Sunday, June 20, 2021

Mark.4.35-41; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2021;

Mark.4.35-41; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. We know storms. Today’s readings are all full of storms. In Job, God speaks to Job out of a storm (some translations call it a whirlwind). Up until this point in the book, Job has wanted to confront God for the trouble he’s having. You remember about Job, how he lost everything, his wealth, his family, and his health. His friends sit around him and tell him that all of things that are happening to him are some kind of punishment for sin, if not outright sin, than some hidden sin Job isn’t aware of. But Job insists that there’s nothing that he’s done, he doesn’t deserve the storm of trouble that’s happening to him. He complains that if he could just plead his case before God, he’d get answers. Our reading is the beginning of God’s response to Job “out of the whirlwind.” Finally, in the middle of Job’s stormy life, God speaks. Only it’s not the response Job is expecting. It’s not an answer we’d be happy with either. “Who are you to question me?” God says, “Where you around when I created everything? I’m the one who made everything. Were you there when I created everything?” God puts Job in his place. It’s just not the kind of answer we think we want from God. There’s not compassion or comfort there. It’s just as if he drives another nail in Job’s coffin. He doesn’t answer Job’s questions about why he is suffering. God doesn’t justify his actions or pacify. And Job bows in humility and fear, his storms are not calmed by God (yet!). In the Gospel lesson, which is actually the text for our meditation, the storm is a little different. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV) This storm is no less real than the storm faced by Job, and no less real than the storms that we have on the plains and face every spring, real storms, with real consequences. IO rather miss the big storms there. We just don’t get them here. For the disciples they are afraid of drowning in the lake. You guys know you don’t take a small craft out on the lake during a storm. As the waves grow and begin to splash over the sides of the boat you imagine the boat disappearing under the dark green foamy water. What will you do? Swim, how will you know which way to go, how will you keep afloat with the rain and wind. The fear is real. The disciples were afraid… for their lives. What a contrast to Jesus sleeping in the boat! Here he is sleeping soundly in a boat that’s filling with water and about to sink. And finally, the disciples can’t bear the fear any more. And Jesus lying on the cushion sound asleep exasperated the whole experience. They were facing death and Jesus doesn’t seem to care! So, they wake him up. “How could you sleep at a time like this? Don’t you care if we drown? There’s real danger here and you’re just sleeping your life away, and ours!” Jesus doesn’t answer their question but speaks directly to the water. “Quiet! Be still!” I imagine him looking also at the disciples as if to say, “you too!” The wind and the waves react instantly. As soon as Jesus speaks the wind is silent and the waves calm. It’s a great contrast from complete storm to complete stillness, in an instant. Opposite of the great contrast that is seen in Jesus; great calm while sleeping to calming the storm. I wonder, do you see the connection to the reading from Job? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38:8-11, ESV) Jesus’ mastery of nature is striking in the way He commands the waves and they obey. Just look at the disciples surprising response. They don’t lose their fear its focus only changes. And they ask the important question. “Who is this? Who is this that sleeps one moment and controls the storm in the next?” It is a question of faith and fear. “Why are you so afraid, do you still have no faith?” Jesus asks them. After all the disciples had witnessed. It appeared that they still didn’t know who he was. And yet right there in that boat they had all they needed to see. Jesus was sleeping, clearly a human being who needed sleep. He ate and slept, and drank and walked, and talked with them every day. He is as human as they were. And also, he controlled the waves as easily as they threw their fishing net into the water. He was the one who set the boundary for the waves. Jesus is God; God speaking from the midst of the storm just like he did for Job. You see, this text isn’t about how Jesus calms the storms of our life. As much as we want it to be true, God never promises that faith in him means that we won’t suffer from bad things in our lives. Look at Job. He suffered a great deal, but never found out why he suffered. He never knew God’s purpose. Job was a man of great faith. We often think about his patience but really, it’s all about his faith… that is letting God be God and never knowing why he suffered through the storm. This text is about God being God; it’s about Jesus Christ being truly God, and Jesus Christ being truly man. And how God reconciled the real cause of storms in the world by sending Jesus his son, in human flesh. The storms of this world, tornados and social problems, earthquakes and broken families are our own fault. Sin is at the root. Sin causes pain and separation. Sin causes death. To be in sin, which all of us are, is to have a stormy relationship with God, instead of a perfect one. And that stormy relationship means that we don’t deserve anything from God, especially his protection, and presence in the storms we create. But he came anyway, in Jesus Christ. Jesus calms the storm between God and man, by taking the punishment instead of us. He brings God to us by suffering and dying and rising again. That is what our faith is all about. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, ESV) That’s the content of our faith. That’s the important thing about what we believe. Christianity is specifically about who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us. The fact that he came to earth, God and Man, to live a perfect life for you and me, suffer and die on the cross for human sin. To reconcile us to God by paying the punishment of sin, suffering hell on the cross for us. But when the storms of life gather around us, we forget who Jesus is. Well maybe we don’t actually forget but we act as if it doesn’t matter who he is. And that’s what also places us there in the boat with the disciples, being afraid of the storm. Our storm may not be the spinning cloud that passes through town, but what about the turmoil in our family that seems to be tearing it apart? No matter how hard you try you can’t seem to put it back together. You’re afraid you’ll never again have a whole family. What about the disease that won’t let go of you, and threatens to take away everything you have? Or the heart problem, or stroke, or illness that strikes without warning. Or the storm of being so busy that you can’t stop even to breath for fear of missing something important. You see all those storms leave us afraid and we shout out, “God don’t you care what’s happening to me, I’m afraid, and you don’t seem to be doing anything!” Just like the disciples we’ve forgotten who God really is. We forget that he’s in the midst of the storm. We forget about Jesus and what he promises us. But Jesus knows about our storms because he isn’t a God who stands back and hurls lightning bolts at us from heaven. He is a God who became a man and lived among us. Right here in the midst of our storms, in the midst of our suffering, in the midst of our pain. Jesus Christ knows what it means to suffer through them. He suffered, just like we do and more. He knows the storm of separation caused by death. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He knows the storm caused by illness. He walked among the crowds that pressed in on him for healing. He had compassion on them, but he didn’t heal them all. No matter what’s troubling you Jesus Christ knows your storm. He can and does take care of us. He is God. He is the very same God who created everything. He is the God who set the boundaries for the sea and formed the mountains with his very words. He is in control of everything, from the smallest flapping of the butterfly’s wing to the formation of clouds and the waves that lap against the seashore. That’s Jesus standing in the boat with the disciples calming the storm around them, speaking in the midst of the whirlwind. But he doesn’t always calm the storm. Job had to suffer for an exceedingly long time. You and I have storms that never seem to end. What is Jesus doing about that? Well, he hasn’t left us alone to deal with the storms of life, even if he doesn’t just make them go away. Jesus Christ the God-Man who died and rose again for us has provided us with special gifts to help us weather the storm. These are things that he gives us freely and abundantly. And he gives them to you right here. Right here in this place he speaks his word to you. Storm or calm, week after week, month after month, year after year. His very words of comfort and strength are given to you. What does he say to you? He gives you promises. Promises that he will always be with you, you are not alone in the storm. You don’t have to leave your bed and crawl in with mom and dad when the thunder rolls; Jesus is with you wherever you are. The disciples were in the boat with Jesus; the storm was nothing to worry about. Over and over again Jesus makes that promise to you. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV) God doesn’t promise no storms or burdens, but he promises that he’ll help you bear it. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV) These are the kind of promises of God makes to you, given in his word. And don’t forget that those promises are true for you because he has claimed you to be his own. Look at the font here. Here God reaches out and grabs you in your storm. Here he makes you, his child. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV) That promise to be with us is no surer and more certain for us than it is here at this altar. Here he comes to us in his very body and blood. In the midst of our storm, we can take hold of Jesus Christ himself, as we hold out our hand and make for him “the very throne of God!” We handle him, touch him and see him… and he gives us strength in this food to stand in the storm, but not strength to stand on our own, strength to stand because he gives is promise and keeps his promises. Will the storms all go away? Will Jesus always stand up and “rebuke” the demons that threaten us? Nope. Life is still full of stormy days. Look what that storm did for the disciples. They got a lesson about turning to Jesus. They needed to be reminded who he is. That’s what the storms do for us too. They remind us that we can’t go it alone. They remind us that God is in control of everything. They remind us that we need to depend on him more and more every day. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Romans 6:6-11; Third Sunday after Pentecost; Jun 13, 2021

Romans 6:6-11; Third Sunday after Pentecost; Jun 13, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6–11, ESV)Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; I love living here in the United States. Where else in the world am I able to be my own man, independent, and self-reliant? There’s no one around that dare tell me how to live my life, or how to take care of my family. I’ve become successful through my own sweat; my own hard work… there’s nowhere in the world that that pays off like here. I’ve sacrificed for the things I wanted, and no one’s is going to take that away from me. I could live and be alone, a strong individual, like the Marlboro Man I really don’t need anyone. Above all else, whatever you do, don’t look on me as helpless or powerless. That is one thing I am not… powerless. I prove it everyday. I approach my work with the attitude that gets it done. I may not be the strongest guy around, but there’s more to power than brute strength. There’s knowing how to get the job done, knowing how to work the system… lots of times, knowledge is power. When things get tough, the tough look to me for direction. And that’s power. I don’t let emotions cloud my judgment. They make you weak and as I told you before above all, I’m not weak. When decisions have to be made strong people make them without the influence of all that emotion. I can defend myself, too. If I have to, I can take the licks and survive, but if you come against me, you’d better be careful. I’ll come back and when I do, I’ll strike hard. My family is safe with me around. I’m not weak and powerless as far as defense is concerned. Just in case you didn’t catch what I’ve been saying I’ll say it again. I’m my own man, independent, strong and powerful. But… lately I’ve been beginning to wonder about all that. Lot’s is happening in the world that I really don’t have any control over. And somehow it all seems to be closing in on us here. The Global Pandemic has had a large affect on the feeling. Believe in it or not, it has been impossible to change what has happened. Businesses struggle to get workers, out of fear, or because they can make more on unemployment. There are no foreign workers to work here, it only adds to the problem. And now, just as things are lightening up, new strains are popping up. Makes me feel out of control. The flood of immigrants that are coming across the boarder is staggering. Are terrorists gathering? Have we forgotten World Trade Center towers? What is the next target? Mall of America? USA Today said that a dirty nuke, that’s a bomb with radioactive medical waste blows up at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, the fallout will pretty much make that city unusable for centuries. How can I stop one crazy person who’s willing to strap 20 pounds of dynamite and nuclear waste around themselves? And there’s more that this powerful guy can’t seem to get a handle on. I’ve seen it all around, people get sick… the list of people we pray for each week with cancer continues to grow. That nasty disease brings strong men to their knees… but the worst part is that you just don’t know who’s next. I’m a strong guy, as I said, but who can stand up against and invisible enemy that attacks you from inside. The more I think about it, I’m not really all that powerful after all. My independence is really a sham; I need people around me all the time. Not just to watch my back, but also to be there for me, because when I really think about it, I am helpless and weak… powerless… But… You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Did that say what I think it said? When we were powerless? When I was powerless, Christ died for me? I see, that’s what the Good News of Jesus Christ is all about isn’t it? I was I am powerless, but God is powerful. Not only that but even more than that, St. Paul writes that we were God’s enemies, enemies deserving His wrath and punishment. That independence that I show highly prize is really an affront to God. When I try to live my life on my own, I disregard the creator and ultimate provider, “I don’t need you, God! I don’t need other people that you have provided for me!” we say. God’s enemies… that puts powerless in another interesting light. We are all truly powerless standing before God in our rejection of him. And what does Paul say, for a righteous man someone would rarely die, but that’s exactly what Jesus did. And we were hardly righteous or even good. We were God’s enemies! And yet, Jesus Christ died for me, powerless, helpless, and pathetic me! Powerless, helpless and pathetic you! Just exactly did the death of Jesus Christ accomplish? Michael Powers tell the following story in Allison Bottke’s book “God Allows U-Turns.” Brian “was a special education student at the small high school I attended. He was constantly searching for love and attention. It usually cam for the wrong reasons, from students who wanted to have some ‘fun.’ He was the joke of the school…” Mike defended Brian, even had him over to the house. “Hey, Mike,” Brian asked. “How come you’re not like some of the other kids at school?” Mike told him about the love of God the Father. “Brian really opened up to me. He explained that his dad had left him and his mom when he was five years old. He told Brian that he couldn’t deal with having a son like him anymore, then he walked out of Brian’s life and was never seen again. Brian told me that he had been looking for his dad ever since. “Now I knew why the tears kept flowing that day in my bedroom. His search was over. He found what he had been looking for since he was five years old. A Father’s love. “He would never again be alone.” When we were alone and powerless, God the Father showed His great love for me by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to death on the cross, to make me His own children. He showed me a Father’s love; a love that would sacrifice everything, especially when I was helpless and alone. He sacrificed the life of Jesus to satisfy the judgment that was mine as God’s enemy. He made Jesus his enemy instead of me; and He made me His child. It was a simple exchange. But that isn’t all; because God approved of Jesus perfect sacrifice, He raised Him from death to life again. That too is a promise to me. So, what about all those things that I can’t control; Pandemic, terrorists, illnesses that are lurking around out there looking for me? I’m helpless in the face of them, but God is my Father. He has done everything for me. He has made me his own child. I’ve been “reconciled” Paul said. What reconciliation! I’ve gone from God’s enemy to God’s child. I guess there’s nothing I can do about the terrorists, the bomb may go of in Asia, and cancer might be in my future. I am helpless, powerless… but really, it’s a good thing that I am because being powerless is being dependent, and I’m as dependent as I can be on my Heavenly Father. I’m as dependent as I can be on him and his promises. I will be saved because of Jesus Christ. Have you been feeling alone, helpless and powerless lately? Maybe you don’t show it, but there’s a lot going on these days that can make you feel that way. Well, all that I’ve been talking about for me is true for you too. God, the Father, has also reconciled you through the death of Jesus Christ! When you were powerless, when you needed it the most, Jesus Christ sacrificed everything to restore you, and make you a child of God again. And all those things you may be worrying about, well they might seem powerful but not compared to the love of God, the love that God the Father has showered down on you! Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Mark.3.20-35; Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021

Mark.3.20-35; Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. How would you like your family to think you were crazy? That’s what’s happing here to Jesus here. His family is saying, “He out of his mind.” Literally, they were saying he was “beside himself.” “He’s crazy!” It is kind of a strange expression, isn’t it, to be beside yourself. But it means to be so greatly excited by something that we don’t know what’s going on. To be so totally affected by what’s happening that we are out of control, or out of our own mind. A person who is beside himself needs help, they need someone to come and take charge of them. Someone has to step in and take over. That’s just what the family of Jesus wants to do. Just like we would do if we saw a member of our own family “beside himself.” …they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” But how can anyone take charge of Jesus. How can anyone control his actions, his words, or his Spirit? There are lots of attempts to do just that. Ways to reduce Jesus to understandable categories, and a controllable size. There are ways that people try to make Jesus fit into what seems to make sense and what’s logical. Here in this text Jesus’ family tries it and so do the scribes. And later on, even his disciples even give it a try telling Jesus that he must not go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again. But all attempts to “take charge” of Jesus fail. Weather we call Jesus words into question because we think they are crazy, or by trying to discount his miracles, as the work of the devil or even as if they never happened. The truth is that no one ever takes charge of Jesus. Jesus, through the work of the Holy Sprit, takes charge of us. So here in our reading we see two groups trying to take charge of Jesus. Up to this point in Mark’s Gospel, we’ve seen a lot going on. Mark keeps the action moving, in the first chapter we see Jesus baptized, tempted, calling his first disciples, driving out an evil spirit, and healing a myriad of people. In chapter 2, it keeps moving. He heals, calls more disciples, and teaches. In Chapter 3 he commissions his called disciples. It’s a blinding pace. It’s a page turner, but there aren’t many pages to turn because it’s a truly short book. One thing is certain as you read. Jesus is in charge. He’s in control of himself and He’s in control of everything that’s going on. Up to here, everyone seems to be going along with Jesus in charge. No one really makes a fuss; no one tries to set a different agenda. It’s here in our text, for the first time in the book of Mark, that people begin to react to what Jesus is doing. They start to react by trying to take charge. They’re afraid Jesus is going off the deep end. They act to keep him in line. So far with Jesus in charge, he’s causing an uproar. Everywhere he goes there are crowds that follow him. And they’ve grown so large and pressing that he and his disciples could not even eat. They’ve pressed in and around the house that they’ve come to. When his family heard about it, they were concerned about his health, so they start out to the rescue. “If he doesn’t eat, he’s going to get sick! He’s working way too hard! He’s not thinking clearly! Someone has to do something for him.” In everything that’s happening around Jesus they don’t understand what’s really going on. They don’t know who Jesus really is, and why he’s really come. Jesus family wants to be in charge of Jesus, instead of Jesus letting him be in charge. The second group that tries to take charge of Jesus is the scribes. They arrive brewing for a fight. They don’t like what he’s been saying. He’s disrupting their “congregations.” He’s getting their members to ask questions they can’t answer. He’s drawing their attention away from the scribes. So, they start trying to discredit Jesus. “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” (That a name for a Philistine, prince of demons). They want to be in control. But Jesus stays in control by pointing out how illogical their statement is. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. That is to say “Satan’s not going to cast out his own demons. That would be fruitless.” Today he might say something like, “no batter is going to pick up the ball he just hit and throw himself out at first base.” The scribes want to control Jesus because they don’t like what he’s doing, but Jesus stays in control. Jesus’ family wanted to take control of him because he was embarrassing them, but Jesus stays in control. Jesus is always in control. But people trying to “take charge” of Jesus isn’t limited to these examples in our text. As a matter of course we see it every day. It seems every Easter you find Jesus on the cover of Time magazine. It’s usually a story about how “biblical scholars” explain away Jesus’ resurrection. What these scholars are really saying is that they don’t like what the bible says about Jesus. The don’t like what Jesus says about himself, so they have to “take charge” and show that he didn’t say them or that they didn’t happen. It’s a classic strategy, remember the scribes? Jesus is possessed by demons! Well, these scribes of the day like the Jesus who turned the other cheek but hate the Jesus who raises the dead and claims to be God. Jesus puts these critics in their place, and we say, “Go get ‘em Jesus!” But we maybe we might not speak so quickly. We try to control Jesus, too! We are really no better than the folks who went out to “take charge” of Jesus in the crowded house. They were worried about his health. We are just worried. It’s easy to worry about anything, and everything. We worry about the economy, the corn, the weather, or children, school, church… on and on the list goes. What worry really does is gets Jesus down to our size, where we can handle him, where we can be in charge. Worry is not being willing to turn troubles over to God but wanting to hang on to them ourselves. What we forget is that Jesus bound the strong man. Satan causes us trouble, but Jesus has already done him in. Satan doesn’t have any power over us unless we give it to him. The troubles of the world don’t have any power over us unless we let them. When we worry about our troubles, instead of handing them over to Jesus, we hand them over to Satan. We leave the door open for him to push his foot in and use our troubles against us. He whispers into our minds that these things are too big for our God to take care of. He tries to convince us that if God really loved us, he wouldn’t let these kinds of things happen. He tells us that we should be able to handle things on our own. That’s what worry does. It puts us in charge instead of Jesus. It’s controlling Jesus instead of letting Jesus be in control. Besides worry, there are other ways we try to take charge of Jesus. We don’t like the picture of the dead Jesus on the cross. We think that it’s just a little too much. It’s not really a good picture to share with people who don’t know him. So, we try to introduce Jesus in other ways first. We think that if we just tone down Jesus bloody death on the cross, he’ll be more acceptable. One way we do this is to avoid talking about Jesus on the cross. We like to talk about Jesus as our example. In fact, most people like Jesus as an example. That’s because we want to be in control. If Jesus came to be our example, that leaves us in charge. I’m the one who has to do the work then. I work hard to follow an example. I get to be my own savior. The crucified Jesus doesn’t let me do that. Jesus Christ didn’t come to the world and take up human flesh to be our example and show us how to live. He came to pay the price for our sin. He came to bring us forgiveness of sin and restore our proper relationship with God. He comes in complete control. He does it all, and that leaves nothing for us to do. That’s Jesus on the cross. St. Paul says the cross is “folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) It’s much easier to understand Jesus being an example. It’s much easier to understand our responsibility to follow an example. So, we like it much better. It put Jesus where we can control him. But Jesus is in control. He came and suffered death on the cross for your sin. As long as you try to save yourself, you push your Savior out of your life. The worst part of controlling Jesus in this way is that so very often we speak to other people as if Jesus the example is all that matters. We think that the cross is too bloody to be talked about. We’d much rather talk about following Jesus than Jesus painful death on the cross. Mostly it comes across in statements like, “all religions are the same. The most important thing is how we live.” In the end, there will be many good people, people who followed Jesus’ example very well and cared for other people, gave to the poor, put lots of money into charity, gave their neighbors all the help they needed, visited prisoners, etc, who will suffer in hell eternally, because they didn’t trust Jesus for forgiveness of their sins. They tried to earn forgiveness on their own. Instead of letting Jesus be in control, they wanted to do it. St. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) In other words, people think God is “beside himself” while Jesus is bleeding and dying on the cross. One feminist scholar accuses him of cosmic child abuse. It’s doesn’t make sense that God would save the world that way. That “in Christ God [would] reconcil[e] the world to himself, not counting [our] trespasses against [us].” (2 Corinthians 5:19, ESV) Just as they doubt God would work through plain water. Or that Jesus wouldn’t be present in bread and wine. Or that Jesus would use a plain-speaking preacher to carry his forgiveness into people’s hearts. It’s not the way we would do it if we were in charge if we were in control. Being in control leaves us “beside ourselves.” Depending on ourselves. Working out our own salvation by our own efforts. But our own efforts will always fail us. We can’t keep it up perfectly. When we fail, we hang on to our guilt. When we fall short of the mark, we try to blame someone else. When we are in control, we are alone and lost. “Beside ourselves.” Well, Jesus family couldn’t take charge of him, the scribes couldn’t take charge of him, scholars today, can’t take charge of him, and neither can we. We don’t have the ability or the authority. But Jesus does have the power and authority to take charge of us! In spite of what the Scribes said, Jesus doesn’t work through the power of Satan; he works through the power of God, the Holy Spirit, who is present in Word and Sacrament for you. That’s the power of the same one who created everything. God’s house isn’t divided against itself but working together to save us through forgiveness of sins, given in that Word and Sacrament. Jesus has actually opened God’s house up to people who believe in him. He’s opened to forgive all sins and reclaim all lost sinners. Jesus took charge of our sin. He was the one who came and “first binds the strong man” to reclaim what is his. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection take charge of our sin. As much as we would like we can’t take charge of them. No one says it better than Isaiah. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; We’ve tried to take charge. But, Isaiah continues, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, ESV) Jesus says to us, “Turn over your sins to me. I’ve taken them to the cross and to the grave. I’ve done what you can’t do. They don’t have to trouble you anymore. I’m in charge.” Oh, but you don’t have to take my word for it. If you want proof that Jesus is in charge, all you have to do is listen to God’s own Words written by St. Paul. He says the proof is in the pudding. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:12-28, ESV) It’s silly for us to think that we can be in control of Jesus. He rose from the dead. He’s more powerful than even death. Why do we think we can in any way be in control? Being beside oneself must be an awful feeling. If we could only rely on some person beside us, some friend, then we wouldn’t have to be afraid or in despair. We do have someone to be beside us. Jesus Christ is there, and he is more powerful than anything that faces us. He has taken hold of us. He has taken charge of us. Jesus is beside us always. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

John 8:48-59; The Festival of the Holy Trinity; May 30, 2021;

John 8:48-59; The Festival of the Holy Trinity; May 30, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:48–59, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To say that these Jews were unhappy with Jesus, is quite an understatement. They wanted him dead. The great fourth century preacher John Chrysostom talks about this text, he says. "Now, if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham (although this was only a minor comparison", just imagine if he had continually made statements about making himself equal to the Father. Would they have ever stopped throwing stones at him?"[1] And really who could blame them. Just before this, Jesus talks to them about the truth, how he is the truth. They do not recognize him or the truth. Jesus says the truth will set you free and the truth that he brings comes from the father. "Our father is Abraham!" They said. "No," Jesus says in reply, "your father is the devil. If your father were Abraham, if the true God was your God, then you would listen to me, you would hear the truth." They respond by calling Jesus a Samaritan and demon possessed. They mean it to be an insult. But notice, Jesus only refutes the idea that he is demon possessed. He doesn't say "I'm not a Samaritan." Listen again to another church father, St. Augustine: In this Samaritan the Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to understand himself. "Samaritan," you see, means "Guardian."… He could have answered, "I am not a Samaritan, and I do not have a devil." But what he did answer was, "it is not I who have a devil." What he answered, he refuted; What he kept quiet about, he confirmed. He denied he had a devil, knowing himself to be the expeller of devils; He did not deny that he was a guardian of the weak.[2] So just how is Jesus the Samaritan? Will should go back to the parable. It comes to us from Luke chapter 10. The whole parable comes up because a lawyer asks Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus points him to the law. "What do you read in the Law?" And the lawyer answers correctly, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus says, "Okay, do this and you will live." That wasn't enough for the lawyer. He wanted to justify himself by proving that he was keeping the law perfectly enough. "And just who is my neighbor?" And to this Jesus tells the parable that we know is the good Samaritan. You know how it goes. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho was beaten up by robbers and left on the side of the road for dead. A priest comes by but when he sees the man he passes by on the other side of the road. The Levite does the same. It should be noted that these two men were both Jews. And both highly respected "church" people. The people listening to Jesus’ parable would be a little surprised. Most of the time priests and Levites were the heroes of the story. But not today. Jesus turns the story on its head. He says a Samaritan has compassion on the man who was mugged. This is the last person any Jewish hearer would expect to be the hero of any story. The Jews in the Samaritans were at odds. Samaritans had Jewish heritage, but it was all corrupted through intermarriage. And worse their religion is bastardized Judaism. They didn't worship in the temple but instead on Mount Gerizim. When the Jews told jokes, Samaritans were the butt of jokes. But here the Samaritan is the good guy. He binds up his wounds. He gives him medicine. He puts him on his own donkey and takes him to a place of safety. And pays for his recuperation without regard to the cost. And then Jesus asks, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to this man?" The lawyer was forced to say the Samaritan. He can't bring himself to say the word, so he says, "The one who showed him mercy." This is not what the Jews were saying of Jesus. And yet they speak better than they know. Jesus is indeed the one who shows mercy. Jesus is the defender of the weak. In fact, he is doing exactly what they should be doing and aren't. Jesus said he comes from the Father and is doing exactly what the Father has asked him to do. And when they speak evil of him, calling him demon possessed, their dishonoring God. They are not keeping God's word. They are not doing what Samaritan and the parable did. Jesus is pushing the law in their face. They were throwing roadblocks between people and God for the sake of lifting themselves up and making themselves look good. So the truth of Jesus accuses them. Then Jesus says, "Anyone who keeps my word will never see death." And they attack again. "Who do you think you are? Abraham is dead there's no way he listened to you!" And Jesus says it. "I know who I am. I am doing what the Father has sent me to do. Abraham saw my day and was glad." It's an important part of the text. And one completely misunderstood by Jesus' enemies. Abraham had faith in God, the Father, and what he would do to save the world from sin. Abraham looked forward to the day of Jesus. Abraham looked forward to the day of the cross. Make no mistake Abraham saw Jesus clearly in many ways. At the Oaks of Mamre God appeared to Abraham as three men. They appeared and told Abraham that even in their old age he and Sarah would indeed have a son as God had promised. But also, after the son, Isaac was born God tested Abraham telling him to offer that son as a sacrifice. God gave him a ram is a substitute instead. It is the perfect picture of what God would do in Jesus Christ. So not only had Abraham met God but he had faith that God would offer a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Jesus, The Samaritan, the defender of the weak, the substitute Lamb of God, has his day on the cross. He does exactly what the good Samaritan did. He saves broken and bloody people. He cares for and gives medicine to them. Brings them to a place of safety not regarding the cost. The cost for Jesus was great. He gives himself. He is the replacement. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one in the picture Abraham saw on the mountain. The one that was given in place of his own son. Jesus perfect life is given in his perfect death. He gives it for those who are helpless. Jesus enemies were helpless. They were lost in their sin. Jesus gave his life on the cross for them. He offers rescue for them from the side of the road where they were beaten and bloody from their sins. They were helpless and lost. And yet they refuse to be saved by him. They refuse to recognize him for who he is. You and I are helpless. We are lost in our sin. It is no less sin than those who accused Jesus of having a demon. And yet, in love Jesus still gives himself on the cross for us. He rescues us from the side of the road where we are beaten and bloody by our sins, we are helpless and lost. His life is given is the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We gathered here have received Jesus our Savior. We confess faith in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We confess Jesus our Savior is true God and true man. The one whose day Abraham saw and rejoiced. We cling in faith to our defender, our Savior, our good Samaritan, our Substitute Sacrifice. We rejoice in the Good News and receive the medicine of our Lord's Supper. The Jews in our text did not. They could not tolerate Jesus’ comparison to Abraham. They could not tolerate Jesus saying he saw Abraham. They could not tolerate that Jesus said Abraham believed in him. They dishonored Jesus. They dishonored God the Father by rejecting Jesus. But Jesus wants their rejection of him to be clear. He wants them to understand who he is. He wants them to repent and turn to him in faith. And so, he answers the question they asked. "Who do you think you are?" "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." He could not have said it any more clearly. He used the words, the very name of God, which came from the burning bush. He used the name of God that was given to Moses to give to the people when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Moses asked God, "When the people asked me who you are, what name shall I give?" And God said "I AM WHO I AM." What Jesus is saying to the Jews is I AM the very God of Abraham whom you claim to follow. I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I AM the God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt. I AM the one you dishonor when you claim I have a demon. I AM the good Samaritan who has come to save you from your sin. I AM here to bring you to safety. I AM the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. I AM God. Repent and believe the good news I AM here. They rejected him. They pick up stones to kill him. But Jesus walks away from them. It is not time for them to kill him yet. His day, on the cross is yet to come. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. [1] page 318. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume IV a Inter-Varsity Press, 2007 [2] page 311. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume IV a Inter-Varsity Press, 2007

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Acts 2:1-21; The Day of Pentecost; May 23, 2021;

Acts 2:1-21; The Day of Pentecost; May 23, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:1-21, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. “Lost Dog!” The sign said. “$500 reward. Description: Black and tan mixed breed. Flea-bitten. Left hind leg missing. Blind in right eye. Answers to the name, ‘Lucky’” Now Lucky doesn’t seem like much of a dog. Not to me anyway. But there is someone who wants him back and he is willing to pay the price to do it. The funny thing is that Lucky doesn’t sound like a dog that’s even able to do a lot. He certainly isn’t worth the reward that’s offered. He has no pedigree, can’t see, can’t run, plagued by fleas… and yet someone wants him back. Someone loves him that much. Have you ever felt like Lucky? Lost? Unable to do what needs to be done? I have. We all feel that way at one time or another. Actually, God makes it quite clear that we were all like Lucky. The entire human race is “lucky”: lost in our sins, hell-bound, spiritually blind and unable to see God, unable to do what God wants us to do. And yet, God paid the price to have us back. The price He paid was more than a $500 reward. He paid the price of His only begotten Son. Jesus suffered and died on the cross to have us found. Someone loves Lucky a lot. God loves us even more. You and I have already been found and returned home to have a relationship to God again. Now just think another moment about crippled, blind, worthless, Lucky again. I think the Disciples and the folks gathered on the first Pentecost felt. It’s true they’d seen the resurrected Jesus, but they probably felt pretty worthless to tell people about Him. Who’s going to believe a bunch of flea-bitten fishermen from Galilee? That’s where I think you and I can relate. I’m sure those folks gathered together there had the same fears and problems and questions you have when you think about sharing the Good News of Jesus with people. We feel pretty worthless when it comes to that kind of thing. It’s much easier to get out the checkbook and pay to have it done for us. I’ll bet you’ve had thoughts like these: “I don’t know the bible well enough to answer questions that will come up if I talk about Jesus.” “Christianity is too difficult to understand. It takes years to learn. Where do I begin?” “I can’t tell that person about my faith we have too much questionable history, they know me too well to believe my faith is real.” That last one thought is one of the reasons why I think evangelism is more difficult in communities like ours than anywhere else. It is difficult to speak about Jesus to someone you’ve known all your life and never had anything remotely spiritual pass between you. And Jesus name has only been spoken of as part of a curse. In communities like ours, we already have well established relationships, and those relationships have well established expectations, which may very well include the idea that religion isn’t to be discussed. Well, the disciples had similar problems. They doubted their ability to tell people about Jesus, just as you do. They didn’t just feel lost, like Lucky, but worthless, too. That’s one of the things I like about this account of Pentecost. I’ve read it hundreds of times, and every time I come to the same conclusion. The disciples didn’t do a thing. They sat in a room waiting, un-inspired to do what Jesus told them they would be doing. The thing that fired them up was the fire… of Pentecost. The rushing wind told them that God was there. They were filled with the Holy Spirit; the writer tells us. The tongues of fire that showed them what was happening to them also told them what to do next… it was the sign of what the Holy Spirit was giving them. I know the common picture you have in your mind is of the fire setting on their heads. It’s not a bad picture. But I think the fire is just as a literal translation would picture it. The fire distributed to them, in “tongues like fire.” Not on top of their heads but in their mouths, after all as soon as the Spirit came to them they began to speak. Now by this time the crowds had gathered to see what was going on. That windy sound drew them. And the disciples were speaking in languages they hadn’t learned, to people from all over the world, who understood what they were saying. And don’t think for one moment they were talking about the weather. When the Holy Spirit speaks, as He did on that day, He always speaks about Jesus. Nobody expected it to happen, least of all the disciples. But you see, God had promised that this is what they would do, and He always makes good on His promises. Peter got up before the crowd and preached a sermon. When it was done, the Holy Spirit gave the gift of faith to about 3,000 people. Pretty astonishing for a rag-tag group of fishermen from Galilee. Even though they were more like our dog Lucky, God used them to accomplish something great. The Holy Spirit equipped them to do the task that He gave them to do. Now, this is the point I want you to think about. You’ve been equipped to do exactly what God has called you to do. It might not be as dramatic as speaking in foreign languages you’ve never been taught. You might not hear the violent wind and have fire coming out of your mouth, but the very same Holy Spirit is in you that was in those disciples in Jerusalem. You see, that’s Jesus’ promise to you. “If I go, I will send Him to you.” In your Baptism God came to you in the person of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). He lives in you and He equips you to do the task at hand. Think about it this way: If He can make “Galileans” speak in foreign languages that they never learned, He can and will help you speak the simplicity of what Jesus did for you. That’s why we lit the candles during the Acts reading today. That fire you held in your hands isn’t the Holy Spirit, but I wanted you to feel connected to the disciples. There was no way for me to put that fire into your mouth… but that’s exactly what God has already done through the Holy Spirit in you. You might feel worthless like the dog, Lucky, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not up to you to say the right thing anyway. It’s only up to you to speak. Just like He gave the disciples the foreign words to say, He’ll give you the words to say. That’s exactly why He’s there. So, where do you start? How about a few practical tips: First, pray that the Holy Spirit will show you the opportunities you have. They are there in your everyday life. He’ll make you aware of them. Second, remember that even your Christian friends need to hear about Jesus. Just think about what it means to you to hear of God’s love for you in Jesus. It doesn’t matter if they are Presbyterian, Methodist, or even members of Trinity, we all need to hear about Jesus again and again. Keep it simple. You don’t have to preach a sermon, that’s my job. Just take a deep breath, call upon the Spirit and say something about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is right there to guide you, depend on Him. You have God’s promise that it will be enough. There’s a story in the Old Testament about the Prophet Elisha and a poor widow (2 Kings 4:1-7). She was about to lose everything so she came to Elisha for help. Her husband had died and the creditors were at the door. Since she couldn’t pay them, her sons were to be made slaves to pay the debts. All she had was a little flask of oil. The prophet told her to go to her neighbors and borrow all the containers she could get her hands on, “not too few!” He urged her. “Go into your house and start pouring… and pouring… and pouring.” She did what he said and as long as there was another pot to pour into, the oil kept flowing and flowing and didn’t run out. You know, God poured out His Holy Spirit on Pentecost just as He promised. He poured out His Spirit on you in Baptism and the Spirit never runs out. You see Him at work all the time. Every time another baby is baptized, every time the Cross of Christ is proclaimed, every time you hear “I announce the grace of God to all of you …” and even when you receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, which is the Holy Spirit giving and giving. So, Pentecost is for you. It’s a reminder that you aren’t alone, but Jesus is with you through the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. God promises us, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) He proves it through the life death and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He rescued you when you were lost and helpless. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

1 John 5:6-12; The Seventh Sunday of Easter; 16-Apr-21;

1 John 5:6-12; The Seventh Sunday of Easter; 16-Apr-21; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:6–12, ESV) (From the Lutheran Schools Week Chapel Talk, 2014, Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today we are going to talk about a big Greek word: μαρτυρία! Martyria means to witness. In our text for today it is the word testify. Many of the Christian believers that have gone before us were so steadfast in their witness, their testimony, of Jesus and their belief in Him that they were killed for that witness. That is why we get the term “martyr” from that Greek word. A martyr is one who is killed for his or her witness or confession [of Jesus]. But we have a big problem. All of us have a sinful nature. That is a part of us that is affected by sin. We don't always do the things that God would have us do. We fall short of his expectations. We Christians call that part of us the old Adam. Our old Adam keeps us from being perfect witnesses of Jesus. Sometimes we bend the truth … and sometimes we tell outright lies about things or people. People are always influenced by their sinful nature when they speak. Sometimes we leave things out so that we won’t be persecuted or treated differently for the things we believe. We like to be popular, and we like it when people like us. We can’t be perfect, but we can be faithful. Why? God, The Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts. He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a new beating heart full of faith in Jesus. That faith attaches itself to Jesus and His Cross. Faith is trust that God has forgiven our sins because of Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection. It wants nothing but to be with Jesus and His greater testimony concerning truth and life. Christianity is all about faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. We fall short of God's commands, so we deserve punishment, but he forgives us because Jesus suffered and died on the cross in our place. He was punished for us. You might also think of faith as an investigator. The duty of your faith is, first and foremost, to receive the forgiveness of sins Jesus has earned by His death and Resurrection, and then to take that truth and make it known to other people. The Bible verse we are talking about says there are three, high-profile, top-shelf witnesses for faith: The Holy Spirit: he takes everything that Jesus did, his perfect life, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection, and he gives it all to you. The water: we call it Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is where God's name is put onto a person with water. It is God's promise to a particular person that everything that Jesus did is given to the person who's baptized. Holy Baptism which uses plain water, is not plain water any longer because God's promises are stuck to it with God's name. And the final witness is the blood: also, in the Bible in the book of Hebrews it says that without the spilling of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. What it means is that people are accountable for breaking God's laws. Breaking God's laws requires the death penalty. Someone has to be held responsible for sin. It's connected to the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, which is our special meal hear in church. We eat bread and wine which are directly connected to Jesus body and his blood. The very same body and blood was shed for us on the cross. These three witnesses are strong. Every time we hear the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is active and present. Every time we see water, we can be reminded that God has washed away our sins, and that Jesus’ death and Resurrection are ours. Every time we eat the bread and wine of Holy Communion, we know that Jesus has shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We know of the accounts about Jesus healing a blind man and how he believed in Jesus. We know about Jesus feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. How Jesus takes care of us not only by feeding us, but especially by dying for us on the cross. We know about the Good Samaritan. He took care of the dying man on the side of the road who is beat up by robbers. This is exactly what Jesus does for us. He takes care of us. He forgives our sins. We also know about the lost son, called the Prodigal. He left his father and spent everything that he had. When he came back the father for gave him and reinstituted him into the family. It's what God does for us through Jesus Christ. That's forgiveness. We can be witnesses, or as the Bible verse says, we have the testimony. We have the message about what Jesus Christ has done. Jesus has planted His Word in our ears and created faith in our hearts. Remember that faith clings to Jesus’ Word and He remembers His promises. He is faithful, you can trust his promises. By His death on the Cross — today you are free from sin, and the punishment you deserve from God. Now we confess and we declare what we have heard because the Holy Spirit opens our lips and that confession pops right out. We cannot help but declare the truth of the Gospel that we have seen and heard. That's μαρτυρία, that's witness. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

John.15.9-17; Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021

John.15.9-17; Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; (From a sermon by Glen Neilson) As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:9-17, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Jesus calls us his friends. Right in the middle of this reading we hear him say to us, “you are my friends.” Right there in the middle of all that talk about doing what I command, obeying the Father, bearing fruit, Jesus says we are his friends. He says that he has a relationship with us, actually being our friend. We all know how precious and rare a good friend is. We all need someone to be friends with. There are times when we need a friend to discuss the troubles in our life. We all need someone to sit with for a cup of coffee, shop with, and even commiserate about life, kids, work and school. We know how important it is to have a good friend to do all those kind of things with, and yet, we also know how really rare, good friendships are. Today, friendships seem to be extra hard to build. They take time, and time is a luxury we seem to have so little of these days. Everyone is so busy, with school, work, family there’s little time left to develop a good friendship. And even when there’s time, we often lack the energy. Life today is full… There’s another problem too. Lots of people really don’t know how to be a good friend. All too often people use relationships for their own benefit, and their own purposes. People want you around and call you a friend when you can do something for them. They want you to be there when you can make them feel good, but as soon as a little trouble starts or as soon as you’re not useful anymore they split. Friendship is difficult when you get used, in the process. Friendship makes you vulnerable. That’s just the nature of the beast. Friends see us for who we are, with our masks removed. We let our guard down and tell them things we don’t tell anyone else. When the true you comes out you put yourself in a position to be hurt easily. That’s another reason why friendship is rare. Friendship is so rare that maybe it makes Jesus’ offer of friendship a little difficult to accept. We do what him to be with us, after all we gather together here Sunday after Sunday to come into contact with him. We want him to listen to our problems and he promises to do just that. He promises that nothing is too small a matter for him, and we can confide in him anytime. He always has time for us. He always treats us right. He promises to give us whatever we ask in his name. He actually was the friend who gave his very life for his friends. Jesus loves us, in spite of who we are. He promises to fill us with joy. He knows us for who we are and never turns us away. Jesus is the kind of friend we really want. What a precious gift it is to be chosen as a friend of Jesus. “You are my friends” Jesus says. Unfortunately, we aren’t good friends in return. We don’t spend the time and energy necessary for this friendship. We know what the pressures are. It’s difficult to get everyone up and around in the morning, just in time to catch the school bus, or off to work. Who has time for adding an extra half hour, or even fifteen minutes? for devotions? Sunday is a day to rest and catch up. It’s a day to relax and do nothing. No wonder our minds wander from the task at hand in worship. There’s so much to do today, especially with Memorial Day weekend approaching. Dinners in the oven or being picked up at Sven’s. And with meals are all too often around the TV instead of the table. Family devotions don’t fit very well during commercials. With all this busyness, with all this eating on the run, it is our friendship with Jesus that suffers. No time. No energy. No will to do it. Maybe his friendship with us isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Does he really treat me right? Does he really hear my prayers? All of them? Being chosen as a friend of Jesus hasn’t made my life any easier. Where’s that joy that he promises anyway? I’ve got pain in my life, and lots of it. And Jesus, “my friend” seems a long way away. My friendship with Jesus is filled with doubt. Jesus, our friend, shows us all our weaknesses. It’s painful when we compare ourselves with him. The bible tells us that He is perfect. We know that we are not perfect. He does everything right. We constantly fail. He loves perfectly. We give our love with conditions. He is a good friend. We are simply friendly. Who wants to hang around someone who is always opening those wounds? Who wants a friendship with someone who’s better than we are? It’s easier to avoid Jesus and let that friendship with Jesus die. And we’d let it die. But Jesus is too good a friend for that. Jesus considers His friendship with us so precious that He won’t let it die. He didn’t choose for us friends so that we’d wither up and die, like dead branches on the vine. He wants us to bear fruit. He promises joy and that’s what He gives with His friendship. Jesus is a true friend. He gives his time to us fully. As a matter of fact, he lived his whole life only for us, His friends. Jesus is no earthly or worldly friend. You don’t have any friends that are anything like Him. He did what was best for us even when it meant his own death, even when it meant sacrificing himself. He has that “greater love” that he was talking about. That’s true friendship, to lay down your life for your friends. He offers Himself, His very life for you. That’s why He took on human flesh. You and I are lousy friends. That’s because sin lives in our hearts and makes us selfish instead of selfless. The sinful nature that lives in our hearts doesn’t even want anything to do with God. That selfishness, that rejection of God, that lack of friendship, deserves punishment. God’s only punishment for rejecting Him is death. I know it seams harsh. We don’t run around killing people who don’t want to be friends with us, but God is different. He is perfect and holy. Rejection of God means rejection of everything that He is and stands for. There is only one place for people who reject God and His holiness. That place is hell. Because of that sin that’s in here, without friendship with God we are hell bound. But that’s not acceptable to God, so in steps Jesus, our friend. He leaves His Father and is born as a human being. He’s a perfect friend of God. He’s a perfect friend to the people all around Him. And He’s a perfect friend to you and me. You see, He gives his very life for us, even when it meant death and execution. Jesus laid down His life for you, His friends, on the cross. His friendship takes him to the darkness and pain of death. His friendship causes Him to suffer the punishment of hell for us that is the eternal separation our sinful nature really wants. So, you and I don’t have to face hell and its punishment. Jesus our friend has paid the price in full for us. But His friendship doesn’t stop in death. He takes His life up again. That’s where the joy is. It’s Easter joy! Jesus’ friendship for us didn’t die in the tomb. He rose again and came alive. He isn’t a dead friend who gave up everything for us. He is alive. A dead friend isn’t a good friend at all. Jesus is our friend forever. He’s a friend that is able to do whatever we need. He proves it by dying and rising again. That’s how He shows us that He will never leave us or forsake us. He knows who we truly are, and He is still our friend. He knew us before he died. He knew us on the cross, and He still died for us. He knows us now and still calls us his friends. What a friend we have in Jesus! Do we need a friend to talk to? Take it to the lord in prayer. Do we need a friend to walk with? He comes to us in His Word, right here. All we have to do is open your ears and listen to Him. Do you need to be close to your friend, Jesus? He comes to us in His very Body and Blood at this altar in the meal He gave us to eat. All we have to do is open our mouths and eat. That’s the personal touch of friendship that only Jesus gives. So, we’ve got lots of friends. If we rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, Jesus is 1,000,000. He’s the best friend that you will ever have. Do you need a friend? I do. You do, too. We need Jesus as our friend. A friend who has such great love that He lays down His life for us. A friend who has such great love for us that He give us the forgiveness of sins that we need. He is our true friend. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.