Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sermon for Easter Sunday: "Words that Change the World"

+ The Resurrection of our Lord – April 16th, 2017 +
Series A: Jeremiah 31:1-6; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

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

As we see the course of history wind its way through time, whether ancient or more recent (it matters not), we find that every so often someone writes a song, delivers a speech, or tells a story that not only makes history, but changes it.

Our world was founded upon words: Let there be light. And there was light.

Words set history in motion, and so it should come as no surprise to find words that change the world in every generation.

Our own country’s history has witnessed such world-changing words:

Four score and seven years ago…

December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy.

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

Yes, words change the world. And none more so than the words we hear today:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

Today we hear, sing, and shout words that changed the world unlike any other words past, present, or future. Today we rejoice in words that turned the world upside down. Today we give thanks and praise for words that not only make history, but change it forever.

He is risen!

These words remind us that Jesus is no stranger to remarkable, joyous, world-changing words.

Remember the words the angel said to Joseph before Jesus’ birth:
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Remember the words of John the Baptist as he stood by the Jordan River:
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Remember the words of Jesus that continue to change the world every time we hear them:

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

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. 

Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

These are Jesus’ words that change the world. We need these words. These words are our life. If Jesus’ words are not true…if he did not die or rise from the dead…we are liars; we are of all people most to be pitied, our faith is in vain, and worst of all, we are still in our sin.

With our words we lie, curse, and complain; we build ourselves up while tearing others down; we sin in thought, word, and deed. Yes, our words change the world too, but not for the better.

Our words reveal deeper ugliness of our sinful heart within. Without Jesus’ words, we are dead in trespasses. But our sin and death does not get the last word today.
Today Jesus’ words change the world for you too. 

These three words - He is risen – have changed our world forever. They are not metaphorical, mythical, or legendary words. They are words of faith founded upon fact. These words change history, and yet are a part of history as well.

The pages of history turn on Jesus’ objective, historically veracious, and sufficient sacrifice on the cross for you, and his glorious resurrection for you.

It is a matter of fact in that it is a fact of history. A pivotal fact of history. It is the fulcrum around which all of human history pivots and has its ultimate meaning. It is a matter of fact as any other fact of history from the Ming Dynasty to the Greco-Roman empire. The tomb of Jesus is empty. The body of Jesus is risen. That is a matter of fact.

It is a matter of faith in that the entirety of what we believe rests on the fact that Christ was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification. We don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we believe because Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus is risen. And today is a day that will live in victory.

Jesus is risen. And today Jesus took one small step for God, but one giant leap for mankind when he walked out of his grave and ours.

Jesus is risen. And today he has broken down the dividing wall by his flesh crucified and risen for you. The temple curtain is torn in two. The stone is rolled away. And the grave is opened. All for you.

Jesus is risen. And today our mourning is turned to joy. Death is destroyed. Sin is banished.
Though hidden from our eyes for a while longer, our resurrection is guaranteed.

He is risen.

Jesus “has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the king of death. Everything is different because he has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 237)

Jesus is risen. And today we rejoice in these words that change the world.

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

A blessed Resurrection of our Lord to each of you…

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sermon for Good Friday: "Jesus' 7th Word on the Cross"

+ Good Friday – April 14th, 2017 +
Jesus’ 7th Word on the Cross
Luke 23:46
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

During this season of Lent, we have reflected and meditated upon, heard, sung, read, marked, and inwardly digested Jesus’ last seven words on the cross.

For his oppressors, he prayed and interceded: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

To his mother, he said: “Woman, behold your son.” And to John, his beloved disciple: “Behold your mother.”

To the penitent, believing thief Jesus promised: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

To God the Father he lamented, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

In anguish, he cried: “I thirst!”

In triumph, he declared: “It is finished!”

Jesus’ last words were spoken to those around him: the Jews, Romans, and religious leaders; the thief next to him, his disciples, and the faithful women who accompanied him. But Jesus also spoke these words for you even as he died on the cross for you.

Today, on Good Friday, we hear his seventh and final word from the cross to us.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

As Jesus speaks this final word on the cross, everything that brought him to this place comes to mind.

Jesus traveled from Bethlehem to Egypt and back again, from Galilee to Samaria, and throughout all Judea, and finally into Jerusalem. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, tempted in the wilderness, and Transfigured before his disciples. Jesus fed thousands, healed countless people of their diseases, cast out demons, and taught in their streets and synagogues. All his miracles, signs, and wonders; his Palm Sunday procession, his Last Supper with the disciples, his betrayal by Judas, Peter’s denial, his trials with before the Herod, Pilate, and the Jews; the long, agonizing death march to Calvary; it all leads to this. Jesus’ seventh, and final, word on the cross.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. 

As Jesus speaks this final word on the cross, our Lord’s mighty works of old come to mind.

In seven days, the Lord finished creation and called it very good. With his seventh word on the cross, our Lord finishes his work of redemption, gives up his spirit, and dies for us. The Lord who breathed the breath of life into Adam’s dusty lungs, breathes out his last to rescue and restore us children of Adam. The Lord who is the eternally begotten Son, left his throne to become our brother, reconcile us to the Father, and give us the right to be called children of God and call him Father. The Lord, whose hands bear those glorious red badges of our redemption, commends himself to his Father’s hands so that nothing and no one could eve snatch us out of his hands.

As Jesus speaks his final word on the cross, he prays to God the Father. But he also prays for you, and in doing so, gives you a prayer as well.

Like Moses tucked in the cleft of the rock, we are safe in Jesus’ pierced hands. When our last hour comes and we draw our final breath, by God’s grace, we join Jesus in praying: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. This is Jesus’ prayer of faith and trust in his Father. And by our Baptism into his death, this prayer becomes our prayer of faith and trust in our heavenly Father.

Today we join Jesus in praying the words of Psalm 31:
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

We pray these words knowing the end of the story. That Jesus’ cross is our victory. That Jesus’ death is our life. That Jesus is crucified to save us.

Today the devil loses.

Today death is dead.

Today our sin is banished.

Today you are redeemed.

Today we hear Jesus’ last words on the cross – Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. – knowing that even though they are his last words on the cross, they are not his last words to us.

In three short days, Jesus will speak to us everlasting words:

Thus, it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.

A blessed Good Friday to each of you…

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon: "On a Donkey"

+ Palm Sunday – April 9th, 2017 +
Series A: John 12:12-19; Isaiah 50:4-9; Philippians 2:5-11; John 12:20-43
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

A key part of any story is the narrative point of view. Who is telling the story. Whose eyes are you seeing the unfolding events through. How does the narrator tell the story?

This is true in any fictional story we read, but it’s also true of non-fictional stories like we find in God’s Word where we find history and story all at once, narrative and fact, eyewitness testimony and a skillful use of language used to proclaim Jesus’ saving work for us.

The account of Palm Sunday is no different. Each Gospel provides us with a different point of view of the same event. Matthew, Mark, and Luke help us view Palm Sunday from Jesus’ and the disciples’ perspectives, as well as the crowds.

Jesus’ disciples hear his word and follow his instructions:
“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”

We also hear about Palm Sunday from the point of view of the crowds, which puts us alongside the road with the people shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matthew 21:9). Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! (John 12:13). Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! (Luke 19:38)

John’s Gospel also gives us the point of view of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah and Jesus’ disciples.

Zechariah’s point of view is promise and comfort in the coming King. Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.

The disciples, on the other hand, are confounded: His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

So today, I’m invite you to look at this familiar story from a different perspective, to view Palm Sunday from a rather humble, unlikely point of view, the donkey.

If this donkey could talk like Balaam’s donkey in the Old Testament, what would his point of view be? Now, to be sure, this requires us to use our redeemed imaginations. There are no accounts of any talking donkey’s in the Gospels. But with that in mind, let’s consider Palm Sunday through the eyes of the donkey.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem…and Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.

You can imagine my surprise. There I was one moment, minding my own business, chomping on some delicious, fibrous hay; and the next moment, there I am, the donkey that’s never been ridden before, slowly trotting at the head of a parade into the Holy City. I was ready to buck and kick and put up a fight, but he was humble and gentle and kind. We simply rode on in the grand parade.

People were waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks down to cover the dusty road ahead. The crowds were crying out, “Hosanna! (I learned later that means, Lord, save us). Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel! He has come to save you and all creation.

Yes, you heard that right. The King was riding on my back. The King of creation was riding atop one of his created beasts. Me, a beast of burden, was honored to carry the One who was carrying the burdens of all creation on his back.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Of all the animals he created, he picked a donkey? Really? What was he thinking? Doesn’t he know kings and conquering heroes ride horses, carry swords and wear noble, gilded helmets?”

Let me stop you right there.

I know you expected the King to ride into Jerusalem like Samson with his flowing locks, wielding a donkey’s jaw-bone for a weapon, ready to kick some Roman rear-end. But listen to what the prophet Zechariah said about the King:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Did you hear that? Humble. Now, I know you humans have a hard time with that. Humility isn’t something that you’re used to. After all that means thinking of someone other than yourself. It means being a servant, carrying other’s burdens on your back. It means sacrifice, looking out for others concerns and cares above your own. But this why the King rode into Jerusalem the way he did.

That’s the kind of King Jesus is for you. Oh, he is a King alright. But he’s King of humility. Jesus rides a borrowed donkey. He bears no sword but is pierced by nails and spear for you and all humanity. He has no helmet of war to save him from the coming battle, only a crown of thorns. His throne is the cross and he conquers by laying down his life for you. Jesus wraps his glory in his humility to save you.

And, before you go on thinking the palms, cloaks, singing, and all the fanfare are above this donkey’s pay-grade, (and by the way, please, don't get me confused with that animated impostor who sold out for the gig with the green ogre), I must remind you that it was a donkey that rode along with Abraham and Isaac as they went to Moriah where Isaac was spared. And there I was, riding with the Greater Isaac on my back, not towards Mt. Moriah, but not far from Mt. Calvary, the place of the skull. Later in the week Jesus wouldn’t have me there to accompany him to the cross. He would walk alone. To the cross. For you.

It was Balaam’s donkey who saw the Angel of the Lord and told Balaam concerning the Word and will of the Lord. And now here’s that Angel of the Lord, in human flesh, the Christ incarnate, in human flesh, riding on my back through Jerusalem to fulfill God’s will and salvation for you.

It was a donkey that the great kings of old, David and Solomon, used to ride into Jerusalem as a sign of their royalty. And now the One who is David’s Son and Lord, the One Greater than Solomon is here, riding on my back to bring you into his everlasting kingdom.

It all happened just as the prophet Zechariah foretold:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Yes, Palm Sunday was a day of rejoicing for me. What an honor. What a joy to serve the One who is the servant of all, to bear the One who came to bear the sin of the world. But the joy is not only mine. It is yours.

Jesus the King entered Jerusalem for you. Jesus honors you and glorifies you by bearing your sin in his humanity. Jesus is humbled unto death, for you. Jesus exchanges his humility for your selfishness. He trades his grace for your guilt. Jesus offers his life for your death. Jesus gives you salvation for your sin.

Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your King is coming.

A blessed Palm Sunday to each of you…

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fifth Lenten Midweek Sermon: "Jesus' 6th Word on the Cross"

+ Fifth Lenten Midweek Service – April 5th, 2017 +
6th Word of Jesus on the Cross
John 19:30
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

We pull weeds from our garden, and a week later they’re back again. We finish one project at school or work and another one comes our way. We get the oil changed on the car and the next day the brake pads need replacing. It seems that in our life at home, school, work, and church, our labor is never done. There’s always something more to do.

But here, in Jesus’ sixth word on the cross, we hear something truly remarkable and comforting:

“It is finished”.

The Greek word used here is tetelestai, fulfilled, accomplished, finished. In Jesus crucified all God’s promises are fulfilled. In Jesus Crucified, God’s plan for our salvation is accomplished. In Jesus Crucified, our sin and death and all the restlessness and weariness of sin is finally, once-and-for-all, done.

 “It is finished,” Jesus says.

As Jesus cries out these words, his saving work for you is finished.

As Jesus cries out these words, the entire Old Testament comes crashing down on Jesus, like a rushing river finally reaching the sea.

After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve fashioned fig-leaf clothing to cover their nakedness, guilt, and shame. But they could not hide their sin from the Lord any more than we can in our own fig leaves. So, the Lord clothed them in animal skins to cover their nakedness, guilt, and shame. Now, as Jesus cries out, “It is finished,” the Lord covers our nakedness, guilt, and shame by clothing us in blood and righteousness as he is sacrificed for us.

Abraham ascended Mount Moriah with Isaac, his son, his only son whom he loves, and Isaac asked, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son”, Abraham replies. And the Lord provided a sacrifice to spare Isaac. Now, as Jesus cries out, “It is finished”, the Lord provides a sacrifice, his only Son, to spare you.

On the night of their rescue from slavery in Egypt, Israel killed the Passover lamb, painted their doorposts with its blood, and death passed over their homes. Now, as Jesus cries out, “It is finished”, Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us, his blood covers us from all sin, and death passes over us and onto Jesus.

When the high priest entered the holy of holies in the tabernacle, he and all of Israel was cleansed by the atoning for sins, by the blood shed for the people, and by the sacrifices God gave to give them his holiness. Now, as Jesus cries out, “It is finished”, the Great High Priest secures our eternal redemption by means of his own blood. Jesus, our Great High Priest has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus’ sacrifice is the beating heart of the Scriptures, from Genesis to the Jordan river where John cries out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; and from the Jordan to Jerusalem, where Jesus cries out for you, “It is finished”.

The Lord’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations is now complete in the perfect Offspring of Abraham.

The rest God promised Noah after the flood is now accomplished in the One whose death makes all things new.

The rescue God gave the people of Israel through the Judges like Samson, Gideon, and Deborah is now fulfilled as Jesus saves us by being judged in our place.

What Aaron, Moses and Joshua; David, Solomon, and Elijah could not do because of their own weakness and sin, Christ came, and finished fulfilling everything they said and did. “We can confidently proclaim that Christ is Moses, Christ is Joshua, Elijah, David, and Solomon. He is the embodiment of every Old Testament institution. He is the Passover and the Passover Lamb. In his death and resurrection, He is the final exodus out of slavery. He is the temple of God. Jesus is Solomon, Jonah, and the Temple brought to the perfect completion that God intended.

That’s what it means when Jesus says…
It is finished.

O Lord, what could we possibly say, or add to these words? We cannot offer You the thoughts and imaginations of hearts and minds, for there is no one righteous, no not one. We cannot offer You our words and deeds, for we do not seek after Your Word in all that we say and do. Our throats are open graves filled with gossip, spite, and bitterness. We cannot offer You our deeds of righteousness, for we have only filthy rags. We cannot offer You any work of our own in our daily callings in life, in our homes, workplaces, and even in your church, for we are crushed by the weight of the Law. “Do this” is all we hear, but it is never done.

Like Joseph’s brothers, there are those whom we have hurt and those whom we have failed to help. Yet, though you were left for dead on the cross, out of our great evil you have worked our eternal blessing, clothing us with the robe of your righteousness.

Like Cain, we have murdered you, our brother, by our thoughts, words, and deeds – yet in mercy you have placed your mark of your holy cross upon us to protect us and deliver us from evil.

Like Peter, we have denied you before others by what we have done and what we have left undone. Yet, by your cross and passion for us you are our Advocate before the Father, who never denies nor forsakes us.

It’s true, God’s Law says, “do this” and it is never done. And yet that is not Jesus’ final word on the cross: God’s Grace says, “believe in this,” and everything is already done. Jesus hangs on the cross for you, and declares:

It is finished.

All of the devil’s trickery, deceit, and tyranny. It is finished.

All of our lies, lusts, and laziness. It is finished.

All of our hatred, unholiness, and half-hearted worship of God. It is finished.

All of our guilt, shame, and brokenness. It is finished.

All of our doubt, despair, and death. It is finished.

All of our sickness, sorrow, and sin. It is finished.

After creation was completed… on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Now, as Jesus cries out, “It is finished”, Jesus rests from his labors, and all the work of salvation that he had done for you. Our sin, our death, and the devil’s lies are done for. And where our sin and death is finished forever, a new, eternal life in Christ begins.

On the cross, Jesus declares: “It is finished.” For you.

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