Category Archives: Sermon


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.



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

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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.



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

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.


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.


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.


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:


“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?”


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.


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.


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 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 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.




Easter Sermon – New Life

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.

In his name.IMG_1609.JPG


Baptized Into Temptation

Mark 1:13 καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

From the baptism of John to the temptation of Satan. God’s Spirit drove Christ. At the river Jordan, Jesus of Galilee was baptized by John. Here was one not needing baptism, descending into the murky waters. His perfection and primacy are demonstrated in the rending of the heavens. The heavens are torn open. Ripped at the descent of a dove and the voice of a Father’s approval. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

From this moment the Son of Man, the sinless spotless lamb begins His ministry. His ministry culminates in another rendering of a heavens. The Historian Josephus tells us that there was a beautiful tapestry “inscribed with all the heavenly spectacle.” This large curtain hung in the temple of jerusalem and in Mark 15:38 we see the work of God, the ministry of Christ in the rending of this fabric heavens. The curtain is torn open. Ripped is the barrier that separated man from God as on the cross, that which separates us from God was removed.

From the moment you passed through the waters of baptism, where God gives you the benefits of this rending of the heavens, you have the benefit of hearing the voice of God declare, “you are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” It comes in the words that go like this, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The separation between you and God is removed as you are His.

Christ comes up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism, the Father and the Spirit appear with him and Christ is immediately driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. There He is tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was with beasts and He was ministered to by angels.

Baptism and temptation don’t seem to go together very well. From the waters of washing to the pressure of temptation. The life of Christ doesn’t demonstrate much separation and neither do our lives. As baptized believers one might think that we are delivered from temptation, but I would suggest that evidence in my life is the opposite. The more I lean on my baptismal grace, the more I realize the temptations around me. Temptations and pressures come at us in a variety of ways. Our daily lives are filled with struggles that make our days difficult and threaten to cloud our view of Jesus.

Children face the difficulties of growing up, making decisions, finding friends, listening to parents. Teenagers face the temptations of living for God when the world loudly encourages a life lived for pleasure and self alone. Singles struggle to find their way in a culture that promotes and caters to families and those in relationships. Parents are tempted to take shortcuts in raising children and to forget that Christ is the center. The older generation among us may be tempted in the midst of loneliness and feeling that life is no longer important or worth living.

Temptations abound in this broken world where sin crouches at every door. Life as a child of God is not lived free from temptation. We are not baptized out of temptation. We are baptized in a world of temptation. We are baptized for temptation because in our baptism we find our source of strength to overcome temptation.

Christ faced temptation and perfectly overcame it for you. Jesus, the perfect one who pleases God was born in the likeness of you and me. He is one of us to save us. He endured what you and I endure. He was tempted as we are tempted. He faced the real pressures of a real person in this real world.


This small scene in Mark is a glimpse into a large scale onslaught that Christ faced. All of the harsh realities of the wilderness tested the human limits of mind, body and soul. This was a hostile environment where loneliness is oppressive, hunger and thirst are constant companions. The beasts and the angels are all he has for company.

The wilderness in these two verses was not the extent of the temptation of our Lord. Throughout his ministry,  he was burdened by the pressures of ministry as he left his family, was rejected by the town that raised him, he was allured by the praises of crowds who didn’t get it. The wilderness temptation was only a prelude to a deluge of temptation that assailed our lord on his road to the cross.

The first recipients of Mark’s Gospel knew about a life of temptation. Their lives were constant facing pressures to abandon their faith. For some their lives ended in martyrdom. Neros burning of Rome in 64 ad was blamed on the Christians leading to the arrest and condemnation to death of many believers. Talk about temptation they were persecuted for their faith by being clothed in the skins of wild animals only to be torn to pieces by wild dogs. Jesus dwelling with the wild beasts probably had a different ring to it for them than it did for us. Some of the Christians were covered with tar and set on fire to light Neros courtyards and gardens at night.

And what about today? Christians in the Middle East are being killed by Islamic militants. We don’t face death but Christians who are in the world of academics are often considered to be committing academic suicide when they confess a Christian worldview. Our careers and livelihoods are not on the line but we are tempted to quietly live out our faith hoping it will not offend those around us, lest we have to defend our faith. As baptized children of God we are tempted.

Jesus never promised this would be easy. Life with him is a treacherous existence. Parents who baptize their children without looking at the implications of a life with Christ are often playing into Satan’s hands. Same with confirmation. To take a vow and then take a break is only inviting a complacency that could lead to destruction. Our faith is more than a formula, it is a formation. It is a lifetime of walking with the one who walked perfectly for us.

Satan’s cunning invitations trick us all the time. The evidence of our following his deceptive voice is all around us. Husbands and wives cast their marital commitments aside believing the grasses are greener on the other side of the fence. Individuals wallow in self pity because they are convinced bad things only happen to them. Many are fooled into thinking that drugs, alcohol, and sexual satisfaction will solve or help forget serious problems.

What about you? Where is your temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome temptations lies outside of you? D you sometimes feel as if you have been baptized into temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome is found in the one who was baptized and driven into temptation? What you need in your temptations is the one who overcame temptation, living perfectly for you. Died undeservedly for you. And rose triumphant for you.

Our savior withstood the temptation. He did not crumple when faced with the pressures and temptations of this broken world. He endured perfectly so that he could fix it. And fix it he did. By tearing the curtain, the heavenly looking drapery that separated man from God was removed. By tearing the flesh with the piercing of the nails and the spear in the side. Your sins were punished as God tore his sight away from the filth on the cross. The temptations that you have succomed to have lost their power. The accusing luring of the devil cannot take you from that which was won there on the cross for you.

God has seen you in your need. He has seen you like a bent and broken reed. He has promised not to break you. He restores you by sending His son who proclaimed and claims the Gospel for you. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe. This is for you a reality. Your repentance and your faith mean gospel for you. Good news for you. Your temptations will come but Jesus has won. So when satan points his finger at you and calls you a failure you can point to the cross and show him where it’s been put. Failures are ended there.

When satan directs his temptations your way, remember your bapstim. Remember you are cleansed and renewed and strengthened by them. His work is washed out as you are in Christ.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was running across a field on a beautiful day. Suddenly he fell into an old abandoned mine shaft. Down at the bottom the shaft became very narrow and he was wedged in. He couldn’t free himself from the cold, damp, dark, and tight space. Desperate he shouted for help. People came to the top of the mine shaft and reassured him “everything will be all right. we will get you out. God will take care of you…”

None of those well meaning words could free the boy. It was only when they tied a strong rope to a strong man and lowered him into the shaft that the boy knew he was being helped. The mans strong hands grasped the boy’s shoulders and held tight as the two were pulled back to the top of the shaft.

This is what God has done for you. He doesn’t simply coach you from a distance speaking words of encouragement and direction. He doesn’t simply speak calming ineffective words. He has come and grabbed you by the shoulders wrenching you from the predicament of sin. You are rescued from certain demise. Your situation is made right by Him.

Yet still we are facing temptation and we are waiting that final deliverance from this valley. Christ’s return will be a great and glorious, you-won’t-miss-it reality. And on that day with Christ finally and fully satan’s voice will no longer reach us.

Take heart. You are not left alone in this struggle. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. God has put Him on you and He is your strength. His goodness is yours.

May you be strong in Him today.



What to Say Funeral Sermon

Today, Trinity and the church at large along with the family and friends gathered to remember Pastor Landskroener’s Savior. The texts for the day were Isaiah 61:1-4, Romans 8:17-31, and for Mark 9:2-8

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

I am told Pastor Landskroener’s favorite joke was this: “I sang through a screen door and strained my voice.” It’s no secret that John couldn’t carry a tune very well but today all is perfect and on this the anniversary of his birth into this world, he is singing in the heavenly choir with all the angels and saints who have gone before.

I did not have the honor of knowing John as long or as well as most of you here today. But I thank the Lord for the example of an undershepherd he was to me in my brief time of knowing him. One thing that sticks in my mind about John is his loud confession, even from his quiet demeanor. I don’t remember for sure but I would not be surprised if his first words to me ever were “God is good.” How are you Pastor Landskroener? “God is good.” How’s it going John? “God is good.” All the time, every interaction I had, except for one, “God is good.” And He is. God is good. All the time.

Our good God in His goodness has allowed that John be delivered from this valley of the shadow of death. Our good God in His mercy has granted faith to this sinner and gave him a washing of rebirth and renewal. Our good God in His wisdom has clothed John with robes of righteousness and granted him a place beyond what we can see today. But we know by faith, where all those in faith go. And we thank God for John’s life this day.

But it is not all rosy. Death is not good. The sins John committed were not good. The sinful condition he bore was not good. The sufferings of this world John endured were not good. The failing of his mind in his last months was not good. His body lying before us lifeless is not good. And so for us, we are not good. Our broken existence is but a heartbeat away from the wage that our sins have earned us. Death awaits us all because of the sin that infects the world. The pains we feel in our bodies and in our emotions oppress us at times. Our reason and all our senses are a mere illness or concussion away from being useless to us. Our deathbeds, coffins, and graves await us.

And from this reality we need deliverance. We need hope. Otherwise we would be hopeless! But we are not hopeless! God in His goodness has provided that John and his fellow believers could know good news in the midst of this impoverished existence. In Isaiah 61:1 the Lord’s Servant says through the prophet Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”

God in His goodness knows our need for His good and He reaches out to us through His Son into this broken world and brings good news. God has anointed Christ to be and bring this good news to the world. And God had ordained his servant John to be an undershepherd of Christ. John’s lifes work was about this good news. It was John’s place to speak this good news in place of Jesus who has given His Spirit for the binding and loosing.

Our hearts are broken today but the good news which was John’s work is that we are comforted with a future hope and promised deliverance. Our captivity to sin is not lasting and able to hold us away from the love of God. Vengeance has been shown for our sins when God poured out his wrath against the one who brings this good news only. Jesus paid the price in His death on the cross to bring you into the year of the Lord’s favor. Our chains are released the prison of sin is flung wide open in the empty tomb. John’s life work was more than just a job its message was John’s deliverance. This is your deliverance: Jesus work, His death and resurrection. His message of peace is comfort for us as we mourn. His words and promises are what we cling to when we don’t know what to say.

Death is not good. It causes families to come together; It triggers an outflow of support; It can even be a relief when you know your love one is ready to be with Jesus, but death is not good. The peculiar feeling we have around death and funerals isn’t because we aren’t used to it. The strangeness of death is a demonstration of the fact that death is not good. Death is unnatural and unexpected and it has a powerful way to keep us from knowing what to say.

Peter at the mount of transfiguration gives us an example of speechless floundering. The three disciples were brought away with Jesus to pray only to see the Lord is transfigured before them. He is changed to an intense whiteness. This stunning site becomes more powerful as Moses and Elijah are seen to be talking with Jesus. This was unnatural. This was unexpected and it kept Peter from knowing what to say.

My last visit with John was a brief visit, maybe ten minutes or so. It was a hard visit as they were for many who saw him in his last months. Not hard in the sense of this person is near death, but hard in the sense of this is not the person I know. John didn’t recognize me and when I spoke with him he listened but didn’t seem to register. At the end of the unnatural visit, I asked him if he wanted to pray. In response John said something unexpected. Perhaps it was unfair because he didn’t quite know what to say. When I asked him if he wanted to pray, he said “no.” I said, “well I am going to pray the Lord’s Prayer” and so I did and so did he. Clear as I’d ever heard him speak, he prayed with me the words the Lord had taught him to pray.

John’s last months serve as a reminder of our helplessness. This man of the cloth, this man of God whose life’s work was proclamation good news had his reason robbed from him. It’s a good thing we are not saved by our reason. Were it not for Christ speaking for us we would have nothing to say. Faced with our condition in the presence of the glory of God, we are like Peter. Left to ourselves we would say the wrong thing, we would point to our lives we would make excuses. Facing our end we are like John our words may fail us, but the word will never fail us. The beloved Son of God bears listening to. Jesus not only speaks to us today, but in the presence of the Father He speaks for us.

And so does the spirit. In the midst of our weaknesses when we don’t know what to say, we are also unsure of what we should pray. But the Spirit is interceding for us. And with Christ speaking in place of us and the Spirit praying on behalf of us we are comforted to know that our hope is not in vain. God is working all the things of this world together for our good.

God is good. God is for us. With this we have all we need. John’s sins have been paid for. This pall that covers his body in the casket is a reminder that his sins have been washed away. He has been clothed with Christ’s righteousness in the waters of baptism. He has both stood and knelt at this altar to distribute and more importantly receive in his body — the body and blood of our savior for the forgiveness of sins. He has heard from this chancel even as he was blessed to deliver Christ’s absolution. John is no longer tempted. He is not longer grieved. He is no longer faint in spirit, he is wearing that garment of praise. He is no longer mourning, instead he is comforted with the soothing oil of gladness. And this coming Ash Wednesday when we gather to receive ashes John will not. His time of repentance and preparation is over. He has instead a beautiful headdress.

And for you this day. You are flawlessly clean through the waters of baptism, you are completely fed in the meal of Christ. You are in your hearing forgiven of your sins. You have eternal life. Yet you face temptations, may you be strengthened by God in them. And still you are grieved, may you be comforted by God who promises you a beautiful headdress, oil of gladness and garments of praise.

When we don’t know what to say may we be confident in Christ that we may be still and hear him speak for us. Today and always.

In Jesus’ name,


Not Running in Vain

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

God’s grace, mercy and peace are yours from him our Heavenly Father and from our lord and savior Jesus. Amen.

Saint Paul is writing to the Corinthian congregation that is dealing with divisions and struggles. They were a new congregation started by Paul and Paul is counseling them, answering questions and encouraging them to continue doing what God had called them to do. Their answer wasn’t found in themselves, but in the message of Christ. The preaching of the gospel of Jesus was all the strength they needed.
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It wasn’t only the preaching of the Gospel that was to be the focus though, it was also the living in the Gospel. Scripture often talks about “walking in the way of the Lord.” the terminology of walk within scripture is not foreign to us. It’s healthy for Christians to ask one another, “How’s your walk?” It’s a question that may very well cause you to go on the defensive, but I encourage you to be ready to answer it and take a leap of familial affection and ask someone this week, “How’s your walk?” Anyway, this walk talk is not exactly what Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 9, he ramps it up a bit and talks about the “Run.” He encourages the Corinthian Christians to run that they may obtain the prize. “So, how’s your run?” Might be the question to ask.

Paul speaks extensively in this lesson of sacrificial living. We are delivered from sin and delivered to serve. This is our walk. This is how we run. Often though, we forget why we are running, we forget how we are running and we forget who we are, running. Our running cannot be a non-stop race on our own. In fact, running on our own is running in vain. We do not have the strength or endurance to do it on our own.

Our Old Testament lesson speaks clearly of our limitations in this Christian running we do. Isaiah 40:3 tells us, Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. On our own we falter. Isaiah is not talking about physical faint and weariness that we experience in this world. That is certainly something we are all readily willing to admit to. The size of the medical industry alone testifies to our human willingness to admit our physical failings, but our spiritual lives are more important for our eternal standing and are just as in need of healing and help. You don’t see an industry on par with the medical field surrounding our churches. There’s hardly ever a waiting list for the pastor’s office. No matter how strong you are spiritually. You may be a pillar of this congregation; you may be a every-Sunday-attender and an every-Bible-study-you-can-make-it-to person; you may be a scripture-every-moment-of-every-day-of-your-life person. The strength of your faith and your love for the lord may be indescribably massive. No matter where you are in the faith walk/faith run, if you’re the source of the strength of your faith, you’re not going to make it.

If you base your faith in the Lord on your understanding of scripture, doctrine, theology and Christian living, you’re going to be faint and weary. If you have confidence in your faith because it just seems reasonable to you and you have figured it’s makes the most sense, you’re going to be faint and weary. If you are on fire for the Lord because your life experience has shown it to be helpful for your living and relationships, you’re going to be faint and weary. If you are passionate about your faith because of the position God has placed you in — in life and you are giving him praise and thanks for the blessings in your life, you are going to be faint and weary. If you not Jesus, you are going to be faint and weary.

If you are running the race to heaven and you are not faint and weary, you are lying to yourself and you are misplacing your confidence. We fall into this thinking of “we got it made in the shade” and we forget we answer to the maker of the shade. Isaiah asks us some good questions, (well technically Isaiah is asking the Israelites around 2700 years ago, but there’s nothing new under the sun and our standing is in many ways the same as theirs) He asks, Why do you say, O Jacob, why do you speak, O Israel and say: “My way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God.” Isaiah 40:27 Their faith was misplaced and so is ours. Like the Israelites, we fall into the trap of believing two things. Our run has two ditches waiting for us to fall into.

On the one side we have the confidence in ourselves. We got it figured out and our failings to live as God’s children are not significant enough to detract from our standing before God. Our sins aren’t that bad. We are really genuinely good enough and will make it to heaven to day. We run and run and run the risk of blissfully lying our way into hell as we serve ourselves before God. And the thing is we may be really nice people as we do it. We may have all the comforts in the world on the way to hell. The road to hell is paved with good intentions right? Well we are called to race with more than just intentions. We have a savior who saves us from our sintentions. This ditch of confidence in our living makes us into god and leads us away from God.

On the other side of the race we run there’s the ditch of believing that God is not there for us. He is too busy for us or just doesn’t care about us. We become convinced that our situation of suck in the world is because God hasn’t cared enough to deliver us from the pain we are in. If God was really good and loving, would x, y, and Z! take place? No. Of course not, if God cared about me and was really good and loving, a, b and C! would take place! Aha! We figure it out and we turn from what God is showing us to what we know and we live in the other ditch. This is the ditch of believing God is not caring or even able to care for us once again puts us in the place of God as we know exactly what God would do as if God were not capable of hanging the stars in the sky.

These ditches are the places of our weakness and fainting and these fainting and weaknesses are places where God comes to us. He dregs the depths of the ditches to find those in need of breaking and those broken in need of His saving love.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28 We may think God is not concerned about our sins or caring about our plight. But he knows us better than we know ourselves. This is frightening. He knows we put ourselves in his place. He knows how we sin against Him and against one another. He knows we lie, cheat and steal our way whenever it’s convenient. He knows our lusts and our lazinesses. He knows our sinful desires and sinful actions. He even knows our pious behaviors that make us feel comfortable in our salvation apart from Him. He knows what we do! He knows what we are capable of and He does something about it.

So where is your strength? Is it in your self, or is it in “God the Father almighty” whom you believe in? It is Him that we confess in this place and in Him dear brothers and sisters, we have strength. In Him the race is run and in the midst of our fainting weaknesses, our race is won.

He did it by sending His Son and it’s because of your fainting wearinesses that He sent His Son. Its because of your filth that He became filth. It’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to be faint. When you are weak, He is strong. When you are faint, He is your wings. God has a love for you that will not quit. You are not running in vain when you are running with the Lord.

  • “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28)
  • Luther “The word of God is the word of strength, righteousness, power, etc. Therefore it can reign nowhere but over those who are lying under sin and weakness. Therefore let us learn to console ourselves when we are afflicted and say, “What I do not have and what I cannot do, that Christ has and can do.”
    (Suggested references from: Lessing, R. Reed, 2011, Isaiah 40-55.)

I read recently the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move.

“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match.

Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

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Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: “Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength. (Story found online)

Our weaknesses will not win our salvation and secure our place in heaven, but Christ’s weakness has done that for us. He took our fainting weariness to the cross and wearily wore our shame in our place and those weaknesses were taken from us and can no longer be used against us. God has a love for us that will not quit and it is demonstrated in Christ’s work on the cross for us. As the spirit is in us, we continue to move and run in Him. Our run is happening, even as we wait on the Lord. God is there for those who wait (Is 40:31)

Waiting is not just marking time. Waiting on the Lord is living in expectant confidence of his action on our behalf. It is knowing what has been done for us. It is hearing this work of salvation. Waiting on the Lord is receiving the new life Christ gives you in the waters of baptism, the forgiveness of sins and in His flesh, His body, the bread for your life. Waiting on The Lord is living this new life that Christ has given us by His resurrection. Waiting on the Lord is the opposite of self help. Waiting is a disciplined reliance on God through faith. It is God or nothing. Waiting on the Lord is not running in vain. It is running through pain. It is running through shame. It is running through the taunts and lies and ditches that would seek to devour us. Waiting on the Lord is running with God given and God strengthened discipline.

So, brothers, sisters, “Hows your walk?” “How’s your run?” I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty good. Best it can be, Today as God’s redeemed and forgiven children, the recipients of heaven and the gift of eternal life, your walk looks mighty fine. It looks like one coming out of an empty tomb. It looks like a walk with fueled with the divine strength from on high. It looks like a walk that is flying high on wings of eagles. It looks like one where weariness and faintness are a forgiven and forgotten past. You are God’s new creation. You are His child. You have His strength. May God continue to strengthen you in your weaknesses as we wait, not running in vain.

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

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Living Time in the Lord

God’s grace His mercy and peace from Him our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The texts for our sermon this morning is from Romans 14:7-9 where Paul tells us none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

You will not be the same after this sermon is done. Yes, the words of Christ spoken through me will bring new life in you through the Holy Spirit as you are killed alive, but I also mean you will physically change. In the time it takes me to deliver this sermon, you will be older, and therefore your body will be further along in its gradual, inevitable demise. Perhaps a hair or two will fall off (more for some than others); skin cells will die and be replaced by others; your eyesight dim; wrinkles deepen and lengthen; the enamel on your teeth thin, your joints will stiffen, your back will compress. Although these changes will be so profoundly minute that the loss defies measurement, it nevertheless remains true. You are changing as you hear these words. You are aging. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact. (Bird)

Today we are touching on the stewardship of time and this is a topic of stewardship that we can all relate to, whether we are 3 or 103 we are stewards of our time. When it comes to talents, some people just don’t have them (kidding), when it comes to treasures, some have more than others and some may not be in an earning arena of their life (too young). But if you are alive, you have time. This is why time is a good place to talk about stewardship.

Stewardship is taking care of the things God has given to us. Godly stewardship is loving him and loving others with everything he has given to us. In the stewardship of time we are called and redeemed by God to use our time in ways that helps us to love him and helps us to love our neighbors. These are the great commands. This is all we are to do, and thankfully God helps us to do it by giving us time. God is patient with us as we grow in love towards him even as he lives in us.  Because whether we live or die. We are his even as he is in us.

So time… What is time? Time is something we are continually watching. Our culture and society prize time and value time and mark time like none other. Time is always before us. In our speech and in our mind. It can become an obsession for us.

We measure time with centuries, decades, years, months, weeks days, hours, minutes seconds milliseconds becomes more and more precise as we “progress” in the world. Time is really just the passing of events one after another. Whether we track it or not, time is passing. From the beginning the passing of days has been noted and noticed. The first 7 days of the world included the creation of the lights (day 4) in the (Genesis 1:14-15) expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. These lights are to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years to shed light upon the earth.

Since the moment when death entered the world through sin, time has meant many things but for our broken minds more often than not, the passing of time reminds us of the approaching of death. Regardless of what we do with it, how we measure it or how we spend it, time is a gift from God and our days are entrusted to us. How we manage our time as God’s people is one of the questions we are blessed to answer with our lives in Christ.

We have a couple examples from our lessons today of time management. “Jesus,” Peter asks, “how many times do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Aren’t I just wasting my time if I do it more than seven times?” Jesus responds: “No, you need to do it more like seventy seven times (or 490 times) before you should worry about the cost it is to your time.” What a great picture of how we are to spend our time. Forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us. Do it. How many of your 168 hours in the past week did you spend forgiving your fellow believers who have sinned against you. And, not just in your mind, but in your living. I admit before God and before you that I have not lived to this degree the forgiveness that God has called us to exhibit.

In the parable Jesus follows this exchange up with, we get an example of needing more time and being impatient. The man in the parable asks the master to be patient, I cannot repay you at this time, I need more time. Be patient with me and the merciful master allows the debt to be carried a bit longer. What a great gift of time given to the man. This man leaves the presence of the master only to find a man who owed him a debt. This second debtor to the original debtor too wants time to repay. But the original debtor would not extend the grace that was originally given to him.

And therein lies just a picture of our sinful failures to be good stewards. In this example it is a stewardship of forgiveness. A stewardship of patience. A stewardship of time. God has given us all of days, hours, minutes and seconds and he doesn’t just want some of them dedicated to him, but he asks for lives that are dedicated to him. And we fail. We fume. We forget. We fight and we forge a schedule based on the desires of our heart rather than that which God has called us to loving him, loving others. Forgiving as we have been forgiven.

In our Old Testament lesson we receive a picture of the life of stewardship we have been called to. So often we carry a chip on our shoulder and we let that chip dictate our motivation. I will do this so that someday I can show them. I will put up until I can get up. I will fake it until they break and then I will make it. Our sinful nature loves to make us focus on a fairness based on our standards rather than a faithfulness based on God’s commands.

Joseph’s father had passed away. Upon the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers were concerned that Joseph would pay them back for what they had done to him (throwing him in the pit, selling him into slavery, claiming he was dead). Their fears were put check when they sent a message to Joseph from their father before he died where he asks Joseph to forgive their sins. Joseph wept, and they said, we are your servants, he wasted no time telling them not to fear. Joseph says: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for your little ones.” Genesis 50:18-21

Joseph’s answer easily could have been quite different, but this man of God was living a life to the Lord. This is what a life lived to the Lord looks like. It realizes that God has given us all things. All of our time, all of our blessings, all of our challenges, and he uses them to bring about His good. Had Joseph harbored hatred and sought vengeance with his time do you think the story would read as good in scripture? Well they do make the pages. Because God’s word doesn’t gloss over the reality of our brokenness. God doesn’t ignore or hide the fact that we are not perfect stewards of the time he has given us on this earth No, those stories of bitterness and unforgiveness are written not only in scripture, but in our own personal lives. They have happened and happen continually they are the stories that put our Lord to death on the cross.

Romans 14:7-8 None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live we live to the Lord. and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

How does our living look when we realize we are the Lord’s? How do we use our time? This week and the week ahead I would like to challenge you to track your time for a day or two. If you had a chance to look at your news and notes this morning already, you will have seen or you will see that there is a chart with some average time usage statistics. These statistics and at least 25 pages of similar data are available from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Including breakdown by gender and ages.

  • So in the next week or so, proactively track you time. What do you spend your time doing?

  • Consider this a family homework assignment, the children, make sure your parents are doing their homework!

  • We aren’t asking you to report how you use your hours, although you are welcome to share observations on the back of this yellow card if you want…

  • This is a personal exercise that you can use as part of your devotional life. Take note of what takes your time, pray about how you feel you are spending your time, ask God to forgive you for too much time spent on things and not enough time on others. Watch God answer prayers and lead you to a life with different time emphasis…

  • We are asking you to complete this assignment no later than Oct 5 by returning the card with your name on it. We want to encourage one another with this and will share the names of those who complete the time challenge.

How many hairs did you lose? How many skin cells died? Your eyesight may indeed be dimer; your wrinkles don’t appear to be deeper and longer from where I am standing, but ever so slightly they are; the enamel on your teeth is thinner. You have changed. You have aged. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.

But even if I was to deliver this sermon over and over again, there is someone beside who will not change. He is to your left and right. Above you and below you. Before you and behind you. Inside and outside you. He thoroughly envelops you with his presence. He too has a body like yours, but his body is different, and it is finished with change. It changed from a fetus to a crying newborn; from a newborn to a toddling toddler; from a toddler to a pimpled teen; from a teen to a robust man; and from a man to a beaten, crucified victim robbed of life. And, then, after three days, he underwent the final change: from a buried victim to a resurrected victor. No hairs fall off. No skin cells die. His eyes penetrate heaven and earth. Even the scars from nail and spear are dazzling, trophies of love. He will not change, either in body or heart. He has said it once, and his announcement remains unalterable: “You are mine. I have bled for you. I will never leave you or forsake you. Though you are on your way to death, you are not, for in my death you already died. In my resurrection you already rose. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.” (Bird)

None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:7-9

In the name of our Living Lord, Jesus. Amen.