Sunday, April 11, 2021

1 John 1:1-2:2; The Second Sunday after Easter; April 11, 2021;

1 John 1:1-2:2; The Second Sunday after Easter; April 11, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 1:1–2:2, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The apostle John doesn’t want you to have any doubts about what he is saying. Jesus was a real, live, breathing, talking, walking person. He and the other disciples heard, saw and touched him. He wasn’t a phantom, spirit being, or ghost, but instead a flesh and blood man. And at the same time this Word of Life was eternal God from the beginning. He was “made manifest” that means fully shown, heard, seen and touched in real life. John sets himself as a witness, along with the other disciples (“we” he says). It rings back to the Gospel of John. Words that we heard read just last week. John describes the blood and water flowing out of Jesus’ side as the spear pierces his heart. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.” (John 19:35, ESV) It is the truth of Jesus brought to you in eyewitness testimony. You see, we don’t look inside of ourselves to find the truth about God’s love for us. We don’t look for some “burning in the heart” or to some vague feeling of “Joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart” to be proof of Jesus’ forgiveness for us. That’s not Christianity, that’s a pagan religion called Gnosticism. That’s not Christianity that’s a false Christianity called Mormonism. Our proof of faith doesn’t come because we feel it to be true, but instead because reliable witnesses heard, saw, and touched Jesus. Real, reliable witnesses, heard him teach about himself. He said in no uncertain terms that he was God, himself in human flesh. Jesus enemies heard it and killed him for it. The charge they held up as the one deserving death was blasphemy. Saying things about himself and God that weren’t true. They knew exactly what Jesus claimed to be. The church leaders couldn’t have God running around in human flesh calling them sinners. And notice how we confess our faith. The confessions of the church fall right in line with what John is saying here. There’s not a “feeling” expressed in them, only historical verifiable facts. Just listen to the verbs. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. See how it is set in real human time, “suffered under Pontius Pilate”. Martin Luther explains our faith this way: By the grace of God I have learned not to turn my eyes away from that Person who was born to Mary, and not to seek or acknowledge another god. One’s eyes must be fixed on that Person who was born of the Virgin Mary. Where the Son of God is, there Christ is; where Christ is, there the Father is (AE 30:223). The one born is the one who was crucified. The one who was crucified is the one who rose from the dead. The one who rose from the dead is the one who promises to return again and resurrection to you. If Jesus isn’t a living breathing, dead and raised person, neither will you be. It is as simple as that. No other religion has such a physical, reliable, and verifiable hope, based on a physical, reliable, and verifiable person. John wants you to see Jesus as he saw him, because that is real faith in a real Jesus. We cling to the promises of Jesus. We cling to a Jesus crucified, dead and buried and raised again on the third day. We stand together confessing those truths and that is our fellowship. It is a fellowship with John, all those who heard, saw, and touched Jesus, and all those who together confess faith in that real Jesus. It is fellowship finally with God himself. That fellowship is only possible because of the forgiveness that Jesus gives you through faith in his death and resurrection. It is a putting away of sin, that creates a relationship, fellowship between you and God. And that fellowship is only as real as Jesus is real. But John isn’t done. The reality of Jesus has effects in your real life. If Jesus is real, if his death and resurrection are real, if you are really forgiven, and you have a real fellowship with God, then things will happen in your real life. John wants you to be mindful of your sin as you live every day. He talks about living in the light. He means knowing the truth about yourself, sinner that you are. If you deny your own sin, you deny your need for Jesus. It isn’t difficult to see your sin. You have its effects around you. Poor heath, poor relationships, poor attention to God’s Word, poor care for your neighbors in need, poor selflessness, these are all signs of your sin. These are all signs of your broken relationship that is, lack of fellowship with God. But living in the light also means living in light of what the real Jesus has done. You acknowledge your sin that is, confess your need for forgiveness, because God forgives through Jesus. God is faithful and just, he forgives the sins of those who have faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for their sin. Your sin and mine have been put to death on the cross. We are promised resurrection to new life in Jesus resurrection. But it is only real for you, if it is real in history. If you deny your sin, you deny God’s work in Jesus, you deny God, calling him and his Word lies. But they are not lies. Our sin is real and our Savior is real. We live in the light of Jesus, avoiding sin because it is God’s will for our lives. We hate sin, even as we can’t avoid it. We don’t want to sin, but we do. And so John gives us the good news. We have an advocate with the Father. And it isn’t some phantom, spirit person or ghost. It is a real, flesh and blood, human being, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. He is one who has lived as we live. He is one who faced death as we will. He is one who promises a promise based in his victory over death. He is one who promises forgiveness through his real life, death and resurrection. A promise of life without the threats of eternal punishment. A promise of fellowship with God, the Father. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Exodus 20:1-17; The Third Sunday in Lent; March 7, 2021;

Exodus 20:1-17; The Third Sunday in Lent; March 7, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. “You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”” (Exodus 20:1–17, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Always the most important thing to understand a given text of Scripture, is to know its context. This is especially true of the 10 Commandments. You can post the 10 Commandments on the walls of any state building you want, but it isn’t necessarily going to mean that the people who read them are really going to understand what God has in mind with them. The context, that is what was going on when God gave them, is critical in knowing what they’re all about. The 10 commandments are a covenant, that is, and agreement between God and his people. You see it in the first words of our reading today. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God rescued his people, the Israelites, from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. He rescued them with “a mighty hand”. You know the account of the 10 plagues that God used to convince Pharaoh to finally let his people go. The thing also to remember, is that they had done nothing to deserve God’s rescue. He claimed them, apart from anything they had done to earn their freedom. It was a gift of God’s grace. God’s gift of freedom came with expectations. But they weren’t arbitrary. They were also a good gift, a great loving gift. They were a plan for enjoying their identity as God’s creatures and his children. God was saying, “Because I rescue you, you shall live this way.” It’s like a father who says to his children as they walk out the door, “Remember what family you belong to.” God has those same expectations for you and me. It’s very similar to the people of Israel. God has rescued us from slavery to sin, death, and the power of Satan. He has given us an identity as his children. It is our adoption in Holy Baptism. God makes promises to you and me that are connected to the water in the font. Those promises that come directly from our Savior’s death on the cross. Forgiveness is ours because Jesus takes our punishment as his own. Life is there because Jesus rose from the dead and promises the same for us. Satan has no power over us because Jesus has taken away his greatest weapons, the threat of God’s eternal punishment. That’s what forgiveness of sins bring to us. And again, this is all God’s grace, his undeserved love. He saves us not through anything we have done, or could even do, but simply out of love. It is very important to understand all of that as context for the Commandments. They have been given us to follow, but they don’t determine whether we are his children. They don’t earn any special status with him. We do them because we have a relationship with him that he established. When we keep them, we are showing that we have faith in his word to us. He says, “Do these things and you show that you are my children.” Martin Luther incorporated this idea in his “Close of the Commandments” in the Small Catechism. God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands. The grace and blessing come because living according to the commandments will, in general, lead to a well lived, blessed life. As St. Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy: … godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8b, ESV) But we should also be aware that the law, especially the Commandments come with a “handle with care” label. While the law is certainly a good and gracious gift from God, our sinful nature twists it about until it is a dangerous thing. Firstly, we like to apply it to other people. If you hear yourself agreeing with the preaching of the law in regard to someone other than yourself, you are falling into this trap. I most often hear it something like this. “Your sermon was good pastor, but the people who really needed to hear it weren’t here today.” You might have in your mind, “You get ’em preacher!” But secondly, when we apply the law to ourselves, wanting first of all to keep them because of what God has done for us, we find it bites us and convicts us of our own falling short. I once heard one pastor say it like this: The law is like a wolf that you train as a guide dog. Good guidance, good protection, but you never know when it will turn on you. (James Nestingen) When we seek to keep God’s law and see our failure we end up with great guilt and shame instead of blessing. That’s what happens when with the law we focus on our sinfulness instead of recognizing that Jesus has taken our sins to the cross and the grave. He has adopted us into his kingdom through Holy Baptism. Living according to God’s commands is something that we do, naturally, because of whose we are. This is what Paul means when he says: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, ESV) And For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) The power of God is living in the forgiveness of the cross. St. Paul also wrote to another pastor: He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. (Titus 3:5–8) We are heirs, we have forgiveness, and we don’t need the good works of the Commandments for ourselves. We serve best when we look at what our neighbor needs and live according to the commandments for their sake, because of Jesus. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Romans 5:1-5; Second Sunday in Lent; February 28, 2021;

Romans 5:1-5; Second Sunday in Lent; February 28, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; 1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have been "justified" by faith. That's what St. Paul tells us. Justified. We see that word all over Paul's letters. And it is no wonder; this word is at the very heart of our faith. If we are not justified by Christ, we are still in our sin, St. Paul tells us. But I wonder if sometimes we see it and just kind of pass it over, because it's a word that we think we should know what it means. Do we really understand what it means? And do we really know that we have been justified? First let's make sure we understand what the word "justified" means. The picture is this. We stand before the judge guilty. There’s no plea bargain. There’s not fancy lawyer to get us of easy. We deserve the punishment that is coming our way. The worst part is we are standing before the most severe judge there is. He never lets anyone off that deserves punishment. “You realize your crime deserves death.” He says. We have to agree. Just when the judge is about to pronounce the sentence Jesus steps forward. “Father, this one is mine. I have already paid the price. I have already suffered his death.” “Ok, my son, with you I am well pleased.” the judge responds. Then to you he says. “I declare you to be not guilty on account of the punishment already paid. You are free.” What we are talking about here, being justified is what Jesus Christ has done for us. It's His life, death and resurrection that do it. We are declared to be righteous. That is sin set aside. Sin removed. Sin taken care of. My sin taken care of. Your sin taken care of. Whenever we talk about being justified it's important that we remember that we are indeed sinful people. We are born that way. We need to be justified. No one who's been a parent can really believe that children are born without any sin. The smallest child will bear this out. Of course, they need the attention they demand, but they are the most self-centered people on the planet. As they grow older, we tend to overlook the selfishness, or think that it's cute. Go to any playground anywhere and you'll see the bald truth that children have to be taught not to hurt one another. I know the folks who you see on TV don't agree. But in spite of what they say, children do not have to be taught to hate, they have to be taught not to hate. I have a teenager in the house. I think the teenage years are the time when all of us struggle the most trying to balance selfishness and living in community. That struggle between what we really want and what is best for us and the people around us is what makes those years so difficult. Even when we get older some of us never get over the fact that we are supposed to share our toys. We are sinful people. Earlier in Romans Paul says it this way: 10as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15"Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known." 18"There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18, ESV) The lying tongue, the bitterness, the anger, the pushing God out of our lives, we all have to admit that there we are, right there in the middle of the pack. We'd like all those "theirs" in there; "their tongues, their feet, their paths, their eyes, to be "theirs" that is someone else's. But we know that we lie, even if it's just those little white one that pop up in conversation to make us look better to our friends. And who hasn't been bitter about the nice things in life that other people seem to get so much easier than we do? And talk about no peace, even in our Christians families, yelling and anger are regular features of our lives. Just feel the tension as we try to make any decision at a voter’s meeting. But worst of all, we could walk around all day and simply ignore the fact that we are sinful people. We get into our everyday and everyday, and simply think that God will just ignore our sin because we do. But God won’t ignore sin. In fact, sin deserves punishment because it is an affront to God’s purity. God is perfect and holy, we are not. In order to be tolerated in God’s presence we have to be perfectly perfect, “without spot or blemish,” without any sin of any kind. To stand before God in sin is to stand before the judge who will condemn. "None is righteous, no not one" points out our need to be justified. When we realize that the law Paul wrote is talking directly to us, then that's when those first few words "Since we have been justified…" come to us as pure Gospel, that's when it's not simply Good News, it's Great News. "Since" Paul says. The word “since” means "in view of the fact that…." It's true. It's a fact. It's yours and it's mine. "Since we have been justified…" Even though we are sinners we have been made holy. We have been declared righteous. That selfishness that controls us from the time we are conceived through our adolescence and right into our adulthood, and even old age, is taken away. God has seen to that by sending Jesus. From His adulthood all the way back to His conception He wasn't a sinful person; He was never selfish; He never spoke lies; He wasn't ever bitter about His place in life; and He always kept God in His mind and always thought of other people’s needs. That law that Paul preaches to us "no one does good, not even one." applies to everyone except Jesus. Jesus never sinned. And yet, there is a way that all of it does apply to Jesus. He does something about our sin because we can’t do anything about it ourselves. We are helpless to change. We are born with sin and in order to get rid of it, it has to be killed. Paul talked about that too in another letter he wrote. 21For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV) And in the verse right before our text he says, 25[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses... (Romans 4:25, ESV) All that sin, which deserves God’s punishment, was put on Jesus. He became the target of God’s anger. Jesus, God’s only and perfect Son, was killed because of it. He became sin… our sin… your sin… my sin… Jesus, the world’s only perfect person is also Jesus the greatest sinner who ever lived, not for sin of His own but your sin and mine. You know the sins that we wish weren’t ours. The ones that we wish were only “theirs” Their lying tongues that are really ours. Their bitterness that is really ours. The lustful thoughts that we love to have, but then regret when they are over. Our hating the judge for requiring us to be perfect. That sin that we wish was someone else’s really does become someone else’s in Jesus. In Jesus, our sins are put to death. In Jesus they are sent to the grave. In Jesus they are under the punishment and anger of God. Jesus dies on the cross and takes the punishment for our sin. And He gives to us the righteousness of God. When Jesus takes our sin, and when he becomes sin for us, he gives us his perfect life, we become his righteousness. All that living right, all that doing good, all that not sinning is given to us in exchange for our sin. Jesus becomes sin, we become justified. So that’s what it means to be justified. We’ve had here the best object lesson about justification that there can ever be. It has happened right here over and over again. Right here at this font the words are spoken. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When a pastor says it here, he isn’t speaking for himself he is speaking for God. He does exactly what God has commanded us to do. And little children, born in sin, become God’s children. All the promises of God are now true for them. God justifies them through the cross of Jesus Christ. In that moment God declares the to be justified, not guilty of the sin they are borne with. Now remember Paul’s word, that little word “since?” It means “in light of the fact.” All that happens here at the font is in fact, founded on Jesus. It’s all because of what Jesus has done. You see it. You have a real picture that you can’t miss the meaning. The sin is washed away by water connected to God’s Word. You witness it. You see justification in action. It is one of the reasons we do baptize publically, and why we recognize the private baptisms here during worship. There is no better picture than being justified and not lifting a finger to make it happen. Jesus comes and takes our sin and gives us his perfect life. Jesus lives perfectly. Jesus dies. Jesus rises again. When ever we see God working in baptism it is one of the clearest ways that we see that we have nothing at all to do with our justification. It is given to us through the work of God accomplished by Jesus Christ. And given to individuals given to you and me through water and God’s spoken Word and promises. Do you know that it’s true for you? You do if you’re pointing to Jesus. You do if you are remembering that in your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God declared you to be not guilty. Because in that baptism Jesus took your sin to death on the cross and in your Baptism, he gives you his perfect life. You’ve been justified. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

James 1:12-18; The First Sunday in Lent; February 22, 2021;

James 1:12-18; The First Sunday in Lent; February 22, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:12–18, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. It’s a rough world and getting rougher. You know people who are struggling with difficult issues. Some of you are struggling also. Cancer and violence, money and work, family and future, disagreement and broken relationships. It doesn’t seem as if things are getting better. In fact, I think Satan is making specific attacks against you all. Trials are a part of the Christian life. If anyone sells Christianity as an easy life, full of riches and blessings, as if once you become a Christian life gets easy, they are lying. Certainly, there are riches and blessings of a certain kind, to being a Christian, but not necessarily what is sold by preacher / hucksters. And there’s more. We not only struggle with what the world has to dish out, we struggle with our own self-made troubles. He is bent on your destruction. He leads you down the path of your own choosing. He feeds your own desires. He lures you in, like the fish going for the bait on the hook. It feels dangerous, but you go right ahead because you can’t stop the desire. After all that, sin is born. The temptation isn’t sin, but temptation married to desire have sin as their offspring. And sin, set in the heart, after all its promises to satisfy desire, really only brings nothing but death. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Your life is racked with it. Lost friendships. Regret that keeps you up at night. Hopelessness. You want to blame someone else, but as Pogo says, "We have met the enemy and he is us.” Just look at your own life and take inventory of the troubles you have that will only ultimately be resolved by death. It’s the lifecycle of sin. Temptation, desire, sin, death. How many times have you lived that? How many times has it ended up where sin ends up? How many times in your life will you do it again? How many times can you count on God’s forgiveness? Well, that’s the real question isn’t it? Does my temptation, desire, sin, and death lead to hell, permanent punishment, and separation from God, living in my sin and its consequences forever? Or is there some way out? St. James tells us carefully and directly, “Do not be deceived!” Temptation, desire, and sin are dangerous. The first place to realize some relief is early, when you are tempted by your desire. Recognize the lifecycle of sin, break it at the beginning. Recognize that sin is our own problem. We suffer the consequences. James tells us that when we “stand firm” we are blessed. Now I’m not saying that you should work harder to overcome your temptations, as if you, by yourself could do such a thing. Pray harder, and endure your suffering stronger, be all that you can be! Look inside yourself and find the strength to beat down your temptation. The problem is in your heart. Your sinful nature drags you toward sin and its consequences. No, in your heart is not the place to find help against the lifecycle of sin. Your sinful nature is the very problem. James actually gives you another idea, another place to look for help. He talks about good gifts that come from God. He talks about being “brought forth” by the word of truth. It’s a kind of lifecycle of salvation. Sin gives birth to death. Jesus, the Word of Life, gives birth to life itself. James is talking about being born of water and spirit just like our Lord says. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6, ESV) We have a great example right here at the font. I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Born of the Spirit, brought forth by the Word of Truth. Baptized into Christ. Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ! I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. Should a guilty conscience seize me Since my Baptism did release me In a dear forgiving flood, Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood? LSB 594 © 1991 Robert E. Voelker. Good and perfect gifts that come from God the Father, reminding us that the lifecycle of sin is broken by the Word of Truth, Jesus Christ himself on the cross, the lifecycle of life. That is where James says to turn. Turn to the one who has paid the price for your sin already. Turn to the cross and your connection to it in New Birth, given in the water of Holy Baptism. Turn to the Holy Spirit, who pours into you His strength to avoid temptations pull. The Word of Truth calls us to confess our sin, our shortcomings, our sinful desires, our inability to avoid, and our failure again and again. We confess, he forgives. That is Holy Baptism, the good gift that comes down from the Father of lights. It’s just like Luther writes in the Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House, That New Man is the “first fruits” that James is talking about. A new man that avoids temptation and sin, not because he has some great power to do so, but because he has God himself, working, offering forgiveness, calming the guilty conscience, releasing us in that dear forgiving flood, the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for you. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Mark.9.2-9; The Transfiguration of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, February 14, 2021;

Mark.9.2-9; The Transfiguration of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, February 14, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful sight it must have been, on that mountain, Jesus shining like the sun, Moses and Elijah there with him. The disciples never forgot it. They wrote about it in their letters, they must have spoken about it often. John wrote in his gospel. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, ESV) And Peter said, For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16, ESV) They were talking about this mountaintop experience when Jesus was transfigured before them. “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” we say with the collective memory of the church. Here is where human beings saw Jesus Christ shine in His full glory, as the Only Begotten Son of God. That’s what happened there on that mountain. Jesus was “transfigured.” The word is really metamorphosized! He changed his appearance; he became brighter than any bleach could bleach clothing. It’s another mountain top thing. Just like when he gave the law to Moses for the people. It’s a people of God event. That means that the transfiguration has something to do with us! But, more on that later. First, we need to talk about what’s happening to Jesus. I said here we see his ‘glory.’ Really what we are talking about is his divinity, his “god-ness,” shining through his humanity. We should carefully note that Jesus is all at once True-Man and True-God all together in one person. God, The Father, and Mary is his mother. He is 100% God and 100% man. You don’t get Jesus by gluing a God-board to a Man-board. Or taking God stuff and mixing it together with man-stuff to get a God-Man mixture. He’s not a hybrid. He is not a superman or a lesser god. He is God-Man. Unique in the universe. There is nothing like him anywhere, and there never will be. St. Paul said it like this. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, (Colossians 2:9, ESV) That’s what Peter, James and John saw on that day, Jesus Christ revealed, God and Man. So, what does that mean for us? We weren’t on that mountain to see it, but here we are some miles and several thousand years away. What does Transfigured Jesus mean to us? It is important to know that Jesus is God and Man together in a special way. You don’t get just a part of Jesus, ever. When you talk about Jesus it is always Humanity and Divinity. When we say that Jesus is here (because he promises to be where two or three are gathered together, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20, ESV) we mean that he is here in humanity and divinity. His humanity isn’t in heaven and his divinity on earth with us. He is not physically present “at the right hand of God” and spiritually present with us right now. He is here, among us, body and blood, flesh and spirit, God and man. The same Jesus born, in the flesh, in a food trough. The same Jesus, in the flesh, who walked and talked and laughed and cried with his disciples. The same Jesus, in the flesh, who became as bright as the sun on that mountain. The same Jesus, in flesh and blood, who bled and died on the cross, who rose again, sits at the right hand of God and rules the whole universe. How about a little quiz? Was God born to the Virgin Mary? Did a human being shine with God’s glory on the mountain of transfiguration? Did God die for your sins on a cross in Jerusalem? Does a human being now rule over the universe? The answer to all these questions is “Yes” in Jesus Christ. God and man inseparable, undivided for all eternity. It really answers the question: “How can the death of one man be enough to pay for the sins of the whole world?” It can be because the death of that man was the death of God. The death of Jesus was a “God-sized” death. A human life is worth one human life, but God’s life is worth an infinite number of human lives. When God dies his death, in Jesus Christ, it is worth more than the lives of all the people that have ever lived, all that are alive now and all that will ever live. That’s how Jesus redeems us, with his holy and precious blood and innocent suffering and death, as Martin Luther put it in the Small Catechism. Notice also that God, in Jesus Christ, deals with us through his humanity. He comes to us in ways that humans can comprehend and understand; he comes to us in flesh and blood. He comes to us in words spoken that travel through the air and strike our ears. He comes to us in water poured on our heads. He comes to us in bread and wine. All of these ways are earthly, physical and ordinary. God reveals himself to us in the ordinary, human, flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. If you want to know what God is like, all you have to do is look to Jesus. Jesus shines there on the mountain. And it’s more than the disciples can take. Peter says something about building tents. We don’t know exactly what he means, but he must have wanted to make some way of remembering what he saw. He probably wanted to build some kind of memorial that they could return to and remember. If he had done that, we could all go there and visit. There’d be a sign: “This is the place where Jesus was transfigured.” But no one really knows where it was, and maybe that’s a good thing. The idea of setting up tents was probably a way of trying to bring God under control. It’s something we human beings are really good at trying. We put Jesus in a box, in a church, in our hearts, instead of looking for him the only place he promises to be. We put him where we’d like him to be instead. We privatize Jesus and make our faith only personal, private faith. “Just me and Jesus on a mountain.” “I can worship God, just as well sitting out in a boat on the lake.” Lord, it’s good that we’re here. Forget everyone else. Let’s build a tent and remember the experience, the good feelings right here and now. That’s where we want Jesus to be. We forget to look for him where he says he’ll be, in the preached word, in his supper, in Baptism, and his people gathered around these things. Gathering here isn’t about feelings or experience, it’s about meeting Jesus the way that he promises to come. He is here with us in Word and Sacrament even if we don’t feel any different at all. But we are so much more impressed by visions and feelings than humble words, ordinary looking bread and wine and plain old water. Yet though these Jesus promises to forgive. What would it be like if Jesus, and Moses and Elijah appeared standing right here and their images were burned into the walls of the church? When word got out people would come from everywhere. Our little building here would be packed to the gills and everything would change. We’d speak quietly when we entered, we’d bow our heads, and never want to leave. No one would sleep if Moses and Elijah appeared in the pulpit to tell you about the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ. And yet, we have that very thing here every Sunday. Jesus is here along with the angels and “all the company of heaven.” Every time we gather here, we are standing on the mountain of God. Every time we receive the forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus Christ. Every Sunday He comes here to preach to you the Good News that you have been forgiven by his bloody death on the cross. And he comes to you in his very body and blood for you to eat and drink, right here. You see something more than the miracle of the transfiguration happens here all the time. Jesus takes sinful people and declares that they are his saints. You can’t see it; sometimes you can’t even feel it. You have to hear it in his Word. That’s the only difference. Jesus is here for you and me, just the same as he was on that mountain for the disciples. The only difference is you can’t see him the way they saw him. The truth be told you really don’t want to see him. The sight of Jesus in all his glory would be way too much for us. It left “the Rock” blubbering about tents. The Glory of God left Isaiah shivering in his shoes saying he was dead. And the Apostle John tells us in Revelations that in the presence of God he fell to the ground like a dead man. “No one can see God and live.” We are told. Jesus gives us a break. He is gentle with us. He comes to us in very hidden ways. So hidden, in fact, that most people pass him by without even noticing. So, hidden that we even sometimes forget that where the Church is gathered around his word Jesus is truly there. There’s something else important to notice about the transfiguration. God speaks to us there. “This is my son, whom I love, listen to him.” Everything is focused, right where it should be, on Jesus. Moses and Elijah fade away and Jesus is left there alone. “Listen to him! He has the words of eternal life.” In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. Heb 1:1-2. “Jesus alone” that’s really what the mountain of transfiguration is all about. Only Jesus is God’s beloved Son. Only Jesus shines with the Glory of God on the mountain. Only Jesus died on the cross bearing in his body the sins of the whole world. Only Jesus rose again from death never to die again. Only Jesus sits with God and prays directly to the Father for us. Only Jesus comes to you in Word and Sacrament to save and strengthen you. St. Paul said, And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV) Jesus Christ present here with us right now in Word and Sacrament is here to transfigure you. He is changing you from the outside in, changing you to become like him. It’s a hidden thing, this work that he is about. But when he appears in His Glory again at the end of time His work then will be shown for all to see. He will … will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:21, ESV) That will be a Transfiguration day to see! Come Lord Jesus, Come! Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Mark 1:29-39; The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 7, 2021;

Mark 1:29-39; The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 7, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; And immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:29-39, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Mark is a fast paced Gospel. He won’t let Jesus stand still. Did you notice that we are still in chapter one? Just glancing back to the beginning we see a very active Jesus. He’s baptized, tempted by Satan, he calls his disciples; he heals people and throws out demons. But most importantly, he preaches. In fact, the very first words we hear from Jesus in this gospel are a sermon. and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15, ESV) And all of it is laced together by the word “immediately.” It emphasizes what Jesus is doing, almost like the time is critical. Remember last week, we had Jesus casting out a demon in the synagogue (after he preached) and telling the demon to “shut up.” The demon wanted to tell everyone who Jesus was. Jesus wants to show us who his is. And immediately after that he leaves the synagogue and goes to Peter’s house. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick and immediately they tell Jesus, and she is healed. Notice too how she gets up and serves right away. It’s like she had never been sick. Her strength is back full force. After the sun went down the town’s people begin to stir. At first it sounds strange to us but remember this is the Sabbath day in Israel. And remember for the Jews, the new day starts at sunset, so once the sun goes down the Sabbath is over, so they are allowed to move about again. They have been waiting all day after hearing about Jesus casting out the demon in the synagogue earlier. Mark tells us that they brought “all who were sick and oppressed by demons.” The news has spread everywhere in town. “the whole city was gathered together at the door.” Really the way Mark writes it he gives us a picture of the folks all standing around at the front door of Peter’s house, looking at it, waiting in anticipation of Jesus doing what they want him to do. They want him to heal the sick folks they’ve brought. And Jesus does just that. He heals and throws out the demons. And again, notice how he won’t let the demons speak. They know who Jesus is. They are trying to shout out “You are the Son of God, the Messiah!” But Jesus prevents them. Like we talked about last week, he doesn’t want the people to come to know who he is from the shouts of demons. After all the sickness and demons are taken care of everyone goes to bed. But early in the morning, actually in the middle of the night, (very early in the morning) Jesus gets up and goes out to pray. When the disciples get up, they don’t find him and the go looking for him. Actually, there seems to be a bit if anger in their search, the word Mark uses a word that means to track down or hunt. Apparently, the crowds have all gathered again, ready for Jesus to continue doing what he was doing last night. “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus has different ideas. He doesn’t go back to the house. Instead, he tells them it’s time to move on. Notice again the detail that Mark gives us. “Let’s go to the neighboring towns, so that I can preach there, because that is why I have come out.” And that’s what he does. Again, Mark seems to give us a Jesus that might make us a bit uncomfortable. Last week we saw him say “Shut up” and today we see him ignoring people in desperate need. Jesus prefers preaching. But remember the disciples don’t get it either. They wonder why he’s gone out on his own when there’s so much to do with the folks that have gathered around. These are people just like you and me. Put yourself in the crowd, and with the disciples. You know what it’s like to be sick and suffering. You’ve come to the altar here in pray for Jesus to do something different. Remember, suffering is a constant. They had friends with cancer, sons and daughters who were injured in accidents. There were women who had lost their husbands, and fathers who were separated from their children. These were people who saw the helpless looks in doctor’s eyes. There were people in pain from the loss of a child. They were human beings, just like you and me, who had an intimate relationship with disease and suffering. And just like you and me, they wanted it to end. And, according to St. Mark, that night at Peter’s house Jesus healed them all. But that morning they were left wanting more. We can easily think that this is all there is to Jesus. I think this is what Jesus is trying to avoid. That’s why he doesn’t go back to the house. He moves on to preach because that’s what he has come to do. It’s easy to see Jesus as a miracle worker instead of a Savior. Of course, the hope of all Christians is the promise of the whole creation restored, an end to sickness and the control of Satan over people. Jesus is all about doing just that. That’s what Jesus is talking about when he preaches, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15, ESV) God is staring you in face. He is here setting things right again. You can see the start of it, the demons go out not screaming, sickness and death are in Jesus hands. But let’s not get sidetracked from what Jesus has come to do. It involves suffering and death. The world is being set right because God has come, staring you in the face, to bring forgiveness of sins. All that pain and heartache; all that illness and death are the result of sin. In this we all have our own part. There are times when we suffer because of specific sins we have done, smoking too much causes cancer; unfaithfulness in marriage leads to broken marriages and divorce… the evil things we all do fill our lives with consequences. The world is troubled by sickness and death because it is populated by sinful people. You and I live troubled lives because we are sinful. But we even have trouble that is not related to our sin. Sometimes illness comes for no fault of our own. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes life runs out of control and there is nothing we have done or can do to control it. Dearest fellow sinner, Jesus shows us what life forever with him will be like; an end to sickness and death; an end to Satan’s control over our lives. Picture Peter’s mother-in-law joyfully serving after the fever was taken out of her. Our Savior took her by the hand, and it left her. She was at full strength to serve. And so, it will be for you and me, but for now Jesus doesn’t go back to the house, for now we continue to live in this sinful world. We would have Jesus stay and heal. But Jesus must go to the cross because, sickness and demons isn’t the root of the problem. They are simply the signs of the real sickness. In Jesus preaching he says, “Repent and believe the good news.” The good news is that Jesus has come to do away with sin. You see we are sicker than we realize. We are more diseased than we can see. Sin is our problem, and it requires something more than surface healing. It requires the cross. It requires our death. Jesus heads for the cross to be our death for us. And Jesus won’t be sidetracked from that purpose. His death on the cross heals our sin-sickness. The healing of our sin-sickness leads to the healing of our bodies. That’s what we confessed just moments ago. “I believe in the resurrection of the dead.” The Apostles’ Creed says, “the resurrection of the body” not “the resurrection of the soul.” Forgiveness of sins and healing of the body are directly connected in the cross. When we see Jesus on the cross, we are seeing our helplessness. We cannot heal ourselves. No where do we see our total need for salvation more clearly. It takes God become man in Jesus Christ. We lie in our sin and sickness like Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus grasps us with a pierced hand and saves us. He lifts us up out of our sin-sickeness and we live. His death on the cross means forgiveness for us. This is a picture of our salvation, both now as we live every day in faith and finally, when our Lord reaches out to raise our dead body from the grave. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Jonah.3; Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 24, 2021;

Jonah.3; Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 24, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Get ready to hear the shortest sermon on record… don’t get your hopes up; it’s not the one I’m preaching right now. The short sermon I’m talking about is the one found here in the book of Jonah. It’s right in the middle of Chapter three. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3, ESV) You all know the story of Jonah the reluctant prophet. The guy who ran away from God and got swallowed by a big fish for his efforts. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah,” is how the story starts. Jonah was a prophet; his job was to take the Word of God to the people God told him to go to. And God gave him the task of taking that Word to Nineveh. Now Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. It wasn’t a nice town; in fact, it was very evil. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what they were doing that was so bad; it just says that their “wickedness” had come up before God. But there’s more to it than that. You see Nineveh was the enemy. They had threatened the people of Israel before. They had a reputation of going around, sacking cities, and killing all the people that lived in them. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because they were the enemy. Now it’s not exactly the same thing, I’m not saying that they are evil over there in Iowa City, but It would be a little like sending a died in the wool ISU fan to Iowa City to preach about the virtues of the Cyclones. Jonah didn’t want to go, and he was willing to do just about anything to avoid it. So, he went to the coast and chartered a boat for the farthest place he could thin. f “Tarshish.” We don’t really know where Tarshish is but there is good reason to believe it is Spain, which as far as the Jonah was concerned was the end of the world. The most important part of Tarshish’s location for Jonah was that it was in the opposite direction of Nineveh. So that’s where he headed. But God of course, was determined in his plan for Nineveh so he sent a storm and a fish. Jonah gets thrown overboard and into the fish’s belly, where he spends three awfully long days. Finally, after he should have died, Jonah got spit up on the shore. And God said to Jonah a second time, “Go to Nineveh and proclaim to it what I asked you to proclaim.” And Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord. You’ve gotta love the bible here for its understatement. After being chased down by a storm and spending three days in the fish; of course, Jonah went to Nineveh. He knew he couldn’t run again. Who knew what God had in mind if he decided to run again? So, Jonah went to Nineveh, but he was still the reluctant prophet. And this is where that short sermon comes in. Jonah preached as little as he could preach. Apparently just enough to satisfy what God told him to say. “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” At first you might be tempted to think that that’s just the content of his message. But if you look, you’ll see that those are very the words he used. It was eight simple words (actually on five in Hebrew), but a complete sermon. Jonah, it seems, still wasn’t very anxious to do what God had asked him to do. Kinda like the child who’s supposed to go up and clean his room, and shoves everything under the bed. The room looks clean, but it isn’t. Jonah delivers the message, but only in the most minimal way he can deliver it. But God’s Word always has its way. In spite of Jonah, the people of Nineveh believe what he says. the people of Nineveh believed God. It’s important to notice that they believe God, not Jonah. They take the message they hear as if it comes from God. And not only do they believe but they put their money where their mouth is. Everyone, even the sheep and cattle, fast and sit in sackcloth and ashes as a way to show God that they are truly repentant. And God changes his course of action against them. God’s threat was taken seriously, and he doesn’t have to carry it out, because the people had believed. And Jonah, well he gets mad. “I knew it!” He spoke. “That’s why I didn’t want to come here. I knew you’d wimp out and not destroy the city. And if any city needs to be destroyed it’s this one. These people are not your people, they’re Gentiles, they’re Ninevites! Aren’t they outside you plan? No… You… God are ‘gracious and compassionate.’ You let them off too easy.” Jonah, it seems had a lot yet to learn, and the book leaves us hanging and never tells us if he did. And so, what about that short sermon? “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” Well, I don’t think I can ever use it here, but it is good message. You see, it has law and gospel in it. Nineveh is going to be ‘overturned.’ Jonah says. Well, what he means is that Nineveh is on the fire and brimstone schedule, just like Sodom and Gomorrah. “Annihilate” is probably a word that better describes what God had in mind than just “overturn.” It fit pretty well in Jonah’s way of thinking, too. God was planning the total destruction of Nineveh because of her “wickedness.” You do know that we all fit into that category. Our wickedness comes up before God on a daily basis. No, we aren’t out there destroying cities and killing the inhabitants. We aren’t out there committing great big, huge sins. But the truth is that we too are wicked in God’s eyes. We can’t even keep any one of God’s laws perfectly let alone all ten. Jesus clearly tells us that it’s not just a matter of doing and not doing what the commandments say. It’s a matter of the heart. He said that you don’t have to kill someone to be guilty of murder. All you have to do is call them a ‘fool’ or think bad things about them. He says that you don’t have to have an affair to commit adultery. It happens when your eyes wander. And in case you think that that’s not the wickedness that Jesus is talking, about he says that people who break the least of the commandments aren’t worthy of the kingdom of God. Sin begins in the heart. The bible says, “the wages of sin is death.” The wages of sin is overturning, annihilation. And not only that we easily find ourselves standing in Jonah’s shoes, with Jonah’s attitudes about people. “I’m not as bad as they are,” we say, “after all I’m a member of a church and there are lots of people who don’t belong anywhere. Surely God looks at them differently than he does me. And what about the members of our church who never come? They’ve got to be further down on the favor scale that I am. Maybe they deserve punishment, but not me. I’ve always got my checkbook out. I’m regular in attendance; whenever work needs to be done here, I’m first on the list to volunteer.” Jonah too, expected God to be gracious to him. He was thankful when God saved him from the fish; it didn’t bite him in half. It didn’t swim to the bottom of the sea and stay there. Let’s face it that’s what Jonah deserved. He had been given as specific task to do; there was no doubt about it. He was running away from God. God could have struck him dead. But God was gracious to him and let him live. Jonah’s problem isn’t a lack of thankfulness for what God had done; it was a failure to see that God’s grace is for other people too. The people in Nineveh needed God’s word. They needed to hear God’s plans for them, but Jonah didn’t want them to have it. He wanted to keep it for himself, and the people who he saw as the people of God. That simply wasn’t God’s plan. Think about how we would treat the doctor who walked through those doors compared to the smelly bum. Think about our desire to get people to come back to church for the sake of the budget instead of their benefit in hearing God’s Word and receiving forgiveness here. There was Gospel in Jonah’s message, in spite of Jonah’s wish. “Forty more days…” he said. There was yet a chance for the people of Nineveh to repent. There was time before the destruction to get things right with God again. Just the fact that God sent Jonah in the first place was an act of God’s grace. He could have destroyed them without any warning at all. God’s plan for the Ninevites wasn’t destruction but restoration. God is ‘gracious and compassionate’ as Jonah said. He didn’t kill Jonah. He didn’t destroy Nineveh when they repented, either. God is gracious he gives us a time and a place to repent of our sin. He gives us his word that convicts us of our sin. And he tells us of our Savior, Jesus. Who bled and died on the cross for our forgiveness instead of our destruction? Well so, what’s this text really all about? It’s not about Jonah getting swallowed and spit up by a big fish. It’s not about how wicked the people Nineveh were. And it’s not even about us and our sin. It’s really about God, His grace, His forgiveness, and His Word. He is gracious and compassionate. Peter, Jesus disciple says it this way: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV) That message about God’s grace is the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to us in our Nineveh, even though we were the enemies of God and deserved punishment, overturning and annihilation. Jesus wasn’t reluctant, like Jonah, to come to us; he did it of his own free will, because it was part of God’s plan to save the whole world. Jesus preached an equally simple message. “Repent the Kingdom of God is here!” Now is the time to act. Now is the time to repent and set things right with God. God could have just destroyed the world without warning, but instead he sent Jesus to save you and me. That punishment that we deserved, that overturning and annihilation, Jesus Christ took it on himself on the cross. He was overturned and killed instead of us. He died and spent his three days, not in the belly of a fish, but in the darkness of death. And God changed his deserved action against us. Jesus died instead. Just like the fish spit Jonah on the shore, Jesus broke free from death. And we are free from the punishment of our sin. God’s Word had its effect on the people of Nineveh. They repented of their sins. They turned from their evil. God was gracious to them. God is gracious to us. He has forgiven us, because of Jesus. We hear God’s Word that tells us to turn to Him for forgiveness. And we have faith in him, so we do repent, and God forgives. The power for the people of Nineveh was in the Word of God, that great little sermon from the reluctant prophet. The power for us today is also in the Word of God. It says confess because I forgive. Think about what it means to have the Word of God in this place. You can come here Sunday after Sunday and hear about the forgiveness won for you by Jesus. You can come here and see that forgiveness given to God’s people in Baptism, and Holy Communion. And remember that that Word of forgiveness isn’t just for you, it’s for the whole world, even the Ninevites. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

1 Peter 3:18-22; The Second Sunday after Epiphany; January 17, 2021;

1 Peter 3:18-22; The Second Sunday after Epiphany; January 17, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s a saying we’ve probably all learned in school. And we probably all would agree. We’ve seen people in power. We know how they get there. And is seems that the more power someone has the more they want. Worst of all the longer someone stays “in power” the more likely they are to be corrupted by it. The more likely they are to do something self-centered and self-indulgent. We all want power, don’t we? Whether it is power to tell our boss that the project that is being done is stupid, or the power to make it rain on our own beans. We’d like the power to change the way our children act, or even the power to bring ‘peace’ to the world. But we know how we use power when we do get it. As someone once said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Today we are going to look at God’s power, especially God’s power in Jesus Christ. God’s power is different from the power we are used to. In fact, God’s power looks like weakness to the world. If there is one thing that we can say about Americans, it’s that we really appreciate power. Just look at our army. It is the most powerful military force ever assembled. We are proud of the men and women who make it what it is. We are proud of their ability to do whatever is needed for our safety. We also appreciate financial power (maybe even more that military power!). Every year we look over the top ten richest people in the world and envy those who are there (probably wanting just a tiny fraction of their wealth!) And there is power in numbers… King David was a powerful man also. Even though he was surrounded by hostile nations, he became a powerful king. Even if you don’t remember much about the stories of the bible, you probably remember King David. We usually remember him for his power. The truth of the matter is that David wasn’t chosen to be the king of Israel because he was a powerful man. In fact, he was a lowly shepherd boy. He was the youngest son in a large family with a bunch of stronger older brothers. When the brothers of Jesse lined up to be considered by Samuel, David wasn’t even a contender. God had already chosen David. He was the very unlikely choice, the one no one else would consider. David was the king of Jesse’s Stem. Jesus Christ is called the “rod of Jesse.” That’s a reminder that He too wasn’t the obvious choice for the Messiah. He wasn’t born the way kings should be born. His family didn’t have any power. Joseph, Jesus stepfather, was a regular blue-collar worker. He didn’t rule with an iron hand from a jewel-encrusted throne. Instead, His reign is from a cross. Instead of the kind of power people expect in a king, Jesus power is shown to us by His suffering and death. Jesus was selected by God for a specific task, just as David was. That’s why we call him the rod of Jesse, instead of the rod of David. Clement of Rome, one of the churches early preachers said it this way: The scepter of the majesty of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared not with pomp of pride or arrogance, though well he might, but in humility (Clement of Rome, 16.2). God’s power doesn’t work the way we expect power to work. It doesn’t even work the way we experience power, armies, money, or prestige. God’s power does something the world’s power can never do; it destroyed our greatest enemy, Death. Worldly power, in reality, doesn’t get us too much that is of any real value. Think about the rogue nations of the world. They strut around showing force trying to project power. What has their show of power really do? Threats of war; People starving because the rulers of the country spend so much on the military. Greater division among the countries of the world. All that show of power doesn’t really gain anything. Worldly power rarely makes things better. King David learned that lesson the hard way. He let his power go to his head. He thought he was above the law. Even though God said that David was a “man after God’s own heart” David let the temptation of power control him. He used his position to sleep with another man’s wife and then had her husband killed to cover up his sin. David’s heart was stained with sin, just like you and me. There were lots of good that he did as king; he worshipped God faithfully; and built a strong kingdom for his people. But just like any human, power corrupts. Really, in David’s case, just as it would be for any of us, power goes to our hearts when we are able to act on the sin that lives there. David misused even the power given to him by God’s choice, the power given to him for God’s purposes. Is there anyone who could really use God’s power for only good? It is only God who can do it selflessly. Jesus Christ is the true Key of David. He succeeds where David fails. If we had God’s power, what would we have done with it? There’s a movie called “Bruce Almighty” with Jim Carey. That’s exactly what Bruce finds out when he gets to play God for a time. The power corrupts him. You and I would do the same. We’d take revenge on our enemies. We’d work out things to benefit only ourselves. But that is not Jesus. He even allowed himself to be put to death. We would have called down the angels to save us. But Jesus did not. He used God’s power perfectly. He used God’s power in peace. He used God’s power in love. That’s why He has now “gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God” according to St. Peter. And he goes on to write “angels, authorities, and powers [have] been subjected to Him.” That means that heaven is now open to Him and it is open to us. Every one of us! Jesus is the perfect key of David. He used God’s power to open heaven to us and undo the power of death for us. In his cross, Jesus Christ brings to us the forgiveness we need for sinful use of power. So, we thank God for Jesus Christ, the Rod of Jesse and the Key of David. He used God’s power for us. He defeated death for us and opened up for heaven’s door. Amen. The Peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Mark.1.4-11; Baptism of Our Lord; January 10, 2021;

Mark.1.4-11; Baptism of Our Lord; January 10, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Mark 1:4–11, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I’ve been reading this text over and over again wondering what it's really talking about. Is it about who John the Baptist is? Yep, it surely talks about him, camel’s hair coat and all. We’ve usually talked about him before Christmas… It’s interesting that he shows up again here so close after. Is it about the people who came to John, confessing their sins? Sure, it’s important to see that these people came to be baptized, but first they confessed their sins. They knew their place before God. They knew they were sinners needing forgiveness. Is it about the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry? Yea, this is the turning point for Jesus, up until now we’ve heard precious little from the gospel writers about Jesus was doing from the time he was 12 years old. But now everything is different. Jesus Baptism is where the story really gets going. I’d have to say that this text is surely about that too. This text about Jesus coming to John to be baptized is about all those things. And it’s about something else too. It’s about relationships. There are lots of relationships described here and they’re not as confusing as this is: 76-year-old Bill Baker of London married Edna Harvey. She happened to be his granddaughter’s husband’s mother. That’s where the confusion began, according to Baker’s granddaughter, Lynn. “My mother-in-law is now my step-grandmother. My grandfather is now my stepfather-in-law. My mom is my sister-in-law and my brother is my nephew. But even crazier is that I’m now married to my uncle and my own children are my cousins.” From this experience, Lynn should gain profound insight into the theory of relativity. Our text today speaks about several much simpler relationships. There’s the relationship between John and Jesus. They’re cousins, and yet John knows something more about Jesus, the one whose “sandals he’s not worthy to stoop down and untie.” John knows that God has sent Jesus and that he is the one who will deliver God’s people from their sin. “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit,” says John. And yet Jesus comes to John to be baptized. We read earlier that John’s baptism had to do with repentance and forgiveness. So why is Jesus there to be baptized? According to the writer of Hebrews Jesus is without sin: he was “…tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (4:15) Clearly, he doesn’t need to confess his sin and be baptized. So just what does John think he’s doing? Well, he isn’t giving Jesus forgiveness he doesn’t need. Jesus is acting in accordance with God’s plan, and John is simply helping Jesus to do just that. Jesus baptism has everything to do with his relationship to God the Father… and to us. And that’s the relationship we want to look at next… Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for forgiveness, but we do. Jesus is acting on our behalf. He came to be a God’s servant to people. He didn’t come to be served by people. Jesus said it himself; “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 That was his mission. Just like John served Jesus by baptizing him, Jesus serves us by being baptized. You see, no way can God look at us and say, “with this one I am well pleased.” We are sinful people, born into sin because of the sin that came to us from our parents. As soon as we were conceived, we were out of relationship with God, and actually object of his wrath. … among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV) Very often don’t want to follow God’s will for our lives. We want to be in control ourselves. How many of you guys have a hard time letting your wife drive? You may think it’s with good reason… even your wife knows she’s a better driver. But that’s kind of the way it is with our relationship with God. Most of the time we want him along as we speed through life. We want him to call out and tell us what’s ahead to keep us from having an accident. We want to know what’s over the next hill, and where to find the smoothest road. But most of all we want to decide where the car should go. We want to have a hold of the wheel. If God’s way gets a little rough, we start looking for that little red button that says, “ejection seat,” so we can get back on a smother road. It is God’s will bent to our own, instead of our will following God’s. “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased,” said the Father of Jesus. Jesus followed God’s will, even though His road was going to be very rough. Jesus followed God’s will even though it meant that people would hate him and try to kill him. Jesus followed God’s will even when it meant that He would have to suffer… even when it meant he would have to die. Instead of going the way that we often do, Jesus went the way of God. He was the perfect servant to you and me. He lived the life that we cannot live, and he died the death that we dare not die. He was perfect but died for our disobedience. We are disobedient but we receive forgiveness because He earned it for us. He earned it by living his life perfectly in the will of God the Father. He let God drive. He also earned it by dying in our place and suffering the punishment that we should have suffered. And God was so pleased with his son that after he had died, He gave him life again, and Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what Jesus relationship is to us. That’s what his baptism was all about, taking our place and being our servant. You know, that’s what your baptism is about too. It’s about what Jesus Christ did for you. It’s about what Jesus Christ did for your relationship to God the Father. St. Paul wrote that: 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 To be baptized is to become a “son” that God loves. It is to be once again in a relationship with God. To be clothed with Christ is to be seen by God as the Father saw Jesus, a beloved son in whom he is well pleased. That means that God looks at us differently. We are wearing Jesus’ clothes. God sees us like he sees Jesus. So, what exactly does that mean? Well, it’s like this. We’ve been driving along minding our own business. Everything seems to be going very well. Suddenly out of nowhere there’s a bump in the road. It’s more than a flat tire; it is actually deep muddy path. At first, we think we can get through it. So, we press on the gas a little bit more. But the mud cakes up the front end and we can’t steer. Finally, the car comes to a halt buried half up the door in a muddy mess. We’ve made a wrong turn somewhere and gotten into a big mess. We’re buried deep in the mud and there is no way out. That’s when we realize that we’ve left God out all together. We’ve been driving ourselves. We’ve been ignoring his direction because the road seemed to be much easier this way. “God!” we say. “I’ve done it again! I’m stuck in the mud again and I can’t get out. I should have listened to you.” God doesn’t look at you and say, “It serves you right for not listening to me. I ought to just leave you there to suffer on your own.” Instead, he says. “You are my beloved child, whom I love. I forgive you. I’ll help you.” He does it because of Jesus. You see, our relationship, the one that was made by Jesus, means that when we sin, we can turn to God for forgiveness and he will forgive. Not because we deserve to be forgiven, but because Jesus earned forgiveness for us, and he has given it to us in our baptism. There’s one more relationship we should talk about today. It’s the relationship we have with everyone else. It has to do with being baptized into Christ Jesus and being clothed with Christ. Remember how John was a servant to Jesus? And Jesus is a servant to us? Well, being a child of God means that we too are to be servants. We can be servants to others because Jesus Christ is a servant to us. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that we aren’t servants of others already. We do lots of great things right now. Because of Jesus, we are servants to people right here, where God has placed us. Time and time again this church has proved it can do anything it decides to do. I’d like to challenge you to do something special for this community. Something new! Not something to gain new members. But something to show people the love of Jesus Christ, weather they know him or not. “You are my beloved Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” The Father said to Jesus. Jesus had seen the sign, and now he heard it. He knew what God’s will was for his life, and he followed it. That was his relationship to God, the Father. Everything Jesus did he did for us: his life, death and resurrection. He did it all to make us God’s children, too. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.