The Only Path to Peace

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The Only Path to Peace

2 John 3 (CSB) Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”

John 14:23–31 (CSB)

23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful. 28 You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. 30 I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me., 31 On the contrary, so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do as the Father commanded me.

Dear Fellow Redeemed: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” These are the words with which Paul greeted Timothy, and with which I greet you regularly on these Sunday mornings. Grace, mercy and peace are among the gifts God gives us through His word, and the last, His peace He especially mentions as a gift coming to us through the Holy Spirit.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.

For us, peace is elusive. When we hear “peace,” some think of an end to war, others to personal peace, (Don’t bother me!) still others to the peace of living a blameless life. In my experience I see people in every state of chaos, upheaval, and turbulence of life – the opposite of peace.

Where shall they find peace? Living and dealing with people who constantly disapprove. Living with a bad temper- ours or someone else’s. Living with abusive people. Living with our values under siege. Living with family who keep making wrong choices. “Feeling upset.” Living with anxiety and other emotional upheaval. Walking on eggshells with some people. Where shall we find peace.

Jesus here speaks of …

THE ONLY PATH TO PEACE

  1. We Find Peace in Christ Alone
  2. We Find Christ in the Word Alone
  3. In This Way, Christ Gives Us True Peace
  1. We Find Peace in Christ Alone

The world follows many paths in search of peace. The U.N. War to bring peace. Divorce. Psychotherapy. Sociotherapy. Anti-anxiety meds. Counseling. You name it. But the peace of Christ is something different. It is a peace that transcends everything. It is the peace that we can have in the midst of battle, when facing the withering disapproval of others, when suffering from anxiety or depression, or worried you will get sick. The apostles were persecuted struggled with friction in the church, and the pietism and disapproval of others.

The peace of Christ is of a different thing altogether. “27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives,” Jesus said.

Paul wrote to the Philippians about seeking this peace. Understand that he had been persecuted, beaten, stone into unconsciousness, arrested, imprisoned, and threatened with execution. Here is what he taught his people in Philippi: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses [transcends] all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7, CSB)

This is an echo of Proverbs 3, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5, CSB)

So you see, this is a matter of faith. We put our trust in Christ. Jesus repeatedly said something like this to His disciples: 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. The disciples would find themselves in horrible situations, persecuted, hated, . Then they were to know that above all, Christ is Lord.

The peace of Christ transcends everything. We have the peace of Christ even when we have no other peace. It is a peace of faith and we can see it in several ways:

  • God loves you whether you feel like it or not, even if you feel condemned.
  • You are forgiven because Christ is risen, even when the Devil, your friends, and even your own conscience condemns you. Yes, even when you ARE guilty.
  • You have a future, even when destitute, even when dying.
  • You have hope, even when there is no hope on earth.
  • When your feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation, and the like overcome you, you can know and believe that the Lord is merciful and that this too, shall pass.
  • When we are lonely, we can take on faith Jesus’ promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.

That’s what we mean by transcendent. This is the peace of Christ, of knowing Christ, and trusting in His promises. And ….

2.  We Find Christ in the Word Alone

So if Christ alone can bring us to God, how can we find Christ?  Pentecost, this day which we celebrate, is itself the answer – we find Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit – and the Spirit works alone through His word.

This was the point of Jesus’ discussion in our text.  He is answering one of the disciples who asked Him why He made such a point of revealing himself to them, and not to the world at large.  The reason is that He will be leaving; so He says:  25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” His kingdom is the true kingdom of peace, as He is the Prince of Peace. How does His kingdom come? Luther explained it this way, “The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eter­nity.” The Holy Spirit’s work is to bring God’s kingdom, the kingdom of which Christ is king, to us.

We live, now, in an earthly kingdom, where there is conflict, pan, sorrow, sickness, loss, failures, and sin. The end of life in this kingdom is death, and here there is no peace. But transcending this kingdom is the kingdom which we are part of by faith, and this is the kingdom of life and peace. Her there is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In this kingdom we possess the righteousness of Christ, and are at peace with God.

It is because we are subjects of this kingdom that we can have peace even in a world afflicted with turmoil, conflict, and hostility. It is because this kingdom has come t you by the power of the Holy Sprit that we can rejoice that whatever we suffer from today, deliverance is ours in God’s good time.

As we said, this kingdom comes to us by the Holy Spirit, and He works through His word. As the apostles were the teachers of the church and have written this word, the Holy Spirit is the teachers of the apostles, as Jesus said, 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. So it follows that the apostles taught the word of God, as Paul wrote, “We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. (1 Corinthians 2:13, CSB)

So we find Christ and His peace that transcends the tumult of this world through His word.

3. In This Way, Christ Gives Us True Peace

Because of this, we can be sure of finding peace.  We can be sure of it.  Now the accepted wisdom is that there is no sure thing in this world.  But this word is not of this world.  This is a means of Grace.  This is a way in which God Himself brings His grace to us and bestows it upon us.  We just confessed this in the third article of the creed:  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…”

You can be sure of finding forgiveness.  You can be sure of the loving fellowship of God Himself.  You can be sure of being kept in the true faith.  You can be sure of finding the peace that transcends all the conflict and disorder of this life.

Listen to Him speak.  Listen to Him promise, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37, CSB)

Listen.  Christ prays for you. Christ speaks to you.  He loves you and bids you love Him, and find peace now and forevermore.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-31T13:47:39-07:00May 31st, 2020|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

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Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

John 16:5–15 (CSB)

But now I am going away to him who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

Dear fellow redeemed:  If you were in the hospital facing the certainty of your death, what kinds of plans would you be making for your activities in the coming months and years? Probably none. If anything, you would be expressing your funeral preferences and telling your family where to find the life insurance and the will.

So what’s with Jesus? He’s on his way to Gethsemane and Calvary and death, but He’s explaining part of His plan for changing the world. That is why this text is an AFTER-Easter text; it means something because Jesus has in fact risen from the dead. Much that Jesus said during His ministry only makes sense in view of the resurrection. What’s more, His teaching makes the connection between the glorious truth of the resurrection, and our daily lives as we live them.

In these words, He tells how he will remove the spiritual blindness from the world and create faith in Him as the risen Savior. He speaks these words of our text to His disciples even before His arrest, so that they will eventually understand that even now, …

JESUS BUILDS ON HIS RESURRECTION VICTORY

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word
  2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected
  3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

In writing on this text, Luther commented, “This is a good text, but it takes good students.”  This is one of the parts of Scripture that reminds us that God’s word is very deep.  It’s not unclear, but it requires that we be careful, and thorough, and willing to do our homework if we are to be benefited by this Word of God.

The first thing that Jesus is telling His Disciples is that His work of redemption is nearing completion, and that since He will soon have redeemed the world, the Holy Spirit will come to build on that, as part of the establishment of a REAL KINGDOM.

Just as the Romans capitalized upon so many battles won to build an empire, so the Holy Spirit capitalizes on the resurrection victory of Christ to build God’s kingdom on earth.

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word

Jesus says, But now I am going away to him who sent me.” In retrospect, we can see that He is referring to His ascension and exaltation.  No longer would Jesus be reduced to a humble earthly life; soon He would be ruling heaven and earth as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

It would at first seem to be a tragedy, as He says, Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. As I have said many times, what the disciples saw with their human eyes was not the only thing happening.  They saw Jesus capture, arrest, death, and burial, but what was really happening was the redemption of the world and the destruction of death itself.

This is why I say that this text draws the connection between the Easter Victory and you and me today. By working faith in our hearts, the Holy Spirit shows us the victory over sin and death, so that we can truly share in the joy of the resurrection. And his coming ascension was so that instead of teaching those within earshot of His voice, He would teach in every time and every place through the Word of the Spirit, as He tells His disciples, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.

2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected

It is highly unlikely that either you or I can really fathom the importance of those words. Jesus has redeemed the world, and He proceeds to rule it as the one who has taken possession of it.

Let’s make that more personal.  Jesus died for you.  When you were born, you didn’t know it, much less believe it.  But by His word and power He has directed the affairs of the world, he has directed Christian people, so that His saving word and sacrament would come to you, and work faith in your heart.

You and I aren’t Christians just because we were born to Christian parents.  We were born to Christian parents, so that we might be brought to faith as Christians.

We aren’t Christians because we happened to live in a predominately Christian country, God has raised up predominately Christian countries so that the inhabitants of the world might be brought to faith as Christians.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus puts it, When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

What do these three statements mean?

First:  He will convict the world about sin, because they do not believe in me.  In simple words, the Holy Spirit uses God’s law to touch the hearts of unbelievers with terror over their sins.  Without repentance and faith in the saving work of Christ, the world is lost and condemned, as Jesus said already: “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”” (John 8:24, CSB)

Second:  He will convict the world 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. In simple words, this means that through His word, the Holy Spirit will strip away any righteousness by which mankind of itself hopes to gain God’s favor. Only the righteousness which Christ proclaims for us before God’s throne will avail.  That is the righteousness to which the Holy Spirit points in His Word, as He did through Peter “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, CSB)

Third:  He will convict the world about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. In simple words, this means that as God has rendered judgment upon the Devil already, and certified it by the resurrection of Christ, so He has passed judgment upon all the world that is with the devil and at odds with Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches us that there IS no question of the absolute judgment of God.  All who oppose God have already brought judgment upon themselves, and only God’s time of Grace has stayed His hand.

Put another way, the world will know what judgment took place on Calvary – there YOU, sinner, were judged and condemned in the person of Christ.  But that judgment will fall on the devil and all who do not believe in Christ.

So in these ways, the world’s unbelief, and false righteousness, and arrogant persistence in the ways of the prince of this world are condemned and corrected.  That is part of His plan to rescue you.

3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

Jesus promised His disciples that they would have access to absolute truth so that they could share this truth with the world. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

It is that absolute truth that I have quoted so many times already this morning.  It is the absolute truth that you learn when you study and confess the doctrine of the church. It is the absolute truth that you share with others when you speak the fact that we are all condemned under sin but delivered by the sacrifice of Christ.  It is to impart this truth, and to prepare our children to speak it and defend it that we support Christian education, from Sunday school to Christian schools to colleges. It is because they teach this truth that we are so grateful for Christian moms. In this way they give not only physical life but spiritual life.

Because the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, you benefit personally from the saving work of Christ. You are made part of the kingdom of God on earth.  We are made part of God’s church, in which there is the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life.  What Christ has earned becomes yours, as He says,  15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

While the unbelief of the world damns and destroys, God’s gift of faith to you comforts you with the certainty of deliverance from all the woe of sin.

While the righteousness of the world cannot bring even social order, the righteousness of Christ has brought an end to condemnation for you.

While the world falls under the judgment of God, you stand in the victory of Christ, by faith in Him.

So then, may each of us rejoice in the victory of the resurrection, and cast off the unbelief, false righteousness, and doom of this world.  May we hunger and thirst for what the comforter brings – forgiveness, life, and salvation in word and sacrament.  And so may Christ’s church, Christ’s kingdom on earth and in heaven, be our safe refuge, and our passage into life.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-09T16:36:22-07:00May 9th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

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John 16:16–23 (CSB)

16 “A little while and you will no longer see me; again a little while and you will see me.”
       17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this he’s telling us: ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me,’ and, ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What is this he is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”
       19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, and so he said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.
       23 “In that day you will not ask me anything.

Dear fellow redeemed: We are going to go back to a moment of impending doom. Jesus was with His disciples in the upper room on the night in which He was betrayed. Jesus said that something was coming that would be at once terrible and wonderful. Like a woman giving birth, in pain; but it would also be like a woman giving birth – great joy.

It would come in just a little while. This coin with two sides, this moment of both sorrow and joy would come in just a little while. But there would also be a before and after, and therefore …

PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY

  1. We Share in the Sadness
  2. We Share in the Gladness

1  We Share in the Sadness

It is easy to share in the disciples’ confusion, because just a little while before he had talked about going away to the Father. There He was talking about His ascension and about giving the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. But in this circumstance He is talking about Christ’s passion, a horror that would come upon them in a little while, but which would in a little while be resolved in the resurrection.

Now, we need to understand that this was one occasion only. Jesus talks to His disciples and not to us specifically. There is no little while in which we are without Christ and then a while when He is with us. He isn’t talking about the trials of life until the second coming here. Instead, on this Jubilate Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing out of suffering, we remember the sadness of the crucifixion, but live in the gladness of the resurrection.

One other thing about this event that was so sad and ended up being so wonderful – it made sense. The disciples couldn’t figure it out beforehand, but afterwards, Jesus said, 23 “In that day you will not ask me anything. If they had possessed the understanding of faith, they would have looked at the cross, and seen there the Lamb of God taking away the world’s sin.

It is something like the symbol of the crucifix: There we see the judgment of God upon the sinfulness of man, but there we also see the Love of God, Who gave up His only-begotten Son.

While this text talks only about the revelation through which the disciples would go, there is still an application for us. What happened there on Calvary and gave the disciples such sorrow was Jesus dying OUR death, and what happened at the open tomb that gave the disciples such joy was Jesus’ preparing OUR resurrection. We share in that by virtue of our baptism. “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

We share in the sadness, acknowledging that Christ suffered the rejection that we sinners deserve. We also share in the sadness because we know that as Jesus shared in the suffering of sinners, we share in His. Paul embraces this in Philippians 3, “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,” (Philippians 3:10, CSB)

The world around us has hope only in this world and only for a short time, and an unreasonable expectation that all should be good. But as the world despairs we know that the sorrow is passing, but the joy abides forever.

As Christians, we know the way of the world and have an expectation also of suffering, as Jesus said,  “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.(Matthew 5:11–12, CSB)

2.   We Share in the Gladness

In terms of shear emotion, we believers would never share in the sadness of the disciples, or the despair, but we do share in their gladness, in the hope that was theirs in seeing the risen Christ. As with them, we have passing sorrow but abiding joy.

Because Jesus took our sins the cross, and there paid the full price of them, He was accepted into heaven when He died. “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

Because He went to the Father in victory over our sin, His disciples would see Him again, for He had succeeded in accomplishing the justification of the world.

20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.

For them it was just a very little while, parts of three days.  For us it may be a little while longer, but finally there is for all of us the joy of the resurrection.

We live in that joy even now, even in the midst of adversity, as Peter put it, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–9, CSB)

Everything changed that day when Jesus rose. One had borne the sins of the world, and atoned for them, so that we were acquitted, declared innocent. Now we have something to say to our accusing consciences: “Forgiveness is ours.” Now we have something to say to the threat of death: “We shall live, even though we die.” We have something to say to the voices of regret: “Our sins will be forgotten.”

We live today in a world, a nation, a society gripped by fear: Will we get sick and die? Will we lose our job, our savings, our wealth, our freedom? Will we die alone?

There may be some fleeting sorrow, but we do not despair, because for us there is abiding joy. Not because OF us, but because of Christ, and offered to all. But because we live in faith, the joy we live in now will bear fruit in the life that is to come, the great celebration that is heaven: In Jesus’ words, I tell you that many will come from east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11, CSB) Picture an eternal fellowship and joyful feast. Or, as the Psalmist says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11, CSB) Joy upon joy! And exaltation too< as Daniel says, Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3, CSB)

We say, “O Lord, there is trouble and sorrow in my life, but with David we continue, “Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26, CSB)

Let us then rejoice with the disciples in the wake of the resurrection, for there is PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-02T14:48:23-07:00May 2nd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

You Have a Truly Good Shepherd

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Your Good Shepherd Nurtures You

John 10:11–16 (CSB)

11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, beloved of our Good Shepherd:  This third Sunday of Easter is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. The title “Misericordias Domini” means “The Goodness of the Lord,” and tells us something about our Good Shepherd.

The image of “shepherd” is of the defender of the sheep as wolves scatter and snatch them. The Shepherd stands between the wolves and the sheep. He gathers the sheep together again, and all at the risk of death.

But having died for His sheep, Jesus has rescued them!  How right we are to call Him our Good Shepherd! But there are other shepherds too, who are not Good Shepherds, and also there are wolves, who are forever the enemies of this Christ.  The important thing about the Good Shepherd is that at whatever cost …

YOUR GOOD SHEPHERD NURTURES YOU

  1. With His Words of Truth
  2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace
  1. With His Words of Truth

It’s hard to pick a word to say what our Good Shepherd does for us. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolf. He doesn’t let us scatter this way and that. He does care about us. He does gather us together in safety. He not only seeks us, but the many souls who are lost and wandering.

The wolf, that is to say, the Devil, uses events like these last few weeks to scatter people and separate them from our Good Shepherd. Others have been scattered through the various voices seeking our attention.

Now understand what “scattered” means, it means separated from the safety of the flock and of the Good Shepherd, easily separated and snatched. It means set up to be killed spiritually. You’ve probably seen it on TV, where the wolves or coyotes or hyenas or lions or whatever, cut an animal off from the heard, run it down and kill it. The same happens when people are separated from the word of Christ, which creates and nourishes our spiritual life.

For Christ’s words and no others really reveal a salvation that can bring comfort to the likes of you and me – to sinners.

As Peter preached in his second sermon in Acts, there is only one Savior:  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, CSB)

People are consumed by the dangers of this virus, who caused it, who can make us safe, and how we can avoid dying. It goes beyond mere prudence; it becomes an expectation of eternal life. Maybe I’m the one who has to tell you: most people my age won’t make it 20 years. In the last two years I have had plenty of funerals. There will be more, virus or no virus.

“Gather ‘round,” Jesus says, “and listen to me.” I have killed death. I have brought eternal life back to humanity. I have healed the wounds of alienation, resentment, blame, guilt, condemnation, and disapproval among people and with God.

This is the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He knows your troubles, sorrows, and grief. He knows your sins and shortcomings, your guilt, and your struggles with your weaknesses. He wipes your slate clean and fills it instead with His righteousness.

Against this are the wolves, who murder with their lies. Do you suppose Eve thought the devil was helpful? No doubt, for starters. How often do I have to  warn people that the unchristian teachers – Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Materialists, Humanists, etc. are not just people of another opinion, but wolves dressed like sheep.

The Mormons and Muslims deny the true Triune God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, the materialists and humanists believe that matter and energy is all there is, and deny any true love, true good, or even the human soul.

If you believe them, then you cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, and are lost to Him.

But Christ nurtures and blesses you with His words of truth. Truly you are a sinner, no excuses, but truly are you forgiven for the sake of Christ, not with excuses but with Jesus’ true satisfaction of the righteousness of God.

But not only are there wolves, there are also hired hands, those who will not stand with Christ, but will compromise and make allowances, so that the faithful are without true shepherds. Many preach the doctrine of toleration and universalism, rather than the Christian gospel, even though they are found within the church. If you go to many such churches, you will never hear about hell. It will seem as though nobody is ever damned. They will bury the most blatant unbeliever “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead.”  Any vague religiosity is considered to be the same as saving faith. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as atonement for our sins aren’t even proclaimed.

Sometimes these are called liberals or moderates or modernists – whatever is socially acceptable this season.

While such teachers may call themselves Christians, they are just as damned as the people they mislead. For they effectively deny Christ as the one and only Savior. Jesus warned against them when he also said,  ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, CSB)

Often while they may take the name “Christian” and “shepherd,” in fact, they hound people with the law, and so seek to make them good and either eligible for heaven or citizens of a brave new world.

And how prone we are to catch hold of this message!  For we easily think that if we can just “Be Good” and make others “be good’ that we and they can be sure of heaven. After all, we think, do “bad people” go to heaven?

Luther says, “They who are not good shepherds, however expect to make people good by hatefully scolding and driving them, whereas they are thereby only making matters worse.  For when we are exhorted to goodness we so quickly rebel, or despair of being the kind of person we should be.”

And the deceitfulness of this message is all the greater because it resembles the truth in so many ways.  There is no question that we MUST speak out on the moral issues of our day.

           2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace

But the Good Shepherd did not, does not, suppose that He can lead us poor sheep to save ourselves. The Good shepherd did the only thing that could save us. He laid down His life for the sheep. It is HE who has reconciled us to Himself.  He laid down His life in a perfect life on our behalf. He laid down His life to pay the price of our iniquities. 11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. He calls us to our salvation with His own voice.

And with this salvation comes true comfort, joy, and peace. With a good shepherd, sheep are safe, healthy, well-fed, well-watered, clean, and together. This is a metaphor. The comfort, joy, and peace we enjoy is not green grass and good water. It is to be healthy in our bodies, young and vigorous. It is to be loved, and to love. It is to see and hear the beautiful. It is to live without fear, without death, to be close to loved ones, and in harmony with them. It is to live without reproach from God or from anyone else, to be liked and appreciated even by the Holy God: That is to be at peace.

And it is to have a future.

One of our good Lutheran writers wrote recently about the horizon of hope[1]. If we were cursed with the religion of this world, we would be truly cursed, for I am past the horizon of being young or vigorous, or of being with my parents. For them any good must come soon or be lost forever.

But as children of the King of Kings, our horizon of hope is eternal. It is beyond old age, beyond death, beyond the grave, and it is for certain, for the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

And because He is risen, He says in all truth, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

[1] https://wolfmueller.co/the-horizon-of-hope/

By |2020-04-26T09:56:15-07:00April 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Like Lazarus

LIKE LAZARUS

RESCUED IN TIME AND IN ETERNITY

John 11:1-57

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Hello viewers, this is Pastor Bryant from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon and Faith Lutheran Church in Medford. This is our Midweek Lenten Devotion.

You know, it’s interesting; even without much communication, still several people have remarked to me what a coincidence it is that the most severe week of this pandemic should come when the Christian church celebrates Holy Week. And in fact, there is an intersection between today’s reading and our situation here in the midst of this Pandemic.

For our midweek devotion today, I have chosen a fairly lengthy reading – Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John.

11 Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.”
“Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?”
“Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” Jesus answered. “If anyone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks during the night, he does stumble, because the light is not in him.”
11 He said this, and then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.”
12 Then the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”
13 Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep. 14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.”
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained seated in the house.
21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”
28 Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there.

32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept.
36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”
45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and were saying, “What are we going to do since this man is doing many signs? 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill him. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with the disciples.
55 Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it so that they could arrest him. (John 11:1-57 CSB)

Let me remind you of the dynamics, of what was going on here. Many who had been following Jesus had left them because He didn’t say what they wanted to hear, nor be the earthly king they wanted Him to be. Others, especially those who had followed John the Baptist and his preaching of repentance and faith remained faithful. Also added were those who had come to repentance and faith and believed the signs of Jesus’ divinity.

At the same time the Jewish leaders’ determination to kill Jesus had hardened; and raising Lazarus from the dead was the last straw. People streamed out of Jerusalem to Bethany to see Jesus and to see Lazarus. The Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Lazarus too, in order to blunt the impact of what Jesus had done. On the first day of the next week, these people who had come out to see Jesus and Lazarus followed Jesus to Bethphage, where Jesus mounted the donkey. They were met by crowds out of Jerusalem who had anticipated His arrival.

Hosanna! Lord Save. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Jesus entered Jerusalem as the heir of David, the One bearing treasures of the Lord in heaven, the one who brings the light of the gospel, and- undeniably in the face of Lazarus’ resurrection -the true Lord of life.

How He was to defeat death, atone for sin, and rescue the world was soon to be accomplished and revealed.

So, you see, in one way of looking at this, everything was crashing: Jesus had come to Jerusalem where His enemies had power. They were more than every determined to kill Him. Lazarus was in danger. His own disciple, Judas, was going to give away His secret location. He had been identified as the enemy of the whole nation by the High Priest himself. An arrest order had gone out to the general public. Jesus was doomed. Mary had even anointed Him for burial.

But through the eyes of faith and the light of Scripture, we see a different picture altogether. Lazarus’ death was the occasion to  reveal Christ as the Lord of life, the “Seventh Sign” of John’s argument for Jesus as the Divine Messiah. He was heralded as such by the whole nation on Palm Sunday, and on the day commemorating the spilling of the blood of the lambs so that the Lord would pass over Israel, the blood of the Lamb of God would shield humanity from the wrath of God.

Christ, the LORD, was in charge of it all. And because of that, I can assure you of an everlasting hope. “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, CSB) Forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours.

This is important for you every day of your life, of course, but it is especially important at this time in our lives. I don’t know your state of mind right now, upbeat or depressed, fearful or confident, frustrated or eager, in good health or feverish and ill. But whatever it is, consider Lazarus as the image of God’s watchful care for you. Look through the eyes of faith as God’s makes sense of this affliction and gives us the reason for hope.

Over all, the comfort of Psalm 23 applies. It applied in Lazarus’ life and it applies in ours: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

To begin with, we don’t deserve it. We deserve what is happening to this world. In Luke 13 Jesus tells me that when I look at such trouble in the world, I am to repent. You are too. “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” But God is gracious. He is gracious to all. “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, CSB)

But to those who believe in Him, He invites us to come to him in prayer, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, CSB) And hasn’t he taught us to pray, in the face of problems like this pandemic, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”?

And hasn’t he delivered us in the past? Paul points to God’s past mercies as reason to hope for the future. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character [experience], and proven character [experience] produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, CSB)

So, if you are afraid of getting ill, or getting worse, or having an economic calamity, or losing someone you love, (a half hour listening to the news will give you no end of calamity to worry about) then see how Jesus answers Martha’s prayer. He even went so far as to raise Lazarus from the dead to restore Him to Martha and Mary, to the glory of God. Surely, goodness and mercy followed Lazarus and his sisters.

But notice this also. Lazarus would eventually die again. So, as Christians we have every expectation of the Lord working His gracious will during this time, and He will most certainly hear our prayers. But beyond and behind all that is greater mercy. For while He will bestow goodness and mercy upon you all the days of your life, the pinnacle of salvation is that He has destroyed death, so that you will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

AMEN.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, our comfort in life and in death, strengthen our faith through your Holy Word, and especially as we see how you moved all things, even the machinations of your enemies, to accomplish our redemption. As you have lived a perfect life for us, and atoned for the sins of the world, so give us your righteousness, reconcile us perfectly to you, as indeed you have promised and fulfilled your promises.

Hear our prayers this day for our loved ones and for your believers throughout the world. We acknowledge our sin before you and deserved your wrath in time and in eternity, but now, for your mercy’s sake hear our prayer for ourselves and our loved ones. Deliver us from all evil. But also turn the hearts of the unbelieving to You. To that end, help us to speak of our perfect hope as we have opportunity.

In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Join us again on Good Friday for the Service of the Holy Cross.

By |2020-04-08T15:01:00-07:00April 8th, 2020|Good News, Sermons|0 Comments

Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

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Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

Matthew 21:1–9 (CSB)

21 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Dear fellow Redeemed: What’s important? What is important to you? What is important to you today as opposed to a month ago? A guy named Maslow conceived of the “hierarchy of needs,” which is a fancy way of saying that if you are starving, you won’t be much interested in what movie is opening next week or what celebrity was arrested recently.

Jesus was about 2000 years ahead of Maslow when he talked about the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” that would crowd out God’s word, and so crowd out true and saving faith in the One who is our true hope and salvation.

But the fact is that whether in sorrow or joy, pleasure or pain, confidence or fear, the gospel message, the  essence of Gods relationship with you, remains of paramount importance.

So, whatever you are going through today, protective isolation, a day of many blessings – or even if you were sick and dying, this gospel is important:

JERUSALEM WELCOMED THE WORLD’S SAVIOR

  1. The Daughter Zion
  2. The Savior King
  3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures
  1. The Daughter Zion

Let me tell you why.

Jesus’ disciples went to Judea expected that He would be killed. They thought in terms of a victim of the Jews’ envy and hatred. They figured Jesus would be found out, thrown into prison and, perhaps like John the Baptist, kept until the crowds quieted down and then killed. But Jesus talked about it differently, “saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:22, CSB)

They thought of Jesus as victim. Not so! Jesus was the one giving himself over to the cross. He was in charge. Jesus faced the of the Jews’ murderous intent having just raised the dead, after all. Now, in what world is King and Lord of Life unimportant?

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. John tells us that crowds had gone to Bethany to see Lazarus, and they were now the ones who “followed after” Jesus into Jerusalem. Then there were those who “went ahead” of him, ”the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, CSB)

Jesus was no victim to be caught, imprisoned, and secretly executed. He is the One Zion looked for, so now … Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

“Zion” is a figure of speech, meaning the church, believers.[1] You are the daughter of Zion. You are one who lives in hope. Whether you enjoy all the delights of life, and know they are just a shadow of the true joys and delights of heaven and the resurrection, or you live in fear, and sorrow, and misery and look forward to the deliverance of the Lord, you are Zion, and your King is coming to you, and now has come, to save you.

We see both His divine and his human natures paired here. In his humanity, He walks down from Bethphage, across the Kidron valley and rides a donkey into the city. In His divine omniscience and omnipotence creates the circumstances to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah.

     2. The Savior King

This business of finding the donkey and the willing owner was “providential” as we say; it was part of the Lord’s management of life. Even as a true man, He is our king, and The Father … “He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB) So now, instead of providing beasts of burden for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He, in His providence, provides for the church. So as you face the troubles of life, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, CSB)

He exercised His divinity in humility, and even now it is indirectly through His providence, His watchful care, and His loving power. Do not think, when you are safe and healthy, that it is just luck, or when you are sick, that it was bad luck, for even in our troubles our Lord works good.

He came into this world as he came into Jerusalem. He comes in humility and not in judgment. Many is the time that we have talked about this. For the Lord to appear unhidden, in divine power is to be the end of all things and the judgment of all souls. But this is put off for a while (How long? O Lord come quickly!) in favor of His coming in humility so that He may be our Savior.

As Lord of life, He came into this world that He may die and defeat death. He entered into Jerusalem to be captured by the Jews, turned over to the Romans, and crucified. Thereby on the tree of the cross he overcame the Devil who overcame our first parents by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

               3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures

Because it was the daughter of Zion, the church that greeted Him as the King coming to her. And because He was here showing Himself as the Savior King, many spoke the truth about Christ. Hosanna, they cried. “Lord Save Us.” Oh, that people in our age of the world would learn that word, “Hosanna.” It is a cry of repentance, a cry of needing help that only the Divine Savior King can give.

But in our day, there is precious little repentance, and precious little acknowledgment of the Lord. Still people worship their false gods. Government, for one. We hear “If we had just been in power!” What then, eternal health and prosperity? When has humanity ever succeeded in that? Or the god of the world itself, offended by our misdeeds, as one former world leader said (paraphrasing) “this is what comes of not recognizing our role in changing the world’s climate. Repent!” Not to the Living God, but to His creature.

Hosanna, indeed, as God’s subjects and as His creatures we should cry every day. Lord Save! For we have sinned!  Have mercy!

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the true Savior King who is the unique descendent of David, and who will ascend the throne of David in Heaven, Who will judge and save, give life and damnation, take to Himself and cast off forever.

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna in the Highest Heaven.” For we join with the angels of heaven and all the saints, those who have died in faith. We join in their eternal song now, and in the eternal joys of the resurrection hereafter.

But perhaps, for us, the sweetest phrase for us to sing is this: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” By “blessed” is meant that He is the one blessed (chosen, anointed) by God, not just to receive, but blessed to be the One coming to this world to pour out the treasures of heaven: Mercy, forgiveness, grace, life, salvation, the resurrection unto eternal life.

The greatest treasure, the Son of the Father, was given as a blessing to this world to redeem us from our sins. He lived the life that won God’s own approval, “In Him I am well pleased.” And having lived the righteousness that He gives to us by faith, He poured out His life and blood to atone for our sins, so that you are given the innocence of Christ Himself.

And the treasures continue to pour out through Him today. Light to see and know the truth. Grace, the unmerited love of God. Forgiveness, so that we are reconciled to God. Life, life like the Risen One himself, body and soul.

In His providence, through this pandemic God has put the world on notice of our mortality. As fragile as is our prosperity, our health, even our life, our Savior King is shown to be our hope in life and in death. I assure you, He hears our prayers with mercy.

It is my prayer that you are warm, safe, comfortable, healthy, and prosperous. I pray that you will remain so, despite the storm of fear that surrounds us. But whatever your situation I can point you to our true Hope, our Savior king. He has come in the name of the Lord, Yahweh, Creator and Preserver of all. He has poured out heaven’s treasures to you – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Be at peace, in Him is the Hope of the world.

AMEN. This is most certainly true.

[1] Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s words so conspicuously that all physically present on that occasion and all of us present in spirit now might recognize and acknowledge him as the kind of Messiah or Christ he wants to be for all men, one who matches Zechariah’s prophetic picture. “Say to the daughter of Zion.” If we go back to Zechariah 9:9, we find a double summons there: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!” One term explains the other. Zion is the same as Jerusalem. Originally, Zion was the name of the site on which Jerusalem was built. Then it was narrowed down to designate the highest point of the city. The reader should note, however, that this was not where the temple was built. It was erected on a lower hill, called Mount Moriah, which we recognize as the eminence on which Abraham had been fully prepared to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:2) Finally, Zion or Mount Zion came to be used for the whole city of Jerusalem.

In New Testament times the name Zion, or Mount Zion, was employed for the new people of God or the new Israel, in other words, the Christian church. (See Hebrews 12:22, 23; 1 Peter 2:6.) In Revelation 14:1 Mount Zion is the place where the Lamb (Christ) is surrounded by all the saints in glory.

Franzmann, W. H. (1998). Bible history commentary: New Testament (electronic ed., pp. 601–603). Milwaukee, WI: WELS Board for Parish Education.

By |2020-04-04T17:41:25-07:00April 3rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Midweek Update 4/2/20

Midweek Update 3/2/20

Here is your (probably regular) midweek update.

Let me point out that in these uncertain times we find our refuge, not in up-beat emojis, not in positive thoughts, not in wishful thinking, and not even in the expert information from the CDC. They may all be useful in some way, but true certainty comes from God’s word. Good theology, that is, a good understanding of God’s clear word and promises is of utmost importance because it is rooted in the absolute truth of the word of God.

Whatever happens in terms of health or the economy, forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We may not be able to get together to hear the word and receive the sacrament, but our assurance lies not in our devotion, but in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

To stand firm in God’s word and promises, cultivate a good devotional life. Here are some suggestions. Don’t let the devil accuse you for not doing everything here, rather find what works for you to receive God’s comfort regularly.

  • Read from the Bible. Start with the Gospels and read a chapter or more at a time. I find it very helpful to read a whole book at a sitting. They aren’t really that long, and it gives me a good perspective.
  • Read your Meditations that we hand out at church.
  • Read Good News for You, a devotion book from the ELS in .pdf format.
  • Subscribe to an email or video devotion here. It will be sent to you daily.: ELS Devotions Sign-up
  • Keep up on the devotions and sermons I put out for you. Because there are so many good devotions available, I am not trying to get a devotion out every day, but I plan to have a Wednesday evening devotion and a Sunday morning service and sermon. The devotion and sermon will apply more to us than the more general devotions can.

PRAY!
We all know that we face the troubles of this life because we are sinners, and that we will one day leave this veil of tears for eternal life and the resurrection, but Jesus Himself teaches us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And Paul reminds us that even when we are suffering tribulation His mercies in the past give us hope for deliverance from our present troubles. In your prayers…
– Acknowledge your sins and unworthiness
– Praise God for His mercy
– Because He is merciful, boldly ask Him…
– Ask that our nation be led to repentance.
– Ask that the dire predictions of death and morbidity will not come to pass.
– Ask that you will be given life, health, and strength, and be spared severe illness.
– Ask that your loved ones and fellow church members will be spares.
– Ask that your pastor will be given the right words to comfort people.
Here is the closing part of the prayer that I happen to use, “Lord, help me to see Your Fatherly hand, even in my troubles, so that I may bear my cross in cheerful submission to your holy will, sins You alone know best.”

So commit your future to Him and trust that by His mercy “goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

HERE ARE THE LATEST PLANS:

  1. We will not have services at church until further notice.
  2. We will not offer individual communion during Holy Week as we had hoped.
  3. Some of you have called me for counsel.  Keep it up. I am happy to meet with you by phone for counsel, comfort, confession & absolution, etc.
  4. If you want to meet with me in person, call me and I will set it up.
  5. I am generally reserving my in-person contact for those in the hospital, who are very sick or dying, or who are otherwise in distress, but if you are in that situation I assure you I will be there.
  6. Here is how I will keep in touch:
  • Midweek update (like this one) –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page, –Printed and mailed out with the Sunday sermon in time for Saturday.
  • Midweek Devotion midweek (usually Wednesdays) Recorded on YouTube. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page.
  • Sunday Sermon Recorded on YouTube Saturday Night. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page. I will also print it out and mail it out in time to arrive by Saturday.

Cordial Regards, in Christ

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-04-02T12:07:51-07:00April 2nd, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

Christ the Lord and Hope of the Ages

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Christ – The Hope of the Ages

John 8:46–59 (CSB)
46 Who among you can convict me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.”
48 The Jews responded to him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 “I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and judges. 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”
54 “If I glorify myself,” Jesus answered, “my glory is nothing. My Father—about whom you say, ‘He is our God’—he is the one who glorifies me. 55 You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple.,

Dear fellow redeemed: Who are we dealing with here? That is really the question -and answer- that is before us in this picture of Jesus before the Pharisees. The time is “not yet,” that is to say it is not yet Passover time, not yet the time of His passion. The Jews were trying to kill Him alright, but at this time he prevented it,  59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple.,

As Jesus clarifies who He is, we see things settle out. There were those who saw the light and those who continued in darkness. There were those who listened to God’s word, and those who rejected it in favor of their own intellect. There were those who those who honored the Father and therefore the Son, and those who dishonored them. There were those who acted in faith and those who acted in unbelief.

That tells us about those around Jesus.

But we also see that it becomes clearer and clearer Who Jesus is. He speaks God’s words. He is the glory of the Father. He is the source of life. He is the source of light and truth. He is eternal. He is the object of Abraham’s faith. He is I AM.

This is the objective, eternal, and everlasting truth: God has walked among us to be our Savior.

JESUS IS THE LORD OF THE AGES

  1. Lord of a Rebellious Humanity
  2. The Hope of the Ages
  1. Lord of a Rebellious Humanity

One thing that has become clear over these last few weeks of the Clovid-19 epidemic is that not everything is about “me.” We witness something that we self-reliant Americans so easily forget, that there are great tides in the affairs of humanity that sweep away everything, and we cannot stop them. I think one example of this was the well circulated comment, from a college student on spring break, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying.” (https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/03/23/ohio-spring-break-partier-apologizes-coronavirus-comments/2901591001/, accessed March 26, 2020.) It’s as though he had his truth and the rest of the world had some other truth.

As it turned out, he expressed regret because he came to see that there was an objective reality, a real and deadly affliction spreading across the world and it didn’t stop to ask his permission. It didn’t change to suit him or conform to “his truth.”

The words of the Pharisees in our text, while on a different subject, reveal the same kind of arrogance. In truth, a great and wonderful thing had happened; God had come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. “He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10–11, CSB) They rejected Him.

We see the Lordship of Christ in His feeding the 5000, in His calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, in His casting out demons, in His healing the sick, and in His raising the dead. But while the winds and the waves obey Him, His own rebel against Him – His brothers and sisters, His fellow human beings, among whom He came as Savior.

It wasn’t that the Pharisees then (or people now, for that matter) just didn’t understand. Jesus is Lord of life and the destroyer of death.  He said so clearly, 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” They understood that well enough, but they didn’t believe it. 52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”

They understood; but they ridiculed it. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”

Here in His state of humiliation, they could rebel against Him. They could ridicule Him, . Eventually they would kill him.

Nothing has changed since the fall. Humanity rebels against our true Lord. We see it in society-wide movements that teach that there is only this material world, or that deny the sanctity of the family, or that make humanity the measure of all things. We see it in our own rebellious hearts, in our love of self, our disregard for God’s word, and our doubt of His promises.

So, what of it? Do you think you will every have to give an account? You boys and girls, do you think that you will really ever get in trouble for disobeying your mom and dad, I mean to the point that you really wish you had never done the wrong? Many people who cheat and lie and do shameful things online, or who just live irresponsibly, think that it’s worth the risk, and eventually, if they get away with it, the whole idea of punishment for our rebellion fades away.

But then comes the reminder that we can’t put off the reckoning forever. As we say, we become conscious of our own mortality. And then comes hopelessness and fear. When your mom and dad won’t take your disobedience any more, when your lies catch up with you, you are caught in your shame, or when you are dying. “For we know the one who has said, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30–31, CSB)

  1. The Hope of the Ages

There must be punishment for sin. And sometimes people wonder when there will be judgment. If Jesus is Lord, why did He put up with this rebellion and humiliation? If Jesus is Lord, why didn’t He come in power and might? If Jesus is Lord, why did He use His power to preserve himself from this murder by stoning just so He could die on a cross. If this is the way He comes into this world, why did Jesus say, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

It is true that Jesus is Lord of a rebellious humanity, but He is a Lord who loves, and who in mercy offered Himself to be punished for the sins of the world. It is as the hymn says, “The master pays the debt His servants owe Him, Who would not know Him.” (ELH 292 v. 4)

Now there will still be consequences/ punishment/ an accounting for our sins. Mom or Dad might make you really sorry, our shame might be revealed, self-centeredness turn to rejection, losing those we love. And for all of us, we will die. The troubles of this life, whether directly connected to the wrongs we do or the good we fail to do are a reminder of that full and complete satisfaction for sins required of all of us.

But there is hope. Jesus came in humility so that He could save. He will come in glory and then He will judge. Abraham was glad, there in heaven, to see God the Son enter into this world in humility to redeem the world. His hope, in life and in death, is in Christ. He is the hope of the ages. Our hope, in life and in death is in Christ. He is the hope of the ages.

He allows this world to stand and to go through tribulations and suffering; he delays His return as Peter says, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, CSB)

He is the hope of the ages because, as He said, If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death. The Pharisees thought those were foolish words, but they didn’t know Who they were dealing with. They were dealing with the Lord of Life. The One who was present at creation, who preserve faithful Noah and His family, who intervened to save Isaac, who Passed Over the blood-painted homes of the believers in Egypt, who tore down Jericho, preserved Elijah’s life, raised Lazarus, and paid the sin-price by dying.

The wrong we have done and our failure to do good is inexcusable. But He offered no excuses, He offered His blood and life so that there may be forgiveness. He is the hope of the ages.

The trouble that is in the world today, whether it is from fearmongering or real sickness, from inconvenience or mortal illness, whether from the present emergency or from all the other things that go wrong in this mortal life- the trouble that is in the world today will pass.

By and large, your prayers in Christ’s name will be answered, as David said, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” He will deliver you from trouble. In the words of today’s favorite psalm (91) “no plague will come near your dwelling.” This is because He is merciful. Christ is your hope.

But this is still a broken world, so one day death will come (or Christ will return first). But our hope is yet the greater for again, in David’s words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  For Christ is the hop of ALL the ages.

AMEN

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forevermore. AMEN.

By |2020-03-28T18:18:44-07:00March 27th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The Faith-Challenge of “OK”

“OK” Is a Challenge to Faith

How is it with you?

Sick?
Lonely?
Frustrated?
Anxious?
Uncertain?
Afraid?
Running out of work – and funds?
Retirement Income in jeopardy?

Or maybe just slightly inconvenienced by an apocalypse that hasn’t hit you yet – and may never hit you?

Most of the time people are at least OK. So why are pastors talking to everyone as though they are suffering terribly? Are pastors adding to the angst people are feeling?

My answer is to point out two lies of the devil. The first is that things are OK with us, so we don’t need a Savior. The second is that things are so terrible with us that there is no Savior. The first is indifference and the second is despair. The first lie is to keep us away from savoring the grace and mercy of God when we are being blessed, and the second is to deny the grace and mercy of God when we are afflicted.

I have been a pastor to three generations of some families, and in each generation I have seen mainly good times. In each generation I have also seen heartache, crisis, sin, tragedy, alienation, and death. During the good times some were faithful hearers of God’s word; they sat through sermons dealing with troubles that had never touched them. But then came the troubles, and their faith held firm in our Savior. Others were not faithful hearers, and they blew off all appeals to abide in God’s word. They were OK, after all. But then came the troubles and their faith was swept away.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24–27, CSB)

I have no idea how things will turn out for any of us in this health (or is it economic?) “emergency.” But you need to know how the mercy of God holds true through it all, by clinging to the words of your Savior.

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-03-25T12:36:40-07:00March 25th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments