Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sermon for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist: "Christmas in June"

Isaiah 40:1-5; Acts 13:13-26; Luke 1:57-80
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

As readers enter the wardrobe into C.S. Lewis’s magical world of Narnia, we hear those haunting, sorrowful words: it was always winter and never Christmas. Now, here in Southern California it might feel like it’s always summer and never winter. Nevertheless, it’s beginning to look and sound a lot like Advent and Christmas.

Today it’s 6 months till Christmas Eve. How’s that Christmas list coming along?

Today the prophet Isaiah’s words are fulfilled in our hearing, and in the eating and drinking of God’s comfort in his Word and in Jesus’ body and blood.
 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
    double for all her sins.

And if every Sunday is a little Easter, a weekly celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection for us, then every Sunday is also a little Christmas, even in June. Today we rejoice that our Lord prepares us for his coming and continues to visit us and redeem us.

On this Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, we join Zechariah in singing the Lord’s praises: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, 
    for he has visited and redeemed his people.”

We join Elizabeth in receiving great mercy from our Lord. We join the crowds in listening to John’s preaching. For this reason, the Lord sent John.

You, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways. A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

John is that voice, a human gramophone playing broken record filled with God’s Word of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus. John is the moon, not the sun. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

John is the messenger, but what really matters is the message he proclaims: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

As John said of himself, let it be true among us as well. I must decrease; and Christ crucified must increase. Because as important as John’s work for Jesus was and still is, Jesus’ work for John and us is even more important. After all, that is why John is sent.

We still need John’s voice. For this wilderness is not a quiet place. Like turning your iTunes or Spotify account on shuffle, there is an endless cacophony of voices competing for your attention.

The world never tires of singing the same old tune: “Christians are close-minded, bigots, and hypocrites. Come on, forget your fairy tales, let go of the past, leave your imaginary friend the flying spaghetti monster behind, and join the side of reason, science, progress, tolerance, acceptance, peace, love, pleasure, and freedom.”

The devil’s voice rages as well, offering false promises, false hopes, and false comfort.
And then there are the more familiar voices. That relentless voice from within that pounds our ears with our own shame, sorrow, sin, guilt, pride, pain, failures, fears, disease, doubt, despair, and death.

Into this wilderness of noise, the Lord sends us his voice John.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Because of this Word we often think of John the Baptist as a gruff prophet of repentance. Like the Advent card I saw last year on social media: “Happy Advent, you brood of vipers. Now, repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Thankfully, God speaks another word through the voice of John. John is also a prophet of Good News, God’s grace. That’s what John’s name means: God is gracious. A fitting name for a preacher of consolation, comfort, and Christ Crucified for you. John is sent to give knowledge of salvation to us in the forgiveness of our sins, through tender mercy of our God.
This comforting, consoling word of the Lord filled Zechariah with joy. The Lord opened his lips, loosed his tongue, and his mouth declared the Lord’s praise. As Zechariah sings, the volume of God’s gracious salvation is turned up to 11, full blast, blow-out-the-speakers Good News. Every word of his song blares comfort that rings Jesus’ salvation into our ears.

God speaks and delivers his word to us in water, word, bread and wine. At this altar our Lord visits and redeems us. In this church and school, the Lord speaks salvation to us as he spoke through the holy prophets of old. Here the Lord quells all the voices of our enemies and drowns them out with his mercy, salvation, and promise.

There’s a marvelous picture of the church in John the Baptist. Our new birth in Holy Baptism, like John’s birth, is by God’s grace. From Elizabeth’s barren and aged womb, the Lord brought forth life. From the barrenness of sin and death, our Lord brings forth new life in us in Holy Baptism.

We’re like John, called to live in the wilderness of this fallen world. An unrelenting, arid wasteland of sin and sorrow, grief and pain, disorder, decay and death. We stick out like John too. We may not wear camels-hair clothing or eat locusts and wild honey. But John’s message of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus are just as unpopular today as it was in his day. Yet, we are not alone, just as John was not alone. Our Lord comes to us as he did to John in the wilderness to silence the devil’s temptations, to irrigate the deserts of our hearts with living water, and to deliver us from the hand of our enemies.

And like John, we’re sent out as a voice in the wilderness. As pastor and people, we have different vocations and responsibilities, but our message is the same as John’s: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

By God’s grace this is what Redeemer has done, and will continue to do: in Redeemer’s preschool where a flock of little lambs sings the praises of the Lamb of God, and learns the love of their Good Shepherd; in Redeemer’s VBS, youth, and Sunday School as we train the children up in the ways of our Lord, giving them a faith to grow into, not out of; in Redeemer’s symphony of musicians, choirs, and musical talent where you sing the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The same Holy Spirit who sent John into the wilderness to be a voice of comfort also fills our hearts, minds, and voices with the comfort of Jesus crucified; and we’re sent into the wilderness to point our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, teachers, barbers, doctors, mechanics, and anyone else we know to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

A Merry Christmas in June and a blessed Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist to each of you…

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sermon for Feast of St. Barnabas: "Sons of Encouragement"

+ Feast of St. Barnabas (observed) – June 10th, 2018 +
Isaiah 42:5-12; Acts 11:19-30, 13:1-3; Mark 6:7-13
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)

Set apart. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies –gives the Lord’s holiness to his people, consecrates, and sets apart – the whole Christian church on earth and keeps her with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

Barnabas was not the first to be set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work of the Gospel. The Lord set apart Noah and called him to build an ark. The Lord set apart Abraham and called him the father of many nations, for by the Seed of Abraham, all nations on earth would be blessed. The Lord set apart Moses and later Joshua to lead his people out of slavery in the exodus, through the wilderness, and into the promised land. The Lord set apart David to be his anointed king and promised him that one of his descendants would make his throne an everlasting throne and give us an eternal kingdom. The Lord set apart the Old Testament people of Israel to be the family tree that would bring about the birth of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit sets us apart too. And just like Barnabas, our Lord’s holiness, his calling us, our being set apart is gift. To be holy isn’t like being bit by a radioactive spider and wake up in the morning with super-holy powers; it’s not like a caffeine buzz or a Red Bull energy boost; and it’s not likee that feeling of being twitterpated that Thumper tells Bambi about in the springtime. No, for Barnabas, you, me, and all Christians, God’s holiness isn’t something you achieve, but his gift you receive. Think of it like a noun that our Lord declares about you – you are holy in Him who is holy - not a verb you do to be holy.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sets us apart by water and word in Holy Baptism. We are set apart as God’s children through baptism into Christ. We are set apart from sin and death by baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are set apart by the Holy Spirit to be God’s holy, chosen people, his beloved, treasured possession. Called by the Gospel. Enlightened with his gifts of water, word, bread and wine. Sanctified and kept in the one true faith, just as St. Barnabas was…by grace through faith in Christ. You are holy in Jesus. You are set apart in Jesus.

Barnabas was too. We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4, where Luke tells us that he sold a field that belonged to him and brought the proceeds to the feet of the apostles for the work of the Gospel. Barnabas had heard Jesus’ call to take up his cross and follow him, by grace in the same Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

After Paul’s conversion to Christianity, it was Barnabas who took Paul under his wing, introducing him to the apostles and assuring them that Paul no longer persecuted the Church, but proclaimed Christ Crucified.

Barnabas also joined Paul on his first missionary journey. There at the church in Antioch, Barnabas was ordained by the laying on of hands for a simple, yet important purpose. Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. The work preaching God’s Word of good news to all nations. The work forgiving sin in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. The work of teaching and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The work of being a steward of the mysteries of God, faithfully administering the sacraments.

His name says it all. Barnabas means “son of encouragement.” And if that word sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for it. It’s the same Greek word for comfort, consolation, and helper. It’s similar to the word Jesus uses when he promises to send the Holy Spirit, the comforter. Coincidence? No.

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians (1:3ff) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 

This is the work Barnabas was set apart to do, wherever the Lord called him. But of course, St. Barnabas’ feast day isn’t really about St. Barnabas is it?

It’s about God the Father who sent his only Son who gave up all he had - not a field, gold or silver, but his holy precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death…that Barnabas, and you, and me, and all people, would be his own.

It’s about Jesus who was set apart for you. Born for you and called the Holy Child, the Holy One of Israel. Jesus is God and man to deliver us from everything we think, say, and do that is unholy. Jesus is holy for you. He is called and set apart in His perfect life, lived for you, and His perfect death on the cross where He died for you. Jesus was set apart and called by God to accomplish salvation for Barnabas and for you. Jesus our greater Noah by whom we are set apart in his holy ark of the Christian Church. Jesus the Offspring of Abraham who is our brother, Lord and Savior, who set’s us apart to be God’s own children. Jesus, David’s son and David’s Lord who reigns as king from his manger to his cross, and from his resurrection to his heavenly throne.

It’s about the Holy Spirit who set apart Barnabas for the work he was called to do, which means today is also about how the same Holy Spirit calls and sets you apart too.

Through Jesus’ dying and rising you are also set apart and called. In Baptism you are set apart from your sin, and you are holy. In your Baptism you are set apart by God for His calling: your calling to faith in Jesus, and to love your neighbor. Your vocation may be entirely different from Barnabas’, but like Barnabas, you are set apart to receive the Lord’s treasures: His Word, water, Body and Blood, and called to speak that Good News to anyone who asks you for a “reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15).

As a congregation you are set apart as well. The work that our Lord called Barnabas to do, he calls Redeemer to as well. The faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word to you his people, and to this community. The work of calling and ordaining pastors who forgive sin in the stead and by the command of Jesus. The work of teaching and baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The work of being rightly handling the word of truth and faithfully administering the sacraments as our Lord taught and gave you. The work of being a Barnabas, a son of encouragement in all you say and do, in your callings in life here at Redeemer, and in your callings in life at home, work, and society. It is my heartfelt prayer and encouragement to you all that you remain faithful in these things, even as our Lord kept Barnabas in the one true faith.

Today, we thank God for St. Barnabas, the “son of encouragement,” who brought the encouragement of Christ wherever he went, who lifted up the weak and the wavering, who comforted the distressed and brought calm to controversy. And we thank God for the Barnabas’ in our congregations today, who encourage the discouraged and bind our wounds, that the good news of Jesus may be preached even more.

A blessed St. Barnabas’ day to each of you…

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

Sermon for Trinity Sunday: "Born from Above"

+ Feast of the Holy Trinity – May 27th, 2018 +
Series B: Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2:14, 22-36; John 3:1-17
Redeemer Lutheran, HB


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

Whether it’s the birth of your own child, grandchild, or that of family or friends, or your own, there’s something special about one’s birthday. True enough, as we grow older we may be less excited about our birthdays than we were when we were younger; we may move from counting how many presents we received to counting the innumerable blessing the past year has brought. Either way, a birthday is a time of excitement, joy, and above all, life.

Birth and new life is the topic of discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus here in John 3.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Notice how John says Nicodemus came to Jesus “By night.” That’s more than a time stamp. It’s a theological statement. Nicodemus was probably afraid, ashamed, and apprehensive. He was in the dark physically and spiritually, the darkness of unbelief and sin. But at least he came to the right source: to the one who is Light of Light, very God of very of God.
Nicodemus also didn’t come to Jesus for a confrontation. He wasn’t like the other Pharisees, always looking for an angle on Jesus, trying to trap him in his words or hit him with a gotcha question. Nicodemus came to Jesus like a thirsty man in the desert, like a blind man in search of sight.

We’re like Nicodemus you see. We come to Jesus by night too. Afraid. Ashamed. Apprehensive. We try and hide our shame, fear, and guilt. We try and bury our burdens in the dark in hopes of staying invisible, of hiding from God and others. But we can no more hide from our Lord than Adam and Eve could.

The world around us is veiled in darkness too. “This is the condemnation, Jesus declares, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.”

But here’s the shocking, amazing thing. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through Him. Jesus found Nicodemus that night, and he finds you. Jesus the Light of the world enters the darkness for us. Nighttime and darkness may be full of bad things, but it’s also when God works his greatest for us. YHWH rescuing Israel in the Exodus by night. Jesus’ birth announced to the shepherds watching their fields by night. The Lord’s Supper given on the night in which Jesus was betrayed.

Jesus came to bring Nicodemus, us, and the whole world from dark to light, from death to life, and from our old birth from below in Adam, to a new birth from above in Jesus and the gift of word, water and spirit in your Baptism.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 

Maybe you’ve heard that phrase before. “I was born again.” Or, “have you been born again?” I always like to answer, yes. I was born again in Holy Baptism when I was about 2 weeks old. “Born from above” – that’s what the phrase can also mean, and that’s what Jesus is telling us along with Nicodemus. Unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.
In John 1, we’re told the same thing. Jesus came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Safe to say, we’d probably agree with Nicodemus if we were in on this conversation that night too. It all sounds rather odd, doesn’t it?

“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

We have two births according to Jesus. Our first birth is usually in a hospital, where we receive life from our parents. Breathing, growing, muscular movements and all that life entails. Our second birth is in the baptismal font, where we receive life in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Mercy, love, and receiving God’s gifts and all that life in Christ entails. Our first birth is from below, from Adam and it’s a birth that leads to death. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Our second birth is from above, from Christ the second Adam in whom we live; it’s a birth in which we die and rise again in Jesus. In Christ in Baptism you are a new creation. In Christ in Baptism you are born from above. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God. And so we are. We had no more to do with our birth from above in Holy Baptism than we did our first birth from our parents. Both are God’s free gift of life.
We join Nicodemus in wondering, How can these things be?

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Jesus is the center, the One on whom the spotlight is focused. No one has ever seen God, John says, but the only-begotten God, the Word Incarnate, the second Person of the undivided Holy Trinity, He has made God known. If we want to know and see God, we look to the God who came to us as the Son of the Virgin and the Man of the Cross. This is God in terms we can comprehend, who embraces us, who is born and suffers and dies, who is bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.
This is why we have a Trinity Sunday and why we take the time to confess the Athanasian Creed. Jesus is the one who reveals the Father, who sends the Spirit, who declared, “Baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He is the One who said, “No one comes to the Father except by me” and “I will send you another Comforter who will be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth.”
The Father sends the Son to die and rise who sends the Spirit who leads us to the Son who brings us back to the Father. This is what it means to be born of God, born from above, born of the Spirit. The Father is our Father. The Son is our Brother. The Spirit is our Guardian, Guide, and Friend. We are caught up in a mystery that defies our reason and our senses just as Nicodemus was. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is the name you are baptized into, the name that is placed upon you, and the name that gives you a new birth from above.
Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because he has shown his mercy to us.
A blessed Trinity Sunday to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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.