Monday, May 14, 2018

Sermon for Easter 7: "The Great High Priest"

+ 7th Sunday of Easter – May 13th, 2018 +
Series B: Acts 1:12-26; 1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11-19
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

John 17 is known as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, and for good reason. Jesus prayed this prayer on Maundy Thursday, the night before he laid down his life as a perfect sacrifice on the altar of the cross for us.

Just as the sons of Aaron in the Old Testament stood in the tabernacle before God’s presence and glory in the cloud, so too, the only begotten Son of God stands before his Father in his presence and glory. Unlike the priests of old, however, Jesus stands before God’s presence as God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; He not only possesses God’s glory, he is God’s glory in human flesh for us. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

As the priests of old prayed for Moses and the leaders of Israel, so too, Jesus prays for his disciples. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 

As the priests of old interceded for the people and offered sacrifices for sin on their behalf, so too, Jesus prays for us, intercedes for us, and is our mediator before the Father. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.
In the Old Testament, YHWH gave his people Israel priests, the tabernacle, and the sacrifices, not so they could earn or achieve holiness by their own work, but so they could receive and participate in YHWH’s holiness as a gift.

In many and various ways, the Old Testament priests point us to Jesus our Great High Priest. YHWH commanded Aaron and his sons, the Levites, to be consecrated and anointed with oil. They were chosen and set aside to serve YHWH and his people. They prayed, offered sacrifices, and declared YHWH’s promises in the tabernacle. They were clothed in holy garments, one of which, the ephod (a vest-like garment), had 12 precious stones fastened to it, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, a reminder that when the high priest went into the holy of holies (YHWH’s presence), he bore the names of the sons of Israel; they were YHWH’s treasured possession, his holy people.

At their ordination and consecration, YHWH commanded Aaron and his sons to make a sacrifice. The blood of the sacrifice was placed on the altar as a sign of cleansing and YHWH’s forgiveness of sin. The blood of the sacrifice was also placed on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of the priest.

Why the blood? Sounds gross. The life is in the blood. The blood was a sign of substitution. The life of an innocent animal in exchange for the guilty sinners – the priests and the people saved by blood. The Lord’s priests were called to hear God’s Word and be sanctified (set apart) by it. So, blood was put on his ear. They were called to use their hands for the service of YHWH and his people, so the blood sanctified (set them apart) for this task of sacrificial service. They were called to walk in the ways, words, and promises of YHWH, so their big toe was sanctified (set apart) with blood.

They were also commanded to eat unleavened bread and a portion of the flesh of the animal that had been sacrificed for atonement of sin. Throughout all this YHWH promised to meet with his people, dwell with them, and speak to them. The tabernacle was where he revealed and delivered his presence, his word, his glory, and his holiness. I will dwell among Israel and I will be their God, declared the Lord.

As Jesus prays his high priestly prayer, all of this is in the background. Jesus is our Great High Priest. Anointed for us. Sacrificed for us. Interceding and mediating for us.
Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 

Jesus is like the priests of old, only greater…Jesus is true God, begotten of his father from all eternity, but also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, and publicly declared God’s chosen, anointed one at his Baptism. Jesus not only bears the name of YHWH – I AM – but through his sacrificial death and resurrection he writes our names in his book of life. We are his treasured possession purchased and won by his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death for you. Our life is in his blood, shed for us on the cross, and poured out for us on the altar. Life by his blood. His death for our death. His life for our life. Jesus became the unsanctified, the unholy, the dead sinner on the cross to set you apart, give you his holy name, and raise you to life.

And now, Jesus our great high priest gives us his flesh to eat in the unleavened bread of holy communion and his holy blood to drink in the cup of salvation. Here in his sanctuary, everyone and everything is made holy by Jesus’ Word and promise. Jesus promises to meet with you, dwells with you, and speaks to you. “I will dwell among Israel and I will be your God,” declares the Lord.

This is what Jesus is praying for when he prays for his disciples, for his church, and for you in the high priestly prayer.

Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth. This is one of those prayers that’s easier prayed than done, at least for us. Kind of like parts of the Lord’s Prayer, are tough to pray if you think about it. Hallowed be Thy name. God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us. That God’s Word is taught in truth and purity and that we live holy lives according to it.

There’s the rub. There’s where we fall on our knees and discover we’re broken. We hear the truth about our condition, that we’re so corrupted by the virus of sin that everything we do must be surrounded by Christ’s forgiveness. We don’t always speak the truth, and when we do, we don’t always do it in love. We sin in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and left undone, said and left unsaid. Our ears are not always tuned to God’s Word and the voice of our Great High Priest. Our hands are not always attending to work of love others. Our feet do not always walk in his ways, words, and promises.

This is why Jesus prays the high priestly prayer. He prays for us. And Jesus our great high priest does for us what we could never do for ourselves. He makes the sacrifice for sin. His ears perfectly hear the Father’s Word for you. His hands perfectly loved and served God and his neighbor by placing them on the cross for you. His feet walked in the ways of the Lord for you. Jesus sets you apart to be his own, cleanses you from all sin, gives you his holiness, and sanctifies you in his Word.

Jesus our great high priest calls us priests as well. We are priests in the order of Jesus the Great High Priest. You are priests in your daily vocations in the home, workplace, school, or church; with friends, families, neighbors, and complete strangers. Our lives are holy in Jesus who made you holy by his sacrificial death. We are living sacrifices, as Paul writes in Romans 12. As Jesus sent his disciples into the world, so too, he sends us in our various callings in life. But you are never alone. Jesus our great high priest is with us, by his holy Word that declares:

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sermon for Easter 3: "Teaching and Eating"

+ 3rd Sunday of Easter – April 15th, 2018 +
Series B: Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some of life’s most important lessons happen around the dinner table, at meals with family or friends, or at church. We learn manners, polite conversation, current events, economics; we share each other’s’ joys and sorrows; we laugh and cry; we tell stories of our day at school, work, or something funny saw or read; we pray and read the Scriptures together. Listen to someone’s meal-time conversations long enough, or reflect upon your own, and you’ll quickly discover some of what is most important.

Our daily lives are full of this pattern of teaching and eating. And so are the Scriptures.

Teaching and eating were the heart and center of the Passover in Exodus. As the Israelites ate the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, and the roasted lamb they learned of the bitterness of their captivity, the haste of their impending escape from Egypt, and of the lamb who gave his flesh as food and sacrifice. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. YHWH spread their tables and painted their doorposts with signs of his promise, presence, and peace. 

Teaching and eating were a part of Israel’s life in the wilderness too. As the Israelites gathered and ate bread from heaven, Moses taught them. The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” The same Lord who revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave his personal name of YHWH – I AM WHO I AM – provides for his people teaching and eating. A sign of his promise, presence, and peace.

Jesus continues this same pattern of teaching and eating throughout his life and ministry. He is the divine meal and lesson planner, whose teaching and eating always points to the heart and center of his journey –his death and resurrection for Israel, for you, and for all.

When Jesus begins his public ministry in Luke 5, the Pharisees ask him, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners”. Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Teaching and eating revealed who Jesus was, a Savior for sinners.

When Jesus fed the five thousand in Luke 9, he began to teach his disciples that The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Teaching and eating revealed what Jesus would do to save us, to suffer and die in our place.

When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem in Luke 19, he found Zacchaeus, the tax collector sitting in a tree trying. Zacchaeus hurried down from the tree, went home, and prepared a meal in his house and Jesus went with him. And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house. Teaching and eating revealed that the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

When Jesus gathered his disciples for Passover in Luke 22, he taught and ate the Passover with them. It was old and new all at once. The bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and roasted lamb were all there. Yet, Jesus taught them something new in this eating and drinking. A New Covenant. A New Testament in his body and blood. Teaching and eating revealed his promise, presence, and peace.

Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

This is the teaching and eating we so desperately need. For without Jesus’ Word and without the food he provides in his body and blood, we are starved, empty, and consumed by our sin. Apart from Jesus’ teaching and eating we are left like Adam and Eve with a belly full of food and a heart full of sinful desires, but a life empty of God. Like the Pharisees, we are full of ourselves. We have lived as if God does not matter, as if our neighbor doesn’t matter, and that we matter the most.

Like the Emmaus disciples, the Lord must open our minds, eyes, hearts, and ears. The Lord must teach, feed, and reveal himself to us. And he does. In his teaching and eating.

“Peace to you!” Jesus declared to his disciples at Emmaus.

“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 

Peace to you, our Lord says today.

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.

For his disciples. For the world. For you.

In his teaching and eating Jesus revealed his promise, presence, and peace to his disciples at Emmaus. Only at the end of the road, as they reclined at the table with Jesus, as He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them – only then did they recognize him. As their teeth closed on the bread Jesus gave, their eyes were opened.

Jesus’ teaching and eating revealed the God who clothed himself in their sins that he might cover their nakedness and ours with his grace and forgiveness. They saw that he who knew no sin had tasted death for them, and for you. They understood that Jesus revealed himself in the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread.

So it is for you today. By His Word and by His Meal, Jesus makes himself known to you.
Jesus is your Passover Lamb sacrificed to set you free from captivity to sin and death.
Jesus Passover Lamb whose blood forgives you from all sin.
Jesus is the bread of heaven, whose flesh and blood are given for the life of the world, for you. Eat, drink, and live.
Jesus still eats and drinks with tax collectors, and sinners – with each of us, here at his table. Today, salvation has come to this house, for you in Jesus’ teaching and eating. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, to save you and feed you. For all the days and hours we have lived for ourselves, Jesus lived not for himself but for you. For all our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds that devour us, Jesus swallowed up death forever for you. For all times we’ve fed our passions and desires, Jesus digested our sin and condemnation. He drank the cup the Father placed before him, for you.

And now for you there is a meal which is stuffed full – not of condemnation and wrath – but full of God’s grace and salvation.

Today, the Emmaus miracle repeats itself. Today Jesus’ promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation are here for you in his teaching and eating. Today Jesus is present for you in the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread, just as he was at Emmaus. Today Jesus declares to you as he did his disciples: Peace be to you in my teaching and eating. The peace of Jesus in his body and blood for you.

Today our Lord opens our eyes, ears, hearts, minds, and even our mouths, to taste and see his death and resurrection for you in his teaching and eating.

A blessed Easter season to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sermon for Easter Sunday: "No Foolin'"

+ Resurrection of Our Lord – April 1st, 2018 +
Series B: Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Some days it seems like the calendar has a sense of humor, doesn’t it? Almost like it’s playing a prank on you. We’re used to this in Southern California. It’s the first day of winter and the Santa Ana’s are blowing, hottest day on record. It’s the first day of summer and June gloom covers the beach like a wet blanket. It’s Easter Sunday and it’s April Fools’ day.

“Joke’s on you, Christians,” some will say. A fools’ day for anyone who’s foolish enough to believe in a fairy tale. Jesus is no different than leprechauns or the Easter bunny. Wise up, don’t be a fool.”

Not a lot has changed over the centuries. Jesus was thought a fool in his day too.

As Jesus began his earthly ministry the Pharisees questioned his disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” How foolish.

Nazareth, his hometown, rejected him too. What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. What a fool that boy’s become.

When Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jews asked for a sign. Jesus gave them one. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. It’s taken 46 years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days? Who are you fooling?

The Pharisees said the same thing on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to palm branches waving and shouts of Hosanna! You see that you are gaining nothing. The whole world has gone after him. Fools, all of them.

Pilate’s soldiers, too, joined in the mockery before Jesus’ crucifixion. They clothed him in a purple cloak, pressed a crown of thorns upon his head, and placed a reed in his hand. Hail, King of the Jews! King of fools.

Even as Jesus hung on the cross, the scribes and chief priests could not contain their cruel jest. He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel come down from the cross that we may see and believe. A fool’s death for a fool.

And the truth is, if Christ is not raised, then we really are fools, and not just on April 1st.
As St. Paul boldly declares: If Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and our faith is in vain. If Christ is not raised from the dead we’re all liars.; we’re all wasting our time here this morning, and we’re still in our sins. They would all be right, but for one important, historical fact.

Christ has been raised from the dead. Christ is risen!

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time

On the cross, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. On the cross, God was rejected for us who had rejected him. On the cross, God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us. On the cross God became the fool for us rebels who have foolishly wandered.

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. In these foolish ways of God you are saved.

Jesus ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors for you. And he still does today in bread and wine with his body and blood.
Jesus was rejected by his hometown for you.
Jesus let the temple of his body be destroyed and raised up again three days later for you.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday for you; a rehearsal for his Good Friday procession to the cross where Jesus bore the shame and mockery, the lies and ridicule all for you, where Jesus took our foolish shame, pride, our sin and death and made it his own for you.
Jesus was crucified for you. He would not come down from the cross to save himself, but stayed there to save you. Jesus rose from the dead for you to bring you with him.

Indeed, the weakness of God is stronger than men. And the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
Today we hear the Good News that the women were not on a fool’s errand that first Easter morning. Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified one. He has risen. He is not here!

Today ours is not a fool’s hope in a fairy tale, but faith founded on fact. Eyewitnesses saw Jesus crucified, dead, and buried on Friday afternoon and alive again on Sunday. Credible eyewitnesses. Sane, sober, rational people who did not initially believe that Jesus had risen from the dead even though He had told them this would happen. They had everything to lose and nothing to gain from their testimony.

Today Jesus’ tomb is empty, the devil is the fool; the power of the Grave is a joke; and Death is put to shame in Christ’s resurrection.

Today we rejoice and laugh at the jaw-dropping wonder of the once-dead God who strolled right out of his grave, and one day, will call us out of ours as well. Today we celebrate the greatest punchline of all time. After all, the key to a good joke is the surprise ending, the twist no one saw coming. And nothing is more surprising than what we celebrate today.

Christ is risen. And death is dead.
Christ is risen. And your sin is covered.
Christ is risen. And the tomb is empty.
Christ is risen. And the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen. And you live forever.

Christ is risen. No foolin’.

A blessed Easter to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday Sermon: "Who is Barabbas?"

+ Good Friday – March 30th, 2018 +
John 18-19

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Most of us have a favorite book, movie, TV show, or song we love to read, watch, or listen again and again. Why? Many reasons. But one important reason is that the more often we read, hear, or watch something, the more we notice details we hadn’t seen before.

Holy Week and the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and resurrection are no different.

We read the same story every year. Like monarch butterflies, we have an annual migration to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, our source of life.

We know how the story goes. Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to palm branches waving as the streets echo with joy: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Jesus cleanses the temple and teaches his disciples. Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples and makes a new and greater Passover in his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus prays in Gethsemane, is betrayed, arrested, and tried by the religious authorities. Jesus goes to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate again. Jesus is mocked, beaten, and crucified.

In each of the Gospels, the gravity of Holy Week draws us in. Everything in Scripture flows into or out of this week and all that Jesus says and does for you. This is the greatest week in all history. The Great Week of our salvation.  Every detail is important. Every word and name are there for a reason.

You have a custom, Pilate says to the chief priests and the crowds, that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews? But the crowds cried out again: Not this man, but Barabbas.

Here we are in Holy Week, in the middle of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, and everyone and everything seems to be focused on Jesus. All the familiar characters of this story are there: Pilate, the chief priests, the crowds, and Jesus. But then the Gospels introduce a new character into the story, a name that sticks out.


Who is this guy, Barabbas? All four Gospels mention him by name. He’s not one of Jesus’ disciples. He’s not a sympathetic member of the religious council like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea.

Who is Barabbas?

Matthew calls him a notorious criminal. John says he was a robber, or an insurrectionist depending on the translation. Mark and Luke both identify him as a prisoner from among a group of rebels who had committed murder in Jerusalem during an uprising against Rome.

Who is Barabbas?

He’s a criminal. Rebel. Murderer. So, why does this criminal, thief, thug, and murderer get his name next to Jesus in this, the greatest week in history?

Even Pilate gets it. “What evil has he done? I find no guilt in him”, he says pointing to Jesus.
Do you see the irony, the contrast between these two prisoners? Do you see how upside down this is?

Barabbas is the rightful prisoner. Barabbas belongs on death row. He’s the bad guy. He’s a rebel. Thug. Crook. Murderer. He deserves the guilty sentence. He deserves the chains. He deserves punishment. He deserves crucifixion.

Who do you want for me to release to you? Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas. Give us Barabbas.

Pilate’s soldiers approach Barabbas. They release his chains. He goes free. We know nothing of what happened to Barabbas next. Whatever he did, it seems likely that he didn’t know, and perhaps didn’t care who Jesus was. Like the other 9 lepers, it appears that he didn’t bother thank Jesus for sparing his life. But that’s ok. Jesus isn’t there to be served but to serve and give life as a ransom, for Barabbas, and for you, and for me.

Just a few hours earlier Jesus had prayed, Father if it be your will let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. It was the Father’s will for Jesus to be treated like Barabbas, so that Barabbas (and us) could be treated like Jesus.

It wasn’t Pilate or the people who saved Barabbas. It was God’s love for sinners in his Son Jesus that saved him and saves you too.

Who is Barabbas?

I am.

You are.

We are Barabbas.

We are the crooks, the rebels, the murderers, liars, slanderers, betrayers, adulterers. We deserve the guilty sentence. We deserve the chains. We deserve punishment. We deserve death.

But God shows his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus stood next to Pilate and took Barabbas’ place, our place too; the innocent for the guilty. Jesus became the criminal to set us free. Jesus became the murderer to save us. Jesus became the guilty one to declare us innocent. Jesus took our death to give us life. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; We are all Barabbas. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

“Take me, instead,” Jesus declares. “I find no guilt in you. You are free. You are innocent. For this purpose I have come into the world. To die for you. To rise for you. To save you and give you life. Behold my cross. My life is yours. My righteousness is yours. My grace is yours. My body broken for you. My blood is shed for you. It is finished. For you. “

A blessed Good Friday to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon for Maundy Thursday: "The New Passover"

+ Maundy Thursday – March 29th, 2018 +
Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-17, 31-35
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sometimes a meal is more than a meal, more than nutrition, energy, and stomach-growling prevention. Sometimes the meal takes on a life of its own. Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Sunday dinners with family or close friends. The final meal of an inmate on death-row. A wedding reception and the cake. Eating is often about far more than eating.

On their last night in Egypt, during their last hours of captivity, the Israelites partook of a meal that was far more than a meal. It was a simple menu. No garnish or flourish of culinary excellence. Nothing was chosen for its nutritional content or its outstanding flavor pallet. In fact, one item was chosen precisely because of its bad taste. The Israelites ate bitter herbs, for the task-masters had embittered their lives for centuries, daily grinding them in slavery. As cows chew their cud, the Israelites were to chew these herbs, year after year, as an edible token of the bad taste left in their mouths from the acidic years in bondage.

Unleavened bread was also on the menu. Unleavened because Pharaoh would oust them from his land before the yeast had time to work its way through the dough. It was the bread of affliction. Eaten in haste because they left Egypt in haste, before Pharaoh changed his mind yet again. They ate the unleavened bread on their feet. It was the original fast food, yet sacred. Israel had to eat and run.

The bitter herbs were a dish of remembrance, and the unleavened bread anticipated their hasty departure. So, too, the main course, the roasted flesh of the sacrificial lamb. A meal that was more than a meal. The lamb was for them now, but it also pointed them to something yet to come. The roasted Passover lamb was a present, tangible sign that an innocent victim had been slaughtered in their stead, only a few short hours before. The Angel of Death would pass over their homes, sparing their firstborn sons, while passing into the homes of unbelievers, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.

Above and around the entrance to the homes of the faithful was painted the blood of the Passover lamb. It was a crimson hieroglyphic which translated into one saving message: “Pass over, O angel. God’s child lives here.” As the Israelites tasted the meat, they knew that neither they nor their sons would taste death. Their Good Shepherd had prepared a table before them in the presence of their enemies, a table that gave them light and life as they walked through the valley of the shadow of Egypt.

The Passover lamb, the Paschal lamb was a meal that bestowed YHWH’s present promise and blessing and, looked forward to his future blessing. The Passover lamb proclaimed a message that extended well beyond that night, and beyond the many Passover celebrations to come. Indeed, the whole meal – the bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and roasted lamb – this entire meal was an edible prophecy. This meal foretold a promise that they could sink their teeth into. It promised that what the Israelites were eating was but an appetizer, a foretaste of the feast to come.

Sometimes a meal is more than a meal. So it is tonight as well. We have simple eating and drinking, but it is far more than eating and drinking. Here is a table where the things of heaven are brought down into the things of earth. Here is where God comes down to us in our bondage to sin, not to kill his enemies, but to deliver us, to place his sacred body and blood into our mouth.
Once again, God feeds us, his people, his new Israel. Only this time, Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Once again, YHWH dwells with his people and spreads a table in the midst of our enemies. Once again, YHWH uses the ordinary things of creation to make his New and better Passover. Bread. Wine. Nothing to win you a Food Network Allstar award.

Once again, God wraps himself in the disguise of utter simplicity and ordinariness to save you. Water. Words. Bread. Wine. Suffering, Crucifixion. For you.

Take, eat, this simple bread is his body. It is the body of the Lamb who was not passed over but passed under the knife for you. Jesus passed under the court of the Sanhedrin, the sentence of spineless Pilate, the soldiers’ whips. Jesus passed under the beams of his cross, our guilt, shame, and all the evil this world could heap onto him. Jesus passed under the Father’s verdict over our sin – guilty for you. He who knew no sin became sin for you. No knife slices his throat open, as the Passover lambs of the Old Testament, but “nails, spear, shall pierce him through, The cross he bore for me, for you.”

Behold, the Lamb of God skewered on the beams of that cruel tree, all the flames of hell and God’s wrath, add to that the firewood of our iniquities, leapt up beneath this perfect sacrifice. Take, eat. This is my body given for you. Taste and see that the Lord. The Lamb of God, is good for you. So good, in fact, that in eating this meal, you are what you eat. Forgiven. Alive. Free.

Take, drink, this simple wine is his blood. It is the lifeblood of the Lamb given and shed for you. He gave his blood for you when he was already 8 days old. He gave his blood for you as he prayed in Gethsemane: Father, if it be possible to let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” He gave his blood for you as the whips tore into his muscles and the thorns stabbed his brow, and finally when the spear breached the dam of his flesh to spill his blood and water and fill every chalice and font of his church with his life given for you.

Take, eat. This is the body of Christ. Take, drink. This is the blood of Christ. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 

Sometimes a meal is more than a meal. For here is a meal that takes on a life of its own, or, rather, that takes the life of its maker, and gives it to you. And in taking this meal into yourself, you take on his life as your own. You Passover from death to life.

A blessed Maundy Thursday to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

5th Midweek Lenten Sermon: "Jeremiah and Jesus"

+ 5th Midweek Lenten Service – March 21st, 2018 +
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Image result for i will remember their sins no more

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Growing up, there was a fluorescent light in the basement that seemed to have a mind of its own. Sometimes it would turn on right away. Other times – usually when I was looking for something important – it would seem to take forever to turn on.

If you’re like me, our memory seems to work the same way most days. One moment we can remember the name of our 5th grade teacher and the next we’re struggling to remember that guy who said that thing in that one movie, you know the one right?

One moment we can remember every detail about the day, hour, moment, and what the weather was like when you met your spouse, and the next you can’t remember where you put our keys down when you came inside.

One moment we can remember any number of grievances against someone, and the next we have trouble remembering anything we could have possibly done to offend or hurt anyone else.

In the Old Testament, Israel had their own memory issues as well.

By the Red Sea, Israel praised YHWH for their deliverance from Egypt. But in the wilderness, they grumbled against YHWH, rebelled against His word, and forgot the Lord.
In the time of the Judges, YHWH raised up one leader after another to deliver and rescue his people. But they rebelled and rejected YHWH; everyone did what was right in his own eyes, and they forgot the Lord.

In the days of Israel’s kings, YHWH anointed David his chosen servant, cleared Israel’s enemies from their borders, promised to build a temple through David’s son, Solomon, and promised David that One would come from his family who would reign on his throne forever. But Solomon’s wisdom turned to folly, filling his home, the Lord’s house, and all Israel with idolatry. Israel’s worship turned from YHWH to false gods. The kingdom divided and king after king, with few exceptions, forgot the Lord.

Later, when Israel was in exile and captivity in Babylon it would have been tempting to think. “Here we are in a foreign land, far from our home and the Lord’s house in Jerusalem. We’re all alone. Perhaps we’re better off dead. We broke the Lord’s commandments and he no longer remembers his covenant. We forgot the Lord and the Lord has forgotten us.”
It’s true. Israel forgot the Lord more times than they could remember, but the Lord never forgot his people. YHWH always remembered his holy covenant, his oath he had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He remembered covenant he made with Noah, Abraham, David, and Israel.

Through his prophet Isaiah, YHWH declared to Israel…

I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Through his prophet Jeremiah, YHWH spoke to Israel to remind them time and time again.

“I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This was Good News for Israel. And it is Good News for us too.

After all, we have a lot in common with Israel. We’re quick to forget our faults and slow to forget anyone who has sinned against us. But memory issues aren’t the real problem. Like Israel our spiritual amnesia is much deeper – not in our head, but in our sinful hearts. If you, O Lord, kept a record of our sins; if you, O Lord, remembered all our sins, who could stand? None of us. Like Israel, we have rebelled and grumbled against the Lord. Each of us has done what is right in our own eyes. Like David we have lusted in and murdered in our hearts. Like Solomon we have failed to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We have forgotten the Lord.

But the Lord has not forgotten you.

The Covenant YHWH swore to Abraham he makes with you as he makes you his own child in holy Baptism. As many of you as are baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And if you are Christ’s, you are Abraham’s son, heirs according to the promise.

The son and king YHWH promised to David was born for you in the city of David, a true Shepherd King who laid down his life for you on the cross. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

The yearly remembrance of the Passover has been replaced by a greater feast of remembrance in Jesus’ body and blood. In bread and wine, body and blood, Jesus remembers his holy covenant with you, his sacrifice for you, and we receive his forgiveness, life, and salvation.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

The covenant of Sinai that we, along with Israel, broke and failed to keep, God has kept for you. All its demands have been fulfilled and kept in your place.

 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The Lord who knows all, sees all, and remembers all, promises to forget our sin; it is remembered no more. It is gone. All of it – our sin, guilt, doubt, sorrow, and death – it’s all on Jesus.

The Lord who sent Jeremiah and the prophets to Israel sent his only-begotten Son to die for you. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. The Lord remembers you, as surely as he promised the thief on the cross next to him.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Truly I say to you, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.