Sunday, September 17, 2023

Genesis 50:15-21; The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 17, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The story of Joseph has it all; sex, lies, deceit, family conflict. Those reality TV shows have nothing on this story. Joseph was the victim of his brother’s jealousy. You remember how he was cast into a well to be killed because he was dad’s favorite. He got the best stuff like the expensive coat of many colors. And apparently, he got more of dad’s attention too. He stayed home while the other brothers had to go with the sheep in the far fields. Joseph didn’t help either telling his brothers (and his parents) that they’d be serving him some day, because he dreamt it. His brothers hated him enough to want him dead. When Jacob sent him out to spy on them and they would have killed him had it not been for Brother Reuben. He convinced them to sell Joseph to the traveling caravan of Ishmaelites. That put Joseph in Egypt in the house of a man named Potiphar. He was a hard worker and soon oversaw everything this powerful man owned. Josheph was a hansom boy, and Potiphar’s wife had a roving eye and it landed on him. She cornered him to have a little affair, but Joseph refused. She screamed bloody murder and got Joseph thrown in jail. This was better than the alternative, because Potiphar certainly could have had him executed on the spot. In the prison Joseph again rose to a good position, he always seemed to land on his feet. While he was there the king’s cup bearer and baker were also thrown in prison. When they had dreams they didn’t understand, Joseph, by the gift of God, told them what they meant. The cup bearer would be back with Pharaoh, the baker would lose his head. When it all turned out as Joseph said he asked the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about him. But Joseph was forgotten and spent more time in jail. When Pharaoh had a dream he couldn’t understand the cup bearer remembered the dream teller in prison. He told Pharaoh and Joseph had his chance again. The dream was about seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so pleased with Joseph, he put him in charge of preparing for the famine.

Meanwhile back at home, the famine struck hard and Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food. Unknowingly the brothers came upon their “dead” brother, who was now in charge. He provided for their needs and brought the whole family to live with him in Egypt. That’s where our text for today picks up. The brothers wonder if Joseph is just waiting for their father to die to take out his revenge. Joseph shows he is a man of great character. He might be entitled to a bit of revenge, but he’ll not take it. “What you meant for evil, God meant for good. Look at where we are and how God has taken care of us. God is indeed faithful.”

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV) I often read this passage at the bedside of a member in the hospital. It is a passage we Christians are familiar with and take great comfort with. But as often as we hear it and even though we believe what it says, it is also true that we don’t always see that God is doing what he promises to do. How can the bad things that happen to me be “for the good?” Didn’t you often ask yourselves what you did that God would treat you this way? When we run through tough times, it is easy to think that God isn’t keeping his promises. When life is hard, and trouble is forefront we wonder where God is in it all. When our hopes and dreams seem to be fading away, when what we want for our future evaporates before our eyes, we ask God why he isn’t keeping up his end of our life.

How like the brothers of Joseph we are. God does good for us, and we doubt his promises. Trouble comes and we look to the worst instead of the best. God is faithful and we mistrust his promises. In other words, we sin. We can’t help it. We find it very difficult to trust God’s promises. We find it difficult to accept that God allows trouble and heartache into our lives. We want God to work the way we want him to work. If I were God, I’d surely not let people suffer this way. If I were God, I’d eliminate suffering. If I were God, I’d make sure every day was a happy day instead of a sad or troubled day. If I were God… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it. Isn’t it the snake in the garden that told Adam and Eve that they could be gods? “If you eat the fruit, you’ll know good and evil, and you can be in control instead of God.” For all our talk of faith and trust we haven’t come very far from the Garden, have we? We haven’t gotten over our desire to be god. We still want things our way instead of God’s way. We forget that he indeed knows what is best. It happens often when we stand in the face of trouble, afraid. We are fearful that we will suffer. We want to avoid suffering at all costs.

That is just like Joseph’s brothers. They were afraid of suffering for the sin they had done to Joseph. They were looking at years of guilt, years of payback. But instead of revenge Joseph comforts them. God uses even evil such as this and makes it good. Joseph was telling them, that God used their sin to save thousands from starving. He used their sinful act and saved their family through it. Joseph’s faith and character tell us a lot about who he is, but even more they show us who God is. God takes evil in the world and uses it for good. We can’t always see the results, so we sometimes think there are none.

Imagine if the disciples had the faith of Joseph, when the guards came to arrest Our Savior in the garden, they would not have fled into the darkness. They would have trusted that God would use that very evil event and used it for the good of all people. Don’t we all need to learn that God will take care of us in all things, no matter what we face, no matter what the pain we face, no matter what the trouble? The truth is we are like Joseph’s brothers when we think we are like Joseph.

And yet, we have a Savior. We need a Savior. We are lost in our sin, helpless, like the brothers lacking faith when we need it most. Like the disciples in the garden unable to see the good that will come about because of suffering. But as sinful as we are, God is even more faithful. We have a brother who is gracious and faithful to us. It is our sin that leads him to pain and suffering. It is our faithlessness that brings him to blows of the whip. It is our arrogance and pride that drives the nails into his hands and feet and the thorns into his scalp. Our brother sold into death. This brother is even more faithful than Joseph. He has even more mercy than you and I and Pharaoh’s right-hand man. He saves us not from famine but from eternal death. He says about us, “Father forgive them.” Jesus Christ God’s son, our Brother, and Savior forgives. His blood shed on the cross is our cleansing. His innocent suffering and death at our hands is what sets us free from sin, death, and hell. God uses the most terrible event in history, the killing of his only son, to bring forgiveness to all people.

The passage we are so familiar with in Romans continues with these words:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, ESV)
The answer is yes indeed! God gives us all things we need. If he sent Jesus to suffer and die for our greatest need, he will take care of all our other needs as well. God is perfectly willing to use whatever means are necessary to do what is best for us. Imagine if a parent wouldn’t discipline a child for playing in the street. When traffic killed the child, we would be outraged. God will do whatever is necessary for our benefit. Mostly though God uses trouble and pain remind us of Jesus. Suffering and uneasy times push us to faith and trust. When there is nowhere else to turn, we turn to God. When all our regular supports fail God is faithful. Sometimes we need to hit the bottom to be reminded that our Gracious God and Savior Jesus Christ, has done all things necessary for our salvation, and that all things are in his hands.

But that isn’t all. God indeed gives us everything we need and then he gives us more. As in everything else God’s math doesn’t add up according to our thinking. He gives all and then he gives even more. We have his Word, where he tells us of his love for us in Jesus. He tells us of the salvation won for us through Jesus perfect life, his sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. And then there’s more. We have the assurance of God’s name placed on us in Holy Baptism. We are his. God is where his name is. He is not far away when you suffer, he is close at hand to strengthen you and lead you through. God is right amid our suffering with us. He gives the body and blood of Jesus shed on the cross, that by eating it you would be strengthened in faith. You are reminded of the price paid to save you from sin, the suffering and death of Jesus and that gives you the sure and certain hope that your suffering has purpose, just as his does. His blood and body go into you and cleanse you from your sin of doubt. Forgiveness strengthens faith. Forgiveness restores relationships. Forgiveness restores trust. God forgives you through Jesus.

My dear Christian friends, I wish I could promise you no trouble in your life. I wish I could say there would be no pain in your future. I can’t. God doesn’t make that promise to you either. What he does promise, what he wants you to remember and hold on to in faith, is that it always has a purpose. He wants you to trust that he works it out for your good. He makes that promise to you.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Romans 11:33, Part 3; The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 10, 2023;

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the past weeks we been talking about God’s attributes, specifically three: His riches, which are not money but mainly seen in his mercy, (that is not giving us what we deserve, eternal wrath and punishment). He gives salvation through Jesus Christ, graciously. Scripture tells us that God is rich in mercy (Eph 2:4). Last week it was God’s Wisdom. He is wise above all things. His wisdom extends into our everyday lives. He provides all we need to support this body and life. He provides Jesus to be our savior. His death on the cross is God’s wisdom showing.

An aside. Last week I said that I disagreed with God about my divorce. I didn’t mean to imply that it was God’s doing. The fault lies with me, and my x-wife. The sin is entirely ours. The consequences come from that. However, God could have intervened. He didn’t. He allowed it to happen. I accept his wisdom in this matter, I don’t like it, but I accept it.

Today is about God’s knowledge. As we have said before, God’s attributes are the most, best of all. He knows more about everything that humans will ever attain. In speaking about God’s knowledge, Jesus said,
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29–31, ESV)
Sparrows were sold in the market for a snack. God knows intimately about each one of them. They are of little value to human beings. But to God they are everything. Even something as insignificant as the hairs on your head, God knows how many exactly you have. Just think, though, if God cares enough about you to know the number of hairs on your head, that is a great deal of knowledge. It isn’t hyperbole either. Somewhere in God’s mind he has that number. He knows everything about you, every single detail. His memory is as unfathomable as his knowledge. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. God’s knowledge extends to every part of every meal you have ever eaten. He knows all your thoughts. He knows all your struggles. He knows all your pain. He knows all your feelings. In detail.

And he even knows your sin. He sees the blackness in your heart when you think poorly about your neighbor. God knows when you want to not do the right thing regarding your taxes. God knows when you think impure thoughts about the girl or boy next door. He knows when you refuse to apply his word to your life. Every detail about everything you have ever done, or thought is open to him. He knows more about your sin than you do.

Does it make him angry? Sin always angers God. He is perfectly holy. He can’t tolerate sin in any way. The bible says God’s anger burns against sin. This is not Good News. You can see why the author of Hebrews says,
“The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30b–31, ESV)
When we understand the depth of the knowledge of God, we see our predicament and it is much worse than it seems. God knows everything. Nothing and no one escape his judgment. There is quote that I have put in the bulletin,
“Objects in the mirror are more sinful than they appear.”
And there is something more God, in is infinite knowledge, knows. You are buried so deep in your sin, that you can’t dig your way out. For you the situation is futile and hopeless.

The more you see your sin, considering God’s knowledge of it, the more you see how rich God is in mercy. There is no hiding anything from him since he sees everything. It makes his wonderful gift of salvation through Christ even more amazing. Despite your sin, God sent his only Son to be your savior. In fact, through Holy Baptism, your connection to Jesus, God adopted you. Since Jesus set aside your sin by taking it to the cross, you have become a son (or daughter) of God through Word and water. This changes everything for you.
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)
It is God’s knowledge of you (everything actually) that brings this about. He knows you intimately, and his love is such that he is not content to see you perish and suffer forever in hell. Instead, Jesus becomes your punishment. Displayed on the cross is God’s anger against sin, yours included. Jesus bears it. Since you are adopted by God, when he looks at you, he no longer sees your sin. Instead, he sees Jesus. Jesus’ life lived in the perfect will of God, the Father. Jesus always loving his neighbor and his enemies, even at the expense of his life. Jesus giving to the government appropriate obedience. Jesus not lusting after the women in his life. Jesus conforming himself to God’s Word, perfectly. All this, that God knows you are unable to do, is his gift for you, through faith in Jesus. And even that faith is his gift of love for you.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
So, we have looked at these three attributes of God. We could talk about all his attributes in the same way. Every one of them is infinite. That is God’s nature.

Maybe you have noticed one peculiar thing. When we talk about God’s attributes, we always end up talking about Jesus. It isn’t forced. Jesus, himself, says in John’s Gospel:
I and the Father are one.”” (John 10:30, ESV)
If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” (John 14:7, ESV)
Jesus and the Father are one (also the Holy Spirit). He says that if you know me you know the Father. Everything about God, is seen in Jesus.
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15–20, ESV)
You can’t separate Jesus from God. He is God. Everything that is true about God is true about Jesus. Creator, preserver, savior, sanctifier, he is all these. And more, he has all the riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God. Plus, he is fully human. God and man together, God in human form. To see Jesus is to see God. This is God’s knowledge at work. In his mercy, he sends Jesus as a visible sign of what he is. As Jesus walks, preaches, heals on the dusty roads of Israel he is God, himself, at work. God in his knowledge knows what people need, a physically present God. God that can be interacted with. God that can be seen.

That is exactly what we have in Jesus. He was born into history. He left his marks on it. No one in history has had a more profound effect. It is proof that God became man. When such a being appears in history, it is exactly what you would expect.

But, you may say, he is not physically here with us now. Well, that is God in his riches, wisdom, and knowledge also. While the people of old had Jesus’ present with them, we also have him present. He is present through his word and promises. He is present through the Holy Spirit given at Baptism. He is physically present in his Holy Supper. He is present in his church.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”” (Matthew 18:20, ESV)
Is it the same? Not quite. It is in fact better. Instead of Jesus in a single place, where he can be seen by just a few, he is everywhere, especially with all who have faith in him. We see him every Sunday in this place. We hear his words preached into our ears. We see him in our brothers and sisters in Christ sitting about us. You could say that the Church is firstly about Jesus being present.

This is why it is so important for Christians to gather in worship and fellowship, to see Jesus, to hear Jesus, to see and know God.

So, the church is an outpost of God’s presence in the world. And you are his ambassadors. You being a Christian, bring God’s presence to the place where God has placed you. His riches, his wisdom, and his knowledge. In your vocation, you show God’s love to your neighbor by faithful service. You show his wisdom through your godly actions. And you show God’s knowledge whenever you speak the truth in love. Amen.

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

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Romans 11:33-36; The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 3, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last week we talked about God’s riches. They are of course not money. The text talks about God’s attributes. God is the richest person in the universe. He has no need for money. We primarily see his riches in his activity with us. Namely, that he gives freely from his riches. One of those ways is that he shows abundant mercy. God is rich in mercy. From Ephesians 2:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4, ESV)
God gives us mercy when we don’t deserve any. Mostly he sent Jesus to be our savior, to die on the cross to give us the mercy of salvation through faith.

Today we are going to talk about another of God’s attributes, his wisdom. The scripture talks about God’s wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:25:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25, ESV)
What Paul is saying here is that if God had foolishness (he doesn’t!), that foolishness would be greater than all the wisdom of people. In fact, God is the wisest person in the whole of creation. Everything he does is the wisest thing that could be done. We, at times, have a difficult time with God’s wisdom. It isn’t necessarily a lack of faith, but we sometimes disagree with God’s actions. For example, I think that my life would have been much better had my wife stayed with me. I disagree with God on that point. But I know what seems to me, his foolishness is greater (the greatest) than my wisdom. So, in faith I bow to his wisdom. I just don’t like it. I also know that he is right, and I am wrong.

But there is more to God’s wisdom than just the things he does and allows in our lives. In fact, right before Paul says,
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25, ESV)
He says,
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:20–24, ESV)
Jesus is the wisdom of God. That is a very interesting thing. Jesus, the Son of God, made man, the Savior of all the world, is God’s Wisdom. Since God is the wisest person in creation, that means that when he sends Jesus, it was the wisest way to bring about our salvation. Let that put an end any talk about how God could have saved us any way he wanted. It was, in fact, the only way to save us. God knew, in his wisdom that is greater than all the world’s wisdom put together, that Jesus was the only way to accomplish what he desired, saving the world.

It seems like foolishness. In our wisdom we would have saved the world in some glorious looking way, with lightning bolts, and thunder. We would have used a person above everyone that no one could reject.

But God does it differently. He sent Jesus in humble form to serve people. Jesus wisely loves and heals and feeds people. He wisely goes specifically to the cross to bear the sins of the world, to exchange our sin with his righteousness. He wisely rises from his death to live again. That resurrection is all the proof the world should need to see God’s plan for the wisdom it is.

Think about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. In hell the rich man begged God to send Lazarus to his brothers to save them. God replies,
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:31, ESV)
In his wisdom God uses a simple preacher’s voice to preach Christ crucified and risen. He uses his word, the account of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, to implant faith in the hearts of people. He uses water and words spoken over a baby, he uses bread and wine to combine with Jesus body and blood to bring about faith and strengthening of faith. The world doesn’t know this kind of wisdom, it calls it folly.

And sometimes it seems not enough to us as well. We are tempted to think we must add to it to make it more effective and more palatable. We think that those foolish notions just aren’t enough. Soundwaves in the ears, water on the head, and bread and wine running down throats is too simple to work on its own.

God in his wisdom created the church to proclaim his Word, Jesus. If we, as a church, are preaching God’s Word in its truth and purity; if we, as a church, are baptizing in the name of God; if we, as a church, are administering the Lord’s Supper as Jesus gave us instruction; then we are doing all that is required of us. That’s the wisdom of God and following the greatest wisdom in all creation is wise.

But there is more. God being God doesn’t conform to our idea of mathematics. God give everything in his salvation of the world. It is just like him. He is a gracious giving God. And then he gives more. For God one plus one does not equal two. In his mathematics one plus one is infinite. He gives everything and then he gives more.

He gives us the gift of his church. We know where to go to receive life and salvation. We know what time to be here. That is God’s grace in action. But there is more to the church than that. It is God’s gracious will for the church to give everything and still have more to give. What God does through the church, is to allow you to participate in his gracious giving. Having the opportunity to practice your faith. Individually in our vocations we serve our neighbors, the church allows us to do it collectively. We can show God’s great love for people through what the church does. A good example is Faith Lutheran in Silver Bay has a program called “Swaddling Clothes.” Their church supports babies by giving necessary items. Our Synod supports Mercy Work. Through LCMS World Relief and Human Care. They provided Disaster relief, Life Ministry, Veterans Ministry, Medical Teams to foreign shores.

James talks about this in his Epistle.
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15–17, ESV)

He is saying that when faith is present, so are works. They show up everyday of our lives. By God’s grace the church has everything and more. We have the opportunity to serve our neighbors in love, to help with the things of this physical life; to comfort those who are suffering; to help those in need. All in the name of our savior Jesus.

That is God’s wisdom. Well, a small portion of it anyway. He gives of his riches, his mercy in Jesus. He gives from his wisdom. Next week we talk about God’s Knowledge.

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

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Romans 11:33-36; The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 27, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord, Jesus Christ.

You have seen the wonder of a child. When they see or experience something wonderful for the first time. The joy of opening a surprise Christmas present or seeing something in nature that is full of wonder. There is something pure about that wonder.

That’s what Paul is trying to convey here. He starts with the interjection “Oh!”. In Greek it’s the same. It’s a one letter word, Greek letter Omega (pronounced “Oh!”). It’s an emotional outburst something that can’t be contained, in other words in this case, “The wonder of God”. The English translation tries to show this with exclamation points. There are none in Greek. It has to be expressed with the words, and he does. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

It’s a song, or psalm in Greek. Maybe even an early hymn. The editors of the Greek text recognize this and put in poetic form. Then as now the mysteries of God are often well expressed by the church in song.

And, of course, it is more than an emotional response. We tend to turn the text to ourselves. But Paul is talking about God’s riches, God’s wisdom, and God’s knowledge. It’s not our knowledge of him. That little word “of” is important, it means “belonging to”. The Apostle is speaking of things that belong to God. I have often said, when we speak of God’s attributes, he is the most if any of them. God’s riches are more than we can imagine. God’s wisdom is more that we can image. God’s knowledge is more than we can imagine. It’s the most riches, the most wisdom, and the most knowledge. Today we are going to talk about God’s riches. God’s riches are, of course, not money. God’s wealth is found mainly in his giving nature (but it is more than that!). In fact, even though money is one of the most mentioned things in scripture, God himself doesn’t need it, he already has more than everything. I dare say, God doesn’t care about money. It is a human invention. It causes all kinds of trouble. Many people love money above everything else. Pastor Paul addresses this in his first letter to Timothy.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV)
It is just like sinful human people to love their own creation above the Creator. And look at what it causes; wondering from the faith and many pangs. (It is noteworthy to show that these sufferings due to money are self-inflicted! A literal translation says, “impaled themselves with much suffering”). What God cares about regarding money is how you use what you’ve been given.

God values his creation but what he values above all in his creation, is people. He shows it clearly. He is, above all, a giving God, giving his riches freely. He provides all that we need to support this body and life. Martin Luther said in the catechism. Physical life would be impossible without God giving. The world would not function without him giving his daily attention. God cares deeply about creation, and he gives it to people for their use. His creation is one of his most wonderful gifts. The gift of creation gives us life itself. It gives us recreation. It gives us beauty. There is no way to fully comprehend wealth of God’s gift.

But, most relevant to us,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4–6, ESV)
God is rich in mercy. He has saved us in the most incomprehensible way. By giving his only son into death on the cross. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We don’t deserve his mercy.
we were dead in our trespasses
Trespasses is a word that means crossing over the line. Specifically, God’s. We often cross over the line when we break his commandments in thought, word, and deed. Because of that we deserve God’s punishment. But God, in his rich mercy, sent Jesus to take our punishment.

Contemplate for one moment God’s richness in mercy. He sent his most valuable son, of more value than all money, or even creation itself. Jesus was made man. That in and of itself is a remarkable thing. And yet, not as remarkable as Jesus, the creator, becoming a man to serve us. It is backwards. God is so rich in mercy, that he serves people. He becomes a human person to save sinful, trespassing, people. He humbles himself to suffer the effects of sin. He suffers every day as a person would; we often see him groaning (i.e. Mark 7:34) over diseases, death and pain. But more so on the cross.
Hymn 437, Alas! And did my Savior Bleed. Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown, And love beyond degree! (LSB 746f )
Amazing pity, is another way to say mercy.

On the cross Jesus groaned for us for us. He suffered the human pain of death, and he suffered the eternal punishment of hell. And, in great mercy, he did it for you and me to save us from it. And, in fact, he took our punishment for sin on himself. There is no greater show of mercy, and there never will be. We do not get the punishment we deserve because Our Savior took it instead. That is God, rich in mercy.

It is a sad fact that most of the world rejects God’s mercy in Jesus. And you and would do the same if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit at work in the Word. He shows us our sin, our need, and then shows us our Savior, the solution. He implants faith to believe in all that Jesus did into our hearts. The fact that you and I are not destined for hell is all the work of God in mercy.

We cannot repay what God has so richly done for us in Jesus. Payment would negate mercy. What we can do is show gratitude. It may seem like a small difference. But it isn’t. Gratitude is a selfless measure that glorifies the giver. Repayment puts the glory on the payer.

So, how does gratitude look in our lives? How do we show God glory for what he, and he alone, has done for us? By living a life of service. We serve others because God served us. We show mercy to others because God showed mercy to us. We give people what they don’t deserve. Unconditional forgiveness, unconditional mercy. That is without requiring anything in return, even acknowledgement of what we give; even without seeing any response of their doing things differently. It isn’t our responsibility to change hearts, that belongs to God alone. It is ours, to simply speak forgiveness offered in Christ, and point to the cross. Pointing to our God who is rich in mercy.

Oh! The depth of the riches God. It inspires wonder, he is above all things wonder-full beyond our comprehension. He gives endlessly from his riches things that we don’t deserve and can’t fully comprehend. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Isaiah 55:6-9; Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; August 20, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
6“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV)
(Thanks to Rev. Richard Jordan)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

When we are young it seems that we spend a lot of time thinking about growing up. Later on it changes and we spend a great deal of time trying to stay young. Part of growing up is a little ritual that happens, and it seems to happen to almost everyone. When we were very young, our parents carried us. These days there’s appears to be a comeback in the infant carrying slings that people wear. But it isn’t long until we can walk on our own. Now usually walking on our own comes with an agreement between us and our parents. “You can walk, but you must hold my hand.” It’s a good agreement. We were too old to be carried like babies, our parents allowed us to grow up and walk on our own, but they would provide direction and guidance. They gave us their hand to show us the way so that we wouldn’t get lost. But soon we begin to think that we don’t need to hold their hand anymore, so we push it away and take off on our own. We think we are too old to hold our parents’ hand, we want to find our own way and we are sure we won’t get lost.

Now we could say that all this is just a part of growing up. Really it is SIN showing up in our young lives. We are rebelling against authority. We don’t want to obey our parents, and for the first-time act like God, making our own way, trying to do our own thing. That’s really what the first sin is all about, too. Adam and Eve pushed God’s hand away. They wanted to find their own way and make their own decisions. Most of the time, we think about sin as the things we do wrong or about how we don’t measure up to God’s standards. But another way of looking at it is to see sin in terms of rebellion.

Rebellion is the rejection of authority. We’ve all been there. At some point in time, we violated the agreement between us and our parents. We slipped our hand out of theirs. You wanted to go it on your own. You may have even had somewhere you wanted to go but you knew that the hand holding yours wouldn’t allow. So, with some effort you disconnect yourself and off you went on your own. After a time of freedom, after a brief dash out of sight, you found yourself alone. At first it was ok, but soon you begin to realize the position you are in, alone and you look again for the hand to hold. Panic set in and soon tears may have even flowed because you were lost.

When we are lost our parents go out to look for us, even though we have pushed ourselves from them. It is their love that compels them to find us. They will go to great lengths to come to where we are and take hold of our hand and guide us again. Every day of our lives we go through the very same thing with God. Just like we didn’t want to hold on to our parent’s hand, every day we struggle with God not wanting him to direct us. We are positive we are “grown up” enough to walk on our own. We know that we are “mature enough” to handle life however it comes to us. We don’t want God to carry us, and we certainly don’t want God to hold our hand, keeping us from things we want to do.

It sounds wrong to us. We have a strong tendency to think that God really wants us to grow up to be mature enough to live life on our own. But that’s not how it is with our relationship with God. We can never really be independent from him. Independence from God means to be separated from him and his will for our lives. Independence from God is to live life on completely human terms. When we want to do things on our own, we push God out of our lives. Independence from God is a place called hell. When we push God away from our lives, when we reject his guidance for our lives, we reject all that he has for us. When we live on our own terms we live in terms of our sinful nature. St. Paul says it like this:
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Romans 8:5-7 (ESV)
The response of God to rejection is punishment and death. Well deserved punishment and death. Those who push themselves away from God should be lost forever. And this is where our text speaks to us. We know God and still we continually push him out of our lives. God’s response to our slipping our hand out of his is to say to us (as Isaiah says),
“let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. (Isa. 55:7)”
That’s God calling out to us to repent and return to him. And just like the child who is lost from his parents, we don’t find our way back to God, we can’t find our way back. He comes to us and finds us.

God comes to the place where we are lost and finds us. He asks us to repent and turn toward him, but first he makes it possible by finding us.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”
He comes near to us, right to the place we are lost. God came into a dark and sinful world, a world full of his human creatures who had pushed themselves away from him. Jesus Christ found human beings right in the middle of their lives. He found us by becoming one of us. He was flesh and blood. He could be touched and seen and heard; God, able to be found; God, near enough to call on. Just think, God himself, became a human person, with arms able to hold a child. We can find Jesus because he wraps his loving arms around us. God so much wants us to be found that he did what was necessary to make it possible. He has compassion on us, even when we push him away; he abundantly pardons our sin of rebellion. And it’s not arbitrary. God doesn’t look the other way and ignore our rebellion. He takes care of the punishment we deserve. He does by taking it upon himself, our deserved punishment and death is placed on Jesus, and he took it and right there in our midst, right there in the middle of our world he paid that punishment in full, with is “holy and precious blood, and innocent suffering and death.” He was beaten and crucified to restore us to God. Yet the punishment that Jesus received for us isn’t just physical. He received the eternal punishment for our rebellion. He suffered the punishment of hell for us. And that is where we find God. That is where he is to be found, hanging on our cross, suffering and dying for us.

Where is God to be found today? The very same God, Jesus Christ is found right here in our worship. He promises to be present with us to forgive our sins. He is found here in his Word and Sacraments. His hand reaches out to us with the water of baptism that says, “This is my child, I have found him.” He is found in his supper. The very same body and blood that hung on the cross is given to you in the bread and wine. You can find God right there in a very specific place. And where you find Jesus, you find forgiveness. You find his compassion. You find his pardon for your rebellion. God makes it possible for us. He puts himself right here to be found. He comes near to us. Reaches out his and takes our hand when we are lost. So, we can walk with him, and he can direct our lives again. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Isaiah 55:1; John 4:7-45; The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 6, 2023;

Isaiah 55:1; John 4:7-45; The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 6, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There is no getting around it, life is hard. Oh, I know, we don’t always think so, but it is true. It’s not just church things that make it hard, family things, money things, time things, work things, retirement things (that’s not working things), all things. We’d like life to be easy, without stress and without worry. There are good days when we relax and enjoy the people and world around us, but usually they are few and far between. Life is hard. We want it to be different.

Jesus dealt with that kind of trouble. He called it thirst.

Jesus was sitting at a famous well in the town of Sychar in Samaria. A Samarian woman came to draw water in the heat of the day. That was unusual, most people would draw water in the cool of the night. Jesus knew who she was and what she was about. He said, “Give me a drink.” She was set back, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

Jesus, knowing her true thirst replied. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

She was confused, “You have nothing to draw water, the well is deep. Where will you get that?”
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“I want that water,” she said, “so I don’t have to daily draw water in the heat of the day, and not be thirsty.”

Our Lord seemingly changes the subject. “Go get your husband.”

“Don’t have one.” she said curtly.

“Yep, in fact you have had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t your husband.”

He gets to the heart of the matter. Her guilt and sin have brought her to the well in the heat, to avoid contact with the other people in her town. Her sin and shame have brought about a thirst that can’t be quenched.

Life is hard, but we make it harder. That’s what sin does. It destroys relationships. Her relationship with the people of Sychar is strained. She wants to be able to come to the well at any time of the day, her thirst for things to be different will never end, without what Jesus has to offer.

Everybody knows this thirst. Our plans fall apart. Our loved ones die. We must interact with people who seem to be wandering around without a clue. Hostility reigns in the world. From customers hassling servers, and neighbors not being good neighbors. Not to mention the growing hostility to Christians who confess biblical truth.

We are especially thirsty when it comes to our families. We grieve over our children having to learn life lessons on their own, because they don’t listen to our advice. Our spouse, who God has called us to love unconditionally, at times, makes us very thirsty.

We are thirsty when we deny Holy Communion to those who don’t confess the truth of scripture. We want the divisions in the Church to end.

But don’t forget, our thirst is mainly because we break all the commandments on a regular basis. If you think you haven’t, all you have to look at Jesus interpretation of them. You may be able to control yourself on out outside, but in your heart, you know that you don’t do what Jesus says perfectly as the law demands. “In thought, word and deed.” We say in our confession.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The woman at the well has all these. She is human. She has sin, hidden and in the open. Just like you and me. She is very thirsty. She must have been shocked at Jesus’ insight. “I see you are a prophet.” She says and pushes back on another source of thirst, the relationship between Jews and Samaritans. “You people tell us we aren’t worshiping properly because we worship on this mountain.”

“… the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Is Jesus answer.

In other words, “it’s not the place, it is the object, and the truth that God brings in his Son.”

“When the Messiah comes, he will tell us the truth.” She confesses her faith in God sending a Savior. Jesus says it plainly.

“I who speak to you am he.”

“I’m speaking the truth of God to you. You have sin that makes you thirsty. Trust in me and your thirst will have an answer.”

She drops everything, she has forgotten her shame and guilt. She goes to the people that shame her. She wants them to know what she heard.

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

Because of her actions, and Jesus’ confrontation with the truth, many people of Sychar came and received living water to end their thirst.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

I don’t have to ask if you are thirsty. It is a fact of human existence. We thirst for things to be different. Jesus has an answer for it. He answers on the cross. Sin is the root cause of this thirst. Our Lord deals it to death there. At his feet we receive the living water of forgiveness. It’s easy to blame everyone else for our problems, but it is our sin always involved. Like the soldier at the foot of the cross (John 19:34, ESV), living water from Jesus side flows over us and washes us clean. His blood flows into the chalice of the Supper. We drink it deeply and receive his gift of life. Our thirst is quenched. We are at peace with God, our sin is dealt with. We have a relationship with the Father through Jesus. A relationship that pours out living water continually. A relationship that is founded in the cross and confirmed through the life-giving water of Holy Baptism. When we remember God’s promises and gifts given to us in this sacrament, we can drink deeply and revive, and quench our thirst.

Does it make a difference? Yes, of course! Baptism connects us to the Holy Spirit. He promises his presence every day of our lives. When the thirst threatens, pray this simple prayer. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The Spirit causes living water to flow again, and we are refreshed.

In one sense, Christianity isn’t complicated. It’s simple. Come to worship to hear God’s word and the preaching of forgiveness of your sin. It refreshes. Live in your Baptism. Claim the promises there. They refresh. Receive the body and blood of Jesus at this altar. It quenches thirst.

And there is more, with God there always is. Jesus not only gave his life on the cross, but remarkably he rose from the grave to life. There are promises in that action that make this recurring thirst bearable. With his resurrection, Jesus, promises you and me a resurrection from our grave. The Revelation of St. John describes that new life this way:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2–4, ESV)

It is the promise of God to his people. All tears, mourning, crying a pain will be past. That means and end to “thirst”. In God’s presence, there will be complete joy, and no more thirst. So, as we now constantly need to be refreshed, through Word and Sacrament, then we will no longer need these things. Come, Lord Jesus, soon! Amen.

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

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Matthew 13:44; Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; July 30, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, there it is in black and white… well in some bibles it’s red and white, because it is Jesus words… Jesus tells us that if we want the treasure of the kingdom of heaven, we should be willing to sell everything we have. Get out your checkbook and write the big one. You know the check that leaves the big goose egg in your account. Don’t worry you’re going to put some more in there anyway because you’ve still got your house to sell… that new car in the parking lot… the new computer you got last month with the ‘free money’ the government gave you to stimulate the economy. And you farmers get your deeds in order that farmland has to go too… all of it. Ladies your mother’s good china that dad brought back from Korea. Your knick-knacks; your quilts; Guys your tools; trucks; tractors; lawnmowers; etc. It’s all gotta go. Don’t forget your personal jewelry, wedding rings, rings you inherited from your father, and the clothes; yep, all those extra shoes in your closet; the pants that fit; and even the ones that don’t. Am I forgetting anything? Well, if I am that’s gotta go also. And then write out another check and close up the account. ‘Cause that’s what Jesus says. Isn’t it? Well, that’s what the parable says:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)
When you read this parable, you read that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure in a field. “The kingdom of heaven”, isn’t that our salvation. Isn’t that all that Jesus came to bring to us? So be like the guy in the parable and sell everything you have and buy it. That’s what this guy does, isn’t it? He finds that valuable treasure in the field and he sells everything?

Well before we get out our garage sale signs maybe we should back up and talk just a minute about this short parable, so we understand it right. So, we understand it like the folks Jesus was talking to. How would they have understood it? Well, those days were not like these days in a lot of ways. First, be clear and understand that this guy in the parable isn’t doing anything illegal or underhanded. Back then when you owned a plot of land you didn’t own everything in it. Not like today with mineral rights and all that. You didn’t own anything in the field that you didn’t know about. So, the treasure doesn’t ‘belong’ to the guy who owns the field just because it’s in his field. He doesn’t own the treasure because he doesn’t know about it. And there’s another very small detail to take notice of. The story doesn’t say that the guy picked up the treasure. It says he found it and covered it up again. That’s because, if he’s a hired hand, working in the field, everything he does he does on behalf of the guy he’s working for. So, if he picks up the treasure it belongs to his boss. So, he covers it up instead. Then he goes and sells everything he must get possession of the field, and since he knows about the treasure, it’s his. Jesus’ listeners would have thought this man very wise, very smart. No one would have accused him of doing anything underhanded. It’s the way anyone there would have operated. This guy in the parable is the “good guy.”

Ok, so now back to our reading of the parable. Jesus says (doesn’t he?) that if you find the kingdom of heaven, you should be willing to sell all you have to get it. You should be as shrewd as this guy, as smart as this guy. You should be willing to sell all you have and buy treasure. Now if the treasure is God’s Kingdom, Jesus Christ, and all that He has done for you, you know exactly where to find it. You know where to find Jesus. He’s here. Right here in his Word and Sacraments. The treasure isn’t even hidden in a field. So, get crackin’; get sellin’; get moving the merchandise. Right?

Well, let’s ask a simple but important question. What if you sell everything and you don’t have enough to buy the land? What if you’ve disposed of all your wealth, all your possessions, all your worldly goods but the clothes on you back and you still don’t have enough to get the treasure? Well, that’s a real problem, isn’t it? And in fact, that is our problem. The Bible tells us that we can’t earn our salvation or purchase it in any way. Our good works aren’t good enough and our money is worthless. So maybe Jesus doesn’t mean exactly what He’s saying here. Maybe the parable isn’t about ‘getting’ the treasure but just about ‘wanting’ the treasure. Maybe he’s saying that we should be willing to sell all that we have to get the kingdom, or to get Jesus. Yea, that must be it. “I’ve Decided to Follow Jesus” as one hymn says. “I’d give up anything for Jesus.”

Hey, there’s a story about that in the bible isn’t there? Yea, it’s in Matthew 19.
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” (Matthew 19:16-24, ESV)
Well, there’s a guy who just doesn’t get does he. He had the chance to do exactly what the parable says, and he tanked it. Jesus showed him the “treasure in heaven” he’s asking the right question, isn’t he? What must I do to have eternal life? But in the end, he walks away simply because he’s unwilling to sell everything he has to get it. Well, that’s rich folks for you; all they think about is their money. He could have easily spread the love a bit and made all those folks around Jesus happy, you know like the movies where the money from the stingy rich guy gets thrown in the air and everyone around gets a handful. But no, he thinks more of his money than the Kingdom of God.

Ah, but wait a second. Look at what the disciples say when Jesus says, “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.” They don’t say, “those silly rich people. They think too much of their money.” They say, “Who than can be saved?” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:24-26 ESV)

You see, the disciples see something; hear something that we don’t see at first. When Jesus talks about a camel going through the eye of a needle, he’s talking about something that doable, he’s talking about something that’s impossible. You can tell by the disciples’ reaction. All the sudden the disciples are afraid for their own salvation. And Jesus tells them they otta be. “With man this is impossible.” Jesus says. “You can’t do it, guys.” You can’t sell enough stuff to buy it. You can’t do enough good stuff to earn it. “For you it’s impossible,” Jesus says.

And now guess what? Jesus words reach right out of the pages of the book and grab you by the throat too. You can’t do it either, dear Christians, fellow members of Life in Christ Lutherna Church, Grand Marais, MN. No matter how much you sell, you can’t sell enough to buy the field the treasure is in. You can’t do enough good stuff to make God like you and save you. You are a poor miserable sinner, deserving of God’s wrath and punishment. No matter how hard you try you can’t do enough to earn the treasure. And I’m not just talking about money either. You can write checks till you’re blue in the face. You can come to church every Sunday. You can sing in the choir (if we had one). You can teach Sunday school for years. You can be better, cleaner, less arrogant than the whole town of Grand Maris, but none of that will get you one lick closer to the treasure. You can want the treasure more than anything else, but you can’t have purchase it, because you don’t have enough, and you aren’t good enough. Because for you Jesus says, “this is impossible.” It’s because the price of the field is too high. The cost of getting the treasure is too much.

If the treasure is salvation, the Kingdom of God, then the only way you could earn it is to be perfect. Jesus tells us that, too. “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” Look how he pushes that rich young man to the brink of despair. Jesus keeps upping the ante until what he’s looking to get by his works is out of reach. Jesus does that in other places too. He tells people if they call people stupid, or even think it they deserve hell because it’s just the same as killing them. He says that if you look at a woman with lust in your heart it’s the same as sleeping with her, and you deserve hell. You see. To buy the field you’d have to do more than you can do. You’d have to sell more than you must sell. And just wanting to do it, just having the desire to have the treasure won’t get you the treasure either. So… what are we to think? What are we to do? What is Jesus trying to do to us here? What kind of a parable is this anyway?

You know, it occurs to me that we might just be reading this thing all wrong. Well, at least I hope we are reading it all wrong. What is it I always say about reading the bible? Jesus is at the heart and center of it all. If you want to understand what the bible is talking about you’ve got to put Jesus Christ crucified for you at the center of your thinking. You know what, when I read the parable with me as the guy who finds the treasure that puts me at the center. How would I read it, so Jesus is there instead? How about this? Jesus is the guy who finds the treasure. Jesus is the guy who sells everything he has and buys the field and then rejoices in the treasure. Then what is the treasure?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)
Now remember that “for God so loved” in this passage isn’t talking about the amount of God’s love but rather the way that he showed his love. God loved the world in this way… Jesus Christ humbles himself to be a living breathing man. He leaves God the Father’s side, the glory of heaven to suffer the same things that all people suffer. He cried. He had sore feet from walking, and he was hungry. He was tired and weary, needing rest. He lost loved ones to death, and was hated by enemies, and betrayed by friends. And this is where Jesus is different from you and me. In all of this he didn’t sin. He didn’t give up his relationship to God, the Father. He constantly obeyed God’s will for his life. He loved people selflessly always. In fact, Jesus’ human life, was perfect in every single way. That’s where you and I fall short. We aren’t perfect. We can’t be. We can’t sell enough to buy the field. But Jesus can. And he does. On a cross, a perfectly horrible means of punishment, created by Satan himself, Jesus bore the sin of the whole world, giving his perfect life in the place of imperfect people. He suffered punishment for all sinful, imperfect people everywhere. He bought the field. He purchased it with his holy and perfect, sinless, priceless death on the cross. He bought the field with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. St. Paul told it to our Christian brothers and sisters in Philippi like this:
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 made himself nothing, 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. (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)
Why in the world would Jesus do that? Well, to get the treasure, of course. So, what’s the treasure? What is so valuable to Jesus that he would is willing leave heaven and walk the earth as poor, humble man? What has so much worth to Jesus that he suffers a criminal’s death, a sinner’s death, the punishment of hell for all human sin? What does Jesus’ love so, that he makes sure the story of what he did is told over and over again? What is Jesus’ treasure, the thing that he joyfully sold all he had to have it for himself? You. Amen.

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