Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passion Sunday Zechariah 9:9-12

Shout for joy in the highest, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your King, He comes to you; He Himself becomes salvation; humble and He rides on a donkey, and on a stallion, the son of a female donkey. And I will cut off a chariot from Ephraim and a horse from Jerusalem; and will be cut off a bow of battle; and He will speak peace to nations; and His dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of earth. As for you, on the blood of a covenant with you, I have set free your prisoners from a cistern without water in it. Return to the fortress, prisoners of the hope; indeed today I announce, from double I will return to you!

Sometimes saviors come in strange packaging. If Lois Lane is in distress, we expect a man in a cape to fly to her rescue. If Robin is in trouble, we expect a cowled Bat-man to save him. If our nation struggles, we may look to our elected officials to bail it out. But when folks look for a Savior-King, all they get is this humble Jesus–not riding into town on a horse driven chariot, but on a little donkey.

We like our saviors to give us what we want. No doubt, many who shouted "Hosanna" ("Save us") had their own ideas of what salvation meant: Relief from government oppression, free bread, instant/ free medical treatment. Jesus offered none of these things to them during Holy Week. Now was not the time for worldly concerns, as though His main purpose was to promote only social justice.

Instead, as your Savior, Jesus gives you what you need most. Not an earthly dominion lording it over subjects, but a heavenly reign over His people, the church! Not a worldly peace between nations, but a spiritual peace between sinners and God. Jesus comes to speak the Gospel message of His peace through the forgiveness of the cross. His strong word bespeaks you righteous, every time your pastor proclaims your sins forgiven from this pulpit, or in the sacrament of Confession and Absolution!

We want our saviors to remain popular. Of course, Jesus' popularity quickly waned during Holy Week. The shouts of "Hosanna" quickly changed to shouts of "Crucify Him!" Hailed as a King this day in history, but five short days later he is convicted of the crime of being their king. Abandoned, betrayed, denied and finally forsaken, Jesus is anything but popular. He is completely alone at the end.

What Jesus did to be your Savior was neither pleasant nor attractive. Folks are not drawn naturally to the bloody cross where He died. The blood of His covenant with you is repulsive. But it was the only price that could be paid, for there is no forgiveness for you without the shedding of blood. His body given and His blood shed for you on Calvary sets you free from being prisoners to your own sin! For His covenant is for you the new testament in His blood, for the forgiveness of your sins.

We desire our saviors to be strong. The residents of Jerusalem would have liked to see Jesus on a war-chariot leading troops into battle against the hated Roman occupiers. But instead, they get Jesus who appears quite weak. He comes as a King to save them, but then is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a death from which He can't even save Himself! Then the Savior/King dies...

God's strength is made perfect in the seeming weakness of Jesus at the cross. By His death there, He conquers death for us all. He embraces your death as His Own on the tree, and is cursed there in your place. He takes upon Himself the eternal prison of hell on the cross, to set you free from sin and its wages of death. In return, Jesus gives to you double for your death which He took. You receive life, and life in abundance! The life He gives you is eternal habitation in the paradise of heaven!

Indeed, our Savior comes in odd packaging, from this world's perspective. No super-hero cape. No powerful political office. No great financial wealth. No military might. He comes only with the righteous obedience to God's Law, to become a perfect sacrifice for sin. He comes as the mute Lamb of God led to slaughter at the cross. He comes to give up His life in His covenant of blood as your ransom price. He comes to you, in holy pomp, riding on to die--He Himself having become your salvation! Amen.

Hymns today from LSB:
#443 Hosanna Loud Hosanna music stanzas
#442 All Glory Laud and Honor music stanzas
#441 Ride On Ride On in Majesty music (LW#105, TLH #162)
#440 Jesus I Will Ponder Now music/German stanzas

Worship schedule for Peace and Our Redeemer for Holy Week:

Monday noon devotions at Our Redeemer
Tuesday noon devotions at Peace
Wednesday noon devotions at Our Redeemer
Maundy Thursday 7pm joint Divine Service with Communion in one kind at Peace
Good Friday noon Seven Words of the Cross at Our Redeemer
Good Friday 7pm Tenebrae at Peace
Saturday 7pm Easter Vigil at Our Redeemer
Easter Sunday 8:30am Divine Service with Communion at Peace breakfast to follow
11:00am Divine Service with Communion at Our Redeemer


Sunday, March 21, 2010

5th Sunday in Lent Genesis 22:1-14

And it was after these things, and God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Take now your son, your only son which you love, Isaac, and you walk to the land of Moriah, and offer him up there to be offered up on one of the mountains which I will tell you." And Abraham rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with Him and Isaac His son; and he split wood for the offering, and he rose and walked to the place which was told him from God. On the third day, and Abraham lifted his eyes and he saw Moriah from a distance. And Abraham said to his young men, "Be captive yourselves, here, with the donkey, and I and the young man will walk up to here and we will worship, and we will return to you." And Abraham took the wood of the offering and placed it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. And they walked, the two of them, together. And Isaac spoke to Abraham, his father, and he said, "My Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Look, the fire and the wood; and where is the Lamb to offer?" And Abraham said, "God will see Himself the Lamb to offer, my son."

Today, the 5th Sunday in Lent, is known as Judica, or *Judgment* Sunday. On this day, in the historic entrance Psalm, each singer called upon God to "Judge me!". At first glance, this sounds a bit scary, as though we are asking God to bring down a condemning judgment upon us. But actually, we are asking God to judge us based upon His grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. For that's just how God judged Abraham, who rejoiced, seeing the day of Jesus' redemption, as our Lord confirms in John 8.

We don't like to cry out to God "Judge me" because we tend to think of judgment as only negative. Now, condemnation is certainly a part of God's judgment, but it is only half. God's judgement is like a 2-edged sword, separating good from bad. Christ's judging is like a refining fire, separating gold from dross. His judging is like the flood, which separated the wicked from Noah's family. On the Last Day, Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff, sheep from the goats. God's judgment is always 2-fold.

That's just how God's judgment is for you too. Using the water analogy, it is a drowning flood. The negative part is that it brings you death. Your sins are washed in baptism from you directly to the + where they are deposited on Jesus to bear your punishment there. "Sinful you" therefore dies with Jesus at Calvary. But just as He didn't stay dead, but rose again "on the third day", so too in your baptism do you rise up in Him to walk in newness of life, one that now lasts for an eternity in heaven!

We hesitate to call for God's judgment also because we don't care for His tests. They can be rough, like the one Abraham faced. His didn't make any sense. God promised that all the world would be blessed through the singular Seed of Abraham who would be born from Isaac's line. But if Isaac died, Jesus, that blessed Seed, would never be born–the promise left unfulfilled! What could Abraham do?

Abraham trusted God, despite the illogic of this test. He was so sure God would come through in the end that Abraham prophesies to his servants at the foot of the hill, that *we* (He and Isaac!) would return. That's confidence in God! You have similar confidence, trusting in the gospel promises of Jesus. His word proclaims to you that in Jesus' death for you, you are forgiven! How that simple word can accomplish such a miracle, you cannot explain. But you believe His Word forgives and saves you!

We are reluctant to ask God to judge us because we are afraid of what He might do. Abraham was concerned too that God would have Isaac, his son, sacrificed at Moriah. What was going through his mind as they climbed the mountain? Abraham hoped God might raise Isaac back to life after the sacrifice. But would God really allow Abraham's only son to be given up to death in a sacrifice?

Again Abraham prophesied what God would do. When Isaac asked about the Lamb, Abraham said, "God will see Himself, the Lamb to offer." Now, don't be perplexed by how many translations botch this verse. It is clear. God sees Himself as the sacrificial Lamb! Christ Jesus was God, and He was also the spotless Lamb of God sacrificed for you at Calvary. His body given on a Jerusalem mountain like Moriah, and His blood shed there for you, have redeemed, purchased, and won you as His Own!

Abraham really rejoiced to see the day of Jesus! He knew God's promised Seed would still come through Isaac's line. He knew that both he and his only son would return safe and sound. He knew God would provide a substitute Lamb, the Father's only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus. God judged Abraham favorably. You, too, receive His thumbs-up, judged worthy of eternal life by grace through faith. Amen.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#902 Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now
#430 My Song is Love Unknown
#572 In the Shattered Bliss of Eden

Sunday, March 14, 2010

4th Sunday of Lent

And they grumbled, all the assembly of the sons of Israel, against Moses and against Aaron in the desert. And said to them, the sons of Israel, "Who was allowing our death by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, in our sitting by pots of meat, in our eating bread to fullness? For you have brought us out to this desert to kill all this assembly in hunger!" And Yahweh said to Moses, "Look, I will cause it to rain to you, bread from the heavens, and the people will go out and they will gather what is promised daily, so that I may test them, if they will not walk in my Torah. And it will be on the 6th day and they will prepare that which they bring, and it will be twice the amount which they gather daily." And Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, "At evening, and you will know that Yahweh has brought up you from the land of Egypt, and at morning, and you will see the glory of Yahweh, in His hearing of your grumblings against Yahweh; what are we, that you grumble against us?" And Moses said, "In Yahweh giving to you in the evening, meat to eat, and bread in the morning to the full, in Yahweh hearing your grumblings which you grumble against Him; What are we? Your grumblings are not against us, but against Yahweh!"

God provides; people complain. God is generous; people are unsatisfied. God blesses; people gripe. It is the same old story both then and now. God hasn't changed one bit. He is still loving and gracious, giving good gifts to us. The Israelites grumbled sarcastically against Moses and Aaron. The 12 disciples were pessimistic about being able to provide for the crowd of 5000, only finding 5 loaves and 2 fish. We still whine and bellyache, not content or grateful for what God has supplied. Why is it never enough?

What we don't realize is that each blessing from God is a test of sorts. He tested the Israelites to see if they'd walk in His instruction. Jesus tested the 12 to see if they realized how God would provide. And you are being tested, here and now, to see if you are truly trusting in the God Who gives all that you need. Let's see how well we are passing the tests that God is giving us today, shall we!

We all want our congregation to grow, but we don't always realize just how God grows His church. Sometimes we foolishly think of it as *our* church, and then rob God's job by trying to grow it ourselves. We may want to buy into the lie of the Field of Dreams movie, "Build it, and they'll come", but we know that's not God's way. For God's church is not a building. It is His people He builds up!

The foundation stone of the church is Christ Jesus, upon whom you are built as living stones. You were once not part of God's church, but the Holy Ghost called you by the Gospel message of Christ's love for you at Calvary, and by the gift of faith, you believed His Word. And just as God gathered you to be part of His people, so too does He call others by that clear, gospel message to join our fellowship. There is no other way that God grows His church than by the message of Jesus' love.

We all want to feel good about ourselves, but we don't always recognize how God makes us good. Sometimes we are tempted to think that what *we do ought to give us self-worth. But God says otherwise. What you do, on your own, is tainted by sin. If you have pride in that, it is a sinful pride. Instead, your sins ought to drive you to confess, but most folks don't come for private confession...

Some even grumble against the practice! Why? To come to confess your sins privately to the Pastor is simply to be Lutheran. You learned that in Confirmation Class. Luther once said that if folks realized what a blessing it was, they'd walk 100 miles to receive Holy Absolution. For those words are simply the ones you 1st heard at your Baptism, where they washed your sins to the cross of Jesus. They continue to do the same thing today, cleansing you from all your unrighteousness.

We all want to have a good, sustaining life, but we aren't always aware of how God provides this. Oh, you realize that part of it is eating right. So you make sure the 4 food groups are represented at every meal, or you follow the new food pyramid. Vitamin and mineral supplements too. But in the end, your body still ends up 6 feet under! There must be a better way to get a long and sustaining life...

There is: the Bread of Heaven. Not the stuff the Israelites called "What is it?" or Manna, in the desert. Not even the miraculous bread Jesus made into fish-wiches for the 5000. The Bread of Life for you is none other than the body of Jesus. He gave that body as your ransom price, nailed to the tree. He gives it to you in the bread of the Lord's Supper, that, if you eat of it by faith, you will never die! His body, in your body, means salvation for you, and eternal life in the paradise of heaven! do you measure up to God's test today? He gives you His Gospel Word which calls you to faith in your Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. He provides for you His Word of forgiveness in His Name through Holy Absolution. He feeds you with the eternal life-giving Bread of Jesus in the Lord's Supper. Not a single thing to grumble about there! For you walk in nothing but God's good gifts, which are all-sufficient for you, both now and forevermore as everlasting, heavenly blessings. Amen.