Maundy Thursday

MaundyThursdayExodus 12:1-14, 1 Cor. 11:23-32, John 13:1-17, 31-35

The night before God’s people left Egypt was a horrific and bloody night. Children, cattle, and lambs died. They died because Pharaoh’s heart was hard; because Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit. They joined the rebel angel armies of Satan. They took up the cause of death and plunged all creation into chaos and destruction. They invented slavery.

But the lambs were innocent. They had not rebelled or sinned. They had not enslaved their brothers. Yet they died that night. They were sacrificed in the place of guilty people. The lambs’ blood marked the doors of those who submitted to God’s Word through Moses, who in repentance pleaded for mercy to the only One who can give it. Thus while the angel of death took the firstborn of the Egyptians, those marked by the blood of the lambs were spared. That blood counted for them and the angel passed over them.

It was a bloody night because while God loves the world, He has no sympathy for those who reject Him, who attempt to worship Him by some other name, who like Pharaoh will not hear His Word, or who ask Him to share their devotion and prayers with false gods. They get what they desire, the inheritance of the fall, death. He has no sympathy either for the lambs. Their blood is the price of man’s rebellion. He is unflinching about the sacrifice. They have to die that men would again be His. And thus God loved the world by killing them. He hid His people under innocent blood. The killing angel passed over them. God spared them from death through death. Continue reading

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Posted in Holy Week, Lord's Supper, Old Testament, sermon

Blessed is He Who Comes Rejected

cv_march14Lent 2C: Luke 13:31-35, Jer. 26:8-15, Phil. 3:17-4:1

If you listened closely to the appointed scripture readings for today, the 2nd Sunday in Lent, there is a line in each reading that intimately connects them together.  The prophet Jeremiah speaks the word of the Lord and then it says, “All the people laid hold of him, saying, you shall die”.  Paul in the Epistle reading says, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”  And finally in the Gospel reading we have the Pharisees warn Jesus saying, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  The theme in these three readings is rejection and more specifically the rejection of God’s Word, God’s ways, and God’s Son.

There was a Pastor who wanted to see if people gave notice when he repeated his sermon a few weeks in a row.  He preached the sermon for the first time and got the usual response as people exited the church, “good sermon Pastor, good sermon Pastor.”  The second week he preached the same sermon again.  The people where still kind and said “It’s still a good sermon, but it was the same as last week?”  The preacher did not respond to the inquiry.  Finally the third week in a row of the same sermon people started to get upset.  The people grumbled and complained to the Pastor on their way out and with a quick witted reply he said, “I will stop preaching the same sermon when you start adhering to the words that the Lord has given me to preach.”

If you ever think Worship is very similar Sunday after Sunday that’s because we keep falling into temptation and sin over and over.  Worship will change when we fully adhere to the Lord’s words.  We will skip over confession and absolution when we stop committing the same old sins.  We will start preaching something else besides Christ crucified when we perfectly receive His teachings and work.  We will find something different to do then all of us filing up to this altar every Sunday when the food and drink of this earth has the power to sustain us into eternity.  I think you get the point.  These things will never happen on this earth.  Thus, generations keep passing as God gives His word through prophets, apostles, and pastors, and through whom the incarnate Son of God speaks.  He continues that today, tomorrow, and the day following. Continue reading

Posted in Divine Service, Lent, Old Testament, Preaching, sermon

Suffering Before Glory

transfiguration-large-iconTransfiguration C: Also check out the Gospel reading accompanied by handbells!

The glory of the LORD is a frightful glory. Few have seen it, and even they caught only a glimpse of it. Moses saw it, or at least the backside of it, and he had to be hidden in a cave to endure it. Elijah caught a glimpse of it, but he had to be hidden in the cave too. Isaiah saw it in a vision, but was convinced he was a dead man and confessed his sinfulness. The shepherds saw it over Bethlehem’s fields the night of Jesus’ birth, and they were filled with fear. As do most, in the midst of unholy people, the Holy Lord’s fulness and glory is a frightful glory, thus the first word is often, “fear not.”

No one may look on God and live, except when God in His mercy permits it. Three of the Twelve saw Jesus in His divine glory – Peter, James, and John. Jesus was changed in appearance before the three. Metamorphosized, transfigured. He glowed with an unearthly glow, shining with the radiance of heaven. His clothes were whiter than any white on earth.

Jesus’ transfiguration sets Him apart from all the others – from Moses and the prophets, from every religious teacher to come along. No one ever appeared this way. We need to remember this mountain and the transfiguration when we think of Jesus. There is so much more to Jesus than meets the eye. The shepherds in Bethlehem saw a tiny baby wrapped in cloths. The disciples saw a rabbi, a carpenter from Nazareth. The healings and exorcisms He did were signs of something greater.

What sets Jesus apart is His shining face and bright clothing, this unearthly brilliance that would blind you to look at Him. Here is no ordinary man, not even an extraordinary man, or a super holy man. He is more than Moses, more the Elijah, more than any holy man who ever left a footprint in history. Greater than John and all who came before and all who would come after. No one ever appeared in this world shining with divinity but this Jesus in whom the fulness of God dwells bodily.

On this mountain He pulled back the veil- just a little!  God in the flesh is seen beaming like the sun – light bursting forth – dispelling darkness – stabbing eyes!  He is seen in the presence of Moses – who died 1500 years before on Mount Nebo.  He is seen in the presence of Elijah whose fiery departure from earth had occurred 900 years prior.

As we stand on the edge of Lent, a season of penitence and preparation for Holy Week, it seems as though we have stood here in glory by this mount of Transfiguration and now we must pass through the shadow death. It seems as though the Transfiguration, though it momentarily showed Jesus in glory merely prepares for the darkness which He must soon endure. Why must we leave this radiant season? Continue reading

Posted in sermon, Transfiguration, Trinity

Getting a Little Preachy

Epiphany 4C: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 4:31-44

images-4“Don’t preach to me,” we say when someone speaks definitively, especially if it doesn’t fit our preconceived notions.  Or when one speaks for a long period of time we say they are getting preachy. Or like the 4 men hunting, all see the same deer and shoot at the same time, and only one hit the deer. They called for an officer to assess the situation and he looked and asked if anyone was a preacher? One was. He said it’s the preacher’s. “How do you know?” they asked. Well, the bullet that hit went in one ear and out the other.

You see, preaching has a bad name, doesn’t it? Even the dictionary can’t help. To preach – to give advice or urge a course of action, especially in a meddlesome or tedious manner. Terrific. This is my chosen vocation. I’m a preacher. You don’t hear a carpenter saying, “Please excuse me for building.” Or a mechanic say, “I’m sorry for tuning this engine,” or an accountant say, “Pardon me for balancing these books.”  Yet we do apologize for being preachy.

The prophet Jeremiah was called to preach. The Lord set him aside and consecrated him before he was even born. Jeremiah is the prophet with the some of the biggest concerns as a prophet. This goes to show you that even if God hands you your vocation on a silver platter before you were even conceived or born, it still won’t be easy. In fact it may even be more difficult, since God already knew you wouldn’t have taken the assignment voluntarily. Jeremiah’s call was a tough one – preach to a people who don’t want to hear your message or have anything to do with you. Continue reading

Posted in Epiphany, Luther, Old Testament, Preaching, sermon

Two Hearings of the Word

Epiphany 3C: Nehemiah 8:1-10, Luke 4:16-30

There are but two hearings of the Word of God – faith and unbelief. There is no middle ground. No cool, detached critical view high up in the bleachers. It is either faith or unbelief. You either hear the Word of the Lord and rejoice in the goodness of God who has mercy on the sinner, or you deny the Word and despise the goodness of God and want to silence it.

This is why reading the Bible as literature ultimately fails. Yes, the Bible is literature. A wide variety of different kinds of literature, in fact. And the Bible certainly can be read for its literature and its history. But the Word of God is living and active. It kills and makes alive. It does not return empty but accomplishes the purposes for which it is spoken. The Word is a sharp two-edged sword of Law and Gospel that doesn’t sit idly. When you deal with the Word, you are dealing with some live wires, the power of God for salvation.

One of our problems in the church today is that the church has grown Word-weary. Complacent. Bored even. Our ears are dulled by all the noise of this world. We want to be entertained, amused, inspired. We seek relevance and meaning for our lives. We look for answers to all our questions. The competing voices are loud and strong. Media and movies and internet. We are bombarded by information and communication, but there is very little wisdom and communion. Dots are left unconnected. We think in little sound bytes. Our theology is reduced to bumper stickers and slogans and social media postings.

Luther warned his generation that the Word is like a local rain shower. It falls for a while in one place and the soil soaks it up. And then the soil becomes saturated and the water runs off and the rain moves on. Luther foresaw the day when the Gospel would move on from the land of the Reformation to other places, which in fact happened. And some would say it’s happening here. For all the religious fervor and the religious broadcasting and media, there is precious little in the way of the Word of God. Continue reading

Posted in Epiphany, Luther, sermon

Baptism: The Happy Exchange

1917627_1129242513767432_6497441041312307270_n.jpgDearly beloved, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

We have worshipped the Infant in the manger with shepherds. We’ve worshipped the Child with the Persians who followed the star. Today we make a huge leap – thirty years later. We are on the banks of the Jordan River with John the Baptizer. Today is the Baptism of our Lord. Until His baptism, Jesus was recognized and worshipped only by a handful of people. Shepherds at His birth. Simeon and Anna in the temple when He was 40 days old. Wise men from the east when He was a toddler. The neighbors in Nazareth probably didn’t have a clue. To them He was the carpenter’s son, working in his father’s shop. He grew up like every Jewish boy of his day. Attended the synagogue with his family. Went to Jerusalem for the feasts.

And then one day, He stood in the water of the Jordan River, shoulder to shoulder with the people who came to John confessing their sins to be baptized by him. What a day this is! Christmas joy becomes baptismal joy. No longer do we celebrate the birth of a baby, now we rejoice in His baptism.

With the account of Jesus’ baptism, Luke’s Gospel narrative makes a change in direction. Continue reading

Posted in Baptism, sermon

Epiphany: Following the Word

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

images-1There has been all kinds of attempts to explain and tell about the Wise Men. Part of it is because it seems so unexplained. How did they know to follow the star? Why would they come at the birth of this king yet it is no recorded that this was common at the birth of other kings? What was all this going on, why does it seem so random, and why does it seem so important most of us think really think of this as part of the Christmas narrative rather than something that was likely a year or two later?

First the star. What was this star and what led these wise men to follow it? As much as some have attempted to explain that they were astrologers who came because the star was so great and act as if no one else could have seen the star or thought to follow it, it just doesn’t flow. These men had the Scriptures to tell them the child born is the king of the Jews. How so? When God punished his people by letting Nebuchadnezzar destroy Judah and Jerusalem, starting in 599 BC, he brought them to Babylon for seventy years of exile. During that exile the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel lived among the people. From these prophets we can be sure that the wise men of Babylon and Persia would have learned the Scriptures. They would have learned of the Exodus, the promise of God’s covenant to redeem His people.

How can we be so sure of that? Simply because God’s people tell their friends and neighbors about the Savior. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew the difficulties and joys of telling others about the Messiah.

The Magi would have known and heard the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers (24:17):

I see him, but now now;

I behold him, but not near;

a star shall come out Jacob,

and a scepter shall rise out Israel.

Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Epiphany, Old Testament, sermon

Two Greatest Words of Christmas!

Luke 2:1-20

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.… For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

linus-van-peltIt’s the greatest Word spoken to man. It’s kinda difficult to not picture good ol’ Linus Van Pelt and even hear his voice as those words are proclaimed. It’s the greatness that comes in Charlie Brown and a greatness that while you’ve likely seen it dozens of times we often miss.

It comes right in the middle of proclaiming Luke 2. Linus speaks not just with his words but with his actions. Linus is best known for one thing, his trusty blue blanket. Everyone at some point or another tried to get that blanket from Linus. It is his source of comfort, he is willing to endure ridicule while holding it fast… until the moment we all missed.

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Christmas Eve Early

Matthew 1:18-25

Are you ready for Christmas?  You’ve been asking others, haven’t you, over these past few weeks.  And you’ve been asked the question, too, I’m sure.  It’s the social equivalent of chatting about the weather, in these latter days of December.

imagesIf you actually consider the question, however, what would your answer be?  Are you ready for Christmas?  You’ve tried to be, to whatever extent, whether with your best effort or half-heartedly.  It’s hard to avoid or ignore it, when all your circles are revolving around it for a month or more.

Continue reading

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Two Prophets, Two Priests, Two Women: Advent 4

Two expectant mothers get together, which isn’t all that unusual in and of itself, especially considering they are related. They form quite an amazing picture, these two women – a pregnant Virgin and an expectant mother old enough to be a great-grandmother. Truly, nothing is impossible with God! And just as truly, God doesn’t take the easy or the expected, way. His ways are definitely not our ways; his thoughts certainly not our thoughts. And sometimes God’s way is simply bizarre.

But consider this for a moment: one is in the third trimester of her pregnancy even as she’s in the senior years of her life. And the other has just begun her pregnancy as a virgin. We might describe what occurs there in Zechariah’s house as an exchange between two prophets, two priests and two beautiful women. Continue reading

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