Sunday, March 26, 2023

John 11:1-44; The Fifth Sunday in Lent; March 26, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”” (John 11:1–44, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is important to understand Lazarus was rotting and the grave. He was four days dead. When word reached Jesus that Lazarus was sick, he had time to intervene. But he didn't. He stayed two more days where he was. "This illness will not lead to death. It is so that the glory of the son of God may be shown." That was Jesus’ response. After the two more days Jesus said it was time to go. The disciples were reluctant because Jesus enemies were looking for opportunities to kill him. But Jesus said, "our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, I go to awaken him." The disciples misunderstood they thought Lazarus was resting. Jesus knew Lazarus was dead. In fact, the two days were to make sure of it. "Lazarus is dead. If I had been there, he would not be so, but this is so that you may believe."

It took two more days for Jesus to arrive in Bethany. When he was out of town Martha, Lazarus sister, went out to meet him. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, he will give you." It's an amazing statement of faith. And yet, she still misses the point. "Your brother will rise again." Jesus said. Martha says that she knows that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day. This is not what Jesus meant. "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." Jesus is telling Martha that he has the power to raise Lazarus, now. He is the Word made Flesh. He is the Word that spoke the world into existence. In him is life. He will bring it to Lazarus again, now. And although Martha believes she still doesn't see.

Lazarus other sister Mary, comes to see Jesus. The large group of mourners followed her. She meets Jesus in the same place Martha did. She says the same thing, "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died." Now Jesus is "greatly troubled." Mary doesn't see what's going to happen, either. "Where is the tomb?" says Jesus. They took him to see it. And Jesus wept. Lazarus was dead. The disciples didn't understand. Martha didn't understand. Mary didn't understand. The Lord of life was standing before them, Lazarus was dead. Something miraculous was about to happen. None of them see. And then the crowds there, the mourners, speak the truth but missed the point. "It's too bad Jesus wasn't here, Lazarus would not be dead."

"Take away the stone." Commands Jesus. It's Martha who comments on the smell of rotting Lazarus. "It's not a good idea the smell of death will be in the air. He is dead. Four days dead." Jesus’ response could be said, "Didn't I tell you that you would see the glory of God? Don't you see what's about to happen?" And Jesus prays. He doesn't pray for the sake of himself. He doesn't pray for the sake of Lazarus. He prays for the sake of the people who are standing with him. "That they may believe that you sent me."

Jesus turns to the tomb. He cries out in a loud voice "Lazarus, come out!"

The hymn "Amazing Grace" has the well-known line "I was blind, but now I see." but do we? Jesus disciples who lived with him, walked with him, ate with him, heard him preach, didn't see. Mary and Martha, Jesus good friends, didn't see. The crowds gathered around the tomb didn't see. They understood that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus' death. They likely knew that Jesus waited, delayed his coming. It was all to be sure that Lazarus was dead. And not just dead but four days dead. They didn't see. God had other plans then a miracle like all the others that Jesus had done. He allows Lazarus to suffer and die for the sake of what was about to happen. Jesus probes for faith among the crowds, Mary, Martha, and the disciples. He wants them to see who he really is. He wants them to have faith in him even while they stare death in the face. They all confess the truth and yet they miss the point. Chrysotom the 4th Century preacher said,
Many are offended when they see any of those who are pleasing to God suffering anything terrible. There are those, for instance, those who have fallen ill or have become impoverished or have endured some other tragedy. Those who are offended by this do not know that those who are especially dear to God have it as their lot to endure such things, as we see in the case of Lazarus, who was also one of the friends of Christ but was also sick. Chrysostom. (Homilies on the Gospel of John; 62.1; Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; volume IV b page 3)
Do we see? When illness enters our family. Do we see? When we are troubled by the cares of the world that seemed to close in on us. Do we see? When life ebbs away in the hospital. Do we see? When the world around us threatens us. God's purposes are above our understanding. We cannot always see what God is about to do. Jesus probes for faith among you and me. Faith is not trust that we will see that things turn out for the best. Faith is trust that they will turn out for the best, despite how things seem. It's just as the writer of the Hebrews says,

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1, ESV) And the author of Romans who says,
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28, ESV)
These are the promises of the one who spoke to Lazarus in the grave. You realize that if he had not said Lazarus name specifically everyone in the grave would've walked out alive. Such is the power of the Word of Life. He speaks life into a dead rotting corpse. The smell of death that surrounded Lazarus faded into nothing. He allowed Lazarus to die so that we would see exactly who he is and what he is able to do. He allows Lazarus sickness that seems to lead to death to progress to death and then through his word back to life. Mary, Martha, the disciples, the crowds gathered around, and even Lazarus himself could not see the wonder of what Jesus was about to do. Do you think that some years later, when they gathered around the body of Lazarus once again, the second funeral was somewhat different than the first?

It was different from the first because of Jesus. They had seen Jesus raise Lazarus. They had seen Jesus dead on the cross. They had mourned at the tombs. And then they all rejoiced in seeing Jesus after three days again a life. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He did it to show them his great power over death. And then he suffered and died on the cross for the forgiveness of all people. And again, showed his power over death in his own resurrection. Jesus is the Word of Life. He raises the dead. He rises from the dead himself. And this is his promise to you. If you go to the graveside this week as we commit the body of our brother [Al] to the ground, you will hear Jesus promise through Paul's pen.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–57, ESV)
And for the sake of all of this, Jesus' friend, Lazarus, was allowed to pass from life to death to life and into death again. And so, it is for you and me. Your troubles, your problems and your trials are all there for the purposes of seeing your faith in the Word of Life grow. You can be sure that the one who raises the dead will work them all out for your good. Amen.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2023

John 9; The Fourth Sunday in Lent; March 19, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Well, there’s quite a cast of characters here in our Gospel lesson for today isn’t there. Jesus and his disciples, a born-blind man who sees, the blind man’s parents who are afraid of excommunication, the friends and neighbors of the blind man, and the Pharisees. They all have interesting reactions to Jesus. And we might wonder where we fit in the story too. Who are we most like?

Well, we could look at that unbelieving Pharisees and compare ourselves to them. How often do we refuse to believe what God shows us plainly? They had the proof of Jesus right in front of them, but they wouldn’t believe. It isn’t really a fair comparison. We have faith, they did not. We could compare ourselves to the parents who were afraid to tell the whole story that they surely knew. Isn’t that just like us, keeping quiet when we know God’s will or are just afraid to say what we do know about Jesus. But mostly we aren’t afraid of telling the story of Jesus. We could be like the neighbors offering other explanations, “He only looks like the blind man that we know.” Some of them said. When God’s word condemns our pet sin, we look for ways to excuse ourselves. We look for some other explanation so that we aren’t condemned. But that isn’t the case always, either.

Today I’d like us to think about the question that the disciples asked. In some ways you might say the whole disagreement starts because they ask the question. Now Jesus never discouraged them from asking questions, and they have a great one here. Who sinned, this man or his parents? It was a perfectly logical question for the disciples to ask. It’s a question that you’ve asked, too. It comes up every time we must deal with a problem we didn’t anticipate, like an illness, a complication, a loss of income, or even death. We look at the devastation caused by the fires last year, or the drought in California, and wonder what happened, what was done that was so evil to justify that kind of problem. When the World Trade Center Towers fell, there was some talk by some popular TV evangelists that it was God’s punishment for our country’s moral struggles. And there may be some truth to that. It’s only natural for people to want to know who to blame when bad things happen. In Jesus’ time was no different. The people in his day believed that problems like blindness were the direct result of a sin committed. A child in the womb could bear the punishment for their parent’s misdeed, especially if the sin had to do with worshipping pagan gods. In such a case, according to the prevailing wisdom, the unborn child was just as guilty as the parents were. It was assumed, especially in children born blind that it was the result of some hidden sin in the done by the parents. Notice how the disciples didn’t ask if the blindness is the result of a sin, they want to know what the sin was and whose fault it was.

People have asked this question of me. As I sit beside hospital beds, as I speak to people who are suffering illness and facing death, as I visit with people suffering from problems they can’t identify, from the actions of the people they love, they most often want to know why they must suffer. They want to know what they have done that caused God to treat them this way. In not so many words the questions always come up, “Who sinned to cause this problem? Did I do something wrong? Is God angry with me? Why is he punishing me?”

Jesus’ answer is as important as any uttered in Holy Scripture. “It was not this man or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus tells the questioning disciples that there is a reason for suffering that they have totally overlooked. The blindness in this man isn’t caused by a direct sin. Instead, it is allowed by God for his own purposes. Certainly, Jesus isn’t saying that sin doesn’t have consequences. If we break the law, we face the full force and punishment of the court system. If we overindulge our bodies will be affected; too much smoking causes cancer, too much alcohol causes cirrhosis of the liver, too much food causes obesity that leads to a host of other bodily problems. But Jesus is saying that sometimes God uses suffering in our lives for other reasons, reasons that may be beyond our grasp. “…that the works of God might be displayed…”

Wait just a minute? You mean God used this man by allowing him to be blind, just so he could heal him? Does God use people that way? Does God use me like that? Does he let me suffer so he can prove a point.

Imagine the pain in this family as they dealt with blindness. They had hopes and dreams for their son that were all dashed when he was born blind. Blindness meant shame on the family. Blindness meant no means of self-support except begging. Blindness meant, according to the thinking of the day, a sin had been committed.

But try as we might, an issue such as a person born blind mostly has no discernable answer in this life. Unless it is revealed to us by God’s word, as in the case of this man. When cancer strikes with none of the typical risk factors, when an accident takes a life or causes a permanent injury, when death come unexpectedly, suddenly of “natural causes”. Try as you might, we can’t always find the reason. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus puts a fine point on the issue.
Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4, ESV)
He is saying that the world is broken, and people die of no fault of their own. It’s what happens in a fallen and sinful world. It is the curse of sin cast on everything. We die from many reasons, because we are all sinners, and the world is groaning in travail. He does point to what can be done about it,
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5, ESV)
Repentance is the only thing that changes the human destiny to death. Pleading to the Father for forgiveness, carrying our burdens to the cross, expecting forgiveness in Jesus blood, is the only thing that changes anything in this broken world. That’s repentance, it is just another word for faith.

Jesus uses the tower falling as an opportunity to preach repentance. When we see such things we are to remember that they come to us because we are sinful, because the world is broken. Our response can only be, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” Faith put into words.

Jesus in John 9 uses the blind man as an example. It’s interesting the way he does it. He could simply have spoken the word and his blindness would have been healed instantly. Instead, he spits on the ground and makes a spit-mud cake and puts the paste on the man’s eyes. He tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus is, in a sense, catering to the common ideas of the culture. Saliva was thought to have curative properties. Healers would commonly use a method just like this in their practices. And the pool too, was thought to have similar properties. It appears that Jesus has set up the conflict with the pharisees.

In the investigation, the man can’t identify Jesus (it would have been much different if he had received his sight instantly). The grilling is intense, much like one you’d expect to see in a procedural police drama. They ask the same question again and again. “How? Where? Why?” and finally “What do you say about him?” His simple answer is “He is a prophet.”

It was not the answer they wanted. So, they move on to the parents. “Is this your son? Was he born blind or just faking?”

“Yes, this is our son. He wasn’t faking. We don’t know who did it. Ask him yourself.”

Just look at the animosity toward Jesus. The claim not to know who did the healing. But they have already decided to excommunicate anyone who claims (or even hints) that Jesus is the Messiah. The irony is that the man previously blind man doesn’t care about being put out. He is already out because of his blindness. He was considered unclean and not allowed to participate. So when they go back to questioning him, he gets in this zinger. “Ah, you must want to become his disciples?” I think he knew that wasn’t the case. The pharisees are outraged. “We are disciples of Moses. This man (they still refuse even to say his name) isn’t.” “Amazing!” he says.
Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”” (John 9:32–33, ESV)
They threw him out. Why? Because he was confessing Jesus as the Messiah. You see, curing blindness was a specific prophecy for the Messiah alone. Other prophets had done other miracles, but curing blindness, and particularly a man born blind is reserved for only the messiah. You see, they know exactly who Jesus is. How could they not. They had seen firsthand all that Jesus was doing among them. They know he is the Messiah sent by God. But he isn’t the messiah they want. He doesn’t hold them up for all they believe they have done right. He eats with sinners and rejects them. They will do anything to prevent Jesus from doing what he has come to do.

After all this, we get to the crux of the account of the man born blind. Jesus finds him again. And asks,
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”” (John 9:35b, ESV)
He had already confessed his faith in a sense, seeing right through the Pharisees hypocrisy about Jesus’ identity. Jesus also here clearly identifies himself as the Christ. The title “Son of Man” does that. He isn’t just calling himself human, he is claiming to be the one sent by God as told about in the Old Testament. “Who is he, that I might believe in him?” Note that the formerly blind man is not asking who the Son of Man is, he just wants to be pointed specifically at the one who is. Jesus says, “He is me”. And the immediate response is faith.

Jesus caps it all off.
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”” (John 9:39, ESV)
It is a statement exactly aimed at the Pharisees. The see, they know who Jesus is, and yet they refuse to believe. His last words in this account are chilling, “your guilt remains.” In other words, you have no faith, you are hell bound.

Jesus reveals what faith is. It is the entire purpose of the text. Faith is, not only knowing who Jesus is, but clinging to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Faith is repentance. Knowing our sing and placing it at the feet of the one who forgives sinners. Clinging steadfastly to God who promises it and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, stubbornly confessing Jesus in the face of all odds.

Not all our troubles are so dramatically used by God. Yet, in a way they are. All of them push us to Jesus Christ. All of them clearly display our need in our brokenness. Our need for Jesus. Some are used in a very personal way, while others are more public. God uses them and us, none-the-less. He does it to point to Jesus our savior and the world’s savior. Amen.

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

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Exodus 17:1-7; The Third Sunday in Lent; March 12, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”” (Exodus 17:1–7, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Ok, it’s time to set the stage. The Children of Israel had only just been saved from slavery in Egypt. The Ten Plagues got them out, especially the last one that took the life of all the first born whose houses didn’t have the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts. Pharoah gave in and sent them away. After they were gone, he changed his mind and went after them with an army. They were trapped between certain death and the Red Sea. But God protected them by placing a pillar of fire between them and their enemies. Then he directed Moses to raise his arms and the sea parted so they could escape. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. Pharoah’s army wasn’t so blessed. They were all drowned when the water came back to place and covered them. It was time to move on to Rephidim. After this they would go to Mt. Horeb (also called Mt. Sinai). God moved them on to Rephidim in stages, maybe family by family. As they arrived it was plain to see that there was no water. I’m sure as their numbers grew each family was told by the previous arrivals the situation. No water meant death by thirst. So, the grumbling began. It's amazing after no less than a dozen miracles they wouldn’t see God at work. That they would grumble, complain, and make threats against Moses.
“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
What had they just witnessed? Did they really think that God didn’t have something else in mind? Where not the many miraculous acts enough to tell them he would take care of them? Their complaints get right at the heart of the matter. According to them Moses/God had delivered them from Egypt to let them die.

Moses was exasperated already. “What shall I do with this people?” He seems to understand their lack of faith in the face of God’s miracles. “They are almost ready to stone me.” He means only a little bit will tip over the cart and they will resort to violence. Moses is afraid of death.

God replies.
“Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”
He will act in full view of them all. Moses will walk in front of them, taking the elders to the rock at Horeb, strike it with his miracle staff, and the people will have water. God will save them through a miracle once again.

There is something you should notice here. I know it’s a lot to ask so early on a Sunday morning, and maybe you don’t know Israel’s geography that well. But they are not yet at Horeb. Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai. It is their next stop. It is a fair distance away. Several days travel at the least. Moses didn’t travel all the way there, to strike the rock. It presents just a little problem in the text. It is a problem that was known even to the scholars of old. How did the rock at Horeb get to Rephidim? Some scholars (old and recent) have mocked this text for being inaccurate. But it should not give us any trouble. There are two answers.

The first, in the tenth century the Masoretes found that the old Biblical language was becoming lost. If you remember, I’ve told you that the original written Hebrew didn’t contain vowels it was written with only consonants. Over time the Biblical language of Hebrew fell into disuse. The Masoretes added vowels using a pointing system, to make it easier to read. Well, the pointing system isn’t inspired. When they added the text, they may have added the wrong vowels changing the word to “Horeb” from “dryness”. So the rock may be the “rock of dryness”.

The second, and this is the long-held church (Old Testament) tradition, is that the Rock of Horeb actually followed the people of Israel throughout their travels in the wilderness. It is just like the pillar of cloud and fire. (Add three more miracles the people ignored). In this case we see that the Masoretes may have purposely pointed the word as Horeb, because of the church tradition that predated them. And this seems to be exactly what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 10 (he is referring to the people here).
… they (the people of Israel at Rephidim) drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4, ESV)
Now of course Paul calls the Rock a “spiritual” rock and Christ. And Christ was certainly present with the people all through their travels in the wilderness.

The hymn we just sang, “Rock of Ages” understands the idea very well, and points us to Jesus presence with them and us. Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Rock at Horeb (or Rock of Dryness) is cleaved open so that water pours out to save the people at Rephidim. The same Rock is cleaved open at the cross where when he was stabbed with the spear blood and water poured out. Jesus saves us through his blood and water, through his cleaved side. It washes us clean from our sin. It is our cleansing baptism in his name, and his cleansing blood that cleans when “the labors of my hands” “All for sin could not atone”. It is a beautiful image the hymn brings to us. “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.” When our sins are a great burden to us, “to the thy cross I cling” and Jesus cleft side, his atoning work for us. We hide in the comfort of all that Jesus has done.

So, you may be asking the difference between Israel’s complaints and David’s complaint that we talked about Wednesday night. Paul clears that up for us. He says,
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6, ESV)
They were not clinging to the promises of God. In fact, their complaint is through a lack of faith (even in the presence of all those miracles showing God’s presence!). In their moment of weakness, in their sin, they refuse see what God that God is present, and what he can do and is in fact doing for them. “Is the Lord (YHWH) among us or not!” They were already receiving what David longed to see. David is calling on God to keep his promises in faith despite of how he feels. “God it feels like you are far away, paying no attention to me. God do what you have promised to do! Be present with me! Let me see it in my life!”

Dear Christian friends, cleave to the cleft Rock of Jesus. Take your sin to him and ask him to do exactly what he promises. At the cross he promises forgiveness, life, and salvation. At his resurrection he promises new “Life in Christ.” He promises his presence in your life. Hold him to those promises. Is it surprising that he has already done it before your prayer. Your signs are here, Holy Baptism, his act of cleansing and connecting you directly to Jesus. Water poured out on your head so you can be sure it is all for you. The Holy Supper on this altar today. God’s gracious act of forgiveness through the body and blood of Jesus that goes into your mouth. The Word preached into your ears. Law and Gospel to convict and comfort you.
Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace: Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die. (LSB 761v3)

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

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; Second Sunday in Lent; March 5, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” (Genesis 12:1–3, ESV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:1–6, ESV)
From a Sermon by Rev. Randy Asburry

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

When you plant a seed, after you have covered it up with dirt, there is time before you see the sprout come up. It becomes a time of faithful waiting. While you wait you can’t see anything happening. You can’t uncover the seed and see if it’s sprouted (if you do it will likely die). In the darkness of the soil the seed germinates and begins to grow and take root.

That’s the way it was with God’s family tree, too. He planted the seed and then came time for faithful waiting. God promised the Seed of His Savior to rescue sinful people. The promised seed would crush Satan’s head and bring life and forgiveness to God’s people once again. After it was planted there was a time when the Seed of God’s Family Tree was hidden, a time when no one could see what was happening. A time before it sprouted and began to grow.

It begins with Adam and Eve. After them the human family tree grew rapidly. According to Genesis “man began to multiply on the face of the land.” (6:1) But sin was ever present, and the tree was corrupt. “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (6:5) God sent a flood to clean everything up and later he scattered the people every whereby confusing their language.

But still even during God’s judgment against sin, the Seed of the Promised Savior, remained planted. Even during trouble God kept his faithful people safe. They trusted Him and believed in the promised Savior. It’s after all of that that we find Abraham. He is often called the “Father of Nations.” God called him to faith in the promised Savior. God called Abraham with a promise.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Ge 12:2-3, ESV)

Abraham was 75 years old when God called him to faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. The life of faith is never easy. Before God called him, Abraham worshipped false gods. But even after he believed he still had troubles. He still had doubts about God’s promise to him. He had doubts about God’s planted seed, too. Abraham even thought that God’s promise would fall to someone else. He thought his servant Eliezer of Damascus, would inherit all that he had including God’s promises. But God made his promise clear, And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (Ge 15:4, ESV)

In spite of all God’s promises to us, we too, like Abraham have trouble trusting God and his promises. Lot’s of times, it’s hard to see God’s work in our lives. Abraham was very old. He didn’t think God could give him the promised son. When things go bad in our lives, we too have trouble seeing the results of God’s saving work in Jesus. We struggle in our faith whenever we see things that seem to go against what God promises. You know what I’m talking about. Some of you have recently lost loved ones. Some of you have lost a job. Some of you have struggled to keep your business afloat. We all struggle with temptations to sin. In the face of these kinds of troubles it’s hard to believe that God is active life. Death makes it hard to believe that God gives us life through Jesus Christ. Economic troubles make it hard to believe that God provides for all our needs. Recurring sin makes it hard to believe that God makes us holy through the work of the Holy Spirit.

One of the times when Abraham had doubts about God’s promises, he tried to make his own solution. The Bible tells us about the additional trouble that that brought into Abraham’s life. Our solutions always fall short of God’s promises. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. (Ps 146:3, ESV) one of the Psalms tells us. He’s talking directly to you. He’s warning you not to trust in yourself and your own ways of fulfilling salvation. God promised Abraham a son of his own He wasn’t going to fulfill that promise through Abraham’s servant.

But despite all his doubts, Abraham is still a great example of faith. And [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Ge 15:6, ESV) So, what is it that makes Abraham a great example? It’s not that he lived a perfect life. Before God called him to faith, he was an idol worshipper. It wasn’t he record of dealing with other people. Abraham lied about his wife two times, saying that she was his sister, to avoid troubles. And it certainly wasn’t because he always trusted God, he tried to make his own solutions, and he fell into despair and doubt on more than one occasion.

One of the Lutheran Church fathers writes this in our statement of faith. “Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings.” (Tappert, Ap IV 49). That’s Abraham. He received God’s mercy and clung to God’s promise that He would send a Savior. At times for Abraham that promise was hidden like a seed in the ground. But, Abraham still believed even though the growth of God’s promise was hidden to him.

Finally, when Abraham was 100 years old, the promise broke through the soil, when Isaac, Abraham’s very own son, was born. The family tree grew. Isaac had two sons, Jacob, and Esau. Jacob had 12 sons. And God’s Family tree was in full grow mode. After a short stay in Egypt where God delivered them from slavery, God replanted His people in the Promised Land. But, even there, there would be struggle, and God’s people would still have to live by faith in the promise.

God delivered His promise when Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary. The Promised Tree came to full bloom in Jesus, when He hung on the cross, dying for all sin. Two Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke) trace Jesus family tree right back to Abraham and his family. Abraham looked forward to the promised tree. We look back in wonder.

Jesus called himself the “true vine” (John 15:1). He said that if you are connected to him, you will have life and bear fruit. That’s Jesus talking about The Tree Promised. The fruit that He gives is faith. In faith, we see Jesus as God’s Promised Tree of Life. He takes on human flesh and blood so that he can be nailed the tree of the cross. That’s the Tree of Promise in full blossom. That’s God fulfilling His promise to save people from sin. And He connects you to all that Jesus did through the promise He made to you in Baptism. And He renews that promise every time you take Jesus body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Faith receives what God gives. That’s the faith of Abraham. When you have trouble trusting in the promises of God, promises of forgiveness and life with Him, remember how God kept Abraham. Remember the Seed Planted. Your God will always bring you comfort in the same way. He gives you Jesus who was promised, who went to the cross for you, and who is coming again. Amen.

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