Monday, October 12, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 19: "God Loves A Feast"

 + 19th Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 2020 +

Series A: Isaiah 25:6-9; Philippians 4:4-13; Matthew 22:1-14

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

Ever noticed that many of Jesus’s parables revolve around a feast? The father throws his prodigal son a feast. The woman finds her lost coin and invites the whole neighborhood to a block party. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.

 

It’s no accident Jesus chose a wedding feast as the setting for his parable in Matthew 22. God is like that uncle, friend, or neighbor; you know one. They’re always throwing parties – not for pride or popularity – no, simply for the sheer joy of hosting and giving a feast. God loves a feast. God loves nothing more than when his people are joyfully eating his food, drinking his wine, receiving his gifts. God gave Adam and Eve the tree of life. Israel the Passover, manna, and a meal on Mt. Sinai. Jesus fed the 5,000, gave the Lord’s Supper, and promises the marriage supper of the Lamb.

 

Yes, God loves a feast. As we chew on Jesus’s parable of the wedding feast today, these divine dinner parties set the table in our minds. The wedding feast is God’s invitation, to believe, to sink the teeth of faith into his salvation, to drink the wine of redemption, to digest divine grace in Jesus, the Bridegroom, the Messiah, and Master Chef of our salvation.

 

Once again Jesus dishes up a parable for the religious authorities. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 

 

Quite the contrast isn’t it. On the one hand, a generous king, a festive occasion and a gracious invitation to the wedding feast. On the other, rejection. No lame excuses. No last-minute plans. Just flat out refusal. They would not come. They rejected the king’s generosity, and deeply insulted and dishonored the king and his son. 

 

But this king is gracious and joyful; he loves a feast, and he wants everyone to be as joyful as he is. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “I have prepared my dinner. The meat’s on the grill. Drinks are poured. Table’s set. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 

Once again the guests reveal that they don’t care for the king, his son, or his feast. This time, they violently, dishonorably, and shamefully refuse the king’s invitation. They seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. Actions like this, toward the king, have consequences. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

Jesus’s words are a stark warning to the religious leaders: when you reject the feast of salvation that God gives in his Son Jesus, all that remains is judgment. Outside of the wedding feast there is no life. Of course, it need not be that way. God desires mercy, not judgment. Everything is given in Jesus. The Bridegroom is here. Salvation is done. And yet, like the shameful wedding guests in this parable, the religious authorities violently refuse and dishonor God and His Christ. 

 

There’s a warning here for us too. Do not neglect Christ and his gifts. You have a seat at the wedding feast. You’re his honored guest. The feast of salvation is yours. Purchased and won by the sacrifice of Jesus our bridegroom; given for you. There’s a seat at the table with your name on it written in the blood of the Lamb. As Hebrews says, therefore, let us not neglect so great a salvation.

 

Now you would think the king would call off the party at this point. No one RSVPed. Toss the food. Dump the wine. Send the servants home. But no. Not this king. This king loves a feast. The wedding hall must be full! ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

 

Not worthy? How is one worthy to attend the wedding feast? Not to worry. Jesus explains as he goes on. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.  

 

Stop right there. Did you hear that? Both bad and good. The king does not invite the good and snub the bad. He invites everyone. God loves a feast. In the feast of salvation there are resumes, no scorekeeping, no Spanish inquisition on our behavior. Christ dies for the good, the bad, and the ugly. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

 

To be unworthy in Jesus’ parable is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son. Like the first guests did. Worthiness to attend the wedding feast, however, isn’t found in the hands of the guests, but in the gracious invitation of the king. Worthiness to the wedding feast of salvation isn’t found within ourselves, but in the King’s grace in his Son Jesus. If we’re looking for a worthiness within, or apart from Christ, we won’t find it. Jesus makes you worthy.

 

Jesus’ parable isn’t over yet. The king surveys the party. But there’s a problem. He saw man without a wedding garment. “Hey buddy. “how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ His response? Not speechless, like he was embarrassed. No. He was silent. He probably could have said anything. Something. And the king would’ve been gracious. But instead, silence. 

 

Jesus’s ends on a rather grim note. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

It sounds harsh. But notice when this man is kicked out of the wedding feast. Not before he’s in the hall, but after. He’s there. He’s in. Why is he kicked out? Just like the previous guests dishonored and shamed the king and his son by refusing the invitation, this man refused to wear the appropriate wedding garments. He deliberately dishonored the king and his son. Refusal. Rejection. The man is thrown out of the wedding feast because he refuses what the king has prepared, just as the pharisees refuse and reject the salvation God had prepared in Jesus. 

 

This final scene is a picture of judgment. Outer darkness. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. These are words not of pain, but sorrow and anger towards the king, towards God himself because those who find themselves outside the wedding feast loved their own righteousness more than the gifts of God. Remember, God loves a feast. He wants his wedding hall fill. And yet, sadly, some refuse. “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

Yet, even in a parable that ends with a gut bomb of judgment, God’s grace is bigger. Remember, God loves a feast. He loves the feast because he loves to give to you his goodness, grace, and gifts. God our gracious King sent his Son to give you a seat at the great marriage supper of the Lamb. God sent his Son, the bridegroom, to live for you. Lay down his life for you. Rise from the dead for you. Feed you in his body and blood. Clothe you the holy baptismal garments of his righteousness. To seat you at his banqueting table. Today. Tomorrow. And forever. 

 

Come, the wedding feast is prepared. Everything is ready. 

 

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 18: "God Loves His Vineyard"

 + 18th Sunday after Pentecost – October 4th, 2020 +

Series A: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:1-14; Matthew 21:33-46

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA




 

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

 

After hearing Jesus’s parables off and on these past few months, one thing is certain, Jesus’s parables are challenging. Sometimes his parables are hard to understand. As in the disciples asking Jesus to tell them the meaning of the parable of the sower. Other times, Jesus’s parables are understood perfectly – and that’s the problem. 

 

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 

 

The problem isn’t that they misunderstand Jesus’s story. No. They understand exactly what Jesus is saying. Jesus is comparing them to the wicked tenant farmers. And you can just imagine their body language as they listen to Jesus tell this story. Scrunched faces. Crossed arms. Clinched fists. Waiting for their chance to arrest him. But not yet. First, the crowds. They had to be turned against him.

 

The chief priests and pharisees were right. Jesus is a prophet. The prophet. The One greater than Moses. The One who is the very Word of God made flesh. Israel’s true King. Israel’s long-expected Messiah. The Son and heir of the vineyard Owner has come to reign in grace and mercy. And yet the religious authorities want none of it. They oppose, confront, and reject Jesus. So, Jesus sends a laser-guided missile straight at their unbelieving hearts in the form of this parable. 

 

There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. The master spares no expense for the care of his vineyard. He plants. Provides. Protects. The master loves his vineyard with an everlasting love. Just as YHWH loves his people.

 

The tenant farmers, on the other hand, have no love for the master. When the season for fruit drew near, the master sent his servants to the tenant farmers to get his fruit. And the tenant farmers took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 

 

That right there, is a pretty good summary of the Old Testament. Israel’s religious leaders have a long history of rejecting YHWH. Yet, YHWH has a longer history of love for his vineyard, for his people. YHWH sent Israel priests, judges, prophets and more prophets. And yet the religious leaders rejected YHWH’s messengers, His Word, and ultimately YHWH himself. 

 

Finally the master sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that this master of the vineyard is a strange businessman. His patience towards the wicked tenant farmers is astonishing. He sent not one, but two groups of servants to the vineyard despite the actions of those murderous tenants. I don’t know about you, but if I was the master there would be no mercy. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail. Or worse. And yet, the master sends his own son to the wretched tenant farmers. 

 

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

 

This is where things get interesting. First, there’s the tenants. “Really? That’s your plan, kill the heir?” “Yea, if the son is out of the way, we can be our own masters.” Think about how crazy that is. It’s an insane, absurd thought. That’s not how inheritance works. But that’s exactly how the warped, sin-darkened, twisted hearts work. 

 

Second, if they haven’t figured out already, the chief priests and Pharisees start picking up the beat that Jesus is laying down. He’s talking about them. 

 

Jesus finishes his parable with a set up question. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” And once again, the religious authorities bring down the gavel on their own heads. They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Just as the religious leaders of old rejected YHWH’s prophets, they are now rejecting YHWH himself in the flesh. The master’s Son is standing right in front of them and they’re plotting his murder. 

 

Jesus’s parable ends with the son of the vineyard owner dead, certain punishment for his killers, and new tenant farmers chosen to care for the vineyard. But Jesus isn’t done yet. Jesus adds a little extra hot sauce. “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

 

Jesus quotes Psalm 118. A messianic psalm. A psalm full of explicit promise and vindication and exaltation of the rejected stone. The religious authorities may reject Jesus. They may put him through a sham trial. Beat him. Spit at him. Mock him. Even crucify him. But the stone the builders rejected will rise again on the third day. Nothing will come between the master and his vineyard. Nothing. 

 

So, what does this parable mean for us? After all, we’re not the religious authorities. Jesus’ parable is still his Word to us. A word of warning and promise.

 

Jesus’s warning is this. Never come between the Master and his vineyard. This is what the religious authorities had done. Wedged themselves and their authority between God and his people. YHWH and his Christ and his promises were no longer at their center. Like Peter, we’re tempted to cry out, “I will never fall away.” I will never let anything come between me and Christ and his good news.”  Really? We never let fear, politics, pandemics, money, anger, greed, lust, or our selfish desires come between us and our Lord? Of course we do. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.  

 

And you know what? Here’s the remarkable thing about God the Father, the Master of the vineyard. God loves us with an everlasting love. God will let nothing come between him and his people. God will let nothing – nothing - come between himself and you. God has promised. God is faithful.

 

Even when His Son is killed. Especially then. God’s love looks like Jesus crucified for you. Jesus risen for you. God spares no expense for your care. God sends His own Son, Jesus, to be rejected so we are redeemed. What a gracious irony. Jesus is beaten and we are blessed. Jesus is thrown out of the city and crucified to make us heirs of eternal life. Jesus is killed and in him we are alive forevermore. 

 

God loves his vineyard. God loves you. You are God’s planting. God’s beloved, redeemed, baptized people. He has given his own Son to heal, sustain, and save you. Today in simple water and words, bread and wine. And tomorrow, and every day after that. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

 

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. 

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

Monday, September 28, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 17: "Jesus and the Jerusalem Authorities"

 + 17th Sunday after Pentecost – September 27th, 2020 +

Series A: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2; Matthew 21:23-32

Beautiful Savior Lutheran 

Milton, WA

 



 

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

 

If I were to write a ticket or arrest someone for speed down Milton Way, I would probably be fined for impersonating a police officer, and rightfully so. I don’t have the authority. Or, if I were to walk into an operating room at St. Joseph’s or Good Samaritan hospital and perform a surgery, I could very well be charged with attempted homicide, and for good reason…I am not a physician. I don’t have that authority. 

 

It’s a matter of authority.

 

And when Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 

 

Today’s reading from Matthew 21 is a matter of authority. The Jerusalem religious authorities are challenging Jesus’ authority. “Who do you think you are riding into Jerusalem on a donkey like a some kind of Messiah? Turning over tables in “His house”. Strolling into the temple and teaching the people as though he owned the place?” 

 

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 

 

The keyword is authority. And in the minds of 1st century Jews, no one operated on their own authority. Authority had to come from somewhere and someone. We tend to equate authority with power. And it involves that, but much more. 

 

Authority, even today, is given, not claimed for oneself. Someone is granted, vested with, appointed or elected to a position of authority. It’s a matter of permission granted by another to do certain things. The police officer for law enforcement. The doctor for surgeries and physical wellbeing. To have authority is to have permission, authorization from someone greater to say and do certain things. The same thing happens when I pronounce the absolution: when I say, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” I do so in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His authority. His permission. 

 

“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 

 

Now, we already know the answer to this question. Jesus teaches the crowds with authority. Jesus heals and forgives the paralytic man with authority. Jesus calms the wind and waves with authority. Jesus sends out his disciples with authority. After Jesus’ death and resurrection he declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Yes, we know where Jesus’ authority comes from. From God the Father, from all eternity. 

 

But of course, the religious authorities have no interest in Jesus’s authority. What sounds like a holy, pious question only reveals their hypocrisy, unbelief, and rejection of Jesus, a conflict which only intensifies as Matthew’s Gospel continues on to Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

 

So Jesus takes the bait. Plays their game. And ends up turning the tables on more than the money changers.  I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” 

 

Jesus essentially asks them, “Was John sent from God or did he just make all that Messiah stuff up? And if John was sent from God, what does that say about my baptism in the Jordan River?” You see, the answer to Jesus’ question is the same answer to the chief priests’ question. Jesus’s authority, like John’s baptism came from heaven, from God the Father.

 

You have to appreciate how Jesus artfully, skillfully sets this trap for the religious authorities to walk right into, and they know it. They go into their corner like contestants on Family Feud and deliberate. “Well, if we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 

 

Jesus beats them at their own game. They make the political play. The cowardly answer, taking no stand at all. “We do not know”. It’s an answer of self-condemnation. They’re caught in their hypocrisy and sin. They fear the loss of their popularity, prestige, and political influence more than they fear, love, and trust in God and his Christ.

 

But isn’t the same true of us as well? As Jesus reveals their pride, hypocrisy, and sin, he also reveals ours. Jesus challenges our authority too. For like the chief priests we so often act and speak as if we are our own authority. That we have lived as if God and my neighbor do not matter, and that I matter most. My kingdom come. My will be done. Yes, Jesus’s words reveal the chief priest in us all. 

 

And yet, Jesus’s conflict with the chief priests reveals something even greater. It reveals his love for sinners, even those who reject him and will crucify him later on. Jesus longs to bring them to repentance and faith, just as he spoke through his prophet Ezekiel so long ago, that he desires not the death of the wicked but that they repent and live – all by God’s grace in Christ. Same is true for us. 

 

It’s a matter of authority. And notice how Jesus exercises his authority. Not selfishly, but selflessly. Laying down his life for the chief priests and for us chief of sinners. Not in power but in his passion on the cross for you. Not in hubris, but in humility. For you, Jesus emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

It’s a matter of authority.

 

And you live under the authority of Jesus crucified and risen. He repents you. He gives you faith in Him. He baptizes you in His name. He gives you love for your neighbor. He continues to teach you with authority in his life-giving Word. He continues to heal you miraculously in his body and blood. 

 

Trust his authority to save you. For He is authorized by the Father to save you, and He has done it. All for you.

 

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

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

Monday, September 21, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 16: "The Parable of the Gracious Vineyard Owner"






 +16th Sunday after Pentecost – September 20th, 2020 +

Series A: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:12-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 


 

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

 

A misnomer. That’s the word we use when a person, place, or thing is mis-named. Like when you haul out a few classics for family game night only to discover that Yahtzee is better called “Yelling and Bookkeeping.” Sorry…Hah! More like not sorry! And Monopoly is a good recipe for family fight night.  

 

That’s what we in Matthew 20, a marvelous biblical example of a misnomer. 

 

Most of our bibles call this story the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. And while the laborers in the vineyard are an important part of this parable, they’re not the most important. It’s about the master of the vineyard.

 

Calling it the Parable of the Laborers of the Vineyard isn’t wrong, it just buries the lead; puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable. It’s meant to draw our attention away from our work and wages and the works and wages of others and onto the gracious work of the vineyard owner.  

 

As we’ll see, Jesus’s parable should really be called something like “The Parable of the Outlandishly Gracious Vineyardist,” or “The Parable of the Mercifully Unfair Vineyard Owner,” or “The Parable of the Outrageously Generous Master of the Vineyard.” 

 

For that’s what this parable is all about: God’s mercy, grace, and generosity for all in Jesus. It’s about God giving us all what we don’t deserve so that we all live by his grace in Christ.

 

Here’s how the story begins. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denariusa day, he sent them into his vineyard. 

 

So far so good. This seems to fit our understanding of economics. A denarius was roughly a day’s wages. Put in your 12-hour shift. Clock in. Clock out. Get paid your denarius. That’s the way of the world. But remember, the ways of the world are not the ways of the kingdom of heaven.

 

Then, for whatever reason – maybe high yield, maybe a quick harvest was needed – whatever it was, the master needed more workers. So he goes to the local downtown market and offers to pay what is right. 

 

‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. That’s 12 noon and 3 pm in our reckoning. 

 

Later on…about the eleventh hour the master went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 

 

I don’t know about you, but this vineyard owner is a rather odd fellow. It’s the 11th hour, 5pm. One hour to quittin’ time. And yet he goes out and hires more laborers. 

 

Here’s where the fun really begins. The vineyard owner said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ So the 11th hour workers get in line first. And to their surprise – and the surprise of the guys at the end of the line – they get a denarius. A day’s wage. Let’s say $120. $10 an hour. Pretty good, right?! Absolutely. Generous. Gracious. 

 

Now, put yourself in the sandals of the guys at the end of the line. They’re watching the foreman handout a denarius to the guys at the head of the line. And they’re thinking, calculating, “Whoa, a day’s wage for only an hour of work? That’s a denarius an hour. $1,440 a day. Sweet!”

 

But what did they receive? The same. Equal. They all received a denarius. And what was their reaction? We’ve all heard it. Thought it. Said it. “That’s not fair.” ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 

 

They grumbled. Israel grumbled in the wilderness. The Pharisees grumbled against Jesus when he ate with tax collectors and sinners. They grumbled against the master’s generosity. Listen buddy, “I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? Literally, Jesus says, they have an evil eye towards the master. They despise his generosity and graciousness. 

 

What does this all mean? Why does Jesus tell his disciples this parable? In part, to burst the disciples’ (and our) giant bubble of pride and self-righteousness. In the kingdom of heaven, there’s no room for self-righteousness, only the righteousness that comes by grace in Christ. That’s how we live, labor, love our neighbor – by grace in Christ. 

 

Remember the misnomer. It’s not about the laborers. It’s about the grace and generosity of the vineyard owner. The day-long laborers in the story get it all wrong when they start comparing their work and wages to the other laborers, especially those 11th hour guys. So the disciples. So do we. 

 

So the last will be first, and the first last. That’s the key to the whole story.

 

For the ways of the kingdom of heaven are not like the kingdoms of this world. As Isaiah says, the thoughts of this gracious vineyard owner are not our thoughts. God does not reward the rewardable. He is good, generous, gracious. God shows his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The kingdom of heaven is not about our merit, earning, working, or any transaction with God. It’s not about how good or bad we think we are, or how good and bad we actually are. It’s not about us. It’s about the Gracious vineyard owner, which means this parable is about Jesus crucified for you.

 

It’s about Jesus who went to the cross that we who are last in sin and death might be made first in his life laid down for us. It’s about Jesus who labored on the cross from the 6th to the 9th hour, who bore the burden of our trespasses, and the scorching heat of God’s wrath – all for you. It’s about the generous vineyard owner who sent his son to be the true vine, and to stretch out his arms from the cross to this altar, this cup, this bread. To give you the wages – not of sin – but of his very life won for you. For all. Forever.

 

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. 


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

 

 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 13: "Where, When, Why, and How?"

 

 + 13th Sunday after Pentecost – August 30th, 2020 +

Series A: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

Proclaiming Christ Crucified — RCL Worship Resources


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

Last Sunday we learned the “Who and What” of Jesus through Peter’s confession. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

 

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, for the rest of the story. The “Where, When, Why, and How?”

 

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

 

Jesus must go to Jerusalem, to the seat of religion and power. He must suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders – the elders of the people, the chief priests and the scribes. Jesus doesn’t simply say that He would be killed, but it had to happen. He must be killed. And on the third day be raised.

 

Here Jesus reveals the true nature of His mission. Why He was virgin-born. Why He was baptized in the Jordan. Why He performed miracles. Why He came – to suffer many things. To be killed – not accidentally but intentionally, to endure the worst of deaths, death on the cross for you!

And on the third day rise again. Don’t forget how shocking these words are tha It’s the most audacious of predictions. No one had ever risen from the dead on His own. Yes, it happened a couple of times in the OT when a prophet would raise someone from the dead, notably Elijah and Elisha. Jesus would raise three people from the dead in His ministry. But no one in His right mind would make the claim that he would be killed and on the third day be raised. This is what sets Jesus apart from all other “christs,” all other “messiahs.” He said he would die and rise and then did it. 

Peter, sadly, would have none of it. He pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him, yes, rebuked Him. “Are you out of your mind? That’s not how you roll, Jesus! Suffer, die, rise. Are you kidding? That’s the last thing in the world that must happen to you! You need to start flexing your divine muscle. You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ’s don’t suffer; they end suffering. The Son of the living God doesn’t die. How can men kill God? We’ve left everything to follow you. Everything! The family business, our homes, our friends. People are going to think we’re nuts. So no more talk like that, Jesus! Not another word about suffering, dying, and rising.”

Before we’re too hard on Peter, remember that we’d have been just as outraged as Peter. Maybe even more. Who wants to hear about suffering, dying and rising? That’s not our way of doing things. We don’t want to deal with the reality of Sin in this world or in ourselves. Suffering and death are the result of Sin. We are reminded of our own mortality, and we don’t like it. And we certainly expect any respectable God not to get Himself mixed up in our suffering and death. And we certainly don’t expect the way of salvation to be the way of suffering, death and resurrection, but that’s precisely the way.

Peter the confessor became Peter the denier. Peter the spokesman of the Father became Peter the spokesman for the devil. This was not the Father talking, as it was when Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. This was the devil talking. “Get behind me, Satan!” Satan. That’s right. Satan was talking through the apostle Peter, tempting Jesus as he once tried three times in the wilderness. “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

In other words, you are not looking at thing as God sees them but as man sees them, and that’s precisely the way the devil wants you to see things. Man’s way. Your way. The devil would have you trust your eyes rather than your ears, to trust your reason rather than God’s Word, to trust your senses and sensibilities rather than the One who came to save you.

This is about our cross too. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “Follow me” Jesus says. It means follow Him through suffering and death and resurrection to eternal life.

A disciple is a follower. That’s what the word “disciple” means – one who follows another. Being a disciple of Jesus is about more than learning. It’s about suffering, dying and rising. It’s about denying one’s self and confessing Christ. It’s about losing in order to win, dying in order to live. To be dead to Sin about alive to God in Christ.

To follow Jesus is to be baptized into His death and life, to be joined to Him by Baptism in His suffering, death and resurrection. Your suffering and death can’t save you. They are the just wages of Sin. They are what Sin pays out in you. There’s no life there. But Jesus’ suffering and death lead to resurrection and life. And baptized into His suffering and death, you come into a life you can’t have on your own. This is how Jesus’ death and resurrection comes to you, in your Baptism. 

In Baptism you were joined to Jesus’ suffering. His wounds are now your wounds for your healing. In Baptism you were joined to Jesus’ death. His death atones for your sins; don’t you try to atone for them with your sacrifices. In Baptism you were joined to Jesus’ resurrection and life. In Baptism you were given a new mind, the mind of Christ, set on the things of God not on the things of man, given to embrace the mystery of salvation.

And this is how we live, in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

In the name of + Jesus. Amen

Monday, August 24, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 12: "Who is Jesus?"

 + 12th Sunday after Pentecost – August 23rd, 2020 +

Series A: Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 11:33-12:8; Matthew 16:13-20

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter ...

 

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

 

In high school at Portland Lutheran, Mr. Thurman taught an elective for the school newspaper, teaching us the fundamentals of journalism: Who? What? Where? When? Why? And the bonus question - how? 

 

Those are good research questions for a news story. They’re also good questions to ask when reading the Scriptures. They’re same kinds of questions asked throughout Matthew’s Gospel.  “Are you the Coming One, or shall we look for another?”, John the Baptist asks. “Who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?”, his disciples ask. “Who is this who teaches with such authority?”, the crowd and critics ask.

 

Who is Jesus? That’s the question that’s been building like a tropical storm throughout Matthew’s Gospel. Only this time, Jesus leads the interview, man on the street style:

 

 “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

 

This is one of Jesus’ favorite titles for himself. It reveals his humility and his humanity, and his passion and suffering. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

 

Not surprisingly, the disciples give several answers. Like today, 1st century opinions about “Who is Jesus?” were like noses...everyone had one. “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Others thought he would be a priestly or kingly figure. A warrior. The Son of David. Now, in a way, all of these Old Testament titles, offices, and expectations of the Messiah are correct, and are fulfilled in Jesus. That is, if viewed through the lens of Jesus crucified and risen for you and for the world. 

 

Like a good interviewer, Jesus asks his question a second time, more pointedly. Directly. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  And now, we get to the heart of the question. Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

 

Here’s the climactic moment. The revealing answer to the question that’s been burning in peoples’ minds since Mary’s stomach started showing over 30 years ago. Who is Jesus?

 

The Christ. Now, the Christ is not - like I thought in grade school - Jesus’ last name. It’s a title loaded with more Old Testament meaning than a mile-long freight train rolling through the Puyallup Valley. 

The Christ is New Testament language for the Old Testament word Messiah. The Anointed One. Priests. Kings. Prophets. They were all anointed in the Old Testament. Set aside for a holy purpose. The Messiah will restore, redeem, and rescue God’s people. 

 

Peter’s confession reveals that the prophet who is like Moses, only greater, has finally come, not in the burning bush but in the flesh and blood of Jesus. The true King of Israel and Son of David who will rule on an eternal throne is here. The great high priest to whom Aaron pointed has come as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. It all happens in Jesus, the Christ. Son of Man and Son of the Living God. All God’s promises find their yes in Jesus.

 

Now, does Peter understand all of this yet? No, of course not. He and the rest of the disciples won’t get it until after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. For it’s on the cross that Jesus reveals most fully how he is the Christ.

 

Still, Peter’s confession is glorious. And a divine gift. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 

 

This is how it is for all confessions of faith. For Peter. For you. For me. Faith and confession in Christ must be revealed to us. Given to us. Planted like a mustard seed. This is always God’s work. 

 

The other thing about a Christian confession is that it points away from ourselves - where we usually like to spend our time – to Jesus. This is one reason we confess one of the three historic Creeds of the church every Sunday. Confessions, like Peter’s, point us to Jesus crucified and risen. 

 

Then Jesus makes a promise. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. 

 

It’s a word play between Peter’s name which means rock in Hebrew and the Greek word “rock.” “You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my church.” Jesus builds his church on this confession of faith and on Peter and the apostles who are called to confess this faith and preach this faith. Christ alone is the rock, the chief cornerstone. Everyone else is built on the rock of Christ. Just as Israel was cut from the rock of Abraham and hewn from the quarry of Sarah. By grace, God makes us the wise man who builds his house on the rock of Christ’s death and resurrection, not the sinking sand of our sin and folly.

 

Jesus promises more. The gates of hades shall not prevail against it. That’s a strange phrase in our ears. We hear it and think the gates of hell are on the offensive, but it’s the other way around. Gates are defensive. Gates are often the weakest point of a city or fortress. Breach the gates and you win. When it comes to Death and Hell, Christ is on the offense. 

 

This is what Jesus is anointed to do, to storm the gates of hell. The gates of death. In Jesus’ death, the gates of death will not stand against him. For he comes in the power of his life, death, and resurrection. His is a victory that destroys death. Death is utterly, completely defeated in Jesus dying and rising for you. On the rock of Golgotha and out of the rock of his tomb, Jesus has taken down the gates of Hades. Ripped them off their hinges. Trampled them underfoot. Death is dead. Done. Sin, death, and the devil hold no more power. Not over Jesus. And not over you. This is what Peter’s confession means. It is the confession of Jesus who overcomes death. And in Jesus, you overcome death as well. No matter how bad it looks in the world right now. 

 

And he who holds the keys of death, also opens the way to everlasting life for you. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The cross of Christ is the key to paradise. Today. Death is swallowed up in victory. Today, heaven is open to you, and so is our Lord’s table, Today, Jesus, the prophet speaks his word. Today, Jesus the high priest prepares his sacrifice on the cross in a holy meal for you. Today, Jesus our king rules and reigns in bread and wine for your pardon.

 

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, come to charge the gates of death to save you. That is who he is and what he has come to do for you.

 

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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