Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sermon March 29, 2017 Lent 4

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Fifth Word: "I thirst!"
Text: John 19:28
Readings: Exodus 17:1-7, I Corinthians 10:1-13, John 19:28-29 

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

From an account of the British liberation of Palestine by Major V. Gilbert in The Last Crusade, he writes:

Driving up from Beersheba, a combined force of British, Australians and New Zealanders were pressing on the rear of the Turkish retreat over arid desert.

The attack outdistanced its water carrying camel train. Water bottles were empty. The sun blazed pitilessly out of a sky where the vultures wheeled expectantly. "Our heads ached," writes Gilbert, "and our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare...Our tongues began to swell...Our lips turned a purplish black and burst." Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again, but the desperate force battled on to Sheria. There were wells at Sheria, and had they been unable to take the place by nightfall, thousands were doomed to die of thirst. 

"We fought that day," writes Gilbert, "as men fight for their lives... We entered Sheria station on the heels of the reteating Turks. The first objects which met our view were the great stone cisterns full of cold, clear, drinking water. In the still night air the sound of water running into the tanks could be distinctly heard, maddening in its nearness; yet not a man murmured when orders were given for the battalions to fall in, two deep, facing the cisterns" 

He then describes the stern priorities: the wounded, those on guard duty, then company by company. It took four hours before the last man had his drink of water, and in all that time they had been standing twenty feet from a low stone wall on the other side of which were thousands of gallons of water. 

From an account of the British liberation of Palestine by Major V. Gilbert in The Last Crusade, quoted in Christ's Call To Discipleship, J.M. Boice, Moody, 1986, p. 143.

17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

Water is important and especially important for life. People who have fasted and gone without food have lasted up to three weeks. (Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation) But water is not the same thing. It comprises about 60% of our body, helps to flush waste, it lubricate joints, and regulates our body’s temperature.

Without water we can only live 3-4 days.

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-days-can-you-survive-without-water-2014-5

So the importance of water can’t be minimized.

2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

Now the Israelites here had left Egypt. They endured the 10 plagues, including the plague of blood where Moses struck the Nile River with his staff and it turned to blood. The plague of boils where soot from a furnace was thrown into the air turning into a fine dust that went throughout the land that festered into boils on the men and animals it landed on, plague of darkness which lasted three day – called darkness that can be felt … that’s dark! They experienced the Passover, began their Exodus out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and saw Pharaoh’s Army drowned in that same place. They ate Manna and Quail from heaven and still they grumbled.

We don’t grumble from what we have … we grumble from who we are!

As sinners we grumble. No matter our blessings … we grumble. No matter our failings … we grumble. It is the nature of sin and the nature of sinners.

Now, we want water. We’re thirsty and we haven’t had any … for a day or more and it’s hot! 

I don’t know how much time that they went without water but probably less than three days … or they wouldn’t have been asking … they would have been dead.

4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And they would have and the Lord too. 

We want water!

We want water … is the cry! Sinners do that. They complain about what “we” do not have … now! And God is not their God, or so they complain because of all the miracles he has provided they are only concerned right now with the miracle they need now!

This is you and me as well … if we’re honest with ourselves.

Ill.

J. Vernon McGee the radio preacher of Thru the Bible fame tells the story of his first grandchild … a son. 

“He was born … and I must tell you, I doubted my faith. He was such a perfect child, a perfect baby, no crying, no complaining … that … I began to doubt my own faith that we are born sinful and unclean and in need of a savior, he said. It really tested my faith.”

“But then, he says … his brother came along … and you know restored my faith! He must have taken after his grandma.”

Thru the Bible radio from memory

Sin is real and real evident in how sinners act. God’s children wanted water and regardless of all that God had done for them they were like little children, who were thirsty now and wanted water now!

Paul writes in the epistle for today:

10 Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.
 
For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.

The physical trials of those in the wilderness were real. Thirst was real both for those following Moses and those with Major Gilbert as he liberated Palestine. Almost to the point of exhaustion and death from thirst they struggled one in grumbling and one in patience.

How do we respond to trial and thirst? In both ways I assume. At times we grumble and at times we endure. As sinners it is our nature. We forget all of god’s benefits to us by and through his son. We look not to all we have but all we want and need … forgetting all that he has done for us and the most important gift of the life giving flood in Holy Baptism that washes us free of sin.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

Christ’s thirst, fulfilled scripture. His thirst was real … just like those in the wilderness. As true man and true God he took your place and mine as he thirsted but did not grumble knowing that all was made new by his life and death for you.

And by His Spirit our spiritual thirst itself is quenched and we receive that living water unto salvation.

In the name of the Father, + Son and Holy Spirit

Amen

Sermon Mar. 25-26, 2017 Lent 4

Title: For in Christ the light of the world has come to you!
Text: John 9:1-41

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. "I never would have dreamed that yellow is so...yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red. I can see the shape of the moon--and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail and of course, sunrises and sunsets. At night I looked at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. I would never have known how wonderful everything truly is."

Max Lucado, God Came Near, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 13.

To receive sight after being blind is something we can’t really understand but we who have been in the dark … when the lights have come on … know the joy of seeing again.

9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Many see affliction as a result of personal sin … what we did to deserve this and the disciples thought this too. 

But Jesus answers saying:

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
His blindness had a purpose and God will display that purpose in him and in each one of us as he see fit. It is not that he was blind, but through his blindness God will do with him and with each one of us as he sees fit.

Jesus says: 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

What Jesus means here is that while it is still day or light out, it is time for work.

I know that feeling, don’t you? We call it Daylight Savings Time. It stays light long and we can get much done in the light. But, from our Christian perspective we might call it Jesus Saving Time. The time for the work of Christ and the gospel to be made known … like a light going on in the midst of the darkness.

Recently many suffered a loss or power with the wind storms.

Gov. Rick Snyder, in a press briefing with officials from the state’s two biggest utilities, called the windstorm “the largest combined statewide” power outage event in Michigan history. 

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/03/08/90k-without-power-and-winds-sweep-metro-detroit/98899718/

One million lost power and were in the dark. Everyone suffered a little while some suffered a lot. The lack of power can make you feel helpless.

Generators can help … but unless it is a whole house generator … you remain painfully aware of your need for power and light from the outside … and may be heat as well as the cold nights got colder.

So it is also with our spiritual condition. We are born blind in sin and dead to Christ and the truth cannot be made known to us by our own reason, understanding, or efforts.

In the gospel for today, the man born blind could not see and intervention came from outside in the person of Jesus.

6 Having said these things, [Jesus] spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The connection between Jesus, the word of God, and the water brings the blind man sight. Water and word might bring to mind baptism … though this text is not a given pretext for baptism … there is much that can be brought to light by Jesus as the light of the world.

By Christ we receive access to the Father, by the word and water through the working of the Holy Spirit we have our spiritual blindness healed and receive sight to see Christ Jesus for who he is … the light of the world.

There are three responses from the world.

The neighbors

“Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”

The Pharisees

15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews (Unbelievers)

“Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

How do you and I respond?

We too receive sight but for us it is the gift of spiritual sight. Question may come from our friends, religious leaders, and those of the world or of unbelief who ask … “How do you see? How did you get your sight?”

The Pharisees denounce Jesus for his performing a miracle on the Sabbath. They look for the man to denounce him too setting Jesus up as a sinner.

His answer to those who try to entrap him is: “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

This template for you and me calls us to testify of the truth to those who ask so that God might by his word give faith and sight to the blind.

The truth at times will be rejected and like the blind man we too may be cast out. (The Christian witness in the world and the persecution that comes.)

Those who reject the word remain blind and dead in sin. Those who receive sight by the working of the Holy Spirit receive eternal life.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Lord, I believe,”

Paul brings comfort to we who believe with these words of one who is Justified and made a child of God by the working of the Spirit.

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Rom. 10:9-10

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Sermon March 22, 2017 Lent 3

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Fourth Word: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (cf. Mk. 15:34)
Text: Matthew. 27:46
Readings: Psalm 22:1-2, 11-24, Corinthians 4:5-10, Matthew 27:45-49
 
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Sermon Hymn: #420 Christ, the Life of All the Living Vs1, 5,6,7

“If I had my whole life to live over again, I don't think I'd have the strength.” 

Flip Wilson.

Those words were spoken by the late comedian Flip Wilson. As we think about life and specifically our own life … would we ourselves have the strength to endure again if we were given the opportunity to relive our own lives?

Abraham, who was told that he would become a great and powerful nation, had much to endure.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Gen12:1b-2

So Abram who was 75 at the time left with his nephew Lot and the land of Haran to Bethel, the Negev and finally to Egypt because of a famine.

In Egypt Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s household because Abram told her to say that she was his sister so he might be better treated but finding out his lie Pharaoh casts him out. Abram separates from his nephew Lot and then has to rescue him and finds himself being blessed by Melchizedek the King of Salam saying:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

Abram has two sons, one born of the slave girl Hagar who bore Ishmael, and one from Sarah who is the son of promise Issac promised to Abram from the three heavenly visitors including the preincarnate Christ at his tent. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah followed, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away and Issac is older now … he is a young man. 

Much has happened to Abram who is now called Abraham and much more is to come.

God calls.

22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

The promise is to be the sacrifice.

Ill.

At lunch one day in a hotel with her son Reggie and his new wife, Gloria, Alice Vanderbilt asked whether Gloria had received her pearls. Reggie replied that he had not yet bought any because the only pearls worthy of his bride were beyond his price. His mother then calmly ordered that a pair of scissors be brought to her. When the scissors arrived, Mrs. Vanderbilt promptly cut off about one-third of her own $70,000 pearl necklace and handed them to her new daughter-in-law. "There you are, Gloria," she said. "All Vanderbilt women have pearls."

Today in the Word, September 18, 1993.

While $23,000 in 1923 was a lot of money and comparably speaking today would be valued at around $325,000 it is a still small portion of the great wealth, and pearls she had, and much of that wealth she still retained. What Abraham would face and was asked to do … was of significantly greater value and price.

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Abraham goes, and all the while the knowledge of what he was about to do goes with him. He takes the boy and two others, he cuts the wood and on the third day – a significant number of days and time in the Bible – they arrive for the sacrifice.

“Stay here with the donkey; [Abraham says] I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

The forsaking of what God had promised was not lost on Abraham. He believed and trusted what God had promised. Death would come … but the son would live. Abraham knew that when he said:
 
“I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
 
God sends.

At another time and in another way a son is given. The promise from an angel was given to another mother Mary who is called, “you who are highly favored – and told that she will be with child and that this child conceived in her will be called the son of God.” Luke 1:28-35

It is hard to imagine how Abraham felt.
 
God had kept his promise and given him a son; God had said that he would be a great nation and this son was the beginning of that Nation; Abraham knew that God can fulfill and keep his promise even if Issac … his son would die ... because God in his omnipotence (all powerful) can raise the dead.
Abraham knew … but he had to feel loss none the less … I know those who have lost a son or a daughter and they feel great loss and even at times feel forsaken, and the pain remains. 

But, what about Issac; how did he feel? Certainly he must he have felt abandoned by his father as he was bound to be the sacrifice? Certainly he felt forsaken by God as his own father prepared the knife to kill him … the sacrifice that his father Abraham said God would provide.

Mary … too knew what Simeon had said:

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

As she beheld her son on the cross she felt the sword piercing through her own soul thinking maybe to herself, “How can this be? Or why must this be?” At times in our own lives we too feel loss and abandoned. May be too that God has forsaken us as we struggle with, sickness, sin and even death.
Why me, may be the thought?

Why not me?

Ill.

As I mentioned from this past weekend in 1988 my mother was fighting cancer. She was at the University of Michigan hospital and as I visited her and we talked and she said those very words.
Her words were not lost on me as she wrestled with her own dying from cancer. In her grief and suffering I’m sure she had her own private time of reflecting and feeling forsaken by God and afflicted but so too did Jesus. His suffering was real, his pain was real, his purpose was real and his death would be real. The forsaking by the Father was real as well as God the Father turned away from his only begotten son who had become the image of sin … having the sins of the world placed upon him. This was a sin that consumed his son. It was a death he would die alone.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What Christ endured brought rescue. What Christ endured brought peace. You have been not forsaken because of one who was forsaken for you. 

By his stripes you are healed!

In the name of the Father, + Son and Holy Spirit

Amen

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sermon Mar. 18-19, 2017 Lent 3

Title: To worship Christ in spirit is to know the Truth!
Text: Romans 5:1-8

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it:
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
He wrote. "God's choice makes chosen men choice men ... We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice."

W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 223.

Ill.

As I visited with my mother in the hospital and she wrestled with her terminal cancer we talked. She said to me, “I know that a lot of people in my situation might say: Why me? But as I think about it I ask myself … why not me?” 

When someone asked him, "Why do the righteous suffer?" C.S. Lewis responded:
"Why not? They're the only ones who can take it."

Unknown.

Suffering is no fun. We all know that. But, when Paul writes but we rejoice in our sufferings, we might answer, No we don’t! But something happens to us as we are made Christians and it is in the verse of scripture before this where Paul says that:

2 Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 

So our access to God’s peace is through, Jesus’ sinless life, death and resurrection and by faith we have access and receive God’s grace.

Ill.

Access is good. Last year I made a visit to the Oakland County Jail. Just in case you didn’t know … you don’t just walk in. As I went up to the door I pulled on the handle to the lobby – it was locked. So I moved to where the video camera is … that at first I didn’t notice and pushed the button.
“Can I help you came the voice?”

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac from Peace Lutheran Church in Waterford here to make a visit.

“Are you in the book?” 

“Yes, I should be in the book.” I said.

Now the book … who knows why or how it became … the book … but it just is. 

In researching my visit to the jail I called the head of Jail Chaplains who asked me, “Are you in the book?” 

“What book,” I asked. “You know, he said … the book.” 

He was referring to the Detroit Metropolitan Clergy Association or something to that effect which is a book of churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations where there is a list of churches and clergy and you had better be in the book … if you want to get in the Jail or use the clergy parking at Harper Hospital in Detroit. I had made a visit to Harper Hospital and had inquired about a clergy parking pass and was asked ...

… “Are you in the book?”

I had never seen the book … but I had heard about it.

I thought it must be a big book, probably leather bound, with buckles and latches on it and it has to be probably hand written by a scribe … in ink ...

… so that once you’re in the book … you’re in THE BOOK!

So as I stand in front of the video monitor for what seems like an hour the Police officer says, “You’re not in the book.” My heart drops and I left speechless … almost. But … I think for a bit, knowing that at any moment he may disappear into a jail camera labyrinth. I say, “How are you spelling my name because it is spelled T K A C.”

“One moment”, he says.

The time passes … and when he comes back he says, 

“Hey, you’re in the book.”

“Wonderful,” I say. Now the world of opportunity awaits me as I go about my pastoral duties.
Now, this is a bit of a long way around to see that through Jesus … we have access. We can be let in. Not to the jail as in my story, but to the Father as his beloved child whom we have been separated from. This access is by faith into his grace Paul says and that is our eternal hope.

But, along the way we suffer and yes it is no fun but from the Christian perspective Paul says we rejoice. This though is not in the suffering itself per say, but in how through suffering we are connected to Christ ...

… knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Ill.

My friend and coworker David Monaghan, mother-n-law was diagnosed with Leukemia some years ago. When she found out it was quite advanced and she didn’t live very long.

While in the hospital though, she joyfully shared her faith and the eternal hope with those she came in contact with. The Holy Spirit used her to proclaim the good news and blessing of Jesus’ sacrifice for you and me and his word and working of the Holy Spirit does not come back void.

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That is what justification is. The declaring of one being righteous and we are declared righteous not on account of what we have done but on account of what Christ Jesus has done for us and we access that grace … by faith in his finished work.

That is why we joy in our sufferings, and we endure … not because it’s fun, but because it produces character and hope, and hope in Christ never disappoints. His suffering and death has given us access to the Father by faith and has been poured into our hearts but the Spirits work.

Now about that book … I’m in. In my service as pastor I can visit and bring that hope of Christ to those who maybe feel they have no hope. His word goes in with me even though I have to leave my coat, wallet, phone, car keys and other things in a locker. I go in with his word and Spirit and it will never come back void. It will reach into the dark places and shine the light of Christ and his hope on a heart and person who is suffering and hurt.

The love of Christ by the Spirit’s work can bring real peace to a broken world and can declare God’s favor of account of Christ.

Are you in the book? Yes, you who believe and have been baptized have your name written in the Lambs book of life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sermon March 15, 2017 Lent 2

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Third Word: "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
Text: Luke 23:35-43
 
Readings: Genesis 3:8-24, Revelation 2:1-7, Luke 23:35-43

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

We know very little about heaven, but one theologian once described it as "an unknown region with a well-know inhabitant," and there is not a better way to think of it than that.

Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But it's enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

In Genesis we have a picture of this paradise and a union of God and man living together in harmony. It is though, through our own sinful mind’s eye, hard to imagine what this really will be like. We can come up with an idea though.

Ill.

Last year I took a walk out back into the woods behind the church to clear my head. At times sermon preparation requires that time away and I walked around the pavilion but decided to walk through the 10 acres that are undeveloped behind the church. It didn’t take long for me to see a paradise only a short distance away from the church and parking lot. I understand why the kids want to hang out there – no blacktop, no houses, no fences for much of it and it feels like a walk up North … for a time. 

But looks can be deceiving.

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Then … back in the woods you see … the brokenness … the weeds throughout, and garbage and discarded junk … things of no further value left there when no one was looking.

9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 

As I walked through the property I almost wondered where the caretaker was and why this beautiful place was left in disarray. Hearing no one I kept walking. 

God kept walking too.

10 And [the man] said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 

At times we have had intruders on the property. Sometimes they bring their machines … dirt bikes and race around the trails. I’ve tried to talk to them and follow them in the back but when they see me they flee or hide … perhaps they know that they are breaking the law and trespassing and just want to hide their sin too. Or … they are fearful of what I might say or do?

But God said to the man:

11 ... “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 

Maybe the guys on the dirt bikes are the ones that broke the pole that kept motorbikes off the vacant land? Maybe they’ve seen the sign and the gate – closed after church activities -and figured a different way to the back. 

When you get exposed where you shouldn’t be it feels a bit like being naked and you flee or hide.

12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

When I have had luck to speak to them there is always someone else who is to blame.

After one guy fled through the subdivision I had an appointment and got in my truck to leave and as I did I saw him loading his bike on a trailer … he doesn’t even live in the area. I stopped and said to him, “Hi, I’m the pastor of the church and that lot is our property and we don’t allow motorbikes on it for liability reasons; just wanted to let you know.” “Oh, he said, my friend’s parents said it was okay to use it … they’re members.”
 
“Who are your friend’s parents?” “The Johnsons;” came the reply. 

“Well we don’t allow motor bikes … I hope you understand? Have a great day.”

Sin has consequences.

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, [he told me it was okay] and I ate.”

There are probably snakes in the grass and on the property out back too. If someone was back there and got bit it might bring a law suit … not to mention the pain and suffering or an accident, or even death if one fell off the motorbike and got hurt.

But someone did … because of sin … die.

On another day and at another time, with the weather being nice … it’s the kind of day you might like to be outside for a few hours enjoying the weather … then you see it … something else is stirring, something else is about. 

Someone getting hurt is not even a concern. There are though some that will die … and some who are there to administer death.

35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”

Those being condemned are there for a reason. Two are thieves by trade and have been found guilty and are receiving what they have earned … which is death for their crimes but the other … what has he done? 

Even the solders, the executioners, join in the mocking. 

36 … coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 

One of those caught and rightly condemned taunts Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Jesus, mockingly was told to save himself by those ready to kill him, he was told to save himself and us by one who would be killed. He is at times mocked by us too as we fail daily to see him for who he is ... our blessed Lord and savior. 

He was there not because he had to be but because he chose to be … a long time ago … in a garden long forgotten … where God said to the serpent:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

The feet of Jesus being bruised and nailed to the cross and his arms outstretched in pain are there for a purpose, along with those crucified with him. Death is real and death will come to all whether by accident, or old age, or punishment. 

Three would die but one … by faith brings forgiveness.

40 … saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Simple faith turns death into life, paradise restored, and union with God real. 

It is that for you and me as well. Death will come but so will eternal life, because it is God’s promise. The enmity or deep rooted hatred that God has for sin, death, and the devil … has been removed through the seed of the woman, Christ Jesus our Lord … and as he dies he gives life to all by faith who trust in him.

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you - today you will be with me in paradise.” No weeds, no sin … and no more death.

You, who have ears to hear … hear this wonderful news, God in Christ Jesus, has restored paradise for you. 

Today by faith paradise is yours!

In the name of the Father, + Son and Holy Spirit

Amen




Sermon Mar. 11-12, 2017 Lent 2

Title: You are born from above and born of God!
Text: John 3:1-17

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

On [Christmas Eve] December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited Genesis chapter one, verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.

https://youtu.be/J_hRRiXKdqc

William Anders began:

"We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you."

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."

James Lovell Continued:

"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Frank Borman concluded:

"And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good." "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_8_Genesis_reading

I remember this like it was yesterday. As a 13 year old watching on TV I was fascinated to see the image of the earth from the perspective of the moon. But not until the pictures were published in TIME Magazine did I see the true vivid color of the Good Earth against the backdrop of a grey and black space.

Reactions to this reading were overwhelmingly positive though a lawsuit did ensue brought on by Madalyn Murray O’Hair who was the founder of the American Atheists, but it was dismissed by the Supreme Court, their reason … “It is out of our jurisdiction.”

Mixed reactions to God and his word have been around since the serpent questioned, “Did God really say?” In our gospel lesson for today another questioning occurs.

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night …

In the grey and black of the night a leader - a man of the Pharisees – comes to see Jesus. It is as if in and through the blackness of sin he sees the light of the Good Earth in the distance and in this person Jesus saying:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”


Nicodemus sees in the signs that Jesus has been doing, and probably his teaching as well - proclaiming; “Repentant for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Gods work, and it is through this work that God had brought Nicodemus to this place this night to be with Jesus.

Jesus’ reply that “… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God …” comes as a bit of a surprise to him. In a similar sense the view from the Apollo 8 capsule and the connection of "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” also brings for some a questioning thinking, “It’s just a fable, it can’t be real. No one really believes this is how things came into existence, do they?”

Even Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

Just as God and his creation brings many questions that we and others might wrestle with God’s word points us to the source of truth and understanding … his son, our Lord Jesus.

Genesis’ beginning and the Gospel of John’s beginning have one thing in common and that is Jesus. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth or, in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God, have Jesus connected in a real way to creation and redemption. The word of God spoken in the beginning, and the word of God [Jesus] speaking to Nicodemus, is the same word of God heard now by you.

The word is not only connected to your hearing now but it is also as Jesus is making known to Nicodemus connected to the washing away of sins in Holy Baptism. He asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

In reality though even if this were possible it would do Nicodemus and you no good for being born in the natural way only brings forth one who is born in sin and brought forth in iniquity. One needs rebirth as Jesus tells him … to be born again which is a new birth that is born from above, born anew, or born of the Spirit.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the need to see with new eyes born from the Spirit when he writes:

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14

You too needed to be spiritually born and this came for you and me in our Baptisms. God’s word connected to simple water and his command and promise by the working of the Holy Spirit brings as our Catechesis bulletin insert says for this week about the benefits baptism gives:

“It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

As Jesus declared, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And the Apostle Paul affirmed in 1 Corinthians 6 when he writes:

… that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Saying:

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Dear friends, we have been given the Spirit. God has called you to faith so that the Kingdom of God is yours.

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
As one washed in the waters of Holy Baptism you have been born from above and born anew by God, that same God who from the beginning spoke God’s creation into existence and has breathed new life in you now and for eternity.

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sermon March 8, 2017 Lent 1

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Second Word: "Woman, behold your son! … Behold your mother"
Text: John 19:25-27
Readings: Ezekiel 43:1-7a, Galatians 4:22-31, John 19:25-27

26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

“For the kingdom is not being prepared, but has been prepared, while the sons of the Kingdom are being prepared, not preparing the Kingdom; that is to say, the Kingdom merits the sons, not the sons the Kingdom.

So all hell merits and prepares its children rather than they it.”

― Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

With Christ’s second word, "Woman, behold your son! … Behold your mother," we see the bondage between who we are and who we become.

Slave and free. 

Paul asks the Galatians in his letter: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

He then compares and contrasts the two alternatives using their mothers as an object lesson. Both bore children by Abraham. Both had sons.

23 But the son of the slave [woman] was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 

Abram before God’s promise had a son by the slave girl Hagar who bore him Ishmael.

Paul tells us that:

23 the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, that 25 Hagar is one covenant which gives birth to slaves, Mount Sinai in Arabia; she also corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

That says something about Jerusalem and those who are there today and look to it as the holy city and set apart for salvation. 

Now, we know of this city and its value and use by God in history for us who believe in Christ. But this city this Jerusalem Paul says is a city of slavery under the law. 

We are slaves

Now we know that we who are brought forth in inequity, born in the natural way in sin and under the Law are also slaves. It is who Luther in his debate with Erasmus in the Bondage of the Will calls God’s enemies saying:

“The truth of the matter is rather as Christ says, "He who is not with me is against me." ... He does not say "He who is not with me is not against me either, but merely neutral.”

― Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

We are not born neutral to God but are born his enemies, born against God and his will. We in fact are sons of the devil, as Jesus says and it is his will that we want to do and in fact do.

In John 8:44 we read:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

So, just as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that those who were against him were children of the devil Paul too points to those silly Galatians who wished to be back under the Law – our guardian as he calls it - and back in bondage. They didn’t understand freedom rightly. 

There is a promise.

For Paul also says that there is a free woman: while the son of the free woman was born through promise.

So the promise is that freedom comes through the promise and that is from the free woman. Hagar is the covenant of slavery but Sarah the covenant of promise and freedom, for freedom comes through her son Issac whom she bore, as we read in Matthew 1:2

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and so on down through the genealogy in Matthew until we read, 16 and … Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matt 1:2,16b

Slave or free … Law or promise.

It had been the habit for the Galatians through the teaching of others to point to the Law and its requirements and their falling back into bondage.

We too see this as we minimize sin and elevate self. 

But there is a different problem today in some Lutheran churches and teaching within our synod … that there is no Law at all … but only Good News and freedom without real change. 

Repentance is not just knowledge of sin and the freedom Jesus paid at the cross for the sins of the world, but it is a willful turning away from sin and a turning back to God by faith. Slavery and Law bind us and leave us without hope but freedom and promise without change give false hope that sinful ways can continue without consequence. We deceive ourselves to believe that we are really pretty good people in the eyes of God ... and that he is well pleased with us.

There was a story about a pastor’s wife who worked at an abortion clinic and she said, “God forgives me.” Yes, God forgives our sins … but also says “Go and sin no more.”

6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Rom. 6:1

But for John here in the gospel reading and for Mary the mother of Jesus the reality is different. Mary’s son is dying - his outstretched arms are on the cross. His mother has to be dying too. Who could endure to see their son die in this way? The reality of sin and the work of redemption is no half way measure. God didn’t think your sin was no big deal because It required of God his full commitment – the life of his son - for the life of the world broken by sin. 

What better place to hear this then under the cross. It is here where Jesus finished his work of redemption. “Woman behold your son,” he says to the mother who gave him birth, loved and cared for him, and is now by his death caring for her and the whole world as he pays the full price for sin.
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” John’s, mother is our mother as well and by faith we are children of the promise and have forgiveness in his name. He will care for her physical needs and spiritual needs as well. The gospel will comfort her as it does us. She will grieve her son’s death but will rejoice in the forgiveness he won that the sins of the world have been paid for and that by faith in his work we receive what he won which is victory over sin, death and the devil.

“Woman behold your son,” … “Behold, your mother!” 

In birth the child of the promise was born in a manger
In death the child of the promise hung on a tree
You are no longer slaves to sin in this life
By faith in Jesus Christ … God has set you fee

In the name of the Father, + Son and Holy Spirit

Amen

Sermon Mar. 4- 5, 2017 Lent 1

Title: Temptation is defeated by the word of God … Jesus!
Text: Matt. 4: 1-11

4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

An old Indian legend says: Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. But on the third day, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. 

"I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley." 

"No," said the youth. "I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me." 

"Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you." 

The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, when suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and leapt, biting him on the leg. 

"But you promised..." cried the youth.

"You knew what I was when you picked me up." said the snake as it slithered away."
 
Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 5-7.

The fall into sin as was recounted in our Ash Wednesday Service spoke of the results of sin … separation and death. Temptation leads to sin and so we understand that sin brings death. Yet … we fall victim time and again.

You knew what I was … or you know what it is … all seem to fall on deaf ears as we give in to temptation again and again. Jesus too felt temptation.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Things like time, temptation and hunger … are all things we can all relate to … but going without food for 40 days is probably not one of them. 

When we speak of Jesus we need to speak of His humanity in real terms. We need to speak of things that are part of His human nature. His Godly attributes were still there but were veiled. Here his humanness is seen in a real way and so was the realness of his hunger … the type of hunger that I’ve never known.
Shoot, I have difficulty getting from one meal to another … and it took real will power for me to change my own eating habits so that I might be able to lose some weight and live a bit healthier. Yes, there was temptation there too over the 100 or so days that it took me to lose 40 pounds but nothing like what Jesus faced.

3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Here the devil temps with real understanding:

First, he knows of Christ’s humanity and that his hunger is real.

Second, he know that Christ is God in the flesh and can do what his temptation calls for of turning stones into bread.

Third, he knows God’s word and he uses it not for blessing, but he twists it in such a way so that the sinful needs are met as opposed to God’s will and desire.

Finally, when temptation gives way to sin the devil knows that death and separation from God results and that is his desire. To give what appears good … but what really brings death.
In this real temptation the devil knows one truth, that many in this world fight in disbelief, and that is that Jesus is the Son of God … and Satan is doing everything in his power to see that God’s plan and our rescue fails.

Satan continues to do this as we all fall victim to sin and his tempting. 

Like the Indian boy on the mountain you might think “It will be different this time.” But once you give in … you know … “I’ve been bit!”

The truth is that sin is not just thought, word and deed. It is not just trying hard not to sin. It is who we are. Sin is what we are born in. Now, this is not to excuse it but to understand our human nature. You will fail and you will sin. At times it is blatant and at times you are unaware. Sin permeates our very being and that is why Satan so hounds you and me. 

The devil knows that when presented with a little sin it will lead to a bigger sin and the bigger the sin the guiltier you will feel. You will feel shame, and at times guilt for your actions, even an unkind word or a word misplaced can cause hurt. 

Ill.
I visit a number of shut in or home bound members of our church but also a few that are not associated with Peace. On one occasion I visited a 95 year old elderly woman who lives in a nursing and assisted care facility. It has taken me a little time to get to know her but she was raised Lutheran in a little church up north of Bay City. 

On a recent visit as I came in and said our hello’s she looked at me and said, “I’m mean.” I kind of smiled thinking she was joking. “I say things at the table to the others that are mean and I don’t mean to. She continues, “I just can’t help myself. I’m mean!” After being a bit caught off guard I said, “Well, we all say things that we wish we hadn’t some time and we need to say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness.”

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Pastor, I was confirmed at 11 years old at my little church and I can remember it like it was yesterday. The Pastor sat against his desk and told us to think of a feather pillow and how if a hole develops a feather can come out. He said as time goes on the feathers keep coming out and another hole might even appear in the pillow. He told us to think of the feathers that come out as things we’ve said that we wish we could take back but can’t because once the feathers come out you can’t put them back in.” 

I told her that I understood what she was saying and she looked at me and said “Oh, I’m just mean. I remember my grandmother asking me to do something and I turned to her quickly and gave her a smart, sassy answer.” The tears began to flow again. “Oh Pastor, how I wish I could go to her grave and put those feathers back in the pillow!” 

We sat there for a few minutes as she cried her tears of sorrow. I said, “Lucy, we can’t put the feathers back in the pillow but there is one who can and did and that is Jesus. He took everything we wish we never said, and all the sins we’d take back if we could and he took them to the cross, for you and for me. He buried our sins in the grave so that we can have the comfort and assurance of knowing that if we confess our sins that he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness. 

Do you believe this?” She thought for a moment and said, “Yes Pastor I do.” “Then as a called and ordained servant of Christ and by his authority I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son + and or of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Are you ready to receive the Lord’s Supper?” I asked. “Yes I am.” She replied. “Thank you.”

Though you like Lucy are forgiven you must die and rise daily. When you fall you must remember that Jesus stood the test of the Devil’s temptation and though tempted in every way He was without sin. 

Perfection is not who we are but it is who He is … and we can all have joy because:

Temptation is defeated … by the word of God … Jesus!

4 [Who] answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

It was God’s provision of Mana that humbled the Israelites … and they quickly found that they could not provide for themselves. Instead, they had to trust in God for their daily bread. Pg 291 Study Note 

Just as we ask of the Lord in the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” which includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body … because Jesus wants us to realize that our entire life and that of everyone else depends of God. 

Question/ Answer 219 Luther’s Small Catechism

The temptations continued for Jesus and temptations will continue for you and me as well. Unlike Christ after a few temptations the devil left him. As God’s son the devil knew that he would have to find another opportunity to attach Jesus but not so for you and me. We will fail and fall into sin … he knows that. It is the devil’s hope that we fall so hard and so far that the way back will seem not only difficult but impossible.

God knows it too and that is why the word of god can be such a comfort and place of rescue which says:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 

The common sins ... cause us to fall … and we do … but:

… God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [or endure]. But when you are tempted, [God himself] will also provide a way out so that you can endure it – [and get through it].

Christ is the one who conquered sin, death and Devil for you. It is he who took all the Devil had to offer or could give and though tempted he remained without sin. This brings real peace and comfort to you and me as we think about his sinless life and atoning death, which give real life and forgiveness to you and me. 

Temptation will come but one also has come who stood the test of temptation for you and has made a way that through him, through Jesus you have a way to the Father by his blood. Joy in that blessed good news and comfort now and forever!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Sermon March 1, 2017 Ash Wednesday

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The First Word: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Text: Luke 23:34

33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

"If I had a brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me, if I hung around daily with the killer who drove the knife into my brother's heart? Surely, I too must be an accomplice in the crime you might think? The truth is that sin murdered Christ. The question … will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the God’s only begotten son … can you love it?"

C.H. Spurgeon. 

As we begin this Lenten journey with Jesus as he follows the path and rocky road that leads to Jerusalem and the cross, we’ll begin by looking back and by looking forward.


The fall into sin.

God’s plan was perfection. God’s plan was peaceful. God’s plan … included his creation and God’s plan had a garden. We can imagine in our minds eye what a perfect, peaceful garden created by God might look like … beautiful and lush. God’s garden was located in the East of Eden. We are told that streams came up from the earth and a river watered the garden splitting it into four headwaters, the Pishon, the Gihon, Tigris and the Euphrates.

Adam, the man whom God had created, was given the task of working and taking care of the garden with God giving him this command:

“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God also gave Adam a helper who he called bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh saying; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

In the midst of the garden man and woman had peace with God and felt no shame at their nakedness. But, there was another in the garden … a tempter … in the form of a serpent. His tempting was not boastful or coarse but beguiling and questioning. Simply asking … “Did God really say?”

You know the rest of the story. The tempter temps, the woman eats, and man eats, and sin and death take hold breaking the plan, the peace, and the life of God’s creation. Surly if they had only known what hardship lie ahead they would have not eaten of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and they would not have fallen. We would have hoped. But, they went against God and they disobeyed him and sin was brought forth.

Temptation leads to sin

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or so the saying goes. Their children born in sin have lost the image of God as they now reflect the image of their parents being fully conceived in sin. Spiritual death now gives way to physical death as Cain in anger kills his brother Able, who’s offering of the best and first born on his flock, was accepted by God while Cain’s gift of some of his fruit of his hands was not accepted … Able’s gift having been offered in faith while Cain’s was not.

We too at times find ourselves being tempted to see our sin as not so great a problem and ourselves as pretty good and acceptable.

Ill.

A story is told of a King who found himself depressed and unhappy. He sent for his brother, a good-natured but rather indifferent prince. The king said to him, "I am a great sinner; I fear meeting God." But the prince only laughed at him thinking it silly. This didn't help the king's disposition.
Though he had faith in Christ, the king too had gotten a glimpse of his own guilt for the way he'd been living - the Law written on his heart reflected his sinful image of himself - and he seriously wanted help. 

In those days it was customary if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man's door at any hour it was a signal that he was to be led to his execution. The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fateful blast at his brother's door. The prince realizing with horror what was happening, quickly dressed, stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner who dragged the pale and trembling prince into the king's presence. 

In an agony of terror he fell on his knees before his brother the King and begged “What have I done?” 

"My dear brother," the king answered, "if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ?"
Walk Through Rewards.

We too, being born in sin, can have the same worry and concern. Have I done enough to make amends for my wrong? Am I doomed to eternal death? That was Luther’s question and Luther’s worry: 

“Does God hate sin … yes … am I a sinner … yes … does God condemn sin … yes … must I be condemned? Yes.

If left to ourselves we cannot have peace. We can never know if we had done enough. The knowledge of sin weighs heavy on us and that burden can only kill you and me by its weight.

The rescue

The Jews had known the promise. They had expected a Messiah. They looked for power to overcome those who oppressed them so they looked for and expected an earthly King.

But, God didn’t give what was expected. He sent what wasn’t expected. He sent a servant. Isaiah calls him the Suffering Servant.

In the first servant song God’s message of Law and Gospel is contained in the one, the Servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will fulfill the Law and brings the message of the Gospel to the poor and to the oppressed. It is through this servant that God gives breath and life to His people through His church, so that He may, through the means of grace, be a light to the gentiles and open the eyes of the blind. 

It is God Himself who will free the captives and release those who sit in bondage. The Lord’s glory will be found only in this humble suffering servant who breaks the bonds of sin and death by becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin, to appease God’s wrath, restoring the relationship between God and man and liberating His people from captivity.

As a nation Israel was at times called on by God to be His servant. But the Servant God sends, will be the one to rise up the tribes of Jacob and bring back the preserved of Israel and he will be a light for the nations so that God’s forgiveness reaches to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6

God’s servant will be despised because God’s Law brings condemnation and death, but also His servant will provide a way out delivering freedom from sin and the devil by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Isaiah points out Israel’s sin measured against the servant’s obedience. The servant is faithful and listens to the voice of this loving God. In contrast to you and me, who are a rebellious people, the servant listens to and does the will of His heavenly Father.

The servant is abused but also sustained by the Sovereign Lord’s help just as Jesus was in his passion at the cross.

Even this death on a cross will not bring disgrace to the servant who gives over his will to that of the sovereign Lord. God’s servant will accomplish the salvation that he intends but salvation will come through suffering.

Dear friends, our human condition knows God’s Law only as judgment. This judgment comes to you and me as we fail to live up to the laws in a civil society and God’s Law written on our heart.

The judgment of the servant, who was, stricken, smitten and afflicted by God for the sins of another, is something different. The punishment of this servant is in being numbered with we who are sinners. It is in this servant Jesus and his suffering where we find peace and by his wounds we are healed.

Peace and forgiveness

33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

May you have peace and joy in his forgiveness and may you rejoice that in him you are forgiven.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.