Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Luke 17:11-19; Thanksgiving Eve; November 21, 2018;

Luke 17:11-19; Thanksgiving Eve; November 21, 2018;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”” (Luke 17:11–19, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“As [Jesus] was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance…”  they were unclean, it was all they could do… stand at a distance. No one would tolerate their presence any other way. The disease that plagued them, leprosy, was plain for all to see. You could only cover up so much… but, hands showed, and faces… you couldn’t hide the white glossy skin or the black rotting spots, you couldn’t hide the missing fingers and swollen feet. Leprosy was obvious, and it made them unclean. All they could do was stand at a distance and shout hoping that Jesus would hear them. All they could do was believe that if he heard them he would do what he had done for others. “Jesus, Master, have pity on us! Heal us. Take away these awful spots… remove this uncleanness.” Jesus had done it before. He could do it again.
Annabelle felt dirty, and nothing seemed to take it away. She showered five or six times a day, but nothing helped. In her mind she knew that it wasn’t her fault, she had been careful, she had followed all the rules… she never walked at night alone, she avoided dark places, she was always alert to the danger, but it caught her by surprise. It was a public place, but still no one seemed to notice. No one came to help her. The rape made her feel dirty. And even now, months later it made here feel sick. She just couldn’t get over the shameful feelings that overwhelmed her. Her attacker had been caught, he was convicted, he was guilty not her. She knew it. “So why do I feel guilty?” she asked herself. “Other people must feel it, too.” She saw how friends avoided her. Somehow she was ‘tainted.’ They never knew what to say, it was easier to just keep a distance. It just felt better that way. Annabelle felt abandoned, outcast and alone. And she called out to God too, from a distance. How could he love her? How could she come into his presence? She was dirty. She was unclean.
We know what it means to be unclean. It is a violation of what should be. We are repulsed by rotten food, blood, and skin diseases. All we want to do is turn away from it and put as much distance as possible between ourselves and the ‘unclean’ thing.
These feelings are only a small window into the uncleanness that all people have in God’s sight.
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, ESV)
“Be perfectly clean, without spot or blemish!” It’s a demand we can’t abide. We know the uncleanness that plagues all people. We know dirt, and filth. We know we are tainted, unclean, and polluted; we’ve seen it in others… “He sure got his hands dirty on that deal.” We say about a shady business. We see it in ourselves. It is there just below the surface; lurking about… thoughts of selfishness, greed, and desire. We know ‘unclean’ and we know we are it.
God is holy and perfect. If we are not perfectly perfect, completely clean, we are offensive to him. If we are unclean He cannot tolerate our presence. We cannot have access to him; he will not come near us, as long as we remain contaminated. We cannot scrub ourselves clean.
Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.” (Jeremiah 2:22, ESV)
Our uncleanness leaves us abandoned, outcast and alone.
But, God has come near to us. "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" the Lepers shouted. Jesus saw them, and he healed them. He made them clean. He removed their disease and he sent them to the priests to have them declared ‘clean.’ They would offer a sacrifice to God. A blood offering, to announce that they were free from the disease, they were clean. Jesus drew near to them by healing them.
Jesus drew near to us when He entered our contaminated world. He came to us, perfectly clean, perfectly holy, perfectly human, perfectly God. And he came to wash us clean. He didn’t come only to clean diseases of the skin he came to clean the disease of the heart. The inner uncleanness that lies just below the surface. The dirt that we can’t clean, he washes clean by shedding his holy and precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death. His blood does what we cannot.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2, ESV)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7, ESV)
We cry for mercy. “Oh Lord, have pity… I am unclean… I have sinned against you, in thought word and deed.” He answers our prayers. “I forgive you. I make you clean.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, ESV)
God no longer recoils from us. He comes near to us. Where two or three are gathered in my name, I promise you my presence.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13, ESV)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” (Ephesians 5:25–26, ESV)
This was the verse Annabelle clung to. “… washing with water through the word.” Whenever, she felt dirty and defiled, she turned to what God had done for her in Baptism. God had cleaned her, he had accepted her, and he had drawn near to her. “…wash me and I will be clean.” She would say to herself as she made the sign of the cross. She remembered that she had been saved by the blood of Christ, and washed clean, even if she didn’t always feel clean. She knew it was true because God had promised it. “Thank you Jesus for making me clean.” She prayed. “Rise and go, your faith has made you clean.” God says to her.
As the ten men walked down the road toward the temple the suddenly began to realize that each one of them had been healed. Gone were the sores. Gone were the dark rotting spots… they were clean, totally, utterly clean. The looked at one another in amazement, and they began to run… to the temple… to the presence of God. But one of them stopped, “to the presence of God?!?” He said. He knew were God was. He knew who had cleansed him. He knew where he had to go. He turned around and ran even faster. “Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!” he said with each step louder and louder as he approached the presence of Jesus. He threw himself at Jesus feet, wrapped his arms around him. “Thank you! Jesus. Praise God!” he shouted. “I’m clean!” “Arise and go, your faith has made you clean.” Jesus said to him.
The leper was made clean. Annabelle was made clean. We have been made clean. No longer are we abandoned, outcast and alone. No longer do we shrink from God’s presence, nor does he recoil at ours. He came to us in Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sins. He comes to us with his presence as we gather here in this place. “Thank you Jesus for making us clean.” We say.
And there is just one more thing. Just as Jesus is present with us now, he is present with us always… just as he promised. But, he will be present with us in an even greater and more mysterious way in just a few moments. He will come to us again with his blood to cleanse us again… “This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” for your cleansing. Jesus says. “Take and eat, take and drink, you have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.” We approach his presence at this rail and kneel at his feet. And we eat and drink and his blood purifies. We draw near to him because he has drawn near to us.
Did you know that often the Lord’s Supper is called the “Eucharist.” It’s a Greek word that means “Thanksgiving.” Because of Jesus, because of the shedding of his blood, because of his death, because of his resurrection, we are no longer ‘at a distance’ from God; we are in his very presence. We are clean. “He recalls his promises and leads his people forth in joy, with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia.” Thank you Jesus for making us clean.
We give thanks to you, almighty God, that you have refreshed us thorough this salutary gift, and we implore you that of your mercy you would strengthen us through the same in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, you Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hebrews 10:11-18; Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity; November 18, 2018

Hebrews 10:11-18; Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity; November 18, 2018
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN
11And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:11-18 (ESV)
Grace and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hope looked at the dirty pile of clothes lying on the floor by the washing machine. It was a mountain that never seemed to go away. Every time she attacked the hill, every time she rallied her forces to conquer it; the hill sprouted anew. Instead of getting smaller it grew taller or wider or someone would dump a basket from the upstairs bathroom onto it. It was a hopeless task. It would never be done. Nothing she could do would ever end the job. It was “laundry everlasting”; dirty shirts, shorts and socks that multiplied. And yet, Hope persisted. The job was there to be done; she was the one to do it.
That’s a picture we can understand, “laundry everlasting.” We know it because it’s in all of our houses, maybe not so much for those whose children are grown and gone, but it was true for you, just as it is for those of us whose children are helping to build that mountain of never-ending work. But it’s a job that has to be done.
In a way, that’s what the writer of Hebrews is talking about here in this text. 11And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. He’s talking about the priest offering sacrifices for the Jews every day in the temple. There were sacrifices for every type of sin. There were burnt offerings made for general sins, there were offerings for unintended sins and mistakes, there were offerings for sins that required restitution. The blood of bulls, lambs, rams, sheep, goats and turtle doves spilled every day over and over again to take care of the never ending mountain of sins that God’s people committed. And these offerings were made repeatedly, many times a day, and yet the people’s sins were always before them. Each offering wasn’t an answer to sin because each sin required a new sacrifice. Before one sacrifice was finished a new one was required. The mountain of sin couldn’t be assaulted by sacrifice because no amount of them would ever make a dent in it. Every time a sin was removed by sacrifice a new batch was added to the festering pile. “Sacrifice everlasting.” A task that had to be done yet was never finished. That’s exactly why the priests stood, they were to be attentive to the task, and to sit was to say the job was done. An endless stream of blood from bulls and goats could never get the job done. They could never take away sins. 
Do you see your sins this way? I think the mountain of dirty laundry might help us to see it. Every time we wear our cloths we leave them dirty. It’s not just dirt on the outside, but sweat and oil from on the inside. If they lie around the house they begin to smell. We can’t help it, it’s the way our bodies work.
Sin is kind of the same for us. It’s the way our bodies work now. Every time we do anything sin is a part of it. When we do good for someone, we hope someone sees us so we get the credit. When we are sitting alone we think about things we shouldn’t think about. Men think thoughts about women. Women think thoughts about men. We want what isn’t ours to have. And we take by deceitfulness what we can’t get legally. We cheat when it really doesn’t even matter. And we lie when lying isn’t even necessary. If we had to make sacrifices for each and every sin, the mountain of dead animals would stack to the top of the building for each one of us. “Sacrifice Everlasting” is what would be required. Your mountain of sin; my mountain of sin can’t be reduced by blood. Even your own blood spilled wouldn’t be enough to pay the price.
And that is really the point. That’s why God commanded the sacrifices. He wanted His people to see the effect of sin in a very graphic way. He wanted them to see that blood was necessary; lots of blood. He wanted them to see that death was necessary; lots of death. And He wanted them to see that nothing they could do would take away their sin. Not the blood of thousands, not anything they could do with their own hands. The mountain of sin grows every moment, and it requires death and blood.
12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. It says. Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice. It was one sacrifice that stood in the place of the thousands. One time for all sins, one man, one God, crucified, dead and buried. God wanted the people to know that the sacrifice of His Son was greater than all the blood ever spilled in the temple. His one single sacrifice for sins was not just one sacrifice is was “Sacrifice Everlasting.” It is the complete sacrifice for sin. The life of God given for the sins of the world. The life of a bull or a goat or a lamb has value. The life of a human being has great value. But none of them can pay the price for the sins of even one person. But the life of God is priceless. The life of God is eternal. The life of God is immeasurably high. That’s the life that Jesus Christ gave on the cross. That’s the life that is enough to pay for sin. In fact, the life of Jesus Christ is more than enough to pay for all the sins of the whole world no matter how long the world goes on, no matter how many people live and sin. The life and death and resurrection of Jesus is a price that is so great, no mountain of sin will ever be as tall. Jesus assaults the mountain of human sin with such force that it evaporates in to nothingness. And he sat down at the right hand of God. The job was done, and Jesus sits down. The text says 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. It’s talking about you and me, perfected by Jesus’ sacrifice, for all time. Job done, once and for all.
And as usual that’s not all the text has to say to us. Holy Spirit also bears witness to us. The fact that we even see this mountain of sin, this every growing dirty laundry is God’s work in us through the Holy Spirit. I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds. As we live and work and play every day God has given us His law. That law is like a mirror that shows us that every time we turn around that we’re adding to our pile of sin. The law says don’t commit adultery, which we may not do physically, but even the thoughts in our minds condemn us. The law says don’t steal, we may not actually get around to taking things that don’t belong to us, but the desire condemns us also. We don’t like it but actually that condemning law is really the gift of God, it is the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Jesus himself said that he came to help the sick. And the law that God has placed in our hearts shows us every day that we are very sick. And just like that ever growing mountain of laundry no matter how good we try to be we can’t remove our own mountain of sin. That’s really what the law is all about. It’s not there to tell us how to clean up our own act. It’s not there to tell us how to get right with God again, its primary purpose is to show us the mountain.
Now if that were all, we’d have a pretty terrible life, never living up to what we can’t live up to. Helpless and hopeless, we have nowhere to turn. But we can turn to God. And the Spirit is at work there, too. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” It’s not that God is forgetful. He doesn’t remember our sins because He has taken care of them. He has paid the price that we can’t pay. He has done the work necessary to remove the mountain of sin. It’s not because of a thousand sacrifices made in the temple; it’s because of the One Sacrifice. It’s not because we’ve done it right and gotten our act together, it’s because God Himself, made it right, in Jesus Christ. That One Sacrifice brought to us more forgiveness than we’ll ever need. 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. There is nothing more that needs to be done. No more blood spilled on stone altars. No more good works to set us in good standing. There is no longer anything to do, because Jesus Christ has done it all for us.
Here is where Jesus gives that wonderful gift to us; forgiveness for that mountain that we can’t handle. Every day we add to it and every day Jesus removes it. He does it here in His Word and Sacraments. Over and over again, it never ends. One Sunday is just like the last. We say: “For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, renew us and forgive us, and lead us….” And your Pastor says: “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” And it is so because of that Jesus promise. And the next Sunday we say it again: “For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, renew us and forgive us, and lead us….” And your Pastor says: “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” But we don’t do this over and over because it doesn’t work. We do this over and over because it does. We do it over and over again because Jesus has already removed the sin by His blood. We do it over and over again because we need to be reminded over and over again. We need to hear it to receive it. We need to hear it to believe it. It’s done! I’m forgiven because of Jesus. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” That’s what it’s about really its “Forgiveness Everlasting.” Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Psalm 126; TWENTY–FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, November 11, 2018;

Psalm 126; TWENTY–FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, November 11, 2018;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
When the LORD restored the fortunes of | Zion,*
we were like | those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with | laughter,*
and our tongue with | shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great | things for them.”*
The LORD has done great things for us; |we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, | O LORD,*
like streams in the | Negeb!
Those who | sow in tears*
shall reap with | shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for | sowing,*
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his | sheaves with him.
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This Psalm is one of the Songs of Ascent. When the people approached the holy city, Jerusalem on festivals they chanted these psalms together. They are Songs of Ascent because when you come to Jerusalem you have to go up the hill to the city, up mount Zion.
This particular psalm has another approach in view. Some six hundred years before Jesus, God’s people were conquered and sent into exile in Babylon. It was God’s discipline for their sin of rejecting him. After a great many years, God finally acted on their prayers for return and

allowed a small band of them to come home. You can imagine this psalm being spoken by them as they climbed the holy hill once again. It was like a dream. They had waited so long. God had finally begun to fulfill his promise. Their mouths were filled with joy. God had done a great thing for them, they were glad.
And yet, not all was well. The land and the city were in rubble. There had been no crops sown for many years. The vast majority of the people were still back in Babylon. The psalm is a not only a prayer of joy for what God has done, but a plea for him to continue to do more. Bring the rest home! In this way it’s another one of the complaint Psalms, a lament. Those who were there had much hard work ahead of them. There would be sowing in tears. There was weeping for now, but great joy in the future with God’s promise.
This is the perfect song as we approach Advent. It’s a reminder that we are not just preparing for a quaint family holiday, the reason for the season isn’t that we gather together and exchange love and presents. The baby in the manger is the beginning of our return from exile. We huddle around the crèche because it is the beginning. The angels sang, “God and sinners reconciled” because God was present among sinful people to do away with sin and death and the power of Satan. Christmas is God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ. God, in Jesus, born in a manger. God, in Jesus, feeding at his mother’s breast. God, in Jesus, growing in wisdom and stature to be a full grown man. God, in Jesus, living and working with his family. God, in Jesus, preaching and teaching. God, in Jesus, arrested and beaten. God, in Jesus, crucified dead and buried, under Pontius Pilate. God, in Jesus, paying the eternal punishment for all human sin on the cross. God, in Jesus, dead and buried. God, in Jesus, raised from the dead on the third day. All of that, God, in Jesus, reconciling sinners, bringing them home to God himself from their exile to sin.  
So the laughter we experience as we gather with our families is part of the joy we rightly feel because of God and Sinners Reconciled. Joy to the World. Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him, Gloria in Excelsis Deo! All that we will sing in a bit more than a month. It fits well with the first part of the Psalm. In some ways it is like a dream for us also, too good to be true. When we see the depth of our sin, when we know what sin does to us and to those we love, and we realize the rescue God has made for us. We sing for joy!
And yet, not all is well. Death, the wages of sin, still haunts us, breaking our joy. There is more of Jesus to come, even though he has totally captured the victory and yet there is more to do. In the psalm we call on God to finish it. The crucified, baby in the manger has risen from the dead has done great thing for us, and he promises to do even more. We weep now, but we will renew our shouts of joy even louder when the sky is filled with Jesus and his holy angels returning. We lament our sin and suffering. We long for a time when human beings can really live together in peace on earth. St. Paul says it:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–26, ESV)
Tears turned to joy. Weeping turned to shouts of joy. Jesus “making all things new” (Rev 21:5, ESV). And so we repeat or Advent Prayer. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.