Sunday, November 28, 2021

Luke.19.28-40; First Sunday in Advent, November 28, 2021;

Luke.19.28-40; First Sunday in Advent, November 28, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:28-40, ESV)
(from an outline by Rev. Harold Senkbeil, Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 17, 2006)
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Oops! Is that right? That sounds like the reading for Palm Sunday not Advent. That sounds like preparation for Good Friday not Christmas. We seem to have skipped right over Christmas and dropped into Lent and Easter. Are you sure pastor you’ve got the readings, right? Well, yes, I do. The lectionary this text for the beginning of Advent. It is set before Jesus going into Jerusalem to give his life on the cross for our forgiveness. It makes sure we have all our ducks in the right row as we approach Christmas. You see, the cross and the cradle are connected together. Christmas isn’t just a story about the birth of a baby; it’s the story of the birth of a particular baby. He is born for a certain specific task: to die for the sins of the world. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just listen to what the angels tell the shepherds:
And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11, ESV) You see, the whole story of the birth of Jesus Christ is told for the purpose of telling us about what He did to be Savior of the whole world. It links together the cross and the cradle.
The birth of Jesus tells us a very important thing about Jesus. It tells us that he is completely human, completely flesh and blood. He was born just as every human being is born. He was a helpless infant just like every human being. It tells us that God didn’t just make some far out way of salvation for us, but He came to us in human flesh. That very same human flesh hung and bled and died on the cross. But to do that God had to take on human flesh, being born of a virgin, in a stable, in diapers, so that the law would actually apply to him. St. Paul says it like this:
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 4:4-7, ESV)
So, we have the wood of the cradle on one end of the story, and the wood of the cross on the other. So today with the cradle in mind we look ahead to the whole point of the story, Jesus purposely going to the cross to give us peace.
First be clear that what Jesus does is not an accident. He knows where he is going. It’s his plan from the very beginning. That is just what he tells his disciples. They don’t like it. They don’t understand it. But Jesus makes his plan clear. And along the way the way he spends time with sinners in Jericho. These were the folks other folks only want to avoid, like blind people that he gave their sight, and Zacchaeus the tax collector who Luke tells us received faith in Jesus. You remember Zacchaeus hanging up in the tree to see Jesus, and Jesus telling him to get down because he was going to see him at his house. Along the way to die Jesus spends time with those he came to “seek and to save.” (Luke 19:10, ESV) And in our reading today he sets the dramatic stage for it all. He sends the disciples ahead to arrange things. You remember a colt “on which no one has ever ridden” you know the one that Jesus said would be there. The disciples find it just as Jesus said they would, and they bring it and say exactly what they are told to say. “The Lord has need of it.”
It is all dramatic and on purpose. Luke wants us to be clear about what Jesus is doing and who he claims to be. The donkey was an important symbol. By riding into town on it, Jesus is claiming to be the new true king of Israel; the one King Herod was really afraid of; the one he tried to kill by killing every child under two years old in Bethlehem. And not only that but Jesus is saying by this very action that he is God come to do what God has promised to do all along, save his people. The prophet Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9, ESV)
And yet, riding a donkey is a very humble pose for God to enter a city.
And not only does Jesus know where he’s going, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He didn’t die by accident. The folks around him didn’t see it coming, but Jesus knows. They couldn’t understand why he would have to die, why (from their perspective everything he had done would end). But Jesus knows it all. He sets his whole being toward the cross. He knew he had to suffer and die and rise again according to God, the Father’s plan. He knew he was the sacrifice for the sins of the world, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)
The baby in the manger is headed for glory. And yet, it goes away that we don’t necessarily like or understand. Did you hear on the news the other day about the Church that got in trouble for building a Christmas float with a crucified Jesus on it? People what to see the baby, you and I want to see the baby, but we like to put the cross out of our minds. Even if it is just for Christmas, we think that we can put aside Christ’s sacrifice. It’s just as St. Paul said the cross is a public offense. But Jesus glory, his victory over sin, death and Satan only comes through the blood of the cross. We can never hear about it enough.
The disciples didn’t understand it either. Even though Jesus told them what was going to happen, they thought that march into Jerusalem was the beginning of Jesus sitting on the throne right there in their capitol city. Just like the crowds, listen again to what they were shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38, ESV)
It must have been a surprise to all of them (and a letdown) when he when straight to the temple instead of the palace. Jesus told his disciples that his kingdom was coming in full only on his return. That’s what we sang about that in the new hymn we learned today. Jesus’ road to glory passes through the cross. As his followers our road passes that way too. We enter the glory that Jesus has set aside for us only through much trouble, pain, and death. St. Paul preached that very thing to the young churches he started “saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22, ESV) By the end of the week the king who rode into the city with cheers has other voices mocking him as he dies on the cross. Jesus is the sacrifice for their sin. Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn king; Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled."
“Peace on earth.” We sing. Jesus does all this to bring peace on earth. He breaks the bonds of sin to reconcile sinners to God. Just ask Zacchaeus! Jesus came down from heaven as a human being, born in a lowly stable. He did that to bring peace by joining God to man. He brought peace “on earth” by shedding his blood on the cross. He returns to heave to join man to God. He sits at the right hand of God declaring that human beings are now at peace with God again. In his Word he proclaims to you and me that we are released from the slavery of our sin.
Well, that’s fine, Pastor. Peace on earth that’s what everyone wants. But how can I have peace? What about me? When do I get peace? Life isn’t easy you know, Pastor. It seems to be for everyone else but not me. I don’t have what I need to live. Everything I do turns sour and worthless. The holiday stress only puts my family at each other’s throats. I doesn’t seem like I get to slow down and enjoy the good things in life? When does the ‘holiday spirit’ return for me since my father / mother / sister / brother / child died? The empty space at the table seems to suck up all the joy that should be here. What about some peace to wipe away the memories of the shameful things I’ve done that plague me at three in the morning? At least the baby in the manger story is a happy one. What you are telling me today, though Pastor isn’t a happy story. It’s the story of blood and pain. It’s a story of suffering and death. I get enough of that in my life without smearing the good feelings of Christmas with it.
When you look on the baby in the cradle and see also there the cross that is the best picture, I can paint for you of God’s peace. It is God coming because you lie awake in sweaty guilt; exactly because you suffer the loss of love in death and struggle with living every day, because sin makes life a burden. That’s the problems that Jesus comes among us to resolve.
He brings peace from God, and he brings it right here where you can so easily find it. We hear Jesus speaking words of peace right here. We call it the Gospel. The word means “Good News.” It’s not just good news because it tells us a sweet story, it tells us the good thing about Jesus, who came to our Savior; Jesus who was born into human flesh. That very same Jesus enters our hearts and minds through his Word and the water of Baptism and the bread and wine. He comes to you and me through faith and He comes to hold them us up when life is difficult. From the words he speaks into your heart He reminds you that even though things are hard, he makes sure it all works out for your good. He reminds us that God is in control of everything he even counts the hairs on your head. And that nothing can separate you from his love, even down feelings that seem to pop up this time of year. And He whispers in your heart the truth about love and death. That it isn’t the end it is only a temporary separation for those who live in faith. When we approach this altar and feast with Jesus, we join in a heavenly feast that our missing loved ones are celebrating already, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. And when Satan reminds you that you’ve failed, usually while you lay sleepless in your bed, Jesus is here (in your heart) to calm your fears and remind you that he suffered and died to put away your guilt forever. That’s the peace that Jesus brings. That’s the peace that comes by his cross and cradle. That’s the peace that comes in the name of the Lord.
That’s the peace that we have through God’s Word working in us, and it’s a peace we joyously proclaim. And it’s not just lip service either. We do it by taking time during our busy holiday schedule to serve, and there’s lots to do this time of year isn’t there. We got trees to decorate with mittens, Christmas baking to deliver, and toys for tots to purchase. Not to mention just giving a helping hand and a cheerful word to our neighbors. But Jesus in us isn’t just for this season either. Actually, we serve all year round. We do it every day as we work the work that has been given us to do, like planting crops, baking bread, making pizza, delivering housing materials, teaching children, or whatever it is that you do for work. That too is the peace that Jesus brings through his cross and cradle. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Psalm.149; All Saints Day; November 7, 2021;

Psalm.149; All Saints Day; November 7, 2021;
Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a | new song,*
his praise in the assembly of the | godly!
Let Israel be glad in his | Maker;*
let the children of Zion rejoice | in their King!
Let them praise his name with | dancing,*
making melody to him with tambou- | rine and lyre!
For the LORD takes pleasure in his | people;*
he adorns the humble with sal- | vation.
Let the godly exult in | glory;*
let them sing for joy | on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be | in their throats*
and two-edged swords | in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the | nations*
and punishments on the | peoples,
to bind their | kings with chains*
and their nobles with fet- | ters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment | written!*
This is honor for all his godly ones. |
Praise the LORD!
Glory be to the Father and | to the Son*
and to the Holy | Spirit;
as it was in the be- | ginning,*
is now, and will be forever. | Amen.
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Now let's be honest. This psalm makes you a bit uncomfortable, doesn't it? I mean, you agree with it at first, then toward the middle it gets a bit rough. I mean praising God with a two-edged sword isn't quite the image we have of church. I forgot my saber at home, what about you? And that "executing vengeance" and “punishments on the peoples" is a bit strong. Does God really mean to slap kings in irons? All of that just doesn't seem to fit with "Sing to the LORD a new song". Well, at the very least it's not a NEW song. It sounds like this is one of those things in the bible that's just a bit outdated, one of those embarrassing things we push under the carpet with a broom when no one is looking. I guess pastor wasn't paying attention when this one was picked for today’s sermon... maybe we should have stopped it with "Let the godly exult in glory let them sing for joy on their beds."
Actually, there are lots of ways to understand this psalm. First of all, in its historical context it made perfect sense for God's people to rejoice in God doing just what the psalm is talking about. They had enemies all around them that we bent on their destruction. God's promise of a Savior extended to his protection of the people from where the Savior would come. They rejoiced in God's protection. And it was right for them to do so. But why in the world do WE read and sing this psalm? Maybe it would be better just to cut it off in the middle.
Well before we get to that point, I think its a good time to review a bit about the Book of Psalms. First, I want you to remember that the Psalms are the prayer book of the church for all time. In them you'll find every aspect of Christian life described, every emotion, every evil called out, every claim and promise of God. Martin Luther thought very highly of them and used them every day in his daily devotions. The Psalter is a book of poetry. But it is much more than that. It is a prayer book, the prayer book of the church. It you want ample proof that it's ok to pray pre-written prayers you have an example here of 150 of them. The way to understand what the psalms are saying is to understand two things about them. First, they are poetry, Hebrew poetry. They have a specific structure. Each verse (usually) contains one thought. The thought is expressed in the first half of the verse (called a strophe, marked by the *). Then in the second half the thought is repeated and expanded or explained. And so, the psalms are written to sing antiphonally. That is, back and forth, person to person. Each thought is sung and then repeated by the other person. That's why we speak / chant them the way we do on Sunday morning. Hebrew poetry is also known for its compactness. In Hebrew the psalms don't often rhyme, but they do have a meter, and lots of alliteration (that is words that have complementary sounds). It's like a conversation about God, from God. It's confessing (same saying) what God tells us about himself.
But the really important thing to remember about the Psalms, and the best way to get meaning out of them is to read them as World War II Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “the Psalter is the prayer of Christ for his church in which he stands in for us and prays in our behalf…In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ’s own prayer [and] as such is the great school of prayer.”
“In the first place, we learn here what it means to pray on the basis of the word of God, to pray on the basis of promises…In the second place, we learn by praying the Psalter what we should pray for just as surely as the range of the prayers of the Psalms goes far beyond the experience of any individual, we still pray the whole prayer of Christ in faith, the prayer of the one who was the truly human being and who alone has taken into his life the full range of the experiences of this prayer…In the third place, praying the psalms teaches us to pray as a community…the deeper we penetrate into the Psalms and the more often we ourselves have prayed them, the simpler and richer our own prayer will become.”\
Jesus Christ has brought every need, every joy, every gratitude, every hope of men before God. In his mouth the word of man becomes the Word of God, and if we pray this prayer with him, the Word of God becomes once again the word of man. (The Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer) A simple way to remember it is to "put the psalms on the lips of Jesus." He did that all the time in his ministry. He quoted them. He prayed them. All at the most important times in his ministry. The psalms are Jesus’ prayer book.
The best example is Jesus on the cross quoting Psalm 22. It tells us exactly what's going on in Jesus, as he hangs there.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1–2 (ESV)
Jesus means for us to see him speaking the whole Psalm there. And there He wants us to understand that there on the cross he is suffering the eternal punishment of our sin. That is, he was abandoned by God. He suffered the eternal punishment of hell. Eternal separation from God. It is what you and I earn for our lives of sin. It is what you and I could not avoid because we are "by nature sinful and unclean." Had it not been for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross there; all we could look forward to is dying in our sin and eternity separated from God, in the eternal punishment of hell. You see, if it were not for Jesus, there would indeed be no "new song" to sing. There would be no reason for "dancing" and "melody" to God. In Jesus this psalm rings out in praise to God for saving us from our enemies, from sin, death and hell.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13–15, ESV)
So, the old testament saints sang this psalm in praise for God's deliverance from their enemies, and in light of the Savior who would do the same. And so, we sing it, too, because we have been delivered from our enemies.
And what about those saints whose names we'll read in a moment? Well, they are singing this psalm right now. For them the words of salvation are most poignant. They have passed through death to life.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his | people;*
he adorns the humble with sal- | vation.
Let it be so also for us!
And... there's always one more thing. It's that sword thing:
Let the high praises of God be | in their throats*
and two-edged swords | in their hands,
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't make the connection here to Jesus himself.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12–13, ESV)
Our message is this Word of God, and it does just what the psalm says. It executes judgment, it binds kings (and all people) to their sin. And that is our proclamation of the Law. Remember the S O S? The Law shows us our sin. It is a necessary part of our message to ourselves and the whole world. So that people see their true place before a holy God, deserving only God's wrath and punishment. Without the proclamation of the Law no one would see their need for Jesus on the cross. But the Sword of Word is also the S O S of the Gospel. It shows us our Savior. Jesus saves us by his life, death and resurrection. The Book of Hebrews continues:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14–16, ESV)
This is our two-edged sword. The Good News of a Savior from sin. And is it ours to wield in the world. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Romans.3.19-28; Festival of the Reformation; October 31, 2021;

Romans.3.19-28; Festival of the Reformation; October 31, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN;
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 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. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Ro 3:19-28, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We don’t see it very much these days… It really is a picture from the past… I mean this picture of a young man (like Martin Luther) struggling to be good enough so that God won’t send him to hell. In fact, we all may look at that picture and think that it’s old fashioned. We may ask ourselves why anyone would ever be afraid of such a thing. Certainly, few of us have had any fear about that. We are an enlightened mature society. Religion is about love. If it’s about God at all it’s a god whose great love for people would never allow him to send anyone to punishment forever. It is often expressed in phrases like this: “The god I know would never punish people that way.” Or “How can a loving god deal out eternal punishment?”
I mean, if hell isn’t a reality for people, then the question of being good enough to avoid it is really a non-issue. Isn’t it? It all makes the Reformation that began with the struggle of a young German monk over sin and hell, a moot point. After all Luther’s struggle was against God, wasn’t it? He looked at himself and saw an imperfect person who didn’t “love God with his whole heart and soul and mind.” He looked at God and saw a judge who demanded perfection, not just in the way things were done, but in the motive and the thought too! His thorough study of scripture led him to the unmistakable conclusion that he was hell bound. That was then, this is now. The whole fear-of-hell thing seems like a leftover from a previous time when people thought differently.
The way it is now, the way people actually prefer to look at the world, and life, and God is completely different. We’ve made up a god of our own that doesn’t match with what the Bible tells us. Our new god is a doting grandfather that gives us whatever we need and want, and he simply ignores our shortcomings and failures. It could even be said that he doesn’t really even care that people don’t believe in him or even out and out reject him.
“They’re only human,” He coos, “and nobody is perfect.”
This god looks lovingly at struggling humanity and with a twinkle in his eye says, “They try so hard… that’ll be good enough.”
It’s the picture of God giving an “A+” for effort, regardless of the results and regardless of the motives that lie behind the actions. He gives people a purpose in their lives and rewards them as long as we live in that purpose.
It’s no wonder people don’t fear the consequences of their sin anymore. The god we’ve invented acts and sounds just like one of us. He sweeps sin under the carpet just like we like to do. That’s just the way we live, as if sin weren’t a problem, sweeping it quietly under the carpet. Letting it stand where we find it.
Just think a moment of these issues since 1973 in the entire world just this year we have killed well over thirty-five million helpless children through abortion. In the United States nearly half end in abortion, that’s four in ten, over three thousand a day. It’s a staggering figure. And don’t forget that you and I actually pay for three out of every ten.
We’ve defined marriage to be anything we want it to be. Men and men; women and women; Adult and child; why not a man; a girl and two dogs and a donkey. It’s not just that, we participate in the degrading of the institution. How about how this issue hits closer to home. We all have it in our families. You know that that 90% of young couples (both Christian and non-Christian) live together before marriage. They ignore the stats that show those who do have an 80% higher risk of divorce. And one that strikes extremely near to home for me, there is no difference in statistics for divorce between church going and non-church going folks. We ignore that God calls this a sin that affects the whole body of Christ.
God, the true God, speaks clearly about these issues. Killing human beings at any stage of development is murder. He says sex outside of marriage is wrong, that means it is wrong for couples to live together before they are married, no matter how good the reasons seem. Test yourself on these issues: How many people know you are Pro-Life? Do you consider unborn children when you stand in the ballot box? How many young couples have you told that living together before they are married is wrong? We spend a lot of time and effort saying that God’s will for our lives is whatever we want it to be. And that God’s standards for living are quite flexible, more like suggestions that can be set aside when they are inconvenient or don’t match up with our “feel good” philosophy of life.
Luther’s struggle was about the difference between God and human beings. God is holy. People are not. God is perfect. People are not. God knows everything. God is able to look into the very depth of the human heart. When Martin looked honestly into his own what he saw there frightened him. It frightened him because he didn’t find an inner core of good. He saw an inner core of evil and darkness and hatred of other people and even of God. And when he realized that God saw that same heart, he knew that he was lost.
With the law comes the knowledge of sin.
St. Paul said to him. It was just like Jesus said,
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Mt 15:19, ESV)
Martin Luther discovered that was accountable to God not just for his outward acts but also for what was in his heart. God said it also in the Old Testament.
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sa 16:7, ESV)
That’s the real problem, isn’t it? It’s what’s in here that we can’t get rid of. We can only ignore it or pretend it isn’t there. Or invent a god that doesn’t care about sin, a god of our own making that hides his eyes to what we know is there. Because the real God, the one we learn about in His Word does care about sin. That same Word tells us all the truth we already know:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
No amount of keeping the law is going to fix what’s in here. The more we try to do what is right the more we see how we don’t do it perfectly, “with our whole heart.”
But it is precisely because the true God cares about sin that we are here today. It is because God really does love human beings beyond our understanding that He doesn’t just sweep sin under the carpet. He sees what sin does to us, how it tears our relationships apart, how it makes a mess of everything we try to do. And he knows how we are powerless to do anything about it.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
That’s what the law makes very plain to us. But God goes beyond that he also says that we are justified by his grace as a gift… Well, it would have to be a gift, wouldn’t it? We can’t scrub it clean; we can’t work it out on our own, and we can’t end sin in our hearts by any other way. We need a righteousness that we don’t have. Righteousness is exactly what God has. It is what God is. In fact, the best definition of righteousness is… Jesus.
St. Paul used that unusual word propitiation. He wrote
the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood.
What he is really talking about is a peace offering. When a wife is angry at her husband, he scrambles to find a florist and shows up at the door with a big batch of flowers. That’s propitiation. And Jesus is just that, a perfectly righteous peace offering to God. Jesus offers himself to God as the object of God’s just anger over sin. He suffers the punishment that all human beings deserve because of the sin in their hearts. In Jesus heart, even though he fully human, there wasn’t any of the blackness that is in yours and mine. He didn’t make excuses for not following God’s law. Not only did he not sin, but he also confronted sin everywhere he went. He called sin, sin and pointed out its consequences. He didn’t struggle against God’s will for His life, even when it led him to a brutal execution. You see, everything He did was perfect, and not just in the things he did, but the motives and the thoughts, too! That’s because Jesus was not simply a good guy, he was human, but he was also God, perfect and holy… You might say Jesus is the very heart of God.
Now when we compare Jesus’ heart to ours, we know that what we need is His…
It’s the most amazing thing… it’s really beyond our understanding… it’s so utterly different than anything our experience can understand… But Jesus is exactly what God gives to us. Our sinful prideful mind and heart immediately jump to the conclusion that we must have earned it, somehow. “I must have done something good!” But God’s law is right there to show us that there is nothing we can do. The law real purpose is to show us our sin because we will not believe in Jesus, we can’t have true faith, until the law shuts us up, and puts anything we would do out of the picture. Then through faith in what Jesus did, we get this wonderful totally free gift of Jesus righteousness, God’s perfection. What Paul means by that is seeing, that Jesus’ righteousness is now yours. In Paul’s words:
we receive the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
That’s where that young monk’s struggle and search ended… in faith. When Martin Luther saw that the righteousness that he needed was his as God’s free gift he did what faith does. He believed… he received… he hoped… and he lived in faith every day of his life from that moment on.
My dear Christians friends, it is just so for you and me. The very same gift is ours. We can’t earn it; we can work our way to deserve it. It is a gift. It is the most amazing thing in the whole world. Our sin, both the things we do, and the things we think and feel, that blackness and evil in the deepest part of our heart is covered up by righteousness of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. We do what faith does… We believe… we receive… we hope… and we live in faith every day, from this very moment on.
For we hold that [a person] is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2021

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

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

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

Sunday, October 03, 2021

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

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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

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

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