Sunday, May 30, 2021

John 8:48-59; The Festival of the Holy Trinity; May 30, 2021;

John 8:48-59; The Festival of the Holy Trinity; May 30, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:48–59, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To say that these Jews were unhappy with Jesus, is quite an understatement. They wanted him dead. The great fourth century preacher John Chrysostom talks about this text, he says. "Now, if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham (although this was only a minor comparison", just imagine if he had continually made statements about making himself equal to the Father. Would they have ever stopped throwing stones at him?"[1] And really who could blame them. Just before this, Jesus talks to them about the truth, how he is the truth. They do not recognize him or the truth. Jesus says the truth will set you free and the truth that he brings comes from the father. "Our father is Abraham!" They said. "No," Jesus says in reply, "your father is the devil. If your father were Abraham, if the true God was your God, then you would listen to me, you would hear the truth." They respond by calling Jesus a Samaritan and demon possessed. They mean it to be an insult. But notice, Jesus only refutes the idea that he is demon possessed. He doesn't say "I'm not a Samaritan." Listen again to another church father, St. Augustine: In this Samaritan the Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to understand himself. "Samaritan," you see, means "Guardian."… He could have answered, "I am not a Samaritan, and I do not have a devil." But what he did answer was, "it is not I who have a devil." What he answered, he refuted; What he kept quiet about, he confirmed. He denied he had a devil, knowing himself to be the expeller of devils; He did not deny that he was a guardian of the weak.[2] So just how is Jesus the Samaritan? Will should go back to the parable. It comes to us from Luke chapter 10. The whole parable comes up because a lawyer asks Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus points him to the law. "What do you read in the Law?" And the lawyer answers correctly, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus says, "Okay, do this and you will live." That wasn't enough for the lawyer. He wanted to justify himself by proving that he was keeping the law perfectly enough. "And just who is my neighbor?" And to this Jesus tells the parable that we know is the good Samaritan. You know how it goes. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho was beaten up by robbers and left on the side of the road for dead. A priest comes by but when he sees the man he passes by on the other side of the road. The Levite does the same. It should be noted that these two men were both Jews. And both highly respected "church" people. The people listening to Jesus’ parable would be a little surprised. Most of the time priests and Levites were the heroes of the story. But not today. Jesus turns the story on its head. He says a Samaritan has compassion on the man who was mugged. This is the last person any Jewish hearer would expect to be the hero of any story. The Jews in the Samaritans were at odds. Samaritans had Jewish heritage, but it was all corrupted through intermarriage. And worse their religion is bastardized Judaism. They didn't worship in the temple but instead on Mount Gerizim. When the Jews told jokes, Samaritans were the butt of jokes. But here the Samaritan is the good guy. He binds up his wounds. He gives him medicine. He puts him on his own donkey and takes him to a place of safety. And pays for his recuperation without regard to the cost. And then Jesus asks, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to this man?" The lawyer was forced to say the Samaritan. He can't bring himself to say the word, so he says, "The one who showed him mercy." This is not what the Jews were saying of Jesus. And yet they speak better than they know. Jesus is indeed the one who shows mercy. Jesus is the defender of the weak. In fact, he is doing exactly what they should be doing and aren't. Jesus said he comes from the Father and is doing exactly what the Father has asked him to do. And when they speak evil of him, calling him demon possessed, their dishonoring God. They are not keeping God's word. They are not doing what Samaritan and the parable did. Jesus is pushing the law in their face. They were throwing roadblocks between people and God for the sake of lifting themselves up and making themselves look good. So the truth of Jesus accuses them. Then Jesus says, "Anyone who keeps my word will never see death." And they attack again. "Who do you think you are? Abraham is dead there's no way he listened to you!" And Jesus says it. "I know who I am. I am doing what the Father has sent me to do. Abraham saw my day and was glad." It's an important part of the text. And one completely misunderstood by Jesus' enemies. Abraham had faith in God, the Father, and what he would do to save the world from sin. Abraham looked forward to the day of Jesus. Abraham looked forward to the day of the cross. Make no mistake Abraham saw Jesus clearly in many ways. At the Oaks of Mamre God appeared to Abraham as three men. They appeared and told Abraham that even in their old age he and Sarah would indeed have a son as God had promised. But also, after the son, Isaac was born God tested Abraham telling him to offer that son as a sacrifice. God gave him a ram is a substitute instead. It is the perfect picture of what God would do in Jesus Christ. So not only had Abraham met God but he had faith that God would offer a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Jesus, The Samaritan, the defender of the weak, the substitute Lamb of God, has his day on the cross. He does exactly what the good Samaritan did. He saves broken and bloody people. He cares for and gives medicine to them. Brings them to a place of safety not regarding the cost. The cost for Jesus was great. He gives himself. He is the replacement. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one in the picture Abraham saw on the mountain. The one that was given in place of his own son. Jesus perfect life is given in his perfect death. He gives it for those who are helpless. Jesus enemies were helpless. They were lost in their sin. Jesus gave his life on the cross for them. He offers rescue for them from the side of the road where they were beaten and bloody from their sins. They were helpless and lost. And yet they refuse to be saved by him. They refuse to recognize him for who he is. You and I are helpless. We are lost in our sin. It is no less sin than those who accused Jesus of having a demon. And yet, in love Jesus still gives himself on the cross for us. He rescues us from the side of the road where we are beaten and bloody by our sins, we are helpless and lost. His life is given is the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We gathered here have received Jesus our Savior. We confess faith in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We confess Jesus our Savior is true God and true man. The one whose day Abraham saw and rejoiced. We cling in faith to our defender, our Savior, our good Samaritan, our Substitute Sacrifice. We rejoice in the Good News and receive the medicine of our Lord's Supper. The Jews in our text did not. They could not tolerate Jesus’ comparison to Abraham. They could not tolerate Jesus saying he saw Abraham. They could not tolerate that Jesus said Abraham believed in him. They dishonored Jesus. They dishonored God the Father by rejecting Jesus. But Jesus wants their rejection of him to be clear. He wants them to understand who he is. He wants them to repent and turn to him in faith. And so, he answers the question they asked. "Who do you think you are?" "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." He could not have said it any more clearly. He used the words, the very name of God, which came from the burning bush. He used the name of God that was given to Moses to give to the people when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Moses asked God, "When the people asked me who you are, what name shall I give?" And God said "I AM WHO I AM." What Jesus is saying to the Jews is I AM the very God of Abraham whom you claim to follow. I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I AM the God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt. I AM the one you dishonor when you claim I have a demon. I AM the good Samaritan who has come to save you from your sin. I AM here to bring you to safety. I AM the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. I AM God. Repent and believe the good news I AM here. They rejected him. They pick up stones to kill him. But Jesus walks away from them. It is not time for them to kill him yet. His day, on the cross is yet to come. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. [1] page 318. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume IV a Inter-Varsity Press, 2007 [2] page 311. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume IV a Inter-Varsity Press, 2007

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Acts 2:1-21; The Day of Pentecost; May 23, 2021;

Acts 2:1-21; The Day of Pentecost; May 23, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN; When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:1-21, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. “Lost Dog!” The sign said. “$500 reward. Description: Black and tan mixed breed. Flea-bitten. Left hind leg missing. Blind in right eye. Answers to the name, ‘Lucky’” Now Lucky doesn’t seem like much of a dog. Not to me anyway. But there is someone who wants him back and he is willing to pay the price to do it. The funny thing is that Lucky doesn’t sound like a dog that’s even able to do a lot. He certainly isn’t worth the reward that’s offered. He has no pedigree, can’t see, can’t run, plagued by fleas… and yet someone wants him back. Someone loves him that much. Have you ever felt like Lucky? Lost? Unable to do what needs to be done? I have. We all feel that way at one time or another. Actually, God makes it quite clear that we were all like Lucky. The entire human race is “lucky”: lost in our sins, hell-bound, spiritually blind and unable to see God, unable to do what God wants us to do. And yet, God paid the price to have us back. The price He paid was more than a $500 reward. He paid the price of His only begotten Son. Jesus suffered and died on the cross to have us found. Someone loves Lucky a lot. God loves us even more. You and I have already been found and returned home to have a relationship to God again. Now just think another moment about crippled, blind, worthless, Lucky again. I think the Disciples and the folks gathered on the first Pentecost felt. It’s true they’d seen the resurrected Jesus, but they probably felt pretty worthless to tell people about Him. Who’s going to believe a bunch of flea-bitten fishermen from Galilee? That’s where I think you and I can relate. I’m sure those folks gathered together there had the same fears and problems and questions you have when you think about sharing the Good News of Jesus with people. We feel pretty worthless when it comes to that kind of thing. It’s much easier to get out the checkbook and pay to have it done for us. I’ll bet you’ve had thoughts like these: “I don’t know the bible well enough to answer questions that will come up if I talk about Jesus.” “Christianity is too difficult to understand. It takes years to learn. Where do I begin?” “I can’t tell that person about my faith we have too much questionable history, they know me too well to believe my faith is real.” That last one thought is one of the reasons why I think evangelism is more difficult in communities like ours than anywhere else. It is difficult to speak about Jesus to someone you’ve known all your life and never had anything remotely spiritual pass between you. And Jesus name has only been spoken of as part of a curse. In communities like ours, we already have well established relationships, and those relationships have well established expectations, which may very well include the idea that religion isn’t to be discussed. Well, the disciples had similar problems. They doubted their ability to tell people about Jesus, just as you do. They didn’t just feel lost, like Lucky, but worthless, too. That’s one of the things I like about this account of Pentecost. I’ve read it hundreds of times, and every time I come to the same conclusion. The disciples didn’t do a thing. They sat in a room waiting, un-inspired to do what Jesus told them they would be doing. The thing that fired them up was the fire… of Pentecost. The rushing wind told them that God was there. They were filled with the Holy Spirit; the writer tells us. The tongues of fire that showed them what was happening to them also told them what to do next… it was the sign of what the Holy Spirit was giving them. I know the common picture you have in your mind is of the fire setting on their heads. It’s not a bad picture. But I think the fire is just as a literal translation would picture it. The fire distributed to them, in “tongues like fire.” Not on top of their heads but in their mouths, after all as soon as the Spirit came to them they began to speak. Now by this time the crowds had gathered to see what was going on. That windy sound drew them. And the disciples were speaking in languages they hadn’t learned, to people from all over the world, who understood what they were saying. And don’t think for one moment they were talking about the weather. When the Holy Spirit speaks, as He did on that day, He always speaks about Jesus. Nobody expected it to happen, least of all the disciples. But you see, God had promised that this is what they would do, and He always makes good on His promises. Peter got up before the crowd and preached a sermon. When it was done, the Holy Spirit gave the gift of faith to about 3,000 people. Pretty astonishing for a rag-tag group of fishermen from Galilee. Even though they were more like our dog Lucky, God used them to accomplish something great. The Holy Spirit equipped them to do the task that He gave them to do. Now, this is the point I want you to think about. You’ve been equipped to do exactly what God has called you to do. It might not be as dramatic as speaking in foreign languages you’ve never been taught. You might not hear the violent wind and have fire coming out of your mouth, but the very same Holy Spirit is in you that was in those disciples in Jerusalem. You see, that’s Jesus’ promise to you. “If I go, I will send Him to you.” In your Baptism God came to you in the person of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). He lives in you and He equips you to do the task at hand. Think about it this way: If He can make “Galileans” speak in foreign languages that they never learned, He can and will help you speak the simplicity of what Jesus did for you. That’s why we lit the candles during the Acts reading today. That fire you held in your hands isn’t the Holy Spirit, but I wanted you to feel connected to the disciples. There was no way for me to put that fire into your mouth… but that’s exactly what God has already done through the Holy Spirit in you. You might feel worthless like the dog, Lucky, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not up to you to say the right thing anyway. It’s only up to you to speak. Just like He gave the disciples the foreign words to say, He’ll give you the words to say. That’s exactly why He’s there. So, where do you start? How about a few practical tips: First, pray that the Holy Spirit will show you the opportunities you have. They are there in your everyday life. He’ll make you aware of them. Second, remember that even your Christian friends need to hear about Jesus. Just think about what it means to you to hear of God’s love for you in Jesus. It doesn’t matter if they are Presbyterian, Methodist, or even members of Trinity, we all need to hear about Jesus again and again. Keep it simple. You don’t have to preach a sermon, that’s my job. Just take a deep breath, call upon the Spirit and say something about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is right there to guide you, depend on Him. You have God’s promise that it will be enough. There’s a story in the Old Testament about the Prophet Elisha and a poor widow (2 Kings 4:1-7). She was about to lose everything so she came to Elisha for help. Her husband had died and the creditors were at the door. Since she couldn’t pay them, her sons were to be made slaves to pay the debts. All she had was a little flask of oil. The prophet told her to go to her neighbors and borrow all the containers she could get her hands on, “not too few!” He urged her. “Go into your house and start pouring… and pouring… and pouring.” She did what he said and as long as there was another pot to pour into, the oil kept flowing and flowing and didn’t run out. You know, God poured out His Holy Spirit on Pentecost just as He promised. He poured out His Spirit on you in Baptism and the Spirit never runs out. You see Him at work all the time. Every time another baby is baptized, every time the Cross of Christ is proclaimed, every time you hear “I announce the grace of God to all of you …” and even when you receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, which is the Holy Spirit giving and giving. So, Pentecost is for you. It’s a reminder that you aren’t alone, but Jesus is with you through the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. God promises us, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) He proves it through the life death and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He rescued you when you were lost and helpless. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

1 John 5:6-12; The Seventh Sunday of Easter; 16-Apr-21;

1 John 5:6-12; The Seventh Sunday of Easter; 16-Apr-21; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:6–12, ESV) (From the Lutheran Schools Week Chapel Talk, 2014, Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today we are going to talk about a big Greek word: μαρτυρία! Martyria means to witness. In our text for today it is the word testify. Many of the Christian believers that have gone before us were so steadfast in their witness, their testimony, of Jesus and their belief in Him that they were killed for that witness. That is why we get the term “martyr” from that Greek word. A martyr is one who is killed for his or her witness or confession [of Jesus]. But we have a big problem. All of us have a sinful nature. That is a part of us that is affected by sin. We don't always do the things that God would have us do. We fall short of his expectations. We Christians call that part of us the old Adam. Our old Adam keeps us from being perfect witnesses of Jesus. Sometimes we bend the truth … and sometimes we tell outright lies about things or people. People are always influenced by their sinful nature when they speak. Sometimes we leave things out so that we won’t be persecuted or treated differently for the things we believe. We like to be popular, and we like it when people like us. We can’t be perfect, but we can be faithful. Why? God, The Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts. He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a new beating heart full of faith in Jesus. That faith attaches itself to Jesus and His Cross. Faith is trust that God has forgiven our sins because of Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection. It wants nothing but to be with Jesus and His greater testimony concerning truth and life. Christianity is all about faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. We fall short of God's commands, so we deserve punishment, but he forgives us because Jesus suffered and died on the cross in our place. He was punished for us. You might also think of faith as an investigator. The duty of your faith is, first and foremost, to receive the forgiveness of sins Jesus has earned by His death and Resurrection, and then to take that truth and make it known to other people. The Bible verse we are talking about says there are three, high-profile, top-shelf witnesses for faith: The Holy Spirit: he takes everything that Jesus did, his perfect life, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection, and he gives it all to you. The water: we call it Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is where God's name is put onto a person with water. It is God's promise to a particular person that everything that Jesus did is given to the person who's baptized. Holy Baptism which uses plain water, is not plain water any longer because God's promises are stuck to it with God's name. And the final witness is the blood: also, in the Bible in the book of Hebrews it says that without the spilling of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. What it means is that people are accountable for breaking God's laws. Breaking God's laws requires the death penalty. Someone has to be held responsible for sin. It's connected to the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, which is our special meal hear in church. We eat bread and wine which are directly connected to Jesus body and his blood. The very same body and blood was shed for us on the cross. These three witnesses are strong. Every time we hear the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is active and present. Every time we see water, we can be reminded that God has washed away our sins, and that Jesus’ death and Resurrection are ours. Every time we eat the bread and wine of Holy Communion, we know that Jesus has shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We know of the accounts about Jesus healing a blind man and how he believed in Jesus. We know about Jesus feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. How Jesus takes care of us not only by feeding us, but especially by dying for us on the cross. We know about the Good Samaritan. He took care of the dying man on the side of the road who is beat up by robbers. This is exactly what Jesus does for us. He takes care of us. He forgives our sins. We also know about the lost son, called the Prodigal. He left his father and spent everything that he had. When he came back the father for gave him and reinstituted him into the family. It's what God does for us through Jesus Christ. That's forgiveness. We can be witnesses, or as the Bible verse says, we have the testimony. We have the message about what Jesus Christ has done. Jesus has planted His Word in our ears and created faith in our hearts. Remember that faith clings to Jesus’ Word and He remembers His promises. He is faithful, you can trust his promises. By His death on the Cross — today you are free from sin, and the punishment you deserve from God. Now we confess and we declare what we have heard because the Holy Spirit opens our lips and that confession pops right out. We cannot help but declare the truth of the Gospel that we have seen and heard. That's μαρτυρία, that's witness. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

John.15.9-17; Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021

John.15.9-17; Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; (From a sermon by Glen Neilson) As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:9-17, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Jesus calls us his friends. Right in the middle of this reading we hear him say to us, “you are my friends.” Right there in the middle of all that talk about doing what I command, obeying the Father, bearing fruit, Jesus says we are his friends. He says that he has a relationship with us, actually being our friend. We all know how precious and rare a good friend is. We all need someone to be friends with. There are times when we need a friend to discuss the troubles in our life. We all need someone to sit with for a cup of coffee, shop with, and even commiserate about life, kids, work and school. We know how important it is to have a good friend to do all those kind of things with, and yet, we also know how really rare, good friendships are. Today, friendships seem to be extra hard to build. They take time, and time is a luxury we seem to have so little of these days. Everyone is so busy, with school, work, family there’s little time left to develop a good friendship. And even when there’s time, we often lack the energy. Life today is full… There’s another problem too. Lots of people really don’t know how to be a good friend. All too often people use relationships for their own benefit, and their own purposes. People want you around and call you a friend when you can do something for them. They want you to be there when you can make them feel good, but as soon as a little trouble starts or as soon as you’re not useful anymore they split. Friendship is difficult when you get used, in the process. Friendship makes you vulnerable. That’s just the nature of the beast. Friends see us for who we are, with our masks removed. We let our guard down and tell them things we don’t tell anyone else. When the true you comes out you put yourself in a position to be hurt easily. That’s another reason why friendship is rare. Friendship is so rare that maybe it makes Jesus’ offer of friendship a little difficult to accept. We do what him to be with us, after all we gather together here Sunday after Sunday to come into contact with him. We want him to listen to our problems and he promises to do just that. He promises that nothing is too small a matter for him, and we can confide in him anytime. He always has time for us. He always treats us right. He promises to give us whatever we ask in his name. He actually was the friend who gave his very life for his friends. Jesus loves us, in spite of who we are. He promises to fill us with joy. He knows us for who we are and never turns us away. Jesus is the kind of friend we really want. What a precious gift it is to be chosen as a friend of Jesus. “You are my friends” Jesus says. Unfortunately, we aren’t good friends in return. We don’t spend the time and energy necessary for this friendship. We know what the pressures are. It’s difficult to get everyone up and around in the morning, just in time to catch the school bus, or off to work. Who has time for adding an extra half hour, or even fifteen minutes? for devotions? Sunday is a day to rest and catch up. It’s a day to relax and do nothing. No wonder our minds wander from the task at hand in worship. There’s so much to do today, especially with Memorial Day weekend approaching. Dinners in the oven or being picked up at Sven’s. And with meals are all too often around the TV instead of the table. Family devotions don’t fit very well during commercials. With all this busyness, with all this eating on the run, it is our friendship with Jesus that suffers. No time. No energy. No will to do it. Maybe his friendship with us isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Does he really treat me right? Does he really hear my prayers? All of them? Being chosen as a friend of Jesus hasn’t made my life any easier. Where’s that joy that he promises anyway? I’ve got pain in my life, and lots of it. And Jesus, “my friend” seems a long way away. My friendship with Jesus is filled with doubt. Jesus, our friend, shows us all our weaknesses. It’s painful when we compare ourselves with him. The bible tells us that He is perfect. We know that we are not perfect. He does everything right. We constantly fail. He loves perfectly. We give our love with conditions. He is a good friend. We are simply friendly. Who wants to hang around someone who is always opening those wounds? Who wants a friendship with someone who’s better than we are? It’s easier to avoid Jesus and let that friendship with Jesus die. And we’d let it die. But Jesus is too good a friend for that. Jesus considers His friendship with us so precious that He won’t let it die. He didn’t choose for us friends so that we’d wither up and die, like dead branches on the vine. He wants us to bear fruit. He promises joy and that’s what He gives with His friendship. Jesus is a true friend. He gives his time to us fully. As a matter of fact, he lived his whole life only for us, His friends. Jesus is no earthly or worldly friend. You don’t have any friends that are anything like Him. He did what was best for us even when it meant his own death, even when it meant sacrificing himself. He has that “greater love” that he was talking about. That’s true friendship, to lay down your life for your friends. He offers Himself, His very life for you. That’s why He took on human flesh. You and I are lousy friends. That’s because sin lives in our hearts and makes us selfish instead of selfless. The sinful nature that lives in our hearts doesn’t even want anything to do with God. That selfishness, that rejection of God, that lack of friendship, deserves punishment. God’s only punishment for rejecting Him is death. I know it seams harsh. We don’t run around killing people who don’t want to be friends with us, but God is different. He is perfect and holy. Rejection of God means rejection of everything that He is and stands for. There is only one place for people who reject God and His holiness. That place is hell. Because of that sin that’s in here, without friendship with God we are hell bound. But that’s not acceptable to God, so in steps Jesus, our friend. He leaves His Father and is born as a human being. He’s a perfect friend of God. He’s a perfect friend to the people all around Him. And He’s a perfect friend to you and me. You see, He gives his very life for us, even when it meant death and execution. Jesus laid down His life for you, His friends, on the cross. His friendship takes him to the darkness and pain of death. His friendship causes Him to suffer the punishment of hell for us that is the eternal separation our sinful nature really wants. So, you and I don’t have to face hell and its punishment. Jesus our friend has paid the price in full for us. But His friendship doesn’t stop in death. He takes His life up again. That’s where the joy is. It’s Easter joy! Jesus’ friendship for us didn’t die in the tomb. He rose again and came alive. He isn’t a dead friend who gave up everything for us. He is alive. A dead friend isn’t a good friend at all. Jesus is our friend forever. He’s a friend that is able to do whatever we need. He proves it by dying and rising again. That’s how He shows us that He will never leave us or forsake us. He knows who we truly are, and He is still our friend. He knew us before he died. He knew us on the cross, and He still died for us. He knows us now and still calls us his friends. What a friend we have in Jesus! Do we need a friend to talk to? Take it to the lord in prayer. Do we need a friend to walk with? He comes to us in His Word, right here. All we have to do is open your ears and listen to Him. Do you need to be close to your friend, Jesus? He comes to us in His very Body and Blood at this altar in the meal He gave us to eat. All we have to do is open our mouths and eat. That’s the personal touch of friendship that only Jesus gives. So, we’ve got lots of friends. If we rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, Jesus is 1,000,000. He’s the best friend that you will ever have. Do you need a friend? I do. You do, too. We need Jesus as our friend. A friend who has such great love that He lays down His life for us. A friend who has such great love for us that He give us the forgiveness of sins that we need. He is our true friend. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.