Karamazov: “The devil is fighting with God and the battlefield is the human heart.”

The only way that fight might be won begins with honesty about our condition, and today’s texts all suggest that we will see our human condition most clearly when it is set next to a vision of the justice and Holiness of God.

The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that the Christian doctrine of sin was about the only self-evident doctrine we had.  Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, if you have any knowledge of human history over the past two millennia, you believe that we sin.  Human history is the history of sin.

We encounter sin and grace in all three lessons.  Young Isaiah is in the temple at worship.  He has a stunning vision.  It was as if the heavens opened and he saw the very throne of God.  “Holy, Holy, Holy,” sang the cherubim.  And Isaiah cried, “The choir was really on target today!”  No!  Isaiah declares, “Woe is me!  I am lost for I am a man of unclean lips.”  I’m a sinner!

Some years ago there was a popular TV show, Touched by an Angel.  It was a warm fuzzy show, but full of bad theology which usually resulted in me talking back to the TV in an angry tone.  I soon quit watching.  Each week when somebody was touched by an angel, did that person cry out in fear, “Woe is me!  I am lost for I am a person of unclean lips”?

In today’s Gospel Jesus and his disciples are out in a boat.  Jesus takes charge.  “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets,” He directs.  But they have already fished all night and caught nothing.  Besides, it is the wrong time of day to fish.  In bright sunlight the fish will see the thick rope nets.  Nevertheless they do it and the nets are full.  Recognizing that he is in the presence of divine holiness, Peter’s response is the same as Isaiah’s.  He falls to his knees and cries, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

It is hard to be honest about our sin because we are dishonest about the human condition.  We don’t know how to describe ourselves except through therapeutic categories.  We excuse ourselves, saying we are sick rather than sinful.  Or sin as an educational problem – we are racist because we don’t have proper understanding of other cultures.  Or our humanity is at fault: we are frail, vulnerable creatures who respond to our creatureliness in inappropriate ways.  There is some truth to all of that, but none of it gets to the heart of a specifically Christian view of sin, or that the remedy for sin lies not in us but in God.

Today’s Scripture demonstrates that our awareness of sin is a by-product of our being confronted by God.  When we say “sin” we’re not talking about occasional foibles and slipups.  We are saying that face-to-face with the awesome righteousness of God, the holiness of Jesus, we fall to our knees.  We have our noses rubbed in the great gap between who we are and who God is.  To be brought close to the One who is “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty.  The whole earth is full of his glory!” is to cry, “Woe is me for I am one of unclean lips and dwell amid a people of unclean lips.”  Or in the words of Peter: “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Luther said he would know nothing of his sin had not the Holy Spirit taught him.  The Holy Spirit taught Luther and teaches us today through the Word of God.  It is there that the law cuts through all our defenses and rationalizations to show us our sin – that we are full of sin all the time, to show us our lost condition, and all this in sharp contrast to God’s absolute holiness.  Scripture then points us to the remedy, and that remedy is not us trying harder, but rather is to be found in the cross of Christ.

Yes, it is true that we are unworthy, but God has done something marvelous about it.  No flaming angel has come with a burning coal to touch our lips.  God has instead sent his Only Begotten Son to bear that pain on his Cross.  And He has poured out the fire of His Holy Spirit upon us.  He has washed us in the waters of the baptismal font.  He has touched our lips with something better and probably less painful than a burning coal: the very body and blood of Christ Jesus.  We really are the children of God.  He has taken up a real and permanent residence in our lives.

Because we come to worship and into the presence of the Holy God as sinful people, part of our preparation for worship is to confess our sins and receive absolution or forgiveness.  We hear this lifesaving, freeing Gospel in the words of absolution spoken, and we see it in the sign of the cross that is made reminding us of Jesus’ sacrifice.

In Holy Communion this Gospel is individualized, coming personally and directly to each one of us in ways we can see and touch and taste.  Luther never tired of emphasizing the words, “for you” — “given and shed for you.”  These two words convey the Gospel, giving to every communicant the assurance – the guarantee – that God’s grace and gift is for them.

“Holy, holy, holy” are the opening words of the Sanctus, part of the communion we sing before we come to the table of the Lord.  At least we do if we are observing a liturgical rite.  These words remind us that when we come to the Sacrament we are coming into the presence of the holy, we are coming into the presence of God, and this God once rode into Jerusalem where in the flesh He died for the sins of the world.

Years ago I read about a young pastor who served briefly as a chaplain in a state prison.  He told of a father of a young man who had had received a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes.  The son was angry and embittered.  The boy’s father came each week to visit him, but the boy steadfastly refused to see him.  The chaplain was asked to intervene, to plead with the boy to see his father, but the young prisoner refused.

Despite his refusal, the boy’s father took off work every week, boarded a bus, and traveled across the state in the hope of seeing his son.  Each time it became the young chaplain’s difficult task to ask the son, “Do you want to see your dad?”  Then he had to bear word of the refusal to the waiting father.  The father would thank the chaplain and head toward the door for the bus trip back home.

One day, after telling the father once again that his son would not meet with him, the chaplain said, “No one would do what you are doing.  Your son is an embittered, defiant young man.  Give up.  Go back home and get on with your life.  No one would put up with this kind of rejection, week after week.”

“God has put up with it for centuries,” said the father, as he headed out.  The young chaplain literally fell to his knees at this vision of the righteousness of God.  Woe is me!  I am a sinful man whose lips and life are not worthy of the greatness of God.

One theologian (Karl Barth) declared that, “Only Christians sin.”  That is, non-Christians tend to view their sins as mistakes, slip-ups, small potatoes.  Christians come to sense sin as a huge gap between us and our loving, forgiving, seeking Savior.  Christians can confess – come completely clean before God only because of a prior confidence in a forgiving, gracious God.  Peter cried, “Depart from me, I am a sinful man!”  The good news is, God never does depart from us.

How long has it been since we have been afraid in worship, filled with the sense of awe that struck down the young Isaiah?  This Sunday in Epiphany may be just such a time.  All of today’s lessons depict persons being confronted by the holiness of the living and righteous God.  Paul speaks of his own lack of fitness to be a leader of the church   (I Cor 15:1-11), an assessment of himself brought on by his experience of the love of Christ.  Peter is brought to his knees in confession, and then there is the young Isaiah in the temple.

They all end the same as well.  Paul becomes an apostle, an ambassador of Christ.  Isaiah is called to be a prophet and when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”  Isaiah answers, “Here am I send me.”  In the Gospel lesson Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.”  And “they left everything and followed him.”  Note that this undeserved, gracious love, acceptance and forgiveness of God led and empowered Isaiah, Paul, Peter, and now us to lead lives of service to God, to simply surrender ourselves to God.

So where will we see him today.  Our Scriptures remind us that God does not send angels into this world to do his work, but oddly works through and with us.  He sends the once sinful, now purified Isaiah out into the world as a prophet, transforming his fear into boldness.  He goes with a Peter, who cowers in fear at Jesus’ feet and simply wants him to leave him alone.  But Jesus sees his beloved friend and will not leave him, not ever.  Even when Peter disowns him, Jesus never will.

 

He Speaks with Authority!

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Deacon Rex Watt

Jer 1:4-10 (17-19) / Psa 71:1-6 (7-11) / 1 Cor 12:31b-13:13 / Luke 4:31-44

+ 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.  Once again we find Jesus in the synagogue.  This time he is up in Capernaum, a little NE of Nazareth his hometown and right on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Capernaum was a fishing village and an important Roman garrison, a military outpost.  It was also Simon Peter’s hometown, and the town in which Matthew collected taxes.  It had become Jesus’ base of operations since his baptism by John the Baptist.  If you remember last week, Jesus had been teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee when he returned to his hometown only to be rejected by them.  So, he heads back to Capernaum and these folk “were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority” (vs 32).

This Sabbath we don’t get to hear what it is that Jesus is teaching, but we do get to see the power of his words.  For while he was teaching there was a man in the synagogue who was possessed with “the spirit of an unclean demon” and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha!  What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are – the Holy One of God” (vss 33-34).  This demon identifies Jesus with a messianic title: the Holy One of God.  There was a belief among the pagans of the ancient world that if one knew a god’s real name, then one could exercise some control over that deity.  By calling Jesus by this name, the demon was probably attempting to exercise control over Jesus.[1]  But look what happened!  “Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’” (vs 35).  The demon had no option but to obey the voice of the Holy One of God.  Jesus is the Stronger One who enters the house of the strong man and drives out demons with the finger of God.[2]

Just as Jesus’ words have power and authority over the unclean spirits, his word has power and authority in your life as well.  His word of Law points out your sins, and my sins even as we sit, here, in church.  While an evil spirit may not possess us, we are as unclean as they come because of our natural sinful condition.  Today, our Epistle reading points this out to us all too readily.  We don’t love as Scripture demands.  We are not always patient, or kind.  We envy others.  We boast, either about ourselves, or about the deal we got on some purchase.  We can be arrogant or rude at times, if not in actual practice, certainly in our thoughts.  If we don’t get our way we get irritable or resentful.  No, you and I don’t love as Scripture demands; but there is One who does.  There is One who has loved you from the foundation of the world and has demonstrated that love for you by sending His only Son to live the life you cannot live, to love as you cannot love, and to die so that you can live.

Jesus comes with his powerful Word pointing out who he is (last week’s lesson) and demonstrating to you this week, that he has authority over the spiritual realm; and as we will see, the physical realm.  With a word of rebuke, he casts out the spirit of the unclean demon, and the people were amazed saying to one another, “What is this word?” (vs 36).  This “word” is the Word of God in the flesh!  This word is the Word which, when spoken into your ears, creates faith in your heart.  This word is the Word that is attached to the waters of your baptism that brings you out of the kingdom of darkness and transfers you into the kingdom of light.

Jesus left the synagogue and entered Simon Peter’s house.  Peter’s mother-in-law lay ill with a high fever.  A high fever could be a prelude to something far worse given the state of medical care back in those days.  Notice again what Jesus does.  He rebukes the fever.  To rebuke is to speak against.  We don’t know what those words were, but Jesus spoke against the fever and the woman became well, well enough to get up and serve the guests in her house.  Word of that healing must have gotten out for when evening came, people from all over town brought to him “any who were sick with various diseases…and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” (vs 40).

Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus is revealing himself to us today as the One who has authority over all things.  His authority over the demons, as demonstrated today, shows us that he rules over the spiritual kingdom.  His authority over sickness and disease, as demonstrated today, shows us that he rules over the physical kingdom.  Just as he said in the last chapter of Matthew, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18), so it has.  Jesus is in control!  That should bring you comfort in whatever trials and tribulations you may be going through.

“And when it was day” our text says, “he departed and went into a desolate place” (vs42).  Jesus must have been up all night ministering to those who were sick and demon possessed.  He had hoped to get away for some time alone, but the people sought him out.  They didn’t want him to leave.  Why would they?  They’ve never seen anything like this before.  Having Jesus around was better than Obamacare!  Everyone was getting cured.  They must have approached him with an offer they thought was too good to refuse…but he did!  He told them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (vs 43).

Jesus didn’t come to just cast out demons and heal people’s diseases and infirmities.  Being healed of disease or being freed from demon possession was only a temporary fix.  People would still die.  Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, would one day die again.  Jesus came to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel.  He came to be the Gospel!  For only the Gospel is the power of God for salvation.  All these miracles of healing and demon exorcisms were done to simply validate the authority of Christ’s preaching of the Good News.  Don’t get them confused!  The people of Nazareth, upon hearing the Good News only wanted to see miracles performed like they had heard were done in other towns.  The people of Capernaum, who heard the Good News, were focused on the miracles and wanted to work a deal to keep this miracle worker to themselves.  People in Jesus’ day, like ours, get focused on the wrong aspect of Jesus’ ministry.  He came to “proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vs 18), as well as give sight to the blind and set at liberty those who are oppressed.

The Gospel, dear saints, is the message.  It is what “this” is all about.  What good is it if one gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  You can have perfect health, the perfect “10” body, the perfect job, great kids, great house, 10x the money Bill Gates has; but if you do not have the forgiveness of sins given to you in the Gospel, you have nothing!

Jesus came to proclaim the Good News, the euaggelion.  Jesus is the euaggelion, the Good News.  Paul said in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel [euagelion], for it [the euagelion] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  Concerning this Gospel he also wrote to the Corinthians, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:1-4).

By God’s grace, dear saints, this gospel is the word I will preach to you.  It is my prayer, paraphrasing the words of the Apostle Paul, when I proclaim the testimony of God to you that I do not do it with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I want to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

It is Jesus who has all authority.  It is Jesus who speaks with authority.  His prophets, his apostles, his preachers down through the ages have simply proclaimed his Word.  You and I are beneficiaries of their proclamation.  We have heard the power of God; we have believed the Gospel; let us not be distracted by the trials and tribulations of life, or seek after temporal signs.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfector of our faith.  Amen.  So let it be.

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

 

[1] Robert A. Sorensen, “Luke”, Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2014, page 83.

[2] Gerhard Kittle, Editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol 2, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1964, page 626.

Today…in your hearing

Third Sunday after Epiphany / January 27, 2019 / Deacon Rex Watt

Neh 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 / Psalm 19:(1-6) 7-14 /

1 Cor 12:12-31a / Lk 4:16-30

 

 

+ 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.

 

Dear Saints of Redeemer, isn’t it exciting when a celebrity comes to town?  It’s even more exciting if the celebrity is a product of your own hometown.  We have some celebrities that our communities can lay claim to:  Jake Locker of Ferndale, who was starting QB for the UW for four years, and spent four years as QB for the Tennessee Titans; Hillary Swank, a graduate of Sehome HS who is an academy award winning actress; Doug Pederson, a Ferndale HS grad who went on to a multi-year NFL career, most recently as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, winning the Super Bowl just last year; and Stephen S. Oswald, a 1969 graduate of Bellingham HS who went on to the US Naval Academy pursuing a career as a naval aviator/test pilot, and eventually became a NASA astronaut with three space shuttle missions and 33 days in space to his credit.   If any of these celebrities showed up at our church services, we’d beam with pride.  Home boy/home girl made it good.  If we knew they were coming, we’d invite friends and relatives to come and see and get in on the excitement.

In our Gospel lesson for today the synagogue in Nazareth was beaming with pride.  As Luke tells the story, Jesus had returned from His temptation and been going about Galilee teaching in their synagogues, being glorified by all.  Mark gives us more details of the events leading up to our reading today, outlining several healings and miracles prior to His return to His hometown Nazareth.  But today is special!  It’s the Sabbath and Jesus has returned home.

“And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”  Jesus went to church regularly.  He was obedient to the Third Commandment.  This would have been his home synagogue, where he grew up, where He went to synagogue school with the other boys in town, and where He would have heard, studied and learned by heart the Scriptures.  But this Sabbath day was different from others.  Jesus didn’t come to the Nazareth synagogue because he was “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph” (Lk3.23), to be a hearer of the Word; he was there as a teacher of the Word, a rabbi, a guest preacher in his home congregation.

The people of Nazareth had never seen this side of Jesus before.  They had never heard him speak in the synagogue.  Synagogues operated without professional clergy.  Elected presidents or rulers of the synagogue would select a man to read the Scripture and expound upon it, prompting a general discussion.  Visiting rabbis were prime choices for this privilege, so Jesus was invited to read and teach.  This would be a new experience for Jesus, and the people of Nazareth, for although Jesus grew up in their midst, he had never read publicly the Scriptures nor offered his comments, since the custom was that until a man reached 30, it was required that he be a hearer; to listen to his elders.  Jesus, having now attained that age, was invited to read.  “And he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’” (vv 16-19).

“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” (v 20)

Then came the sermon.  It was not a lecture on theology; a list of ten steps to a better you; or even a rally for some social issue.  It was simple, profound.  “Today,” Jesus said, “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (v 21)  “What Isaiah wrote,” Jesus says, “is about me!”  It’s as if the words of the prophet walked right off the pages of Scripture and stood right in front of them.  And actually, that is exactly what happened.  Jesus, the Word who was in the beginning, who was with God and who was God, who became flesh was coming to his own, and just like the Apostle John wrote, “…his own people did not receive him.” (Jn 1.11)

The people of Nazareth couldn’t believe their ears.  “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (v 22) they asked?  No, not really.  He’s “the Son of God” (Lk 1.35) conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  He is, as Isaiah wrote, and Jesus just declared, the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, we don’t have to wait for some celebrity to come to our church.  The celebrity of celebrities is here.  This Jesus, your Jesus, the Word in human flesh, the Word that’s living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, is present here, as he was in Nazareth, to deliver the Good News of salvation to you who are poor and needy; to proclaim liberty to you who are in debt with sin; to give sight to you who walk in darkness; to set you who are in bondage free; and to let you know that the Jubilee of the Lord has begun. It all happens “in your hearing” – literally in your ears.  That is how Jesus makes himself and his forgiveness known to you.  Saint Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10.17)  So today, in your hearing, right here at Redeemer, this Scripture is again being fulfilled: Jesus, the Christ, comes with the Lord’s favor for you.

A few weeks ago I asked you why you come to church.  This, dear saints, is why.  Every Sunday, flesh-and-blood Jesus, true God and true man steps into our gathering.  He comes to us in his Word again and again, never tiring to bring us forgiveness, life and salvation, week in and week out.  Sunday isn’t about you or what you are doing here, though it is good that you are here.  What matters is that he is here…here for the depressed and despairing, here for the sinner and the sinned against, here for all who are oppressed, victimized, abused, taken advantage of, and suffering.

Unfortunately, like the people of Nazareth, not all who hear believe.  All they see when they look at Jesus is that he is Joseph’s son.  What do they want with Jesus?  Apparently not the good news he proclaims, the liberty he brings, the sight he restores, or the freedom he promises.  They want him dead.  Those people of Nazareth dragged him up to the brow of a hill to throw him off so that he’d be bruised, wounded, stricken and crushed as he fell.  Today, people simply want him silenced.  They want to shut any mention of Jesus out of the public square.  It’s as if they have an innate fear of hearing his voice – lest they be convicted of their unbelief.  Yet his voice still speaks, and you, dear saints have heard that voice.  That’s why you are here.  That’s why you keep coming back here.

The voice of Jesus cries out to you from another hill.  This one he willingly ascends for you.  Despised and rejected by his people, he carried his own cross along with all of your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world to the top of that hill where he, bruised and wounded, stricken, smitten, and afflicted was crucified being delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.  This same Jesus was laid in a tomb only to be raised from the dead after three days for your justification.  Just prior to his ascension, having given his disciples the commission to proclaim his gospel, baptize, teach and forgive sins in his name, he promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age.

My friends, there is no need for a celebrity.  Jesus, the Living Word, comes to you every time Scripture is read, studied in Bible class or proclaimed from this pulpit.  He came to you in your Baptism, washing you clean from the guilt of your sins, giving you his Holy Spirit as a down payment of your inheritance.  And he comes to you each and every time you kneel at this altar and receive his very body and blood broken and shed for you on the cross of Calvary for the forgiveness of your sins and strengthening of your faith.  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” he said. (Mt 18.20)

You dear saints of Redeemer have received the good news, so you are no longer poor, but rich in his grace; you have been set free from your captivity to sin by your burial with him in your Baptism; he has opened your eyes like he did for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; he has freed you from the oppression of the guilt of your sins; he has brought you into his eternal rest, the Jubilee of the Lord’s favor.  Today, in your hearing, the Scripture is again fulfilled: Jesus, the Christ comes with the Lord’s favor, for you.  Amen.

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

The Baptism of Jesus

 

First Sunday after the Epiphany / Baptism of Our Lord

Isa 43:1-7 / Rom 6:1-11 / Lk 3:15-22

Deacon Rex E. Watt

 

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

Prayer for blessing on the Word.

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

Kids grow up fast, don’t they?  While the adjustment to having a newborn in the house is sometimes daunting, I have yet to hear a parent say, “I just wish they’d grow up faster!”  It usually goes something along the lines of, “They’re already walking?  They’re already driving?  Oh my gosh, they are graduating…where did the time go?”  Our pericope readings for the past few weeks have been like that.  A few weeks ago, we were at the manger peering in on the baby Jesus.  It just seems like yesterday the Magi were bringing the young child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Today, we find Jesus all grown up!

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the childhood of Jesus.  Other than the story of him in the temple talking with the teachers of the Law when he was twelve years old, what we’ve read over the past several weeks is about all we know.  Jesus’ childhood and growing up years were probably pretty unremarkable, pretty quite, pretty unassuming.  That is about to change.  Today we read about the event in Jesus’ life that marks his entrance, the beginning if you will, the manifestation, the revealing, the Epiphany, of why Jesus came.

We are in the season of the Church Year called Epiphany.  Do you remember the meaning of the word, “Epiphany?”  It is an uncovering, a revealing.  Something has been hidden, or unnoticed, and now it is revealed.  Sometimes we use the term in the sense of “Aha! Now I get it!”  We say that we’ve had an epiphany.  A question that I’d like you to keep in mind as we travel through this season of Epiphany is, “What is God’s Word telling me about Jesus that I would not have known, thought about, or considered before?”  Our text for today is about Jesus’ baptism, so we want to be asking the question, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”

Have you ever wondered, “What is Jesus doing here?”  John was baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People were coming to John from all over confessing their sins and being baptized by him.  Jesus had no sins.  He did not need to confess anything.  Why in the world was Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him?  Shouldn’t this be the other way around?  Shouldn’t John be getting baptized by Jesus?

Jesus is here, for you!  He comes to John to be baptized not because he needs to confess anything.  He comes to John to be baptized in order to become like one of us.  In the waters of the Jordan, he is not washing away any sins he has, he is having the sins of the world washed onto him as part of the “great exchange” that the Apostle Paul refers to in 1 Cor 5.21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  In Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus is identifying with us poor sinners.  Only sinners need to be baptized.  Jesus is taking onto himself the filth of our sin so that he can carry it to the cross where he will pay the ultimate penalty for your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world.

Picture with me, if you will, a pool of water where a shepherd stands and bathes his sheep who are covered with the dirt, filth, grass and dung from months of being out in the fields.  Sheep after sheep come into the pool with the shepherd and he washes each one until they are spic and span clean.  The water is a mess.  Then he spots one beautiful, totally clean lamb waiting its turn.  Should he wash that lamb?  If that lamb steps into the water, it’s going to take on all the muck floating around in that now filthy pool.  John said to Jesus, “I shouldn’t baptize you.”  And Jesus said to John, “Yes, you should!”  Your Jesus, circumcised on the eighth day shedding his first blood for you; presented in the temple at forty days old keeping the Law for you while still an infant; now steps out in public, for the first time that we know of, and so completely identifies with us, lost and condemned persons that we are, that he takes on the burden and guilt of all of our sins.

And when he does, the most incredible thing happens.  “The heavens are opened, and the Holy Spirit descends on him in bodily form, like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  God Almighty, the creator of the universe, by voice which was heard by all who were standing nearby, and by a sign, seen by all who were standing nearby affirms that his son, Jesus has begun to do all that he was sent to do.  The heavens, which were shut to mankind after the Fall into Sin are now opened.  The Spirit of God who hovered over the waters at creation and came and went upon people of the Old Covenant now rests upon Jesus to be given to whomever he will.  And the voice of God, which has been silent for 400 years is heard once again.

So what does all this mean for you and me?  When we compare Jesus’ baptism with our baptism, we see this “great exchange” at work.  In Jesus’ baptism, he is identifying himself with you, me, and every other sinful human being who ever lived or will live.  He takes on our sins, and becomes one with us.  In our baptisms, we are joined to Christ in a death like his, receive the forgiveness of our sins that he paid for on the cross nearly 2,000 year ago, clothed with his righteousness which he gives to us freely as a gift, made heirs with Christ and receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance.  Needless to say, it seems to me that we, poor miserable sinners that we are, get the better deal in this exchange.

Returning to our question that we asked at the beginning of our time together, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”  What is the “epiphany” in this text?  Let me suggest a few:

When Jesus came to be baptized by John, he did it for you.  This is not just an historical note about something that happened to Jesus.  The sinless Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the savior of the world, came to John to be baptized, for you.

This Jesus, whom God declares to be his beloved son at his baptism by John, declares you to be his sons and daughters in your baptism.

As God has now made you his children, he makes you full heirs of his kingdom.  Children inherit from their parents.  God gives you his Holy Spirit as the down payment, the guarantee, of your inheritance.

As you have been united with Jesus in a death like his, as the Apostle Paul wrote, you dear Saints will certainly be united with Jesus in a resurrection like his.

“When you pass through the waters, [he] will be with you”  “He called you by name, you are [his].  No matter what you go through in life, your Lord Jesus will be with you.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, God your father, at your baptism, opened heaven for you.  He gave you his Holy Spirit to enlighten your eyes to see the work he was doing, forgiving you your sins, he also gave you ears to hear his voice anew: “You are my beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased.”  Amen.

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

The Mystery Revealed

Texts: Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12  — Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

I recall the time a student made an insightful statement in one of my classes.  Try as she might, she just didn’t understand the theory we were discussing.  Then she said, “Oh, now I get it.”  My response?  “Great.  You’ve just had an epiphany.”

It’s satisfying to finally understand some things after having wrestled with the mysterious for some time.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”  It enables us to dream, to imagine, to see things we could never otherwise see.  For example, the Scriptures proclaim that, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above shows his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)  I am told, and hang onto your hat, that there are some 10 billion galaxies scattered through the visible universe.  And when I gaze up at the stars on a clear, dark night, I am amazed at the mysteries that go into God’s creative work.

Our lessons for this Epiphany Sunday speak of a Light that sheds belief or understanding of mysteries previously unknown.  Isaiah (Is. 60:1-3), often said to be the Gospel of the Old Testament, speaks of the Light promised, the light shining on the darkness of God’s people around the world.  St. Paul sheds translucent light on the inclusion of the Gentiles peoples.  Indeed it was and still is to a great extent, a mystery too deep for humanity to grasp unless the Spirit grant it.

I.  In the darkness of sin

     A.  Herod was an evil man (Matthew 2:1-12)

  1. Herod was a wicked man. He was insecure, suspicious of anyone who would even think of taking his throne.  When he heard that the Magi were asking questions about a newborn king, the Scriptures say he was greatly troubled, together with all Jerusalem.
  2. I guess so! Because of this suspicion, he had one son killed, a brother-in-law, his own wife, and others of his royal court because of uncontrolled suspicions of someone wanting his throne.  In response to the inquiry of the Wise Men, and to eliminate any challenge to his throne as he saw it, he had every male baby up to two years killed in and around Bethlehem.  He was as spiritually dead as a stone.

     B.  Description of our society

  1. Peggy Noonan, American author of books on politics, religion and culture, is quoted as saying that in this our society, “Everyone’s in the dark looking for a light switch.”  Perhaps that is too extreme a view for some of you, but it bears similarity to our society today.  Another insight: bumper sticker: “I’m lost! Where am I going?”
  2. So it is in the lives of many in this world. The law in the form of the Ten  Commandments or that written on the hearts of men and women are ignored or trampled upon.  Living in the darkness of sin they cannot see or deal with the seriousness of their sin.

III.  The Light of God

        A.  The real star of Bethlehem is Jesus

  1. We have every reason to rejoice this 12th day of Christmas, for when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might be the light to lighten both the Jewish and the Gentile peoples around the world. We read as to how these Wise Men were very intelligent and were able to interpret the meaning of a new star, which is something no one else in the world was able to do.  They looked at the star and it was revealed to them that the promised Messiah had come.  Not even the Jews knew that.
  2. In our lesson in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the fact that he would never have been able to understand the promises of God if they hadn’t been revealed to him. The first of these “mysteries” as he called them, was that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together with one body, and shared together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
  3. Now this was a very counter-cultural thing for a Jew like Paul to understand. It wasn’t easy coming to understand that God’s grace is for Gentiles also. It took direct intervention by Jesus on the road to Damascus to reveal God’s intended truth.  Yet, it shouldn’t have been surprising, for these “mysteries” are consistent with the many OT prophesies that Peter, Paul and the rest of the Jews should have been familiar with.  God’s grace was intended for all people throughout the entire world.  God’s love knows no limits and it recognizes no boundaries.  Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female – it is inclusive.

Conclusion

The Hubble telescope repeatedly reveals new mysteries of the heavens.  My jaw never ceases to drop when I look upon the glorious, beautiful, amazing handiwork of God.  I don’t understand it all, yet I marvel at it and its beauty.  God’s wisdom is even more beautiful.  How can he show love to people like me who have done nothing to deserve it?  The answer is God’s Son Jesus.  His love is constant, unfathomable and limitless.  And I am ever so grateful for that epiphany.

The Mystery in the Manger

Christmas Eve – December 24, 2018  — Deacon Rex Watt

Luke 2:8-20

 

+ 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.

The contrast is striking.  While every year the Christmas retail season starts earlier and earlier and the hype gets more and more intense, the first Christmas was not an intense affair at all.  If anything, it seems to be quite calm and quiet in comparison to today’s festivities.

Now in our culture, you cannot blame people for trying to make a buck.  Ethel Merman, the famous actress/singer of a generation ago, belted out her signature song, “There’s no business like show business,” and she was right.  Show business is fine in its place.  But show business has no business in God’s business.  Christmas has its entertainment side and its retail side, but we have not come here tonight to be entertained.  We are here on God’s business.  And God’s business is to call a halt to all the busy-ness of our hectic lives and this hectic season so that we might discover anew the good news of great joy that was proclaimed so long ago to shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain: “Today… a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).

As Mary looked down at the tiny baby wrapped is swaddling cloths Scripture tells us that she, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  What were all those things?  It wasn’t the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, for those didn’t come until later.  It was the words spoken by the angel to the shepherds, who in turn had told them to Mary and Joseph.

Could it really be that the Lord, the God of hosts, who feeds all creation, who opens up His hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing, could come as a helpless infant boy?  “Good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Lk 2:10), the angel had announced.  This was no pipe dream.  These words were from the very mouth of God.  Her firstborn son was none other than the long awaited for Messiah, the promised Redeemer, God in human flesh and bone.  No wonder Mary kept all these words and pondered them in her heart.

You and I can do no less on this holy night.  For when all is said and done, there is nothing else to say or do that could add the smallest luster to this day.  This is the Mystery in the Manger: God in diapers, here among us.  God in a crib – who some 30 years later will be God on a cross, made to be sin for us that He might remove forever the curse of sin and the sting of death.

This little baby, so cute and innocent, so meek and so mild, came for one purpose, and one purpose only.  He came for you, and he came for me.  Those cute little feet, with those tiny little toes (you know, the kind that we take ink prints of and put up on our nursery walls or on infant

t-shirts), would soon walk the dusty paths of this earth, be anointed with tears, and be pierced with nails for you, and for me.  Those cute little hands, with those cute little fingers, would soon be fashioning furniture, healing the blind and the lame, feeding the multitudes, and be stretched out and nailed to a cross for us.  Those swaddling cloths will be exchanged for a tunic that will be stripped away from his body, which will then be beat, spit upon, flogged, and crucified for you, and for me.  That cute little head will have a crown of thorns mashed down upon it causing blood to flow from head to toe for us.  That cute little mouth with those reddish rosy lips cooing in the cool evening Bethlehem breeze will before long cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as He hangs on the cross paying the penalty for your sin, for my sin, for the sins of the whole world.  Soon after that He will utter His final words, “It is finished!”

Finished!  Hmm.  Soon, in a few hours actually, the world will be finished with Christmas.  Everything will fade away.  The glitz and the glitter will soon be packed up and put away to be stored for another day, another year, actually.  The excitement of children and the happy glow of all that we’ve come to expect from this holy night is illusive and fast fleeting.  All too soon it’s come and gone.  But not this: Treasure in your heart the Mystery of the Manger, God made flesh for your salvation.  He comes for every soul distressed, and lonely, and grieving.  He comes for every wounded mind and heart.  He comes with peace that passes all understanding, with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He comes for you…and you…and you…and you.  (Sigh) And for me.

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

 

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

The Beauty of Love

Text: 1 John 4:10   Theme: The Awesome Beauty of the Love of God — Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

Away in the Manger, a favorite Christmas carol.  While in AA, I was a member of a Lions Club that had the tradition during the Christmas season of going to a lower income retirement residence to distribute a gifts and sing Christmas carols.  I was volunteered to choose and print a number of familiar Christmas carols.  One I chose was “Away in the Manger.  However, somehow the resulting title came out “Away in the Manager.”  Manager?  I had some explaining to do.

I.  Naughty or nice

     A.  Just look at the words.

  1. Now you might also call me a Grinch (or a Scrooge) by my choice of a non-favorite Christmas carol. That would be “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”  Why you ask?  Well, let me explain.  (Read portions of lyrics)  I find it a little creepy that for 364 days of the year Santa Claus is checking on our bad deeds.  For youngsters, that can be a bit terrifying.  That applies to adults as well.  Yes, all those naughty things you’ve done are being recorded and brought up to the North Pole and Santa.  And he’s checking it twice!  Scary, isn’t it.  (Today he probably uses twitter, text, email, or Instagram…)
  2. And to top it all, there is apparently “Elf on the Shelf” characters that are Santa helpers.  Each night they zip up to the North Pole while you are sleeping to tell Santa about those “naughty” things you’ve done in thought, word, and deed, and thus earning those dreaded lumps of coal in your stockings.

     B.  We don’t need Santa or his elves to check who’s been naughty or nice.

  1. We’ve all been naughty, that is, we have failed to live the lives of God’s people who speak of Jesus as Lord and Savior. In our busy lives, some which may resemble chaos this time of the year, we forget the reason for the season.  It happens.
  2. Sign in kitchen “Love spoke here…” Family of four young children plus two adults.  Apparently, they needed the reminder among the children as well as adult parents.

II.  The love of God that erases all sin.

      A.  Reassuring Christmas cards

  1. We received a picture Christmas card from our son, daughter-in-law and three-year old granddaughter. Simple, yet expressing love.  Their daughter appeared comfortable, happy, and loved, yes, so very loved.  And there was no way that she could fully know the height, the depth, or width of the love that she generated in the hearts of parents and extended family. Yet she lived securely in the glow of that love.
  2. That’s the way it is with God’s love for us. We acknowledge the love, we welcome it, we speak of it, and it is warm and deep and real.  It is as beautiful as in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”   And with us, there is no way we can fully know the depth of the Father’s love or us 24 x 7, every day, every hour, a love that doesn’t change or diminish.  Christmas expresses and shares a picture of that beautiful love in the person of Jesus, born of Mary, born to the world.  See LSB, #425, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, verses 1, 3 and 4.  “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”    

      B.  A love that does not diminish.

EG: Some months ago, I went into my stash of handwritten letters that I had received from my wife when we were dating.  Yes, I still have them.  I’ve read a few of them to her after dinner in the evenings.  On occasion my wife would say, “I said that?  No way!”  Letter after letter reminded us both of the love that we received from each other then and the love we now live in.  (By the way, all the letters I had written to her, she threw away.  Seriously!)  And we have had to be reminded of that love a few times in our lives.  As Shakespeare said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream “The course of true love never did run smoothly.”

  1. Our Lord Jesus will take your sins to the Father and say, “Here’s what I found, and here’s what I am going to do with them. I am going to pay for them, and take their names off the naughty list and place my name there instead. In exchange I will give them mercy, forgiveness, peace of heart and mind, and the promise of eternal life.”
  2. So today we bask in the beautiful love of God, a love that never wavers, flickers, or goes out. There is no one whom he doesn’t love, no one who has been so naughty that he would turn his back on them or deliver a lump of coal in the manger. No one!

Conclusion

In place of “Santa Claus is coming to town”, substitute “God loves me dearly.”  Read 1st and 4th verses.  Nobody telling on you or gossiping about your naughty behavior.  You are loved dearly.  Toss the elf on the shelf out the window.  Free up your children.  Free yourself.  “Unto you this day in the city of David is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

sdg

 

Are You The One?

Third Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2018 — Deacon Rex Watt

Zephaniah 3:14-20 / Philippians 4:4-7 / Luke 7:18-35

 

+ 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.

Have any of you read the Judith Viorst book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?”  In it, little Alexander is having the worst day of his little life.  One thing after another goes wrong for him.  He went to sleep the night before with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair; when he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard, and then dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running.  He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Later, at school, his teacher Mrs. Dickens liked Paul’s picture of a sailboat better than his picture of an invisible castle.  At singing time, she said he sang too loud; at counting time she said that he left out the number 16.  At lunchtime, he discovered that his mother had forgotten to give him dessert.  It was just one thing after another, all day long.  It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Little Alexander didn’t have much reason to be Gaudete.

Have you had days like that?  I know I have.  Days in which it is impossible to Gaudete, to rejoice.  In our text today, John the Baptist doesn’t seem to have much reason to rejoice.  He is in prison.  John had been placed there because he called out Herod for committing adultery with his brother’s wife.  Prisons in those days weren’t like prisons today.  There were no TV’s, beds or showers, toilet facilities, libraries, internet access, medical care, or three hot meals a day.  Prison was essentially a dark, dank dungeon where you’d be chained to a wall, left to waste away.  If, and when death came, it was a blessing.

There are two schools of thought about John’s question to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  One view believes that John is expressing doubt about whether Jesus is truly the Messiah or not.  The other view believes that John could not possibly have such doubts given his earlier proclamations about Jesus.  “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him…And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn 1:29ff).  This view believes that John is sending these two disciples to Jesus for their benefit, not because he didn’t believe.  While the text doesn’t explicitly say which of these two views is correct, I tend to think that John is like you and me.  He was born of sinful flesh just as you and I were.  He has the Old Adam in him just as you and I do.  When we have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days; weeks, months or years, we sometimes struggle in our faith, don’t we?  Why should we think John is any different?

I think John was struggling in his faith because he had the same expectations as the rest of the people concerning the Messiah.  While his earlier preaching did point out that Jesus was the Son of God, he also talked a lot about the axe swinging at the root of the trees; the wrath to come; the winnowing fork clearing the threshing floor and separating the wheat from the chaff; a baptism with holy wind and fire.  All that language was in line with the expectation of a coming Messiah who would rescue the people of Israel from the Roman rulers.  But Jesus wasn’t cooperating.  Jesus was going around and preaching about liberty to the captives and the oppressed.  He wasn’t raising an army; he was eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Are you the one, or shall we look for another?”

Jesus answers John’s question by His actions.  “In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight.”  Then he told John’s disciples to go back to John and tell him what they had seen and heard, quoting two passages from the book of Isaiah: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.”  Jesus pointed John back to the Scriptures to answer his question.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what John’s response to these words was.  Did he smile?  Did he shed a tear?  Did he dance for joy?  Maybe, like Mary, he quietly pondered these things in his heart.

The most important thing Jesus says in His response to John is, “and blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  That word “offended” in the Greek means “scandalized.”  Jesus is saying, “Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.  Blessed is the one who does not stumble over my unwillingness to use power, my apparent weakness against the forces of darkness, my victory hidden in defeat.  Blessed is the one who believes what is written of me in spite of what he sees around him, who sees life in my death, who sees kingdom in my cross.”  Dear Saints of Redeemer, today listen to what Jesus says to John, and to you.

John’s struggle with doubt gives encouragement to all Christians, for all Christians struggle with doubt.  Doubts can have a variety of causes.  One of those causes is unmet expectations.  One reason we have doubts about Jesus is that He turns out to be different than our expectations.  Some of us expect Jesus to be the provider of all good things that we want: the giver of bling.  Some expect Jesus to be the healer of all that besets us or ails us, whether physical or emotional: the good therapist.  Some want a Jesus who is a social justice warrior.  Others want a Jesus who is a good moral example.  When you listen to some so called contemporary Christian music you might even think Jesus is your boyfriend.  You may be struggling to make ends meet.  Always seeing more bills to pay than resources.  You may be wondering why your Jesus isn’t supplying your every need.  Maybe that cancer has come back, that injury isn’t healing, your feelings of inadequacy or depression won’t go away.  You may be wondering why your Lord hasn’t relieved you of your suffering.  You look around the culture today and wonder where is God in all this mess.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, rejoice!  Gaudete!  As we heard from Zephaniah this morning, “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”  This little baby, whose birth we will be celebrating in a little over a week from today is not only the King of the Jews, but is in fact the King of Kings.  Do not be fooled or scandalized.  Beneath the weak little legs of this Babe of Bethlehem is the power to crush the head of the devil.  Attached to the little thumb being sucked on, is the hand that will be nailed to the cross for your sin and for mine.

Everyone wants to have a little Jesus in a manger with their Nativity sets at home, but no one wants a crucifix (a cross with a body on it) displayed, either in their home, or God forbid, in their church.  My friends, you cannot have an empty cross until you have an occupied cross.  This little baby Jesus, who’s first coming we are getting ready to celebrate, came for one reason and one reason only.  He came for you!

He came to take away your spiritual blindness and give you eyes to see so that you would turn from darkness to light; He put His fingers into your ears so that you would hear the good news preached to you and believe; He has lifted your drooping hands and strengthened your weak knees so that you may no longer be lame but walk as children of the light; He has cleansed not only your leprous diseased flesh, but washed you with the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit; and He has raised you up with Him and seated you with Him in the heavenly places.  He did all this for you by His birth, life, death, burial and resurrection.  He is the one who is in your midst today.

With joy we listen to His Word…words we heard earlier today: “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down” (Psa 146:8); “The Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil” (Zeph 3:15); “He will quiet you by His love” (Zeph 3:17); and, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:7).

Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by the cross of Jesus.  Blessed is the one who has not seen yet believes.  Blessed is the one who sees the dawning Day in the darkness.  Blessed are you, trusting that Jesus is the One, who came, who comes, and will come again.  You need not look for another.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Come Lord Jesus!  Amen.

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

Pointing to the Messiah

Text: Luke 3:1-20   /  Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

It was like any other day at the mall, people hurrying around, shopping, buying, chatting, eating at the food court and sipping on their Starbucks coffees.  Then all of a sudden a young woman stands up and begins singing, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You. Then a tenor adds his voice, joined by harmonizing voices all around the food court.  Then going up the escalator were four tenors, singing O Come All Ye Faithful.  They were joined by some 30 other voices arranged around the eating area.  By now, a large crowd had gathered to watch and listen.  Go Tell It on the Mountain was the next.  “Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”  As the crowd took pictures and videos of the flash mob, the choir began to sing O Holy Night.  It was at this time that costumed Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus made their way through the crowd to the central area.  Some onlookers had tears in their eyes; others huge smiles.  A spontaneous applause followed, and the people then slipped into shopping mood and dispersed.

For many in the food court, the carols of Advent and Christmas had warm and familiar meaning, but for others it was an unfamiliar story.  The carols pointed to Jesus.  Go tell it on a mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.  Indeed!  The flash mob was a voice in what one might called a wilderness, busy shopping mall prior to Christmas, pointing to the Messiah.

1. Another voice that God sent to the world

    A.  The voice of John the Baptist

  1. We hear the voice of John the Baptist, who spoke of a life to be lived in preparation of the coming of the promised Messiah. It was a real voice of a real man in a historical moment in time, asking the people to prepare their lives for the coming the Lord.
  2. Church officials came out to John to question him. Who was this man? They were expecting perhaps Elijah or that of the Messiah.  Malachi 4:5 says it this way: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”  But John knew who he was, and he knew who he was pointing to, who was to follow him.

    B.  Today John the Baptizer puts us all on our backs and forces us to look admit the truth, we need of help in our spiritual lives.

EG: A few weeks ago, I was attempting to clean the gutters at my house of the leaves that had gathered there.  Most of you know the rest of the story.  I made some nice friends at the ER.  My wife, God bless her, was prepared to love me to the end!  Her words were, however, “That was a dumb thing to do.  Read my lips.  No more ladders.  Challenging words!  There are men out here I’m sure who have heard the same story.

  1. We are not the savior of our little world; and we are not in control of our lives, spiritual or physical. We are sinners.
  2. Those are difficult words. We are broken, flawed, and fragile human beings. It is as we confessed earlier- we are “poor, miserable sinners” before the sinless God.  And that sin will have to be acknowledged and paid for.

II.  The voice of God

      A. By faith you are what the voice of God ultimately says you are in Jesus.

  1. You are God’s redeemed and rescued child. You are the one your Savior draws near with the voice of grace and truth saying, I love you, I forgive you, I will protect you.  That’s what John’s voice declares to you.  You are a sinner, saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ – with a purpose in life. That’s who you are.

EG: If you’ve ever been to a McDonald’s Playland or a Chuck-e-Cheese, you know things can get a little chaotic for the kids.  This one youngster was afraid to get involved in the playground chaos.  So, Dad figured out a way to help his son.  He went in there with him.  Through the tubes, up the poles, in the ball pits, up the stairs; he stuck with his son.

      B.  In this challenging world we live in

  1. You’re that little child. Jesus is like that Dad. He’s right there in the middle of all of it with you.  Whether it’s sitting in a dentist’s chair or the doctor’s office, or with strings of lights that burn out right after you put them in the spot that’s hardest to reach, or through stress through finals and computer crashes, colds and flu, depression or cancer, even death and chaos, Jesus stands right there with you!  Right in the middle of your life is your Redeemer, your Savior, the miracle of God with you.

Conclusion   On a nine-foot tall painting by Matthias Grunewald entitled The Crucifixion, which was painted as an altar piece in Isenheim, Jesus is depicted on the cross with a collapsing Mary and St. John holding her up to this right, and Mary Magdalene kneeling, looking up to Jesus.  On his left is shown a lamb shedding its blood into the cup of blessing.  The lamb reminds us of John’s statement, upon looking upon Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  To Jesus’ left is John the Baptist with an open book, pointing to Jesus.  The print behind reads, “I must decrease; he must increase.”  Thank you, John, for pointing us once again to the Messiah.

Blessed is He Who Comes

First Sunday in Advent /December 2, 2018 / Deacon Rex E. Watt

Jeremiah 33:14-16 / 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 /Luke 19:28-40

+ 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.

When you were on a road trip with your family, did your kids ever ask, “Are we there yet?”  It seems that children march to a different drumbeat of time than parents do.  All they know is that they are on the way to Grandma’s, or maybe Disneyland, and they just want to be there.  They are not interested in the journey.  Their only focus is on the destination.  The Church and the World are like that too.  They march to different drumbeats.  To the world, it’s already Christmas.  And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting earlier and earlier each year.  I can remember when the first Christmas decorations in the stores came out after Thanksgiving.  Then they started showing up before Thanksgiving.  This year, I’m pretty sure I started to see stuff show up in the stores before Halloween!  It seems that they cannot get enough of Christmas.  But a Christmas without Christ is no Christmas.

But for the Church, it’s not Christmas yet.  Christmas is still four weeks away.  It’s Advent.  And by the way, in the Church year, Christmas officially starts at the Vigil of Christmas, known as Christmas Eve, and lasts for 12 days, beginning on Christmas Day.  Do you see how the Church and the world march to a different time?  To the world, Christmas is this ever increasing time of shopping that culminates on Christmas day.  The day after is called Boxing Day.  And while there appears to have been some sort of charitable basis for the establishment of Boxing Day, it seems to have devolved into the day you pack up all the Christmas decorations (since Christmas is over) and get on with life.  But for the Church, it’s not Christmas yet.  It’s Advent.

So, what is Advent?  Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming, or arrival.”  It is the season of the Church year during which we turn our attention to the “coming” of Jesus.  You may be wondering about the texts for today’s readings.  If Advent is about the coming of Christ and precedes Christmas, shouldn’t we be hearing about the Virgin Mary; Bethlehem; a star; a manger?  Why are we reading about Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem?  Dear Saints of Redeemer, the readings for this First Sunday of Advent lay the foundation for what we are going to hear for the next four weeks, and beyond.  They speak of Jesus’ coming to us, and for us; past, present, and future.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  The next verse following our Old Testament reading says, “For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel…’”  Jeremiah wrote these words some 600 years before the birth of Jesus.  Jesus came, as promised, to fulfill the promises God the Father made with His people.  Those promises began all the way back in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, which plunged all of humanity, including you and me, into enmity with God.  The Lord gave this first promise when He said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Later, the Lord promises to Abraham, “Through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 22:18)  And in 2 Samuel 7:12 the Lord promises to King David, “I will raise up thy seed after thee, who shall build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”  The Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians identifies this Seed, as Christ.

This Christ, this Jesus, your Jesus, comes riding into Jerusalem in our Gospel text for today, which also being read on Palm Sunday gives us a clue as to why we hear it again today.  This is Jesus coming into Jerusalem at the start of what is to become Holy Week.  He is coming to die.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus knows why He is here.  He is here to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah which we heard in our Introit, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation…”  He is riding a donkey, not a war horse.  He is not here to overthrow the Romans, but to overthrow Satan’s rule over the world.  A thousand years earlier King David, on a donkey, rode out of this very city fleeing Absalom’s rebellion.  Today, Jesus, the true Son of David, is riding into Jerusalem to face the rebellion of sin, death, and the devil, and to give His life as a ransom for you, for me, and for the world.

We needed Jesus’ first coming.  Had he not come as the Babe of Bethlehem he could not have ridden into Jerusalem to fulfill God’s plan for your salvation and mine.  We are going to have plenty of opportunity to marvel at the Gift of God in the Incarnation of Christ in the weeks to come.  As we wait, let us not be like children who whine, “Are we there yet?”  Rather let us be like the Psalmist who wrote, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust: let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame… Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths…for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

We need Jesus’ second coming.  In case you haven’t noticed, the world seems like it’s going to hell in a hand-basket.  That shouldn’t surprise you.  Paul wrote about it in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.  Jesus has been talking about it for the past few weeks in our Gospel lessons.  He will come, as promised; just as He came as promised the first time.  And when He does, dear Saints, He will finally “establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father.”

In the meantime, as we reflect on Jesus’ first coming in the weeks ahead, and as we await his second coming whenever that may be, let us remember His promise to be with us always, to the end of the age.  Jesus comes to you today in the humility of His Word and Sacrament to deliver the fruits of His Passion: the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.  He comes to you in His living and active Word, whether you hear it proclaimed from this pulpit, read it on your own, or study it in Bible class.  He comes to you in the word of forgiveness pronounced in the Absolution each Divine Service.  He comes to you every time you remember your Baptism when you repent of your sins.  He comes to you in a most real manner when you partake of His body and blood here at the foot of this Altar.  This Jesus, your Jesus, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem; who rode into Jerusalem to be our sacrifice; who laid down His life on the cross for our sins; who rose in triumph to defeat our enemy: death; who ascended to the right hand of the Father, is the one who came for you; comes to you now; and will come to get you and take you to be with Him forever.  Blessed is He who comes.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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

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.