Sunday, October 24, 2021

2 Kings 5:1-12; Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost; October 24, 2021; Baptism of Axel West Zimmer;

2 Kings 5:1-12; Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost; October 24, 2021
Baptism of Axel West Zimmer;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.” (2 Kings 5:1–12, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Naaman was an important man, and no friend to Israel. In fact, some of the early church fathers believe he was personally responsible for the death of a previous king. He was a brave man, leader of the armies of Syria. Second only to the king, it seems. But he had a problem. He had leprosy. It was a serious problem. It was a fatal problem. All that he had, his reputation, his wealth, his position was in jeopardy. So, when the little Hebrew slave girl spoke up he listened. She had faith that God could heal through the prophet Elisha. Naaman wasn't taking any chances. He went to the king to request the necessary travel arrangements. The king quickly sent him on his way with a letter of introduction. Naaman gathered up offerings, expensive gifts, and hit the road. When he arrived, he wasn't well received by the King of Israel. Of course, it didn't help that Syrians were in the habit of raiding the border and carrying off people and treasure. The king of Israel was naturally suspicious. But more than that, given the impossible task of healing leprosy, he was sure it was a trap to give the foreign king an excuse for another raid. What he didn't see, was God's hand at work. The little girl was a foreign missionary. She trusted in the possibility of God's work through the prophet Elisha. She spoke out in faith. Naaman listen. The king of Syria also acted in a kind of faith that something could be done. The king of Israel doubted God's willingness or ability to act, but the prophet Elisha set him straight. "Send him to me, so that he can know (as you should know!) that God's prophet is in Israel." Naaman takes his whole company to Elisha's door. And there he stands waiting for the prophet to appear. But he doesn't. Instead, he sends a servant with a message. "Go and wash in the Jordan river seven times and you will be healed." Now its Naaman's time to show his true nature. He is a proud man. "I've come all this way and he sends a servant! He should come out and meet me. After all I'm an important person, not some lackey who doesn't get the attention of someone who should be my servant!" His pride is so strong he would rather die than do what the prophet said, wash in the Jordan river. He knew the river. He likely crossed it on his way. It didn't even matter that he would probably have to cross it in order to return home. The Jordan was a mud hole. The rivers in Damascus ran crystal clear. In Damascus the river water was used to irrigate the farmland. The Jordan was even worthless for that. "How can that filthy water do anything! I'm an important person, my healing needs to be done some other way." He stomped away in a tantrum. But God's Word wasn't done yet. Just like the little slave girl spoke up, Naaman's other servants speak up. "Father! (a term of respect for their master) This is an easy thing to do. If he had told you to do something difficult, you'd have been right on it. What have you got to lose! All you have to do is what he said, 'Wash and be clean!'" Again, Naaman listens. He sets his pride aside make the trip to the Jordan and washes away his leprosy. "... and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child." And a miracle happens. He returns to Elisha and says, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel." It's a kind of double baptism. His disease is washed off and left in the dirty Jordan water. His unbelief, his sin, is washed off, too, into the water. As it is all washed away in that muddy water, in the washing, God gives him faith. It is the miracle of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
It is no coincidence that many years later Jesus washes in the very same water. But he doesn't need to do it to be clean, that's what John the Baptizer says. Jesus steps into the water and John protests. "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:14-15, ESV) You see, he is going into the water with Naaman. Down there in that filthy water is Naaman's leprosy. Down there in that filthy water is Naaman's unbelief and sin. Jesus is going down in there to take it up into himself. As, the perfect and righteous Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, steps in the Jordan river, his righteousness is filled up with Naaman's leprosy, Naaman's unbelief, Naaman's sin. Jesus and Naaman down there in the water together. Naaman comes up clean. Jesus comes up filthy. Naaman goes to Elisha to confess his faith.
Surely [Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4–5, ESV)
To the cross he goes with sin, and unbelief and disease and suffering... he dies there to put it all to death there and bury it all in the deepest pit.
This font is your Jordan river. "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." That's you in the filthy water, up to your neck in disease, and unbelief and sin, and death. And that's Jesus standing with you down there in the filthy water. Jesus is there to take it up into himself.
Holy Baptism the Third Part
How can water do such great things?
Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:
“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8) And out you come confessing your faith. Out Jesus comes and to the cross, to suffering and death, your suffering and death, for your sin. Promising you rebirth and renewal. It's the word of God, brought to you by his servants. The word of promise. The word of life.
And there's more... there's always more. Jesus' death leads to Jesus' resurrection, his restoration before God, the Father. Naaman came up out of the water with resurrection flesh, like that of a young child. Baptism is your promise of resurrection flesh.
... Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25–27, ESV)
... without spot wrinkle or blemish you will stand before Christ for all eternity, perfect and holy. Fully human, fully forgiven, forever.
And so, we remember that little splash of water, that promise of healing and forgiveness, our little part of the Jordan river. Just like the little slave girl focused on God's promises, just like Naaman's servants focused on God's word of promise through Elisha, we focus on God's Word of promise here. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Mark 10:17-22; The Twentieth Sunday after after Pentecost; October 10, 2021;

Mark 10:17-22; The Twentieth Sunday after a; October 10, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:17–27, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On the school bus the other day, as I was waiting to take the kids home, I had a discussion with a preschooler. I was out of my league. “Why is that there?” Pointing to the knob on the radio. “Uh, to adjust the volume on the radio.” “Why would you that?” “So, people can hear it.” “Why…”. If you go down that dark rabbit hole with them, you’ll get to questions with no good answers. It continued until grace intervened, and I “had” to tell the child to sit down because we were leaving. “Why?” He asked again.
Jesus had a similar question from the rich man in our text.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
It is a nonsense question. He’s made a fundamental error. First, he has assumed the Jesus will be complimented by being called good. As with many in the life of Jesus he speaks better than he knows. He has likely done it because he wants to swap compliments. “Good Teacher.” Yes, “Good Student, rich in this world because you are loved by God and your riches show that.” It is how he saw himself; it is how the average person of the day saw him. From his point of view, he deserved the compliment, so he begins with one for Jesus.
Jesus won’t have it. He points out what the man is actually saying. The truth, but beyond his understanding. Like me and the preschool child. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” You don’t know who you are talking to. I am God, but you have mistaken me for a simple teacher who can be bribed by compliments.
Jesus sets him up for a fall. He begins in the way the rich man expects.
“You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t defraud, honor your father and mother.”
“Of course, I do. “I have kept them all since I was little.” He must have had a beaming smile on his face. He thought he knew where this was going.
“Well then, Beloved by God. You have done well. Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven.” But Jesus didn’t say that.
Instead, Mark says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” And, as I have said before Mark is the devil for details. CFW Walther said, that distinguishing between Law and Gospel is “only taught by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience. ” Jesus doesn’t need experience. He sees into the heart. And what he always sees in the naked human heart is sickness, pride, and death. And yet, he “loved” him. In fact, he loves him in such a way that he won’t let is pride stay. He knows it must be rooted out, the prideful heart killed and replaced with a clean new one. Jesus pushes the law to the breaking point. It is what this rich man needs.
“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have …” everything you own, everything that makes you feel favored by God, everything that pushes your pride to the forefront, everything that stands in your way to seeing me clearly for who I am. “and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Jesus is perfect in his application. You can see it in the text.
“Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.” Well, “disheartened” doesn’t quite capture it. “Surprised because of something that appears incredible and alarming,” is what the Greek word means. Shocked at the impossibility of it, might be better. He went away sorrowful, distressed. And then its our turn to be shocked. Jesus lets him go. No application of the Gospel to the hurting soul. No saving words of grace. But that’s not what happened in the man’s heart. The law didn’t penetrate. His heart was stubborn, pride was still alive. He leaves because he can’t do what Jesus asks. He leaves because he simply won’t do what Jesus asks. He doesn’t see Jesus as the “good” teacher he thought he was. He is going away to find his compliment elsewhere. Jesus turns to his disciples. “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
And it’s their turn to be shocked. Jesus tells them of the impossibility for even favored human beings (in their eyes) to be saved.
“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” His point is vivid. They know camels, they know needles. Camels are large, needles eyes (even those used to mend sails) are small. A camel won’t fit. You can’t make it. (And forget about the “eye of the needle” being a small door in the wall of a city, that you could enter with a camel with great difficulty by unloading it. It doesn’t exist.) Jesus isn’t just saying it is hard, even for people who have things easy, he is saying the difficulty approaches impossible. Jesus isn’t just talking about rich people. He’s talking about everyone.
The shock shows on the disciples. “Who then can be saved?” If God’s favorites can’t be saved, what chance have I got?”
Jesus could have said, “Here endeth the lesson.” They have gotten the point. People can’t be saved by anything they have, by anything they do, by any personal attribute, or anything they could give to God.
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” It takes God to save.
How wonderfully miraculous. How wonderfully profound. People can’t do it. You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. God saves purely by gift.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8–9).
Boasting is borne of pride. The rich man had that and wanted to stoke the fire. Jesus says it doesn’t work that way.

So how does it work? Let’s go back to that detail: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus saw into his sin sick heart and saw the pride that lurked there. He was sicker that even the rich man thought. Sin was at the heart of his being, so sinful, in fact, that he needed killing. You need killing. Objects in the mirror or more sinful than they appear.
One of my favorite novels is “The Hammer of God: A Novel about the Cure of Souls” By Bo Giertz. Giertz was a Swedish pastor who struggled against Pietism (that is the idea that emotions play the lion’s share in our salvation) in the middle of the last century. In the novel a younger pastor tells an old, seasoned pastor that he has “given Jesus his heart.”
"Do you consider that something to give Him?"
By this time, Fridfeldt (the younger pastor) was almost in tears.
"But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved."
"You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy," he continued reassuringly, as he continued to look at the young pastor's face, in which uncertainty and resentment were shown in a struggle for the upper hand, "it is one thing to choose Jesus as one's Lord and Savior, to give Him one's heart and commit oneself to Him, and that He now accepts one into His little flock; it is a very different thing to believe on Him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one's heart to Him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him. That is how it is."
The rich man’s heart is the tin can. Your heart is the tin can. Or you could think of the most useless, gross, piece of trash by the roadside. Covid medical waste or Isaiah’s filthy rags). Our Lord, Jesus, sees you, all of you, your sinful corrupt heart and all, and he “loves” you. He stabs you through the heart and takes you home to be his “treasured possession.” There is nothing in you that deserves this outcome. Only God’s grace, the gift of gifts.
“Why?” the preschooler asks.
Well, the answer is easy, and difficult at the same time. He does what he does, because of love.
God’s great love beyond the capacity of human beings. A sacrificial love that brings him to earth as a human being. A sacrificial love that takes him to the cross. You simply cannot understand God great love (his ἀγάπη love, the word Mark used when Jesus looks at the rich man) in any other way than to see him on the cross for you.
Your heart is that hopeless broken dirty tin-can on the side of the road. Jesus is stabbed through the heart for you. He is stabbed through the hands for you. He is stabbed through the feet for you. On that cross he takes the thing that makes your heart so retched. He takes the sin of the whole world on himself. He buries it in death. He buries it in the grave.
Jesus’ resurrection is the most miraculous thing that has ever happened. Dead and in the grave the greatest sinner that ever lived, rises from death through the power of God. Sin, your sin, your pride particularly, is left there to rot. But not Jesus. He comes out of the tomb and carries you with him. He chooses you at the side of the road and brings you through death to new life. And new life in Jesus is the only way to overcome our pride, our selfishness, our sin. When faith is focused on Jesus, instead of what we can do to save ourselves, the Holy Spirit works in that old slimy, filthy hearts to make it new. It doesn’t happen overnight. You are saved in an instant, faith grows brining you to depend on Jesus more and more over lifetime.
Well, the account in Mark can be a bit unsatisfying. We don’t find out what happened to the rich man. There is an old church tradition that says that he fell on hard times and became a thief, crucified next to Jesus. The one who says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I don’t know. Like I said, unsatisfying.
But it is not unsatisfying for you, oh child of God, blessed by God, chosen by God. You have Jesus. You have the Holy Spirit. You are God’s favored position. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

John.19.30; Hebrews.10.1-14; Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 3, 2021

John.19.30; Hebrews.10.1-14; Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 3, 2021
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:1–14, ESV)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30, ESV)
(From a Sermon by Pastor Tim Pauls)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Once a year, once every year, a very important thing happened among the people of God. On the tenth day of the seventh month, all work was to cease. Everyone refrained from buying and selling. No one plowed a field. No one made bread. All work stopped, except for one person among all the people. The High Priest, especially chosen by God, was the only one who worked on the tenth day of the seventh month of every year.
He worked alone because what he was to do was of utmost importance. And the work he did on that day was different than all the other times he worked in the temple. Instead of the elaborate clothing that was usually worn, he wore only a simple white tunic. On that day, especially, he was to stand before YHWH in humility. First, he would offer a sacrifice for his own sin. The blood of a perfect bull was needed to purify him. According to God’s promise his sins were removed. Then he was to deal with the sins of the people.
The important work continued with the selection of two goats. The first was sacrificed before the Lord. It’s blood and the blood of the bull were taken into the holiest place in the temple. There it was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. On the very place that showed the people that God was present among them. The sprinkled blood covered the sins of the people. In this way, once a year, every year, God made atonement for his people.
But the important work was not finished. There was still the other goat that had been chosen. When the Priest was finished sprinkling blood in the most holy place, he returned to the other goat. Placing his hand on the goat’s head he would confess the sins of all Israel and place the sins of the people on it. That goat was then driven out of the city into the wilderness, carrying the sins of all Israel away.
Every year, once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month, again and again, God provided a means for the people to have their sins removed; a bull and two goats; spoken words and actions; and the people were cleansed.
It was messy business; throats were cut, blood was spilled, and sprinkled. It was difficult to watch, it wasn’t enjoyable. But it was necessary. God is serious about sin. The consequences of sin are the spilling of blood and death. The bloody business made that clear. It also made something else clear. God had provided a way for the people to be forgiven. The High Priest was chosen. The sacrifices were made. One goat would carry the sins of the people away, one goat would be slaughtered, and blood was used to cover the sins so that God would not count them against the people anymore. That one important day was known to God’s people as: the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (which literally means the day of covering).
How can blood do something like that? Remember the hymn:
Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain;
Could give the guilty conscience rest or wash away the stain.
It wasn’t the blood of the goat that did anything. The sacrifice on that one day a year pointed instead to the sacrifice on one day that was yet to come.
It happened once. Not once a year, but once.
It was a working day in Jerusalem. In fact, everyone was busy because the Sabbath was almost at hand and there was much preparation to be made. The people were bustling around, buying, selling, and making bread. The Romans were working, too. They had bloody business to deal with. Three men have been crucified outside of the city.
Even though everyone seems to be doing important work, one is doing more important work than everyone else. The High Priest is at work offering the sacrifice for sin. But he’s not working in the temple; instead he is working from the cross. He is the High Priest not just for the Jews, but the High Priest of all people. His humility is evident, but really, it is showing in shame, as the simple white linen garment has been taken from him and he hang there naked, wounded, and bleeding. It is a bloody, terrible, grisly scene. We’ve seen so many pictures; so much jewelry; that I think we forget how awful it was. If you and I had been there we would have wanted to leave.
But don’t look away because this is your Day of Atonement. Really, He is Your Day of Atonement. As Jesus Christ hangs there on the cross, He is your High Priest. He offers a sacrifice for you. He is the goat whose blood is spilled. His blood covers all your sins so that they are no longer counted against you. Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. By His death on the cross he atones for your sins. His blood covers them all and for His sake God no longer counts them against you.
Jesus is also the scapegoat there on the cross. God, the Father, places your sins on him. In the past the goat, who bore the sins of the people was driven into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Jesus carries our sin to the grave, never to be seen again. Jesus will rise again from death, but our sin will not.
Jesus, High Priest, Sacrifice, and Scapegoat, suffers an eternity of hell for your sins. His sacrifice is worth an eternity of sacrifice. No more blood needs to be spilled. No more animals need shed their blood. God commanded that it be done once a year, every year, for all eternity. And that’s exactly what Jesus did; he made the bloody sacrifice for you, for every year, for all eternity, forever.
“It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
The writer of the Hebrews tells us,
“But, by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
He has taken care of all sin for all time, there is nothing left to be paid.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished.” He’s not just talking about his life, he’s talking about the price paid for all sin, for all time. Jesus speaks these words loudly and clearly. His death isn’t like our death. Death robs us of power and ability we are no match for death it will have its way. But Jesus is stronger than death. He cries out in a loud voice because he has power over it. Death doesn’t take Jesus to the tomb; he carries death there. He dies, not because death takes him, but because he wants to die for you. He defeats death for you and rises again on the third day. “It is finished.” … Completed, done.” Nothing more can or needs to be done.
Whenever we face doubt, guilt and uncertainty; whenever there is persecution, illness, worry, suffering; whenever we face the consequences of sin; the words of Jesus from the cross give us great comfort. But no words of Jesus bring more comfort, especially as we consider our own death, then the words Jesus spoke as he, himself, died. Each of us must sooner or later (unless the Lord returns) face our own death. When someone will speak over us “There’s nothing more we can do.”
Even for the strongest Christian, death is a fearful future. And Satan takes great advantage of the situation. He is always trying to distract us, to take our eyes away from the cross. His most often used trick is to lie to us and convince us that we shouldn’t be afraid of death. “If my faith was strong enough, I wouldn’t be afraid to die. Maybe I’m not truly saved after all.” It is a lie of Satan, the final destructive act of a desperate and defeated enemy.
Do not believe the lies of Satan, believe, instead the truth of God. Satan misleads and lies; he convinces you that those feelings are true and right. But they are not. Jesus Christ, your Lord, does not lie. When Satan tempts you, don’t argue with him, speak instead the words of your Savior.
“It is finished.” There is nothing more to be done. You don’t have to wonder what you must still have to do; Jesus Christ has done it all.
“It is finished.” You don’t have to wonder if God is still remembering some hidden sin that you haven’t dealt with. He isn’t punishing you just a little before your life ends. He has taken all the punishment of sin and placed it on Jesus. There is none left for you.
“It is finished.” Jesus Christ has died for you and all your fears. Many Christians are afraid of death. It’s ok to be afraid, it is a fearful thing. But say the words again, “It is finished.” God has made you his own in Baptism. If you are a fearful child of God, you are still a child of God. Fear cannot harm you; it can still frighten you, but its power died on the cross. It is finished.
Jesus is your High Priest, and Sacrifice. He offered himself for your sin. What He did has taken care of it all, there is nothing left to do. Your salvation is sure, because the price has been paid in full. It is finished. Amen.
The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Job.19.25-26; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 26, 2021;

Job.19.25-26; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 26, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-26 Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, this could be an Easter Sermon, right? But in a way, I’m really preaching on James. He says, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” So, I got to thinking how best to illustrate what James is talking about. So, why not use his own illustration.
This text comes to us most often as one of my favorite Easter hymns. (In the old hymnal it wasn’t even in the Easter section.) We sing in that hymn, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” That's the same thing when we say when we say:
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Now the really amazing thing about those words is they weren't first spoken on Easter. They were spoken under very much different circumstances. They come from the middle of the book of Job. Now you remember Job. He's the guy that lost everything.
Satan went to God and asked. “Hey, have you seen that guy Job down there?” God answered that He had.
“Well, he's doing pretty well, isn't he? He's a great guy doing everything right, huh?” God agreed.
“He wouldn't be so high and mighty if he weren't so rich. If he had some trouble in his life, he'd be first in line to tell You to take a flying leap.” God listened. “I've got a deal for you,” Satan continued, “you let me take away some of that stuff and we'll just see how good he really is.”
God allowed it. “Only,” God commanded, “don't touch him.”
And so, the accuser did just as God said. And in a matter of a few moments Job lost everything, one of his servants came to tell him that his oxen and donkeys had been stolen by marauding hordes and his servants were all killed. Before he even finished speaking another breathless servant came and reported the same for his camels. Before he was finished another came with the worst news yet. His children were all killed by a freak twister. But even in the face of all that loss, Job's faith didn't waver. He blessed God in spite of all that had happened to him.
Now Satan wasn't satisfied so he went back to God. “Well?” God asked.
“That's nothing.” the devil replied. “He's still got his health. If you took that away he'd crumble into a pile of doubt and despair.”
“Ok,” God answered. “But don't kill him.”
And so, Satan let him have it. Job was covered with sores from head to foot. He was miserable. He itched so mercilessly that he had to use pieces of broken pottery to find relief. And still Job didn't give up. When his wife told him to curse God and die, he refused. When his friends said he must have insulted God do deserve such punishment, Job didn't budge. He insisted that he was clean. Now collectively we know all about this kind of stuff. It happens to us all the time. Our hearts ache when we lose loved ones to death. Our lives loose meaning when we can't work anymore. Moving away from home for the first time is an adventure but the broken home ties are hard to live with. The possibility of failure in school seems to loom over our heads all the time. Sickness makes it impossible to do what we want to do. Anytime we set out to start anything we know full well we may not finish. The shadow of death covers everything we do. So, we understand what Job was going through. Well, at least a part of it. It just that he got it all at once. Most of the time we just aren't as patent a Job. I know that I am not. In fact, there was a time when I was curled up in a little ball in the closet. You've maybe been there, too. You've felt a bit of what Job felt. Wondering why God allowed all this to happen. The answer? I don't know.
Well, I’m in good company, Job never knew either. He had doubts, too. He asked God to tell him what he'd done to deserve all this trouble. God didn't answer. Job's wife and friends gathered around him and spoke what they thought was comfort and instead made things worse.
And that brings us to these two verses that Job speaks. Out of the depth of his despair, when there was nothing left to hang on to, Job gives us a glimpse of what's in his heart. And that glimpse is a glimpse of faith. It is such a powerful confession of faith that it has inspired God's faithful people for generations. Yet it is a very simple confession too. I know that my Redeemer lives. What a line packed with meaning. There in the ashes of his life, Job proclaims that God will deliver him. God himself with save him. You see that word Redeemer is packed full of meaning. He was using a specific word there that referenced a member of your family who would come to your rescue when you were in trouble. Your Kinsman-Redeemer was to speak up for you in court should you need a defense. If you lost your land, your Kinsman-Redeemer was required to buy it back to keep it in the family. If you lost your freedom to slavery your Kinsman-Redeemer was required to buy you back. If you lost your life, your Kinsman-Redeemer was required to marry your wife and have your children to carry on your name. Now Job had lost everything. He had no relatives left to act as Kinsman-Redeemer. And yet he says that his redeemer lives. Besides when God is the one whose allowed all the trouble you have to come into your life who can speak in your defense to God except God himself.
Do you see the remarkable thing that Job is saying here? The flesh and blood man, Job, is declaring that he believes God will come to his defense as a flesh and blood relative... a kinsman. One like himself. He will see him, Job goes on. my eyes will behold him... with these very eyes he says. A real, physical Savior to redeem him from the trouble that God has caused him. One to stand in his defense in God's courtroom. Satan may accuse Job of being a phony, but Job believe God will come in person to his defense. What a statement of faith. God did restore everything to Job. But the words that Job spoke don't really come to a complete meaning until a few thousand years later. I know that my Redeemer Lives! Now that’s what I’m talking about. That's joy. We've got problems every day, they don't go away just because we say nice words. Sin darkens our lives from the inside out. In spite of how we think about ourselves our troubles are really self-inflicted. We live broken lives that hurt those we love the most. Sickness lurks around every corner as a reminder that our real enemy is coming for us very soon. Death has our number. No matter how good we think we are we all face the reality of lying in a grave. Life's end is sooner than we think, and it seems so permanent from our perspective. We need a Kinsman-Redeemer. One who can do something about the trouble in our lives. One who can take care of that great trouble that we face. Someone who can take the sting out of death. We need the Kinsman-Redeemer Job was talking about. We need God-in-the-flesh to take care of a God sized problem. We need God-in-the-flesh to destroy death for us.
And so, He did. At Christmas time we marvel at a God-in-the-flesh wiggling infant in a manger. As we stare in wonder, it’s easy to forget that He was born for a purpose. And that purpose was to die. But still Jesus was born God in human form. He's Job's Kinsman-Redeemer. He's our Kinsman-Redeemer, one of us, our relative, flesh and blood, a whole complete human being... yet more than human, God also. He stood on the earth, just as Job said he would. He walked on it. He slept on it. And He bled and died on it. That's the Kinsman-Redeemer part. Jesus stood before the authorities and faced the death penalty. In fact, He stood before God and faced the sin penalty. He pleaded our case in this way, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” “I'll take it instead.” And He did. On the cross He carried the very heavy load of our sin. His death in place of ours.
I know that my redeemer lives! Here's the most important part. He's not still dead. His lifeless body lying in the grave didn't stay there. He died our death, and He rises our resurrection, too! He's bigger than death. He's a Kinsman-Redeemer like no other. One who can do whatever He wants. And what He wants is described by Job very clearly.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Jesus didn't die for Himself. He died for us. He didn't rise from the dead for Himself either. He rose for us. That's what Job was talking about. Seeing God, in the flesh, in a resurrected body. New and clean and fresh without the trouble that comes with our sinful lives.
I know that my redeemer lives! And He promises that even though I will die, He will raise me to new life again. And in Job's words, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. When we are raised from the dead and stand face to face with our Crucified and Risen Lord, all our earthly troubles will melt away into nothingness. These problems that cause us so much trouble now will seem as if they are nothing. You see, all that stuff that we think is so important doesn't really mean a thing, compared to the Redeeming Love of our Kinsman-Redeemer Jesus. The love that caused him to suffer and die for our sin. And a love that is so great that he rose again from our grave to live and breathe again. And He lives right now. I know that my redeemer lives! Right now, he's alive. Right now, he's speaking about me to God the father, defending me. Forgiving my sins... Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

James.3.13-4:10; 17th Sunday after Pentecost; September 19, 2021;

James.3.13-4:10; 17th Sunday after Pentecost; September 19, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 3:13–4:10, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In your bulletin is a color copy of the painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tedema titled "the Death of the First Born" (1872). I want you to look at the painting carefully. This famous painting is set in Egypt after the 10th plague sent by God to release his people from slavery in Egypt. The first thing that strikes you about the painting is Pharaoh's eyes. Here's a man who thought he was wise. In fact, he thought he was God. Moses and Aaron stand in the upper right-hand corner of the painting looking over the dreadful scene. Pharaoh holds in his arms his dead son, the firstborn. His stare is vacant. Gone are the days when he believed he was stronger than the God of the Hebrews. Gone is the laughter of his son. Gone is his relationship with his queen. Gone is his pride. This is a defeated man. One could hope that at this moment, when all was lost, Pharaoh would bend his knee to the one true God and humble himself. But it is not to be. We know how the story ends. Pharaoh's army's drowned in the depth of the Red Sea. Death upon death has Pharaoh's pride brought upon his family and his nation. The Bible simply says "and Pharaoh's heart was hardened". In fact, I think in the empty gaze of Pharaoh's eyes you can see the anger welling up. He's about to order his armies out to destroy the Hebrews. This is where pride ends.
In our text, St. James addresses no less a problem to the Christians in his letter. What he sees is fellow Christians quarreling and fighting, all because of their pride. He sees Christians choosing their own desires over God's will for their communion. Their sin is no less than Pharaoh's. Their sin is the same sin that led Adam and Eve to eat the fruit forbidden by God. Pride is the oldest sin in the world.
James does not speak delicately. God opposes the proud. Pride before God will be judged. It destroys relationships. It destroys communities. It destroys trust. St. James in fact calls it "demonic". From the pit of hell, you may say. He says also, "for where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice."
We see it everywhere. Everywhere people are caught up in their own desires, their own pride. They hold themselves and their standing above their neighbors. They forget that God calls us to care for those nearest to us. So often it is pride that prevents it. We have what we have because we have earned it. They don't have because they are lazy and deserve what they don't have.
And yet here, James stabs the Word into our own hearts. We are guilty of pride ourselves. We marvel at Pharaoh after all that he had seen and yet thought that he could wrestle with God and win. With each plague worse than the previous, leading to the death of his son. But when we look honestly, we understand that in our life over and over again pride leads us to the place where Pharaoh is. Pride leads to despair. Pride leads to loss. Pride leads to death. That is the result of our sin.
All we need do is paint our faces around Pharaoh's eyes. We see there our pride. Our pride that leads to murder. Oh, not actual bloodshed, but the pride that places our wants above the needs of our neighbor. And therefore, breaks the commandment that says,
You shall not murder.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
Our pride that leads to quarreling because our pride can never be wrong. We would rather destroy our relationships than admit our shortcomings. And our pride that says all we have is for our own pleasure.
And James says to us, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (4:6) and so our pride convicts us. We stand before God sinful creatures deserving his full condemnation. And what are we to do? Is there anything that can save us from this body of death?
Look again at Pharaoh. Look again at his eyes. This time look at him as a different Father. This Father mourns the death of his only Son, His first born. Notice how the dead son is painted in a very Christlike pose. The Father holds in his arms his Son slaughtered by human pride. This Father, the God of the universe, can turn this death into something more. This Father raises His Son from death to new life. Now look into the eyes of a Heavenly Father. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… Forgive us our trespasses", we say. Forgive us our pride. Forgive us our selfishness. And this Father does. He sent his only Son to the cross. And there he bears our sinful pride. And there the Father sees it all. There the Father punishes it all. He separates himself from Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus suffers the hell of pride's punishment. And it is ours that he suffers. It is for us. And also, for us, he rises from the dead.
"Draw near to God…" St. James says. "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded." Don't make the mistake of Pharaoh, humble yourselves before God. See yourself as a prideful sinful human needing his Grace, his forgiveness. This is the prayer of repentance. Listen to Psalm 119
Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:169–170, ESV)
Forgiveness follows repentance. Not because of repentance but because of the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sin is forgiven at the cross and delivered to you through God's word. It is received by the repentant heart. In the repentant heart lives anew in the joy of that forgiveness. And puts away pride and selfishness. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

James.3.1-12; The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 12, 2021;

James.3.1-12; The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 12, 2001;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:1–12, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I have a confession to make. I don’t like this text. First of all, James puts me in the category of “being judged with greater strictness.” I am a teacher in the church, after all. And then he puts the nail in my coffin by telling one of the ways I will be judged… by my tongue.
Well, this is the book of James, after all. Luther called James a “straw epistle.” So that means, I can just ignore it, right? You don’t know how tempting it was to do something about that. There’s a little mark in the Lectionary where I could start reading. Right there after the judgement for me stuff. I could have just started with,
For we all stumble in many ways…
I doubt many of you would have even noticed. And that way the text would have applied just to you. As I thought about it, I was very grateful there aren’t bibles out there. I really don’t like the idea of standing before God to be judged for my idle, evil, blood-stained tongue. In Matthew, Jesus himself agrees.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew 12:36, ESV)
Jesus himself said,
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22, ESV)
Yikes, “every carless word” and “whoever says ‘You Fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” So much for being a pastor and being “closer to God.” He won’t give me a break. Harsher judgment is mine. That’s what the text says… harsher. You do know what I say my three most important rules of bible interpretation are: “Context, context, context.” Well, I just can’t get around the fact that James puts the context right here on my lips. Maybe I should have stuck with my six-figure job, making computers behave. But instead, I make my living with my tongue (ugh!), and mine is tainted. You know what Jesus says to do with a part of the body that causes you to sin. “Cut it out!”
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29, ESV) Now, how am I supposed to put food on the table?
I could try to excuse myself.
• “Everybody does it”
• “At least I don’t curse and swear (much)”
• “I live alone, so I don’t speak to many people”
• “I really only tongue lash people who deserve it”
• “It’s a law and gospel thing. I speak the law only when necessary.”
But God’s Word isn’t going to let me off the hook. Paul says I know better.
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:15–16, ESV)
Well Jesus being the standard, I’m in trouble.
James uses those two examples, the horse, and the ship. I had this absurd image run through my head. I was out on Lake Superior floating face down steering myself around with my tongue, like a ship. Lord, grant me a bridle to tame my tongue.
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. (James 3:5, ESV)
Oops. Ok, I wasn’t making six-figures. That was a probably just a boast, to impress you. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”” (Psalm 12:3–4, ESV) Yikes. I’m sunk. I’m a dead man. Please forgive me if I’ve hurt you with my tongue.

Ah but now, it’s your turn. James is speaking particularly to “teachers in the church” but he doesn’t leave you out. Ever had a carless word? Said something you wish you hadn’t? Regretted a tongue lashing? Got over harsh with your kids? Have you ever spoken a word that cost a friendship, that you wish you could take back? Have you not spoken up with a neighbor/friend who used God’s name in vain? Were you silent on the topic of abortion, couples living together, or (God forbid!) Homosexual marriage?
Think about those things as you think about Jesus. Sure, he got angry and drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple. But that was righteous anger. Don’t think that you can judge the heart of others like he did. Jesus knows the true motivation. He spoke harshly to the scribes and pharisees. Again, he judges them against God’s perfect righteousness, calling them “tombs full of dead bones” (Matthew 23:27) and “snakes.” (Matthew 23:33) Only God himself, can judge the heart and declare a hypocrite. At the same time, he spoke kind words to those who needed it. (John 8:11) And his word brought healing.
So often your words (and mine) are harsh and cause unintended (or not) pain. So often, we are silent when we should speak up. So often we find ourselves saying “Raca.” The word Jesus uses when he says, “whoever says, ‘You fool!’” Oh, how hard it is, especially when it comes to politics! So, when you and I are stacked up against Jesus, we all fail miserably. You are bound for hell right there beside me. “Well, it’s a fine mess you gotten us into. (Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy) Oh, tongue of yours and mine.”

It is surely a mess. But… Jesus came to clean up messes, just like this one. It’s not that God just sweeps our sins under the carpet and ignores them. He can’t do that. He is perfectly holy and just. All the messes we find ourselves in because of our sin, demand justice. And there is only one punishment for breaking the holy law of God, death. Ours, and it’s an eternal one.
Lutheran Theologian Francis Pieper said,
Our guilt was imputed to Christ (He was made a curse for us. Gal 3), He also assumed our obligation to keep the law. F Pieper
Jesus was perfectly holy and just. He kept all of God’s law perfectly. Not a jot or tittle was broken (Matthew 5:18). He was God’s answer to fallen humanity. Someone had to do it right. His tongue was in perfect check, no unnecessary tongue lashings. He always spoke when the law required speaking. He never spoke when it caused unnecessary harm. But instead of being our condemnation, our impossible example, Jesus is our substitute. He became the curse we are required to bear. The word imputed in Pieper’s quote means accounted to. Perfect Jesus was made a sinner, our sins were accounted to him. Our foul tongue, his. Just as the reference to Galatians three says there.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13, ESV)
Perfect Jesus, hanging on a tree, cursed because of you and me.
And don’t forget those two all important words “for us.” These two simple words may be the most
important in all of the Bible. In Greek, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. Jesus is a curse, for us! Jesus is a curse “for us”! He redeems us from the “curse of the law.” That is punishment in hell. He snatched us back from the gates of hell, just as we are ready to go through. He says, “These are mine; I have saved them from this fate.”
And there’s more. He also assumed our obligation to keep the law. It sounds backwards. This is how we naturally think:
• “Now that Jesus has canceled our debt, we are obligated to keep the record clean.”
• “We are now obligated to keep the law, so as to not accumulate more on cursed Jesus.”
• “Jesus fulfilled his obligation, now you have to fulfill yours.”
Jesus takes the whole obligation, or it would be worthless. You and I can never live up to the law. We can never keep our tongues in complete check. So, if Jesus leaves anything for us to do, we will instantly flip around and be headed right back through the gates of Hell again. We want to be in charge of our salvation, or at least one little part. But Jesus will have none of it. “I have redeemed you totally. You are mine, not by anything you have done, but simply because I chose you. That lying, cheating, boasting, blood-soaked tongue can’t take any credit.”
Dr. Martin Luther in the Heidelberg Disputation:
The law says, "Do this" and it is never done. Grace says, "Believe in this" and all is already done.
The law can never be our motivation for doing things right because we can’t do it right. It is only the Gospel, Jesus on the cross “for you.” The Holy Spirit that the Father and Son pushes into our hearts, as a gift of faith, is what gives us the ability to do any part of it right. But not for the credit of it, not for the boasting. True motivation is found in the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. So, when the temptation comes to speak when we shouldn’t, He gently rebukes us. When the temptation comes to keep silent, he urges us to speak. When we don’t listen, we do suffer consequences. But those are only earthly, temporary, consequences. We then, prompted again by the Holy Spirt, attempt to set things right pronouncing forgiveness offered to all only in Jesus. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
The Gospel turns it on its head. The same tongue that curses, becomes the blessing. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Psalm 146; The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 5, 2021;

Psalm 146; The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 5, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD! ” (Psalm 146, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Sometimes you just have to let God fix it, because if you fix it, you are going to jail. (“Klara Kalu on Instagram)
It’s about faith. Like one of those “faith walks?” You know how they go. One person is blindfolded and the other leads them all around… up and down steps, around corners, through doorways, maybe even outside… The whole idea is that, if you are the blindfolded person, you’re supposed to learn to trust the person who is leading you around. If you’re the leader then you are supposed to show yourself as trustworthy. You do it by example, by showing that you can trust someone else, or that you are trustworthy. The “faith walk” is supposed to begin to help you to develop a new relationship with another person, a relationship based on trust. I was terrible at these. I was quite picked on in grade school, so I could never really come to trust the person who was leading me around. And of course, the other guys got all the pretty girls.
Just think about how important trust is in life. Just think about how people react when their trust has been violated. Remember the time when you broke a promise to a friend. Remember how you felt when the secret you told came back to you from a different source. Think about scandals that violated trust, especially those involving clergy. It isn’t just feelings that are hurt when trust is violated. Life is full of placing our trust in one place or another. In a way life is a faith walk. It’s important to be able to put your trust in someone. It’s important to learn who is trustworthy. Life is a faith walk…. In some sense you can pick who you want to lead you around while you are blindfolded.
The Psalm for today is about trust. The author of this poem isn’t known. No one knows exactly when it was written either. But some of the language suggests that it was written after the great Babylonian exile. God’s people had lost what God had given them because of this very issue. They had trusted in themselves, they had trusted in their kings, they had trusted their false prophets, they had trusted everything except for their God. God reacted. It cost them dearly. They were about to spend a generation away from the God given land they loved. The exile was the help them learn what it meant to trust in God, alone.
The author says here,
“Don’t let the princes of this world lead you! They will fail you. They will lead you astray.” He sounds like he knows this from personal experience. Maybe the government that lived under failed. I’m not sure that in many ways we trust our government far too much. We trust it to bail us out of poverty, we trust it to take care of us in times of disaster and provide for us when we retire. We trust it to provide for our health care. We trust it to keep the peace, and we trust it to be just. We trust it to take care of those who protect us. While God has given us government, we are not to put our trust in it. Governments fail. The daily news is full of crumbling governments. Don’t think for a moment that our government here is so strong that it can never fail. Don’t think that this democratic form of government, this country, is so blessed by God that it can never fall apart.
“Don’t trust in princes.”
The Psalmist says.
Don’t let mere mortal men lead you in your faith walk either. Don’t trust what human beings say or do. A popular TV show from a few years ago said, “Everybody lies.” In a way the psalmist is saying, “Don’t make glorious plans with them. Death is in their future.” When they die all their plans come to nothing. Death is the great equalizer. It removes wealth, it cancels plans, it ends partnerships, and it ignores social status. Don’t trust mortal men either. Oh, in case you forgot, you are in the category of untrustworthy people. You, too, will die.
And, even before death, we find people untrustworthy, we find ourselves untrustworthy. We constantly make promises we don’t keep. We constantly forget to do the things that we should. There are even times when we make promises that we have no intention at all keeping. We know who we are, and we know that other people are the same.
Life is a faith walk… but, you can’t trust in yourself, you can’t trust in other people, you can’t trust in government, who can you trust in? Well, the Psalm has an answer for that; it says God is the one who is trustworthy.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,” (Psalm 146:5, ESV)
When God leads you around, even when you can’t see where you are going, you can trust when here leads you.
The Psalm isn’t just speaking in generalities, it tells us exactly why God is trustworthy. “Because” it says,
[He] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;” (Psalm 146:6–7, ESV)
This is First Article.
I believe in God the father almighty maker of heaven and earth. God created everything, he preserves and protects is. He has an interest in how it all goes. That includes being trustworthy. There’s even more though (there always is with God), and here is where the faith walk becomes even more interesting.
He is faithful and trustworthy forever.
The psalm says. Even when ‘blindfolded’ people are oppressed, God helps them. Here the Hebrew language for oppressed means economically oppressed, the poor. He helps those who are lead through hunger. He leads prisoners so that they become free, he helps the blind to see, and the humble and people who have no place to call their own; and even the widow… He helps. You see, no matter where your faith walk leads you, no matter what condition you find yourself in… if you’re trust is in “the God of Jacob” you will find him faithful.
Oftentimes we find it difficult to trust in the God of Jacob. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that this is true. As you go through life, as you go on the faith walk, sometimes you trust God a lot, and sometimes you don’t feel like you can trust him at all. It’s not unusual, because our sin constantly threatens to separate us from God. While we are walking around blindfolded, we will at times try to pull our hand out of God’s hand so that we can rip of our blindfold. We don’t always trust where God is leading us. Those are the times when we God is most faithful. If you remember the Gospel lesson from last week, Jesus is the one who said that no one could snatch us out of our Father’s hand. (John 10).
But it is Jesus who shows us exactly how faithful God is. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” “I and the Father are one.” As if to say, “What you see me doing… you see God doing.” We have many accounts of God being faithful, just as this Psalm says he is. Jesus is God being faithful. He is found among the poor, and the oppressed. Even his own disciples were working class people and despised people. He gives the blind sight, and even heals the sick people who were outcast. He feeds hungry people on the green grass slopes of the mountains around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus Christ was faithful just as God is faithful. He loves the least, the last, and the worst. God’s faithfulness is shown to us most clearly in the life of Jesus, our Lord.
Jesus Christ shows his trustworthiness to you and me. Paul and the Hymn writer say it. We are the least, the last and the worst. “Chief of sinners!” We are unfaithful; we are untrustworthy; prisoners of our own hearts and minds, and blind to the way that God would lead us. We fail to put our trust in him so very often even when our lives aren't even on the line. We panic over finances, friendships, church property, and so many other earthly things. But Jesus is faithful; He sets prisoners free and gives sight to the blind, just as the Psalmist wrote. He is so faithful; the He doesn't even spare His own life. He is so faithful that He allows himself to be nailed to a cross and suffer the full punishment of our sin. Jesus on the cross is God's billboard of faithfulness. He is so faithful that he hangs on the cross not only for you and me but even those who hate him, deny him, curse him, and say no matter what they will not receive Jesus' forgiveness. This is God's faithfulness. That he forgives those who are his enemies. Just as you and I once were, as is all those who refuse to believe in him.
Life is a faith walk… Jesus Christ the faithful one, has placed your hand in his, right there next to the nail print. No one can snatch you out of His hand. He leads you on your faith walk through all kinds of interesting places. Even though you are blindfolded you can trust in Him to lead you because he is trustworthy. He has proved it through His willingness to die for you, and for your sin, but even more than that, he has proved it by rising again from the dead. Remember Death, the great equalizer; the canceller of plans, faithful Jesus defeated him. He didn’t thwart His plans. Jesus Christ wasn’t a mere mortal man; He was God and Man together, united. He alone is worthy of trust. He is God himself. The psalm begins and ends the same way. “Praise the Lord,” is says. Praise him because of what he has done. Praise him because he is worthy to be praised. Praise him because he alone is worthy of being trusted. Life is a faith walk… Trust Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, keep your heart and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.