Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Test Results Equals Praise - April 27, 2014 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9

This morning we continue to bask and revel in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered why the world, or we might say why the Christian Church moved its day of worship from Saturday, the last day of the week, the day God rested from His work of creation, to worshiping on Sunday, the first day of the week? Something really great and wonderful must have happened to change what the world and what the Christian Church was doing for so many years. Of course, we know that the change came about because of the resurrection of Jesus and now each and every Sunday is for us Christians a mini Easter resurrection celebration. And so, we might rightly greet each other every Sunday as we greeted each other on Easter Sunday, with the words and response, He is risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia.
 
In our text for this morning Peter rightly expresses our words of praise to God, to our God who gave His life and raised Himself from the dead for us. Peter tells us that God is blessed. We read again, “3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v. 3-5). God is blessed because He has earned salvation for us. Here again we are able to distinguish the Christian Church and even our own protestant denomination from many others with the focus of these events. Going back to the Garden of Eden, it was Eve and Adam, the crown of God’s creation, God’s perfect creation, who disobeyed God and brought sin and death into the world. And because God knew His creatures could not restore their broken relationship with Himself, He made a promise to restore that relationship for them.
 
This past Sunday we celebrated the completion of the restoration of God’s creation, us to Himself. Last Christmas, as we do every year at Christmas, we celebrated the birth of God in flesh, the one who came to restore our relationship with God. We celebrated God taking on human flesh. On Friday, on Good Friday we watched as Jesus suffered the punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and for the sins of all people who have ever lived, for all our sins and for the sins of all people who ever will live. Jesus paid the complete price and cost for sin. As Peter says in the text, Jesus has earned for us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
 
Not only has God taken care of our sins, completely, now He continues to guard our faith. It is important that our Lord continue to guard our faith, because the devil, Satan, the old evil foe is still alive and well and is still working to wreck havoc on the world. The devil hates us and he hates everything that God does. His only interest is to destroy, because he is completely evil. And so, he continues, roaming around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Yet, we have our Lord on our side, continuing to guard us and keep us safe.
 
Yes, temptations may come from the devil, but the Lord guards us and keeps us safe. At the same time, in order to strengthen us so that we might bear up under temptation and sin, there may come times of trial in our lives. Peter goes on to explains picking up at verse six, “6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (v. 6-9). The Lord may allow us to face certain trials while we live yet in this world and we understand that these trials may come for a little while.
 
The reason the Lord may allow us to be subject to trials is so that our faith, the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, may be tested. Gold is a precious metal and is very valuable and yet, even gold may perish. Gold is purified through fire, that is, gold is subjected to extreme heat in order to burn away the impurities so that only the gold remains. Likewise, when it comes to our faith, it too is tested through fiery trials so that it is strengthened. At the same time, Peter assures us that our faith is more precious than gold, meaning that as the Lord tests our faith, He is there to give us the strength we need as we go through our testing.
 
The desired outcome of putting gold through fire is that through the fire it may be made pure. The desired outcome of the fiery trials we may face is so that we may give praise, glory and honor to Christ. Trials may not seem pleasant at the time we undergo them, and sometimes even for sometime later they may not seem pleasant, as if they might ever seem pleasant, yet, the goal of trials is not to make us comfortable, but to build us up, to strengthen us so that we might be drawn closer to the Lord and give Him praise and glory and honor. During times of trials we might rightly think of Jesus and what He underwent for us, namely that He suffered eternal spiritual death for us, in our place and so we will gladly suffer for His name sake in order to give praise and glory to His holy name.
 
Ultimately the desired outcome of trials is eternal life in heaven. The ultimate desired outcome of our life in this world is indeed, eternal life in heaven. Of course, we understand that this outcome has already been achieved and accomplished for us. It is meted out to us by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection for us.
 
What does this mean? It means that we will face trials and temptations. Just because we are Christians, does not mean that life will be easy. As a matter of fact, if you have been taking notice of what has been going on in the world, since the beginning of time, is that those who are Christians are usually, more than likely, the ones who are undergoing trials and temptations, even more than those who are not Christians. This is true on two counts, one is that the world does not like the exclusive claim of Christians, that is that there is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in Jesus, alone, and the second count is that the devil hates us and all that is God’s and he is feverishly working to destroy anything and everything that is good. And we can see these two things constantly happening in our world.
 
Yes, we will face trials and temptations and we must understand that we cannot face them alone. Oh, I guess we can face them alone, but we will fail. We cannot resist the devil on our own. We need help and God is there, always, to help us.
 
Not only is our Lord always there to help us, He has already taken care of everything. God in Christ has already done everything for us. All the temptations that we may face, Jesus has already faced and won. Jesus soundly defeated the devil and He is always there to help us.
 
We may try to face the devil on our own. We may try to face trials and temptation on our own, but we will fail. We need God’s help.
 
How do we get God’s help? How does God help? How is this done? When we face trials and temptations God may provide help in one of three ways. First, God may provide a way out. Perhaps you are visiting with some friends when someone begins defaming someone’s precious name. (And here I would suggest we pray for that friend Satan is using to defame another.) As this one person continues they may stop and look at you with that expecting look, giving you the opportunity to join in and defame that person as well. A way out of this temptation would be simply to change the subject and talk about something more uplifting.
 
When we face trials and temptations, God may provide a way out or God may provide the strengthen need to bear up. Again, back to our scenario, suppose the person turns and looks at you with that expectation that you join in the defaming. God may provide you with the strength to say that it is not right to be defaming this person and you will not join in.
 
Again, when we face trials and temptations, God may provide a way out or God may provide the strengthen need to bear up, or God may take away the trial or temptation. Back to our scenario, if God does not provide a way out, that is that you may simply change the subject and if God does not provide you with the strength you might think you need, then He may take the temptation away, perhaps something will distract your friend and the subject will be changed.
 
Now, I know this is a rather simplistic scenario, but it does, nonetheless, illustrate that fact that God does help us in times of trials and temptations. The bottom line, if you will, is that because we are Christians, we will face difficulties in this world. Rather than fear those challenges, our Lord would have us cling to Him, who has defeated all, so that He will help us to overcome and win out in the end, or as Peter says, so that we may attain the salvation of our souls. And rest assured, even when we fail, and we do and will fail, with Jesus there is always forgiveness, that is the reason He came to give His life for ours.
 
This morning we continue to revel in our Easter celebration. Every year we make our way through the church year calendar in order to be reminded of what great things our Lord has done, does and continues to do for us. We need these constant reminders. We need to be constantly fed with the spiritual nourishment of our Lord’s means of grace. Yes, the old cliche is true, seven days without the Word of God makes one weak (that’s w-e-a-k), that is why we come every Sunday, that is why we have personal and family devotions and read our Bible every day, so that we are fed, nourished and strengthened in order that the Lord might help us in times of trials and temptations. And He will help and we will win and we will give praise, glory and honor to His Holy name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ, the Lamb, Has Been Raised - Easter Morning - April 20, 2014 - Text: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! And so we greet each other with joy and enthusiasm on this joyous Easter morning.
 
Our text is first Corinthians 15:20-28: 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. This is our text.
 
Our theme for this year has been focusing our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. We began with the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We followed God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We saw the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. We witnessed Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. And finally this morning witness and participate in His resurrection foreshadowing our own resurrection to eternal life where He will welcome us into His heavenly home and robe us with His robes of righteousness.
 
How did we get in this condition in the first place? Certainly all people are innately good, right? Wrong, dead wrong. In the beginning, when God created all things out of nothing in six literal days, He created all things perfect and holy. After creating a perfect world and a perfect Garden in which He placed His perfectly created human beings, Adam and Eve, God gave only one command, do not eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day you eat of it, dying you will die, in other words, you will begin to die a physical death and apart from a Savior you will be subject to dying an eternal spiritual death.
 
As we know the history, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate of the fruit of the tree, thus sinning and bringing sin and imperfection into what was a perfect world. We live in a world infected by sin and we see the result of the infection day in and day out as we see idolatry, misuse of God’s name, refusal and rejection of His gifts each and every Sunday, disobedience to authority, killing, abortion, stealing, coveting, homosexual behavior, adultery, fornication, envy, jealousy and the list goes on and on.
 
God immediately stepped in and as a just God He inflicted His warning and cursed the world. The serpent was restricted to crawling on the ground. The woman would have pain in child bearing and would live to usurp the husband’s role as the authority and head of the family and the man would be subject to hard work by the sweat of his brow and yes all things began to die.
 
Yet, God also made a promise. God’s promise was that He would send a Savior, a Messiah, a Christ, a Redeemer for all people. This promise was given to Adam and Eve before there was a Jew or a Gentile or any other ethnic culture on the earth. The Savior would be for all people, of all places, and certainly of all times, you and I included.
 
God eventually narrowed the line through which the Savior would be born and that was through the line of Abraham. Abraham’s family became known as the Hebrews, the Children of Israel, the Israelites and the Jews. The Savior, the One who would pay the price for the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden and the sin of all people would be born an Israelite.
 
Something else about this Savior is also important. In order for this Savior to be a Savior He must be truly human in order to trade human life for human life and He must be truly divine, that is truly God so that He might be perfect. The problem with the fall into sin and the curse as well as human genetics is that sin has been passed down genetically from generation to generations so that even today you and I are conceived and born in sin, thus we cannot save ourselves.
 
The whole Old Testament and the sacrificial system of the Old Testament pointed the people to God’s fulfillment, the One Sacrifice, once for all. The Old Testament finds its fulfillment and culmination in Jesus. Jesus was and is, truly God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, making Him perfect and He is truly human, being born of the human woman, the virgin Mary. Not only was Jesus conceived and born in perfection, Jesus also lived perfectly. Jesus suffered all temptations but He never sinned, not even once.
 
After living in perfection, obeying all of God’s laws, His ceremonial, His civil, and His moral laws, perfectly, Jesus then took all our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times upon Himself. He who was without sin became sin for us and then He suffered perfectly for all our sins. He suffered hell for us in our place.
 
Finally Jesus died a perfect death. Yes, in Christ our God died. He died a physical death, just as we will all die a physical death and He suffered eternal spiritual death in hell. On the cross Jesus died. The soldiers witnessed His death and declared it so. Those who removed the body from the cross witnessed His death and declared the same.
 
Yet, as we know the end of the history and as we have come here this morning and even as we celebrate each and every Sunday, our God did not stay dead, but on the third day He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the devil. Yes, in Jesus our God died, and rose. No other religion, cult or sect makes this claim, because all other religions, cults and sects worship dead gods, or dead founders. And because we worship a living God, and because we believe His Word is true that there is one way and only one way into eternal life, this reason is why we are hated by all the other religions, cults and sects of the world, because of the exclusive claim of the Gospel that there is one and only one way to heaven and that way is through faith in Jesus Christ alone, faith which He gives to us, faith which trusts and believes His Word that we have faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
 
Jesus rose from the dead and He showed Himself to be alive for forty days. His resurrection showed His defeat of sin, death, Satan and the grave. His resurrection and His showing Himself to be alive confirms the eyewitness accounts that we do worship a living God.
 
The very reason we celebrate every Easter Sunday and the reason every Sunday for us Christians is a miniature Easter celebration is because since Jesus rose we know we too will rise again! We know that death and the grave have no power over us. We know that sin, death and the devil have been defeated, once and for all. We know that even though we may continue to live in this world of sin, even though we may even continue to sin, we know that Jesus has earned and distributes the forgiveness He has earned for us. We know that Jesus died for us, He rose for us and because He rose we know that we too will rise to be with Him in heaven for eternity.
 
Paul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, says it so well in our text, “20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”
 
All of Holy Scripture points to this most wonderful event, Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because of what Jesus has done, has accomplished, we have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness we know is life and salvation and so we continue to greet one another as Christians have greeted one another since the first Easter, He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Worthy Is the Lamb - Easter Sunrise - April 20, 2014 - Text: Revelation 5:11-14

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! And so we greet each other with joy and enthusiasm on this joyous Easter morning.
 
Our text is Revelation 5:11-14: 11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. This is our text.
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. We began with the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We followed God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We saw the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. Last Thursday we witnessed Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. And last Friday we witnessed His death on the cross, taking our sins and paying the price. This morning we gather and we celebrate as we participate in His resurrection foreshadowing our own resurrection to eternal life where He will welcome us into His heavenly home and robe us with His robes of righteousness.
 
As we have been doing every week, we begin at the beginning. We begin with God’s creation of all things out of nothing creating heaven and earth in perfection and without sin. God created a perfect world and then He created a perfect man and a perfect woman whom He placed in a perfect Garden which He created for them. In the beginning all things were perfect and holy, without sin and with out death. Yet, that did not last long as Satan tempted Eve and Adam, they disobeyed God and sinned and thus the sin of Adam and Eve brought punishment from God.
 
As a punishment for their sin of disobedience, God cursed the world and yet, in His curse He also gave a promise. He promised that He would take care of the sin of Adam and Eve because He knew that, because of their fallen nature they could not take care of their sin themselves, He promised to send a Savior who would substitute His life for theirs.
 
As time went on, God chose the line through which the Savior would be born and that line would be through the line of Abraham. Now remember, God’s promise was made in the Garden of Eden when there was only Adam and Eve before there was a Jew or a Gentile. God continued to narrow the line of fulfillment for the birth of the Messiah through the line of Judah and later the line of King David.
 
In the Old Testament, as the Children of Israel escaped slavery in Egypt, in order to remind the people of the cost and price for sin, God set up the sacrificial system. Animals were to be sacrificed and yet those sacrifices did nothing in and of themselves, they were simply meant to point to the one ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer on the cross.
 
In the New Testament we get to Jesus. Jesus was conceived, born and lived in perfection, obeying all God’s laws and promises perfectly. What God commanded Adam and Eve to do, what God commanded the whole nation of Israel to do, yes, even what God commands of us, and what we cannot do, Jesus did perfectly. Because He is truly God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was born in perfection and thus was able to live life in perfection.
 
Because He was born of the human woman, Mary, Jesus as truly a human being could and was our substitute, taking our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and then suffering, shedding His blood and dying to pay the price for our sins. Yet, death and the grave had no power over Him as we so joyously celebrate today that is that He rose from the dead.
 
After showing Himself to be alive for forty days, Jesus ascended back to the place from which He had descending even back into heaven. Jesus continues to sit at the right hand of the Father, watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. This fact does not mean to locate Jesus as He still continues to be everywhere present.
 
In the near future, and I would suggest sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine, Jesus will return to gather us and all the saints and to take us and all the saints to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.
 
In our text for this morning we get a glimpse of heaven. In our text John sees the joy of heaven. He sees the living creatures, the elders, the many angels numbering myriads and thousands of thousands. And he hears the loud voice praising the Lamb of God who was slain, who was crucified for our sins.
 
There are some people who struggle with the death of God suggesting that God cannot die. To the question of God’s death, John says God did die, He died in Christ. Just as you and I have a body and a soul, so Jesus was truly God with a body. When Jesus died He died a bodily death, and yet Jesus also died an eternal spiritual death that is He suffered hell, the punishment of hell for us in our place.
 
Jesus is the perfect Lamb that was slain. Just as the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to Him, just as those unblemished lambs gave their lives pointing to this one Lamb, so Jesus gave His life, suffering and dying, not pointing to Himself, but offering Himself.
 
As we often hear, especially in the Lord’s Supper as we are given Jesus’ true body to eat, we hear that His body is given for you so we know that Jesus died for us. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, death, physical death and apart from Jesus, apart from faith in Jesus eternal spiritual death, hell. Jesus died for our sins, paying the price for sin. Jesus died a physical death and He suffered eternal spiritual death in hell for us, in our place.
 
Jesus death paid the price in full and was enough. Anytime anyone tells you that you must do something to be saved, to earn or pay for any or all of your sins, all they are telling you is that Jesus’ death was not enough. One plus anything equals the anything. Grace plus anything equals the anything. So, if you are told you are saved by grace but all you have to do is something, then you are not saved by grace, but by the all you have to do. That we are saved by grace means that Jesus’ death was enough and there is nothing left to do, nothing.
 
Jesus paid for our sins on Calvary and now in divine service He distributes the gifts He earned, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As we are reminded of and as we remember our baptism we are given forgiveness and strengthened in our faith. As we confess our sins and hear our Lord’s words of forgiveness, “your sins are forgiven,” we know we have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness, life and salvation. As we hear God’s Word, faith comes by hearing, we are given faith, forgiveness and life, as God’s Word indeed is efficacious and does what it says. And as we come to the Lord’s Holy Table, as we eat His body and drink His blood, we participate in His life, death and resurrection.
 
In our text for this morning, continuing to follow the theme of the Lamb, this morning we are reminded that when our last hour arrives, either at our own passing or at the Lord’s return, both of which I believe will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect, when our last hour arrives we will be brought into our Lord’s kingdom and we will sing to our Lord. We will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” We will sing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
 
What a great God we have. What a loving, gift giving God we have. Our God does it all and gives it all to us and we, we are given to. And even when we refuse and reject the gifts, He is there continually being ready to give them to us. This morning we once again rejoice and celebrate our great God. We celebrate His resurrection and the fact that we worship a living God. And as we celebrate we do look forward to that day when we will stand before the Lord’s throne, with all the saints who have gone on before us, clothed in our Lord’s robes of righteousness and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Christ, Our Passover Lamb - Good Friday - April 18, 2014 - Text: 1 Corinthians 5:7

Our text is 1 Corinthians 5:7: Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. This is our text.
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. We began with the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We continued with God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We saw the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. Last night we witnessed Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. This evening we will witness our Passover Lamb being sacrificed for us. And finally in three days we will witness and participate in His resurrection foreshadowing our own resurrection to eternal life where He will welcome us into His heavenly home and robe us with His robes of righteousness.
 
We see how great God’s love for us is in that God does not live in time as you and I live in time. God lives in the eternal present, which means that for God time is always now, thus God does not have a past nor a future only the present so for God everything that happens to us is happening in His eternal present. How we see God’s great love in this fact is that God created all things and us included in order to love us, knowing that we would mess up what He perfectly created. In the beginning God created all things out of nothing, in six days He created all things perfect and holy.
 
God created a perfect man and a perfect woman and placed them into a perfect Garden which He created especially for them. They were placed in the perfect Garden and were to work at taking care of the Garden. The only stipulation God gave in the beginning was that they were not to eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God’s threat was in the day they would eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden they would die, die a spiritual death and began dying a physical death. They could however eat of all the other trees in the garden.
 
While God was running the show everything was perfect. Once man began running the show in chapter three, then we have the entry of Satan and temptation. We have Eve and Adam disobeying God, sinning and bringing a curse to the world which meant destruction of all things perfect.
 
However, and remember God lives in the eternal present so He knew this would happen, so He immediately stepped in and made a promise, a promise to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve, the sin which now infected the DNA, the genes of every living creature. God promised to send someone to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and all people.
 
The one to take care of the sin of all people would be a Savior, a Redeemer, a Messiah, a Christ, One who would redeem, trade His perfection for the world’s imperfection. Thus, the Savior would have to be truly human in order to be a substitute, trading a like life for a like life. And the Savior would have to be truly Divine in order to be perfect which would fulfill God’s first demand.
 
Furthermore, God narrowed the line of the fulfillment of the Savior that is that the Savior would be born from the line of David, King David of Israel. The odds of one man fulfilling all the stipulations of God’s promised Savior were truly great and yet Jesus fulfilled all God’s stipulations so that we might know for certain that He is the Savior.
 
God set up the sacrificial system of the Old Testament in order to remind the people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed and to point to the one ultimate once and for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.
 
According to the sacrificial system the lamb to be sacrificed must be an unblemished lamb, one as close to perfection as possible. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born in perfection, thus fulfilling this requirement of God.
 
Not only was Jesus conceived and born perfect and holy, He also lived perfectly obeying all God’s laws and fulling all of God’s prophecies concerning the promised Messiah, perfectly. He perfectly obeyed the Ten Commandments, perfectly fulfilled the Ceremonial Laws, and perfectly obeyed the Civil laws. He did what all of Israel, nor all of us could do.
 
After fulfilling all the law and the prophets perfectly, He freely took all sin on Himself, all our sins of thought, word and deed, all our sins of omission and commission. All our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times He took upon Himself, freely because of His great love for us.
 
And then He paid the price for all sin, He suffered and died on the cross as the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world. All the sins ever committed up until the time the He paid for them and all the sins that will ever be committed, He paid the price completely so that no other payment ever will need to be paid.
 
What Jesus did we call reconciliation and is truly like the what happens in accounting, when we reconcile our bank account. Our account with God is that we owe. We owe our very lives. We owe the price for sin which is death, blood must be shed. However, we cannot pay our debt.
 
Jesus owes nothing because He is perfect and holy. And yet, He gave His life for ours. He paid the debt of our account by giving His life, by shedding His blood for us.
 
Now, when we look at Jesus we see His perfection, we see that He has paid for our sins and we rejoice and we are satisfied. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus. He sees Jesus’ perfect life as our perfect life. He sees Jesus’ perfect sacrifice as our death and He is satisfied.
 
Today is Good Friday. It is good, for us, because the price for our sins has been paid. It is good for us because we can once again see what great love our God has for us. As we walk to Calvary and see our Lord, our Savior, our God crucified and die on the cross, what we are witnessing is Jesus earning and paying the price for our sins. And yet, we know that it is not here on Calvary that the forgiveness He won is distributed. No, His gifts, His forgiveness, His faith and life are distributed each and every Sunday, yes, even each and every day through the very means He has given to distribute His gifts, His means of grace.
 
As we are reminded of and as we remember our baptism we are given forgiveness and strengthened in our faith. As we confess our sins and hear our Lord’s words of forgiveness, “your sins are forgiven,” we know we have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness, life and salvation. As we hear God’s Word, faith comes by hearing, we are given faith, forgiveness and life, as God’s Word indeed is efficacious and does what it says. And as we come to the Lord’s Holy Table, as we eat His body and drink His blood, we participate in His life, death and resurrection.
 
This evening we do not necessarily celebrate, who celebrates death after all, but we do give thanks because our Lord has given His all for us. In three days we will return and we will then indeed celebrate. We will celebrate that death and the grave had no power over our Lord because He is God indeed and we will celebrate, once again, His rising from the dead. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Passover Lamb “Given For You” - Maundy Thursday - April 17, 2014 - Text: Luke 22:14-20

Our text is Luke 22:14-20: 14And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. This is our text.
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. We began with the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We followed God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We saw the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. We witnessed Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. We witnessed and participated in His resurrection foreshadowing our own resurrection to eternal life where He will welcome us into His heavenly home and robe us with His robes of righteousness.
 
This evening, this Maundy Thursday evening we once again celebrate the first Passover celebration and we watch as Jesus connects that celebration and gives us out of the celebration what we have today in His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. As you may recall, the first part of the Passover was to select an unblemished lamb which was to be set aside later to be slaughtered.
 
The lamb was to be chosen on the tenth day of the month and on the fourteenth day of the month it was to be slaughtered. The blood of the lamb was to be kept and brushed on the door post and lintel of the house. This blood of the lamb marked the house so that the angel of death would pass over the house and not kill the firstborn in the house.
    And the lamb was to be eaten be the family or two families if the family was too small for one lamb. All the lamb was to be eaten. If any lamb remained until morning it was to be burned up completely in the fire.
 
Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus. Being the good Jewish man that He was, Jesus custom was to celebrate the Passover. And Jesus did celebrate the Passover until the last Passover He celebrated on earth and that was that Maundy Thursday when He took from the Passover and gave us His Holy Supper. Jesus sent His disciples to prepare the Passover Seder. And by the way, He sent them to prepare the Passover in the Upper Room, the katalooma that we heard about at Christmas, that there was no room in the upper room, the guest room, the katalooma for Mary and Joseph so that Jesus was born in the main part of the house where the family and the animals lived.
 
Continuing on, during the celebration of the Passover Seder the middle matzah was broken, hidden and later found. This middle matzah that was broken and hidden reminds us of Jesus by whose stripes we are healed, who was broken, pierced and buried, but after three days rose from the dead.
 
When it was time to eat the middle matzah, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and distributes it to His disciples. But Jesus does not simply bless, break and distribute the bread. Instead, He took bread and said this is my body. So now, according to Jesus’ own word, He has bread that He is distributing as His body.
 
A little later during the Passover meal, Jesus takes the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption. He blesses the cup of wine and the distributes it to His disciples. But, again, Jesus does not simply bless and distribute the wine. Instead, He took the cup of wine and said this is my blood. So now, according to Jesus’ own word, He has a cup of wine that He is distributing as His blood.
 
What is the significance of this Passover meal turned Lord’s Supper? This meal is not simply a symbol, a re-enactment, but it is a sacred act, a sacrament, a means through which Jesus gives us the gifts He earned on Calvary, distributing forgiveness of sins through bread and wine, and His body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
 
In the original Passover, the lamb was chosen, set aside, and slaughtered. The blood was painted on door post and lintel to mark the house so that when the angel of death passed over the country of Egypt and Goshen, the angel of death would passes over those houses that were marked with the blood, not killing the firstborn son in those houses, but sparing them.
 
Jesus is the Lamb of God who was conceived and born in perfection, conceived by the Holy Spirit making Him truly God and born of the human woman, the virgin Mary making Him truly human. Jesus was perfect and holy, chosen and set aside from before the foundation of the world were set. At just the right time He was slaughtered, He was crucified on the cross. He shed His blood so that all who believe in Jesus are marked with His blood. Now and on our day of judgement, when the angel of eternal spiritual death would have us, when Satan would have us, he sees that we are marked with the blood of the Lamb of God and he will have to pass over us, leaving us to eternal life with Jesus.
 
At the time of His death, on that first Maundy Thursday, as He was celebrating the Passover Seder with His disciples, He gives us His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. From the Passover our Lord gives us the bread to eat and the wine to drink. From the Passover we no longer need to make any bloody sacrifice because Jesus is the Lamb of God to which all the other sacrifices pointed. From the original Passover Jesus gives us a new sacrament, not simply a rite nor a symbolic act which we should obediently re-enact, but He gives us His body and blood, in with and under the bread and wine for us to eat and drink and thus for us to participation in Him, in His life, death and resurrection. As we eat His body and drink His blood we are marked with Jesus. His perfect life becomes our perfect life. His horrible death becomes our horrible death and His glorious resurrection becomes our glorious resurrection.
 
What does this mean? This means that although forgiveness was earned, won and paid for on Calvary, it is not distributed on Calvary, nor is it usually distributed directly, rather it is distributed through the means of grace. Through the means, the ways the Lord gives to give us His gifts and blessings, namely through Holy Baptism we are given faith, forgiveness and eternal life and this normally happens at the beginning of our lives as infants. Through confession and absolution, as we come to the Lord’s house, not denying, not holding back, but confessing our sins. When we fail to confess our sins we indeed hold on to them and they remain unforgiven. But when we confess our sins God who is faithful and just does and has already forgiven our sins.
 
When we read and hear God’s Word, such as when we have private reading of God’s Word, when we have private and family devotions, when we attend Bible Class and Sunday School and most especially when we come to the Lord’s house and hear His word, His word does and gives what it says. When God’s Word says we have faith, then rest assured we have faith. When God’s Word says we have forgiveness of sins then we can rest assured we have forgiveness of sins. When God’s Word says we have life, even eternal life then we can rest assured we have life even eternal life.
 
And when we come to the Lord’s Table, to His Holy Supper, to the Lord’s Supper, as we eat His body, in, with and under the bread and as we drink His blood, in, with and under the cup of wine, then we are remembering, we are participating in His death and resurrection and the gifts He earned through His death and resurrection become our gifts, most especially forgiveness of sins. Of course we know that where there is forgiveness there is life and salvation. All God’s gifts then are distributed through the means of grace.
 
The Lord’s Supper is just that, the Lord’s Supper. He is the host. He is the meal. He is the one who suffered, died, won, paid for our sins and earned our forgiveness and at His meal He is the one who distributes and gives to us the gifts He has won for us, forgiveness of sins. As we come to the Lord’s Table we are given His body and His blood with the words, “given for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” Our response is simply Amen, God is faithful, this is true, thanks be to God and to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Our Attitude, Like Christ’s - April 13, 2014 - Palm Sunday - Text: Philippians 2:5-11

Today is a day that two young people have been working and looking forward to for two years. And I do have to say it, this is not their graduation day. This is their day of confirmation and really is the day that they are now considered to be adults in the church and in this congregation. With that “change of status” comes the responsibility to take the initiative in their spiritual life, meaning, being an active member, being involved in Divine Service and Bible class, being involved with this congregation and beginning to get interested and involved in serving on the boards and committees of this congregation. Today is the day that they are to take on the attitude of Christ that Paul describes for us in our text for today.
 
As we look at our text, the first thing I want to say about our text is that it is thought that this text may have been a part of an early Christian creed which was spoken during a worship service, similar to how we speak the Nicene or Apostles’ Creeds. Our text begins by telling us about Jesus Christ, and specifically, about His attitude. Paul says, “5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” (v. 5-6). Paul exhorts us to have the mind, that is, the attitude, of Jesus. This is what I just said about our confirmands, that they are to have the attitude of Christ, and really, we are all to have the attitude of Christ. Okay, so what is the attitude of Christ?
 
The attitude of Christ has its foundation in the fact that He is true God. As true God He was enjoying all the glory that was His. He was in heaven where He freely used all His divine attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and the like. He was in heaven being God, watching over us, ruling over us, taking care of us. He was in heaven enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven. And we might be thinking, that is an easy attitude to have, enjoying heaven.
 
Yet, His attitude is what moved Him to give up all that was His in heaven. He gave up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to show how much He loved us, His creation. He gave up the use of His divine attributes, so that He did not use them to their full potential. He gave up enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven. His attitude was that He gave up all this, not because He had to or was forced to, but because of His love for us.
 
His attitude is that He humbled Himself. As Paul continues, Christ “7[but] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 7-8). Paul says, Jesus emptied Himself, that is, He made a decision not to use His divine attributes to their fullest. Did you notice Him doing this? Remember when He was tempted by the devil in the desert, He did not change the rock into bread. Did you notice that He did not raise everyone He met from the dead. He did not heal everyone who was sick. Yes, He did use some of His divine attributes to some extend, but He did not fully use them as He could, as God.
 
Not only is Jesus truly God, and He had to be God in order to be perfect, but He is also truly human, and He had to be human in order to be our substitute. In His love for us He took on human flesh and blood. He was born as a human. He was born, humbly and lowly. He had a manger, an animals feeding trough, for His first bed. His parents were not wealthy or of seeming nobility, although He was born from the line of King David. He lived a rather obscure life. We do not hear anything about Him from birth until age twelve. Then we do not hear anything about Him again, until He reaches thirty and is ready to begin His earthly ministry and mission. He did not seek to be rich, or famous and or powerful, which are the things we deem as being great in our world today.
 
His greatest humility is in this, that He humbled Himself to the point of death. He was obedient to the Father’s will. He actively obeyed all of God’s laws, perfectly, because we cannot. He passively obeyed God’s command to allow Himself to be crucified. He took all our sins upon Himself. Our sins of pride, greed, envy, and lust. Our sins of wanting our own way even to the detriment of others. Our sins of neglecting our own spiritual well being, absenting ourselves from Divine Service and Bible Class, reading God’s Word and praying to Him. He took all these sins upon Himself. He became sin for us. Not because He had too, but because He wanted to. Yes, because He wanted to, because of His great love for us.
 
He is our prophet, priest and king. As our priest He went to the altar to make sacrifices for us. As our Savior He became the sacrifice for us, in our place, once and for all, on the cross. He suffered the cruellest of deaths. He suffered the most humiliating and shameful of deaths. He suffered so that we might not have to suffer. He suffered so that we might have forgiveness of sins and life. Think about it this way, if He had not humbled Himself, if He had not suffered for our sins, if He had not died, we would still be in our sins and if we were still in our sins that would ultimately mean eternal spiritual death and hell for us.
 
After His suffering, as Paul continues in our text, “9therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 9-11). Paul says, “therefore,” therefore, because of what He did for us, He was exalted. God exalted Him so that now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He has returned to the place from where He came. He has returned to the right hand of the Father. There He is interceding for us, praying for us, watching over us, ruling over us, and guiding and directing our doings in this life.
 
There, at the right hand of the Father, in heaven, He enjoys all the glory that is His, that He had given up for us. Paul tells us what John tells us in Revelation, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and in earth. All creation will bow before the Lord, both those who believe and those who do not believe. In the end, all people will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, some will confess to the demise, other to their eternal glory.
 
And, every tongue will confess, in heaven and in earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Again, Paul tells us the same thing John tells us in Revelation. The unbelievers will confess and then will try to blame God for their unbelief. The believers, we faithful Christians, will rejoice and sing praises to the Holy Name of the Lord.
 
Likewise, as Paul tells us, so should our attitude be. This morning we have the privilege of confirming two young people of our congregation. Certainly our text speaks to them. As they have worked hard for two years in order to reach this point, the point of confirmation, so we pray that they now realize that this is not an end, this is not a graduation, but this is just a beginning. For them, and really, for all of us, to take on the attitude of Christ is to understand and acknowledge that when it comes to knowing God, the more we learn about Him, the more we can see that there is so much more that we do not know about Him. And that reminds us that there is even more reason to continue on with our own instruction in God’s Word, continuing to be apart of a Sunday Bible class, continuing to read God’s Word at home, and to have personal and family devotions, continuing to humbly learn and grow in faith. This is taking on Christ’s attitude.
 
Again, I can never say it too much, Confirmation is not graduation. Confirmation, as defined in our catechism, is “a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.” And the catechism also notes, “Prior to admission to the Lord’s Supper, it is necessary to be instructed in the Christian faith (1 Cor. 11:28). The rite of confirmation provides an opportunity for the individual Christian, relying on God’s promise given in Holy Baptism, to make a personal public confession of the faith and a lifelong pledge of fidelity to Christ.”
 
Confirmation, then, is a new beginning. Confirmation is a rite marking our beginning to be responsible for our own spiritual life. To those of us who have already been confirmed, I ask you, do you remember your confirmation and what it meant for you? Did it give you any incentive to be more self-responsible? Did your confirmation make you what I will suggest to these confirmands? That is, that now is the time to not depend so much on your mom or dad to wake you to tell you it is time to get up and get ready for church and Bible class, but to take the initiative on your own to get up and get ready. I think that would be a part of taking on the attitude of Christ.
 
I would summarize this morning by saying that Confirmation is a time to, and here I would especially make note that what I am saying is that this is only with the help and by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, Confirmation is a time to continue in the attitude of Christ, to continue in living a life to the glory of God by continuing to be in the Word and partake of the Sacrament, and to be willing to give your life for Him. It is a time to love Him who first loved you and gave His life for you. May God grant you the will and the strength to live in such a way. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Lamb of God - Mid Week 6 - April 9, 2014 - Text: John 1:29

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. So far we have talked about the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We followed God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We saw the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. We witnessed and will witness Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. This evening we are again pointed to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Jesus.
 
As always a bit of a review is in order, which takes us back to the Garden of Eden and the curse and promise. God created a perfect world, a perfect man and woman and placed them in the perfect Garden He had created just for them. He gave them everything they needed and one command, not to eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And we know the story, they disobeyed God, bringing sin and death as well as God’s curse on all creation. Yet, God immediately stepped in and promised a Savior.
 
After God chose Abraham and promised that through His family the Savior would be born, after Isaac and Jacob, after the children of Jacob, that is the Children of Israel went down to Egypt and were enslaved for many years, God stepped in to rescue His people and in rescuing His people He give them the Passover celebration.
 
As the Children of Israel moved out of Egypt and into the wilderness they continued to rebel against God. In order to help the children of Israel keep their focus on being God’s people and on being the family line through which the Savior of the world would be born, God gave them the sacrificial system, which continually pointed them to Jesus.
 
As we read through the Old Testament we can see quite clearly that the whole Old Testament points to the New Testament and especially to the one who would be and was born, the Savior, the Messiah, even the Redeemer, Jesus. All the sacrifices, all the promises pointed to the one who would trade His life, who would redeem His life for ours.
 
Finally, in the New Testament we do get to Jesus. Jesus was born of the line of Judah, of the line of King David. And although He was born in a rather obscure way, meaning in a small town in southern Judah, Bethlehem, where few people lived, and although His being born in Bethlehem happened because of a decree of an earthly king, yet we know that the prophecy of His line of birth was fulfilled. Certainly we see God’s hand in this birth and how as this one man fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God He is indeed the One promised as Savior.
 
Jesus was true God in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His and yet, for our sakes and because of His great love for us, He gave up all the glory that was His. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit making Him truly divine, truly God and He was born of the woman, Mary making Him truly human.
 
When He reached the age of thirty, He presented Himself before John the Baptist for Holy Baptism. Of course, He was without sin and had no reason to be baptized, but for our sakes in order to identify as one of us, in order to be our substitute, He submitted to being baptized. It was John who recognized Him as the Messiah and thus announces, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
 
John’s word remind us of the fulness of the lamb. When God gave the Passover and the sacrificial system in the Old Testament we are instructed that the Lamb was to be whole and without blemish. The lamb was to be reflective of the one ultimate, once for all sacrifice, Jesus who was truly God and truly perfect.
 
In the giving of the Passover in the Old Testament it was instructed that the lamb was to be slaughtered and the blood was to be brushed on the door posts, up and down, and the lintel, side to side, indeed making the sign of the cross in order to make the house. Jesus, the once for all Lamb of God was slaughtered and hung on a cross where His blood was shed.
 
In the giving of the Passover in the Old Testament the Lamb was to be eaten, completely and if any were left in the morning it was to be completely burned in the fire. This was a meal eaten in haste as the children of Israel got ready and escaped slavery in Egypt. After their escape, as the children of Israel enjoyed their freedom in their own country, the Passover moved from being a meal eaten in haste to a meal enjoyed reminding of their deliverance.
 
In the giving of the Passover and the sacrificial system the family participated in the sacrifice by eating the lamb. Indeed, this oneness with the sacrifice meant the sacrifice became one with and a substitute for the one offering the sacrifice.
 
Fast forward to Jesus. As John so readily recognized Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus is the Lamb that is whole and without blemish. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit making Him perfectly truly God. He had to be perfect in order to be what we cannot be, perfect and without sin.
 
Jesus was the Lamb of God who was born for one purpose, to die. He lived perfectly, obeying all God’s laws and commands perfectly, for Adam and Eve, for all of Israel, yes, even for us. He fulfilled all God’s promises and prophecies perfectly and then of His own free will, not by coercion, He took our sins upon Himself and suffered for our sins. He suffered the punishment for sin, death, eternal spiritual death of hell and physical death. He was crucified and died on the cross.
 
Yet, we know that death and the grave had no hold over Him. He rose victorious our sin, death and the devil. He ascended back into heaven from where He had descended. He sits at the right hand of God watching over us, ruling over us and interceding, praying for us. And even more, He gives us His Holy Supper where in we eat His body and drink His blood, in, with and under the bread and wine. It is this eating and drinking in the Lord’s Supper, this “doing this in remembrance of me” which is our participating in Him. Just as the family offered the sacrifice and ate the lamb, so Jesus offered Himself as the once and for all sacrifice and offers His body and blood for us to eat.
 
As we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we do eat His Holy Body in, with and under the bread and we do drink His Holy Blood, in, with and under the wine and thus we participate in Jesus sacrifice of Himself. Our oneness with Jesus through His Holy Supper means that His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. Indeed, He is our substitute trading, redeeming His perfect life for our imperfect life and that is the reason He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute, trading life for life.
 
What great love our Lord has for us that He should become one of us offering Himself and His life for us and for ours. When God the Father looks at us He sees Jesus perfection and He is satisfied. When we look in faith to Jesus we see His life, death and resurrection and we are satisfied. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Do We Care Enough To Speak Up?

Sometimes we have to take a step back and ask ourselves, what are our priorities? Too often however, the answer we give is not necessarily what we are living. We say that our eternal salvation and our spiritual life are most important, but we live otherwise, as if this world, our lives in this world and what happens in this world are most important. As a pastor, I have a tendency to focus on the “big” picture of eternal salvation. Quite frankly, our sixty, eighty or a hundred years in this world is nothing compared to our forever eternity in heaven (or hell). Thus, often I have to ask hard questions and deal with difficult situations which run with our societal norms, but counter to the Word of God. And too often in those instances the people who tell us they love us attack God’s messenger rather than actually caring enough to help those who are living other than godly lives to repent and seek forgiveness.

Shifting gears a bit, and you may have heard this illustration before: Mrs. Smith passed out a new box of crayons to all the children in the class. She told them to be careful, to not push too hard so they would not break their new crayons. As the class began coloring, little Johnny pushed too hard and broke his crayon. A little later Mrs. Smith told the children to put their broken crayons on their desk. Little Johnny, not wanting to get into trouble, placed the bottom part of his crayon in the box and the top part on top. No one would be the wiser he thought.

A little later Mrs. Smith came around the classroom, picked up the broken crayons and gave the children new crayons. All the children received new crayons except little Johnny who refused a new crayon by not confessing that he had broken his crayon. The same is true with forgiveness, when we fail to confess our sins, we refuse God’s forgiveness.

Now, if Mrs. Smith had begun by telling the students that she was going to give them new crayons for broken crayons, little Johnny may have been motivated to confess that he had broken his crayon. Here we see that repentance is motivated, not by the law, but by the Gospel. It is the Gospel message that we have forgiveness, already earned by Jesus that motivates us to repent. And with repentance is forgiveness, life and salvation.

This illustration helps to identify how sin, repentance and forgiveness are meted out in two different ways and helps us to understand that although all sin is equal in God’s eyes, that is equally damnable and equally forgivable, our eternal spiritual well being is made certain or kept in jeopardy by the fact that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and we reject God’s forgiveness.

An alcoholic, a person living a homosexual lifestyle, a couple living together without the benefit of marriage are all cases of sin, much like any other sin. All these sins are forgivable in and of themselves. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We daily confess our sins, which means we tell God we are sorry and we will try, with His help, to not sin again. Of course we do sin again, but the point is we are trying to not sin again. However, for an alcoholic, a person living a homosexual lifestyle, a couple living together without the benefit of marriage to continue to live such a lifestyle says that there is no repentance and with no repentance there is only refusal of forgiveness, meaning their sin remains on them putting their eternal well being in jeopardy, which is why such sins are so grievous. We can also say the same for people who hold grudges, who refuse to be reconciled with others, those who hold any animosity for another and refuse to reconcile. Indeed, none of these should even entertain the idea of attending the Lord’s Supper for that only compounds their sin. The loving thing to do is to help those we know who refuse forgiveness, calling them to repentance. When such sinners are called to account, we love them best, not by attacking the one who truly cares for their souls, the one who confronts them with their sin and its seriousness, but by also addressing their need to repent which includes turning from that sin and trying, with God’s help, to not commit that same sin again.

The question is, “Do we care enough to speak up?” or do we follow the norms of society because we really care more to be liked than we care for another’s spiritual well being?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Slaughtered Lamb - Mid Week 5 - April 2, 2014 - Text: Isaiah 53:7

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. We began with the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We continued by follow God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We saw the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. We witnessed and will witness again Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. This evening we focus our attention on the slaughtered lamb, the lamb that was lead to the slaughter with its mouth not open.
 
Throughout the Old Testament God reiterated His promise to send a Savior, a Messiah, a Redeemer. God first promised to send a Savior, a Redeemer to Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. At that time there was no Jew or Gentile, there was only Adam and Eve, people, human beings. God’s promise to send a Savior, a Redeemer was a promise to save all mankind.
 
As time went by, as history progressed, God remembered His promise to Adam and Eve, and it is not as if He had forgotten His promise, but for God to remember His promise means that it was brought to mind and was time to begin fulfilling that promise. So, out of all the people of the world, God chose Abram. It was not that Abram chose God, nor was there any innate goodness within him, it is simply that God chose him. God chose Abram, changed his name to Abraham and reiterated His promise to send a Savior, a Redeemer, however that is not all God did, He also narrowed down the family line through whom the Messiah would be born, namely through the offspring, the seed of Abraham. God then reiterated that promise to Abraham’s only son, Isaac and to his son, Jacob.
 
As time went on again, God again remembered His promise. After the children of Israel had been in Egypt and had been enslaved, God called Moses to deliver His people. God called Moses to bring His children out of Egypt. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments as well as the civil, moral and ceremonial laws for His people. God gave Moses the sacrificial system which foreshadowed and pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And God reiterated His promise to send a Savior through the line of Israel.
 
As Israel developed into a nation, God promised King David that from his family line the Savior, the Redeemer would be born. Even though David sinned, even though David’s grandmother was not an Israelite, but a Moabite, even through there were others not of Israelite descent in David’s line and ultimately in Jesus’ family tree, God’s promise continued to be that the Savior of the world would be through His family line.
 
As time moved forward, not only did God narrow the family line through whom the Savor would be born, but He also expanded and expounded the promises of the one that would be the Messiah, making sure that the One who would fulfill all that God spoke would be the One true Messiah. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said that the Savior would be oppressed and afflicted. Certainly we see this oppression and affliction in Jesus who was despised even by His own people, family and nation. He was afflicted with our sorrow as He took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins.
 
Continuing to speak through prophet Isaiah, God said that the Savior would not speak in His defense and this is seen in the fact that at His trials Jesus did not defend Himself. Jesus passively allowed for the mock trials to take place and for the verdict of guilty, which is indeed our verdict that we are guilty of the sins that Jesus took on Himself.
 
Continuing to speak through the prophet Isaiah, God said that the Savior would be lead as a lamb to the slaughter. Jesus is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. As the lamb was used in many sacrifices so Jesus is the very Lamb of God, the once and for all sacrifice as He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us, taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself.
 
And, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God said that the Savior would passively suffer. Throughout His life Jesus actively obeyed all God’s commands perfectly. Throughout His life Jesus actively fulfilled all the promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. And then freely He took all our sins upon Himself and passively, without fighting or struggling, allowed for the trials, the mocking, the beating and the crucifixion.
 
What does this mean? In the beginning God created all things out of nothing, perfect and holy. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and their sin brought a curse on the whole earth. God immediately stepped in and promised to send a Savior, a Redeemer for all people, of all places, of all times. Later God narrowed the family line of fulfillment of the promise and the whole while expanded and expounded all the things that the Messiah would be and do. For one person to fulfill all the Laws of God, all the promises and prophecies of God concerning the Redeemer the odds would be tremendously against such a thing happening. Yet, that One person is Jesus, truly God taking on human flesh being born as a truly human person.
 
Jesus began fulfilling all God’s laws and prophecies by being born of the line of Judah, thus being God taking on human flesh from the promised line of Abraham, Isaac, and King David.
 
Jesus continued fulfilling all God’s laws and prophecies being “ordained” into the office of Messiah at the age of thirty by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. It was John who pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.” Jesus is the Lamb spoken of throughout Holy Scripture who, against all odds, fulfilled all of God’s laws, obeying all of God’s laws perfectly and all God’s commandments and all of the promises and prophecies of God, perfectly.
 
And as we heard in our text for this evening, Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself, freely. And Jesus suffered, He was mocked, beaten, spat upon. He was truly oppress and afflicted and yet He did not open His mouth nor speak out concerning what was happening. He was lead like a lamb to the cross to be nailed on the cross for our sins and He died.
 
Jesus willingly suffered for our sins because of His great love for us. No greater love can anyone have for another person than to give their life for that person and that is exactly what Jesus did, He gave His life, His perfect life for us, for our imperfect sin filled lives.
 
Here again we are reminded that all the lambs that were sacrificed and slaughtered in the Old Testament were simply pointing to this one, once and for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ who came to take away the sins of the world. What great love our Father has for us, to take our sins, to pay the price for our sins and to give us the gift of forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness, life and salvation, which He gives to us through His means of grace. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It Is Sunday Morning, Am I Sick?

Jesus tells us, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). King David reminds us, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). In his Epistle John wrote the words we speak at the beginning of many Divine Services, “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). And once more, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
 
In Article II of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession we read these words that we as Lutherans confess, “But the knowledge of original sin is necessary. For the magnitude of the grace of Christ cannot be understood [no one can heartily long and have a desire for Christ, for the inexpressibly great treasure of divine favor and grace which the Gospel offers], unless our diseases be recognized. [As Christ says Matt. 9, 12; Mark 2, 17: They that are whole need not a physician.] The entire righteousness of man is mere hypocrisy [and abomination] before God, unless we acknowledge that our heart is naturally destitute of love, fear, and confidence in God [that we are miserable sinners who are in disgrace with God]”
 
As cited above, both the Gospel writers Matthew and Mark relate the following exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning Jesus’ involvement with sinners, “12But when he heard it, [Jesus] said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” (Matthew 9:12-13, cf. Mark 2:17).
 
The Pharisees were a very pious and “religious” group of people. They believed they had a place in the Kingdom of God because they were born as descendants of Abraham. They believed they were really good and because they believed the kept the “law” they did not need a Savior, much less one like Jesus. In other words, they did not believe they were “bad” enough to need their sins forgiven to ensure their eternal salvation.
 
I believe we are not much different in our world. Most people believe we are really good people. We tend to compare ourselves with others and as usual we can always find someone who is a worse person than we are, so we surmise that we are pretty good people. Perhaps speaking in civil terms we may be pretty good people, but what about in Godly terms. Unfortunately, this civil goodness is too often equated with godly goodness even in our own congregations today. When Sunday morning rolls around, or Wednesday evening during Advent and Lent, do we justify ourselves thinking we are pretty good people and do not have enough sin to need forgiveness, much like the Pharisees? Or do we believe we are a shoe in for heaven because our names are on the rolls of the congregations? Or do we readily recognize our sinful state and yearn and desire forgiveness from the great Physician.
 
Perhaps we are really a well congregation that is why we do not need a physician. Sunday after Sunday 60-70-80% of congregational members do not need a physician. However, the faithful few, the 20-30-40% who know their nature; conceived and born in sin, sinners in thought, word and deed, sinners by commission and omission, sinners whose every inclination is evil all the time, with a desire for forgiveness and the Lord’s help to change desire to attend Divine Service to be given forgiveness, to be restored, to be strengthened in faith, to be given a fresh start. Did Jesus call you a sinner, or are you one of the righteous who does not need a physician? Before you answer, remember this, without confession there is no forgiveness and without forgiveness there is no salvation. But with forgiveness there is life and salvation. Jesus’ desire is mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus’ desire is to give forgiveness, life and salvation.
 
It is interesting that the reformers took a lot of effort in article two of the Apology to get original sin correct. They understood “For the magnitude of the grace of Christ cannot be understood [no one can heartily long and have a desire for Christ, for the inexpressibly great treasure of divine favor and grace which the Gospel offers], unless our diseases be recognized.” They understood that “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” They understood that Jesus is truth. So we are either really good people and do not need a Savior, or we recognize our complete depravity and dependency on Jesus and want and desire His forgiveness every week, nay, even every day!
 
God loves you so much, and He has so many blessings He desires to give to you each and every Sunday, even on the Wednesdays of Advent and Lent, even at Wednesday and Sunday Bible Study. And we have His promise, “9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It does not get any better than that because we know that with forgiveness is life, even eternal life and salvation. To Him be the glory!