Monday, April 30, 2012

Sermon for 4/29/12--Fourth Sunday of Easter

Once again, no audio. My apologies. For some reason, our podcast host (buzzsprout) is having trouble with the mp3 recording I tried to upload.


Turning Grief into Joy
John 16:16-22

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


What does it mean to have resurrection joy?  Jesus said, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”  Simply put, God wants you to have joy in His presence.  This joy from God is not simply happiness or giddiness.  It is not merely the joy you feel being here today.  Instead, it is connected to the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Rejoicing in God means connecting your life to the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. At first glance, that sounds easy. But looks can be deceiving. Our text takes place the night Jesus was betrayed.  Just a few hours after He gave the disciples the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said to them:  “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.”  Then He goes into this series of statements about a little while.  “A little while and you will not see me, and again in a little while and you will see me.”  Seven times we hear that phrase, a little while.

For the disciples, there will be a time when he’ll be gone, and a time when He returns.  When did Jesus leave them?  He left them when He was betrayed, suffered and died.  So when did he return to them?  He returned to them when He rose again from the dead.  This is what He means when He says that their sorrow will be turned into joy.  The world rejoiced at His death, but now the people of God rejoice at His resurrection. Jesus said, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me.”  Consider the good Lutheran question: “What does this mean?”  Notice that word see.  Jesus says that there will be a time in your lives when you will not be able to see Him.  You can’t experience Him first-hand—not the way the disciples did.  But you know that He is still here.  Remember again Jesus’ words at His Ascension: “Behold I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Jesus promises that He will always be present with you.  God’s presence doesn’t disappear when things get tough.  Indeed, it is when we are weak and helpless that He is strong.

Jesus uses the example of a woman in labor.  A woman in labor has one thing on her mind: bring the child into the world safely.  That’s all that matters.  There is sorrow, yes, and there is pain.  But in a way it doesn’t matter, because the mother knows it will be worth it in the end.  She can endure the hardship because she knows that what will come afterwards will overshadow the pain that came along the way.  This is what Jesus means when He uses the words, a little while.  The suffering and hardship of this life last but a little while.  In the scale of eternity, it just isn’t that important.  Is it real?  Yes.  Do these struggles tear you apart?  Yes, very much so.  But Jesus promises here that He will be with you through every trial.

Remember again the words of our Lord through the Apostle Paul from Romans chapter six: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” When you were baptized, you entered into this “little while” Jesus is talking about.  You are now in the time of sorrow and trials sinners face this life.  This should not surprise you.  Your life is Christ’s life, and like your Lord, you, too, face trials and tribulations in this life.

And notice, too, where these struggles come from.  They come from your daily life.  They come from dealing with your children and your parents.  They come from work and school.  They come from friends.  In other words, the struggles of being a Christian rise out of wherever God has placed you in this life.  God is the one who has made you a father, mother, son or daughter.  He’s the one who has given you a job, or a school.  He’s the one who put you into family and has given you friends.  And so it is in these places that the trials of the baptismal life take their shape. Perhaps this is why God allows sorrow and hardship to befall the Christian.  God wants you to remember that He is God, and that you are not.  He wants to give you all the blessings of eternity; but He can’t do it if you make yourself out to be your own god, or if you pretend that you can make it on your own.

But take heart, dear Christian friends!  Remember again the words of Isaiah: “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  Even though you live with sorrow for a time today, God will see you through.  You cannot see Jesus with your eyes, but He is very much here, hidden under bread and wine which is His body and blood.  He will give you joy like no other.  You are the children of God, and God always keeps His promises. The time and struggles of this life last just a little while.  There will come a time, soon, when we will no longer even remember these trials, because of the joy in Christ that will be yours—joy that no one can take away from you.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PARODY: God Save the USA


God Save the U.S.A.
(parody of “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood)

We used to call America
“the Land of the Free”.
We reveled in our liberties
from sea to shining sea.
But now it seems we’re changing
just a little every day.
They’re infringing on our freedoms,
and they’re taking them away.

And I’m scared to be an American,
'cause I'm not that sure I'm free.
And I shouldn’t even write this song
‘cause somebody’s watching me.
Brothers, let me stand up next to you
and defend her still today.
Let us rise up to preserve this land.
God save the USA.


Once the patriots were fighters,
and they stood up for their rights.
Now we have an act called “Patriot”—
keeps our citizens in sight.
They want to take our rifles,
free speech and God away.
Soon they’ll plant a chip in American heads,
lest the people rise and say
          
That I’m scared to be an American,
'cause I'm not that sure I'm free.
And I shouldn’t even write this song
‘cause somebody’s watching me.
Brothers, let me stand up next to you
and defend her still today.
Even now, I know I love this land.
God save the USA.


I am scared to be an American,
'cause I'm not that sure I'm free.
And I shouldn’t even write this song
‘cause somebody’s watching me.
Brothers, let me stand up next to you
and defend her still today.
Even now, I know I love this land.
God save the USA.


© 1984, 2012, 2015 by Lee Greenwood, Alan Kornacki

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sermon for 4/23/12--Funeral of Karen Deppe

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Text:



Grace in Affliction
John 14:1-6

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


According to human wisdom, God is cruel and uncaring. Human wisdom says that no one should ever have to struggle with a horrible disease. Human wisdom says that no one should ever have to stand by and watch a loved one die. “If God really is the loving God the Bible leads people to believe, why would He put His children through something as awful as cancer?” “If Jesus is truly all-powerful, why would He not heal the sick the way He did in the Gospels?” It’s so easy to criticize God for His seeming indifference to His children.

We think the problem is that God doesn’t work the way He should. But the real problem is that you don’t work the way God created you to work. You were created in the image of God. You were not created to sin. You were not created to die. When Adam and Eve decided in the Garden to try to become like God, they did the exact opposite: they distorted the image of God within them. The spirit that had been once been pure was now tainted by sin. The flesh that had been meant to live forever was now corrupted, diseased by sin, and became subject to death. St. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death.” And the ugly truth is, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” You are a sinful human being. You sin constantly in thought, word and deed, by what you do and by what you leave undone. The burden of sin builds every day, and even a horrible disease like cancer is less than you deserve from the God of righteousness. You see the wages of sin in the hundreds of little pains you experience in the flesh. You see the wages of sin in the emotional turmoil of your daily life. And you have the wages of sin all too clearly and ruthlessly demonstrated in the coffin before you this day.

If the Lord left it there, the death of your body would be the end. Your dead body would be a foretaste of the eternal torment that your sin had earned for you. Your dead body would be evidence that you would be eternally separated from the love of God. But the Lord doesn’t leave it there. Karen’s confirmation verse comes from the Gospel of St. John. You just heard these words, but listen again: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And even those words would be a burden which the sinner could not bear on his own. The sinner has no authority to approach the Father. Sinners don’t even have the right to approach Jesus to ask Him to intercede before the Father. But St. Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knew that the wages of sin were more than you could bear. He knew that sinners had no way to redeem themselves. He knew that Satan prowls around like a lion, waiting to devour sinners. And so Jesus gave Himself instead. He gave Satan a temporary victory in His own death, so that when He rose again on the third day, the devil’s teeth would be pulled, and Satan would have nothing left with which to devour you.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” I have no doubt this day that Karen Deppe is resting in the arms of her Lord Jesus Christ—not because of her love for Steve or her parents or the rest of her family and friends; not because of her kindness and many years of service and generosity to her neighbors; and not because of the fortitude and patience with which she accepted and endured her own suffering or that of her parents. All of those are wonderful traits, and we can thank God for placing Karen in our lives to share these things with us. But Karen rests in the arms of her Savior because her Savior died bearing her sins. She rests in the arms of her Savior because He rose again, destroying the power of death. And most of all, she rests in the arms of her Savior because, through the waters of Holy Baptism, the death and resurrection of Jesus became her death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit gave faith to Karen so that she could confess her own sins and her very nature as a sinner; and the Spirit gave Karen faith to confess that Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior. He did this for her; and He does the same for you. Your body will die; but that will not be the end. Because Jesus died and rose again, and because He applies His death and resurrection to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, your body which dies because of sin will be raised and made perfect. You will no longer surrender to sin. You will no longer be prone to disease. Death has no power over you. You will be incorruptible in body and soul, reunited with those you love who have gone before you in the faith, free eternally to praise God for His goodness. By faith, you and Karen will be reunited.

One last thing: sometimes God allows His children to suffer terrible afflictions. It is not because God is cruel or uncaring. The sad reality is that sin has made you vulnerable to illness and suffering and death. But even in the midst of such suffering, He does not leave you alone. Whether you yourself are sick or you are sitting at the bedside of a loved one, your heavenly Father does not leave you to bear your afflictions alone. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” But He comes to you in the midst of your suffering. He knows your torment because He experienced all the torments of sin and death Himself in His earthly life—especially in His suffering and death on the cross. He sustains you in the midst of your suffering. And then, in His great mercy, He calls you out of that suffering to rest from your labors. Karen is no longer in pain, no longer tormented by the ravages of the wages sin. Thanks be to God! And in His great mercy, your heavenly Father will bring an end to your grief and suffering, too. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

   
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sermon for 4/22/12--Third Sunday of Easter


No audio for this one. My apologies. My podcast host is being persnickety.

           
The Shepherd Knows the Sheep
John 10:11-16

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  These may be the most familiar words in the whole of the Old Testament, if not all of Scripture.  But the Good Shepherd image of Jesus is one that is so familiar to us that there’s a danger we will let it pass through our minds and hearts without really processing what it means. 

King David was that shepherd boy from Bethlehem who grew up to become the greatest of Israel’s kings and the model for all the kings to follow, especially because He was also a forerunner of the Messiah, a prophecy in flesh and blood of the Savior to come.  Think about David and what he did as king; and think of how all of that came to be fulfilled in Jesus. In truth, being a king was, for David, a lot like his role as a shepherd. David protected his people from enemies without and enemies within.  The king administered justice.  It was his job as king to lead and guide his people and to provide for their needs as much as he was able.

Who is it who can really meet your needs?  There is so much to tempt you, to appeal to your insatiable appetite for things that are new and novel.  But who can really satisfy?  And who can fight off the wolves?  Who can protect you?  Who can prepare a banquet table from which you are nourished with every good thing?  Who really cares for you?
This image of the Good Shepherd also says something about pastors.  The Old Testament reading from Ezekiel brings to mind the trouble Israel had with false shepherds, men who were interested in serving only themselves.  These are words of admonition and warning to those who would serve as “under-shepherds” now.  So what does a pastor do to meet the needs of the people in his care?  He may alert them to the dangers of doctrinal errors within the church at large or to spiritual carelessness within his own flock.  He preaches and teaches the Word in a “public” setting like this, and also applies it in private as the situation requires.  He administers the Sacraments of Christ in the sanctuary and in the home.  He can be present with Christ’s people in times of joy and times of sorrow.  He can visit the sick and the hospitalized.  He can “marry and bury,” as it is said.  But he cannot make disease go away.  He cannot ward off death.  He cannot stop someone who insists on destroying Himself with an abusive life.  He is only human.  He makes mistakes and uses poor judgment at times—which means that he is just like his people in that he, too, needs a shepherd. 

Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”  What does the Good Shepherd do?  “He lays down His life for the sheep.” When Jesus spoke these words, they would have been well understood; we may not understand them quite as well today.  But for societies that depended economically on raising sheep, the welfare of those sheep was a cold reality.  Sheep were raised because their wool was used for clothing and their meat for food; they were the source of the shepherd’s livelihood.  He cared for them because he had an investment in them.  And because he knows them that well, he also knows their many needs. You can’t blame the hired hand if he runs when the wolf attacks; he has no investment in the sheep.  But the true shepherd is prepared to go the limit to keep his sheep from being harmed.  Indeed, the good shepherd will sacrifice his very life for them. 

The Good Shepherd say to you, “I know my own, and My own know Me.” Even for the most transparent of you, it’s not easy for people to know who you really are.  But there is One who knows everything about you, and so He also knows where to lead you.  “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul.”  About this Shepherd, David also says: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.”  This One who calls Himself the Good Shepherd knows best how to feed you and where to lead you.  He knows what you soul needs, and He provides the marvelous feast of His body and blood to feed and sustain you.  And all of this is wonderfully true for all of His sheep.

The Shepherd Savior has been the One guiding you through your life, no matter where you may have wandered.  It doesn’t mean that you have been spared from going through the deep, dark valleys of death and desperation.  Christians are not spared from such things, even as they are not spared from bearing their crosses.  But you have nothing to fear because God has been with you all the time.  And He brings you together to celebrate, to hear His voice, and to be fed from His table.

The Church has not been wrong when it connects this banquet table in the Psalm with the grace of the Sacrament of the Altar.  For you experience in the Word of God the rod and staff that guide you through life, and in the Supper you receive the same assurance David received from his Lord.  For the Sacrament is a gift of life to sheep who live in the shadow of death; it unites you with Him who is the Life of all the living.  The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you is alive, and He gives you His life. Thus you can say with David: “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sermon for 4/16/12--Funeral of Adele Volkman

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Text:  

The Spirit Is Willing

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


When Adele went through the Rite of Confirmation on March 25, 1934, the Confirmation verse she received from Pastor Welp was Matthew chapter 26, verse 41, which states, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus spoke these words to Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane when He took them aside with Him to pray before His betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. The strange thing is, He knew His disciples would, in fact, give in to temptation. He knew the disciples would flee before the mob that came to arrest Him. He knew Peter would deny Him. He knew all that was about to take place; but still He spoke those words to them.

Minutes before she heard those words, Pastor Welp asked Adele, “Do you intend faithfully to conform all your life to the rule of the divine Word, to be diligent in the use of the means of grace, to walk as it becometh the Gospel of Christ, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to the Triune God, even unto death?” He may have asked it in German; I don’t know. And Adele and her classmates, by the work of the Holy Spirit, answered by saying, “I do so intend, by the grace of God.” What a fearsome promise to extract from thirteen year-old children—or from anyone, for that matter. And as He knew with the disciples in the Garden, our Lord knows that even baptized sinners cannot perfectly keep this promise. It is as the Lord says: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We sadly observed the weakness of Adele’s flesh over the past few years: the day she fell in her home and hit her head; her more recent difficulties walking; her bout with pneumonia; and, finally, when we learned on Friday that she had been taken from us—that her flesh had become so weak that it could no longer house her willing spirit. And even before these ailments, Adele’s weak flesh was evident in the fact that she was a sinner, as she confessed frequently to her Lord. All of her physical ailments were evidence of the truth that “the wages of sin is death.” And yet, we also saw her willing spirit exhibited at the same time. Vivian passed along a very recent story—and I ask that you forgive my poor paraphrasing. Adele was supposed to be on oxygen after her most recent return from the hospital. She kept asking if she had to stay on the oxygen, and Vivian kept telling her, “You should at least keep it on during the night.” Then one day, Adele told her, “I was tested today, and the oxygen in my blood is fine.” Vivian asked her, “When did you last have the oxygen on?” She was thinking that maybe they had tested Adele right after she’d finished an oxygen treatment. But Adele answered, “It’s been two days!” “The spirit indeed is willing…

Temptation stands before you this day—the temptation to grieve for Adele hopelessly. Don’t get me wrong: the woman we loved is dead, and there is no shame in honest grief. But we should not grieve as if this is the end. We should not grieve as if we have no hope; for this is not the end—not for Adele, and not for you. We confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in…the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” These are words which Adele confessed with confidence not seven days before her death. Beloved in Christ, these are not meaningless phrases. Jesus died bearing our sins; and He rose again to destroy the power of death. Because Adele was a baptized child of God, she will not remain dead. When Christ returns in glory, He will raise up Adele—and not only Adele, but also all those who through Holy Baptism lived by faith in Jesus Christ. We will enjoy a blessed reunion with Adele and with all those we love who have lived and died confessing the risen Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The flesh that was weak because of sin shall be restored and made perfect; the willing spirit will be reunited with that perfected body; and the resurrected faithful shall give praise and glory to God for His goodness.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” This is not the end—not for Adele, and not for you. This is your sure and certain hope: because Jesus rose from the dead, He has raised you to new life with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism; and He will raise you again through those waters to eternal life. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sermon for 4/15/12--Second Sunday of Easter


Audio:





Text:

Wounds 
John 20:19-31 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 


The prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” In other words, the most wonderful good news about Jesus is that He's got holes in Him. The wounds of Christ are your joy and blessing because, in getting those wounds, Jesus saved you from your sins. In keeping those wounds, He showed His disciples that He was the same Jesus who was dead on the cross and now is alive. It is those wounds that Jesus shows to the Father to still His wrath against our sins. And it is those wounds that He shows to you to comfort you against all sin and death. 

Jesus shows His wounds to His disciples. He shows them His hands and His side: the hands where the nails were driven to pin Him to the cross; the side that was pierced to prove that He was indeed dead. If there were no nail and spear holes, if there were no wounds, how could the disciples know that this was really the Jesus who had died? So when Jesus appears, He makes sure to show them where the nails and the spear were. And they rejoiced. They rejoiced because this was proof that the man standing in front of them was no impostor; He was the real Jesus who had been nailed to the cross and died there. Thomas wasn't there the first time; but when he heard about it, he would not believe until he saw the wounds for himself and put his fingers there just to be sure! So the Lord shows His wounds again. 

Jesus also shows His wounds to the Father. The wounds of Jesus tell His Father that you are forgiven. The wounds of Christ are the Lord's eternal reminder to the Father that you are no longer a target for punishment; you are a child of God. As long as Jesus has those wounds, the Father can never condemn you for your sins! After all, the wounds He suffered, the death He underwent, the scars He now bears, are for your sake. Jesus has those holes in Him for you. Jesus was pierced for your sins so that your sins will never pierce you. Jesus carries wounds because He carried your sins so that you won't have to bear them. Jesus, because He is God's Son, can do this. Our sins would kill us. They killed Jesus. But He is alive. And the proof is that the risen Christ who stands among His disciples bears those marks of His suffering death as glorious trophies of His triumph. 

 Jesus shows His wounds to you. He shows them to you by faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” You have not seen those wounds with your eyes. But John who was an eyewitness writes that you have victory over the world because of Jesus. You need this victory! This world and your own sins weigh you down. Everyone carries wounds and scars. Sometimes you still have the hurt from what others have done to you. Sometimes you bear the scars of guilt because of what you’ve done to others. Whether they are emotional or physical, your wounds and scars are reminders of the wages of sin. But Christ gives the victory against such things! His wounds of life defeat the power of death. His wounds are your refuge, a place to hide against the world. What can the world do to you? What can the devil say against you? What can your own scars and wounds do? Nothing! But the holes in Jesus' feet and hands and side stand as eternal witness that Christ has defeated the world; and His wounds are the marks of victory for you. 

Christ shows you His wounds by His gifts. You don't see the wounds like Thomas did, but you are shown them by His Word and Sacraments. When God's people complained that they had no hope, Ezekiel was given the vision of the dry bones which were brought back to life by the Spirit of God that was breathed into them. In the same way, when Jesus breathes on His disciples, He is giving them life, and He sends them to deliver the blessings of those wounds to you—first in Baptism, when the water that flowed from His side washed you clean; then in absolution and preaching, the words that apply His victory to your mind and heart; and finally in the Holy Supper of Christ, in which the body that was wounded for you and the blood that poured from those wounds is given you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. By these gifts, victory is yours! Death is overcome, and you have hope and comfort in all affliction. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the wounds of Jesus are a cause for rejoicing and celebration. They are the holes which prove to Thomas and the disciples that the Jesus who stands before them is the same one they saw crucified. The wounds of Jesus are your protection against the guilt and punishment of sin. Christ's holy wounds are your comfort against all sin and death. Hide there in His wounds! When death frightens you, look to the wounds of Jesus to know that death is powerless. When the devil stalks you, point him to the wounds which defeated Satan. Jesus is the Conqueror of sin and death. By His wounds, you are conquerors of sin and death. By His wounds, you will always recognize the victorious Lamb of God who was slain and reigns now for all eternity. By His wounds, you are healed. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sermon for 4/8/12--The Resurrection of Our Lord

Sorry for the delay.

Audio:

 


Text?  

Who Will Roll Away the Stone?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


It’s hard to miss the love and devotion that the women had for their Lord. Early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath, they bring expensive spices to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. Some of these women had been with Jesus for years, and they cared deeply about this man who had healed their hurts and forgiven their sins. But he was dead. What could they do but give Him a proper burial? As they are on the way to the tomb, the thought occurred to them, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Remember that the chief priests had insisted that the tomb be closed and sealed, so that the disciples could not come and steal the body. This was a large stone, and there was no way that three women could move this stone out of the way. In their grief they had forgotten.

It is very easy to forget that God is in control of our lives. This is especially true in the face of death and adversity. How many times had Jesus predicted that He would suffer, die for our sins, and rise again on the third day? How many times? The women knew the prophecies. They knew the story. But in their grief they could not dare to hope. I mean, it is a far-fetched prophecy, after all. And we do the same thing. Our grief, our fears, our sorrows keep us from believing what Jesus had prophesied. Jesus says that if you live and believe in Him, you will never die. Jesus says that His indestructible life is now yours in the waters of Holy Baptism. Jesus says that because He lives, you too will live. We would say with Paul, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Who will roll the stone away from our hearts?

As the women looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away! And as they entered the tomb, they saw an angel. And they were afraid. He said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” Death came through one man, Adam, so many years ago. That death was a result of sin. That sin, that horrible unbelief in a giving, loving God, it was that sin which had to be paid with a price. But not just any price. The price was death. My brothers and sisters in Christ, that price his been paid. Death has been defeated! As St. Paul wrote: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” If you look at the Christ of Good Friday, you see a man mocked, spat upon, with the sin of the whole world laid upon Him. He died for you. But what do you see this day? With the women we see the empty tomb. Christ has risen from the dead, and we rise with Him. That same Jesus who died is alive again. Who will roll the stone away from your heart to give you faith? The Holy Spirit has done so in Holy Baptism.

 So what does this mean for you today? Why does this matter? Is it simply a great story that we repeat year after year after year? No; this is more than a story. This is a reality that goes far deeper than any fairy tale. The Father placed the weight of sin upon His Son’s shoulders. When you look at your life and at yourself, you see sin and the stain of wrongdoing at every turn. But God takes those sins, and He put them upon Jesus. And so it is this morning that we with the women look into the tomb. Is Jesus still there? Are my sins still bound to me like cords of death? Does my life continue as if nothing has happened! No! For the Jesus before you today is risen from the dead! The stone is rolled away; death has no power anymore. And because He is risen from the dead, that stone is rolled away; your sins are gone! You are free! No more guilt, no more fear of death. Your sins are no longer with you; they are left in the tomb. But Christ is not there. Death has no more dominion over Him or over you. Christ is not in the tomb; He is risen! He is here, now, present with you who gather here in His name, present in His body and blood. Death is swallowed up in victory: victory for you; victory for all those who have died in the faith. There is victory and rejoicing this day, for Satan’s kingdom is overthrown and the grave no longer holds us captive. Jesus lives, and you have a hope that is stronger than death. You have a Savior who died and rose again. You have a God who wipes away tears, who knows your suffering better than you know it yourselves, and who will not leave you in the grave, dead in your sins. He is risen, and in the waters of Holy Baptism, He will raise you with Him.

Jesus’ resurrection is the certain and sure hope of your own eternal life. You are free from the power of death. You have been washed in baptismal waters, and you have risen with Him to live forever! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Sermon for 4/1/12--Palm Sunday (The Sunday of the Passion)

Audio:




Text:

Pilate, the Jews, and You

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


There are two reactions to Christ being sent to death. The first reaction is that of Pontius Pilate. He washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” It's not my fault. The Emperor told him to keep the peace. So he made a grand show of washing his hands and pretending he couldn't do anything to keep an innocent man from getting nailed to a cross. Sound familiar? “It's not my fault. Jesus' death wasn't caused by my sins. Well, maybe a little bit, but I’m not as bad as everyone else!” No, Pilate doesn’t get off the hook like that, and neither do you. You are responsible for sending Jesus to the cross. It was for your sins that He suffered and died. You can't say that the harsh words you said to someone aren't your fault. You can't get away with saying, “They did it first.” There is no claiming, “I'm not to blame,” or, “I have an excuse.” You sin against God and your neighbor all the time; and it is because of your sins that God is nailed to the tree. You don't get a pass just because your sins make you nervous.

The other reaction is that of the Jews. “His blood be on us and on our children!” They so hate and despise Jesus that they don't care if they are judged for killing God Himself. They hate God in the flesh so much that they want Him dead, and they'll gladly take the blame so long as it gets done. Pilate's answer is to claim innocence. The Jews' answer is to disregard sin. Even if they know it's wrong, they'll do it anyway. And that's your reaction too. “I know what I'm about to do is wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway. What matters now is what I want to do. I don't care if my sins killed Jesus. You can't tell me what to do!” How did that work for those called Christ’s blood upon themselves? Forty years later, the city of Jerusalem was leveled by the Romans and the inhabitants were slaughtered. How will it end for you if you disregard your sin?

Pontius Pilate and the Jews show us pictures of ourselves and how we react to the suffering and death of Jesus. And yet, what Pilate and the Jews say is true! Jesus goes to suffering and death to take away your sins. When Pilate says that He is innocent of this man's blood, by the grace of God, He really is! And when the Jews say that His blood should be on their heads, by the grace of God, it really is. And because He shed His blood for you, you are innocent of His death. God doesn't count your sins any longer as your own; they have become Jesus' sins. You are innocent, and He is made guilty. And His blood is on your head. It has been sprinkled upon your head in the waters of Holy Baptism. The blood brings you forgiveness which is preached into your ears and even given you to drink in the Sacrament.

For those who no longer desire to claim innocence or disregard their sin, the waters of Holy Baptism join you to the death of Jesus, a death that is caused by your sins. But even as Jesus rose from the dead, you rise from those waters of Baptism to new life in Christ, a washing that takes those sins away. They are no more. Understand this, dear brothers and sisters in Christ: it was your sins that sent Jesus to Calvary. But when He hung upon that cross, those sins were no longer your sins; they became His sin. And now, cleansed by the water and the blood which flowed from His pierced body, you have everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. It's not that you have gotten away with your sins, and it’s not as if your sins are not important. But your sins were taken away by your Savior. He took those sins upon Himself. He bore them the cross. He paid the wages you have earned with those sins. His blood is upon you by grace, and by His blood He has made you innocent. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.