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!


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 26, 2020

He Explained to Them - April 26, 2020 - Third Sunday of Easter - Text: Luke 24:13-35

Our Easter celebration continues as we continue to declare that Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our Easter celebration continues because for us Christians every Sunday is an Easter celebration as we come to divine service to worship our risen Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Today we pick up the after Easter account again on Easter evening and the account of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As we hear this account, we place ourselves into the shoes of these two disciples as if we were there on the road with Jesus.
Our text begins with Jesus meeting up with the two disciples. We read beginning at verse thirteen, “13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (v. 13-16).
A couple of comments about these first verses. Notice that these were disciples, not apostles. The distinction we make between a disciple and an apostle is that the apostles were the twelve closest to Jesus, they were His inner circle. They were the ones that were set apart for special work for Jesus. Jesus had many other followers who were His disciples, which means they were His followers and learners. We rejoice because this definition reminds us that by faith in Jesus we too are His disciples and learners.
These two disciples were discussing the things that had been happening in Jerusalem. Their minds were filled with mixed emotions; grief, wonder, awe, and  confusion. They were not thinking about who was around them or who was listening in on their conversation, so they did not notice nor did they recognize Jesus as He walked along the road with them. The text says that their eyes were kept from recognized him. Jesus did this for a reason as we will see and as we know that all that Jesus does He does for a reason, a good reason, His Godly reasons.
Our text continues with Jesus speaking with the two disciples and asking a question. We pick up at verse seventeen, “17And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ 19And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see’” (v. 17-24).
These two disciples cannot believe Jesus does not know what had happened. Of course, we know that Jesus does know what had happened. He asks the question in order to help them express their feelings and so He can show them the truth.
You can almost sense the excitement in their voices as they share with Jesus, and yet at the same time there is sadness as we see that their faces are downcast. It is like it was an almost experience. We almost had a Messiah.
They explain everything that had happened according to their understanding. They thought that Jesus might be the Messiah, but He did not fit their understanding of the Messiah, because they were looking for an earthly Messiah. He was almost the man they were looking for, but not quite. The man they were looking for would not die on a cross.
Jesus responds as we continue at verse twenty-five, “25And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 25-27).
Jesus begins with a gentle, but caring rebuke. And He goes on to explain all of Moses and the Prophets. It is almost like He says, “alright I will try to explain this to you one more time, now pay attention.” Interestingly enough, they finally do get it, after the fact. Are we not the same way? After something is explained it becomes obvious to us. Oh, yeah!
For the rest of the account we read picking up at verse twenty-eight, “28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ 33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (28-35).
The two disciples had reached their destination, a place about six to seven miles from Jerusalem. Jesus acted as if He were going on, yet they urged Him to stay. They liked what they were hearing and wanted to hear more. In such a short time they had come to like this new found friend, this traveling companion. Jesus has such a way with touching peoples lives.
So, Jesus stays. He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it. Please understand, this is probably not the Lord’s Supper, simply an evening meal. As He gives them the bread we are told they recognize Him and He vanishes from their sight. What was it about this encounter? What was it that gave Jesus away? Was it the way He broke the bread? Was it what He said? What was it that now brought them to the realization that this was Jesus? It was the fact that Jesus opened their eyes so they could recognize Him. Jesus opened their eyes so they could understand all that had happened, that it happened according to God’s perfect plan and purpose.
After Jesus left, they began to express their excitement to each other. And they were so excited that they ran all the way back to Jerusalem, some six to seven miles away. And when they got to Jerusalem they shared what happened to them with the apostles and all the others that were there. Oh, what an exciting day.
What does this mean? We are a lot like those disciples on the road to Emmaus. We tend to be slow to believe, we tend to be a skeptical bunch. Often, we want to believe only what we want to believe, and only the way we want to believe it. Whenever you ask for peoples opinions, everyone is ready to jump in and give you theirs. But are we ready to put our opinions aside, our human reasoning aside and take a long, hard look at what God says, at what the Bible says? We are very much like those two on the road to Emmaus. We would rather form our own opinion and state our opinion as fact, and not change our opinion, we would rather listen to human reasoning even if it is contradictory to what God says, rather than actually face the facts, as the Bible tells us. We like to think that we are so much smarter than God. What does God know anyway? What has He done for us lately?
It is only when we go to Jesus, in His Word, or rather that He comes to us in His Word, that we can know the truth and then it is the Holy Spirit who works through the Word to point us to the Truth and that Truth is Jesus. We do not have to go very far, simply to the means of grace. The means of grace are those ways in which God gives us His gifts, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Those means are the Word, the Bible, confession and absolution and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, when we absent ourselves from these means we have a greater tendency to depend on our own thoughts and opinions, based on our own realities and not on God’s Truth, Jesus. And that is when we often have questions, concerns, cares and even worries about why God is not acting the way we think He should be acting. I am amazed at how many people turn their backs on God, shun Him, refuse His gifts by neglecting to be in divine service and Bible Class and then get upset with Him for not being the God they expect Him to be.
Being God is much like being a parent and a mother, except with greater responsibility, for the world. We try to raise our children right, yet we cannot make them live and do what is right and even though it hurts us when they stray and fail, we still love them and desire that they come to us and seek our wisdom and advice. And we continually fail God the same way. He has created us to love us. He loves us and He has shown His love in the giving of His life in Jesus for us. His desire is to be our God, to love us, to care for us, to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and yet how we hurt Him as we daily sin much, as we daily and weekly refuse His gifts and blessings opting to do something more important than be where He gives His gifts. And yet, He continues to love us.
Our Lord’s desire is to be our God, to love us and to care for us, so that when we do make use of His means of grace, when we do read His Word, when we do confess our sins, when we do remember our Baptism, when we do partake of His body and blood, then our eyes are opened. With our eyes open, we confess our sins and we are given forgiveness, faith, strengthening of faith, life and salvation.
God has so much that He wants to give to us. We are very much living in the days of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, that is we are living after the resurrection fact. We can look back and with eyes wide open we can see how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the books of Moses, the Law and the Prophets. We can look back and see the Easter fact of the resurrection. And we then move from depending on ourselves and our misunderstandings to depending on the Lord and His Truth, and grace, Jesus Christ, the Lord. We are moved to be loved by God, to be forgiven and robed with His righteousness. And we are then moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2020

April 2020 Newsletter on Bad Things Happening

With God, there is no such thing as a coincidence. For example, a pericopy system, or a Lectionary of readings has been around since Biblical times. A pericopy system, that is a reading around the text or as we call it today, our Lectionary reading system has been around many years and the purpose of such a system is to give the Church a way to hear the whole council of God over the time span of a year or in our case three years. So, readings have been appointed for each Sunday of the Church Year so that over three years we hear very much of the word of God. And these reading systems have been in place for many years. The point is that there is no coincidence that the readings we heard over the last weeks that have to do with bad things happening, such as the COVID 19 virus.

We have asked the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and we realize that is not the right question to ask. We understand that we are not good people. As a matter of fact, we are sinful people, we are evil people, we are people who constantly do everything we can to sabotage Jesus and His work of saving others. We are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much, adding to our sin. What each one of us is deserving of is death, even eternal death and hell.

The question we ask is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but, “Why do good things happen to sinful people.” And the answer is in God’s Word as we heard in the Gospel readings from Mar. 22 and 29, “That the works of God might be displayed” (John 9:3), and “It is for God’s glory” (John 11:4). We have a God who loves us so much and who has only in mind the best for us. Certainly we will suffer trials and tribulations in this world, but these things are not from God, but are a result of sin, that is, because we live in a world of sin and a world cursed because of sin. God loves us and He works to bring the best out for us in any given situation. Someone once described life like looking at a piece of cross stitching. When you look at the back of a piece which has been cross stitched, what you see are the knots and a lot of thread dangling. Knots in cross stitching are inevitable. However, when you turn the cross stitched piece over, what you see is a beautiful picture. Life is very similar, what we see is the bottom. We see the knots. We see the mess. We experience the pains of life. What God sees is the top. He is looking down from top down. And what He sees is the beautiful person He is making us to be. What He sees is the beautiful life He is weaving for us.

Yes, “bad” things happen in our lives, such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, COVID viruses, etc. We can blame others. We can blame the pastor. We can blame our parents. We can blame our government. We can even blame God. There may even be a time when we might, perhaps, blame ourselves. The fact of the matter is that in our own lives, God is constantly working out the best for us in any given situation. Perhaps you have been reading some of the good things that have been happening because of the virus situation, such as family members spending time together. People getting time to actually rest. People praying more. Indeed, God’s desire is that as He works out the best for us, praise and glory are given to His Holy Name.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Women - April 12, 2020 - Easter Morning - Text: Matt. 28:1-10

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! This morning we meet several characters around the cross. This morning we meet the women who were so important and supportive in Jesus’ life and ministry.
The last time we met we stood with the women and the rest of the crowd and we left with Jesus’ death and burial. That was on Friday. On Good Friday we watched Jesus die. We watched our God die. We watched as the soldiers nailed the already beaten, stricken, smitten and afflicted Jesus to the cross. We watched Him hang there suffering physical suffering. We watched Him suffering eternal death, hell for us in our place. We watched Him for what seemed like an eternity, an eternity of death and hell which should have been ours to suffer.
We watched as the soldier pierced Jesus’ side to make sure He was dead. We watched as they gently took Him down from the cross. Because He was already dead they did not break any of his bones which was the usual thing in a crucifixion, that is to break their bones lest they crawl off from their grave. We followed along with the women and we watched Jesus being put in the tomb.
Then, with the women we left to mourn, but we had hope. Of course, as Christians, we understand that our hope is not an iffy, maybe hope. As Christians we had hope, that is we had certainty. We knew the promises. We knew that Jesus was who He said He was, the Messiah, the Christ. Last Friday we left and as we left we left looking ahead to this morning and our day of celebration.
Today we do celebrate. We celebrate because our God rose. He did not stay dead. Death and the tomb were no match for Him. He rose and He is alive. How significant this resurrection is to the Christian faith. Our Christian faith is grounded in history, in Jesus history. Our Christian faith is grounded in the fact that although our God in the person of Jesus in human flesh suffered and died on the cross, He did not stay dead, but rose from the dead. We worship, not a dead God, but a living God. And to make sure we know He is a living God He showed Himself many times to be alive.
Jesus showed Himself to the women. Early on Sunday morning, just as the Sun was rising, they were on their way to the tomb, in their minds, to complete the preparations of Jesus’ body for burial. Their discussion was about who would role the stone away to open the tomb. They went to show their last respects and love to their Lord. And yet, when they arrived they found that He was not there. At this point the stone was no problem. The stone was already rolled away, not because the stone had to be rolled away for Jesus to rise. He rose and an earthquake, and act of God moved the stone away from the opening of the grace. The stone was rolled away in order to show that He had already risen. The women looked in the tomb and the angel reassured them, “do not be afraid.” “Look the tomb is empty.”
And to reassure them even more, Jesus showed Himself to the women. They could see Him, they touched Him. They did not want to let Him go, because of their love and devotion to Him. Jesus also showed Himself to many others. We are confident that He rose from the dead, as He said He would.
Today we celebrate. We celebrate that Jesus was and is God. We celebrate that He gave up the glory that was His in heaven. We celebrate that He came down to earth and took on human flesh and blood, that He was born as a little baby in Bethlehem.
We celebrate that Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place. God’s demand has always been perfection, be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect. Yet, we cannot be perfect. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, we are conceived and born in sin. Every intention of our hearts is evil all the time. Indeed, we are not and cannot be perfect, no matter how hard we might try. Yet, what we cannot do, be perfect, Jesus did for us. What a whole nation, what a whole world cannot do, Jesus did for us. Jesus was born so that He might live perfectly for us in our place. We might say that the fullness of the Gospel is in this fact, that Jesus lived for us in our place.
Even more, we celebrate that Jesus fulfilled all the Law perfectly. He did not come to abolish the Law, but He came fulfilled the Law, all the Law. He did everything that was required by God. And He did everything He did for us, in our place, because we cannot.
We celebrate that Jesus took all our sins upon Himself. He took our sins of commission, that is the sins we sin by doing what we are commanded not to do. He took our sins of omission, that is our sins of failing to do what we should be doing. He took our sins of thought, word and deed. He took all our sins even those of which we are not aware. And so we celebrate that He suffered and died the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place. He died so that we might have forgiveness of sins, all sins, not just some sins, not just the big sins or the small sins, but all sins. And not just for our sins, but for the sins of all people of all places of all times. Yes, even the sins we have yet to commit have been paid for by Jesus on the cross. Nothing more needs to be done.
On Friday, last Friday, what we call Good Friday our God, Jesus, God in human flesh suffered and died. Yes, God died. This statement should not be a surprise to us. Just as we humans have a body and a soul and when we die our soul separates from our body, so too with Jesus. When Jesus, God in flesh died on the cross, His soul, His deity separated from His body. He died as we die, yet as we know, with Jesus, being truly God, He also had the power we do not have.
And so we celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead and that because He rose we know that we too will rise. Being truly God, death had no hold on Jesus and because Jesus defeated death, so now death has no hold on us. Because Jesus rose, because the Father raised Him from the dead, He has promised that He will raise us.
We celebrate that Jesus promised to return to take us to heaven be with Himself. He is there now, preparing a place for each one of us. He is in heaven watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. And at the same time that He is in heaven, because He is true God, He continues to be everywhere present as well. Indeed He is with us as He is present with His body and blood in His Holy Supper. But, again, He has promised that He will return to gather us and all the saints in order to take us to be with Himself in heaven. And as He has kept all of His promises, we know that He will keep this one as well.
We celebrate that He sends the Holy Spirit to bring us, strengthen us, and keep us in faith. The Holy Spirit is with us today, working through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, The very Word of God read and proclaimed, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit works through these means as we make regular and diligent use of them, again, bringing us, strengthening us, and keeping us in faith.
We celebrate that He gives us the authority to tell others. The great commission is the great promise. The disciples were afraid. We may be afraid. Jesus says, “All authority is mine and I give it to you.” We do not have to be afraid to tell others the good news of Jesus, because He is with us to help us. As a matter of fact, because we have such great news, our desire, as we are filled with the gifts of God, we overflow and cannot help ourselves, but bubble up and share the good news of our living God with others.
Jesus showed Himself to the women, alive. He shows Himself to us, alive through His means of grace. Thanks be to God that Jesus came, that He lived, that He suffered and died, that He rose and that He will come again to take us to be with Himself in heaven. To Him be the glory. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

I Have Seen the Lord - April 12, 2020 - Easter Sunrise - Text: John 20:1-18 (v. 13, 18)

He is risen! (He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!) Friday we came and declared our God to be dead. This morning we come to declare that not even death could hold Him, for He has conquered death, He has risen and He lives and reigns to all eternity.
This morning we come early to the tomb with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary came as soon as she could following the Sabbath, which actually ended at sunset on Saturday. She came as soon as the Sun began to rise. She came, but she could not find Jesus. She could not find Jesus’ physical body and she was upset, because she did not understand why she could not find His body. Mary had witnessed Jesus suffer and die on the cross. She had witnessed the body of Jesus being buried. She came to the place where He was buried and yet, she could not find Jesus. She could not find Jesus because she did not understand the Word. She did not understand that Jesus did what He said He would do, He rose from the dead.
The account of the resurrection is quite an historical account. It is an almost unbelievable account. Yet, it is a history of great joy. To the uninitiated it is an account of wonder. Many years ago, while serving in a congregation that had a day care facility, there was one little boy in the day care who heard what he thought was something unbelievable. Every week on a certain day, Wednesday I believe it was, the children would come into the church sanctuary for a short chapel service. We would sing some songs and the talk about Jesus. One such morning, following Easter, while we were talking about Jesus dying on the cross this little boy understood what it meant that Jesus died on the cross. But as I went on, and when I told him that Jesus rose from the dead his response was, “Nuh uh!” It seems as if he had never heard that great good news and he could not believe it. Well, he does believe it now. Thanks be to God.
According to our sinful human nature, we are like Mary, we cannot find Jesus. No matter how hard we look, we cannot find Jesus. Perhaps a part of our problem might be that we have a tendency to look in all the wrong places. Too often today we are encouraged to look inside ourselves. Too often we are told the answer is in us and we can do it. Unfortunately, because of our sinful nature, because we are conceived and born in sin, because every intention of our hearts is evil all the time, when we look inside ourselves we do not see Jesus, rather we see our sinful selves. Again, we look in all the wrong places. Thanks be to God, that instead of our looking for Jesus the fact is that Jesus is constantly seeking us and finding us. He is the one who comes to us. He is the one who gives us faith.
Getting back to our text, Jesus brings Mary to a right understanding of all the events that have taken place. Jesus opens Mary’s heart and mind through the Word, His Word. Jesus gives Mary the faith that she needs to understand and to believe.
In much the same way, Jesus opens our hearts to believe. He comes to us through the means of grace, through the Word and the Sacraments to bring us to faith, to strengthen our faith and to keep us in faith until He comes again. Jesus comes to us through water and the Word, His name at our Baptism. Jesus comes to us to forgive our sins as we make confession of our sins and hear His Word of Absolution through the Pastor’s mouth. Jesus gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through our hearing of His Holy Word read and proclaimed. Jesus strengthens our faith as we eat His body and drink His blood in His Holy Supper. It is through these very means, these means of grace, these means of gift giving that Jesus gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. And perhaps you may have noticed that the heart of these means, the power of the means is the very Word of God Himself.
Indeed, Jesus’ desire is that all people are saved. Jesus’ desire is that the message of salvation is proclaimed to all. He is the Savior of all people and as such He comes to all people to open their hearts so that all will believe.
Mary’s response to seeing Jesus alive was to go out and tell others. She could not keep the news to herself. Our text points out that Jesus tells her to go and tell the disciples, but I think she would have done that anyway.
Mary’s faith overflows with confession. It is as if she could not contain her words. The news, the great good news, the excitement, that her Lord was not dead, but was alive.
Likewise, we overflow with our confession as we are lead by the means of grace. As we make use of the means of grace, reading our Bible, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins and hearing the most beautiful words of absolution, that our sins are forgiven, coming to the Lord’s Supper, as we make use of these means, the Holy Spirit works through these means to bring us to faith, to strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith until Christ comes again to take us to heaven. Our confession overflows into our lives. People know that we have faith, they know our confession because of the way we live, what we think, what we say and what we do. We cannot hide our faith. Likewise, if people do not know our confession, is it really our confession?
What do we do? We believe as the Lord calls us to believe. I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, His Word, the means of grace, enlightened me with His gifts, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, more means of grace. He works in me, motivating me to do the good works which God has for me to do.
Thus, we share the good news as the Lord moves us. We cannot help but bubble over with the good news of salvation. I have used and will continue to use the illustration of the pitcher and the cup. As our cups are filled with God’s Word from His pitcher, the Bible, we get to the point where we overflow and spill that Word on to others, so that they too are brought to faith and are a part of God’s kingdom.
And we give glory to the Lord. We give glory to the Lord as we live our lives to His glory. We give glory to the Lord as we live in such a way that others see us and say, not, what a great person they are, but what a great God they have.
This morning we come to the tomb with Mary. We have been with Jesus through His long hours of suffering and death on the cross. We watched as He suffered the worst death of all, death on the cross and eternal death and hell. We have come early with Mary to watch as she came to complete the burial preparations and now we have seen, the body is not in the grave. We rejoice and celebrate because we know now that our God is not dead, but that He is risen. Indeed, we now rejoice because Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has won the victory. Our sins have been forgiven, the price being paid by Jesus. What a great God we have. What loving God we have. What a powerful God we have. Again, what a living God we have. We worship, not a dead God but a living God. And so we proclaim to all: He is risen! (He is risen indeed, Alleluia.) Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Ultimate Sacrifice - Good Friday - April 10, 2020 - Text: Exodus 12:21-27; 1 Peter 1:14-21

Yesterday we celebrated the Passover with our Lord. We were given His new meal in which we were given His body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins. This evening we go out to the cross with our Lord. As we go out to the cross we are reminded of the Lamb, the lamb eaten in the Passover, even the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The old covenant that God made with us and the old covenant that He narrowed and renewed with His people, especially with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel was a covenant that was made way back in the Garden of Eden. God had created everything perfect, good and even very good and then turned the world over to Adam and Eve who had perfect freedom of the will because they only knew good. God had given for Adam and Eve to care for the garden and to only do one thing as a response of faith, that is they were not to eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, with the result being that if they should disobey the punishment would be death. Thus, the price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden and it was set at death, physical death and eternal death in hell. And as we know the history, they did disobey God. They did eat of the forbidden fruit. They did sin, and the price for sin was given out as death. Fortunately, because God is love, He immediately stepped in and promised to send a Savior, one who would pay the price for their sin. And notice, this first promise was made to Adam and Eve. This promise was made before there was a Jew or a Gentile, thus, this promise was indeed a promise given to all people.
After some time, God reiterated His promise to send a Savior. He did this by selecting, calling and setting apart a man named Abram. Through Abram’s line of descent, the Savior of the world would be born. God reiterated His promise time and again to Abraham’s descendants. And after delivering His children, the children of Israel out of bondage of slavery in Egypt, God instituted the sacrificial system of offerings to remind the people that the price for sin was death.
The offerings of sacrifices, especially the offerings of blood sacrifice reminded the people again and again that blood had to be shed, that sin had consequences and that death was a result of sin. At the same time, none of the sacrifices of the Old Testament earned anything, at least not forgiveness, all they did was to point to and foreshadow the one, once and for all sacrifice of the Messiah, Christ the Lord, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
This evening as we celebrate Good Friday, we are reminded again of this price for sin. Yesterday we celebrated the giving of the Lord’s Supper. After Jesus celebrated the Passover Seder with His disciples, He gave them the new covenant. The new covenant was very much like the old covenant. The old covenant was based on faith, faith in the coming Messiah. The new covenant is also based on faith, faith that Jesus is the Messiah.
After celebrating the Passover and giving us the Lord’s Supper, Jesus went with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed. In His prayer Jesus prayed that, if possible, the cup of suffering for which He was born into this world, the cup of suffering which was always before Him, might be removed. Perhaps there was another way. Yet, Jesus continued to pray, not His will but the will of God the Father.
After His prayer, Jesus was strengthened, and especially He was strengthened in His resolve to give His life for His people and He went on to fulfill the covenant.
In the Old Testament, the lamb was the main animal sacrificed. But not just any old lamb. The lamb for the sacrifice was to be unblemished. It was to be without spot or mark. The lamb was selected and set aside for four days from the tenth day of the month to the fourteenth day.
On the fourteenth day of the month the lamb was killed. The blood was to be collected in a basin and was painted on the doorposts and lintels with a branch of hyssop. This painting was the sign of the cross, the up and down of the doorpost and the cross piece, side to side on the lintels.
The lamb was roasted and eaten, all of the lamb was eaten and it was eaten by all those who would be in the house being protected by the sign of the blood of that very lamb on the doorposts and lintels. There was a definite connection between those being passed over and saved and the blood of the lamb that was sacrificed. There was a definite connection between those being saved in their partaking of the lamb that was sacrificed.
And Jesus comes and He is the Lamb. John the Baptist points to Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Just as a lamb does not defend itself, but quietly goes to the slaughter, so Jesus did not defend Himself, but went willingly to the cross.
Very often when we think of lamb we think of them as innocent. We even speak of one being as innocent as a lamb. Jesus too was innocent. He was conceived and born in perfection. He lived a perfect life, never sinning. He was innocent.
And just as the lamb is killed, his blood is shed, so too, Jesus was killed. He shed His blood on the cross and He died.
Which brings us to our celebration. Yes, we do celebrate Good Friday. It is called Good Friday for a reason, because for us Christians it is good. Certainly the fact that our sins caused Jesus to suffer and die is not good, but what is good are the gifts given through Jesus. Just as the lamb of the Old Testament was brought, killed, and eaten so that those in the house might be covered by the blood of the lamb, so we are covered by the blood of Jesus. He gave His life on the cross, suffering the worst of punishments, eternal death and hell, along with the physical death He suffered. Jesus was killed. His blood was shed and He gives us His body and blood to eat, especially through His Supper.
Not only are we covered through the Lord’s death and resurrection, through His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are also covered through Holy Baptism. At our Baptism, through the outward means of water and the speaking of the Lord’s name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s name is put on us, faith is put in our hearts, we are given forgiveness of sins and our names are written in the book of life in heaven.
And we are also covered through His Word and through Confession and Absolution. God’s Word does what it says. When we confess our sins, when we hear those wonderful words of forgiveness, then we know we have exactly what is said, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness is life and salvation.
We could talk about what is fair and right. We could talk about the fact that we do not get what we deserve and Jesus did not get what He deserved. Instead, we get what was His and what was ours is His and we say, thanks be to God.
And so this evening we come to remember. We come to give thanks. We are sad because of our sins, but we know how this will end. We worship, not a dead God, but a living God. We worship the God who defeated sin, death and the devil. We worship the One God who does all and gives all. Yes, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Afikomen and the Third Cup - Maundy Thursday - April 9, 2020 - Text: Ex. 12:1-13; 1 Peter 1:14-21

Today we come and we celebrate. We remember the events of the first Passover. We are reminded of the deliverance of the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, but more important, we are reminded of our own deliverance from the bondage of slavery to sin. Today we also, even more importantly remember what our Lord Jesus Christ gives to us in this celebration, that is that from this Passover meal He gives to us a new meal, His own meal, even His Supper wherein we eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Last week, Wednesday evening, we talked about the eating of the lamb which foreshadowed the one Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Today we come to the place where the meal has been eaten, and a couple weeks ago we described the various parts of the meal, the various foods and their meaning. And the lamb has been eaten. After the meal has been eaten and before the third cup of wine is consumed, there is the eating of the bread. Normally the daily meal would consist of one loaf of bread, but on the Sabbath there are two loaves of bread, this was to serve as a reminder of the double portion of manna which fell on Friday for Israel as they traveled in the wilderness (Ex. 16:22). In honor of Passover, a third matzah was added specifically for the Seder.
At the beginning of the Seder meal, three pieces of Matzah are placed in a special covering. The middle Matzah, called the afikomon, is broken and only half is placed in the special covering. It is placed in the middle of the covering, between the other two pieces. The other half is hidden until the last part of the Seder. Although this remains a mystery for those of the Jewish faith, for us Christians, the three Matzah are indeed a reminder of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The middle Matzah that was broken and half hidden reminds us of Jesus being broken, crucified and buried.
The Matzah bread is a bread that is baked without using leaven or yeast, which was removed before the celebration began and we talked about that several weeks ago. The Matzah bread very much resembles a large unsalted cracker. In its baking, the Matzah bread is pierced, that is holes are poked in it, and it is striped. This piercing and striping remind us of Jesus stripes and piercing during His trials, suffering and death.
At this point in the Jewish Seder the afikomon is found and then redeemed or ransomed for a small token, in other words, the leader of the Seder offers some token, a piece of candy or the like, to the children who have searched and found the Matzah.
When Jesus celebrated the Passover Seder with His disciples, it was at this point in His celebration of the Seder, on Maundy Thursday, that Jesus changed this and gave us the Lord’s Supper. Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples as an example of what they should do for each other, how they should lead by being servants for others. Jesus had announced that one of His disciples would betray Him and then dipped the bread and passed it to Judas, which we said was a sign of one’s love for another. Now it was the time for the afikomon to be found. Scripture does not tell us of children finding the bread and returning it for a reward, which makes me think this is a more recent addition to the meal. Instead, the bread is brought out and distributed. We are told that Jesus takes the bread, blesses it and proclaims it as His body, “Take and eat, this is my body”. Jesus does not call or suggest this to be a symbolic act, nor does he say or suggest that the bread is no longer present. He says this bread, which He is holding in His hand, is my body.
We make the connection to the Old Testament as we are reminded that in the temple, the lamb was sacrificed and eaten. Here, now, Jesus takes this middle matzah, the bread that was broke and buried and declares this as His body. Jesus is going to the cross to be sacrificed, dead, and buried and then risen and eaten. Yes, at the Lord’s Supper we are eating Jesus very body for us, for our forgiveness. This eating ties us to and unites us with Jesus. This eating makes Jesus a part of us.
And then the third cup, the cup of redemption is consumed. Following the distribution of the middle matzoh, Jesus takes the third cup, the cup of redemption. He offers the blessings, Ba-ruch, a-tah A-do-nai, e-lo-hay-nu me-lech ha-o-lam, bo-ray p’ree ha-ga-fen. Translation: Blessed are you, O LORD our God, King of the universe, who makes the fruit of the vine.
Jesus then distributes the third cup of wine telling His disciples and us that “This is My Blood.” Jesus does not say nor imply that this is a symbolic gesture, nor does He say or imply that there is no longer any wine present, rather He uses the word is. This is my blood. This blood along with this wine, this body along with this bread are the main things in this Supper, the eating and drinking of the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Himself for us, for our forgiveness, life and salvation. This eating and drinking tie us in to and unite us with Jesus the one giving His life, the one being sacrifice for us, in our stead, once and for all for our forgiveness.
All the pointing of the Old Testament, all the foreshadowing, all the types are now having their fulfillment, their culmination in what is taking place here. The whole Passover, the whole Seder, the whole order of God’s Word points to Jesus and is fulfilled here in Jesus. Jesus came to do what the whole people of Israel could not do. Jesus came to do what is required of all people and what all people cannot do. Jesus came to live perfectly. He came to fulfill all God’s laws perfectly. He came to fulfill all God’s promises perfectly and He did.
Jesus is the ultimate Deliverer, Redeemer. To redeem something means to buy it back or to give something in trade for. Jesus bought us back, He traded His life for ours. He paid the price, the cost, the wage for our sins. As we come to His table, as we partake of His true body and His true blood in His Holy Meal, we are united with Him so that His life is indeed our life, we are perfect; His death is our death, the price for our sins has been paid; and His resurrection is our resurrection.
To quote my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Norman Nagel, “The Lord’s Supper is surely what it is when it is the Lord’s doing. He has done Calvary. ‘The passion of Christ occurred but once on the cross. But whom would it benefit if it were not distributed, applied and put to us?’ If you want your sins forgiven you do not go to Calvary, but to the Lord’s Supper. At Calvary it was achieved but not given out. Here it is not achieved but it is given you. As the Small Catechism confesses, the two chief things are the bodily eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ and the words for you. Into mouth and into faith; unfaith can repudiate the gift, but it cannot make the Lord’s words untrue. It can profane his body and blood to mortal consequence” (Dr. Norman Nagel). And so we celebrate and we give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy does endure forever. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

He Saved Others, but He Could Not Save Himself - April 5, 2020 - Palm Sunday - Text: Matthew 27:11-54

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, as people waved Palm branches and carpeted the road with their coats and with the palm branches. Unfortunately, our Bible Reading series has changed the readings from the Palm Sunday reading to a Passion account reading, that is a reading of the suffering and dying of Jesus, so that next week we can hear the Easter texts of His resurrection. I would suppose this change has come about because we live in a world which no longer takes Jesus’ suffering and death seriously. Too many people no longer see the need to be in divine service on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to hear the passion history, the accounts of the suffering of Jesus and without the suffering and death of Jesus, how could we celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday. So, our readings are now readings of Jesus passion on the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday.
I want to begin by talking about our text and although we heard the shorter version of the appointed reading I will be speaking about the whole appointed text which began back at Maudy Thursday evening.. The account that we have heard so far has been that Jesus did ride triumphant into Jerusalem as the crowds cheered Him on. He celebrated the Passover with His disciples in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. After the Passover He went out with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. When He was done praying, Judas brought a gang of thugs, that is the synagogue soldiers to arrest Jesus. He was up all night being interrogated. He was interrogated all morning on Friday. He was beaten, whipped, mocked, spat upon, and so forth. Finally, here it was, Friday afternoon, He was nailed to the cross, yet the mocking did not cease but continued.
While Jesus hung on the cross, the Pharisees continued to mock Him and said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” These words reveal the visions that were in the eyes of the Pharisees, how they saw things, which was quite differently from the way God saw things. The Pharisees’ vision of the Messiah was that he would be an earthly king. To be an earthly king he must, no doubt, be strong and able to overcome all things. If Jesus would come down from the cross, then certainly His claims to be the Messiah might have some foundation and validity, at least as far as the Pharisees were concerned. Jesus must prove that He is the Messiah. He must prove it by passing the tests which the Pharisees have for Him. Obviously, the Pharisees have been missing the proofs all along. The Gospel writer John continually pointed out through the signs and wonders, the miracles, that Jesus performed as proof that He was the Messiah. For the Pharisees, these signs and wonders, these miracles, were only hassles as they tried to find some way to disprove or to cover up Jesus’ true identity.
The Pharisees’ vision of the Son of God was that he would be one of them. Certainly the Pharisees were among the most holy of the people, at least in their own eyes, so if God was going to send His Son He would send Him among the Pharisees. And this Son of God, this Savior would be on the side of the Pharisees. He would come and set them up as the leaders and rulers in the land, because that was their position already. Notice that theirs was a vision of grandeur which included power, greed and authority.
The Pharisees’ vision of the cross was that it was not the place for a king. As a matter of fact, anyone who would subject themselves to death on the cross shows that they are the exact opposite of what a Pharisee would see as a king. The cross was the sign of sin and a king would not be associated with sin. The sign of the cross was a sign of weakness and a king could not and would not be weak. The cross was a sign of the worst form of death, used only on those who, obviously, deserve the worst and cruelest form of punishment. A king would never be subject to such a death.
We can at least say that the Pharisees were right in some of their thinking. They were right in the fact that the cross was a punishment for the worst form of sin. What they missed was that they, and here we include ourselves, are the sinners for whom the cross was meant. It is our sins which have earned for us the eternal death penalty of hell. It is our sins which truly deserve to be punished on the cross. Thankfully, with God’s help, we are able to recognize our sins and what our sins deserve, so that we are able to repent, that is, to put them on Jesus, who took our sins on Himself in order to pay the price for us, in our place. We are glad Jesus did not come down from the cross, but stayed and paid the price of our sins for us.
Getting back to the Pharisees, about Jesus, as He suffered on the cross, they went on to say, “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself!” The Pharisees did admit this one thing, maybe because there was no way to deny it. They admitted that Jesus saved others. Of course, they were not thinking in terms of eternal salvation, but in terms of healing, raising from the dead, casting out demons and the like.
What the Pharisees failed to realize is that Jesus could have saved Himself. He could have come down from the cross. He could have called down legions of angels to destroy His enemies. He could have, He could have, He could have. Jesus is true God, He could have done anything He wanted to do. And He did do what He wanted to do, and what He came to do, He stayed on the cross and gave His life on the cross for our sins, so that we might be given forgiveness, and with forgiveness, life and salvation.
Jesus could have saved Himself, but in so doing He would not have saved others, He would not have saved us. The Pharisees had it backwards. They said they would believe Jesus was the Savior if He would save Himself. If Jesus saved Himself, He would not be the Savior, at least, not our Savior. Jesus was our Savior because He did not save Himself, but because He gave Himself up for us on the cross.
As I read this text for today a couple of questions came to mind. Where were the disciples? and where are we? Did you notice the absence of the disciples from our text. Their absence is quite a statement of their lack of faith, their lack of loyalty, their fear for their own lives and so on. They were no where to be found (except for John). I think their absence reflects on us when we are in the position of giving witness to the faith that is in our hearts. Do we give a good witness of faith, or do we give a witness of no faith. When we have the opportunity to give a good witness, do we distance ourselves from our Savior by our actions as well as our words.
When Jesus suffered on the cross, He suffered alone. His disciples left Him. He gave His mother to John. Even God the Father forsook Him as we hear Him cry, “My God, My God, why do You forsake me?” Not a pretty sight and one which we have a hard time talking about ourselves.
So, where are we when it comes time to show our faith? Do we let our faith shine or do we run and hide like the disciples? This is an important question because this is what our Christian life is all about, being priests and living our lives as living sacrifices, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus as our Savior.
Many congregations carry on the tradition of Palm Sunday being confirmation Sunday, and that is our tradition here as St. Matthew. Unfortunately, this year we do not have any confirmands ready and we are still dealing with “social distancing”. With that said, I believe it is still appropriate that we take the time to review exactly what it was that we promised at our own confirmation. Do you remember what you promised at your confirmation? If you would like, refer to page 272 in the Lutheran Service Book, the questions are printed there, and while these questions are not exactly the same questions that are in The Lutheran Hymnal Agenda, which was used for the confirmation of some of you, they are very close. I will not rehearse these questions this morning, however, I will summarize what we all confessed and to what we all committed ourselves. We all confessed our faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in our belief that the Bible is God’s Word, not merely contains the Word of God; that we believe the Small Catechism is not a replacement of the Bible, but is a true explanation of that Bible; that we promised with our life, to be faithful in our divine service and Bible Class attendance, in our Bible reading, in our partaking of the Lord’s Supper, in our remembering our Baptism; and that we would suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it, meaning that we will remain a member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, even if it meant we would die, rather than join any other church denomination. These were not questions that were asked for the fun of it. We were not asked to make a frivolous oath to do these things. We were asked to think about the promise, the oath, the vow that we would take and then to take that vow seriously. You may not realize it, but every time you come to the Lord’s Supper you reiterate your confession of faith in all the doctrines of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and reaffirm you confirmation vow. God has made promises to us and He has not gone back on His promises.
You may remember that we answered several questions, “by the grace of God.” We cannot keep our promises, even the ones we make to God, by ourselves, in that way we are a lot like Jesus’ disciples at His crucifixion, absent. For this reason we do not depend on ourselves and that is why we make our vow, our promise by the grace of God. God is helping, God is being gracious, unfortunately we can resist God’s help and His grace. But God is persistent. He comes to us every time we read His Word, He brings us back here every week, to be reminded of His forgiveness. Confirmation is a beginning, not an end, not a graduation. It is the beginning of our taking responsibility for our own faith life.
We can either absent ourselves from the things of God, from church and Bible class, or we can take part in the things of God. Either way, absenting ourselves or taking part in and being given the things of God will show, more than what our words say, what our confirmation and the vows we made really mean to us. But please remember, as we made our vows, we made them with the help of God and by the grace of God. God is with us, until we tell Him we need Him no longer, which I pray we never do.
Today, we are reminded once again, as we are every Sunday, that Jesus came to save us. He saved us because He did not save Himself, because He did not come down from the cross. He saved us because of His great love for us. He saved us by giving up the glory of heaven that was His, by taking on human flesh and blood, and by giving His life to be crucified, suffering the worst of deaths, death on the cross. He has made His vow to be with us, to protect us, to strengthen and keep us in our faith, and finally to bring us to His home in heaven. And we praise His name because we know that He will keep His promises to us, for Jesus sake. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb - Lent Mid-week 6 - April 1, 2020 - Text: Ex. 12:1-13; 1 Peter 1:14-21 (esp. v. 18-19)

After the Lord delivered the Children of Israel from their bondage of slavery in Egypt, by the hand of Moses, He instituted the Passover Feast as an annual remembrance of their deliverance. As we have said and as we are continually being reminded during this Lenten season, we human beings have a tendency to forget and one way to remember then is to rehearse, to celebrate, to reenact the event or thing we wish to remember over and over again. Four weeks ago we heard the four questions and their answers as a part of the Passover celebration. Three weeks ago we heard about the first two cups of wine, the cup of Sanctification and the cup of Deliverance. Two weeks ago we talked about the food eaten during the Passover and the meaning of each food eaten. Last week we moved on to the point that the meal has been eaten and we talked about the fourth cup of wine, the cup of blessing. Today we want to talk about the main course of the meal, the lamb.
If you have ever been to a petting zoo, or a children’s zoo what you may notice is that there is usually an abundance of lambs, little lambs. I would guess this is because lambs are cute. Lambs are somewhat soft, with all that baby wool and all. And lambs are usually pretty tame, at least tame enough for the little children. Lambs are so cute, who could ever think or imagine a lamb for any other purpose than to be a pet? In Old Testament times and really, even today the importance of a lamb and sheep in general is that they produce wool, milk, and yes, even meat to eat. They are very useful animals.
So, while the lamb grows up to be a sheep and a sheep is useful for producing useful items, the symbol of a lamb continues to be that it is helpless and pure. And we have been taught from early on about how sheep are not necessarily the brightest animals in the barnyard. We know that sheep do not see very well and so they are known for following the animal in front of them, and almost following them anywhere. We know that sheep cannot care for themselves and really cannot even defend themselves. And while we are on the subject, we also are reminded of how our Lord refers to us as His sheep and the fact that He is our good shepherd. So, with this as some background, let us move on to the role and purpose of the lamb in the Passover Seder celebration.
At the first Passover the children of Israel were instructed to select a lamb, one that was unblemished, without spot or stain, with no health problems, no broken bones. They were to select this lamb and set it aside, away from the rest of the flock. This was to be done on the tenth day and this was to be done until the fourteenth day. As for the why of this setting aside, some have suggested that it was for the sake of allowing time for the Egyptians to see what was happening and to ask why so the people might have some time to offer a defense of their faith, certainly showing the Lord’s patience in not wanting anyone to suffer, yet this explanation seems a bit lacking and contrived. Perhaps the best explanation is so that everyone will be on the same “page” so to speak in getting everything ready, in other words, so that no one, not one of the children of Israel would be lost.
On the fourteenth day the lambs were to be killed at twilight. The blood was to be collected and was to be painted, with hyssop, that is by using a branch of the hyssop bush as a paint brush, on the two doorposts and lintel of the house. As we will begin to see and understand as we go along, all of this is a foreshadowing, a type of the one who would come to give His life for all. The lamb is the type of the lamb of God, even Jesus Himself, as John the Baptist so well points Him out and labels Him when he points to Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The painting of the blood on the door posts, up and down and on the lintel, across, suggests the making of the sign of the cross, the instrument of death on which the lamb of God would die.
The lamb was then cooked, roasted, probably over an open fire, barbecued and eaten. It was eaten completely. There was to be nothing remaining because they would take nothing with them on their exodus.
For us Christians, for those Christians who celebrate the Passover Seder today, we understand that Christ is the Passover Lamb. Christ is a firstborn male, born of Mary, conceived of God, without blemish, perfect and holy.
Christ was set aside, not on the tenth day, but from the creation of the world. God, in His divine foreknowledge knew what was going to happen with His creation and so, from even before He began His work of creation He set aside His Son for the work of redeeming His people. Jesus was also set aside from birth, acknowledged by the angels, by the shepherds and by the Magi from the east. He was set aside from His baptism as the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and the voice of God the Father spoke. He was confirmed in His office as Savior at the transfiguration when the voice of God was heard again.
Jesus shed His blood. He shed His blood as He was beaten and whipped, “stricken, smitten and afflicted.” He shed His blood as He hung on the cross, on the horizontal (doorpost) and vertical (lintel) cross.
At His Holy Supper we eat and drink His true body and His true blood, even as He tells us in His giving of the Passover Seder. He took bread and said, “This is my body.” He took the cup of wine and said, “This is my blood.”
Today we are once again reminded that the price for sin is death. What was given as a warning and a promise in the Garden of Eden, that disobedience, that sin will result in death, eternal death and hell and physical death, was happening. The price for sin was set at death. Death is the shedding of blood. All the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament really meant nothing except to point to the one ultimate, once and for all sacrifice of the human man, Jesus on the cross, the Lamb of God.
Yes, Jesus paid the price for our sin. What we owed, He paid. What He earned, we are given. The Lamb, the Lamb of God, was slain. His blood was shed. On the cross He was sacrificed. And just as the children of Israel ate the lamb that was sacrificed at the first Passover and just as they continued to eat the many lambs that were offered and sacrificed throughout their history, so we gather to eat His body that was offered on the cross, in, with and under the bread, and drink His blood, in, with and under the wine, uniting us with Him, making His life our life; making His death our death; and making His resurrection our resurrection.
And most importantly we have forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is so important, because without forgiveness we would still be in our sins and if we were still in our sins that would mean eternal death and hell. But because we have forgiveness, we are no longer counted as sinful. We are no long sinners, but in God’s eyes we are seen as perfect, which is what God demands, “Be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect.” So, because Jesus took our sins, because Jesus suffered and died, paying the price for our sins, we are forgiven, we are perfect, we are holy, we are saved! Thanks be to God, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.