Monday, April 29, 2019

Sermon for Easter 2: "God's Breath of Life"

+ Second Sunday of Easter - April 28, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Series C: Acts 5:15-20; Revelation 1:4-18; John 20:19-31
Image result for aslan breathing

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

You can tell a lot about someone by their breathing. Slow and methodical, like the Pharisees plotting and scheming to arrest Jesus. Halting or quick and syncopated like the disciples, the upper room.  Afraid. On edge. Anxious. Waiting. Before his conversion,  St. Luke describes Saul as one who was breathing lies and murder. 

The breath of our flesh, like that of the Pharisees, the disciples, and Saul, reveals our sin. Reveals death. Our mouth is an open grave, the Psalms say. 

Our Lord’s breath, on the other hand, reveals not scheming. Not fear. Not death. God’s breath reveals who he is and what he has done for us. God’s breath bears his word and solemn promise. God’s breath brings redemption and forgiveness. God’s breath is life. Life for you in Jesus’ word. Life for you by his dying and rising. Life for you by his Spirit. Words. Spirit. Life. This is God’s breath for you. “My words are Spirit and they are life,” Jesus promises. 

“Peace be with you,”Jesus declared to the disciples as he appeared to them alive again. “Peace be with you,” Jesus declares to you today. 

God’s breath is life for you. And it’s been that way since the beginning. 

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host, declares the Psalmist (Ps 33:6).

In Eden,the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(Gen. 2:7)

In the wilderness, the Lord rescued and redeemed his people by in the Red Sea crossing by his breath, as David declares:the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the Lord, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.

In Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, the Lord declared Behold, I will cause breathto enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” ...breath on these slain that they may live...

God’s breath is life for you. 

The same is true in Jesus’ resurrection. To the disciples, huddled, anxious, and fearful in the upper room, Jesus brings his calming, comforting, consoling word and breath and spirit. Peace be with you. 

To the apostle John, exiled on the island of Patmos, Jesus proclaims peace-filled, grace-filled, life-filled word and breath and spirit. “Fear not, I am the first and the last,18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

To us, in whatever fears we find ourselves. The everyday fears like finding a job, providing for daily bread, or just making rent without bouncing another check. Or the deeper, darker fears, like those the disciples experienced. Disbelief. Doubt. Despair. Sin. Death. 
Whatever it is, Jesus joins us there. Jesus brings us his Word and breath and Spirit. 

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
God’s breath is life for you. And by his Word, Jesus brings the life he won for you on the cross to you. 

By his breath, Jesus opens the kingdom of heaven, He forgives, He feeds, He renews, He strengthens the new You in Him. We may have many fears in this life. We may even be fearful of Sin, Death, and the Law camped out at our door. Fear not. Peace be with you. See the wounds, the Body, the Blood. Hear the cleansing words, “I forgive you all of your sins.” Receive the body and blood of Jesus that bears the Spirit-filled, life-giving words and breath of Jesus: given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. Remember that you are baptized with water and word - the same breath that breathed life into Adam makes you a new creation in Christ. And the same Spirit that hovered over the water of creation gives you the breath of the new heavens and the new earth.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus declares to us today. Shalom. Peace. All is well and right. This is the peace forgiveness of sins Jesus won for us. Just as the Lord filled Adam’s lungs with the breath of life, so too, by his Word Jesus fills us with his life-giving Spirit, making us a new man in him. 

Just as Jesus redeemed and rescued Israel through the water and the word of the Red Sea, so too, he rescues and redeems us by the Water and Word of our great exodus of the font joining us to Jesus’ greater exodus through death and the grave. 

Just as Jesus’ Word breathed on those dead, dry bones in Ezekiel, so too, he will breath on us, and all who are slain, and we shall be raised like he is, immortal, in the flesh, in life everlasting.

God’s breath is life for you. And with his breath, his Word, and His Spirit, Jesus sends us out again, just as he did his disciples. Here we receive his Word. here we are forgiven by his Word. Here we are sent out with his Word. To breath out his word of life with which he has filled our lungs, hearts, minds, and ears. Sins forgiven. Heaven opened. Life in the breath and promises of God. For you.

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. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sermon for Easter Sunday: "Nothing is Everything"

+ The Resurrection of Our Lord – April 21, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Series C: Isaiah 65:17-25; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

Image result for jesus' resurrection

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

“How was your fishing trip?” “Oh, it was great…I caught nothing the whole weekend.”

“How was your Saturday of garage sale hunting?” “Fantastic! I found absolutely nothing.”

“How’s your business doing?” “We’re doing well…sold nothing all week!”

Normally, when we expect to find something we’re disappointed when we find nothing. Finding nothing usually isn’t a good thing.

Except today. Jesus’ resurrection changes all that. Jesus’ resurrection reverses, upends, and completely turns our expectations upside down. Today, finding nothing leads to the very best something of all. 

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 

The women were expecting to find the body of Jesus. That’s why they brought the spices. That’s why they got to the tomb early. They saw Jesus crucified. They watched as he was laid in tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. So, they expected to find a dead man that morning. But instead, they found nothing. 

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

They were perplexed. Confused. Scared. St. Luke says they kept on being at a loss. Their hearts and minds were racing in bewilderment. They did not find what they were looking for. Instead, they found the stone was rolled away. They found the body of Jesus was no longer there. They found two messengers declaring the most unexpected, astonishing, words: 

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

One thing’s for sure, no one – not the women, nor his disciples, nor even his closest friends – no one expected this. No one believed it at first either. This tells us something important about Jesus’ resurrection. The women and the disciples weren’t getting what they hoped for. They didn’t make this story up for fame or glory either. Jesus’ resurrection isn’t a fabrication; our faith rests on facts. Luke tells it like it is: “it happened,” he writes. 

Everyone was taken by surprise. For God did something completely unexpected and new. 

This is how God works. God makes a habit of showing up and working in the places and people we least expect him to: like tax collectors and sinners; the least, lonely, lost, and last ones. That’s comforting when we find ourselves disappointed, despairing, or doubting in life; when we find ourselves face to face with our own failures and sin; when we find ourselves like the women at the tomb: perplexed, afraid, or confused. God does some of his best work for us in hidden, unexpected places. On the cross where Jesus made himself nothing to give you everything by grace. In simple, ordinary water, words, bread and wine – that look like nothing extraordinary to our eyes – and yet, that’s precisely where Jesus finds you. He washes you, speaks to you, and feeds you with his unexpected, unconditional, unlimited forgiveness.

Not only was Jesus’ resurrection the last thing anyone expected. In Jesus’ dying and rising, God does morethan anyone could have ever expected. 

Jesus reverses everything. Jesus who was crucified is risen for you. Jesus who was dead is alive again – he’s the first to experience the resurrection life he gives you. Jesus who was buried walks out of the grave so that one day you will too. 

Sin, death, and hell threw their worst at Jesus and he took it all on the cross. to create a new heavens and a new earth. Fallen creation is restored. The darkness is forever banished. The devil’s reign is ended. The reign of Christ has begun. Where we expected and deserved punishment, judgment for sin, and a guilty sentence, we find that the price has been paid, Jesus was judged in our place, and we are declared innocent. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 

And, as the messengers spoke to the women…they remembered Jesus’ words

They remembered when Jesus said, 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.” 

They remembered when Jesus declared, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

They remembered when Jesus taught them, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to give his life as a ransom for many.”

They remembered when Jesus promised, 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.”

When the women found Jesus’ tomb to be empty, it looked as if they had found nothing. Yet in finding nothing, the women made the greatest discovery of all: Jesus is risen for you. You could even say that in finding nothing, they found everything. Today, God does what he did at the very beginning, he makes something out of nothing. Today, finding nothing leads to the very best something of all.

Christ is risen! Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Christ is risen! Sin is forgiven and washed away.
Christ is risen! The devil is crushed under the cross.
Christ is risen! A new creation has dawned; the old is gone, the new has come.
Christ is risen! Adam is lifted up from the dust, and one day, we will rise from the dead as well.
Christ is risen! His Word is sure.
Christ is risen! And today the empty tomb resounds with good news and great joy. 

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. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Sermon for Good Friday: "A God Who Bleeds, A God Who Dies"

+ Good Friday – April 19, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9; John 18–19

Image result for Jesus crucified cranach

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


It’s one of humanity’s most basic questions. Children are famous for asking, “Why?”

As we grow older, the reasons may change, but we still find ourselves asking the same question. “Why?” “Why did I get sick? Why do I hurt? Why did my friend or family member die?”

Jesus himself asks this question on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Good Friday brings this question to the front of our minds once again. Why does Jesus hunger and thirst? Why does Jesus allow himself to be beaten and mocked? Why did Jesus take on human flesh only to be betrayed, ridiculed, crucified, dead, and buried? Why did God become man? 

For this day. For the cross. For you. On the cross, God is forsaken so you will never be forsaken. On the cross, Jesus bears our sin and our death so that we will bear his forgiveness and life. On the cross, we behold the God who became man to bleed and die for us.

Behold Jesus’ hands. The night before they were washing His disciples’ feet. Now they are pierced with nails to the cross for you. Behold the hands that formed Adam out of the dirt, now stained with blood and dirt for you. Behold the fingers that touched land healed lepers, stuck into the ears of a deaf man, and picked up bread to declare it to be His body. Now they tremble with pain as he is crucified for you. This is why God has hands. For you.

Behold Jesus’ skin. Lacerated. Bruised. Beaten. Bleeding. His knees skinned and bruised from falling under the weight of the cross. This is why God has skin. For you.

Behold Jesus’ feet, nailed to the cross, bearing His weight as He dies. Behold the feet that walked from town to town as He taught His disciples, healed the sick, and preached the good news of our release from captivity to sin and death. Behold the feet that Mary anointed with a pound of expensive ointment, washed with her tears, and wiped with her hair. Behold the feet that are now bound in place. Behold the feet that must endure stabbing pain as he struggles to draw each painful breath. This is why God has legs and feet. For you.

Behold Jesus’ heel, which, by his death, is crushing the head of the serpent, destroying the kingdom of Satan, answering for mankind’s sinful rebellion. This is why God has feet. For you.

Behold Jesus’ head. Blood drips and flows from the place where the thorns press through His skin. Behold the head over which has been hung the sign listing the charge that brought this death sentence: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. This is why God has a head. For you.

Behold Jesus’ face. A face that is swollen and bruised from the blows dealt by the High Priest’s officer, and later by the soldiers, jeering at Him to “Prophesy! Who is it that struck You?” Behold the eyes that looked with mercy and compassion on the crowds, on His disciples, on the sick. Behold His lips, which spoke words of absolution and now cry out in thirst. This is why God has a face. For you.

Behold Jesus’ lungs as they slowly fill with fluid. Behold the lungs that breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils. Behold the lungs that in this hanging posture cannot exhale without the man pulling His whole body up on the nails to open His airway. Behold the lungs that expel one final breath as He cries, “It is finished,” gives up His spirit, and dies. This is why God has lungs. For you.

Behold Jesus’ bones, which remain unbroken. Behold the reason every sacrifice, every Passover lamb, every bull for the whole burnt offering, every scapegoat, every ram, every turtledove had to be healthy and intact, with no broken bones or disfigurement. Perfect. Holy. Spotless. Unblemished. Jesus is everything we are not, so in his death we receive everything he is and has to give. Jesus is truly bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, God as man to save man. This is why God has bones. For you.

Behold Jesus’ side, into which the soldier thrust his spear, causing a river of blood and water to pour out. A witness that he is dead. His heart has stopped. His synapses no longer fire. As God completed creation on the sixth day of the week, so too, Jesus has completed his work of crucifixion on the sixth day. And from the side of this crucified man, God will fashion us into His Bride, the Church, and give her to Him when He wakes. This is the same side that Jesus will invite Thomas to touch and no longer disbelieve. This is why God has a side. For you.

Behold Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for you. The blood He first shed when He was an eight-day-old boy, undergoing the sign by which all Jewish boys were made Israelites. The blood that was foreshadowed on every Day of Atonement when the blood of the sacrifice was splattered on the mercy seat, on the altar, and on the people. The blood He gave to His disciples in the cup the night before, telling them its purpose: shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. The blood that reveals that Jesus who is true God is also true man, our brother and redeemer. The blood by which this eternal High Priest enters once for all into the Most Holy Place, us sinful men access to a holy God. This is why God has blood. For you.


Why does God have a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, a brain with synapses that fire? For this day. For the cross. For you. God is man so that He can die, and in three days, rise again. For you.

A blessed Good Friday to each of you…

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

Maundy Thursday Sermon: "A God Who Loves"

+ Maundy Thursday – April 18, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Series C: Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-17, 31-35
Image result for maundy thursday

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

“Talk is cheap,” we say. Or, “actions speak louder than words.” “Don’t just tell me you love me, show me.” We say these things because though we often think of love as an emotion and a feeling, love is more than a feeling. Love is an action.

Love is changing your baby’s diaper. Love is taking your children to church, praying, and reading Scripture with them at home. Love is picking up chicken noodle soup from the store when your wife is sick. Love is brewing the extra strong pot of coffee for your husband after an exhausting day or night. Love is visiting someone who’s sick, or calling or sending a card to someone you haven’t seen at church in a while. 

God’s love for us, though far greater, is similar. God’s love for us is more than a feeling, though he has compassion on us, loves us, cares for us. For us, God’s love is an action.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God loved the world in this way…that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The same is true of Jesus’ love as we hear in John 13. Jesus’ love is an action.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Behold the God who loves truly and perfectly. His love is seen in action. The Father has given everything into Jesus’ hands. Just like the children’s song goes. “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Every power is at His disposal. Every authority under heaven and earth is His. He has created everything. And He holds everything in His eternal hands. 

And what does Jesus do with his hands? He removes his outer garments. He wraps a towel around his waist. He fills a bowl of water. He reaches out with his hands and removes the sandals from the scummy, dirty, travel-worn feet of His disciples. He holds their feet in His holy hands. He dips his hands in the water. He washes their feet.

What wonderous love this is. God descends to take up the feet of sinful men into His holy hands.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” 

We can understand Peter’s protest. God should not wash his feet. That’s not how a proper God behaves. This is beneath God. God should not be getting his hands dirty. This is slave labor, a servant’s task. If God descends to take human flesh and then stoops to the lowest position, the foot-washing place, the whole economy of human hierarchy is turned upside down.

But for Jesus, love is an action. Love is being made man for us. Love is Jesus eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors, healing the unclean, washing grubby feet. Love is Jesus who gets his hands dirty for us. Love is the Son of man who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” And, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

“As I have loved you,”Jesus instructs his disciples and us. Love as sinners among sinners. Love those who cannot and will not ever deserve your love. Love to forgive those who are completely unforgiveable. Love with your hands. Love in order to remove the filth, the guilt, the shame of your brothers and sisters. Love in order to get the dirt of your fellow man onto your own hands so that he might be clean. Love because your love will never be repaid. Love sacrificially. Love and never expect anything in return. Love as I have loved you, Jesus commands.

This is a tall order. This kind of love doesn’t just sound hard. It sounds impossible. Who of us can say we love like that? No one. Except Jesus. He loves this way for you. Behold the man who loves those who are completely unlovable. Behold the man who loves those who, in just a few minutes, will abandon Him, will flee to save their own lives. Behold the man who loves the rebellious, the sinful, the lost, lonely, least, and last ones. Behold the man who loves those who could never deserve it. Behold the man who is God and who, in order to love His creatures perfectly and completely, has become man. Behold the man who loves the world completely and perfectly in His death on the cross.

If we want to love like this, like Jesus did, like He commands His disciples to love, we’ll never get there relying on our own selfish love. If we want to love like this, we must first be loved like this. 

Jesus’ love for you is still action. “As I have loved you”is here, on the altar. Jesus’ love poured out for you on the cross fills the chalice. His body laid down in love for you in death is given to you in the bread. 

Behold the man, who on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples: “Take, eat; this is my body given for you. Take, drink; this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”Behold the man, veiled in bread and wine, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, for life and salvation.

Jesus’ love for you is action. Living for you. Dying for you. Rising for you. Feeding and forgiving you in his body and blood. Raising you from the dead on the Last Day.

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sermon for Palm Sunday: "Following Jesus"

+ Palm Sunday – April 14th, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Series C: Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; John 12:12-19; John 12:20-43

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

We spend a lot of time in life following. Children play “follow the leader” around the playground. As we grow up, we follow instructions at work, school, or home. We follow the latest news, sports scores, or binge-worthy show on Netflix.

Our Christian life is one of following too. We follow our Lord as he calls us his own in Baptism. We follow our Lord’s words as he shows us our sin in the Law and shows us our Savior in the Gospel. We follow where our Lord sends us, to our neighbor in need, to love as he has loved us. After all, the word disciple itself means “one who follows”.

Palm Sunday is a day of following too. Today we follow the crowds as Jesus enters into Jerusalem.  Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”

Today we follow their song of praise with palm branches waving and voices singing: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 

Today we follow our King Jesus as he enters Jerusalem to be enthroned on the cross for us. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Palm Sunday is a day of following that leads us to a week of following, as Jesus leads us. To the upper room where Jesus gives us his body and blood in bread and wine for our forgiveness. To the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed for us. To Golgotha where Jesus is crucified for us. To the empty tomb and the joyous good news that Christ is risen for us.

You see, to follow Jesus is to follow him to the cross. For there is no other way. No other path. Left on our own we wander. We go astray. We don’t follow where our Lord leads us. So in order to save us, he leads us to the cross. He leads us to our death with him. The death of our sin. The death of following our own ways. The death of our wandering and lostness. The death of death. The death of the devil’s grip on us. 

This is what Jesus means when he says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” To lose our self-righteous, self-important, selfish lives and find in him a righteousness, an identity, and a life that is not our own. To die to sin in repentance and rise with Jesus in newness of life. To drop dead to following our own will and ways, and to follow where Jesus leads us. 

At long last, we follow Jesus where he has been leading his disciples. Throughout Judea and Samaria, from town to town, miracle after miracle, in teaching and parables, Jesus leads us and his disciples to his great hour. His glorification. His cross where he follows after us, chasing our sin and death into the grave forever, pursuing us with his grace and mercy, destroying the devil’s accusations against us.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour…Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 

Palm Sunday is a day of following where Jesus leads us.Through the streets of Jerusalem with the crowds singing “Hosanna”, to a hill outside Jerusalem where Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” 

Through the palm branches waving as Jesus rode atop a lowly donkey, to the crown of thorns that adorned his head as he humbled himself unto death for you. 

Through the darkness of Good Friday and the grave, to the joy, light, and life of Jesus’ resurrection for you. 

For you, Jesus followed the Father’s will…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.

For you, Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies, and bears much fruit in you. The fruits of his life. Fruits of His Spirit. Fruits of faith in him and love for others around you. The fruit of sharing the Good News of Jesus’ and resurrection with your family, friends, and neighbors.

For you, Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday that you may follow where he leads.

Jesus leads you to himself by the water and Word and Spirit in your Baptism, to the Scriptures where he speaks and teaches that we might follow where he leads us, to the altar where Jesus himself is present for us in bread and wine, humble yet glorious servants bearing Jesus for us, like the donkey of Palm Sunday.

Jesus also leads us to our neighbor with hands that bear his mercy. Lips that proclaim his love: Jesus crucified and risen for you. Ears and feet that follow where he leads us as we pray so often after communion, for faith in Christ and fervent love towards one another. 

Blessed are you who come in the Name of the Lord. Blessed are you this Palm Sunday, following where our Lord leads us. To himself. His cross. And to his body and blood given for you. 

Hosanna in the highest.

A blessed Palm Sunday to each of you…

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

Monday, April 8, 2019

Lenten Midweek Sermon: "A God Who Thirsts"

+ Lenten Midweek 5 – April 10, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Psalm 22:12–18; John 19:28–30
Image result for I thirst

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

Water is life. The world’s surface is 71% water, our bodies are roughly 60% water, and we’re hard-pressed to find something we do in our daily life that doesn’t involve water.

Without water, we die. Water is life. The same is true throughout John’s Gospel. John baptized Jesus in the water of the Jordan River. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born from above, born again by water and the Spirit. At Cana, Jesus made two- to three-hundred gallons of water into the finest vintage wine. “I will give you living water,” Jesus promised the woman at the well. Jesus walked on the stormy, wind-tossed waters of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus healed a blind man with spit and mud to heal his eyes. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet with a bowl of water. And when the soldier took a spear to confirm that Jesus was in fact dead, John tells us that he unleashed a river of blood and water from His side.

Water is life. A theme which flows like a tributary, growing wider and swifter throughout John’s Gospel, until it leads us to Jesus. To his cross born for us. To his word spoken to us.

Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 

In Jesus’ seemingly ordinary request for a drink, he reveals the extraordinary work he is doing for us on the cross. He thirsts not for Himself but for the salvation of all men. As He is dried up, He is becoming the draft of forgiveness for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Behold the very Rock who was cleft in the wilderness to give a wellspring of life-giving water to His thirsting, complaining people. Behold the One who created the waters that flow, rivers that run, oceans that surge, water tables that nourish, and springs that bubble. Behold the God who made six stone jars of water to be the choicest vintage of wine the wedding guests had ever tasted. Behold the man! He is thirsty. Dried up, parched. His tongue sticking like Velcro to the roof of His mouth, craving even a sip of sour wine from a sponge. Behold the man who thirsts. For you.

If Jesus thirsts for us, for what do we thirst? For what does our flesh ache and groan? Not just a drink of water, probably. That is far too ordinary. For money, power, influence, success, popularity, comfort, perhaps. Maybe we thirst for more likes, more reviews, more respect, or more attention at any cost. Jesus’ physical thirst on the cross also reveals our thirst and need for God himself. 

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

I am poured out like water,    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;    you lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:14-15)

Yes, we, like Jesus, are thirsty. But where we thirst for ourselves, Jesus thirsts for you. 

Jesus, who took on our human flesh, flesh that hungers and thirsts, flesh that needs sustenance, flesh that can be beaten, abused, mocked, nailed to a cross, and hung until it thirsts in peril for its life. For you.

Jesus is deprived of life to save our life. Jesus suffers one of humanity’s most basic needs to satisfy our greatest need before God. Jesus fulfills the scripture to accomplish our rescue from every thought, word, and deed we’ve done in hopes of satisfying our own thirst. Jesus thirsted on the cross so that we need never thirst for God. 

Behold the man who empties Himself so that you might be filled. Behold the man who is cut off so that you can be grafted in. Behold the man who thirsts so that you can be satisfied. Behold the man who thirsts so that men might drink and never be thirsty again. Behold the man who is parched and dried up so that you might find in Him a river of life. Behold the man who thirsts as He dies so that you might never die—not like this, not the big death, not this death separated from God, not death and hell.

In Jesus, your thirsts, your desires, your needs are quenched. Every thirst is primal, a hearkening back to the days in the Garden of Eden. Every thirst is eschatological, hearkening forward to the new creation, to the river of life, to the renewed heavens and renewed earth.

Behold the man whose blood still flows for you. Behold the man who was dried up with thirst so that your dry lips could be satisfied with the drink of His blood for true drink. Behold the man who thirsted. Behold the man who bids you thirst no more. Behold the man who is the headstream of a new drink, the river of life.

Jesus delights to give us his living water. He pours out living water from his pierced side and washes away your sins. Jesus bathes you in his death and resurrection in the living waters of the font, a true fountain of life. In his Holy Word, Jesus sends forth a river of life, teeming with his promises declaring you his new creation. Jesus’ forgiveness floods the wasteland of our sinful hearts into a reservoir of his mercy. In the Holy Supper, Jesus gives us the same body that thirsted on the cross to satisfy our hunger for righteousness. Jesus fills the cup of salvation with the same blood shed on the cross for you that we might never thirst again. 

In Jesus, water is life. Now and forever. 

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

Sermon for Lent 5: "Tenants by Grace"

+ Lent 5 – April 7, 2019 +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Series C: Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:8-14; Luke 20:9-20

Image result for parable of the wicked tenants

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

Anyone who’s spent time around children knows they love play different parts from stories they watch or read, or pretend to be moms, dads, teachers, or police officers. They play house or church echoing things we’ve said or done. They pretend to be Moana sailing beyond the reef to find Maui, even if it’s just a wheelbarrow in the back yard. 

In other words, they want to see themselves in the story.

When it comes to Jesus’ parables, we do the same thing. We try to find ourselves in the story. We identify with the younger or older son, or both when we hear the parable of the prodigal son. We see ourselves as the lost sheep that Jesus our Good Shepherd finds and brings home. We are the pearl buried in the field for whom Jesus gives all he has to buy the field and find us. 

Most of the time, it’s easy to find our place in Jesus’ parables. But when we hear the parable of the wicked tenants in Luke 20, this proves to be more challenging. Where do we find ourselves in a parable that Jesus delivers to the religious leaders of his day?

We know the Pharisees saw and heard themselves in this parable, just as Jesus intended them to. Only they didn’t like what they heard. The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them.

On the one hand, it’s a parable about the salvation history of Israel; about God’s pursuing, persistent, and patient love for his people. And yet, on the other, it’s a tragic story of rejection, rebellion, and unbelief.

A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenant farmers who were supposed to tend it and give a share of the harvest. He sent a servant to collect, and he was beaten and sent away empty-handed. He sent another, and he was mocked and scorned and sent away empty-handed too. He sent a third, and they wounded him and cast him out. Finally, he sent his son. “His beloved son.” And they took one look at the son and said, “This is the heir. Let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours.” And they threw him out of the vineyard, and they killed him.

It's no accident Jesus tells this parable during Holy Week. Like a raging river next to a levee, Jesus’ confrontation with the religious leaders has been swelling for years now. As the week inches towards the Passover and Good Friday, the religious leaders’ unbelief and rejection of Jesus reaches flood stage and crests. As Jesus proclaims this parable he knows the dam is about to burst. Rejection, mockery, pain, along with sin and death will pour over him like Noah’s flood. Jesus will be rejected, thrown out of the vineyard, and killed, just as he promised.

The Pharisees were right. Jesus spoke this parable against them. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” 

To the religious leaders this was a word of judgment. A warning. A call to repentance. 

Jesus was against them, but in order to bring them abandon their rejection of him, and instead find redemption and rescue. Jesus only brings down the gavel on those who foolishly reject the free salvation Jesus brings thinking we are saved based on our own goodness or badness, our works and our bookkeeping. For the world is saved only by Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection, not by any of the devices of unbelief that the Pharisees or we take refuge in.

And so in a grand paradox, Jesus comes not to judge but to be judged in our place, and this is precisely why he’s rejected. Yet, in his rejection by the religious leaders, he dies for all, even those who rejected him. 

“‘The stone that the builders rejected  has become the cornerstone’. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

This is what the Pharisees missed. There’s no way around Christ the cornerstone. Either you fall on Jesus in broken hearted, empty handed, beggarly repentance or you get crushed by the weight of your own salvation crashing down against the resistance of your own self-justification. Either way, you’re going to be broken when you encounter Jesus.

And that brings us back to the question we started with. Where do we find ourselves in this parable? What does a parable directed against Israel’s religious leaders in the 1stcentury have to say to us in the 21stcentury?

Quite a bit, in fact. For Jesus’ parable is a reminder of who we are and why we are here. It’s not my church. It’s not your church. We are the Lord’s church, his vineyard. He’s the vineyard owner; we’re simply tenant farmers. Stewards of God’s abundant gifts in all our callings in life: home, church, in our communities, at work, and wherever our Lord sends us.

We are the new tenants, not by our doing reason or strength, but by God’s baptismal grace in Christ. You are heirs, not by your doing, but by the death of the Son.
And that’s the twist of this parable. The death of the Son becomes the life of the world. The death of Son grants the inheritance. The death of the Son is our forgiveness, our life, our salvation, our justification.
Jesus becomes the tenant on your behalf. Jesus puts himself into the story of this fallen world to take on our sin and death. The shameful mistreatment of the servants? Jesus pays the price for that. The covetous greed that wants the vineyard for yourself? Jesus claims that sin from you. The murder of the vineyard owner’s son? Jesus takes the fall for that too. Your mistakes? Excuses? When you hurt others? Whether intentionally or not? Your brokenness? Jesus takes it all.

Jesus is the one who has the vineyard taken away. He is the one whose life is taken away. He is the one who is destroyed. Killed on a cross. And in Him, our role is re-written. Jesus performs a great exchange: he trades our unholiness for his holiness. Our sinful badness for his goodness. Our death for his life. The Son is killed and the inheritance is yours, now and forever.

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