Sunday, May 31, 2009

Psa.139.1-12; Pentecost, May 31, 2009

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

I’m sure many of you have heard this story: A farmer went into his banker and said to him that he had good news and bad news. “First the bad. I can’t make the mortgage payment, and I can’t pay back my operating loan this year. We couldn’t get the crop planted because of the weather, so I won’t be making any payments on my equipment either. In fact, I’m going to pack it all in and just turn the farm over to you.” After a prolonged silence the banker asked, “What’s the good news?” The farmer smiled, “I’m still going to bank with you.”

Good News and Bad News. We get used to hearing things that are good news and bad news. Of course in real life we don’t want to hear the bad news, only the good. And here we are pew sitting Easter is still fresh on our minds. Isn’t this the time when we expect to hear about “Good News?” The purple of advent is gone, the fasting, the sorry feelings for what Jesus had to go through on our behalf. Let’s hear some more Good News about Jesus being alive! OK!

Well, that’s not just Good News that Christ has risen, that’s Best of the Best News. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death and hell. Every time we shout it we proclaim the victory won by Jesus. The victory that is our by faith in what He has done. It’s Good News…

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:1-12, ESV)

My question to you today is: Is that psalm Good News or Bad News?

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (Psalm 139:1, ESV)

Well, of course it’s not always good to have God know everything about everything about me. It almost feels like an invasion of privacy. Think about it, God searching me and knowing me! If God’s knows me, I can’t hide in the crowd. I can’t blend in to the wallflowers. He knows who I am and there’s no getting away. That’s Bad News, isn’t it? Or is it Good News? He knows me. He knows who I am, I’m not just a number in the crowd. He knows me for me. Come to think about it that means when Jesus hung on the cross, when He died for the sins of the world, he because he was God, he knew me there too! When He rose from the dead as the first fruits of those who believe, he knew me then too! Because he searches me and knows me, he knows how much I needed a Savior, and when he bled and died on the cross he did it for me. And he rose again from death, and when I shout “He is Risen!” I’m shouting it for me because God knows me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:2, ESV)

God knows when I sit and when I rise, that pretty much covers all my waking hours: At work, at play, at home, at church, as a matter of fact this sounds a lot like church, sitting and rising. Right here and now God knows my thoughts from afar. I don’t think that’s Good News at all. He looks inside here, inside my head, and knows what I’m thinking. Well, at times it’s rather empty, but at times it’s full of awful things. When I sit by people that I don’t like, God knows what I’m thinking… God knows what I’m thinking; he knows my thoughts from afar. He doesn’t have to be here and see the disgust on my face when I sit and wish that certain people would just go away. I’d rather not have God know about that… But God knows my thoughts… He knows my struggle every day to do what’s right. I know I should be welcoming to everyone. I know that Jesus promise of forgiveness is for everyone. He knows that I know what I should do and yet I don’t do it. He knows my thoughts, how much help I need, so when He promises to help it’s not an empty offer. He is the one who can help me make a change in my attitude, and change my thoughts, because he knows what they are. That is Good News.

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:3, ESV)

God watches over my going out and my lying down: in my house, outside of my house; in the garage, taking a nap on the couch, or late nights in front of the glow of the tube, God is familiar with all my ways. He’s familiar… does familiarity breeds contempt? My ways are not God’s ways. It’s not Good News that God is familiar with what I do every day. Mostly because I’m not sure he’d be happy with some of the things I do. I don’t want my family to know all my ways. I have private moments that I thought were just mine, but God says he’s familiar… with my personal failures, my personal struggles with recurring sins, my personal demons, all the things that I hide from everyone. He knows them all… that’s Bad News, and yet, it’s Good News, isn’t it. If he’s familiar with it, he knows how much those things hurt me. If he’s familiar he knows how unhappy I am when I do them. The bible says that Jesus was tempted every way just as we are, that means he knows how difficult the struggle is. If he knows about them there’s no reason to not talk to him about them. No reason not to confess them to him. He’s familiar, he’s not going to be surprised at my confession, in fact when I say I have sinned in thought word and deed, he’s familiar with what I’m talking about. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That’s his promise. He is faithful. He is familiar. He is forgiving. He forgives me.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:4, ESV)

There are times when I wish I knew what was on my tongue before I spoke. More often than not, my words cut. More times than I care to admit my tongue is my most versatile weapon, and it works with more precision than any satellite-guided bomb. Worst of all my tongue is connected to my heart. When I say the things I wish I didn’t say, I do mean them, even if I don’t mean them later. My tongue reveals the blackness that I know is in my heart. And God knows it’s there, too. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. And what about those words that I don’t say? Those hurtful, spiteful words that I somehow manage to keep from rolling off my tongue. If he knows the ones I say before I say them then he knows the ones that I bite off in my mouth. Even though it was good not to say them, it’s bad that I even thought them. And God knows them all. He knows them because he doesn’t judge the words of my mouth. God judges by the heart, and mine is full of sin. He knows the words because he knows the heart. Out of the heart comes all sort of evil, Jesus says. St. Paul says to let the words of Christ dwell richly in your heart. If his words are there then His words will come off your tongue. Just look at today as an example: God knew I’d be singing the words of the hymn we just sang even before we sang them, even before I pick it for us to sing!

So, the tongue that hurts is also the tongue that repeats Good News. The tongue that cuts can also be the tongue that speaks of the forgiveness won for corrupt hearts. Jesus Christ knows, He knows what I’m going to say. He can and will cause his words to come out of me, instead of my own.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:5-12, ESV)

The psalm speaks of God’s pursuit. Everywhere I go He is there. He’s like a bloodhound on the trail. I can’t climb a tree, or into a hole. He knows me. I can’t hide from Him. He knows my thoughts, the evil that fills my brain. He knows the things I do, weather in secret or in public. The things I do that are selfish, or hateful, or for spite. He knows my heart and the evil words I will speak. For all of that He should pursue me for punishment. The wages of sin is death, He says. I deserve death, for my thoughts words and deed. And I can hide none of them from God. The “Bad News” is that I am guilty and God knows it.

But the Good News is: That instead of pursuing me, God pursues someone else. It’s funny, in a way, because even though I am evil and deserve punishment, God punishes him even though He is Good. Jesus Christ fell under the relentless pursuit of God punishment. He suffered and died for my sins. AS Jesus bled and died on the cross, God heaped on him the punishment for my hidden thoughts, my evil actions, and my sinful heart. And when Jesus said, “It is finished!” the punishment for them all went away with His death. He rose again for me, to give life to me instead of the death I deserved. That is Great, Good News.

The funny thing is that if we think again of the psalm we don’t have to worry about the “Bad News” any more. We can think of the Good News of the Psalm instead. He searches me and knows me he knows all my needs and takes care of me. No intrusion on my privacy only the searching of a loving caring God. He only wants the best for me. Because of Jesus he knows my sitting and my rising and my thoughts from afar. He knows me so well that nothing can separate me from his love. I am always on his mind. And He knows and hears me even before I speak. Before I even know my needs myself, before I can even speak them God knows about them and has already answered my prayers.

So the Psalm that would be Bad News / Good News is really not Bad News at all. It’s Good News about my relationship with God, because of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Psa1v1-6; Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2009

image It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

That is the opening paragraph from what many consider to be a great classic work of literature. The book is called “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I don’t know if you’ve read the story or not, but it’s a book about contrasts. The whole story takes place during the upheaval of the French Revolution, and is centered on two characters that look alike but are actually quite different. One exhibits the best qualities of the time, the other the worst; one is wise, the other foolish, etc. Dickens uses the contrast between these two men to build a story life and death, darkness and light, and good and evil.

The psalm for today also talks about the same kind of contrasts. It paints for us a very vivid picture of two ways of life; two ways that humans can live. The way of wisdom, the way of the person who is blessed by God, and the way of wickedness, the way that perishes.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:1-6, ESV)

The author of the Psalm paints these pictures with two strong images. The first is the image of a strong tree flourishing by a stream. This tree has great leafy green branches that spread into the sky. Each leaf receives the moisture it needs from the stream, they “never wither” the poet says. The tree is a fruit-bearing tree. In season the fruit is heavy on the branches, a good crop at the proper time. “And all that he does prospers,” the Psalm says, in conclusion, that is it grows and bears fruit just as a tree should do. Oh how blessed is the tree that has been so planted that it can grow and prosper in the way that tress should grow and prosper.

Oh how blessed is the man… The picture of the tree is a picture of a righteous person. You can see the contrast set up again by the psalm. A person grows and prospers by the instruction of God, not by the counsel or wisdom of the wicked. A righteous person meditates “day and night” on the things of God not living the way that wicked people live, not by sitting with them to learn from their foolishness. Instead the blessed person goes to God with the questions of life. He listens to the wisdom of God and considers what it means for the way he lives.

That isn’t the way with the wicked people described by the psalm. They are like the chaff the wind blows away. In contrast to the planted tree, the chaff is the throw away part of the harvest. The newly harvested stalks of grain are stacked on the threshing floor. Oxen trample them to release the grain. When evening comes and the gentle breeze begins to blow, the farmer tosses the mixture in the air. The wind picks up the chaff and carries it away, but the heavy grain falls back to the ground. The grain is collected and moved to storage. The chaff isn’t given any further thought, the wind has disposed of it, and it has no value anymore. The way of the wicked person is just as the chaff. It ends in nothing, accomplishes nothing and easily disappears in the breeze.

The best of times, the worst of times, foolishness and wisdom, light and darkness, these are two ways of life.

It’s easy for us to think that we are the ones who are blessed ones. Look around you at all that is here around us: A wonderful building; a wonderful congregation that God has preserved through some very tough times. There are new cars in the parking lot, and young children sitting among us. For years and years even in the middle of trouble his congregation has gathered together every Sunday to sing beautiful music, and hear God’s Word proclaimed. Children are born and bring life and hope. We watch them grow and accomplish new things, and become responsible adults. I had to laugh (in a very good way) in the Christmas Eve picture tradition. We have wonderful places to live and food enough. And our community that often helps and nurtures those who are hurting. We are truly very blessed people.

But are our leaves always green? Do we bear fruit when we should? I must admit for myself, when trouble comes into my family, when I face the prospect of death and pain, I don’t feel very green. I don’t like to pick up extra duties around the house when my wife is sick. When something my children have done has upset me I don’t feel much like a green leaf. I’m sure it’s the same for you. There are struggles we all face every single day; insecurity at work, struggles with people you don’t like, questions about the future of the community; the future of the economy; the future of our country. Often what we see in the future more feels like what’s blowing away in the wind than anything else. And our fruit always seem to be tainted. Oh, we want to do the right thing, but issues always seem to come down to money and time. We don’t want to be selfish, but we’ve gotta take care of ourselves first. At least that’s the advice you get from television, and movies. At least that’s the word we get from self help books and our friends and family and our own sinful hearts. We do have fruit, but lots of time it seems kind of wormy and quite a bit rotten. And that’s the problem with rotten fruit. You can’t eat it. It’s just no good.

It seems that Psalm 1 describes our lives pretty completely. We are blessed and yet we do things that wicked people do. So where does that leave our future? Is God going to watch over us or shall we blow away like so much straw?

The truth is that the Psalm isn’t just talking about us. We really fit in the wicked category better than with the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night. An hour a week seems to be our limit. A little to long on Pastor’s sermon and we’ll threaten to drop off to sleep. No, that part of the Psalm really describes Someone else a lot better than it describes us. It describes Someone who’s fruit is never tainted. It describes Someone who always got that green leaf thing going on. It describes Someone who has God’s Word as the very nature and center of His life. He walks in God’s ways not ours. He does whatever He sets out to do. There’s that contrast again, it’s very strong in this Psalm. There’s us and there’s Him… and the Him is Jesus.

Everything Jesus did was blessed. God watched over Him and protected Him. When King Herod wanted to kill Him, God sent Jesus family to Egypt. After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, angels came and helped Him. Jesus didn’t take the counsel of wicked people; He stood up to their lies and confronted their hypocrisy. Jesus was caring and compassionate. Everywhere He went people walked away different. He ended suffering from disease, and weakness. Just remember the reading from Mark. He cast out an unclean spirit. He gave people hope for their future, and He even gave them food when they needed that. Remember how He fed 5000 people in the wilderness with 5 loaves and 2 fish? It’s easy to see Jesus as the strong tree, His arms heavy with good fruit stretched out for the people that flocked to be with Him. He was green and growing, bearing fruit and prospering. He was blessed and watched over by God. He was everything we should be, and can’t be.

And yet, there’s another part of that Psalm that describes Jesus, too. He wasn’t a wicked person. He lived His life perfectly in the will of God, He never sinned, but still He suffered the death of a wicked person. Everything He did was right and yet He suffered and died, as a wicked person deserves. What happened to God watching over Him then? God was watching, in fact, Jesus whole life lived for that very moment. Someone had to be punished for the wickedness of people, someone had to be punished for the evil things that you and I do. Someone had to die for our rotten fruit. And that’s just what Jesus did. He bled and died for the wickedness of the whole world. He willingly gave His perfect life to satisfy the need for punishment… to perish for wicked people. And God was watching and approved of it and accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for you and me and all the wicked people of the whole world. And all that He did prospered. When the payment was paid in full, Jesus Christ rose from the dead again, in victory over all evil.

“Pastor,” you say, “I know what Jesus did, but my life still seems a lot more like the chaff in the wind. I don’t feel like the tree by the water.”

Look right here at this font. That’s your stream of water. That’s the one you’ve been planted by. It was at your baptism that God made promises to you to watch over you, and to make you a blessed person. It was there that you were “clothed with Christ.” You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27) That means that everything Jesus Christ did He did for you. Everything from the punishment He paid, to the good things that He did. The green leaves and the abundant fruit that He grew are yours. That’s what the passage means when it says, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8, ESV) That gift of God is faith in the good works of Christ. Not trusting the “good things” you’ve done to impress God, because we know that no matter how good they are they just don’t measure up. Listen again to the familiar words of Isaiah: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (we could replace those words with “rotten fruit”!) We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6, ESV) Sound familiar? Sure, that’s just like the Psalm. Well then if all our “righteous deeds” are “rotten fruit” what are we to do? That’s what our faith is all about we trust in the good fruit of Someone else. The good works of Jesus are yours. That’s as true for you as the fact that right here at the “stream of living water” your head got wet. You have been transplanted by (by means of) streams of water, from the way of wicked people to the way of the blessed. You don’t need any good works, to make yourself right with God. But do you know who needs those good things you do? Your neighbors! Your family! You co-workers! Your community! Your school! That’s what changes everything. Instead of trying to impress God with our good works (they don’t anyway… remember) we can do them to serve others. We don’t need them but they do! And that too is what the Psalm is talking about.

We are blessed people, planted by streams of living water, to bear good and abundant fruit, in season. Serving the people God has placed right before us to serve. The future for us isn’t like chaff in the wind. Our future is a blessed future just as God has promised through Jesus Christ. For us it is the best of times. Time to grow and flourish where God has planted us. Time to bear fruit right here in the ways God has given us to bear it. And just as he promises, in Jesus Christ all that we do will prosper. Amen.

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

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jesus Gives Real Forgiveness for Real Sin! How Much More Relevant Can You Get!

Who says what Jesus gives isn't relevant.  We laugh because we are just as guilty as she is, and we don't really think 'this sin' needs forgiveness. 

Luther reminds us about the Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God so that we may lead a pure and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (322). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

He explains further in the Large Catechism:

202 But among us there is such a shameful mess and the very dregs of all vice and lewdness. Therefore, this commandment is directed against all kinds of unchastity, whatever it may be called. 203 Not only is the outward act of adultery forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means of adultery. Then the heart, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and offer no opportunity, help, or persuasion toward inchastity. 204 Not only this, but we must also resist temptation, offer protection, and rescue honor wherever there is danger and need. We must give help and counsel, so as to maintain our neighbor’s honor. For whenever you abandon this effort when you could resist unchastity, or whenever you overlook it as if it did not concern you, you are as truly guilty of adultery as the one doing the deed. 205 To speak in the briefest way, this much is required of you: everyone must live chastely himself and help his neighbor do the same. So by this commandment God wishes to build a hedge round about [Job 1:10] and protect every spouse so that no one trespasses against him or her.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (382). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

All that's needed is, "I forgive you all your sin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Jesus Christ gives real forgiveness for real sin!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

John.15.9-17; Sixth Sunday in Easter, May 17, 2009

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:9-17, ESV)

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

I guess we should have sung the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It’s a fine hymn, but I must admit not one of my favorites. Oh, I know, that for some of you this is your favorite, it is one of the most common hymns requested at your funerals. As far as funeral hymns go, we can do so much better than this hymn (That’s a topic for another time). The problem is, this hymn doesn’t really talk about Jesus. It talks about our trials, our temptations, our load of care, etc. The only thing it says about Jesus is that he is our friend and that he is faithful. It almost makes it sound like if you pray to your friend Jesus, he’s gonna take your troubles away. That’s not really an idea you find in the bible. If you want to understand Jesus as your friend this text for today is a good place to look. Here in this text you can’t separate out being Jesus friends, what Jesus has done for us, and our doing what Jesus commands. Look what he says:

You are my friends if you do what I command you.

I had a seminary prof who once asked the question, “Does Jesus want you to keep the Ten Commandments?” We Lutherans are so often afraid of falling into salvation by works, by trying to keep God’s commandments we are sometimes afraid to say that God really does want us to keep the commandments. The answer is a definite “yes!” In fact that’s what it means for us to be a friend, to bear fruit, to keep the commandments. Specifically we can look at commandments 4-10. These are all about our relationships with other people, our friends. Luther is always careful to say in his descriptions of the commandments both what not to do, and what to do. Don’t kill but protect! Don’t commit adultery, love your spouse! Don’t covet, help you neighbor keep what is his! All this is the fruit Jesus expects from his friends. That’s what Jesus means when he talks about you and me “laying down our lives for our friends.” There is no better way to be a friend than to do all the things the commandments tell us to do for the people that God has place right in front of us; our friends; our family; our neighbors; even our enemies! There is “no greater love” Jesus says. Well, more on how to do this in a minute.

The very interesting thing in this text is that Jesus calls his disciples his friends. He describes his relationship with them very specifically.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.

God’s love flows through Jesus. He is their friend. But there’s more here than at first glance. In fact, the definition of a friend isn’t complete unless we look at Jesus who is the complete true and perfect friend. No one does it better. Just look, Jesus, the disciple’s friend, strips off his robe, kneels down on the floor and washes the disciple’s feet. You remember:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:1-8, ESV)

Jesus is the perfect picture of a servant. Or remember how Jesus fed the thousands from a few bites of food; or how he healed people who came to him for help; and how he even raised from the dead, his friend Lazarus. I think that’s the kind of friend you and I want to have! That’s what Jesus means by friendship. It isn’t an equal relationship. He’s the friend who is always giving. We are the friends who are always receiving.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

To help us just a bit to understand this Jesus to us friendship we need to go to another place. In John 19, where Jesus is standing before the crowds that want him dead, Pilate is trying to find a way to release Jesus. But Jesus enemies deal Jesus’ death blow on Pilate by this accusation.

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12, ESV)

Now you should know, that Pilate wasn’t Ceasar’s friend because they went out and had beers together. There was an exclusive club called “Friends of Ceasar” They had special meetings and even a ring. Pilate was Ceasar’s friend because he uncovered a plot against him. He was initiated into the special club, φίλος τοῦ Καίσαρος· this was no equal friendship. Ceasar is on top, Pilate is his servant. The use of this phrase by Jesus’ enemies is a threat. If you don’t kill Jesus we’ll spoil your reputation with Ceasar. You won’t be his friend anymore. It’s all Pilate can take and he relents. Jesus is given up to the cross. Pilate is not willing to die for a man he considers beneath him.

And that brings us to Jesus’ cross. Here’s the thing about Jesus’ friendship. We are Jesus friends, but not because Jesus is our buddy. We are not on that kind of familiar terms with Jesus like you are with the friends you hang out with. Jesus is God, himself, in human flesh. Jesus is our friend as he gives his life for us. This is the amazing thing. We are not equals. It’s like Ceasar giving his life for Pilate. Pilate giving his life for one of the servants. You giving your life for the illegal immigrant working for sub-minimum wage in the factory. Jesus dies for his friends. He gives everything, we give nothing. He gives it to those who don’t deserve anything from him. Jesus is the one who lays down his life for his friends. The God of the universe, the creator of everything, dies for the sake of those he created. It is the greatest love there is.

What about our love? Well, it’s conditional. We give it when we get something out of it. We give it to those who we think deserve it. We don’t give it to those who we think are below us, unless it makes us look good. We don’t want to waste our love on the unwashed masses. “If I give them money, I want to make sure they don’t drink it away.” “I’m not going to help them anymore; they didn’t even send me a thank you!” “I’ll help them if they cleanup their act.” What we are doing is putting ourselves in God’s place, at least what we think God’s place would be. We look down on people who need help and give it as we think will benefit us the most. It certainly isn’t the love of God flowing through Christ to us and us to our neighbors. Our giving isn’t described by the Commandments, for the sake of our neighbors. What we deserve is to be NOT God’s friends. In our sin, that’s exactly what our conditional love is, we are God’s enemies instead. We deserve his anger. We deserve his punishment. We deserve to die. We deserve Hell!

But our Friend, Jesus, suffers and dies on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin! That anger of God, that punishment is poured out on Jesus. Jesus in his ultimate love for his friends dies like no other person can ever do. When he gives up his life for his friends it is more than just death, it is the eternal punishment for our selfish sin. Jesus is our friend, the true friend that gives up his life for his friends. Next time you want to talk about, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, don’t leave out the forgiveness of sins we get from our friend, Jesus by his death on the cross.

But Jesus doesn’t leave it there, does he. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus gives everything and then there’s still more to give? He says it here.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

We bear fruit. Just like I said last week, we bear fruit because we are in the vine. Jesus says that God’s love flows through him, to us and from us to… our friends. How does it work? Where does it begin? Jesus says ask for anything, he’ll give it. Ask for fruit. Ask to be a friend. Ask to be able to give of yourself like Jesus does. Ask… pray… it’s the same thing. There’s that old movie about baseball, “build it and they will come.” Jesus says, pray for it and it will come. “Lord, make me a better father.” “Jesus, help me to serve my neighbor.” “God I can’t stand the way that person wants everything their way, help me to serve them.” “Let me be Jesus to my family, children, husband, and church.” “Give me a giving heart to give and expect nothing in return.” “Help me to see the needs around me, in my community, in my country, in the world.” That puts a whole new perspective on prayer doesn’t it? “Ask anything you need for serving your neighbor, your friend, and I’ll give it.” So be it!

Jesus is our friend. He gives us everything; forgiveness through his life, death and resurrection. And everything we need to be friends with those who are all around us. What a Friend We Have in Jesus, indeed! Amen.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where are the Women's Groups On This Topic. Surely Murder is the Highest Form of Discrimination!


Sweden has approved gender-specific abortions, allowing parents to rid themselves of an unwanted daughter in a closely-watched ethics case:

Swedish women will be permitted to abort their children based on the sex of the fetus, according to a ruling by Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare.

The ruling was spurred by a request from Kai Wedenberg, head of the clinic where a woman twice requested, and received, an abortion based on sex.

Mr. Wedenberg asked for clarification from health officials after a woman, who already had two girls, requested amniocentesis and to be told the sex of her unborn child. She found out she was pregnant with another girl and asked for an abortion six days later.

The woman then became pregnant again, returned to the clinic and asked for another amniocentesis, which was not performed. Later, at her ultrasound, she asked the nurse to reveal the sex of her fetus, which was a girl. After learning this, the mother requested an abortion later that day and received it later that week.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Itching Ears!


A medical team was dispatched to Valley Family Church on Sunday after several members of the congregation complained of itching ears during the service. Medical personnel immediately gave cortisone shots and sent everyone home. Pastor Blaine Sikeston apologized for the mishap, saying, “I made the mistake of preaching directly from Scripture, instead of using a topical monologue from the ‘Sermon-of-the-Month’ Club. It won’t happen again.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

John.15.1-8; Fifth Sunday of Easter; May 10, 2009


 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8, ESV)

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

There’s a vine in here. Maybe you can’t see it but I assure you it’s here. It’s wound around the rafters, it’s clinging to the organ, it’s hanging of the balcony rail. It’s got leaves springing out of it all over. And it snakes right down the center isle, if you would try to walk down there you’d probably trip over it. You might have guessed that it’s not necessarily your average vine. Actually you know the vine very well, ‘cause you’re attached to it. So you see this vine that’s all around us is no ordinary vine, because you are its branches.

That’s right you’re connected to the vine that’s all around here, even if you can’t see it. You might wonder how you got to be a part of this vine that we are all sticking to. Well, you were grafted onto the vine. For many of you it happened on a day that you can’t even remember, only a few days after you were born. There’s one more very important thing I forgot to tell you about the vine, it wanders all over this room, it’s attached to each of you, and even spreads out into the hallway, but I didn’t tell you where it begins. Maybe you can tell me? Yes, of course, the vine begins right here in this font. It starts here where the branches get the necessary water to grow and thrive. Here is where you became attached to this vine. Here is where you were made “clean” (καθαρός katharos ) and “pruned clean” (καθαίρω kathairō ) that is made ready to bear fruit.

And guess what. You are bearing fruit. What is the fruit of this vine? Well, you can’t help it really. You see you’re a branch connected to the vine. “It is no longer I who live but ‘the vine’ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) You can say. Branches that are connected to the vine bear fruit because of their connection. If you look around here at the other branches around you, you know you’ve seen the fruit in them. The Fruit of this vine is things like “…joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23 ESV) You’ve seen these branches in action. They’ve cared for you when you were sick, they’ve given of themselves and sacrificed for others. They’ve been a support for other ‘branches’ even ones not connected to the vine. Some of the branches here are even scrawny looking, and seem to be weak. But you’ve seen fruit there, too. In fact, amazing things come from the thinnest most sickly looking ones, words of comfort, and actions that don’t seem possible. It’s funny how good things are expected from branches that look healthy and act healthy, but around here, connected to this vine, fruit doesn’t have anything to do with the branches. The fruit on these branches all comes from the vine.

But what about all those times when you look at yourself and the fruit you see doesn’t look like very good fruit at all. Like: angry words spoken to people you love; or missed opportunities to be supportive. You look at your own fruit and instead of looking good, it’s full of rotten spots that just need to be cut out, because even though you did a good thing you did it for selfish reasons. After all you have reputation to keep up. Well that is the struggle for branches of this vine. We look at the things we’ve done, and don’t seem very good. We look at the things we should have done and realize how we’ve missed a perfect opportunity to bear fruit. We can’t see the good fruit that is there, and the fruit that is, is always tainted by selfish thoughts and motives. Well, your struggle isn’t unusual for branches of this vine. One branch once said, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15, ESV)

The only thing worse than the fruit we seem to bear, would be not being attached to the vine at all. “Apart from me you can do nothing!” He says. If we were not attached at all nothing we could do is of any lasting value. There’s a little poem that goes something like this. “One life it will soon be past, only what’s done for ‘the vine’ will last.” The better way to put it would be, “only what’s done in ‘the vine’ will last.” It’s only in Him that our fruit amounts to anything at all.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” That what the vine says, not a little fruit, but much fruit. That’s what happens to branches attached to the vine. "…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)," (Ephesians 5:8-9, ESV) All that is good and right and true is fruit. Have you done anything that is good and right and true this week? Of course you have. You’ve done good things for your family, in spite of fighting with them, you’ve done good things at work, even if you didn’t want to be there, you’ve done good things here at church, by the work you’ve done to keep the building up, or even things you’ll put in the collection plate, even if your motives are sometimes selfish. You see, that’s good fruit, and you do bear it every day of your life. All these things you do every day are good fruit because you are attached to the vine. The vine enables you to do them because he through you, just like the sap that flows through the trees enables the tree branches grow leaves.

And we know what happens to branches of trees that break off the tree. We gather up the broken branches from our yard after a storm. We throw them in a pile and burn them up. Branches that are not attached to the vine have the same fate. They are thrown in the fire and burned. But that’s not what’s ahead for us, because we’ve been attached to the vine already. But what is it that makes it so that we stay attached to the vine. We certainly don’t look like healthy branches. The fruit we do grow is far from perfect. We know that when we look closely at our lives we should be cut off, like branches that don’t bear any fruit at all. When the Vinedresser looks over the vine why in the world would he choose to let us grow. We do bear fruit and lots of it, we already said. But it’s hardly perfect fruit.

We are not cut off, because of the vine. It’s not that we do enough good stuff; it’s not that we deserve to be left attached. But we are left attached for the sake of the vine. The vine is Jesus Christ.

He was planted in the world, and grew up bearing perfect fruit. It wasn’t just good fruit, it was perfect, the best fruit that could ever be grown. He loved everyone perfectly; he healed the sick, and gave food to the hungry, all with a perfect selfless motive. In fact, all of those things we wish we would do, Jesus actually did. All those things we wish we didn’t do, Jesus never did. He was the perfect vine with perfect branches, bearing the perfect fruit. But the God the Father, the Vinedresser, cut him off and threw him away into the grave of death anyway. Jesus Christ was cut off and cast in to the grave. But because he was perfect, because he didn’t deserve to die, God raised him to life again. Firmly replanted, the perfect, and true, one and only vine. And you dear branches were grafted onto him, in baptism. And it’s not because the fruit made you worthy of him, not even because he knew you’d bear fruit, but simply because he loves you so much that he was willing to be cut off in your place. His life, his death and his resurrection are the perfect replacement for our rotten fruit. And now Vinedresser looks at us and sees fruit, he sees it as the fruit of the vine. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4, ESV) We said it before, the vine starts right here. It grows out of the water of baptism. You are attached to the one true vine in baptism. First, buried with Jesus Christ, cut off, as an unfruitful branch, with him. And raised from death, grafted onto the perfect vine to live in newness of life. That is, to bear good fruit… because of the vine, through the vine, attached to the vine, Jesus Christ.

And there’s another very important part of what Jesus, the vine is saying to you right here and now. He’s giving you a wonderful invitation. That invitation comes in a single word. “Remain.” Remain in me. Jesus says. “Know who I am. Know who you are.” “I am the vine, you are the branches.” You are already attached to me. I have provided everything necessary for you to remain. “Remain!” Remember your baptism. Remember that you have been grafted to the one true vine and there is nothing that can separate you from him. “Remain!” Listen to my words, Jesus says. They are words of life. If you remain in them you will continue to bear “much” fruit. “Remain!” and take nourishment from the vine himself, “Take and eat this is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all yours sins.” Remain and grow. Remain and bear much fruit, as a branch of the one true vine. Jesus Christ.

So, we’re part of the vine. Maybe you couldn’t see it clearly before. Look again. If you can’t see the vine itself, I know you can see the branches. Strong ones, weak ones, thin ones and curly ones, they are all around us. And I know you can see the fruit. You can see it on each and every branch if you just look. The problem is that sometimes we get used to looking for only a certain kind of fruit, but remember that any branch connected to this vine, bears fruit. Look again and you’ll see it everywhere. Remain and grow, together branches of the true vine, bear much fruit. Amen.

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

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

$500 Lutheran Scholarships to ISU.

From: Joe Eisenbacher [mailto:bacherbsy(at)]
Subject: ISM Scholarship

Greetings in Christ!

I'm Joe Eisenbacher, an Iowa State University student and member of Memorial Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa. The International Student Ministry at Memorial is offering two $500 scholarships to incoming Lutheran freshmen men and women to Iowa State University in the Fall of 2009. The purpose of the scholarship is to provide an opportunity for young men and women to be apart of the mission field that is present even in the heart of Iowa. Attached to the email is the application. Please be sure to let your graduating high schoolers know, or even put it in your bulletin/newsletter!! Feel free to make copies of the application as well. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at (cell) 712.292.9754 or (email) bacher(at) . Thank you very much for your time and blessings!

image In Christ,
Joe Eisenbacher
Beta Sigma Psi | Recruitment Chair
ISM Inc. | International Peer Minister
Dance Marathon

What Are Men Looking for In Worship?

imageAn article in The Daily Mail talks about what men want in church based on a poll. (The comments alone are instructive!)

Nearly 60 per cent of those who took part in a survey said they enjoyed singing - but added comments showing they preferred anthemic songs and 'proclamational' hymns as opposed to more emotional love songs.

Sixty per cent said they did not like flowers and embroidered banners in church, while 52 per cent did not like dancing in church.

The article lists these hymns as suggestions:

  • Onward Christian Soldiers (LSB 662)
  • And Can It Be
  • Guide Me O Thy Great Redeemer  (LSB 918)
  • All People That On Earth Do Dwell (LSB 791)
  • Be Thou My Vision 
  • How Great Thou Art (LSB 801)
  • Amazing Grace (LSB 744)
  • Eternal Father, Strong To Save (For Those On Peril On The Sea) (LSB 717)
  • Our God Reigns
  • Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind Forgive Our Foolish Ways

Note that over half of them are in Lutheran Service Book. I'd add a few others.

  • A Might Fortress (LSB 656 or LSB 657)
  • Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands (LSB 458)
  • For All the Saints (LSB 677)
  • Lift High the Cross (LSB 837)
  • the list could go on and on...

Here at Trinity we are "men friendly."  Check out our list of "Favorite Hymns" it is caulk full of Guy Friendly 'proclamational' hymns.

My question is this:

If you take away "emotional love songs" from contemporary worship, is there anything left?

Pastor Watt.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

Kinda Silly... but I had to post it anyway!
LogoThere are
people with the name Jonathan Watt in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

John 10:11-18; Good Shepherd Sunday; May 3, 2009

imageI  am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11-18, ESV)

Dear Christian Friends;

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday as well as being confirmation day for you Adam, Jacob and Mason. Today I want you to get a picture firmly planted in your minds. I want you to have it so well pictured that you can bring it up any time you need it. It’s the picture that comes from the text. The picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. Never forget what He’s done for you and what we talk about today. I know what pressures you are going to face in High School. I know you think we older folk are oblivious of the stuff you go through every day, the temptations to drink, smoke, and especially to have sex, and so many more things that are dangerous for you. We know. We sometimes put it in the back of our minds because we can’t bear to think about it. I want you to know that we love and care about you. But we can’t help what you’ll face out there. We can’t be with you everywhere you go. We can’t protect you from it all. The truth of the matter is you’re going to be tempted. The truth of the matter is that it is very likely that you’ll give in at some time or another… either in the next few years or in college. It’s difficult for us because we can tell you that it is trouble all we want but you’ll probably just have to find out yourself. The reason I want you to put this picture in your mind is because when you fail, when you fall, I want you to remember that you have a Good Shepherd who is there to bring you back. He’s done everything necessary for you to be with him forever, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. But you can forget. You can walk away from him forever. You can reject the Good Shepherd. Frankly, that scares me more than anything else that might happen to you. So picture in your mind the Good Shepherd, Jesus and remember he lived, died and rose again for you.

(a homily by Rev. Will Weedon, Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL)

Once upon a time (a real time, mind you, not an imagined one), there was a wolf. He was a fat old thing. You see, he had it pretty easy. Whenever he wanted to eat, he only had to walk his door of his cave and look at the sheep that fed right outside. He’d eye this one or that one. And then he’d go after it and with a pretty minimal struggle, he’d bring the sheep down and eat away. And the more that he ate, the bigger he got, and the bigger he grew, the hungrier he got. He was a wicked old thing; sometimes he’d just poke his head out the door and howl. All the sheep began to shiver at the very sound of him. He’d chuckle to himself. “Yes, you better be afraid, you stupid sheep because one of these days I am going to eat you, and it won’t be pleasant, oh no it won’t. Ha! Ha!” This big, bad wolf, you see, had a name. A name of fear. The sheep had only to think of his name and they’d get wobbly on their knees and some would faint outright. His name, you see, was Death. And Death was always hungry and never satisfied. Always eating sheep and always wanting more. And he stank. The very smell of him was worse than his name or his howl. He was altogether dreadful, let me tell you! He was in charge and all the sheep knew it.

There came a day when he was feeling hungrier than usual. He poked his head out the cave door to roar and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Why, right there in front of his door, on his very door-step almost was the fattest, juiciest sheep he’d ever laid his eyes on. The effrontery of it! He drew in the air to fill his vast lungs and then he let out a stone-splitting howl. All the other sheep in the vicinity turned tail and ran. They were afraid. All but the sheep that grazed still just outside his cave. That sheep paid him no heed at all. Kept on eating, just like it hadn’t even heard him. He was getting mad now. He came bounding out the door and right up to that impertinent animal. Again he sucked the air into his lungs and this time he breathed out right in the sheep’s face. The sheep looked up and blinked as the hideous odor of decay was blasted in its face. Totally unconcerned the sheep blinked and then stared.

Now the wolf was getting himself into quite a tizzy. “Don’t you know who I am?” he snarled. The sheep looked at him and said: “Yes. I know.” Calm, at peace even. The other sheep began to creep back at a distance to watch. They couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. “Well,” snarled the Wolf, “aren’t you afraid?” The sheep looked Death, that old wolf, right in the eyes and said: “Of you? You have got to be kidding!” Now the wolf was so livid with anger that he spoke low and menacing: “You’re for it, lamb chops. You are not going to have it easy. I’m going to take you out slow and painfully.” There was a moment of silence and then the sheep said: “I know.”

The other sheep had all been watching because they’d never heard anything like this before. But the moment that the wolf pounced they turned away. A great sadness filled them. They had thought, well, they had scarcely dared to hope, but it was just possible that, this once, the wolf wasn’t going to get his way. But their hopes were dashed. It was an awful and an ugly sight. The wolf chowed down. It was slow and it was painful, just like he said. And in the end, there was nothing left. He turned his rude face, red with blood to the other sheep, and he belched. They turned tail and ran, knowing that he’d be back for them one day soon.

As the wolf went back to his cave, he took out a tooth pick and cleaned his teeth and he thought that he’d never tasted a sheep that was quite so good before. Nothing tough about that meat. It was tender and rich and really altogether satisfying. The thought hit him with surprise. It was almost as though his insatiable hunger had actually been quenched for once. The thought was a little disturbing. Well, no matter, he thought. And off he went to bed.

When the morning came the wolf wasn’t feeling quite himself. It was almost as though he were getting a bit of tummy ache. Such a thing never happened. He always woke up ravenous and went off to start eating first thing in the morning. At least a dozen or so sheep before the dew was off the grass. But not this morning. His tummy WAS grumbling. By noon he was feeling more than discomfort. He was feeling positively ill. He who had brought such pain on those poor sheep, he was getting a taste of pain himself and it was most unpleasant. He kept thinking back to that impertinent sheep he had eaten yesterday afternoon, the one that had tasted so strangely good. Could it have actually been poisoned or something? It wasn’t long before he stopped thinking altogether. The pain was just too great. He rolled around on the floor of his den and his howled and yammered.

The sheep heard the sound and didn’t quite know what to make of it all. They crept cautiously nearer and nearer to the door of his house and turned their heads listening. What could it mean?
It was sometime in the dark of the night that the wolf let out a shuddering howl. Something was alive and moving inside its own gullet. Something that pushed and poked and prodded until with a sudden burst, the gullet was punctured and hole ripped open. And something, rather, someone stepped right out through the hole, right out of the massive stinking stomach. The wolf felt like he was dying. And I suppose in a way he was.

The figure that stepped out of the wolf’s belly was totally unknown to the wolf. Why, it looked like a shepherd. He’d heard of such a critter, but had never actually met one. With a staff in his hand he walked around and stood facing the wolf. And he began to laugh. He laughed and his laugher burst open the door of the wolf’s house. He laughed and the sheep were filled with bewilderment wondering what was going on in there. He laughed and he looked the wolf right in the eye.

“So, you don’t recognize me, old foe? It was I who ate outside your house three days ago. ‘Twas I that you promised would die horribly and how you kept your promise. But what do you propose to do about me now?”

“You? The wolf gasped. The voice was the same; he recognized it. This shepherd was indeed the sheep whom he had swallowed down. “You. But how? Oh, the pain!” The shepherd smiled and said: “Well, I think you’re pretty harmless now, my friend. Go on and try to eat some of my sheep. I promise you that as fast as you swallow them down I will lead right out through the hole I made in your stomach. And then you’ll never be able to touch them again! Ta!”

The wolf howled in fear and anger and rage, but there was nothing he could do. The Shepherd had tricked him, fooled him good! And the Shepherd then stepped outside the door and called the sheep together. They knew his voice too. They’d heard it before. They stood before the Lamb who had become the Shepherd and they listened as he told them what would happen to them. “You’ll die too. He’ll come out in a few days and be hungrier than ever. He’ll swallow you down. But don’t worry. I punched a hole right through his belly and I promise you I’ll bring you out again.”

Once upon a time, and the time was 2,000 years ago. But the promise still holds: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.” It is the comfort of the Resurrection that Christ reaches us today in his Supper. Here we may taste the body and blood that went into the wolf’s mouth, but which the wolf could not hold. As you eat and drink you have the same promise: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life!” Let the old wolf howl and snarl all he will. We know about the hole in his tummy. We know about the Sheep who is the Shepherd. Our Good Shepherd. Amen!