Monthly Archives: December 2015

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.

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.