Monday, June 1, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday: "The God Who Speaks"

+ The Day of Pentecost – May 31st, 2020 +
Series A: Numbers 11:24-30; Acts 2:1-21; John 7:37-39
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

From the beginning of Scripture God reveals himself to us as the God who speaks. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

God spoke to Adam in the Garden giving them life, and promising their rescue from their fall into sin. God spoke to Noah and saved him and his family through the flood waters, safe in the ark. God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob delivering His holy covenant to bless all nations. God spoke to Moses in the burning bush about the His deliverance to come in the exodus. God spoke to his people Israel from Mt. Sinai, thundering the Law yet also declaring his covenant with them. God spoke to Moses again, in Numbers 11, as he poured out his Spirit on the 70 elders of Israel – a foretaste of the Pentecost feast to come in Acts 2. 

God reveals himself to us as the God who speaks. And when God speaks something extraordinary happens. God’s word creates. God’s Word does what he says. God’s Word is an event. When he speaks things happen. Creation is made. Lame men walk. Blind men see. Dead men rise. 

All of this forms a verbal backdrop for the day and festival of Pentecost we celebrate today. A day when the good news of salvation in Jesus goes out to all nations, people, and languages. A day when Jesus sends the promised Holy Spirit to fill the Church with his promise and peace. A day when the sin of Babel, and the scattering of God’s people is reversed – each person hearing the good news in their own language. 

A day when God reveals himself to us as the God who speaks. God’s people were gathered together. They heard a sound like a mighty rushing wind. They saw the tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit filled their mouths and they spoke.  

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? —we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

On that first Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit just as He promised. As the disciples spoke, God’s word was spoken. As it always is in Scripture, God spoke his Law that cut the hearers to the heart. The same is true for us as well.

For if God’s speaking reveals his desire for mercy, when we speak, all too often we reveal our sinfulness. Like Adam we war and rebel against and disobey God’s word. Like the world in Noah’s day, our words are full of wickedness and evil. Like Moses we doubt God’s word. Israel we follow our own will and words and desires rather than God’s word. We find ourselves in good company with the Pentecost crowds. They had crucified Jesus – not just physically, but spiritually as well. It was their sin, just as it was our sin, that nailed him to the cross. This painful reality cuts us to the heart too. 

Thankfully, this is not God’s only word for us on Pentecost. Yes, when God speaks, he reveals and exposes our sin. But he also does much more. Something greater. Something that our words simply cannot do. When God speaks God creates. God saves. God rescues, redeems, and restores us. God speaks and simple water becomes a river of life in Holy Baptism. God speaks and ordinary bread and wine become a holy meal of Jesus’ body and blood. God speaks and in the promise of Absolution, all our sin is forgiven.

When our Lord speaks something extraordinary happens. Jesus’ words create life out of death. Jesus words bring peace into our strife. Jesus’ words bring comfort to our sorrows. Jesus’ words bring us the truth that answers our doubts. Jesus pours out his Spirit to fill us with life and light and love. This is what our Lord was doing that first Pentecost: pouring out his Spirit, his Word, his life – his speaking. And in his speaking, doing and giving what he promises.

For when God speaks, he is pouring out upon you his grace and mercy to you won for you by Jesus on the cross and delivered to you by the Holy Spirit. 

You are like Adam, only better – a new creation baptized into Christ Jesus as God spoke his word of promise over you: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

You are like Noah, only better, saved from the wicked world around by a lavish flood of forgiveness and washing of the Holy Spirit that places you in the safety of Christ’s holy ark, the Church.

You are like Moses and Israel, delivered and redeemed in a greater exodus that Jesus accomplished for you in his death and resurrection. God speaks to you – not in a burning bush or a pillar of fire and smoke – but in his holy Word that you read, hear, and sing. 

You are like those attending the very first Pentecost hearing God speak in his promises this day, as we declare the mighty works of God. The mighty works his Word – his speaking accomplishes. 

Today on Pentecost, and always, our Lord is the God who speaks. And when he speaks he saves you.

A blessed Pentecost to each of you…

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Sermon for Easter 7: "Glorified"

+ 7th Sunday of Easter – May 24th, 2020 +
Series A: Acts 1:12-26; 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA

The Meaning of the Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John ...

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

At some point or another, we’ve all walked into our backyard, garage, or a spare room in our house. You stand there for a moment overwhelmed by the project before your eyes. There’s so much to do. Where do I start?

Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, as John 17 is usually named, can seem a bit like that when we first hear it. Overwhelming. Jesus says so much. About his coming hour on the cross. His glory. His gift of eternal life for us. His constant praying for us. His relationship with the Father. His Word. His promise. His gift of faith. And the list could go on. There’s so much in this chapter it’s hard to know where to start.

But maybe you remember that old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time.” 

How do we dive in to John 17 without being too overwhelmed? One piece at a time. For today, let’s focus our ears, eyes, hearts, and minds on one word of Jesus’ prayer. Glorify.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you

Jesus uses this word – glorified or glory – as a verb and noun 7 times in this chapter. It is a word that is rich in old and new testament meaning. The glory of the Lord was YHWH’s visible revelation to his people Israel, his abiding, saving presence among them. The glory of the Lord in the burning bush, in the pillar of smoke and fire in the wilderness and tabernacle, the glory of the Lord that filled the temple. In the New Testament the Greek word for glory is doxa; it’s where we get the name of the famous common doxology. A hymn of praise or glory to God.

Now, when we think of the word glory or glorifying something or someone, we probably have an idea or a picture that comes into our minds of whatever it is that we think is glorious. Something admirable. Praiseworthy. A glorious victory with a gold medal around an athlete’s neck. A glorious piece of music or work of art. A glorious celebration of an anniversary or graduation. 

Of course, those are all good things. They are, however, a different kind of glory or glorifying than what Jesus is praying about in John 17. Jesus isn’t talking about the glory that comes as a result of some kind of achievement, but rather the glory that he is going to accomplish on in his hour of glory on the cross. Jesus’ glory is revealed most clearly, not in ticker-tape parades, but in his lonely march to his crucifixion. Jesus is glorified in the last place we would expect God’s glory to be revealed – in Jesus’ bloody death for us on Good Friday.

You see, when God reveals or makes known his glory to us, and when Jesus is glorified for us, the thing God has in mind is the cross. That’s the hour that Jesus refers to here in John 17. The hour of his cross. The hour of his glorification. Jesus goes to cross where all shame and disgrace are poured out upon him. He hangs between two criminals. The innocent one suffers for the guilty. And in this, Jesus says, he is glorified and glorifies the Father. This is the exact opposite of what we usually think of when we think of glory or to glorify something, and yet it is exactly where God’s glory is revealed, and how Jesus is glorified. In his death on the cross for you. His crucifixion for you is what is praiseworthy and glorious.  

God’s glory and God’s glorifying work is not only a noun or a verb, it is a person. It is Jesus. Jesus is glorified and glorifies the Father in all he says and does – his humble birth for us. His perfect life lived for us. His obedience of God’s law for us. His miracles and teaching recorded for us. His Word he speaks to us. His life sacrificed on the cross for us. His resurrection from the grave for us. 

Jesus is God’s glory in human flesh. As John writes earlier in his Gospel: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus reveals God’s glory in his works as John 2 when changed the water into wine, John tells us he manifested, or revealed his glory. And again in John 11 when he goes to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus says it is to reveal his glory.

It doesn’t take too long to realize that Jesus’ definition of what it means to be glorified is far different from our own. Where we would look for selfish gain and glory in our own achievements, Jesus reveals his glory in selflessly laying down his life for us. Where we would glorify or exalt ourselves above our neighbor, Jesus is glorified by his great humility of losing his life for our sakes. Where our twisted, sinful idea of glory turns us inward on ourselves, God’s great glory and glorification of his Son on the cross turns his glory outward from the cross to you in Jesus. Where the glory of man is temporal and fades away, the glory that is in Jesus crucified for you cannot fade away.

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. Jesus prays.

In these gray and latter days, as we’re surrounded by death and uncertainty, by disease and despair, Jesus reveals that his greatest glory is to enter into suffering with us and for us. And not only on the cross as he did when his hour came. But also to join us in our present day suffering, to shine the glory of his death for us as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death. 

Even now, he glorifies you in his Word and promise poured out upon you in Baptism. He glorifies you in his gift of eternal life, that you know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. You are glorified in Jesus. Right now. Today. And forever. 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus. Amen. 


Sermon for The Ascension of Our Lord:

+ The Ascension of Our Lord – May 21st, 2020 +
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA

What's So Great About the Ascension

In his famous book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote,  “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Similarly, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, that God has put eternity into the hearts of man. 

Ever since our exile from Eden, humanity has been filled with this sense of longing for a home. Longing to be back, walking in God’s presence in the cool of the day. Longing for an eternal, perfect, restored creation. 

I’m sure each of us in different ways have experienced something of this longing lately. A longing to get out of the house, to go to a favorite restaurant or park. A longing to be with friends and family. A longing to be in the House of the Lord with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Jesus’ disciples felt that too, I think. As Jesus ascends, they seem to be filled with a sense of longing. 

“Men of Galilee,” the angel said to them, “why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

We’re not told what the disciples were thinking as they looked up into the cloud that hid Jesus from their sight. But perhaps they longed to go with him. Or longed that he would return quickly. Perhaps they longed for him to stay a bit longer and make earth into heaven. Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?

As it usually goes, in a way they were right, but in another way they were wrong. It is good, after all, to long to be with Jesus. “Come, Lord Jesus,” we pray. And it is good to long for the fulfillment of those words we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come.” 

Our longing, however, and theirs, is not to be satisfied or found in any earthly kingdom, no matter how good it may be.

St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until we find our rest in Thee.” 

This is, at least in part, what Jesus is doing in his ascension. Jesus ascends, not to be absent, not to take away his presence from us, but to fill his church, to fill you his people, with his abiding and eternal presence. We see a preview of this in the miracle of Pentecost. Jesus ascends

The Ascension did not take Jesus away….It brought heaven near….His homecoming has made heaven a home for us who still walk far from home” (O.P. Kretzmann, Homecoming in The Pilgrim, Concordia Publishing House, 1944: p. 14-15)

Jesus’ ascension isn’t like a going away party. In his ascension Jesus isn’t leaving his church. Jesus ascends to the right hand of God. A position of power and authority. It’s a grand homecoming. A victorious, joyful day.

Christ’s saving work is completed. He’s finished his course. Ran the race. Won the battle. Defeated the ancient foe. Charged into the jaws of our sin and death and come out alive on the other side of the grave. And he did it all for you. 

Jesus ascends to prepare a place for us, to open what was closed. To remove the sword-wielding cherubim from Eden’s doors. To rule and reign by his death and resurrection, not over an earthly kingdom, but an eternal kingdom without end. 

Jesus ascends, as St. Paul says, that he might fill the church with himself. Jesus ascends to fill his church and his people with his presence. Jesus ascends to abide with us in his Word. To bring heaven to earth in the Supper. To open heaven to us in Holy Baptism. 

As Jesus ascends, we are given a hope and an answer to our ancient longing. A longing that is satisfied in Jesus’ death for you. A hope that is secure in Jesus’ resurrection for you. A hope that in Jesus’ ascension, he has put all things under his feet - this disease that plagues our world, our sin, even death itself. The last enemy has been destroyed. Our longing is answered in him who bore our disease and carried our sorrows. 

This is why Jesus lifts his hands in blessing as he ascends. Jesus ascends to bless his disciples. To bless his church. To bless you, his beloved, baptized, redeemed ones, as we long for his return in glory. 

A blessed Ascension Day to each of you…

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sermon for Easter 6: "Never Alone"

+ Easter 6 – May 17th, 2020 +
Series A: Acts 17:16-31; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the beginning, the Lord declared all that he made to be good. Creation, with its greater and lesser lights, its flora and fauna, its creeping things that creep on the ground. The Lord declared it not just good, but very good. There was, however, one thing that was not good in Eden. It was not good for the man to be alone. So God made Eve as a helpmeet and companion and wife for him.

Over these past few weeks, I imagine that each in our own ways, we’ve discovered that ancient truth. It is not good for man to be alone. Even when we know it is good to love and serve our neighbor by distancing from them for a short while, still, it is not good for man to be alone. 

We can be thankful for the technology that allows us to connect with friends over video chat and family over great distances or across the living room, but it’s still not the same as actually being present with those same people in the same room.

We can appreciate the phone call, the letter, or a wave from a neighbor as they drive by the house, but it’s still not the same as catching up over a cup of coffee at the same table.

We can be grateful for all that schools and teachers are doing to provide our children with online learning and countless resources, but Zoom meetings aren’t the same as sitting in the classroom with your friends and learning together.

We can be glad that we have the ability to stream an online service like we’re doing right now. But it’s not the same is it. Virtual church is a bit of an oxymoron if you think about it. It may be a good, temporary, thing, but it’s also good not to get too used to this either. For it’s no substitute for the regular Sunday gathering of the baptized in our Lord’s house, in our Lord’s presence, surrounded by his gifts, together. 

One of the things we’ve learned these past eight weeks, is that it’s not good for us to be alone.

After all, from the beginning, God created us to be in communion, in fellowship with him and with one another. For God himself is an eternal communion: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the eternal three in one. The Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity, as we confess in the Athanasian Creed. 

Here in John 14, Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is to come in his crucifixion and after his resurrection and ascension. Though the disciples don’t know it yet, they will be tempted by their own flesh and the devil to believe that they are in fact alone, that God had abandoned them and that Jesus had left them on their own. But this was not so.

“If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Our Lord knew that it was not good for his disciples to be alone either. I will give you another Helper, an Advocate, the Comforter. Jesus is promising them – and you – to send the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Truth, who will lead and guide them in the truth of God’s Word. He is the Spirit who testifies of Jesus, constantly pointing the disciples and all believers to Jesus’ death for you, his resurrection for you, his word and baptism and Supper given for you. He is the Spirit who is present with you, for you, and indeed dwells in you by our Lord’s very promise.

Jesus sends his Spirit not only do the work of God for his disciples - comforting them, strengthening them, encouraging them - but He will also do the work of God through them. He will dwell with them and be in them (14:17). The Spirit will lead them to keep the commandments of Jesus. The sacrificial love of Jesus becomes the sacrificial love of His disciples and the world will know God’s people by the love they have for one another and for the world (14:12, 15, and 21; cf. 1 John). “I will not leave you as orphans” Jesus promises.

And that is a good promise for us to hear. Because if we’re honest, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated right now. To feel distant not only from one another, but from our Lord and his promises. This is one of the many ways sin corrupts and infects everything and everyone around us, with the loneliness of sin. That feeling of despair that drives us to hopelessness. Will this ever end? What if my sin is too great for God to forgive? Will he abandon me? 

You see, it is not good for us to be alone. 

This is why Jesus was made man for us. So that we are not, and never will be, alone. So that we will never be abandoned from God’s mercy or orphaned from his grace or lost to the grave. So that his promise to us of dwelling and living with him – not virtually or digitally – but truly and presently and in the flesh, so that it will happen and does happen in his Word and Supper where he dwells with us.

In our time of isolation, remember that Jesus himself knows our aloneness and lostness and abandonment better than anyone, for he himself endured that on the cross. Jesus was forsaken by the Father that you might always be with Him. Jesus was left alone on the cross to take all of our sin, all of our lostness, and our death upon himself. And to give you everything in exchange – his eternal life. His holiness. His grace, mercy, and abiding peace.

This is why Jesus continues to send his Spirit  to you. To do the same work for you and in you as he did for the disciples. To comfort you in the cross of Jesus. To strengthen you in his Word. To encourage you in the way of his commandments. To work for you as well as dwell in you by the washing of water and the word where this Holy Spirit was poured out upon you. To continue, like a good hunting dog, to point you to Jesus crucified and risen for you. 

To remind you that the Father sent his Son for you. The Son died and rose for you and sends the Holy Spirit to you. The Holy Spirit dwells in you. And you are never alone.

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard and keep your hearts in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Sermon for Easter 5: "Jesus is the Way"

+ Easter 5 – May 10th, 2020 +
Series A: Acts 6:1-9, 51-60; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life- Christian Art

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the very beginning of creation, God made us to be a people of place and location. We are born with a sense of place. We are born into a family, into a community, into a nation. We have a geography, something that locates us on a particular set of GPS coordinates. We are not made to wander aimlessly without a place. When God made Adam and Eve, He didn’t just have them roam over the face of the earth. He put them in a place, an ordered place, a garden. The garden of Eden was Adam and Eve’s place, the place where humanity was most like God, reflecting His image to the creation, enjoying the fruits of creation, walking with God in the cool of the day.
But sin changed all that. Sin displaced us. Drove us from the Garden. Filled humanity with a sense of loss and longing that we carry with us still. Sin took us from the place where we were most at home and set us in a hostile wilderness of weeds and sweat and pain and death. Sin took away our place and drove us into lostness. We are not at home. We’re lost, longing for a home, a place that we can’t seem to find. We’re restless. We move from one place to another, hoping, longing, searching for that place called “home,” that garden place where we can once again be ourselves, but we can’t seem to find it.
As Jesus taught his disciples on that Thursday night before his crucifixion I imagine they experienced many similar feelings. Confusion and chaos of the unknown future. Uncertainty on the horizon. Fear and despair of what was to come. A sense of loss and longing for a place. This is why John 14 begins the way it does, with Jesus comforting his disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled.”
For the disciples, and more so for Jesus, there was much trouble to come. Jesus’ betrayal by one of his own disciples, Judas. Peter’s denial of his Lord. Sham trials. False accusations. Shouts of crucifixion. Beatings followed by more beatings. A painful, agonizing, humiliating death. Jesus’ own disciples scattered in fear, hiding behind locked doors. Yet, Jesus speaks into their troubled lives.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise to calm this particular storm, the one he is heading into as he goes to the cross. But he does promise to be with his disciples, and take his place on the cross to ensure that his disciples, and you, will have an eternal place of rest with him.
And even though the way ahead for us is very different from the disciples gathered with Jesus in that upper room, I think we can relate to their sense of fear, confusion, despair, and uncertainty of what’s to come on the road ahead. In recent weeks, we’ve probably all experienced a profound sense of loss in one way or another: loss of jobs, loss of health, loss of peace and safety, loss of family gatherings and events, graduations and school, loss of gathering together as God’s people, loss of health and life. 
Into our lives of despair, uncertainty, doubt, pain, loss, disease, and death - into our wilderness, Jesus gives us words of hope and comfort, his promise and his presence.
I AM the Way, the truth, and the life.
Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” for his disciples, and for you. He stands uniquely between the Creator and the creature, between the Father and fallen humanity. As Jesus said to Philip, “The Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” He is also Man of His mother, true humanity, bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh. And so He stands in the breach as the only Mediator between God and humanity. Jesus alone is your way, and he comes to lead us out of our lostness and the displacement of our sin by his death on the cross.
Jesus doesn’t simply speak the truth, He IS the Truth. The absolute Truth. The Truth beyond which there is no further truth, and the Truth to which all truths point. He is Truth enfleshed in our humanity. There is nothing false in Him. He is the antidote to the Lie that poisoned our humanity and drove us into the wilderness of Sin and Death. He is the Truth of God’s love for the world, His passion to save, His mercy toward sinners.
Jesus is the Life. He is the creator of life and He is Life. Jesus’ words are Spirit and they are Life. Jesus is the Life that enlivens every living thing. Jesus is the Life that Death itself cannot overcome. The Father sends His Son, the Son sends the Spirit, and you are on the blessed receiving end of the speaking. You hear the words of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and in hearing you are set on the Way, the Truth is revealed to you, and you have Life.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Is your heart troubled? By your past, by your present, by your future? By your sins, your failings, your death? Whatever the cause of the trouble, whatever the anxiety or terror or fear, trust the Father, trust Jesus His Son. Jesus has gone the way of death and resurrection to glory and has brought you along with Him in His humanity. You are baptized. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s treasured possession. You are a part of the body of Christ, you are a member of the household of God, you are a priest in the royal priesthood of Jesus. He’s gone to prepare a place for you. He will raise you from the dead on the Last Day so that where He is you also will be. In Him you are already there.
In Jesus, you have a place. You have a home. In Jesus, you are never lost, but always found. In Jesus, you are never dead, but always alive. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. 
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sermon for Easter 4: "Christ the Door"

+ Easter 4 – May 3rd, 2020 +
Series A: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA
Thursday In Whitsun Week | I am the door, Jesus, Readings of the day

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’ve probably all heard of a Lutheran church named after Christ the Vine, or Good Shepherd. But I’m guessing we’ve never seen a church named Christ the Door Lutheran Church.

And yet, that’s the title Jesus gives himself here in John 10:

 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Although we usually call this 4th Sunday of Easter, “Good Shepherd Sunday”, today we could just as call it Christ the Door Sunday. For Jesus is both our Door and our Shepherd.

And in this world of danger, Jesus our Good Shepherd, leads us through the door of his death and resurrection to dwell with him.

In our daily life, doors come in all shapes and sizes: round doors that lead to holes in the ground, automatic sliding doors that make you feel like a Jedi knight, doors that open into a room or a whole new world that’s bigger on the inside. In the Scriptures, however, the door comes in a particular shape: the cross of Jesus. 

It is a narrow door through which the last come first; a narrow door where we lose our old, sinful fallen life, in order to find a new life in Christ; a narrow door where we are stripped of our idols that we might fit through it. Perhaps you’ve noticed, as I have these past few weeks, that one of the good things that has come out of our time in quarantine and isolation is a revealing of just how many idols we have, how many things we fear, love, and trust in above our Lord and his promises. And, along with that, a revealing that the voice of our Good Shepherd is what we need most of all.

And yet this door of Christ Crucified is also wide. Wide enough for us wayward sheep to enter and find rest in Christ’s sheepfold. For Jesus’ death and resurrection is always greater than your sin, my sin, and the sin of the world. Jesus’ cross is a door large enough to swallow up all of our death, guilt, and sin.

In this world of danger, Jesus our Good Shepherd, leads us through the door of his death and resurrection to dwell with him.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

It’s comforting to know that when Jesus reveals Himself as a shepherd, He does so in a dangerous world. When Jesus spoke these words, life wasn’t full of kittens, unicorns, and rainbows; he was on his way to the cross. So, Jesus opens the eyes of His disciples to how dangerous their world truly is. He calls attention to the false shepherds and the hired hands, to the thieves and robbers, and wolves which surrounded them. In the midst of danger, Jesus reveals Himself as a shepherd: Our shepherd. The One who came that we, “May have life and have it abundantly” (10:10).

For Jesus, this world of thieves and false shepherds wasn’t imaginary or figurative. It was real. He was betrayed by a thief, crucified under the rule of false shepherds and buried in a tomb. But He rose from the dead to assure us that He is the Gate, the Door, and the true Shepherd who leads us to everlasting life.

On this 4th Sunday in Easter we find ourselves once again in a dangerous world. And yet, Jesus our Door and Good Shepherd comes to us as surely as he was with his disciples. 

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Jesus, our good shepherd knows us by name and promises to be with us always. Everything we experience in this dangerous, fallen, sinful world, Jesus has already experienced for you. Isolation. Pain. Sorrow. Death.
Jesus knows the agony of suffering. He endured the loneliness of death. Surely he has borne our sins and carried our sorrows, and by his wounds you are healed. 

Today, Jesus our Good Shepherd declares that he’s also our True Door; and he leads us through the gate of his death and resurrection to be the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Today, although we may not know much about what comes tomorrow, or what lies ahead, we know our Good Shepherd, we hear his voice, and more than that, he knows you. 

Today, as many of us, no doubt, feel distant from one another and closed off from one another, Christ our Good Shepherd, and Christ our Door lived and died and rose to ensure the way to the Father, that the gates of paradise, that the door to his sheepfold is opened for you.

Today, no matter how many burdens or cares or worries we carry in this pandemic, we have a Good Shepherd who carries us through the door of his cross to everlasting life 

Today, the voice of our Good Shepherd rings out “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” 

A blessed Easter to each of you..
In the Name of + Jesus.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Funeral Sermon for Betty Cecil: "Something More Certain"

+ In Memoriam - Betty Cecil +
Job 19:21-27; Romans 6:3-11; John 11:17-27
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
Milton, WA

Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lately, it seems that every email, press conference, TV or radio commercial is quick to remind us that we live in uncertain times. But if you think about it, that’s a little like saying water is wet and rocks are hard. There’s always uncertainty in our daily lives. The 10% chance of rain turns into a thunder shower. Stock markets that bottom out one week soar the next week. Our bodies and minds, which are one day healthy, soon grow old, get sick, and are taken by death. 

And while it’s true that certainty can be hard to find; it’s not the whole truth. Certainty may be hard to come by, but it’s not impossible. There is, in fact, something more certain than all the uncertainties of life.

Job proclaims it to us today: I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is [f]destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God.

The Apostle Paul declares it to us today: For as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection

Jesus reminds Martha, and us of what is most sure and certain: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

As we learned, and as Betty learned, we confess this is most certainly true!

Today, as we mourn the death of a beloved mother, grandmother, and sister in Christ, we rest in the sure and certain promises of Jesus. For we know what Betty knew, and confess what she confessed, that there is something and someone more certain than sin, death, disease, and the grave – Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, and in him, the promise of our own resurrection.

This is what we confess, as Betty did throughout her life, when we confess the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” In this life, death and taxes may appear to be the only certainty, but in Jesus we have something more certain. As St. Paul says in Romans 6:

For he who has died has been [b]freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, [c]reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As a baptized Lutheran, Betty knew these promises well. So well, that even when dementia slowly ate away at her memory, the hymns and prayers and psalms she had learned and sung and prayed for so many years stuck with her. Our Lord buried his sure and certain Word deeply within her heart and mind and soul. And what our Lord promises and delivers, no man or disease can rend asunder. 

Our Lord’s sure and certain Word and promises to Betty were what sustained her in this uncertain world. It was our Lord’s Supper and Baptism and forgiveness that filled her with a sure and certain hope in the resurrection, even as our Lord’s promises continue to do so for us today.

For though our flesh and heart may fail, the Lord is our strength and hope and confidence. 

Though we die, yet in Christ we shall rise and live.

Though we are uncertain about many things, we join Job, Paul, Martha, and Betty in living and confessing what is most certain. 

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.

This is most certainly true.

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.