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Funeral Sermon: Romans 1:16

Miriam Meyer was a dear saint of the Lord and member of Trinity who passed in her Savior’s arms on February 3, 2016.

God’s grace, His mercy and His peace be with you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

As a pastor it’s sometimes difficult to learn who members are, what their names are and connecting them with faces. Miriam was one of those people who made it easy for me to learn her name. First of all she was at church more than I was! Every Sunday and a bunch of days in between Sundays, I would show up and there she’d be. She also enjoyed talking after the services so I came to know her quickly because she would always be waiting on her lunch buddies. Talking with Berniece as they waited on Bill to finish locking up so they could head to lunch. I thank God for this gift of a woman and I am very aware that the ways I knew her from brief visits and a few longer conversations pale in comparison to the great stories and love that you have for her. God gave a great woman in Miriam and God has taken a great woman in her. A wife to one, a mother to five, a grandmother to thirteen and a great grandmother to sixteen! Her joy, strength and sense of humor were infectious and ever present.

For all these great things we knew about her and as well as we knew her, there was one who knew her even better than we did. There is one who knew things about her that none of us will ever know. There is one who knew things about her that would shock us all. God knew Miriam to be a sinner. He knew all of her flaws and faults and the fallenness she carried. Her feistiness would spring up at the wrong time. Her stubbornness would hurt feelings. Her particularity would get in the way of relationships. So many things she did that God knew to be wrong. So much she could have done better. God knew these things and more about her; and you know what? Miriam knew these things and more about herself. There were many things she was ashamed of. She knew she was a sinner.

She also knew that because she was a sinner, she was deserving death and hell. She knew that sin meant separation from God and that apart from God there is no good thing. I know she knew this because I talked with her about it. We not only talked about it, but I heard her confess it: “I have sinned against you in thought word in deed by what I have done and by what I have left undone, I have not loved you with my whole heart, I have not loved my neighbor as myself, I justly deserve your present and eternal punishment.” This was Miriam.

But God was not satisfied having Miriam like this. God doesn’t desire the death of a sinner and God didn’t want to leave Miriam in her sins. So God did something about it. God in His infinite wisdom and ways beyond our ways made a way for Miriam to be joined to Him once again. The sinful imperfections of Miriam could not be tolerated in the presence of the eternal perfect God, so He made a way for these faults, flaws, and this fallenness to be taken from her. The imperfect cannot approach the perfect but our perfect God perfectly approached us to make a way for us to be with Him.

In Jesus we see this way. He is the truth, He is the life. He is true because in him is no deceit. There is no self serving-ness about Jesus. There is no sinful motivations. There is no fault or flaw to be found in Him as He lived the perfect life here on earth doing what Miriam could never do. He did that for Miriam. He, the way truth and life is the life because in Him is the life and the light of men. He was without sin and because death is the wages of sin, he didn’t need to die, yet He did. He died when He didn’t need to, He died for Miriam.

He died because the sins Miriam committed demanded death as a wage. He died in Her place. It was through His death that Jesus made the way for Miriam to be right with God. She is not held to account for the things that would cause her embarrassment because they were taken by Jesus. In God’s sending His Son to earth for Miriam, He sent His son to become the bearer of Miriam’s shame. He humbled himself to lift the burden of sin, pain and death from Miriam and all of that he took to the cross. And on that cross God was too embarrassed to look upon His Son. God’s Son became everything that embarrassed God all the imperfections about Miriam belonged to Jesus and as Jesus hung there God left Him to die guilty of all of Miriam’s sins.

For all this that Miriam knew herself to be, all that God knew her to be, and yes all that even we sometimes observed her to be in our life with her, because of Jesus Miriam the sinner is not the name we know her to bear. For all she was ashamed of there is one thing that brought her no shame. There is one thing that God gave her a pride in beyond all sin and pain. One thing that means everything for Miriam is what she found great joy and delight in and that is the Gospel. It is this news that Jesus has come and taken everything God did not intend her to do, Jesus came and became everything God did not intend His daughter Miriam to be. And because of this, she is no longer separated from God, she is His forever.

She loved this message. She loved this news. She loved this reality. She loved this power of the Gospel. She was so proud of this message, this was all she could boast in. This was the only thing that brought her no shame, Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This power of God is not merely something that might sometimes be present when the Gospel is preached, but this power of God is found in the Gospel. The good news that Jesus has become for us everything that would keep her from God so that with Him through His resurrection she could be with God in a newness of life that is eternal, unchanging, and untarnishable.

God granted Miriam through Baptism to be brought this salvation work. He granted her through the hearing of forgiveness and proclamation that she was saved by Jesus. He sustained her through the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood given for her for the forgiveness of sins. As Jesus promises whoever hears my word and believed him who sent me has eternal life. He doesn’t come into judgement but has passed from death to life.

Jesus didn’t stay dead. He was judged for all that was wrong but by Him we are deemed righteous. Nothing wrong with Miriam is left to be seen as it is covered in the blood of Jesus. The power of God that is for Miriam gives her life. Jesus in His perfect payment of death conquered sin and death. There is nothing that separates Miriam from God now. She is in Him and she is with Him in paradise and she is no longer tempted or taunted or pained or prodded by the things of this world that would seek to convince her otherwise. She now rests in the savior because the savior has won rest for Her.

I have spent a lot of time talking about Miriam and about what she did and what Jesus did for her, but she would probably want me to talk a bit about you all today. Because as Miriam was, so are you. Sinners. But that’s not the last word, because As Miriam is, so are you, saved saints of God granted an eternity a place with him forever because of Jesus work for you. Nothing can keep you from God, nothing will keep you from being with Him in eternity, and as we rejoice God has delivered Miriam to himself we rejoice knowing that someday we will see her again along with her dear George in the joys of paradise.

But until then, we have work to do. Just as Miriam was blessed to be a servant of our Lord bearing this gospel this love of God in the world. Just as God prepared so many good works for her to do as She lived in Christ, so too, God has work for us to do, hearing this word and, sharing this powerful message, and loving through His powerful love. Today the works are works of hearing this and receiving from God our life in Him and in our life in him our works prepared by Him come in consoling one another with this hope that is within us. These works prepared for us may look like crying and weeping at the momentary affliction we feel at the loss of a loved one. These works are as mundane as hugging and holding and walking and talking and listening together to the words we need to hear and and the words we get to speak but in these things as we are in Christ, God is working for us, He is working through us.

It is a joy to have known Miriam but as she would agree, the greater joy is found in knowing her savior who has the final word. This Jesus would not let Miriam do it on her own and so too, he will not let you do it on your own. He has done it all for you and through the trials and afflictions that will continue to come our way, He provides the way for us. The way through the world of being loved by him so that we can love him and all around us. And the way to eternity through being ashamed of our sins but proud of his salvation’s work for us. May we all with joy this day be able to say, I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen

Now may the peace which passes all understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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Sermon: Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

You can listen to the audio of this sermon here.

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you from Him our heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Why is there suffering in the world? Why do good people suffer? Is suffering a punishment on those who are guilty? Questions like these beg to be answered and are often in the front of minds and find their way into conversations on life and God. The bad things that take place in the world and in our lives leave us asking the question what did they do to deserve that!?

Jesus faced similar questions and it may seem that he skirted the issue with His answer but in reality, Jesus puts the questions into perspective that shows us there’s more going on than just the obviously tragic events and unwelcomed accidents that leave people dead and scarred.

Everyone is going to die. It is one of the things like breathing that all humans have in common. Whether it’s expected as in the case of an elderly person who has lived a “good, long” life. Or if it’s in the case of an unexpected accident, a tragic inappropriate action of another, or an unwelcome diagnosis of health failure that brings it about, everyone is going to die.

The only real question that matters for eternity is not the why of death or the how of death or even the when of death but the question that matters is who we die with. Dying with Jesus is the only thing that can save us and in the lesson today, Jesus is warning the people around him against the danger of dying alone. There’s more going on than tragedies and accidents, Jesus reminds the people questioning Him today that eternity is on the line — every day.

Jesus was told about some Galileans who were killed by Pilate while they were bringing sacrifices. There’s no question given by the text of our Gospel from the people, but it is as if they have told Jesus this news along with the question of why did this happen? Did they have it coming to them? They must have been worse than us for God to allow this to happen to them, right Jesus? We don’t know what question the people may or may not have asked but we don’t have to speculate too much because the text of the Gospel of Luke does give us Jesus’ answer to their unrecorded question.

Jesus says, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” Jesus asks the question for them and then answers the question. Simply put he used a common word many learn early in their life, He told them, “No.” No, they did not suffer in this way because they were worse sinners than all the other Galileans. No. Jesus doesn’t give them the why. God doesn’t have to tell us the why, but more important than why they died, more important than how they died, more important than when they died, Jesus doesn’t even get into who they died with.

He wasn’t as concerned about those who were dead and the circumstances around their deaths as He was about those who were alive. Let the dead bury their own dead. We don’t pray for the dead because they are out of our hands. Jesus wasn’t concerned about those who were dead because there time of struggle was over. It was either won for them by Jesus or lost by them because of unrepentance. You couldn’t sweet talk the dead to life, you can only leave them to God. Jesus was concerned about the ones who were alive and listening to Him, Jesus is concerned about you, so He turns the question around to have those around Him think about who they would die with. Would they die alone, with their life and works to save them or would they repent and die with the savior who defeats death?

“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” He told them. Jesus wasn’t looking to teach the people around him about the problem of evil in the world. The people were familiar with that from at least one direct account they were familiar with. Jesus wasn’t worried about defending God’s name against the notion that He caused the spilling of the blood as a punishment on the people. No, Jesus wasn’t worried about those things. Jesus was worried about the salvation of those standing around Him. Jesus is all about saving people from dying alone.

Jesus makes the point even louder to them, that they have an opportunity to repent now, and He makes this point by beating the crowds to the next question. Knowing the people were likely unsatisfied with the “you can repent today answer” He heads them off by bringing up another tragedy. He says, what about the 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell? They died. Were they worse sinners than all the others who lived in Jerusalem and that’s why they died?

We could apply Jesus statements to any number of tragedies that we are familiar with, were the ones who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks deserving of it because of what they’d done or not done with their lives? Were the inhabitants of Louisiana who died in the Katrina hurricane deserving of it because of their many sins? Are those being slaughtered at the hands of ISIS getting what they deserve? And the children who never see the light of day and die to make a family planning goal, they must have some evil streak deserving death in them right? The individuals shot in Kalamazoo last weekend and in Kansas this past week must have had it coming right? We can insert any number of situations into this reasoning. You know those who have cancer have it coming to them because of the filthy people they are. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Jesus simply says, “No!” but unless you repent you too will likewise perish.

We don’t know the status of the souls, the salvation of those who were killed in the mingling blood incident, nor do we know the eternity in store for those who had the tower fall on them. But we do know that they perished. What did they perish from? Well, they perished from the opportunity to repent. No longer would they have the opportunity to turn from their sin to the God who saves them from everlasting condemnation. So Jesus wants the people around him, and He wants you to realize, that the day is coming the day when your struggle is over is coming and He wants to win the struggle for you. He wants you to die with Him.

We often fall into the trap of speculating, why do bad things happen to good people. Well. There’s a flaw in that question that we should be familiar with, there’s no such thing as good people. There is a good person, though and that person has the power over death and that person desires to make things good for all people.  And He makes things good by letting his blood become the sacrifice, He makes things good by letting the tower of the law fall on him. He makes things good for all people by taking the punishment for all sins in the one place that the punishment for sin is given by God once and for all.

Jesus goes to the cross. And on that cross the evil of the world is paid for once and for all. All the things that are done that deserve everlasting condemnation are dealt with by God as He pours out His wrath against the one who hung in your place. The church ceiling doesn’t cave in when filthy sinners walk into church. We had that proved to us once again today when we all sat safely in our pews. The lightning bolts don’t fall from the sky against the wicked ones of the world, we may wish it in one breath and thank God for it in the next. God’s wrath is not a sin seeking missile targeting sinners all over the world but finds its target as the cross hairs level in on the one place where every sin is gathered and claimed by the only one who could atone for everyone. Jesus died so that we do not have to die alone.

Following the response of Jesus to two tragedies, Jesus goes on to tell a parable of a fig tree. A fig tree is planted in a vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it and found nne. And the owner of the vineyard says to his vinedresser, “Look, it’s been three years and there’s stil no fruit. Cut it down and use the ground for something not so evil, not so wicked, something that does what it is supposed to do.” The vinedresser buys some time for this tree and says, let it live this year, let me fertilize it with manure and aerate the soil around it , then if it bears fruit, it has done what it is supposed to do. If not, then cut it down.

In this parable we see that judgment is leveled against the non-fruit bearing ones. John the Baptizer spoke this way of trees as well in Luke 3:9 he said, “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” In Matthew 3:8 John is recorded as telling the brood of vipers around him, “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Every day we have is a day given to us to bear fruit and before you start thinking of your abilities and opportunities for bearing fruit alone: think about your track record. How has it gone for you? Have you had enough years to be bearing fruit worthy of giving you life? I will caution you lest you think too highly of yourself. Consider yourself according to the ten commandments. Have you loved God perfectly with all your heart putting Him before yourself and everything else in this world? Have you loved your neighbor perfectly, better than you love yourself? Have you done everything you can for everyone out of love? I know you haven’t. God knows you haven’t and if this frightens you, good it should because the ax is lying at the root of the tree and it’s only a matter of time before the time to bear fruit is gone. Repent.

So how can we be fruitful with the Lord? It’s by His grace, by His mercy, by His life that we live and move and have our being. It’s by us living not in ourselves but in Him that anything good can come at the end of these days the Lord has granted us. And God grants us everything we need to have a life in Him. He calls us to repent. He moves us to repent. He gives us the fruit of repentance and with that the evil we are is no longer ours to take care of. By the repentance God grants to us, we have a place with Jesus who takes care of everything that would keep us from God. He takes care of everything that would have us die alone. He takes care of our death so that eternity with Him is ours.

Realizing who we are what we are, we are left to wonder, Why do good things happen to bad people? And the answer is a love that doesn’t quit. The Lord God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires that the wicked turn from his way and live. Each day of life we have is a demonstration of the Lord’s patience. By His love, through His power He moves us to Himself. By the Spirit’s it is given to us that we would repent, that we would live because of Jesus’ death. And with this truth even when disaster may strike us we need not fear because we do not belong to the world and it’s disasters. We belong to the one who overcomes it all. He is here to save us. God loves you through Jesus to overcome anything that would keep you from Him. And as He loves you, He loves the world through you so that many may come to repent and know His goodness.

He doesn’t want us to die alone. He wants us to turn from sin to Him and live. And as He turns us to Himself, we have life that lasts beyond the grave.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

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Sermon: Jesus Overcomes Temptation

Temptation is something that we all face. Temptation is something that we all fall to. Temptation is something that we all give in to. Temptation is something that God has done something about. Jesus overcomes temptation — for us.

Jesus being tempted in the wilderness for 40 days followed on the heels of His baptism. His baptism and the subsequent fasting and temptation was the beginning of His public ministry as the Father in heaven audibly spoke of His Son and who He was. “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” These were the words spoken for all to hear at Jesus baptism as the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove. These words of commendation were heard by John the Baptist, and all the other witnesses to Jesus’ baptism. These words were also heard by the devil and all the demons who seek to do the will of the deceiver. In these words, game on was called in the cosmic battle between the all powerful good and the ever nagging evil.

Certainly Satan is aware of God’s pleasure with His only begotten Son. Satan wants to see if he can cause some displeasure to the father and comes to Jesus in the midst of his 40 day fast and we have recorded for us three times he tempts Him. In the first temptation we find a likely hold for satan to wedge into. This man Jesus has been 40 days without food and He is hungry. Here is a clue about Jesus humanity we do well to lay hold of. Jesus was not using His divinity to overcome temptation. If this were the case, Jesus would not hunger but in Luke 4:2 it tells us that at the end of 40 days, Jesus was hungry. Jesus was not using his divine nature attributes to fast or to overcome temptation, he did it for us as a human.

So the first temptation is towards this empty human stomach. Satan comes to Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” This is an obvious temptation to fill the stomach that is growling for food but it is so much more that is being poked at here. The devil is tempting Jesus to doubt that God will provide for His physical needs.

The devil tried to plant doubt in Jesus’ mind.  God has forgotten you.  He is willing to let you die of hunger.  Back when you were baptized, He said that you were His beloved son, but did He really mean it? After all, what loving father would allow his son to wander around hungry in the wilderness? His promises mean nothing to you. Your concern is for bread; forget about God’s Word. Take matters into your own hands.  Don’t rely on God. If you really are the Son of God, God would want you to have bread, wouldn’t He? The devil hoped that thoughts like these would win out in Jesus’ mind when he said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3) Our perfect Jesus would not be undone.

This temptation is still around today. The devil would love us to be convinced that the world has everything we need. That bread and money and status and relationships provide all we need and if we have them in the way we want we will find full and final fulfillment. And we give in to this temptation. We give up trust in God to trust in ourselves to do whatever we can to get whatever we feel we need. We abandon our vows in marriage to satisfy lusts. We fudge the numbers a bit to make the bottom line better for us. We fib in our relationships to make ourselves seem better for others in our lives. The temptation to turn from God’s provision is ever in front of us and we flee from our faith and fall into believing that we can get what we really need on our own. This we do, but not Jesus – Jesus overcomes temptation.

In the next temptation the devil takes and shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment and says, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory for it has been delivered to me, and  I will give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Here a clue that we would do well to pay attention to is given. The devil says “it has been delivered to me” and in this we are reminded of the wretched result of the fall into sin. Adam and Eve turned from God to find what they felt they needed and in doing so the world fell into Satan’s lap. Satan would love Jesus to believe that because the world has fallen it is no longer within the care and concern of the creator. This is false. And Jesus knows it. Satan wants Jesus to turn His back on the father’s plan to save the world and to instead take a place in Satan’s limited reign. Hey Jesus, let’s make peace now, you don’t have to go through the shame and suffering of the cross, I will make peace with you now if you just worship me just once. Can’t we just get along to make this happen?

This temptation is still around today. The devil readily tells us that we can be at peace with all people. All we need do is surrender our faithfulness to God’s Word.  So what if not everyone agrees with the Bible one hundred per cent. The important thing is that we all get along, right? As long as we make this a better world where everyone is happy, we’re all good, right?  That’s the important thing … worshipping the true god is not really that important. The temptation to abandon God’s word for an idea of momentary peace is ever in front of us and we turn from God seeking a limited love that really isn’t a love of others or of God but a love of self. This we do, but not Jesus – Jesus overcomes temptation.

Finally, the devil comes to Jesus quoting scripture. He took Jesus to Jerusalem and put him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” The devil quotes scripture but only part of scripture. He takes a psalm which proclaims God’s promise of protection and makes it into a psalm of permission – permission to do whatever you want. That’s not what God was saying in Psalm 91. But this is what Satan wanted Jesus to buy into.

This temptation is still around today, we pick and choose what words of God we will listen to and which words we will throw away. Even though Jesus told the disciples to teach all that He commanded, we can only learn so much … and we decide what is enough.  In doing this we forget that telling God that we don’t need any more of His word is the same as telling Him that we don’t need any more of Him. We make ourselves god by editing God’s word of life by finding words that support our way of life or words that make the most sense and leave the rest of His words in a grey area.  This we do, but not Jesus – Jesus overcomes temptation.

The young and young at heart among us are tempted by the flesh – tempted to satisfy the earthly urges we carry whether for filling our stomachs or for satisfying our lusts or by finding earthly comfort, as age causes the novelty of fleshly fulfillment to fall away we are tempted to believe that our standing in the world is of utmost importance and greed and deception seem likely means to deliver us to safety. Those granted a strength of faith by God to rise above and to withstand some of the temptations of the world may be tempted to believe that it is because of their strength of will and resolve that temptation is overcome. We can be tempted to believe that we are able on our own to deliver ourselves from evil. However these attacks may come, we know without a doubt that we all face temptations and we know from experience and from scriptures light, that we cannot face them faithfully alone.

Dear friends in Christ, we are not led into temptation alone. We pray in the Lord’s prayer, lead us not into temptation, and we know that this prayer is being answered. We may sometimes despair feeling the Lord has led us into temptation, but the prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray is a prayer that we would not be led to temptation alone and left to deal with it on our own.

Thanks be to God he does not leave us unarmed for the battle. The first step toward winning in any battle is to realize the reality and the scope of the war that is being waged. To deny temptations exist is to give in to them. We cannot live as if the devil is far away from us leaving us to only wrestle with our minds and by our own strength to overcome temptations. Saying they are not real or not powerful does not make temptations go away or help us overcome them. Overcoming one temptation can leave us to be tempted to believe that it is by our own reason or strength that we have overcome them. Then the tempters attack is no longer to draw us to pervert the world around us but rather to pervertedly believe that we have overcome on our own. The foothold of the temptor becomes even stronger and the attack becomes even more nuanced and dangerous when our faith is placed on our doing rather than in all that is done for us.

Jesus faces temptation perfectly for us. The temptation to doubt God’s provision. The temptation to get along to feel strong. The temptation to pick and choose from God’s word to meet our ends. All these temptations and more, Jesus faced perfectly for us and overcame for us.

We regularly fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did.  Jesus fought back with a strategy that is available to all of us.  He quoted from the Word of God.  Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4) from Deuteronomy 8.  Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:8) from Deuteronomy 6.  Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12) also from Deuteronomy 6.  God’s Word is the weapon Jesus used to stop the devil.  It is the weapon God has given us.  How sad it is that we often doubt this weapon and fail to use it as we should. Jesus used a strategy for fighting temptation that is available to us. But in perfectly overcoming temptation, Jesus gives us more than just a strategy. He gives us Himself.

Today’s Gospel tells us that when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13) This means that the devil did not depart forever, but only until an opportune time.  The devil tempted Jesus over and over again.  He did not quit until Jesus was dead.

Even while Jesus was on the cross, we hear the devil speak through his servants saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40) There is that phrase of doubt once again: “If you are the Son of God …” Even at the cross, the devil still tried to sow seeds of doubt.  Even as Jesus died, He fought off the temptation with the word of God.  His last words were a psalm: “Into your hand I commit my spirit. (Psalm 31:5)

Even on the cross Jesus did not and had not given into temptation. We so often fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did.  Jesus withstood the devil’s temptation for us, in our place.  He is our champion.  He never sinned.  He stayed on the hard road to the cross. And on that cross he took everything from us.

Eventually, the World was given to Jesus again, but not through compromise.  Jesus fulfilled every promise God made.  Jesus withstood the devil himself in the wilderness of hunger.  He endured temptation even to the cross.  Jesus never wavered.  In the end, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil.  He rose from the dead. He bought us back with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death that we might be His own and live under Him in His Eternal Kingdom.

In Him is the strength to overcome temptation because He has done it perfectly, so too in the eyes of God have we perfectly overcome temptation. We have more than a strategy. We have a new life. We have Jesus. There is no record of our failures to withstand temptation as we are in Christ. On the cross, Jesus took every sin of yours — every time you have abandoned you marriage vows, every number fudged, every relationship fibbed, every false peace sought by compromising God’s word, every ignoring of God’s word — has been taken by the perfect one to the grave. And now His perfection is ours and there is nothing that can keep us from the Father because He has given us everything we need to be with Him.

With His victory on the cross, Jesus earned forgiveness for us. And on the cross he gives us everything he did. His perfect withstanding temptation becomes ours as if we perfectly always overcame temptation. … And because of the cross we have everything that Jesus was. The Holy Spirit brings forgiveness to us and along with it a perfect record in the eyes of God as He works faith in us through Word and Sacrament. And moving forward we have the perfect one with us so that we do not have to use our own thoughts and resources to overcome temptation. No, Jesus overcomes temptation. Every temptation He faced and by the Power of the Holy Spirit, every temptation we face will be overcome by Jesus.

Until we live in eternity with Jesus free from temptation, Jesus overcomes temptation.

In His name. Amen

 

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Sermon: Who knows whom? – Luke 7:18-28

You don’t always get what you expect with God. John the Baptizer had been preaching and teaching a message or repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, he proclaimed in the wilderness many came to him. The threshing floor is the world and the winnowing fork is in the hand of the one who will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. Repent! Turn to God! Turn away from wickedness. The unrighteous will be burned up with fire! Unquenchable fire!

This was John’s message he was preparing the way for the one who would come after him. The one coming was better and bigger and more powerful than John! John couldn’t even untie this one’s sandals! John’s message caught on many came to him and many heard him. Including Herod who put him in pon after he called him to repentance for his adultery. Luke leaves out this detail of imprisonment, but we get it in Matthew 11. John is locked up by the ruler of the earthly kingdom for the preaching a message preparing the way for the king of heaven and earth. This wasn’t what we would expect. But we don’t always get what we expect with God. We wouldn’t expect the confident prophet of God to be questioning the ministry of the one he was proclaiming, but he asked, “Are you the one to come or should we expect another?”

John was looking for some light in the darkness of his days. What was the point of this message of preparation? Was his life’s work for nothing? According to our earthly measures we would consider him a failure on some levels. He is restrained for preaching repentance. We don’t see what we would expect for someone who so clearly proclaimed the Good news of the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

We don’t always get what we expect with God. If it was up to us to write the history of the world we would probably put the good John, greater than others born of woman, in a place of power, not in a position of weak powerlessness. We wouldn’t expect someone with such a strong convicting and true message to be questioning the place of the great one he was called to prepare. But that’s what John did, he questioned Jesus’ work and standing sending his disciples to ask, “Are you the one to come or should we expect another?”

The great one doesn’t always look that great. Jesus calls John great. “I tell you, among those born of women, none is greater than John.” This is understandable in light of the great message and deeds that John did. I mean, after all, John even baptized Jesus. The man who prepared the way has gone a difficult and dangerous way. Granted Herod was afraid of executing John. He was amazed by John’s preaching. But in spite of his amazement toward John, the man herod needed to save face so he exercised his power putting great John in a place of great weakness. Yet this great one doesn’t seem that great, I mean great people aren’t often behind bars.

You can understand why John may have had his doubts at this time. He expected the messiah to bring judgment and to rule with power, putting the corrupt in their place and ridding the world of the unrepentant unrighteous. But that is not what Jesus did. He simply went about teaching goodness and giving mercy to the weak and weary.

Why wasn’t Jesus bringing judgment against people like Herod? Why was John’s righteous ministry being slammed into the slammer? This wasn’t the greatest place for someone as great as John to be in! You can understand why the question of “are you really the one?” would be going through John’s head. John was a man just like you and me, prone to bitterness coming through present situations.

We don’t always get what we expect with God. We expect that faith in Jesus, the ruler of the universe who was there when the foundations of the world was laid would led us to a life free from suffering and illness. Our jobs and families should be secure and we should be free from unemployment and underemployment. Our families should be understanding and supportive of a life following Jesus. Our families should be healthy and happy. Why would we need to endure difficult relationship difficulties when we are walking in the way of the righteous one? Why should we have to feel lonely and alienated in the midst of a relationship with the one who gives all? These are not things that we would expect and not things that seem that great but yet these things come our way and cause us to doubt.

We lose jobs. We endure unfair bosses. We are afflicted with illnesses. People mistreat us. We lose loved ones to untimely deaths. We have people who won’t trust us and we have people we cannot trust placed close to us. We are betrayed and slandered wrongly by the ones we are called to care for and support. The world around us is filled with headlines of persecution and killings of undeserving and even faithful people. Wickedness seems to thrive while righteousness seems to wither. The things that happen to us and things around us can cause us to doubt what a faith in Christ is really doing for us. Is faith in Christ really that great when our lives don’t feel great? Doubt creeps in and can overwhelm us.

John doesn’t stew in his despair. He turns to the one who is capable of repair. Sending his disciples John wants to know “what gives?” The disciples go with the question and arrive in the midst of the answer. Jesus in that hour is healing people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits. He is giving sight to the bling he is doing great things in a great way that great John was forgetting. The great deeds of compassion and mercy and healing by Jesus weren’t the great things John was looking for. He had forgotten the way of the one he was preparing.

In such a situation John’s message of repentance is needed all the more. Repentance is turning to Jesus. And in the midst of doubt, turning to Jesus is repenting of doubt. John looks to Jesus to resolve his doubts. Jesus resolution for John is to point John to the works he was doing. He tells the disciples of John (after demonstrating it in their midst), He says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them.” Jesus points John to his great deeds and in doing so also points the great prophet John to another great prophet. Isaiah in 35:5-6 and 61:1-2 pointed to one coming who would do exactly these things. Jesus answers his question not with empty words but with the fulfillment of the full word of God.

There are many things that we would want God to do in our life. We would want him to give us job security and safety and health and perfect relationships, but in the midst of these broken things, Jesus keeps doing what He came to do. He preaches good news to us healing us in our spirits and giving us something much more lasting than earthly comforts. He gives in the midst of things that don’t seem great, the greatest thing we need, saving faith in Him. He gives it to us and to us and John he gives the word, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Things that are offensive plague us. Imprisonments for John and many broken things in our lives. But in the midst of these broken things and messes, Jesus is still the Jesus we need.

Jesus is without a doubt the one we need in a way we would never ask Him to be for us. We would never expect that God would work in the midst of messes to cleanse us perfectly forever, but that is exactly what He does. We look around at our situations and we say, who is this God? We have a resume in our minds that we expect God to fill but God knows Himself and His ways better than we ever will and along with this, God also knows us better than we ever will.

He knows our broken situations and difficult trials and He knows what we’ve contributed to make these situations the messes they are. But He doesn’t leave us to deal with it on our own. He gives us everything we need that we would never ask for. With God you always get what He promises. God has not promised us an unshaken existence, He has promised to be with us through the shaking. God has not promised us soft splendid clothing and luxurious lives in palaces but he has promised robes of righteousness and a place with Him in the manions of the world to come. With God you always get what He promises. And for Him to deliver on these promises He had to be delivered over to death. Like John, Jesus was wrongly accused and the trials of the days put Jesus on the cross in a place he didn’t deserve. Jesus didn’t spend time in the dungeon but He spend time in the tomb. And like we will, Jesus has risen from the dead.

All of this he has done to deliver on His promises. He knows who we are better than we ever will and He knows what we need even better than we ever will. The answer that Jesus sent to John was a “make no doubt about it” reality check. In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And He told John’s disciples to go tell John what they saw and heard. The healings and miracles he brought bring peace and wholeness to a world that is in pieces. In Him the fullness of God dwelled so that He could make a way for John and for you to dwell with Him forever.

Jesus commended John to the hearers around Him, saying he was a prophet beyond prophets. He was the one preparing the way. He commended John to the crowds saying there is none greater born of women. And he commends you as well. Jesus commends you to the father saying that there is no one greater in the kingdom than you. By becoming the least in the world by taking on the sin of the world, Jesus has made it so that you can be commended as never having sinned. Never having failed. Never having contributed to the brokenness around you. Even though you are deserving of all the blame and all the doubts you carry are founded, God the father finds you without a doubt deserving of all the glories of heaven.

In the midst of the darkness of these days this light continues to shine. The light overcomes the darkness of unemployment and underemployment. The light of the world gives you cause to rejoice in the midst of broken relationships and broken promises and broken homes. In the midst of slander and slams from those closest to you, Jesus clings even closer giving you all goodness and righteousness that you could never have on your own. In the midst of failing health our unfailing savior stands ready to restore even better than before the perfection of all that God intended for us.

In advent we light four candles and three of these four candles are blue like the blues of this world. But this week we lit the pink candle representing the joy that comes into this world of blues. The truth remains even though everything around us would tell us the one who we know is not living up to His end when in all reality it is who he is that makes us live up to everything worth living for.

May God continue to be with us in the midst of our missed expectations. When our experiences cry out with doubt may we be given strength by the spirit to bring these to the Lord. Are you the one or should we expect another. And Jesus answers us with word and action. Go and tell what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. And blessed are you who is not offended by Jesus.

In His name.

Amen.

preparedforchrist

Sermon: Prepare(d) for Christ – Luke 3:1-14

Listen here: http://www.trinitylutheran.org/sermonarchive/prepared-for-christ/

If John the Baptizer had a favorite Christmas Carol it would perhaps be Joy to the Word. John doesn’t always seem like a joyful character with all of His repentance, root cutting ax, unquenchable fire and brimstone, threshing floor preaching that he did in the wilderness. For as cutting as John’s message of repentance was, it was all about preparing the way for the savior and in Joy to the World, we sing: Joy to the world, The Lord is come, Let Earth receive her king, Let every heart Prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing…

At this time this perfect time in history determined by God, John was singing. Into the midst of a quieted time where expectant waiting was not exactly on the front of everyone’s mind. Sre some were in expectation and were questioning in their hearts whether John was the Christ, but John’s message of Advent (Coming) was not about himself but about the one greater than him, whose sandals he was unworthy to untie.

Let every heart prepare him room was John’s message. He proclaimed this word given to Him by God with words from God that had also been given to the prophet Isaiah (40:3-4). John was the voice literally crying in the wilderness, crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4-6)

This message was preached to a brood of vipers who somehow came within earshot of Jesus. This was a group whose fruit bearing was suspect and who leaned heavily on their ancestry as their assurance of salvation. This was a crowd looking for something, this was a crowd who needed to know how to live and through the mouthpiece of John God gave them not only directions for living but the source of life.

Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was the message from John that echoes through the ages and this sin bearing lamb was the joy to the world that prepares hearts prepares room in hearts, this lamb is the one who went the way to prepare the way for us all.

We too have a brooding tendency toward sin. We have hearts weary and heavy laden. Sometimes admittedly, sometimes comfortably burdened with all sorts of things that keep the lamb from making a home within. We too have been given to flee from the wrath to come and we too have suspect fruit being borne in every moment of our lives.

Our crooked living is crying out to God to be made straight. We are bent away from the intent of our creator who made us in His image. Marred by sin we struggle to be anything close to straight. Our crooked ways devise to get more, to achieve better, to accomplish for our benefit and to straight up ignore the needs and pains of others around us. We put on our Sunday best and gather here. We go forth from here feeling better not acknowledging the source of all is outside of us. We beat around the bush with one another not cutting to the quick our need and the one who fills it. We live confident in ourselves thinking our paths are being forged by our innate powers and self identified purposes. Our crooked paths keep us from walking in the way we are called to live and into this life of ours, the message still comes, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make His paths straight.”

Our hearts are filled with pits and valleys. Pits of pain and despair from a longing for acceptance and belonging. Our sorrows overwhelming and real become prohibitive potholes keeping to ourselves our burdens and pains keeping others out and precluding the savior from having a comfortable home within us. Valleys in our lives can be anything from things that have been done to us by abusive others in our lives to regrets and feelings of filth from failures and follies from days gone by that have hurt our God and others. These low places in our life need filling and we often try to gloss over them with seasonal asphalt that temporarily fills the potholes only for a  moment. But like the valleys — the pot holes filled around us, as soon as the distracting season passes and the weather changes we are beating ourselves up again. Yet the message from John still comes, “Every valley shall be filled”

Yet as low as parts of us are other parts within us are stronger than mountains. These lofty mountains of our lives would have us believe that we are able, we are strong enough. We are unbreakable and no one is going to cause us harm. Anything that could or should hurt us will just be ignored and deflected because we are in this fight and we are strong enough to overcome. Yet these mountains in our life of self will not stand the wrath to come. The one word that can move the mountain into the sea is waiting to be spoken and when it is our foundation of pride and self saving confidence will crumble. To these foothills and peaks, the word of John still comes, “every mountain and hill shall be made low.”

In the midst of our valleys and mountains we continue living as if we have not been given a command of how to live. We pretend that if it is not hurting anyone else, it cannot hurt us. We lust in secret believing a cleared browser history is the same as a clean slate. With all our might we seek after the riches and comforts of this world, believing that with enough stuff and enough saved we will be kept from demise. We foolishly wag our tongues about the foolishness of others around us. Not satisfied with helping and defending our neighbors, we delight in the demise of the ones we are called to save. This crooked living we have leaves us labeled as crooks and to the crooks of his day and to the crooks of today, John’s message cries out, “the crooked shall become straight.”

So much is uneven in our rough living. We would rather have a rough go at it than an even keeled existence. Our conversations rather than patient and bearing with one another in love become defense contests to save ourselves from mistakes we may have made or may have seemingly made, but all this self saving keeps us embittered toward one another rather than loving one another. These rough places of our lives need to become level ways.

If all this seems like too much for us to overcome, then you are correct in assessing the situation. The valleys and mountains, the crooked, rough roads of our lives are leading to destruction. These Valleys and mountains and crooked rough roads will be burned up. This sort of living will be cut off and thrown into the fire. Yet to hearts like this John preaches, prepare.

Prepare the way of the Lord. The hearers of John heard the preaching and they heard the cry that the Lamb of God had come to take the sin of the world. These confident in their own living and standing and ancestry saw the lamb of God and believed him to be the enemy of everything they held important. They prepared the way for him alright. The way the sinless spotless one was given by those who were to receive him was to put Him to death on a cross among crooks. So too our response in the face of truth is to hide. We want to fill our own valleys, we want to keep our mountains strong, we want to straighten ourselves out we want to smooth out our rough ways to say we have done it.

God isn’t leaving it to be done by you though. God has seen the track record of humanity and he knows that prayer will be belittled and thoughts of deliverance will be laughed at. If you want things to be better, you have to make it better on your own. If you want the broken to be fixed, you better research and reach out in action to make it happen other wise things are never going to get better.

Yet if things were able to be made better by we who mess them up, we would have no need to greet the savior. But God knows best and God knows how. His salvation has been revealed for all to see.

At just the right time, God sent His son to be born of a woman to be born under the law and he perfectly held to the law. Perfectly loved and perfectly lives so that we too can live. “All flesh will see the salvation of God.” Confronted with salvation God does one more thing for us he makes us straight. By the work of the Spirit within us we who would be crooked become straight with God. We tell him how low we are how big we try to be how crooked we have behaved and how rough it is. God hears our prayers. He hears our needs and he tells us the good news.

John’s message wasn’t only fire and brimstone. God’s message isn’t just fire and brimstone. Like 3:18 tells us that with many other exhortations John preached good news to the people. This is the good news God has for you today. Jesus Christ the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. God sent His son Jesus to be Immanuel, God with us, God with us in the valleys of our lives. In the midst of abuse the spotless lamb is along side us receiving blows and beatings. He is in the low points of our lives not abandoning us to the shame of things done to us and things the things we have done. God has sent His son Jesus the cornerstone to provide the foundation for us to build on when our mountains fall. All the things that are too tall for us to climb or take down on our own, he has owned. He has moved our mountains of pride into the depths of the baptismal sea, drowning all that would fall down on us that we may rise with him. The crooked places of your lives — the divergent behaviors and detestable moments you wish or delete away have been pinned to the back of the one who could do something about it. Everything rough about us has been made right as the Lord Jesus walked the rough road for us not leaving us to watch but bearing us through the hard moments and the unfairly fought fights.

Through all this the Lord has gone for us. Jesus went to the cross, He went to the place prepared for Him not by the crowds but by the divine foresight of the Father who desires not the death of you. He wants us so badly to be prepared for forever with Him that he devised to punish His perfect son in our place. And His perfect son was not left to death and so too we are not left to die but instead have life forever with Him. The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has prepared the way for you. And now as we approach the celebration of his first coming we eagerly prepare by turning to the Lord who can and has made us ready for Him.

So ready we can say come quickly Lord, Jesus! And while we wait we live as God’s good soldiers of the cross. We give to those in need around us. We take no more than we are authorized to take We don’t extort as we fight for the Lord we are content with our earthly entrusting from the father, even as we are content with our eternity with Him.

For all this our savior has come and our savior is with us until he comes again delivering us to forever with Him in His home prepared for us. Let every heart prepare Him room. He has done it.

Amen.

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Sermon: The Coming King – Luke 19:28-40

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If your house is like mine, thanksgiving is like the starting line for the Christmas season. There’s been a couple false starts in the last month or so where I have let the Christmas music creep in, but by and large, the Christmas season begins in the Kleimola house on black Friday. We have a black friday tradition in our house to go get our Christmas tree. We brave the elements and find our way to the forest next to Home Depot. You know where the outdoor gardening section is in the spring and Summer? They have a forest there, and I am reluctant to tell you about the deal we find each year because I don’t want our tree to be taken. But anyway, I’ll tell you. We get our tree on the Black Friday special. It’s never been published in their ads and each year we worry, maybe they wont have them this year. But they are there. $25 promo frasier firs. And here’s the thing. They dont have a very strict height restriction. We got a ten ft tree this year for our tall ceilings in our house. For $25!! So anyway Christmas is full swing on in our house. The tree was bedecked by the children with care and the stockings aren’t quite hung by the chimney with care, but you bet once we find the box they are in they’ll be there.

Anyway, Christmas is coming soon. 🎶 Even so come, Christmas is coming Soon! And that’s what advent is all about right? Advent is about expectant waiting for something to come right? Preparing for the coming of our King as a baby born to bring peace on earth and goodwill to all and all that right!! Yes and so much more. There is so much more to Advent and today we will focus in on all the comings we are waiting for and celebrating during advent because advent is the season of coming. Advent means coming. Not like coming soon stamped outside a movie theater on a poster announcing the next big show, but coming as in arriving now. Advent means coming but it’s a present tense thing it’s a now thing. It would be better to frame our hearts and minds around this time of preparation for the birth of our king to think of advent as meaning arrival. Advent means arrival. Jesus is here with us now bringing peace to troubled hearts and souls.

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This peace is something we need in a desperate time like the one we live in. But the thing is this desperate time is not a new phenomenon we often like to think things haven’t been as bad as they are becoming lately, but the pride in such a thought is laughable. God sent His son Jesus into this world because it has always been rotten in need of deliverance. That’s what the Christmas message is about. That is what we are waiting to celebrate. The birth of a baby to save the world. He brings peace on earth. He is peace on earth. Jesus is peace on earth. He has come and he arrives now and he is coming again.

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The season of advent begins in a strange place though. Our Gospel lesson takes us to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he is arriving in Jerusalem. We have skipped over the lessons and carols of Christmas to the cries and the calls of a people thinking their earthly ruler has arrived. Marching his way to death on the cross, Jesus enters jerusalem among shoulder to shoulder crowds who think that he’s their kind of king, come to sit on a throne.

The King Jesus, though, has no mistake in his mind. He knows what he’s about. He humbly comes on a donkey hailed by the crowds calling hosanna – save us now – for all the wrong reasons. Yet salvation was exactly what he was about. Salvation is what advent is about. Our salvation has arrived. We skip past the Christmas favorites though today. Even as Christmas may be full swing in your home and it’s bedecked out in our worship spaces, the march of salvation continues to come to us in more than just a baby born to us. Jesus is and always has been about the cross for you. You cannot have the crib without the cross.

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And so in the beginning of the Church’s Christmas observances we recall what Jesus came for. Not just to be adored by magi and marveled at by shepherds or even to be heralded by angels and coddled by an earthly mother and a willing stepfather. No Jesus has always been about the cross. He has always been about saving your from your self, he’s always been about saving you from your sins.

We often think JEsus into a box. We have a particular sin or situation that troubles us and we fixate on it praying for forgiveness and deliverance. So too we often think about JEsus in certain situations only. The Christmas Jesus, the innocent baby in a manger is the one we want this time of year. But you can’t just have part of JEsus. Jesus didn’t just come for one sin. You get all of Jesus and with all of jesus you get all he did. Martin Luther put it like this in one of His advent messages:

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“Jesus helps not against one sin only, but against all my sin; not against my sin only, but against the whole world’s sin. He comes to take away not sickness only, but death; and not my death only, but the whole world’s death.”

And so too Jesus isn’t just a figurine in a mass manufactured manger. He is a born and grown and died and risen lord for you. And so too Jesus isn’t just for the shepherds and the wisemen and the Holy family and the angels and the crowds who stood shoulder to shoulder to see Him coming into Jerusalem. He didn’t just die for the amusement of the soldiers who stood shoulder to shoulder mocking him. He didn’t just rise for the disciples who shoulder to shoulder stood in awe watching him appear and then watching him ascend into the heavens following his resurrection.

No Jesus has come to deliver us. Jesus arrives today to deliver us. He comes to us now gathered shoulder to shoulder to receive all that he is and continues to give. The peace on earth and goodwill to men heralded by the angels to the shepherds is for us now. The crowds on the way into Jerusalem got that part right “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and gloria in the highest.” You wonder if there’s people in the back of the crowd humming “Glo-oo-ooo-ria in excelsis deo” wondering, “Where did that song come from?”

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It came from the angels sent by God to announce the Glory of the coming king. Not a glory that we’d expect but a gory glory that keeps us from a sad ended story. Jesus has come for us and is coming today. And yet we wait for another coming.

Just as he is risen and ascended so too he will come again as he has said. We confess it every week, I believe that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. The beginning of our Gospel lesson is somewhat connected to that confession. In the throw away words at the beginning of our lesson we read: “When he had finished saying these things.”  We do well to open our bibles and see what Jesus had just finished saying. It’s another picture of another arrival. It’s not as pretty but it’s just as true.

When Jesus had said these things, these things was a conclusion of a parable about the ten mina managers. We had this gospel reading two weeks ago in our services and we learned about the citizens who hated the master and the unfaithful mina manager who sat on the master’s investment and did not conduct business as he was instructed. These unfaithful enemies of the master are slaughtered in front of the master. They are punished for their rebellious wicked disrespect  of the master. So the picture of the last day for those who have no need of the saving Jesus brings.

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This thought can be frightening for us. And it should be frightening for us because, we are liable to be slaughtered before the master, or to say it the way Luke 12 did last week we are liable to be cut to pieces and cast to the place of the unfaithful where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! We have this path in front of us because we live unfaithfully. We live as enemies, not wanting JEsus to rule over our lives. Not wanting him to come into every aspect of our living. KEeping him only for those certain sins and those hard to reach difficulties in life. We forget that Jesus has come for all of us and holding parts of us back from him will have us left without him. He want’s us all and in the end he will have it all, one way or another. We will stand shoulder to shoulder before the judgment seat of the Lord and those who have no need for him will not have him. They will be placed away from him. But for those who cry out, have mercy Lord Jesus, the Spirit has worked a saving faith and the place has been prepared. You don’t have to have Jesus but without Jesus you will be left with nothing. Let him come into your life and do not hinder his coming.

The saving Christ has earned for us is waiting to be fully revealed. In that day. The dead will be raised to life. The lame will walk. The blind will see. We will be with God forever. In the end The deliverance will be forever and unmistakable. And until then, we are blessed with His peace which passes all understanding. This peace brought by the coming one is for us now. The path to hell has been blocked by our Hero the coming one. He has defeated our certain destruction. He has taken all of us onto himself and He alone is the king of our lives. As we live in Him this good news will go forth from us and many will know as we go of the coming King.

God help us for this. In Jesus Name.

Amen.

Photo by Errington Photography

Sermon: Compassion in Desolation – Mark 6:30-44

Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.” In desolation Jesus provides rest out of compassion for us.

Three times in our gospel text today we hear about the condition of the surroundings. Desolate. Come away to a desolate place, Jesus says. The disciples had just returned from their missionary journey. You know, the one — not two — tunic trek they took. The staff and sandals for walking, no money for spending spree they were on. The stay in a house but not long and shake off the dust when needed. This trip had ended and the disciples were whooped. Jesus had just learned of the death of his cousin John the Baptizer and they all needed to recuperate. The crowds were not allowing it. The desolate place seemed like an unlikely destination for refreshing, but when the crowds keep you from needed food — the creature comforts aren’t on the top of the list — so off they go to rest a while.

image found at http://www.grassportal.org/The disciples took a boat to a desolate place but the crowds saw where they were going, the crowds were so starstruck and perhaps desperate for compassion, that they followed and even passed and made it to the desolate place before the boat. Their lives of desolation led them to a place of desolation. Another miracle, another sign, another healing, another truth, they thirsted after the righteous branch’s security and they ran to see what they could have from Jesus. Their lives were desolate and desperate for more. And so the stage is set, the desolate people make it to the desolate place and the disciples and Jesus arrive.

Going ashore, Jesus surveys the situation and sees it just as He knew it to be, it was desolate. The condition of the crowds was the same as the crowds they attempted to leave. They were desolate souls. They were lost and empty, they were desperate and in need like sheep without a shepherd. Seeing this Jesus is moved with compassion. Literally His gut is wrenched as He looks on at their conditions and He has compassion on them and He begins to teach them.

The prophet Jeremiah warned with woes against shepherds who would scatter and destroy the sheep of God. Here the Good Shepherd is cleaning up the mess of the woeful scattering, inattentive and pushing that had been done by the shepherds of sin. Here Jesus teaches these neglected ones, Luke tells us Jesus taught about the kingdom. Luke also tells us Jesus cured those in need of healing. The shepherd Jesus cared for the forlorn flock taking care of their concerns while keeping them close.

Jesus preserves this desolate-place-sheep-fold for just a bit longer than the tuckered out disciples desired. They come to Jesus saying, “ahem, it’s a desolate place and it’s getting late these people need to eat.” Jesus invites His disciples to be His under-shepherds. Hey I’m tending the flock teaching, and healing, you can help too by feeding. He compassionately offers them a role in the kingdom work. The disciples quickly run some calculations or perhaps just spout off the million bucks figure of the day, “are we supposed to have 200 denarii to buy bread with?! 200 day’s wages?!”

Take an inventory, Jesus says, they do. I wonder what this crowd must’ve looked like. 5000 men and a quick survey finds only five loaves and two fish. John tells us that it was one boy who was prepared for the travails the day’s travels would bring. Only five loaves and two fish, yet more than enough for Jesus. After all, this is the One Who from nothing brought everything into existence. Have the sheep lay down in the green pastures Jesus says (that’s in Mark 6:39, as well as Psalm 23:2 for those keeping track). So the green grass in the midst of the desolate place becomes a table prepared for the families and groups. Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives to the disciples for the people. And the Word causes the five and two source to flow, feeding and satisfying the 5000 men, their companions, and the 12 baskets that were stuffed with pieces of bread and fish.

Oprah-Car-Giveaway-4There’s no reaction of the crowd recorded. These day’s when when Oprah gives out cars, when Drew Carey get’s all Bob Barker with cars and trips and stacks of cash, and when Ellen distributes dance parties or whatever it is she gives, there is no lack of hoopla and applause. And slightly more devout sources from scripture in the context of healing and miracles show it’s not uncommon for those affected by the unnatural and unexpected to acknowledge it with astonishment and amazement , but here, nothing. The sheep are fed by the Good Shepherd and the day goes on into the next. Something incredible takes place and no one blinks an eye. Just like every other day.

We focus so much on the numbers that are given in this lesson we forget about the numbers that aren’t given. Jesus is on record as having fed the crowds here, but a bit wider reading of scripture will allow the record to show that it wasn’t just those in this desolate location that were recipients of the compassionate catering, but actually, the entire world at any given time, any mouth feeding is fed by the same Jesus. The Word made flesh who works it all according to the Father’s will along with the Holy Spirit provides all we need to support this body and life. This silent reaction in the face of a miracle is a picture of the yawn we get on the applause track of glory due God for all He does.

Jesus’ ministry of compassion flies in the face of a world that demands attraction. We must draw people — but no! — look what takes place a crowd chases the truth and the truth does what the truth does best: He tends and provides rest. It’s a real picture of what “love the one you’re with” is supposed to look like. Jesus compassionately cares for the ones who are close — no matter who they are or when their need arises. Jesus work is best seen against a backdrop of desolation. The despairing soul is the soul in need of what Jesus gives. The weary and broken are those who can be rested and mended. The proud and “ok for today, I guess” are limping along to their own demise. But a broken and contrite heart He will not despise. It’s when we come to the end of what we think we can do that Jesus steps in and does for us.

image found at http://www.haitian-truth.org/The disciples were tired. They were weary but they thought they were able to lead the people to food. They thought they could buy the food — or not — but Jesus looks at their inventory list and tells them, yup you don’t have enough, but that’s ok because I’m more than enough. I’m the God who reveals himself in the midst of helplessness. I’m not for the strong and victorious and the #winning. No, I’m for you — the reality of what you are if you’re willing to admit your need for it — I’m for you.

I think it was Luther who once said that an empty stomach preaches a sermon to us every time it grumbles. There’s a need for something outside of ourselves that we cannot on our own, within our own skin provide, but there’s the one who took on our skin to give it all for us. Here in the Gospel of Mark He fills stomachs and souls and today in this place He fills you with compassion overflowing.

Where’s your desolate place? Which area of your life is in need of some green grass refreshing? Is it failing family health? Is it the red ink of a perpetually empty checking account? Is it broken relationships? Is it loneliness? Is it betrayal? Is it feelings of uselessness? What leaves you parched, thirsting for more? Is it sins? Is it guilt? Is it the shame of things done to you? What leaves you left in despair? Because in the midst of whatever causes you to despair, you need to hear truth today. There is so much more than despair for you. We have a God who is moved with compassion at the sight of needs like yours. He comes to you, no check that He runs to you, chasing you even when you don’t want to hear. He lets you know that, yes you don’t have enough. You need more than you have and you know what? He gives it to you. He gives it all to you, all He is, is yours. The righteous branch takes root in your tilled soil soul and He grows in you causing you to flourish in Him.

Where’s you desolate place? Let’s turn it around. Where’s your flourishing place in life? What’s your best, your boast, your most? Where’s your pride? Is it your strong health, your flush accounts, your best friends, your many relationships, your track record of positivity, your powerful productivity? Are you satisfied with having? I said it earlier, our God is best seen in the midst of desolation. There’s a reason the rich young man had trouble entering the kingdom and the prostitutes and drunkards didn’t. They knew their standing and the young man thought he did. Like the worst, the best will not last and in the end apart from Christ, good or bad, nothing will last. Where are your earthly confidences laid? One day they will leave you empty handed. Where are your spiritual confidences laid? Are they in your righteousness, your goodness, your piety, yourself? Apart from Him comes nothing worth having. Apart from Jesus is nothing but desolation. Found in desolation there’s only one place to turn, it’s to the place of perfect compassion.

Come to the desolate place with Jesus and rest in Him. You don’t have to bring anything. In fact you can’t! He gives you everything and it’s only when you realize you have nothing but mess that He steps in to bless! The waters of baptism we witnessed for Daisy remind us of the reality He worked for you in that same washing of rebirth and renewal. The meal we gather for at this rail in His temple will give you everything needful to support this body and life. It is Him within and for you and in the words of life, that you know His compassion.

Photo by Errington Photography

Jesus was not unfamiliar with desolation. From the forty days of temptations He faced at the beginning of His ministry to the desolation of the cross and many places in between, Jesus was no stranger to desolation. These book-ended his ministry and in each desolate place the power of God is revealed. In the temptation in the wilderness the power of the Word won over the deceiver who would ignore and twist and redefine God’s Word. In that wilderness place, Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God, and so Jesus lived, journeyed, ministered all the way to the cross.

And on the cross was where the Word of God which says “the wages of sin is death” and “the soul who sins shall die” was spoken against the one bearing your sins. He was left alone. He was abandoned by friends and denied by the Father. Jesus was left to die in a desolate place that everyone else avoided. Yet because He remained in desolation, you don’t have to. Out of mercy and compassion for the whole world, He remained in desolation so no one would have to. The fury in this desolate place means your desolation while real and stinky and sometimes long will not have the last word. Desolation cannot hold our God back. His compassion is stronger. His compassion overcomes the death that would otherwise defeat us. The compassion of God breaks the grave open. It crushes the head of the one who would have you despair or even dance away from God. Our compassionate God flourishes in desolation and gives us lives overflowing with His steadfast love.

And as He is risen, so we are fed. The bread of man may leave us wanting more but the food of God nourishes us for eternity. He is moved by compassion to work for you today and always. And so moves through you to be compassionate to all around you. May His compassionate rest be yours today.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen

 

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Sermon: New Life (Easter)

Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is risen Indeed, Alleluia!

This is what it is all about. Resurrection of Jesus means new life for you. We forget this and need to be reminded over and over again about this new life reality we have.

Here’s a reminder for you. Call it a sermon if you want, it’s really just God flying through your ears to your soul to bring you this new life.

As a Christian we acknowledge an extra dimension to life. Not realizing and believing this gives a much smaller reality to those without faith. From the Christian’s point of view one tragically notable thing about the unbeliever’s world is how much smaller it is. Those without Jesus are imprisoned in a decaying universe. For those who do not realize the fullness of reality, the physical world is all there is. The real world for them is limited to things that we have made, things that are dying and decomposing. It’s a sad existence when you look at a family mourning the loss of a loved one without the hope of the resurrection. The tragically small size of their existence is on full display in that moment. Only not really. For those who deny God’s love through Christ death and resurrection a hopeless mourning is a symptom of eternity in hell. They need the message of salvation through faith in Christ life, death, and resurrection!

We have so much to be thankful for. So much beyond our things and our physical beings. We have a whole new reality, now. Our new life is now and it is forever. Reality in Christ is like this: Imagine you took a child to the theater to see some tragedy, say like Hamlet, at the end of Hamlet the stage is littered with corpses. Everyone dies in the end *sorry I meant to say spoiler alert* after the play your child for some reason misses the final bows of the cast. Suppose your child believed everyone to be dead. And suppose you had difficulty comforting the child afterward because he was so shook up by the deaths he just witnessed. You explain, “But the man who played Hamlet is not really dead, He is an actor. He lives a life outside the theater. He has a wife and family and, far from being dead, he is probably now at home with them enjoying a late supper.”

The child cannot see beyond the stage and often in our delusion of sinful living we cannot see beyond our vision, and knowledge of the present physical world to the reality of eternity that God has created, redeemed, and sanctified us for. Thanks be to God he sends the Holy Spirit to create in us faith, to nurture and sustain this faith. Our lazy sinful nature and our foe the devil wants us to forget about the rest and settle for the mess.

Friends in Christ Easter is all about our new life in Christ it is all about realizing there is more than the mess. We all have messes. Some look it more than others. Some wear their messes better than others. Fortunately my wife doesn’t let me leave the house looking like the mess I’d be left to myself. More than just our wardrobe, our lives are messy. The mess of sin, the mess of pain, the mess of sickness, the mess of abandonment.. The mess of cancers, death and destructions. The mess of saying goodbye in the death of a loved one. The messes of 148 Christians being martyred for their faith. The messes of offenses that leave walls so high we cannot love across them. Messes come in all shapes and sizes and the biggest most dangerously tragic messes are the ones no one perceives to be a mess. The happy carefree life that doesn’t realize the mess of hell is waiting them because they are cut off from Christ or (of import for us here today) are abusing or minimizing the grace of Christ.

Here’s a mess for you. At least something to think about. We would all agree the biggest mess in the world would be one where satan was delighting and full of joy. Right? Here’s what Toledo might look like if Satan took over: all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . churches where Jesus work is not proclaimed. (Adapted from Pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse)

The biggest mess you could live in is a life without Christ. Not just a hold my hand Jesus while I struggle through, but a Christ is the all you need Jesus. This is what Easter is all about. The empty tomb is a perfect picture of what we have to offer. Nothing. But in Jesus we see ourselves because as we are His. He gives us His new life. It’s yours today. That’s the message satan doesn’t want you to hear. The devil would love for you to get a little bit of Jesus today and then have you go on your way thinking you got it taken care of for now.

We need Easter everyday. We need new life everyday. More accurately, we need Good Friday and Easter every day. Because Our lives are more like Good Friday than Easter Sunday. As we journey through the trials and tribulations and tensions of this world, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. For the disciples and the women the mock trial that convicted our Lord had taken place, the tribulation of the cross shook them to their very core and the tension of the uncertainty of the tomb was their reality. But their reality was unreal.

The real deal was waiting for them in the empty tomb. The women journeying to the tomb knew they had a decaying body to anoint. They knew they had an insurmountable obstacle in the form of a stone blocking their way to this task. Their early morning trek was sullen and somber. The Eloi Eloi, Lema Sebectanni, (My God, My God, Why have you Forsaken ME!?) cry from Jesus echoed in their lives and their reality was stained with abandoned pain.

When they arrived at the tomb. Abandonment awaited them. They approach looking up and seeing that the large stone had been rolled away. As they enter the open tomb they see a man dressed in white sitting on the right and the women are alarmed. Their somber task has turned into a time of frightened confusion for them. Alarmed, they flee, trembling with astonishment that had seized them. they are afraid to the point of silence.

They flee the scene but not before the white robed messenger can pass on the good news that this day is all about. “Do not be alarmed.” He says. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth,” he knows their purpose. “Who was crucified” he knows the events of the past couple days. “He has risen. He is not here.” This messenger knows the news that means life for these ladies. New life for you is in this proclamation. The savior of the world is not found in the place of death. He is risen. The messenger knows the ladies came to see, and would serve as eyewitnesses of this Easter joy so he says, “see the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you into galilee. There you will see him just as he has told you.”

Our epistle lesson tells us that Jesus appeared to Peter (Cephas), the other disciples, to more than 500 at one point, to James and the test of the apostles, and then to Paul himself. Resurrected Jesus made his rounds. He was demonstrating the unreal reality that means everything for everyone. Easter is where new life breaks forth. Easter’s new life is an overwhelming reality that is given to you and means everything for you.

We live in a world with many distractions that seek to be our everything. We try to do it all. We try to have it all and in the midst of it we forget it all. The reality is that we are given it all in Christ’s work for us on the cross. We need to hear this message of completion over and over again because until we are with Christ in eternity, we are continually forgetting what is done and trying to do it all on our own. We forget all Christ has done is given and credited to us.

It’s as if you went to lunch with a friend. Had a great meal. Said, just a moment, I need to go to the bathroom. You come back only to find your friend has paid the check and tells you, it’s on me. It’s on Jesus. He has paid it all. You can’t chase down the server of eternal life and say, please let me give you more for the meal. You can’t chase down the manager of the restaurant of life and say, please don’t accept my friend’s payment, I want to pay.

We don’t have to live our life trying to be like Jesus, we need to live our life hearing the powerful effective word: “you are like Jesus!” It’s not be like Jesus. It’s you are like Jesus. Easter isn’t about changing life it’s about receiving the new life God gives. And this is where the new life is found. Not in you but from Him to you. It’s a gift. Not of yourself so get over yourself. Forget your sins because in Christ they are forgiven. Forget your doubts because the Holy Spirit strengthens you to lay hold of the promises of God. Forget your brokenness because in Christ you are repaired. Forget your inability to be perfect because Christ gives you his perfection. Forget your filth because in Christ you have righteousness. Forget how ugly your life is because in Christ you have beauty beyond compare. Forget the feeling of abandonment because you belong to Christ. You have been bought with the hugest of prices. You are a prized possession of the Heavenly Father.

This is something worth celebrating. And celebrate we will. But this life is not short and sweet but everlasting and awesome and when we pass from this veil of tears we have the feast on the mountain waiting us. It’s a feast with the best of foods, the best drinks, the defeat of death, the end of tears, the end of reproaches. That’s what we are waiting for and when we hear what Christ has done for us, guess what, we have this new life already.

It’s easy to forget when the change and decay all around us is all we can see, but we receive all we need when hearing Christ’s work for us we remember, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There is so much we cannot see so we need to hear. Christ has whooped Satan’s butt in His death and resurrection. You better not forget it because that victory is all you need. It means new life for you.

Jesus died for you. Jesus rose and lives forever, just like you because you are His, He is yours.

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What are you asking for?

In Mark 5 there’s a story of a woman who was suffering from bleeding for twelve years. Having heard reports of Jesus miracles, she comes to Him in a crowd and touches His clothing. She thought to herself “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.” She touches Jesus and indeed is healed. She feels it immediately and Jesus also notices that healing power had gone out from Him.

Who touched me? Jesus asked. The disciples scoff at a silly question in a crowded place where everyone is touching others. The woman comes to Jesus knowing what had happened and fell down in fear and trembling and told him it was her. And Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Sounds good! What a great healing story, if not a bit strange. But there’s more going on here behind the words. Jesus calls an old woman, “Daughter.” This loaded term goes well with the word for healing. In “Your faith has healed you.” Jesus is using a salvation word (Greek: sozo not iaomai which is used strictly for physical healing) meaning rescue from eternal death. It’s the same word in the woman’s thoughts when she comes to Jesus thinking to herself “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.”

“Your faith has saved you” is what Jesus is saying and He sends her with the peace that passes all understanding. He sends her with the same peace that God gives you under His name put on you in baptism and in the benediction where He “looks upon you with favor and gives you peace.” (Numbers 6:22)

So what was she asking for when she touched Jesus? It seems God had given her eyes of faith to see a saving available in the healing of Jesus. She had seen the healing miracles of Jesus and was granted faith to believe that that healing would be hers along with a place in the family of God. Certainly the physical healing is good but as God’s sons and daughters, we know that the healing of the soul is the eternal importance.

So what are you asking for? God is listening. Whether it’s for healing, job advancement or security, family situations, clarity in vocations, our Father hears our prayers and promises to answer. We should keep praying with the God given faith that we are in His family. We have a Father who does immeasurably more than we are able to ask (Ephesians 3:20).

Our Father did immeasurably more than we ever could’ve imagined or expected when He gave His Son as The Sacrifice for all sin. It was your cross that you deserved for your sins that Jesus hung on. Believe in this and you will be healed. What does this healing salvation look like? It looks like the command to go. Go away from the empty tomb where only your sins remain and into the arms of your Savior. Go with God’s peace, knowing He has done it all for you. Easter isn’t just about empty, it’s about a life full of God’s love. And He’s given it all for you. He’s given you faith to believe what Christ has given in His life, death, and resurrection.

Let’s share that love as we share Christ with the world!

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Mark Madness

You ever feel like a crazy person as a Christian in the world today? Yes? Good. If not, maybe you should. Of course, let’s be careful with what we mean by crazy.

King David acted “foolishly” for the Lord. In 2 Samuel 6 we see his wife despising and mocking David for his rejoicing and dancing before the Lord. David responded to her saying, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes… ” (2 Samuel 6:22) Contemptible and abased is beyond crazy if you ask me!

In our Sunday Gospel readings this year and in our current Wednesday morning Bible study we are going through Mark. One thing we learn about Jesus from the Gospel of Mark is He is someone who is odd. (Voelz, 42) Jesus is strange? Pastor you can’t say that! That’s why I cited a seminary professor on that one. Just kidding. Let’s talk about strange Jesus.

In Mark 3:21 we see Jesus’ family seeking to seize him because “He is out of his mind.” He had been living a strange perhaps crazy existence up to this point. He heals a man and yells at him in 1:41-43. He gets away from crowds (1:45) even though He had told His disciples He came to preach (1:38). He walks on water attempting to get past the disciples without them noticing (6:48). He curses a fig tree for not having figs even though it was not fig season (11:12-14). Not only this, but He is constantly recognized and acknowledged by demons that seem to flock to Him. Jesus is strange.

There’s a banner in the sanctuary this week that is strange. Kati (my beautiful wife the artist) has told me that good art is supposed to create discussion. If that’s the criteria for good art, then the banner is certainly good art. It has had lots of discussion. It’s strange art as well because it’s Jesus and Jesus isn’t usually portrayed with a strange look on His face. We think of Jesus as comforting and safe. Not so when you look at this banner which has John 15:5’s “I am the Vine you are the branches” at the bottom. It causes you to wonder what is wrong with this figure. His face is concerning and He has a bush growing out of a wound in His side.

And there we see our Savior. He’s one from whom men hide their faces. He has no form or majesty that is desirable. He has no beauty for us to look on. (Isaiah 53:2-3) This is Christ through the eyes of sin that look on Him. This is Christ for you. He became crazy, strange, and ugly in eyes of sin for you so that you may become crazy, strange, and ugly to the world for Him.

He is the crazy vine we are the crazy branches. In a world where expectations are all over the map, we know what to expect from our savior. From Him we have a joy which causes us to dance like no one is looking. Through your redeemed eyes, your Savior has a beauty beyond compare. May you keep on dancing in this March Madness of Lent.

Voelz, James W. Mark 1:1-8:26. St. Louis: Concordia House, 2013. Print. Concordia Commentary.Banner from TLC Toledo