Sunday, May 31, 2020

John 7:37-39; The Festival of Pentecost; May 31, 2020;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37–39, ESV)
(Thanks to Rev. Reed Lessing, Concordia Journal, June 12, 2011)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been in an airplane flying over one of those states that is mostly desert? You know, states like Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. There’s a reason they’re called “fly-over lands.” We fly over them to get somewhere else more important, places that have more interest. A few years ago, a politician called the Midwest “fly-over.” He seemed to indicate that our values are not as important and far less interesting, as those on either coast. Those of us in Iowa would disagree. We don’t believe we live in “fly-over land.”
You may not live in “fly-over land,” but we all have “fly-over lands” as part of our lives. We have bad memories, broken relationships, and regrets that we try to put in the back of our minds. We put them there because they are our failures brought about by our own sin. We don’t want to live in them. They are dry desolate places without hope. We don’t want to be reminded. We want to fly-over. After all, they are parched desert lands. Remembering them only makes you thirsty for things to be different.
Jesus says if you thirst you can come to him and he will quench you. What he means is that it’s time to quit denying our sinfulness. It’s time to acknowledge our pain. It’s time to acknowledge our dry thirsty “fly-over lands” and bring our sin to the one who can quench our thirst with living water. Jesus is the one who has living water to quench the thirst of our sin.
Jesus is no stranger to water. The gospel of John is full of him using it. In fact, his first miracle is changing water into wine (John 2:1–11). He heals a lame man in the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–9). He walks on water showing his authority over the elements (John 6:19). He uses the Pool of Siloam (John 9) to bring about site in a blind man. And, Jesus even washes the disciples’ feet with water (John 13:1-15, 15:3).
“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8, ESV)
And here in our text for today, John links Jesus’ use of water to the ultimate gift of salvation at our Lord’s death. How does he do that? It begins with the last day of the feast, the seventh day. It’s the Feast of Tabernacles. This Jewish holiday has a very special connection to water. Each morning of the seven days of the festival, a priest fills a golden pitcher with water as the choir sings the words,
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3, ESV)
That water is poured on the base of the altar. On the last day, the seventh day, the water is poured seven times into silver funnels surrounding the altar. The altar is drowned in water. This last day is the day that Jesus stands up and says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me for drink.” The prayers of the people, water for salvation, are answered in Jesus. He is the one who gives living water for thirsty sinners. It is from his side that the water of salvation flows.
It is out of Jesus living water flows. On the cross, the spear pierces Jesus’ heart and outflows life-giving blood and water. It is also the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of the Lamb of God as John describes it in Revelation.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:1–4, ESV)
Back in Exodus, the people complained about being thirsty. God instructed Moses to touch the rock with his staff. The rock split open and water poured out for the thirst of God’s people (Exodus 17:1-7). The hymn Rock of Ages is about this. Rock of Ages cleft (that means split open) for me. The Rock of Ages is Jesus. St. Paul makes that very connection in 1 Corinthians (10:4). He calls this split open rock, Jesus himself. It’s a picture of Jesus split open on the cross.
On the cross, Jesus suffers all the pain of human history. All the sins, regrets, and failures tucked away in our dry desert “fly-over lands.” The horror of it all, the punishment received, the hanging suspended between earth and heaven in God’s righteous wrath, is expressed clearly in Jesus own words, “I thirst.” This is the most ironic twist in all of human history. The one from whom flows the river of the water of life hangs suffering thirst. He dies. The Roman spear splits him open and outflows blood and water. Here is Jesus crushed and cursed and cleft by the sin of your life and mine. Here is the result of all the things we tuck away in our minds in those “fly-over zones.” Here is where we see the horrible cost of our sin. Here is where we see the seriousness of our sin. It cannot be overlooked. Sin must be dealt with. Just like the witnesses of the crucifixion, we may want to fly-over this scene. We can’t even bear to see Jesus on the cross. We want to skip the punishment and run straight to the resurrection.
The cross is necessary. We preach Jesus Christ crucified. His suffering and death are your suffering and death. His suffering and death make it possible for your thirst to be quenched. And Jesus says, “Come to me! I have living water for thirsty people.” This Jesus is crushed and killed but made alive for you. On the cross, he has earned forgiveness for you by taking the punishment you deserve for your sin. In his grave, he carries your sin into his death, your death. In his resurrection, he promises that forgiveness is yours. Look at the thirst-quenching water in your baptismal font. Here is where Jesus connects you to him through his living water. It washes you clean. It floods away your filth. It defeats your death. Jesus is here, from him flows living water to quench your thirst. He floods your “fly-over lands” with forgiveness. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Acts 1:1-11; The Ascension of Our Lord; May 24, 2020

Acts 1:1-11; The Ascension of Our Lord; May 17, 2015;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:1–11, ESV)
{From a Sermon by Rev. Nabil Nour}
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Life changes in an instant. A flash of lightning, a tornado siren, an ambulance ride. Everything that was in front of you instantly vanishes. Everything that seemed so firmly set on a foundation is changed and shaky. This is life in our fallen world.
But today we celebrate and observe the Ascension of our resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ, we can take to heart His Word of promise. There is nothing in this world that will be able to separate us from His pierced and loving hands.
The disciples were in their last earthly moments with their Savior. They know who he is. They know what he has done. They know why he has done it. They have seen his love, compassion, forgiveness, healing and anger. They have been with him through it all, in spite of denying and abandoning him. Even though they didn’t stick with him, he stuck with them. He forgave them and restored them. He even appeared to them and gave them words that helped them be steadfast— “שלום עליך.” “Peace be with you.” This is what Christ came to give us and even more…to reconcile us to God.
The ascension is Jesus crowning in glory. His returning to the Father with the job done, finished. He has ascended to the right hand of the Father. It is no set place in heaven, but God power to do what God intends and promises. He intercedes for us. This is why our prayers are heard before God. Jesus hears them. This is why we can be sure that all that happens is in our best interest, even painful things. Jesus, our Savior and Advocate is in control of all things.
And he did not leave the disciples alone, or us either. He sent the Holy Spirit. We will celebrate that sending next week at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ presence among us. The Holy Spirit is God in, and with us, for us. He comes to us in Word, and Water, Bread and Wine. We are washed in the water, connected to Jesus. We have God with us in the Holy Spirit. He keeps us looking at Jesus on the cross for our forgiveness.
But instead of looking to Jesus, we look to our own welfare. We want things, and stuff, and money. We strive but seldom get what we strive for. When we suffer we turn in on ourselves and mourn the loss of things we think we deserve.
Think of the farmer who plants the field. He looks ahead at a fixed point, not a moving one. He doesn’t look back. If he doesn’t he won’t get straight rows. If the point is fixed you will reach it, but if it is a moving target you will never get it. That is why it is so important to look up to see what is ahead.
Jesus told the disciples to do that. He tells us to do that. Keep your eyes on Jesus, no matter what. But we turn back on what was, rather than what IS…often we look down rather than up. We always think we know better. We always try to help God out. We even try to figure out a way without letting the Savior lead and guide us.
Jesus’ ascension is important because of what it reminds us. It is the day when he took back all that was his, all his power, all his glory, all his everything that belonged to him, that he set aside when he took on human flesh.
Remember! Even though everything in this world will be taken away from us and or left behind when we die; we need not be consumed with worry. Jesus calls us to look up to him and put our hope and trust in him alone. Jesus is able and he will, supply all of our needs. He is faithful!
Life can be full of trouble and worry. It would be even worse if didn’t know that God was in control, working out His plan for the nations and us His baptized children.  Instead, He has told us that when these things begin to take place, to “lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Listen to Psalm 121
      I lift up my eyes to the hills.
            From where does my help come?
      My help comes from the LORD,
            who made heaven and earth.
      He will not let your foot be moved;
             he who keeps you will not slumber.
      Behold, he who keeps Israel
            will neither slumber nor sleep.
      The LORD is your keeper;
            the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
      The sun shall not strike you by day,
             nor the moon by night.
      The LORD will keep you from all evil;
            he will keep your life.
      The LORD will keep
            your going out and your coming in
            from this time forth and forevermore.
Our help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth. Though all these be shaken. We have the promises of the crucified one, the ascended one. He sits at God’s right hand able to everything that is necessary.
So we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is coming back soon. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.