Monday, May 2, 2016

Sermon for Feast of St. Philip and St. James: "The Lord Builds His Church"

+ Festival of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles - May 1, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 30:18-21; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 14:1-14

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

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Today the Christian Church remembers two pieces of this foundation: St. Philip and St. James (the lesser/younger).

Through his prophets and apostles, God laid the foundation. God built the house, every wall, room, and floor on the Cornerstone of Christ Jesus, not with brick and mortar, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Some planted, others watered, but God gave the growth. As Jesus promises the disciples before he ascends to heaven: “I am with you always.”

Today is a blessed reminder that in every age, God builds his church.

From the early church to today, he added stones to the foundation such as Athanasius, Ambrose, and later Augustine. There was Basil, Bede, and Johann Bugenhagen. Luther, Melanchthon, and Martin Chemnitz, and many more.

Two thousand years later, God continues to build his Church. This past week was call day for our seminaries. God added more stones to the foundation. Laborers sent into his harvest. I remember sitting through a similar service myself just about 8 years ago, and by God's grace here I am still.

But the feast of St. Philip and St. James isn’t just a day to thank God for the church fathers, known and unknown who proclaim the Word to us.

Today is also for us, the hearers of the Word. As Paul reminds us, you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

Like Philip and James, God’s Word must come to us. Jesus speaks and makes saints out of sinners, disciples out of fishermen, and citizens of God’s Kingdom out of exiles and strangers from heaven. Jesus makes us a temple of the Holy Spirit out of a heart that was a den of thieves.

Jesus does all of this for you the same way he did for Philip and James: by His Word spoken and delivered for you. By his life, laid down for you. By his resurrection from the dead for you.

Philip and James don’t have long, fantastic tales written about their work as apostles. We do know that Philip told Nathanael to “Come and see” Jesus (John 1). Later he invited some Greeks to hear Jesus as well (John 12). And, as we heard today, he asked Jesus to show him the Father.

About James we know even less. His mother was one of the women at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, and he’s listed among the disciples.

It seems like we know nothing about these men. But what we do know is enough. We know Jesus called Philip and James to be his disciples. We know Jesus sent them out as his apostles. And that is enough. They heard Jesus’ Word. Jesus sent them to preach and teach everything that he had given them. And that’s what Philip and James did. Acts 2:42 tells us the same: they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

That’s the simple answer that church consultants, endless vision statements, and countless books have missed. How does Christ build his church? Teaching God’s Word. Eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper. Fellowship in Christ with each other. And the prayers, that is the Divine Service.

Though we don’t have all the details, that’s what Philip and James were called to do. God calls us to do the same.

After all, the feast of St. Philip and St. James really isn’t about Philip or James. It’s about Jesus crucified for you. Jesus the Cornerstone of the Church for you.

That’s why Philip and James didn’t spend time counting or comparing how many people they saved by preaching the Gospel or baptizing. They didn’t water down the Gospel to make it make it more appealing to the Greeks. They didn’t try and spice up their church services with a little creative worship to attract the Romans.

For Philip and James, Christian faith was remarkably simple: listen to Jesus’ word, and proclaim Jesus’ Word faithfully to all.

Sounds so simple. And yet it’s the hardest thing to do. How many things distract us from Jesus and his Word? O Lord, let me count the ways! How often have we looked to and put our faith in the empty promises men when searching for answers on how best to declare and defend the Gospel, when our Lord has already given us everything we need in his promises of Word, Baptism, Absolution, and Supper? How much time to do we spend grumbling about our neighbor instead of looking and asking for ways to serve them in body and soul?

Philip and James teach us that if we’re looking for a sinless church this side of Eden, we’re going to be deeply disappointed. But if we’re looking for a church where Christ is present with sinners, well then, we’ve come to the right place. For unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labor in vain.

Wherever the Good News of redemption is preached and the Holy Supper celebrated, there Jesus gathers the crowds of the faithful witnesses of all times.

In his Church, Jesus pours heavy from the cup of salvation for you. In his church, you are no longer strangers, but fellow citizens and saints. In Jesus you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. In Christ’s church you are never alone.

This is a sublime comfort for us in the church on earth. Here, around the Lord’s Table, Jesus is present with us and we have communion with one another. Though veiled from our eyes we, the church on earth, are joined by the church in heaven. This is what we mean when we confess in the Creed that we believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. The communion of saints.

It is the church of Philip and James and the apostles and prophets before them. It is the church of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the church of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men. It is the church of Bob Drews, Ryan Willweber, and all the faithful departed. It is the church where we are no longer strangers but fellow citizens. And where Christ is our Cornerstone.

Today we join Philip and James and all the faithful in hearing Jesus’ Words, receiving them with joy, and responding with thanksgiving. Using the Philip’s words, we say to our neighbor, “Come and see!” Come and see your sins forgiven. Come and see heaven on earth. Come and see water that washes away your sins. Come and see bread and wine that feed you with eternal life. Come and see Jesus for you.

A blessed feast of St. Philip and St. James to each of you…

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sermon for Easter 4: "The Good Shepherd"

+ 4th Sunday of Easter – April 17th, 2012 +
Redeemer, HB
Series C: Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

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

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they know me.

Jesus our Good Shepherd is probably one of the most widely known, well loved, and comforting words of Jesus. But there’s a difficulty for us when Jesus says, “I AM the Good Shepherd.”

Jesus’ words are at the same time unfamiliar and too familiar.

Unfamiliar because most of us have no experience with sheep. Knott’s Berry Farm, after all, is no help with sheep. And the closest thing to shepherding we know is spending time with a herd of children; just ask any teacher or parent and they’ll tell you the same.

Jesus’ words can also be too familiar. We hear the Good Shepherd reading every year. Most people know parts of Psalm 23, if not the whole thing, by heart. We hear Jesus’ words at funerals and confirmations. And that’s not bad, of course. The temptation we must avoid is to take this comforting reality and turn it into a cliché, not by hearing too often – that’s not the issue, but by failing to understand what Jesus says.

Jesus comes from a long line of shepherds in the Bible; shepherding is in his blood. Abel was a shepherd before his brother, Cain, led him to the slaughter. Jacob tended Laban’s flock for 14 years for the sake of his bride. Moses grazed the fields of Midian before leading the wandering sheep of Israel through the wilderness. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of the shepherd-king, David. When Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” he’s saying is, “Psalm 23, all that Shepherd talk in Ezekiel and the prophets - that’s all about Me, I am Yahweh.”

That’s the key: Jesus’ words are more than a metaphor. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they know me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

Although we must admit that Jesus is no ordinary shepherd. After all, what kind of shepherd thinks that the life of his sheep is more important than his own? What kind of shepherd gladly and willingly throws himself into the jaws of the wolf to set his lambs free? “Go ahead, pierce my flesh. Spill my blood. Kill me; not them.” None of course, but one. Jesus Christ is your Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for you, his lambs.

Admitting the truth about Jesus means admitting the truth about ourselves as well. We’re sheep.  And that’s not exactly a flattering image. Sheep are dumb, stubborn, and prone to wandering off. Mean too: kicking, biting, head-butting for position in the flock. We’ll drink from any rancid puddle that promises refreshment - religions, philosophies, pop-Christian fads and false gospels pedaled by hirelings. We’ll nibble on any weed in the pasture that looks pleasing to the eyes, no matter how poisonous it might be. All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned his own way. That’s our problem. A flock of one is an oxymoron. Sheep – apart from the Shepherd - are defenseless, vulnerable and dead, wolf chow. It’s always the lone sheep, the isolated Christian, who becomes easy pickings for the wolf.

That’s why the Shepherd calls you here to his sheepfold, the Church, to hear the Shepherd’s voice. It’s also a place where the flock circles one another in defense of the prowling wolves. Jesus calls us, his flock, to live for others the way the Good Shepherd lives for us. We need a shepherd. And chances are, you know someone else who does too. And there’s nowhere better to bring wandering sheep than here, gathered among fellow sheep to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd.
Come and hear how Jesus, our Good Shepherd joined his flock; he became a Lamb. God didn’t sit on his throne saying, “Look at those poor lost sheep, I sure hope they find their way.” No. “I myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep,” declares the Lord. “I AM the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life on behalf of his sheep.” It’s in his blood.

Jesus is the greater Abel, sacrificed by his brothers, and for his brothers. Jesus is the greater Jacob who labors in agony for you, his bride, adorning you in woolly white baptismal garments. Jesus is the greater Moses, who leads his wandering sheep to the Promised Land. Jesus is the greater David, who is your shepherd-king; and we are his flock, the sheep of his hand.

Normally, a shepherd’s death would leave his flock in peril. But when Jesus dies, the outcome is different. Shepherd Jesus saves his lambs by dying for them.
That’s what a Good Shepherd does, lays down his life for his sheep. Every night the sheep are herded into the pen. The shepherd lies at the door for the night. Jesus lies down in the door of death, and through His death, we go find true pasture and rest.

Jesus is your Good Shepherd. What do you lack? Nothing. He makes you lie down in the green pastures of his Word. He leads you into the still waters of Holy Baptism. He restores your soul from death to life. He guides you in the path of His righteousness, daily. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, hunted by sin and the devil, you need fear no evil. Good Shepherd Jesus has gone ahead of you through suffering and death to resurrection and glory. Your Shepherd lives and so do you. He leads you with the disciplining rod of Law and his rescuing staff of gospel.

He anoints your head with healing oil, forgiving your sin. Good Shepherd Jesus gives us, his sheep, a flea bath in the general confession absolution every Sunday. And he also applies private confession and absolution, healing his individually and directly where troublesome sores and spots grow, and if left unattended, become infected.

And Good Shepherd Jesus prepares a table for you; your cup overflows with his own body and blood.

Here in the sheepfold, we rejoice with David, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Like a pair of sheep dogs nipping at your heels, our Lord’s goodness and mercy will dog you until your Shepherd calls you home, further up and further in his stable.

So when the wolf comes to try and huff and puff and blow your faith down, point him to Jesus, your Good Shepherd. “You want me for supper? You’ll have to go through the Good Shepherd first. You want to accuse me of my sins and flaunt them in my face? Take them up with Jesus. They belong to him.”

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they know me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sermon for Easter 3: "Jesus Does Everything"

+ 3rd Sunday of Easter – April 10th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Acts 9:1-22; Revelation 5:1-14; John 21:1-14

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

Every episode of the beloved children’s program Sesame Street begins the same way: the theme song, the number for the day, and of course, the word on the street. It’s the word of the day, and it sets the theme for the rest of the show.

Today’s Gospel reading from John 21 is somewhat similar. Today’s word on the street, or better yet, by the seashore is vocation.

Usually we take the word vocation to mean just “our job”. But in the Scripture it’s so much more than that. It’s our calling. Our calling into faith in Jesus by the waters of Holy Baptism. And our calling in all the places where God sends us to serve at home, church, school, work, in our community, and the list goes on.

It was the disciples’ vocation to follow Jesus, hear his word, and then after his resurrection to continue the work of casting nets and fishing, not for fish, but for living men, not with hooks or nets, but with the Gospel. And it was Jesus’ vocation (his calling) to be our Crucified and Risen Lord. To be born for you, live for you, suffer for you, die for you, rise for you. Jesus gave his life to serve you. And so, wherever God places us, that’s where we find our vocation, our calling.

Take for example the vocation familiar to many of us, that of parent, whether it’s us or our own parents. It’s the vocation of parents to provide everything the children need: clothing, shoes, home, food, water, diaper changing, chauffeuring here and there, and the list goes on. Why? Selfless love for others – that’s the calling, vocation, of parents. And parents – imperfect sinners though we are – are still a glimpse of God’s fatherly care for us.

Now, today’s Gospel reading may be a completely different setting but something similar is happening to the disciples. They were out fishing on the sea of Tiberias, they had caught nothing all night, and then as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them: “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

It’s a familiar story. When Jesus first called his disciples, they had been fishing all night with no fish to show for it. Jesus told them to lower the nets. And there were so many fish they needed extra boats to haul it all to shore. A preview of Jesus’ work through the disciples later as they labored for the Gospel.

But notice how tenderly Jesus called to his disciples? Children. And then Jesus provides everything for them. He gave them fish in their nets. He prepared breakfast for them. Gave them bread and fish by the seashore. And once again, he showed himself to the disciples after his resurrection from the dead.

Jesus does everything for his disciples after his death and resurrection just as he had done everything for them before Good Friday and Easter. Jesus is the selfless giver of all things for his disciples, for his Church, and for you.

Today we find ourselves in the same boat with the disciples (yes, pun intended). In our family life at home, and in our family life in the household of God, the Church we are God’s children. And once again, Jesus does everything for you.

It is just as Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Why children? Children are dependent upon their parents for everything. Children are born into a family – they didn’t choose it or earn it; the name and inheritance are gifts to them. Children also trust their parents and look to them for all good things.

For us and the disciples this means a revolution in how we look at God. We must give up all bragging rights on what good little boys and girls we’ve been. We must drop all attempts at earning our Father’s favor by what we think, say, or do. We must drop dead to every futile effort to crawl over our brothers and sisters just to get a better seat on the Father’s lap. In other words, repent. Give up on self-reliance. Give up on self-justification. Give up your self-love.

And instead, listen to the voice of Jesus. He calls you as he did his disciples: Children. Come, and eat breakfast. Jesus prepared everything.

Listen to Jesus’ voice and look to his cross and empty tomb. Jesus has done everything for you. Jesus was born for you. Grew as a little child for you. Jesus submitted to father and mother for you. Jesus perfectly trusted the Father for you. Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will for you.

Listen to Jesus’ voice in Holy Baptism where you are made God’s child: I Baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Listen to Jesus’ voice at his holy table where he feeds you holy food to nourish you in body and soul: Take, eat; take, drink. This is body given for you. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Listen to Jesus’ voice in the absolution: you are forgiven all your sins.

This is how Jesus is known by his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias and the shores of Huntington Beach. By his abundant, overwhelming, gracious giving to sinners.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

That’s our vocation, our calling as God’s children. We receive everything that Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for us. And yet, our vocation doesn’t end there. It goes on. Having received, we give. We love because he first loved us.

Jesus called his disciples to be fishers of living men. Cast your nets…and you will find some. And so he calls us.

That’s why we have a preschool to teach the faith by singing, praying, and reading the Scriptures to our children and community.

This is why we have Bible class and Sunday School, that we might read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word; and having freely received his promises, declare those to others.

This is why Lutherans sing the hymns we sing, why the order the service is the way it is, why the whole service from beginning to end is the voice of Jesus calling out to us with his promise, peace, and pardon for sin for all who hear.

This is our vocation, our calling. Cast the nets of Jesus’ word, and water, his body and blood out into our community, to our neighbors, co-workers, carpool buddies, friends, even our enemies. Jesus has promised his Word will go out draw people to himself. Do not fear. The ark of Christ’s Church won’t sink. Jesus’ presence fills his Church. Jesus feeds you, His people. Jesus sustains you, provides abundant mercy for you. Jesus does everything for you.

That’s his vocation for you.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Sunday Sermon: "Just the Facts"

+ The Resurrection of Our Lord – March 27th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Isaiah 65:17-25; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

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

Whether you’re buying a car, sitting on a jury, or reading something on the internet, you don’t want opinions, conjecture, or editorials. As the great theologians of Dragnet once said, “All we want is the facts. Just the facts, ma’am.”

We should expect the same on Easter Sunday. After all, Jesus death and resurrection for you is a matter of fact – the tomb is empty. Jesus died. Jesus rose, just as he said he would. These events really happened in history. And these facts are also the foundation of our Christian faith. Jesus was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification.

Your faith in Christ is founded on the fact that Jesus suffered, died, and rose for you.

And yet it should come as no surprise that these facts are contested or treated as opinions, fantasies, or worse yet, lies.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “Faith is a fairy-tale, like the Easter bunny or leprechauns.” Or, “Jesus was a good teacher or moral guide, but his resurrection is just some legend cooked up by the disciples to get rich and famous.” And then there’s the internet; it’s full of blogs and videos claiming Christianity is just a reboot of the old Egyptian, Greek, or Roman myths, second in popularity only to cat videos perhaps.

Now, all of that would be true…if Jesus did not rise from the dead and his tomb was not empty.

For if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our preaching is in vain and so is your faith. If Jesus did not rise, then Christianity is no better than a pint glass full of foam and no beer.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead then the New Testament is a lie, the apostles are frauds, and every Christian preacher for the last two thousand years - including this one – are nothing but big fat liars. More than that, if Jesus did not rise from the dead we are misrepresenting God; we’re all a bunch of fakes, phonies, and crooks.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our faith is futile and we’re all wasting our time here this morning. We should all enjoy the Easter breakfast and go home or go the beach. Eat, drink, and be merry.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then all his promises to forgive our sins are also worthless, and we’re still in our sin. No grace. No mercy. No hope. Nothing.

As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we of all people, are most to be pitied.

And then in three little words, Paul drops a fact bomb on all our opinions, conjectures, and baseless assertions.

But in fact...
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

This fact is the ground of our faith – on Easter, and every other day of the year. The Christian faith isn’t founded on fairy tales, opinions, or ancient legends, but fact. Unlike any other religion in the world, Christianity is based on a particular set of facts: Jesus who is true God and true man was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried on a Friday afternoon and rose again from the dead three days later.

And because Jesus rose again: Death is dead. Death has lost its sting. The last enemy has been destroyed. And sin has lost its hold over you. Victory has been won. Rejoice! Christ is risen from the grave and in him you will rise too. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Jesus dies and you live. Jesus lives and you will never die.

Jesus did all of this for you, and that’s a fact. It’s true… if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity and our faith crumbles.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. Your faith in Christ is founded on the fact that Jesus suffered, died, and rose for you.

On Easter Sunday, all we need are the facts. And here they are:

But in fact…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures.

But in fact…The tomb was empty. The burial linens were folded and neat. The guards were bribed to say the disciples had stolen the body.

But in fact…Jesus was seen by Mary Magdalene, by Peter and the other disciples, by Thomas who confessed “My Lord and my God,” by two disciples on the Emmaus road, by seven disciples who ate fish with Him, by over 500 brothers at one time, by James and all the apostles, and by Paul on the road to Damascus.

But in fact…These were not dumb hillbilly fishermen. They were smart, sane, rational people who went from not believing that Jesus had risen from the dead to believing. They had everything to lose and nothing to gain from their testimony. Many of them even lost their lives confessing the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

But in fact…On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.

There they are. Just the facts. All for you.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

A Blessed Easter to you all…

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Sermon: "Behold Your King"

+ Good Friday – March 25th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18-19

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

Are you the King of the Jews? Pilate asked Jesus.

Where is the one born King of the Jews? The wise men asked Herod.

From Herod’s halls to Pilate’s headquarters, this question unites Jesus’ birth and death. And that’s no accident. Why do we have Christmas? Why the joy and the feast for the newborn king? Because of this day – Good Friday. After all, Christmas Day – December 25th - will be celebrated just 9 months from today, March 25th. Puts a bigger perspective on that little manger doesn’t it. Behold your King: born for you. Lived for you. Crucified for you.

From that little town of Bethlehem to the holy city Jerusalem, Jesus’ miracles, healing, and teaching give us signs, but the signs are given to lead us here. To this day. To this hour. To Jesus’ words:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

The kings of this world – more often than not – rule for themselves. We see that in Herod and Pilate. But do not be fooled. There’s a little Herod and Pilate in each of us. Our heart is a throne room, ruled by a want-to-be-king; and our who desires is to rule over others, to serve only ourselves, and to have everyone and everything obey our whims and ways. If I were King for a day…we say. We poor sinners are full of such delusions of grandeur. We are not kings, but slaves to sin. Kings of nothing.

Thankfully for you, King Jesus does the opposite of what we would do; he does the unexpected. He is betrayed. He is mocked. He is spat upon. He is beaten. He is rejected. He is denied. He dies. He lays down his life. He is buried. And then he rises again. All for you. 
Behold your King.

His Kingdom may not be of this world, but it comes to us in this world. You are made an heir of heaven in Holy Baptism, covered in the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sin. You are given the King’s sacred decree: your sins are forgiven. You dine on the finest of foods and wine in the royal banquet of Jesus’ body and blood. 

Behold your King.

The kings of this world enter a city riding atop a warhorse bearing the battle sword. But Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey with palm branches. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the king of Israel.

The kings of this world are robed in royal garments, wear golden crowns, and wield an iron scepter. But Jesus is wrapped in purple robes of mockery, crowned with thorns, and given a reed to reign in his humility…all for you.

The kings of this world seek glory in might and power, wealth and riches. But Jesus reveals his greatest glory in weakness and suffering on the cross. He gives us great wealth, though not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death. He empties himself to fill you. He humbles himself to exalt you. He becomes sin to make you righteous. He dies and you live.

On Good Friday we finally get the answer to the magi’s question.  Where is the one born King of the Jews? He is crucified for you. The same boy who cried out for his mother as an infant now cries out on the cross to save us: It is finished!

Behold your King.

On Good Friday we also hear the answer to Pilate’s question. Are you the King of the Jews?
Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.  And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.  They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

Behold your King!

Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”  They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”  So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

Behold your King!

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.  Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

And not only of the Jews, but for the whole world. For you. Today Jesus is crucified for you. In three days Jesus will rise again for you.

Behold your King!

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday Sermon: "Behold, the Lamb of God"

+ Maundy Thursday – March 24th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-17, 31-35

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

Holy Week begins with a procession. Crowds gathered. Palm branches waved. Jesus rode atop a donkey. And the walls of Jerusalem echoed with shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord”. All as Jesus makes his way to the temple. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Every year, all the one year-old male lambs without blemish made the same procession. A Lamb for a household, the Lord said in Exodus. And so it was. The Paschal lambs, the suffering lambs, were shepherded from their flocks outside the city, through the gate, and up to the temple for the Passover sacrifice. Blood was shed. Blood was painted on the doorposts.

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. Then the Lamb was roasted and eaten. Death passed over once again.
For Jesus, Holy Week ends as it began, with a procession. Jesus gathered his disciples in the upper room. They ate the Passover together. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. Judas led the soldiers to Jesus and the procession continued on to the temple courtyard, to Pilate, and finally outside the city walls, up the hill, onto the cross, and into the tomb. And unlike the thousands of Passover lambs slaughtered during the feast, this Lamb is slain and yet lives. All for you.

Truth be told, this procession is a long time in the making. This procession began long before Palm Sunday and the Exodus. It began in a garden with a betrayal. No, not Gethsemane, but Eden.

The serpent lied. Adam and Eve ate and disobeyed. And the procession that began in joy ended in dreadful curse, bitter tears, and the agony of death. Their eyes were open and they knew not only good, but evil. But the Lord did not lead them out of the Garden naked and ashamed. The Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and clothed them. Blood was shed. A sacrifice of mercy in place of their sin. In a way, this was the very first Passover. Was it a year-old lamb without blemish? Perhaps it was.

Behold, the lamb of God who covered the guilt and shame of Adam and Eve.

Many years later, YHWH promised Abraham that from his offspring would come the one who would bless all people. But then the Lord commanded Abraham to make a procession of his own. Take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.

Abraham and Isaac marched on to the mountain. Isaac carried the wood on his back. Abraham had the fire and the knife at the ready. Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. And he did. First on Moriah and then on Calvary.

Behold, the ram of God caught in the thicket, who gave his life in place of Isaac and the promised lamb to come.

God’s promise to Abraham came true. His offspring became a great nation indeed. But their procession was halted for hundreds of years in slavery in Egypt, until the Lord sent a lamb. It was the 10th and final plague. All the first born in Egypt would die, unless the blood of the Passover lamb covered the doorposts of the home. It is the Lord’s Passover. Israel ate in haste. They painted their doors with the sacrificial blood. And they remembered the Lord who was about to deliver them from slavery in Egypt.

Behold, the lambs of God who gave their blood so that death passed over Israel.

Centuries later the procession moved on from the wilderness to the kingdom of Israel. And once again, the Lord promised a lamb by the mouth of his prophet, Isaiah. Like the first Passover lambs, this lamb would be a suffering servant. Unlike the first Passover lambs, he would also bear the flesh and blood of Adam. A man of sorrows. One acquainted with grief. Despised. Rejected. Yet, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Behold, the Lamb of God who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted for you.

Tonight we also make a procession, not to our death. Jesus has taken care of that for you. No, tonight, we process to our life, to the one true Passover feast. Up to the altar. On our knees. It is a holy feast of holy food. The Lamb’s flesh is given to you. Take, eat. The blood of the Lamb is poured out for you. Take, drink for the forgiveness of all your sins. Tonight, death passes over you and onto Jesus.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Jesus is the Lamb without blemish. Jesus is without spot or stain. He is here for you. 

Behold, the Passover Lamb of God who gives his flesh and pours out his life-blood for you.

A Blessed Maundy Thursday to you all…

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