Monday, April 12, 2021

Sermon for Easter 2: "From Fear to Joy"

 + Easter 2 – April 11, 2021 +

Series B: Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

Have you ever been too afraid to go outside? So afraid that you find yourself hiding behind locked doors with the shades pulled and curtains drawn? So afraid you want to hide? Don’t take phone calls. Don’t answer the door. Don’t engage the world.

 

I’m guessing that’s not what any of us were up to last Easter Sunday. Maybe we had some family over, gathered for an Easter dinner, or took an afternoon nap.

 

But this was not the case for the disciples that first Easter Sunday. On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.

 

One of the most remarkable reactions to the resurrection of Jesus is fear. In Mark, the women who went to the tomb early that Sunday morning and heard the news of the resurrection from the angel ran away in fear and told no one. In John, the disciples are hiding in the upper room, probably the same upper room where four days before Jesus had told them not to fear. The doors were locked tight. The disciples were cowering together in fear.

 

When you stop to think about it, it makes sense. The rumors were already thick as fog. The tomb was empty. The guards were bribed and disappeared. Mary Magdalene has seen Him, touched Him. Every street corner was buzzing in whispered tones about how the tomb of Jesus was empty. His grave clothes mysteriously folded neatly. The religious authorities were probably conducting a frantic door to door search. They had crucified Jesus. They were aware of His predictions. They would stop at nothing to squelch this rumor now. And so the disciples were afraid. Huddled together like frightened cats, and locked the doors.

 

Their fear is also understandable in that they knew that dead men don’t ordinarily rise. Maybe they feared the worst, that the religious leaders or the Romans had taken the body of Jesus and were now going to come after them. Or maybe they didn’t know what to think. 

 

In any event, they were afraid. They could hide from the Jews and the Romans and attempt to hide their fears from one another, but they could not hide from Jesus. 

 

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 

 

Even before Jesus opens his mouth, Jesus shows his love for his disciples and for all. Jesus joined them in their fears. Jesus stood in their presence knowing full well that their hearts were racing, their minds swirling, their fears overwhelming. He does not require them to pull themselves together before he enters the room. He doesn’t tell them to get a grip. Jesus joins them in their fear.

 

Martin Luther once said that Christ dwells only among sinners. This is good news for the disciples. Good news for us. Christ did not come to save perfect, unfearful people who have it all together. No he came to save the lost, the least, the hurting, the broken, the fearful. 

It’s not hard to sympathize with the disciples. We see their fear and understand. We put ourselves in their sandals. If we had been there in that upper room we’d have been huddled right next to them too. 

 

With the disciples, we have a common enemy of fear. Consider how over this past year doctors have reported an increase in treatment and medications for anxiety and depression. And it’s not just the pandemic. It’s fear of many things. Fear of uncertainty. Of the economy, politics, rights, and freedoms. Sometimes our fears are more personal. Fear of letting others down. Fear of shame or guilt. Fear of mistakes we’ve made. Sins we’ve committed.

 

But again, notice what Jesus says and does. He does not rebuke the disciples for their fear. He doesn’t shake his finger in disappointment. 

 

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 

 

Jesus comes to his disciples. Jesus speaks to his disciples. It is Jesus’ presence. Jesus’ word. Jesus’ peace. That’s what calms the disciples fears. 

 

It is Jesus’ word and promise that brings his disciples from fear to joy. And this is the way it has been throughout Jesus’ life. Mary and Joseph’s first reaction when they are visited by an angel is fear. But the angel’s message quickly turns fear to joy. So too, the shepherds, gripped with fear as they watched their flocks by night, are quickly moved from fear to joy by the angelic announcement of good news that “unto you is born this day a savior.” 

 

At Jesus’ resurrection, no coincidence, the women are moved from fear to joy as the angel proclaims, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One. He is not here; he is risen. Just as he told you.”

 

And again here in the upper room that first Easter evening, it was Jesus’ presence, his peace, his word that brought the disciples from fear to joy. 

 

The same is true for you this Easter season. Jesus brings us from joy to fear in his death and resurrection. Does that mean that we will no longer feel afraid of various things in life? No, but that our fears do not win the day. That as great as our fears may be, the peace and joy Jesus gives us in his death and resurrection is far greater. 

 

No matter what our fears are, Jesus joins us in the midst of our fears, just as he did his disciples. Jesus speaks his peace to you. 

 

Jesus is present with you and for you, here, at his table, in his body and blood, in his word of promise. Jesus dwells with you and in you in your baptism. 

 

Jesus speaks his peace to you and declares all your sins are forgiven. No matter how big of a monster our fears appear to be, Jesus’ death and resurrection have slain the dragon, defeated the grave, and destroyed the last enemy of death. For his disciples. For you. 

 

In Jesus’ dying and rising, you are brought from the shifting sands of uncertainty to the solid ground of Jesus’ certain promises, from death to life, and from fear to joy. 

 

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

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Sermon for Easter Sunday: "Just As He Told You"

 + The Resurrection of Our Lord – April 4, 2021 +

Series B: Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

We live in a world full of predictions. Meteorologists try to predict tomorrow’s weather. Sports fans try to predict the perfect NCAA tournament bracket. Economists try to predict the ups and downs of financial markets. And so on. You may run out of toilet paper, but there’s no shortage on predictions.

 

The problem with predictions, as you’ve probably noticed, is that events rarely go as predicted. The expected snowpocalypse barely covers the grass. Your NCAA bracket is busted in the opening round of play. One day the markets rage like a bull, the next they’re hibernating like a bear. Occasionally, of course, predictions come true just as a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, as the saying goes. 

 

Generally speaking, though, most predictions fall flat.

 

Today, however, we celebrate one very important exception to that rule. Jesus’ own death and resurrection.

 

Throughout the Gospel of Mark – three times on three separate occasions – Jesus predicts the seemingly impossible – to rise from the dead – and then he does it. 

The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

 

But of course, this was not what was on the minds of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome as they walked to Jesus’ tomb, early in the morning on that first Easter. To their knowledge, Jesus’ body was still in the tomb. Their teacher and messiah was still dead. So they came prepared. They brought the burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body. And they wondered, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

 

But as it turns out, things did not go as they predicted. Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.

 

Who wouldn’t be. Their minds racing with questions. Overwhelmed with uncertainty. Swirling with alarm and fear. It’s all rather unpredictable. And yet, it happened.

 

 “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One. He is risen! He is not
here. See the place where they laid Him.
 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him….just as He told you.”

 

Although the women were afraid, the young man reminded them they had no reason to fear. And neither do you. Do not fear your sin. Do not fear your guilt or shame. Do not fear your doubt, despair, disease, or death. Do not fear the grave. Do not fear even the devil himself. For Jesus has conquered, overcome, and rose victoriously for you.

 

Jesus predicts the seemingly impossible – his death and resurrection – and it happens just as he said. This is simply the way it is with Jesus. What Jesus says happens.

 

Jesus predicts that the two disciples he sends into the village ahead of him will find a donkey for the Palm Sunday procession, and that someone will object to them taking it…and it happens.


Jesus predicts that the two disciples he sends to prepare the Passover will meet a man carrying a water jar, and that they will follow this man to an upper room for the Passover…and it happens. 


Jesus predicts that he will be betrayed by one of his own disciples… and it happens.


Jesus predicts that the disciples will deny him, fall away, and be scattered like sheep, and that even Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crows… and it happens.


Jesus predicts that the Scribes and Pharisees will condemn him to death… and it happens.


Jesus predicts that he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and they will mock him, spit upon him, and scourge him… and it happens.


Jesus predicts three times in Mark’s Gospel that he will be crucified… and it happens.


And today, the joyous exclamation point. Jesus predicts that he’ll rise again from the dead on the 3rd day…and, indeed it happened. Christ is risen! Easter is the greatest prediction in all of history. Because it truly happened. 

 

Jesus’ prediction is also His promise to you. Remember the young man’s words to the women at the tomb. “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him….just as He told you.”

 

Our predictions may not always come to pass. But Jesus’ word. Jesus’ prediction. Jesus’ promise. Always comes true. When life – as it often does – teeter totters in unpredictability, you live in the joy of this sure and certain promise of Jesus’ cross and his empty tomb. No amount of unpredictable things can ever take Jesus’ death and resurrection away from you. And no matter how unpredictable tomorrow is, this much is certain. Christ is risen. For you. And one day, Christ will return to raise you from your graves as well – as he predicted. As he promised. Just as he told you. 

 

For Jesus is the crucified one for you…just as he told you. 

 

Christ is risen for you and Death is swallowed up in victory…just as he told you.

 

Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One. He is risen! Just as he told you!


Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Just as he told you!

 

A blessed Easter to each of you…

 

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

Sermon for Good Friday: “Christ, the Firstborn, is Sacrificed”

 + Good Friday – April 2, 2021 +

Exodus 12:21-32

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

There’s a Jewish legend that says when darkness came after Adam’s first day in the world, that he wept through the night over the death of the sun. Ever since Adam’s fall, and Abel’s murder, has a single night passed when someone somewhere hasn’t wept over the death of someone else?

 

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning, sings the psalmist. But we know that isn’t always the case, at least not in this life. There’s a reason we call this fallen world the veil of tears.

 

In days of the Exodus the night was often full of tears as well. Israel, lamenting their slavery and bondage in Egypt. And then Egypt, weeping and wailing over the death of the firstborn. The last of the 10 plagues God poured out upon Egypt. That night echoed with a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.

 

Forever after that night, God claimed every Israelite firstborn as his own special child. They belonged to him. The Levites – the priests and sons of Aaron – represented these firstborn. These sons who labored in and around the tabernacle, who cared for the holy things of the Lord, who daily watched as doves, pigeons, sheep and goats, bulls and cows shed their blood and were burned on the altar – the Levites were the firstborn of Israel.

 

But where were they on this day of days we call Good Friday? Where were the Levites on the day their vocation was being fulfilled by the Great High Priest himself? Where were they who represented the firstborn of Israel, while the firstborn of earth and heaven, the only begotten Son of God, shed his innocent blood on the altar of the cross? 

 

For Good Friday is the day when all of the Old Testament sacrifices and work of the priests stands fulfilled. No longer in the temple. No longer in the sheep, goats, or bulls. Not upon that altar, but upon Golgotha. In the blood of the Lamb of God. In the sacrifice of the true firstborn. In Jesus, the Savior of us all.

 

With ten plagues the Lord had attacked Egypt in the time of the exodus. Water to blood, a blitzkrieg of bugs, disease, thunder, hail. And the ninth attack, when Moses stretched out his hands towards the heavens, a sea of darkness flooded and covered Egypt. A darkness so thick, so black, so intense, you could feel it. Not for one, nor two, but three days God kept the sun at bay. Then after those three days came the zenith of those plagues, the death of Egypt’s firstborn sons.

 

That darkness and death was also a shadow of what was to come. Because for you, to ransom you, O captive Israel, one greater than Moses stretched out his hands towards heaven, to have them nailed to the wood of the cross for you. There he hangs on the tree of death to bear for you the fruit of life. There he hangs, suspended between God and man, making peace between him and you by the blood of his cross.

 

And along with his death comes the darkness, from the sixth to the ninth hour, a darkness fell over the whole land not for one, nor two, but three hours. The Father, who lifts up his face to enlighten us, hid his countenance from his firstborn Son. 

Why? We wonder. Because God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us. Because Jesus has come to be the firstborn of men for us. Firstborn for Cain the murderer. Aaron the idolater. David the adulterer. Jesus came for us born in sin. Whoever you are and whatever you’ve done or left undone – Jesus has become you and it. Jesus has taken your place, as did the Levites of old, to offer a better sacrifice that closes the book on the temple, altar, all of it. The firstborn is dead. For you. Killed by the judgment of God in your stead. In Jesus all the plagues are over and you are free.

 

You are free. For the Father has sent his firstborn Son into the world, not to kill, but to be killed. Not to judge but to be judged for you. Not to condemn, but to suffer condemnation for us. 

 

On Good Friday, weeping did tarry for the night. And the next as well. Three days in fact. Until joy came to the women who came to the tomb on Easter morning. 

 

For how could the grave hold the Lord of life? It could not. It cannot. It has not. Jesus lives. And when God raised Christ, he destroyed the last enemy. And Christ is the head of his body, the Church, the beginning, the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might have first place. 

 

But he is the firstborn, not the only-born, for in him you, too, call God “Father.” 

 

When Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son, she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. And this Son, all grown up, now wraps you, his adopted siblings, in the swaddling clothes of his flesh and blood, joining you to his own crucifixion and resurrection. All that is his, is now yours. Everything he has done, he has done for you. 

 

In the exodus he accomplished in Jerusalem, you are his beneficiary. He leads you to Mt. Zion and to the city of the living God. To the heavenly Jerusalem, to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous men made perfect.

 

Jesus leads you to himself, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

A blessed Good Friday to each of you…

 

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

 

Sermon for Maundy Thursday: “The New and Better Passover Meal of Meals”

+ Maundy Thursday – April 1, 2021 +

Exodus 12:1-14

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

Sometimes a meal is more than a meal. Sometimes the meal takes on a life of its own. On their wedding day, the bride and groom don’t place a bite of that pretty cake in each other’s mouths just for the fun of it. The final meal of a death-row inmate is more than a chance for him to die without hunger pains. And whether you like the dark or light meat or don’t even care for turkey you’ve probably cooked or at least eaten it for Thanksgiving. Eating is often about far more than eating.

 

On their last night in Egypt, during their final hours of slavery, the Israelites partook of a meal that was far more than a meal. A simple menu, really, but nothing was served up by accident. Nothing was chosen for it’s nutritional value or flavor. In fact, one part of the Passover was chosen precisely because of its bad taste. The bitter herbs because the Egyptians had embittered their lives in slavery.

 

Unleavened bread was also part of the meal – unleavened because Pharaoh would release them from bondage before the sun rose, before the yeast had time to raise the dough. It was the bread of affliction and haste, for Israel would leave Egypt in haste before fickle Pharaoh changed his mind. It was a holy fast food of sorts. Israel had to eat and run.

 

The bitter herbs were for remembrance, and the unleavened bread foreshadowed their upcoming hasty exit from Egypt. So too, the main course, the roasted flesh of the sacrificial lamb: that meat also heralded something else, something that was a gift for both the present and the future, the now and the not yet. 

 

The now of the roasted meat was the tangible sign that an innocent victim had been killed in their place just a few hours ago. The angelic destroyer who was passing through the land that night would pass over their homes, sparing the firstborn sons. And above and beside the entrance of the homes of faithful Israelites was painted the blood of the Passover lambs. On the night of the Passover, as Israel tasted the meat, they knew that their sons would not taste death.

 

But this main course proclaimed a message that went well beyond that night as well. The whole meal – bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and roasted lamb – was an edible prophecy. Like the prophets who foretold the coming Messiah, this meal was a foretelling that Israel could sink their teeth into. A promise that was a foretaste of the feast to come. To a new and better Passover in Jesus’ body and blood.

 

This meal is definitely more than a meal – an eating that is about far more than eating and drinking that is about far more than drinking. It is a table where the things of earth are lifted up to the things of heaven and the things of heaven are brought down to the things of earth. God comes down into the Egypt of our captivity, not to kill his enemies, but to place into our mouths his own body and blood, given into death to save his enemies, to save us.

 

It may look rather ordinary and plain, just like the original Passover, but this bread and wine are the food of the new and better Passover. Bread. Wine. Nothing a food critic would write a 5-star dining review about on Yelp. 

 

This is how our Lord often works, his great works of salvation are disguised in simplicity and humility. 

 

Take, eat, this simple bread is his body. It is the body of the Lamb that was not passed over, but passed under the knife. Or, rather, passed under the court of the Sanhedrin, passed under the sentence of Pilate, passed under the whips of the soldiers, passed under the sneers of the crowd, passed under the beams of his cross, passed under all the evil this world could heap upon him. For he also passed under the verdict of his Father, which declared this innocent one guilty for our crimes that we, the guilty ones, might go free. 

 

Take, eat, this is the body of God’s own Son, the Lamb. Take, eat, open your mouth and do not be afraid. Taste and see that the Lamb is good, good enough for you and the whole world, so good that in eating his body you become the good that he is. In this meal, you are what you eat.

 

Take, drink, this simple wine is his blood. It is the lifeblood of the Lamb who gave his life for you. He gave it from the alpha of his life to the omega. He gave it as an eight-day old infant, as he shed his blood under the law for you. He gave it in Gethsemane, as he prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will but yours be done” – as he sweat drops of blood. Christ gave his lifeblood when the whips ripped open his flesh, when the thorns pierced his brow, when the nails bore through his hands and feet, and finally when the soldier’s spear broke through the dam of his flesh, unleashing water and blood that fills the font and chalice with Jesus’ life.

 

Take, drink, this is Jesus’ blood. Paint it not on your doorposts or lintel, but on your lips, on your tongue, on your heart, and on your soul, for this blood is the armor of the Almighty, shielding every inch of you from destruction that will overtake this world when the angels carry out God’s judgment. They will pass over you for you have passed under the bleeding side of the Passover Lamb of God.

 

Take, drink, for this is the cup of your salvation, the blood of the Lamb given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

 

Here, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is a meal that takes on a life of its own, or, rather, that takes on the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in taking this meal into yourself, you take on his life as your own, passing from death to life everlasting.

 

A blessed Maundy Thursday to each of you…

 

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

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Sermon for Palm Sunday: "The Grand Parade"

 + Palm Sunday – March 28, 2021 +

John 12:12-19; Zechariah 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11; John 12:20-43

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

You can learn a lot about people simply by watching their parades. 

 

A 4th of July parade weaves its way through town; the band plays and flags wave in a patriotic display. Fans line the streets for a victory parade with ticker tape for the home team hoisting the trophy. This past year we’ve even seen graduation or birthday parades to celebrate life’s milestones. 

 

Parades reveal what’s important to people, what they value, what they believe in. 

 

Holy Scripture is full of different parades, processions, and pilgrimages too. Some are sorrowful – more like a death march – Adam and Eve banished from Eden. Israel wandering the wilderness for 40 years. Still, many of Scripture’s parades are joyful: Israel’s march of life through the Red Sea. Israel’s crossing the Jordan into the promised land. 

 

The Christian church is no stranger to parades either. We began with a parade of sorts this morning. A Palm Sunday Procession. Did you notice what was at the head? Not a flag, a trophy, or a fire engine – but Palms, the holy Scripture, and leading us all at the head of the procession – the cross of Jesus crucified. 

 

A parade, or procession, as we call it in the church, reveals what’s most important to us as God’s people, what we value, what we believe in. That’s true all year round, of course, but especially today on Palm Sunday. 

 

As Holy Week begins, the holy Palm Sunday parade – with the donkeys and palms and Hosannas – points us to the reason for the occasion. The reason this is called Holy Week. And it’s not our successes, achievements, or victories, but Jesus. 

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Here is another procession in Scripture – the annual pilgrimage to the Passover. The yearly remembrance of God’s salvation in Exodus. The blood of the Passover Lamb. The holy Passover meal. The sacrificial death of the firstborn Lamb to redeem and rescue God’s people. The people enter Jerusalem as they had for the feast for hundreds of years, only this year’s parade features something new, or better yet, someone new. 

 

The King, the Lord himself. The Lamb of God riding atop a donkey. The true Passover Lamb going up to Jerusalem for the sacrifice on the cross. The ultimate and final redemption of God’s people. 

 

“Hosanna,” the people cried out. Hosanna, Lord, save us. That’s what Hosanna means. That’s what the parade goers cried out. Hosanna. And well they should. For they were in need of saving. Did they understand what that meant or how Jesus would save them? Of course not. Not yet at least. But Jesus rode into Jerusalem all the same. Jesus set out on his Palm Sunday parade route for them and for you.

 

Lord, save us, we cry out as well. Lord, save us from our pride and folly. Lord, save us from our guilt and shame. Lord, save us from fear and despair. Lord, save us from sin and suffering. Lord, save us from disease and death. Hosanna, Lord save us. 

 

And he does. That’s what this week. This day. This Palm Sunday procession is all about. Jesus’ steady, determined march to the cross for you. 

 

And yet, there’s something odd about this parade. Something unexpected, yet glorious. Gracious even. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!  The crowds cry out. They’re right of course. Jesus is the King. He comes in the Name of the Lord. For he is the Lord. And yet, notice how he enters Jerusalem. No fanfare. No Rolls Royce Limousine. No ticker tape parade. Instead he rides in on the first century version of a Pinto. Not a conquering warhorse. But a donkey. A beast of burden for the one who journeys to the cross carrying all of our burdens. A humble savior who goes to a humble death on the cross to rescue and redeem you. A victory parade of palms branches that culminates in the King crowned with thorns and enthroned in crucified glory for you. 

 

Jesus’ whole life has been a preparation for this grand parade, his final procession to the cross. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Born of the Virgin Mary. Was made man. Crucified. Suffered. Died. And was buried.

 

But the grave was not the terminus of Jesus’ parade route. No, only a three day layover. On Easter Sunday Jesus walks out of his tomb ensuring that when he returns on the last day He will raise us from our graves as well.  

 

This is why we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Yes, it is a procession that leads to his passion, suffering, and death, but it is also a victory parade announcing his coming triumph over death on the cross on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

 

Today, all of the pilgrimages in Scripture find their fulfillment in Jesus’ Palm Sunday procession. 

 

Today, our exile out of Eden has ended. Our wilderness wandering is over. We return home from Babylon. 

 

Today, Jesus leads us on a greater exodus to the cross, through the grave, into the Red Sea of the font and out again into new life and a new creation in his name. 

 

Today, we cross into the promised Land with Jesus, our greater Joshua leading the charge with his cross and empty tomb as our royal banners.

 

Today, we join the procession of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, as we gather at our Lord’s table for the true Passover feast of his body and his blood. 

 

Today, we join Jesus’ Palm Sunday procession as we enter this Holy Week – the great week of God’s great salvation for you in Jesus. And as we process we join the ancient song, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

 

A blessed Palm Sunday to each of you…

 

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

 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Sermon for Lenten Midweek 5: "A Second Exodus"

 + Lenten Midweek 5 – March 24, 2021 +

Isaiah 11:11-16

Beautiful Savior Lutheran 

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

Sometimes God’s promises sound too good to be true. I mean, what military general would not have to stifle laughter upon being told that the walls of Jericho would be toppled by a Levitical marching band? Or what doctor wouldn’t chuckle at God’s plan for Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole to cure the dying Israelites? It sounds far too far-fetched. But as we know, the Lord was not speaking tongue in cheek to Joshua or Moses. He meant what he said and would do what he promised.

 

So too, as impossible as it seemed to Abraham and Sarah, the Lord was not kidding when he told childless Abraham that through him would arise descendants that numbered more than the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. God meant what he said and would do what he promised. Through Abraham, Christ would bless all nations of the earth.

 

It all might sound a bit crazy, laughable, too good to be true. Abraham was approaching the century mark. Sarah, too, was old enough to be cashing in her social security checks. She even giggled a little when she overheard that she, at her age, was going to be mother. And sure enough, a year later, when was 90, Sarah held a baby boy in her arms. Abraham gave him the name Isaac, which means laughter.

 

While God’s people might think his promises too good to be true, even laughable, God always delivers. God always comes through, without fail.

 

So, what about the promise God preached by Isaiah, that Abraham’s descendants, scattered here and there and everywhere, would be gathered again to Jerusalem? The Exodus of Israel out of Egypt was one thing, but a worldwide exodus? Imagine the logistics! 

 

But that’s exactly what the prophet Isaiah says. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people… He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

It all sounds too good to be true. How could the Heavenly Father rescue his captive children from all over the globe, remove every barrier that stands in their way, build a highway for them to travel on, and lead them safe and sound to the holy city?

 

As wild as his promises sound, God always delivers. God always comes through, without fail. For once in the days when a decree went out from Caesar Augustus and Quirinius was governor in Syria, there in a feed trough in David’s hometown lies an infant like all other babies, yet also unlike any other. Here is David’s son and David’s Lord, whose rule and reign is over the four corners of the world.

 

And if his birth wasn’t remarkable enough, listen to the message Abraham’s Seed preaches. That he will draw all people to himself in his crucifixion. That he will be a shepherd not only over the flock of the Jews, but over the Gentiles as well, so there will be one flock and he the one shepherd. That he will send out his apostles into all the world to teach and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

But of course our Lord wasn’t done there. Jesus goes to Jerusalem to accomplish a bloody exodus from the city of Jerusalem, up to the mountain called Golgotha, onto a tree to die for you, and laid into the tomb. We might think the devil has the last laugh here. But he doesn’t. Just wait one day. Wait two. Wait three.

 

And then, if you want to laugh, then by all means, when our resurrected Lord Jesus climbs out of the grave on day three, then laugh with all the joy you can muster as soldiers faint like dead men, as demons shriek in horror, as the women come to the tomb in utter astonishment and amazement. There is only a bit of burial cloth left. Nicely folded in its place. The Lord and Creator and Savior of all is alive once more, never to die again.

 

So we laugh with Sarah and Abraham. We laugh joyfully and triumphantly, for God has accomplished the impossible. God always delivers. God always comes through, without fail. What seemed too good to be true has come to pass. Christ has risen. And all of it, every last bit of it, done for you.

 

This is how God fulfills what Isaiah foretold. Lift up your eyes and see the nations streaming to Jesus. From Assyria to America, from Egypt to Japan, from the four corners of the earth, people once fettered in sin are freed in Jesus. In his own bloody exodus from the city of Jerusalem, the Son of God has paved the way for all – for you – for the whole wide world – to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church of the living God. 

 

And no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you’re part of this pilgrim throng – sons and daughters of Abraham by faith. Sin, death, shame, guilt, regret, failure – these are gone. Death and the devil are utterly destroyed. They have no power over you, for you are children of God. Beloved. Redeemed. 

 

It is finished. The exodus of all exoduses has been accomplished in Jesus’ death for you. 

 

God always delivers. God always comes through, without fail. Jesus has done it all for you. And he who sits in the heavens, at the Father’s right hand, he laughs. And we laugh with him. Yes, even in Lent! For he has kept his promise. The last laugh is his, and yours as well, for God has kept his word, now as always. 

 

 

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

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sermon for Lent 5: "Opposite Day"

 + Lent 5 – March 21, 2021 +

Series B: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:32-45

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

Occasionally children play a little game that, no doubt, many of us, our own kids or grand kids have played as well – opposite day. You know how it goes. Up is down. Jump is sit. Go to bed means stay up late. And so on. 

 

If you think about it, there’s a grain of truth in the opposite game that children play. When we turn to Scripture, we find that God’s kingdom, work, and ways are often hidden in their opposites. Quite often God hides himself in the opposite of what we would do or expect. Think about it. The almighty God is born to an unwed teenage mother in a feeding trough in a country town called Bethlehem. The Lord of heaven and earth, who by his word spoke creation into existence out of nothing, becomes man and hides himself in the frailty of human flesh. The Lord of all becomes the servant of all.

 

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

 

If we were to imagine or create a god for ourselves, this is not at all what we’d expect. This is not what the disciples expected either. 

 

This is the third time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus predicts his death. Each time he’s given more detail. And each of Jesus’ predictions are met with confusion or denial from his disciples. Whenever Jesus talks about his suffering, crucifixion, and death, the disciples want to talk about the opposite - glory, self-exaltation, honor. Given the choice, they choose their selfish ambitions every time. Jesus, on the other hand, does the opposite. He chooses the cross. 

 

In Mark 8 Jesus predicts his crucifixion and Peter takes him aside to rebuke him. Jesus responds by saying that to be a disciple is to take up the cross and follow him. Jesus is hidden in the opposite – not in saving himself, but in his cross to save you. 

 

In Mark 9 Jesus predicts his passion again and the disciples squabble over who is the greatest. Jesus respond by placing a child in their midst. Jesus is hidden in the opposite – not in greatness, but in smallness. Not in being first, but in being last in our place. 

 

Here in Mark 10 this pattern plays out yet again. Jesus predicts his suffering and death while James and John ask for a divinely appointed promotion to the right and left hand seat of power. Jesus responds by teaching them that greatness and glory isn’t found in being a ruler, but a servant. Once again, Jesus is hidden in the opposite of what we, and the disciples expect – a suffering, dying, humble, servant.

 

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

 

James and John want the power positions in the kingdom, to the right and to the left of the King. That’s where his most trusted advisors sat. James and John are thinking kingdom of God is an earthly kingdom, and see themselves with key positions in the new administration when Jesus takes up residence in Jerusalem and sets up the throne of David again. Chief of staff and Vice-president. And why not? They were among the first of the disciples, after all. They’d left their father’s fishing business and faithfully followed Jesus for three years. They deserved this. They earned it. Who could argue, except perhaps Peter and Andrew, but hey, they got to Jesus first.

 

What infected James and John was what Luther called a “theology of glory.” Wanting it all now. By-passing the cross and going straight for the glory of the kingdom. But the glory of the kingdom of God always looks weak and defeated to this world – hidden in opposites. It looks like Jesus dying on a cross. 

 

Truth be told, we’re not all that different from James and John. We suffer from the same sinful, selfish infection. Given the choice, between suffering and glory, between the crucifixion and exaltation, between the cross and honor, crucifixion, like the disciples, we’d choose the glory, exaltation, and honor every time. 

 

Good thing for James and John, for the other disciples, and for you and me, that Jesus does the opposite of what we do. Where we would avoid suffering, he goes to Jerusalem knowing exactly what suffering awaits him. Where we would seek a glory apart from the cross, Jesus reveals his greatest glory on the cross by dying for you. Where we would seek self-exaltation and honor for ourselves, Jesus humbles himself to the point of death on the cross in order to exalt you. 

 

When Jesus responds to James and John he points them once again to the cross, “To sit at my right and my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” It is for the Father to grant, and for the Son to do His Father’s will. We have no idea who is to sit at Jesus’ right and left in the heavenly kingdom. But we do know who was on His right and left when He came into His glory on earth. Not James and John. Not Peter and Andrew. But two nameless thieves. One who turned to Him in faith. And one who mocked Him to His death. That’s who was at His right and left when Jesus came into His glory. 

 

That makes Good Friday the ultimate opposite day. The day where God hides himself in the opposite of what we expect as a reminder that all of life is given and lived by his grace.

 

In Jesus’ suffering is your glory. In Jesus’ weakness is your strength. In Jesus’ defeat is your victory. In Jesus becoming the last you are made first. In Jesus’ lowliness you are exalted. In Jesus the cup of God’s wrath over sin is drained to the last drop and this is his glory. In Jesus’ cross is your redemption.

 

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

 

For you.

 

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