Sunday, May 28, 2023

Joel 2:28-29; May 28, 2023; Festival of Pentecost;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28–29, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are you parched and dry this morning? I’m not really talking about the weather; we aren’t experiencing a drought this spring, yet. And up here in the Arrowhead we’ve got all the water we need. Although we could always use a bit of rain. This year, for right now, the ground seems to have just about the right amount of moisture. But you do know what I mean when I talk about being parched and dry. You’ve seen drought, with the dust floating in the air, where moisture should be. Great dry cracks in the ground made by the evaporating of surface moisture. Brownish-Green plants with shriveled leaves, clenching the dry dusty earth, steadily shrinking into nothing as they vainly suck the ground for water, smoke from forest fires that chokes out everything.

Human beings can be dry, too. Working in the sun can quickly dehydrate a person; as it beats down on you; the heat causes you to sweat in great drops that are soaked into your clothing. Your tongue seems to swell and fill your mouth with dryness, instead of saliva. Weakness comes to your joints; even movement emphasizes the need for some moisture. Your mind aches for a small drop of water on the tip of your tongue. The land can be parched and dry; people can be parched and dry, you’ve all been there, and you know what it means.

Our text today comes from the book of the Prophet Joel. We don’t hear much from him in our regular Sunday readings, but he pops up in Pentecost. He does because; the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the text that St. Peter used to preach the first Sermon in the Christian Church; he did that on the first Pentecost. We heard a part of it in our reading of Acts a few moments ago. It might seem kind of strange but Joel, that important Pentecost book, mostly speaks about being parched and dry. In fact, almost two thirds of the book talk about and invasion of locusts, and the ensuing drought. Listen to the prophet Joel describe what’s going on:
The seed shrivels under the clods; the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. To you, O LORD, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” (Joel 1:17–20, ESV)
It is quite a vivid picture of a drought that the prophet paints. It almost makes you want to get up and go get a drink, doesn’t it? We really don’t know exactly when Joel penned those words, or when that drought took place. It really doesn’t make that much difference, the dryness of the land that Joel talks about was something that happened in that part of the country occasionally. The people living there suffered because of it. But Joel wasn’t only talking about dry ground; he was talking about dry people, too. Over and over again in their history, the People of God became spiritually dry. They forgot about what God had done for them, by giving them the land he promised. They forgot what he had done for them, supporting them in the desert when they escaped from Egypt. They forgot what he had done by delivering them from slavery to Pharaoh in the first place. The parched land was only a sign of their parched lives; lives without the God who was their God; lives spiritually dry and empty. Their tongues no longer sang the praises of God; they lacked the moisture that was needed. They no longer made the thank offerings and the drink offerings that God had command them to do; they lacked the moisture that was needed. They had turned instead to false gods, made of dry stone, or cut wood. These gods sucked the life from them, instead of refreshing them, and giving them what they needed. Through the prophet Joel, God calls them to repentance. “Return to me!” he called out to them. I will end the drought; I am the one who provides what you need to live. I will give you the moisture your soil and your soul need. “Return to the LORD your God,” say the well-known words of the book of Joel, “for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

God always responds to repentance: “in those days I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” Like the water poured out on a thirsty land, that runs into the cracks in the ground and refreshes dry withered plants; my Spirit, says God, will be poured out on my people. They will drink up the moisture of my care and compassion; I will take care of their physical and spiritual needs. I will give them abundant water, more than a drop to cool the tongue, but overflowing to fill up their whole lives, to refresh and replenish them… “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” That was God wanted, for the people to be saved, not only from the drought of the land, but from their spiritual dryness, too.

It isn’t difficult to see that people today are also parched and dry. There is clamoring for spirituality, those sections in the bookstore are busier than ever. Titles like “10 ways to use God to make your life better.” “Basic life principals-Use the bible to fix whatever is wrong in your life.” “God wants you to be healthy and happy, use this prayer to make it so.” People today are dry as the ground in a drought, sucking at the dust for spiritual direction, panting for moisture in the dryness of misleading (if not well intentioned) texts. Laying their offerings at the feet of false gods who promise and end to the drought but can’t deliver, because the moisture that people need in their lives can only come from the God who created them. The moisture they need can only come from being in a relationship with the Only True God.

Do you sometimes feel dry, too? Even though you are in a relationship with One True God. Do the pressures of life, the busyness of life, the demands of life, seem to suck the life out of you? Life can be that way. It’s nice to be able to work, but when the demands of your job overwhelm you, when the workload increases, it can dry up your opportunities to do anything else. And your family relationships are affected, too. You struggle to keep them alive, but the pressure leads to arguments and misunderstanding that just drain the life away from them. Painful memories from the past suck the good from current relationships and leave you gasping for moisture.

Even your relationship with your Savior is, at times, affected. There are Sundays when you may wonder why you are sitting here, because God feels so far away… so far that it seems as if He doesn’t care what happens in your dry and dusty life, so far away that you feel parched and dry.

“In those days,” says the Lord to you, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” God provides the moisture you need in your life. Just as he sends rain on dry parched ground, just as he gives due every morning to thirsty plants; he gives you the moisture you need to live on this dry planet. It isn’t a coincidence that he speaks of the ‘pouring out’ of the Spirit. It’s the language of liquid refreshment, water is poured out, wine is poured out, and thirsty lives have what they need.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”” (John 7:37–38, ESV)
Those are the words of Jesus. He knows how dry and parched life can be, and he knows that people need spiritual moisture, but more than that he knows why life can be that way. It isn’t a coincidence that the dryness of life shows up first in our relationships with other people. That’s because it’s caused by dryness in another relationship, our relationship with God himself. It’s sin that comes between Your Heavenly Father and you, straining the relationship, just like an argument keeps your friends or even your parents away. Sin causes the moisture of life to trickle away. But Jesus says, “come to me and drink.” I have overpowered the dryness of sin. When it drains your life of meaning by drying up your relationships, remember what I have done for you. I lay in the dry dusty tomb that should have been yours. I died the death and suffered the punishment that your sin should have brought to you. I made permanent the relationship between Our Father and you. It will never dry up again!

And that brings us to Pentecost. Pentecost is above all things about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul wrote to a Pastor under his instruction
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3–7, ESV)
You see, Pentecost is exactly about the pouring out of spiritual moisture on dry lifeless people. It is about the giving of the gifts of spiritual moisture to Christ’s church. It is the Holy Spirit at work here in this place as we hear the Good News of what Jesus Christ has done. He renews and restores; he works to pour living water into dry and parched people. He is at work, reviving the dry dusty soul at the baptismal font. Where he creates living faith through water connected to the words of God. There is moisture there for you. When we say, “remember your baptism,” we mean remember what God did there for you there. Pouring the water life into your life, washing away the sin that made you parched and dry. Whenever you remember it, the spiritual moisture flows again and revives you. The Holy Spirit is also at work whenever we approach this rail to drink the spiritual moisture, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin, the very blood of Christ.

God knows about your dryness, about the drought that sometimes affects your life. He does more than offer you a drop to cool your tongue. He offers abundant overflowing “…living waters that flow from within.” as Jesus said. He gives spiritual moisture to quench your thirst, moisture to end the drought, moisture to mend the dryness in your family relationships, and bring meaning to the work you do every day. That spiritual moisture, that living water, flows from within you to everyone around you. Just as you are forgiven so you also forgive. The moisture you have been given, you give to others, and just as the ending of a drought begins with a single drop of rain, dry and parched people, the dry and parched land, are revived. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Acts.1.6-11; May 21, 2013; Ascension of Our Lord (observed);

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” ” (Acts 1:6–11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There they stood on the Mount of Olives gazing up into heaven. For all they could tell Jesus was gone. A cloud took him away. I think they were wondering what to do next. Of course, Jesus told them,
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v. 8)

But how could they possibly do that without Jesus? As they were standing there with their mouths hanging open in wonder the angels appeared. “Hey, why are you looking up there? You’re looking for Jesus in the wrong place. Look for him, instead, where he has promised to be. He’ll come again just like that. You’ll see him that way again. But for now, he’s giving you something else.” The disciples were there standing in two great promises. First, the angels tell of the promise of Jesus coming again. We Christians stand with the disciples in between. Jesus came first in the womb of the Virgin. He completed all that was necessary for our forgiveness. His life lived for you and me. His death died for you and me. His resurrection too for us. Everything is done. He goes into heaven and is coming again to bring it all to its conclusion; a world without sin and death and pain and sorrow. That’s the joy of the Ascension. That is the ultimate joy of those baptized into God’s name. We are his children, adopted through Holy Baptism by God putting his name and promises on us with water. We live our lives looking forward to Jesus’ glorious return, just as he promised.

To put some flesh on the second promise of the Ascension we turn back to St. Luke’s Gospel, the Gospel reading for today. Jesus promises the disciples what they’ll be doing. “…repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [Jesus] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” (Luke 24:47-49, ESV) The Good News of Jesus is going to go out from Jerusalem. They are witnesses of these things; the forgiveness of sins that Jesus has won. They saw his life. They saw his miracles. They heard his teaching. They saw his death. They were witnesses to his resurrection. When he promises they know it is true. The one who can rise from the dead can do whatever he promises. The disciples are the ones sent with this Good News the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus. And they do not go alone. Jesus’ Ascension comes with the promise of the Holy Spirit. He is the promise of the Father. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises to be with us always is true. He is with us in God’s Word and worship, in Bread and Wine and Water. Creating and strengthening faith in Jesus, through the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

These are the two great promises of the Ascension, and we confess them in the Apostles’ Creed when we confess the story of Jesus:

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus sits at that right hand of God. As one of my seminary professors says, “The right hand is what you use to do things.” (Norman Nagel, 2010) What God is doing right now in the world he is doing with his right hand, Jesus. In his life, death, and resurrection Jesus gains forgiveness for you. His “It is finished” on the cross restores your broken relationship with God. He takes your sin, your deserved punishment into the grave, and rises to your new life. He is active and working right now in your ears, on your wet head, and in your mouth. In fact, this means that Jesus is closer now than he has ever been. It is what Jesus did on the cross, delivered. In these means, the spoken word, water, and bread and wine, he delivers forgiveness to you.

It’s as Luther confessed in the Small Catechism:
What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. (Small Catechism, The Sacrament Holy Baptism) What is the benefit of this eating and drinking? These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. (Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar)
There is nothing more practical than the daily remembering of the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. Every day we sin. Every day we live with the knowledge of broken relationships, broken promises, and broken dreams. Every day we struggle with the knowledge that death waits for us. It is ours because of sin. But we live every day also in the promises of the Crucified One, the Risen One, the Ascended One, the One Who is Coming Again to be our judge. For those who are his children, Jesus’ return is not a day of dread or fear. We already know the Judge. What God promises is already true. Jesus is already, right now, our judge. He has declared us “not guilty” through his cross, his word, and his sacraments. We are his forgiven children now. We can only be lost from him if we reject his promises to us, wanting to be our own savior. We look forward to his return, because then we will see him, just as the Ascension angels promised. We will be with Jesus forever. This great Ascension joy compels us to live differently. Forgiven sinners forgive sinners. We forgive those who sin against us and strive to live our lives according to God’s will.

This is the joy of the Ascension. There is no question as to why the Christian church has celebrated this as one of the highest festivals of the church year. We rejoice in Jesus coming the first time, in flesh and blood for our forgiveness. We rejoice in the message passed down to us through the Apostles; repentance and forgiveness of sins, proclaimed beginning at Jerusalem and ending in our ears. And we rejoice in our Lord’s second coming as our judge, our Savior. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Galatians 1:1-12; The Sixth Sunday of Easter; May 14, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:1–12, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Maybe it's time to update the Gospel. I mean, we know what it is. Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and rose again to new life. Jesus perfect life and death in exchange for our sin and new life for us. We hear it all the time. It's the gospel. It's "good news". But maybe there is more. Maybe other religions have some things that we need to consider adding. Other people are spiritual. They seem to have ways of getting along in the world. Some of the things they say make sense. So maybe we should incorporate some of those into the gospel. All good ideas need updating from time to time, right?

People say things like this all the time, even today in this modern world. The only real sin today is believing that you know "The Truth". There are far too many ideas out there for you to be sure that you have the right one, they say. The thing is this idea is not new at all. It's modern and ancient. In fact, it's what Paul is writing this letter about. There were teachers, troublemakers, that showed up in the church in Galatia. This was one of the churches that St. Paul founded. They wanted to add in some things to what Paul had taught them. They wanted to update the Gospel. A little good works here. A little circumcision there. "If you want to be relevant to the society you are in…"

When St. Paul heard, he wasn't just angry, he was livid! He quickly gets through the niceties of beginning the letter but drops all pretense and shouts. "I'm astonished that you are so quickly deserting the Gospel and turning to a different gospel!" They had set aside what he had taught only a short time ago. They altered the Gospel. They tweaked it. They caved into the ideas of inclusivism and accommodation. They buckled under cultural pressure. Smooth talking false teachers told them it was okay. As long as they didn't give up the core of the Gospel.

If you're anxious to do that, there are plenty of other Gospels out there. I have said the names of the preachers before. They tell you the gospel is about you. One asks the question "What On Earth Am I Here For?" Another tells you to ask God the impossible for your life. Another says if you treat every day like Friday, God will make your life happier. And still others tell you that if you are just less particular about what the Bible teaches and drop the old hymns and liturgy the world will flock to your church door. And more will try to convince you that there's no place in the church for discussions about LGBQ+ or homosexuality or abortion because those are personal issues. Nothing has changed. Some of Satan's attacks against the church seem so reasonable. And they usually start out, "if we just…" And Jesus is moved from the center. And if Jesus is not at the center, we have lost The Gospel.

But the Gospel is a particular thing. It's not a conglomeration of ideas brought together by people wandering around the Middle East. It is not man's gospel. It is God's gospel. It is a gospel made sure by God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the gospel of our being saved from this present evil age. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ who gave himself up willingly to the cross to save us from our sinfulness. It is the gospel of restoration with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is the gospel that did not come from the mind of people. It was not made up by clear thinking human beings. It was revealed by God in the life of Jesus Christ. And there is no other way to have a right relationship with God than through Jesus Christ. Any other way of trying to connect to God leads to permanent, eternal separation from him. The true gospel is the gospel of our receiving from God, not our doing for God. In a few pages in this letter Paul says it like this:
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”” (Galatians 3:11–12, ESV)
and he further clarifies in Romans:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21–25a, ESV)
Through faith we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is given to us freely without cost by God because of what Jesus has done. Faith clings to the promise. This is the good news. The true gospel. No human input. No human supplements. No human tweaks are changes or alterations. This is the gospel that comes from God through St. Paul without modification or accommodation.

In the face of the promises of God in Jesus Christ, who are we to change what God has given? As St. Paul says are we seeking the approval of man or of God? If we want to please human beings, we can incorporate all of those things into the gospel and end up with no gospel at all. The gospel of salvation by grace through Jesus Christ, if it is changed, is a perverted false gospel. And Paul gives strong warnings to those who would preach that kind of a gospel:
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4, ESV)
Either we are saved by our good works, and we don't need Christ, or Jesus Christ and his righteousness are given to us freely by grace. When you tweak the gospel to make it about what we do rather than what God has done it is no longer the good news. It takes Jesus out of the picture. And if Jesus is out of the picture what you have left is not the gospel but another of the many paths to hell.

There is only one gospel. It is the good news of Jesus that frees us from the curse of the law. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 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”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10–14, ESV) and so, we receive this forgiveness of sins, that is, you are justified, by God's grace, his undeserved love for us, and nothing else. We cling to Jesus in faith that his promises are true for you and me. And all of this is apart from any works of the law or any deeds we do. And that is truly good news.

St. Paul's astonishment comes because it only took a very short time for the Galatians to go from a position of being willing to have their eyes gouged out for the truth of the gospel to giving it up entirely. This is fair warning. We must always be on guard. We must always be testing and checking to be sure that Jesus Christ is at the center of what we do and say. We pray for the Holy Spirit to be among us as we worship so that we would receive the good news of Jesus. And so, we hear it again. The good news of Jesus Christ is here for you.
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:3–7, ESV)

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

1 Peter 2:2-10; Sixth Sunday of Easter; May 7, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:2–10, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the center point of history. That is our confession. Biblical scholar Carl Michaelson said that Jesus is the “hinge of history.” The fact that most people on earth don’t recognize him as such, is of no consequence. He is so, in fact. Not surprisingly, St. Peter agrees. He says, “Christ is the cornerstone.” We look forward to the day when we lay a cornerstone for our new church. It is customary to put documents and memorabilia in it to commemorate the occasion. Something for future generations to see what we were thinking, why we built the building. The laying of a cornerstone is decisive. When you do it there is no turning back. You either build on it or you stumble over it. The future will look at our cornerstone and either think of us fools or wise.

The Christian faith is the same. St. Peter quotes Isaiah,
For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:6, ESV)
For those who do not believe (the vast majority of the world),
“[Jesus,] the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1 Peter 2:7–8, ESV)
To put it another way,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, ESV)
The gospel is the account of Jesus coming into the world, dying for the sins of the world (even those who will never believe), and who is coming again to finish “making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5, ESV) It is the culmination of all that was foretold in the Old Testament, all that is recorded in the New Testament. God has and will solve the greatest problem that faces humanity. He will abolish death. All that Jesus did is the “making of all things new.”

A center point has a before and an after. A hinge has two sides. A cornerstone has a before and an after. Again St. Peter talks about that.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)
He states it this way.
• Before, in darkness; after in marvelous light.
• Before, not a people; after God’s people.
• Before, no mercy; after mercy.

And he says even more. We are chosen, a royal priesthood and God’s possession.

It all hinges on Jesus, the center point, the hinge, the cornerstone. He makes all this happen. As St. Paul eloquently puts it,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)
According to Peter the result is our being born again, “like newborn infants” (Latin: Quasimodo Geniti, celebrated as the Second Sunday of Easter, named for the first line of the Introit). He carries the idea here from his words in Chapter 1:3.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3, ESV)
Peter fills the idea with Old Testament images. A priesthood, a holy nation, a temple. He ties salvation history together Old and New, before and after. What was before Jesus was there because of Jesus. It told of the cornerstone ahead of time. It set God’s people in ready mode. They had God’s grace because of Jesus to come. We have God’s grace because he did come.

As you would expect the hinge of history is a provable fact. Unbelievers deny it, just as we would expect them to, but Jesus, the Son of God, the Savoir of the World, the Cornerstone of history, came in history, “born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate.” And the result is clear. We are born again, like newborn infants. Our status as God’s people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, is, in fact, a historical fact.

The fact is nothing less than astounding, if not a bit confusing. Even the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus was confused. He asked Jesus,
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”” (John 3:4, ESV)
Jesus was clear. Understanding our status is tied to his resurrection. We are
…born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3b, ESV)
Like newborn infants, we are to, long for the pure spiritual milk. All newborn infants need their mother’s milk. It provides everything necessary to live and grow. I once heard a sermon that the preacher said, “It’s time to move on from the milk. It’s time to get into the meat.” Meaning, not focusing on Jesus and his salvation, but rather the good works we should do. He was wrong. It is the pure spiritual milk that causes us to grow. As infants we long for it and need it. Good works follow as a consequence of nourishment.

It is all by God’s gracious hand. He provides what we need and want. A place, a time, a pastor proclamation of his word, sacraments to wash and feed us, a building, possibly a new building, fellow infants to console and share, a community to proclaim Jesus as the cornerstone. These are the “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5b, ESV). These are our infant priesthood good works to do.

In the world today, there are only two ways to be. Born of Adam, born into sin, born into slavery, born into death, or born again of Christ through his resurrection. Newborn infants, feeding on the pure spiritual milk, Alive in Christ bringing Life in Christ. With death in our future but the sure hope of life with Jesus forever, with the certainty by God’s promise of a physical resurrection like his with no more death, pain, sorry or suffering. Living with sin, but also living in Jesus’ victory over sin. Knowing that sin has no power over us but is dead in the grave with Jesus. Living with pain a sorrow but knowing certainly they are short lived. Because we are a chosen people, God’s people, a royal priesthood, a people for his own possession. We have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

John.10.1-10; Psalm 23; The Fourth Sunday of Easter; April 30, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:1–10, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Who’s your shepherd? Maybe that seems like an odd question. But I think it’s a fair one. Who’s your shepherd? We have after all designated a whole Sunday service to the “Good Shepherd.” So, when I ask, “who’s your Shepherd,” you may quickly reply, “Well Pastor, that’s obvious, The Lord is my Shepherd! Just end the sermon right now and let’s all go home.” The Lord is my Shepherd, is indeed the answer to the question, but maybe we should think about it just a little bit more before we go home to lunch in the oven.

Who’s your Shepherd? It is an important question. It’s important because the Lord isn’t the only shepherd out there. The Lord seems to have lots of competition, especially these days, especially these very busy days. Maybe even though you say The Lord is my Shepherd, you are really listening to one of the others. Maybe you’re straying from the Good Shepherd’s flock. Maybe one of these competing shepherds, maybe one of those false shepherds, is leading you. In fact, it would be surprising if they didn’t have some influence over your life, because there are a great many false shepherds vying for your attention. They are out there, calling to you, wanting you to follow them. And what’s more they don’t “come through the gate” Jesus says, they climb in some other way. We may not even recognize that they are there.

There is one “shepherd” that is calling out for us to follow, one that’s obvious and overt. He calls out to us 24 hours a day. We, in fact, have invited him into our homes and our pockets and given him a place of prominence. No other “shepherd” has more influence on us than the daily bombardment of the screen. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, TikTok, Amazon prime video, over the air television, and cable TV. It isn’t that the technology is evil. It isn’t that we become vegetables by sitting in front of the tube (although that can be a real problem). The problem we are talking about this morning is the constant repetition of themes and images that come to fill our thoughts and minds. So many of those messages are in direct contrast to the “paths of righteousness” that the Good Shepherd would lead us on. So much of what this “shepherd” has to say is hidden in and among messages that seem to be so good. No “shepherd” is better at playing on our sympathy than this one. But he comes in the back way. We take him out of our pocket and put him in front of our eyes whenever we have nothing else to do. He deceives us by telling us that what the whole world thinks is more important than what God, the creator of the world, thinks. He does it by sheer repetition. This shepherd comes to steal away, and to kill you, and you, are a captive audience.

The “Good Shepherd” isn’t like that. As Jesus says, he comes in the gate. He calls out to his sheep, by name. They know him and follow him. The “Good Shepherd” can be trusted and followed. He knows the right way. He leads his sheep on the well-worn paths of righteousness. The path of righteousness is the good way to go. It leads to a fullness of life; a way of life that preserves and protects, instead of kills and destroys. Other “shepherds” don’t lead that way. There are many “shepherds” also who tell us that the way is wide and easy. They tell us that many roads lead to the same place. It really doesn’t matter which way you choose, as long as you are sincere. This Religion says this “shepherd,” is for personal comfort; for personal growth in times of trouble; or even for personal wealth and happiness. It is called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It’s easy to follow this “shepherd,” too. When he calls out to be followed, he only asks that you recognize that “the truth relative” and “what’s true for you isn’t true for everyone” and “do whatever is in your heart” and “if it feels good, do it”.

But the “Good Shepherd” isn’t like that. He says there is only one right path to follow.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)
There is only one way. The “Good Shepherd” leads in that way. His way leads through the green pastures, and beside the quiet waters, and only the way that he leads ends at the banquet table in the House of God.

There is another shepherd that calls out to you to follow him… and that shepherd has more influence over you than all the others do. He is the shepherd that lurks in your very own heart. He’s the part of you that wants nothing to do with God or the Good Shepherd. He wants to be his own shepherd. He wants to be in control of his own life and live it his own way. “I can make that decision on my own. I don’t need God’s guidance. God can’t really mean that this thing that feels so good is sinful. I can do whatever I want; the commandments don’t apply to me. Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” Unfortunately, this shepherd can’t be separated from us. He’s a part of our being. And none of us, who are alive, lives without him. It’s perfectly natural for us to want to follow him. We call it “looking out for number one,” or “Taking care of myself, first.” But, you see, the sheep can’t lead themselves. The sheep don’t know which way to go. When every sheep starts doing what is right in his own thinking and then the flock gets scattered, then none of them make the journey safely. When we follow ourselves as our shepherd, again the way leads to death.

Again, that isn’t the way of the Good Shepherd. He gathers his sheep together and leads them. He knows the sheep want to go their own way, but he corrects them. He calls out to them to keep the flock together. He walks in front of them to show them the way.

There is no picture, no image, which is burned into our minds that is stronger than that of Jesus the Good Shepherd. We find it in countless paintings and multitudes of art. I’ll bet most of you have it somewhere in your home. We can understand this image. That’s probably why the 23rd Psalm is the favorite bible passage of so many people. When Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd we automatically go to an image we hold in our minds, we know what he means. Who’s your shepherd? It isn’t the shepherd that calls you from your computer screen your pocket, calling you to believe lies. It isn’t the shepherd that tells you there are many paths that all lead to the same place. It isn’t even the shepherd you harbor in your own heart. No, none of these are the Good Shepherd. Your shepherd is the Good Shepherd.

The Lord, Jesus Christ, is your shepherd. You are his sheep. He knows you very well. He calls you by name. He has marked you as his own with the very still waters of baptism. He has claimed you from the jaws of the world, Satan, and your own sinful flesh. He has gone to the cross to make that connection firm. He is the shepherd that gives his very life for the sheep.

You shall not want. He supplies you with all that you need for the journey through life. He guides you. He leads you. He protects you. He makes you lie down in green pastures. He leads you beside still waters. He restores your soul. Sometimes you need to be made to rest. The Good Shepherd knows that too. The pastures that he leads you to are full of green, green grass. There are restful and there are quiet waters there. You are well rested when it’s time for the journey to continue. He guides you in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He guides you in the way of truth. That’s the best way to go. It is the way that makes life full and complete. He does it, not because you are a special sheep, but because he is the “Good Shepherd.”

Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for he is with you; the journey is a very dangerous journey. Danger is all around. But there is no reason to fear. The Good Shepherd is with you. In fact, the Good Shepherd has already died for you. Jesus has already walked through the shadow of death, he was crucified, died, and was buried. But he didn’t stay in the shadow; he walked out the other side and was raised from death to life. He promises to walk with you, to lead you through death, too. You don’t need to be afraid because you will also walk from death to life.

His rod and his staff, they comfort you. Even if you begin to stray, even when you begin listen to other shepherds, Your Good Shepherd is there to bring you back. He uses his rod to drive the other shepherds away. He uses his staff to hook you and keep you close to himself, close at hand, where you can listen to him, see him, and follow him. He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil; your cup overflows. You are his honored guest. Your enemies, those false shepherds, are not able to influence you. The blessings of Your Good Shepherd overflow.

Surely goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, on this journey, with your Good Shepherd, His goodness and love follow you. They pursue you and make the journey rich and full of wonder. and you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. When the journey is over, when the destination is reached, it is only the beginning; because your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is leading you home, to the place that he has prepared for you. There everything you experienced on the journey, the goodness and mercy, the overflowing banquet, the comfort, his presence, and the abundance of his blessings, will never end.

So, we come back to the question that we began with, who’s your shepherd? He’s the one you listen to. He’s the one who leads you. He’s Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Luke.24.13-35; The Third Sunday of Easter; April 23, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:13–35, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I think it’s wonderfully amazing how Jesus is so much at the heart and center of this text. We have a print of a painting of this very scene in the restroom. Jesus stands between these two disciples who have left Jerusalem. It is the very place Jesus said he would meet them, and were walking away to Emmaus. Jesus tells them about scripture.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
But before that the two were talking about, “all these things that happened.” That means Jesus death, and the rumors of his resurrection. And Jesus appeared to them. But they didn’t know who he was because that’s the way Jesus wanted it to be. “What are you talking about? As you’re walking away from Jerusalem.” And the two disciples were dumbfounded that someone would not know what was going on. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know these things that have happened in these days?” The truth is Jesus knows more about what has happened than these disciples. But they are about to find out. “What things?” says Jesus. It’s about one of the most ironic statements in the Bible. “We had high hopes for Jesus of Nazareth. But, he was crucified dead and buried. Some women we know told us that he has risen from the dead. But none of this makes any sense to us.” “Don’t you know your Bible?” Jesus chides. “Doesn’t it say in the prophets that these things are necessary to happen? Doesn’t it say that the Christ should suffer all these things?” Then Jesus conducts a Bible class on the road. Jesus walks through the Bible with his disciples as he walks with them on the road to Emmaus. From beginning to end, he shows them how the Scriptures are all about him. He interprets the texts of God’s word for them, showing how he is the center of it all. Showing how he was the sacrifice for all human sin, bringing forgiveness through grace.

The disciples invite this unknown man to eat with them. And Jesus reveals to them who he is in the breaking of bread. Just as they see it, Jesus in the Scriptures, Jesus seated with them in their meal, Jesus teaching them on the road to Emmaus, he leaves them that thought. They later told the other disciples that their hearts burned within them while Jesus talked to them on the road. When Jesus told them that he was the center of Scripture the meaning and purpose of the Bible was “opened to them.”

As an aside, this is one of the main reasons that I know Lutheran Theology is correct. Because we put Jesus at the center of everything in the bible.

What the disciples didn’t know is that Jesus was the center of their journey. He is the most important thing. Scripture is all about Jesus dying on the cross to forgive our sins.

The Emmaus disciples ran back to the upper room. They couldn’t wait to tell the other disciples that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. They wanted to explain how Jesus opened Scriptures to them. They couldn’t wait to explain how Jesus resurrection proves that the main thing Jesus had come to do through his life, death, and resurrection is bring the forgiveness of sins. After all, it was all there in the Scriptures. Just as Jesus appeared to them in the breaking of bread, just as his presence was made clear at the end of their walk to Emmaus, Jesus was made clear to them as the center of the Bible.

So what does this mean for you and me? It means it whenever we read or study the Scriptures we ought to be looking for Jesus. The whole Bible is about him. Our sinful tendency is to look at the Bible and make it about us. We read the Bible stories and we want the application to be what were supposed to do, who we are supposed to be, how we are to make ourselves right with God. And although we can get helpful insight on living from God’s word, as Jesus told the disciples on the Emmaus Road, the Scriptures are opened to us when we see Jesus in the text. We understand Scripture clearly only when we see the main purpose. Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinful people. Our journey through life is to be a journey with Jesus, footprints from here, through death, to life forever with him. The only way for us to walk with Jesus is to see him in the

place that he comes to us. That is the Holy Scriptures. His Word is Jesus at work. And, just so you know, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are simply God’s Word connected to physical elements, water and bread and wine. There is no place else to find Jesus working. We should not look for him in feelings in our hearts, or the dreams of little children or even our own dreams. It is in Word and Sacrament alone where Jesus comes to us.

So the Bible is always about Jesus. And maybe we should have a few examples of looking for him there. What about Philippians 4:13. Maybe this is your confirmation verse.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, ESV)
Now you might think that St. Paul is giving some great advice. That he’s giving hope Christians about how their whole future is opened to them. That they can do anything that they set their minds to doing. But that’s not exactly what he’s saying. He is in fact talking about his life of suffering. What he means is that when our minds are focused on who Jesus is and what he has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection, we can live through the trials of life knowing that we have life forever with him. Knowing that nothing that happens to us, that seems evil, is punishment from God but rather a way for God to remind us how much we need Jesus.

Or how about Isaiah 43:1?
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1b, ESV)
There is indeed great reason to fear in this world that we live in. Christian persecution is greater now than it has ever been. If you care to look, every day brings news of our brothers and sisters in faith who die rather than deny their Savior. Christians in Africa are being crucified. In the Middle East, they are regularly beheaded. The culture all around us is increasingly hostile to the message of Jesus. When we dare to say what is right and wrong according to God’s Word we are held up for ridicule and even persecution. In fact, to stand firm on what God says is a dangerous place to stand. But we stand there because it is the only place for us to stand. God gives us his name in Holy Baptism. It is the name of Jesus, and it carries everything that Jesus did. The name of Jesus placed on you, gives you the forgiveness he won on the cross. All of this makes you God’s very own child. Persecution, trouble, hardship, and even death are only things that will bring you closer to Jesus. There is no reason to fear you have God’s faithful promise of life forever.

And finally Joshua 24:15.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15b, ESV)
Now this one certainly sounds like something we do, serving the Lord. We ought to understand what serving the Lord means. First of all Joshua is confessing faith in God who saved them from slavery in Egypt. He says, even if other families turn to other gods he will remain true to the one who saved him. Joshua’s response is to God’s salvation. As for me and my house, we will serve the God who saves us. The word “Lord” in this passage is all capital letters. And it really is God’s name, Yahweh. And it is the name that means, “I AM.” “I AM” is the name that God gave the Israelites to know who was saving them from slavery. This same God sends Jesus to save us from our slavery to sin. He is the God who comes in human flesh in Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our forgiveness. To serve this God is to recognize first what he has done for us on the cross. In service of the Lord in a family first begins with bringing that family to hear God’s word. And therefore, teaching them of God salvation through Jesus Christ.

So on the road to Emmaus; we learn how to keep Jesus at the center of our lives. God gives to us Holy Scripture that points us to Jesus. That’s what our faith journey is. A life lived in the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

John.20.19-31; The Second Sunday in Easter; April 16, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:19–31, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus barges in on the disciples, doors locked, huddled in, hunkered down, in quite hiding. They are afraid of the Jews. They are afraid of the cross. Afraid of being discovered. You can imagine them in the pale darkness of dusk, doors and windows locked, not wanting to light the lamps for fear of being found. At that moment, everything Jesus taught and did, didn't mean a thing. After all he was dead. The establishment has won. All their master's accomplishments were locked in the darkness of the tomb, where Jesus lay.

Jesus breaks in...

He interrupts their fear, their sorrow, their doubt. He appears behind locked doors. He passes through walls. He doesn't need an invitation. He doesn't need the key. He is the key. He is alive. His first words to them bring them what they need. Peace, shalom, an end to turmoil and anxiety. He shows his fatal wounds. His hands and feet and the spear. He is the one who was dead. He is alive again. It was just as he said,
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22, ESV)
They were glad when they saw Jesus. They rejoiced in their hearts. And there is more there than realizing that Jesus isn't dead. I'm sure it took time for it all to sink in. Jesus is alive. He was dead. He is alive. He conquers his enemies. He conquers his cross. He conquers his grave. He is alive. They are full of fear. They are full of sorrow. But all fear and sorrow evaporate in Jesus. He offers peace, shalom.

Do you see how he gives it?
“Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The cross is it. Forgiveness is it. When we look at the cross and see a dead Jesus on in, we are seeing forgiveness. We are seeing the peace that he brings. When we look at the risen Lord with nail prints in his hands and feet, and a spear hole in his side we are looking at forgiveness. We are seeing the peace that he brings. That's what Jesus means when he says peace, shalom. He connects it to the cross. When Jesus barges in he is interrupting doubt, and pain, and sorrow and fear.

Jesus breaks in...

…through all your barriers to bring peace. You may be huddling behind pain and sorrow, loss, or facing death. You may be huddling against your enemies, sin, death and hell, viruses, fellow employees, family members who ridicule neighbors, or even God himself. Amid all this Jesus breaks through all these barriers and brings peace to your fear. You have good reason to fear. All hell has broken loose. It comes from inside of you. It comes from the world around you. It comes from the old evil lion who stalks around seeking someone to devour. This is the "Unholy Trinity", our mortal enemies, our sinful nature, the world, and Satan. And these are all threatening. These are evident in your life. Sin, death, and evil are there daily. And you are the target, to be dragged to hell.

But Jesus breaks in...

This is what God does. We have it in spades in Jesus. He breaks every barrier. He defeats every enemy. He shows you his hands, and his feet and his side. These are the marks of God's great love. These are the testimonies to you of what he has done for you. The pain and death of the cross break through to life and freedom. This is the forgiveness of sins...

Sin is the big barrier, the mother of all barriers. Sin bears itself out inside of you as you struggle to do the right thing and fail. Sin bears in the world out in the world as it pressures you to deny all that God says is right. Sin is what the Accuser holds against you as he whispers the truth of it in your ear, trying to get you to believe that God has no way of restoring you. Sin is the barrier between you and God. When sin has its way with you, all goodness and love pass away. And sin bears death on its shoulders and delivers it to you as just punishment.

But Jesus breaks in... with forgiveness.

Forgiveness of sins is what God delivers through Jesus, his Word and his Sacraments. Peace. Shalom. His hands and feet, and side show you what is yours, what should be yours, but what is now his. Fear is no longer necessary. No more hunkering down in the dark. No more listening to the inner voice, or the outer voice or the satanic voice for false comfort. Forgiveness of sins restores the One True Voice. Jesus [says to you], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one [not sin, death nor the power of the Devil] will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27–28, ESV)
Jesus breaks in... with forgiveness.

He breaks into the world. Your neighbors, your friends, your enemies are huddled in fear behind barriers. Jesus breaths on you The Holy Spirit. Through him the way, the truth and the life are with you always. The forgiveness he gives to you is given to give away. All you do is take your finger and point to the hands, the feet, and the side of the Savior. All you do is point to the place where the Word of God dwells. All you do is speak the truth.

Jesus breaks in... Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.