Church in Bed: Why Leave Home on Sunday Mornings?

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Mark 1:14-20 – Repent & Believe

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Mark 1:14-20

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus calls the disciples by the sea16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John His brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

You have heard two of the shortest sermons recorded in Scripture this morning. From Jonah’s cry, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4) to Jesus’ proclamation, “The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jonah’s audience, the evil pagans of Nineveh, had an urgent timeline. Forty days is not a long time before annihilation. But Jesus’ call is even more urgent, “The time is fulfilled – the time is even now – and the reign of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.”

Jonah’s sermon is very incomplete. He gives no Gospel, delivers no forgiveness. He doesn’t proclaim God’s mercy, only God’s judgment. If the time ever comes when you hear me preaching sermon after sermon proclaiming only God’s coming judgment on sin, run me out of here! Remove me from being your pastor because your only getting half the story – less than half. That is not how a shepherd should treat his flock.

However, even though Jonah proclaims nothing but Law, judgment, and destruction, God speaks His Word through Jonah’s mouth to miraculously bring about repentance and faith in the Ninevites. That is how powerful God’s Word is. God works through His Word to do His work of bringing people to repentance and faith.

The king of Nineveh took a shot in the dark when it came to repentance. He said (Jon. 3:9), “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” For all they knew, God would still destroy their city even if they repented. The people of Nineveh could have simply taken on the slogan, “Let us eat, drink, and be merry for in 39 days we die.” They didn’t know God’s nature or character because Jonah didn’t tell them. Jonah didn’t mention that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy. But the Ninevites rolled the dice, and they did learn that God is merciful.

Jesus’ sermon is complete. Today, through my voice, Jesus says to you, “The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Small Catechism - Confession IconToday, God brings His kingdom, His rule, His reign in this place, in this city, this state, this world. Repent. Turn from your sin. Confess your sin. Do you know what that word confess means? It literally means ‘to say the same thing as.’ Every week, you come here and together we all say the same thing about ourselves and our sin as God says about us and our sin. We are poor sinners. We are, by nature, down to our core, sinful and unclean, unfit to be in God’s presence. Throughout the week, we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. You are damnable. I am damnable.

“Repent,” this is the command of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But this very command is not something we are able to do. We cannot repent. But this word, “Repent,” from Jesus creates exactly what it calls for. Don’t look at your repentance or confession as the part you have to do to be saved. Repentance is not your work (Act. 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). That’s a good thing. How could you ever know if you have really repented enough? Your sin is so bad that you are dead. Last I checked, dead people don’t do anything.

Think back to creation. When God said, “Let there be light,” light obeyed the word of God. God spoke into the void, and that which did not exist obeyed. When God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation,” it just happened. Plants, grass, and trees simply grew and produced fruit and seed. The very nature of God’s Word is that it creates, and it always creates what it calls for.

Jesus’ call to repent is the same. Spoken by the lips of Jesus, the command, “Repent,” creates the very repentance demanded. But it can and does, sadly, happen that some resist and defy God’s Word. “In between repentance and defiance is the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work” (Rev. Timothy Winterstein).

The same goes for Jesus’ command, “Believe the gospel.” By our own reason and strength, we cannot believe in Jesus Christ as Lord or come to Him. But the power of Jesus’ word creates belief and faith as the Spirit works. A simple word from Jesus moves the dead to life. The living Gospel brings life to the dead.

The people of Nineveh didn’t know what would happen if they repented; Jonah didn’t even tell them to repent. But you know. Jesus gives the Gospel because He is the Gospel. He is the one who miraculously took away your sins through His death on the cross.

You are here because of Jesus. Jesus’ call to Andrew and Simon and James and John has left the shores of the sea of Galilee and echoes through the millennia to you here today. Jesus calls you just as He called them, “Follow Me.” Though I do have to say that translation is too clean. Literally, Jesus says, “Com’ere [sic], behind Me.” And, now, here you are – behind Jesus.

Small Catechism - Jesus on Trial IconLiving in repentance and faith and being behind Jesus means you are different. The time is short, and the present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:29, 31). Jesus has called you out of this world to be behind Him wherever He goes. Where He goes proclaiming the Gospel, you also go. You go freed from having to live as though the things of this world matter. You can walk through the things of this world knowing that nothing matters except that you are repentant, believing, and behind Jesus.

You know that Jesus has placed you behind Him living with your spouse, your children, your jobs, and your stuff as salt and light. You are in this world now as God’s own child, repentant and forgiven. Living in the present reign of God, and being His voice calling others into His reign. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

John 1:43-51 – Greater Things

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John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Again, these words of Jesus, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

I want to tell you a nasty story. It is about a whole family that was sneaking around and backstabbing each other. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons – Esau and Jacob. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob (Gen. 25:28). Esau and Jacob had been fighting since they were in Rebekah’s womb. Two brothers fighting is hardly a new phenomenon, but this was bigger than a typical sibling rivalry. Jacob and his mother Rebekah had plotted to lie to Isaac in order to steal Esau’s blessing. They planned every last detail. Rebekah would cook Isaac’s favorite meal, like Esau would have prepared. Isaac had become blind in his old age, so Rebekah told Jacob to wear animal skins so that he would feel hairy like his brother Esau. Rebekah even had Jacob put on some of Esau’s cloths so that Jacob would smell like Esau.

When Jacob came into Isaac’s room to steal the blessing, Isaac was unsure at first. He recognized the voice as Jacob’s. But twice Jacob lied, insisting that he was Esau. When Isaac felt the hairy animal skins, which felt like Esau, and when he smelled Esau’s cloths, he took the bait and blessed Jacob.

When Esau found out, he was so enraged that he decided he would kill his brother. But Rebekah heard about Esau’s plot. She told Jacob to flee to her relatives who lived far north.

With his life in danger, Jacob flees alone with only the cloths on his back. When the sun set, Jacob stopped. He lied down to sleep with a rock for his pillow. His own actions had brought him to this lonely place. His head is filled with regrets, and his future is one of fear. Finally, he falls asleep and has a dream – a strange dream.
In this dream, JaJacob's Laddercob sees a ladder touching the earth and reaching up to heaven. On that ladder, angels ascend and descend – up and down, down and up. From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth. Jacob sees the bridge between Creator and creature. He hears God speak to him.

God had watched as Jacob maliciously plotted with his mother, stole from his brother, lied to his father, and ran away. So what would you expect God would say to little, wretched Jacob? Something like, “You little twerp, you’ve really done it now. You’re alone, alienated from your family. You have a rock for a pillow. But you sure do deserve it.” But God doesn’t say anything like that.

Listen to what God actually says, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your grandfather and the God of Isaac your father. I am your God too. I am with you. I will keep you wherever you go. I will give you so many offspring that they will be like the dust of the earth. And in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. I will not leave you until I have done all that I have promised you.”

After this, Jacob woke up. He set up that stone that he used as a pillow as a pillar, and named that place Bethel – “house of God.” That very spot became a place of worship for the people of Israel when they were taking possession of the Promised Land. The Israelites knew that when you worshiped at Bethel, at the “house of God,” God was present there.

Jacob’s dream is what Jesus is referring to when He tells Nathaniel and the other disciples (the ‘you’ here is plural) ”Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nathaniel was impressed when Jesus knew about him before they even met – so impressed that he confesses that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel. But that’s just the beginning of what Nathaniel and the other disciples will see. They will see that Jesus is what Jacob’s ladder was pointing to. They will see the reality of what Jacob saw in a dream. They will see what it actually looks like when God makes His house on earth. They will see that Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, is the link between heaven and earth, between God and man. They will see that Jesus has fused heaven and earth together in His very body (Rev. Chad Bird).

Nathaniel and the disciples saw many miracles: Jesus turning water into wine, feeding the hungry, cleansing lepers, making the lame to walk, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead. But they saw and heard even greater things than these. They heard God Himself forgiving sins. They ate Jesus’ very body and blood. They saw God delivering Himself into the hands of evil, wicked men. They saw God die. They saw God’s corpse placed into the ground. They saw Jesus raised from the dead. They saw the physical body of Christ ascend into heaven.

Jesus Cross Heaven & EarthJesus has come and heaven is opened to you. Heaven is just a short ladder away. A ladder with one rung – the ladder of the cross. Through the cross, Jesus has united heaven and earth. Even if you may not see it with your eyes, you see it through faith. When you were baptized, when you eat and drink Communion, when you receive the absolution, or listen to a sermon, heaven is open. You hear the voice of your heavenly Father.

Just as God knew what Jacob had done – all his deceit, all his trickery, all this thieving – God knows what you have done too. He knows your treachery. He knows your hatred toward your neighbor and brothers and sisters. He knows all your malicious thoughts and intents. And yet, He still died for you. He still forgives you. He promises to be with you wherever you go and bless you. He promises to be your God, and He will never leave you or forsake you. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Mark 1:4-11 – God, Water, Death, & Life

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Mark 1:4-11

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.

7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Baptism of Christ - Theophany9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I’m not a person who enjoys taking a bath. Maybe once every other year, I’ll take a bath to relax, but not to get clean. For one thing, I’m too tall to fit nicely in a bathtub. But mostly, I don’t feel clean after a bath. Showers, now, showers are great – the water washes the dirt right down the drain. With a bath, you just sit in your own filth.

Imagine though, taking a bath in someone else’s used bathwater. It’s not really a nice thought, is it? We are blessed with plenty of clean water in our country so we don’t have to even consider doing that in an attempt to make ourselves clean.

In our Gospel text, John the Baptizer is doing his thing – baptizing and preaching. John came on the scene preaching a baptism which led to and resulted in repentance. Sometimes this gets turned around by people with a theological agenda. John was not baptizing people because they were repentant. Instead, the baptism they received brought the people to repentance (the grammar here makes it very clear, so does Mt. 3:11). Jesus' BaptismPeople heard John’s preaching, got baptized, and became repentant people. A lot of people did. “All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” That’s a lot of people.

Men, women, children, and even infants (unless there were no infants in all of Judea and Jerusalem) were all going out to be baptized by John and going home repentant people. They came and their sins were washed away in the waters of the Jordan.

Now, imagine having the eyes of God and seeing all the sins of all the people of Judea and Jerusalem mucking up the Jordan River. It would be a cesspool. The Parks & Rec. Department should shut down the beach and send everyone home. They would call in teams wearing hazmat suits to get the clean-up effort started. The headlines would read, “Jordan River Becomes Toxic with Sin.”

Now, here comes Jesus to the Jordan River, and He is here to be baptized. John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized. Mark doesn’t record it this, but Matthew does. John said (Mt. 3:14), “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? This isn’t right, Jesus. What do You think You’re doing?”

John is thinking like we do. We think that God must stay separate from sinners. Sinners should have to move to God – not the other way around. But Jesus is not going to hear of it. Jesus is here to be with sinners, to stand next to us, to identify with us. Jesus will be baptized. He will go down to those sin infested waters and be washed.

But unlike the sinners coming to John, Jesus has nothing to be repentant of. Jesus is not washed to remove His sins and make Him repentant – just the opposite. Like a filter, Jesus sucks all the sin, all of the filth, all of the muck out of the water into Himself. Jesus takes on all that has gone wrong with us, all our sins. God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for your sake.

We often think of Jesus bearing our sin on the cross, and He did. But His baptism is where He began to be the sin-bearing Messiah. John says as much later. When he tells people about the time he baptized Jesus, he says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

In His baptism, Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in Is. 53:11 that God’s Servant, God’s righteous One, shall bear their iniquities. In His baptism, Jesus takes your sin and the sin of the whole world so He could bear that sin to the cross and to the grave.

And now you who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into His death. That’s right. In your baptism, you have already died the only death that will have any lasting significance for you. God uses the waters of your baptism to put you to death with Jesus – but no so He can leave you there. Because remember what happened to dead Jesus. He rose again. If you die with Jesus, you certainly will rise with Jesus.

Jesus' Baptism Spirit DescendsSo there is Jesus, in those sin-filled waters, receiving a sinner’s baptism. He comes out of the waters and God shows up, and God shows up violently. Immediately the heavens were torn open. But it doesn’t stay violent. Normally, when God shows up like this, people are falling to the ground in fear. But instead of fear and trembling in the presence of God, a dove, a sign of peace, descends. The Holy Spirit comes in peace and descends, literally, “into” Jesus. And the voice of God says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

God’s pleasure and delight is in His Son, Jesus. And that is where you are. “As many of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

God is not far off. He is not aloof. He is not separate. In fact, God has come straight to you. He walked right up to you and took your sin. Jesus was baptized to become your sin-bearer. Where your sins are is where Jesus is. And where Jesus’ righteousness is, is where you are (Nagel).

Jesus has taken every last thing that is wrong with you. He has taken it away and, in return, He has given you His righteousness. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 Kings 3:1-15 – The Folly of Wisdom

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1 Kings 3:1-15

1 Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.

3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, when he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I remember watching the movie Aladdin as a kid. You know the story of the street rat stumbling upon a magic lamp and being granted three wishes by Robin Williams – I mean a genie. I remember daydreaming about what I would do if I was ever granted three wishes. Visions of piles of money, a huge mansion, and a peaceful life distracted my grade-school mind from long division; participles, infinitives, and gerunds; and plant science. In the movie, Aladdin decides that two wishes are enough for himself, and he promises to use his third wish to free the genie. You can certainly get a lot with two wishes. Most people would even be happy with one wish. One wish, rightly used, could solve most, if not all, your problems.

Solomon has just taken over as king. He blows out the candles on his coronation cake, and God tells him to ask for anything. “At Gibeon Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’”

Solomon Asks God for WisdomNow, Solomon could have used a lot of things. Solomon was not David’s oldest son. Several of his brothers were in line before him to sit on the throne of David. But David chose Solomon to be king after him. The previous chapter, 1 Kings 2, is filled with Solomon wading through the mess of killing people who opposed him and David. It’s not easy becoming king. Solomon could have really used wealth and power to his advantage, as any new, young king could. But Solomon puts power and wealth to the side.

To our worldly minds, it looks like a mistake. It looks like Solomon wastes the biggest opportunity of his life. The all-powerful God of the universe says that He will give Solomon anything, but Solomon throws all worldly things away. He doesn’t ask for riches or power or fame. Solomon lets all those things go.

Instead, Solomon remembers how God had dealt with his father, David. Remember who Solomon’s mother was and how she became the king’s wife? David had lusted after Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, while she was another man’s wife. David got Bathsheba pregnant, and to cover up his sin, he murdered her husband. But God was merciful and gracious toward David forgiving him of these terrible sins. And God showered David with great and steadfast love and mercy. And Solomon remembers all of that first and foremost.

Now when God tells Solomon to ask Him for anything, Solomon doesn’t treat God as just a magic genie who will grant one wish and go back into his lamp to sleep for a thousand years. Instead, he knows that his God is merciful and gracious. That’s a good kind of God to have around. So Solomon asks for an understanding mind.

Solomon recognizes that he is king only because of God’s great and steadfast love. He recognizes his inadequacies to be king and humbles himself. He asks God to give him discernment to govern God’s great people. By itself, this request shows wisdom, and it pleased God.

God grants Solomon’s request, and God says He will add even more. As icing on the cake, God says that He will, willy-nilly, throw in the riches and honor that Solomon didn’t ask for.

Now, I’d be a terrible preacher if I ended the sermon here and said, “Now, go be like Solomon.” You know what happens to Solomon. He is blessed with wisdom, and his wisdom makes him world-famous (1 Kgs. 10:24), but he recognizes the emptiness of wisdom and fame (Ecc. 1:12-18). Solomon is blessed with riches, but he wrote later that he was never satisfied with the wealth that God gave him (Ecc. 4:8, 6:1-2). Even a long life was not a blessing to Solomon. He said that, since he found no satisfaction in the good things God gave him, a stillborn child is better off than he was (Ecc. 6:3).

Wisdom is a gift from God, but wisdom itself is not the doorway to peace with God. Wealth is a gift from God, but all the riches in the world will not buy your way into eternal life. Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, fame, honor, and power distracted him. Through his life, Solomon forgot that God was the source of those blessings. As his grew older, Solomon saw the emptiness and vanity of all these good gifts from God.

So where should the sermon go from here?

Scripture speaks of another wisdom in 1 Cor. 2:7, a secret and hidden wisdom from God that looks foolish to the world. “In the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, [therefore] it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). This wisdom is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is the wisdom that looks past the foolishness of God saving humanity through the death of a Man on a cross.

Passion of Christ on the CrossReal wisdom finds God where He has said He is – even when it sounds foolish. Wisdom sees the King of kings born not in a capitol city but in the little town of Bethlehem. Wisdom finds the Good Shepherd not hunting wolves and bears but hidden in the manger. Wisdom sees a helpless infant as the Creator of the universe. Wisdom sees the death of a carpenter’s Son on a cross as the way God punishes of the sin of the world. Wisdom sees the emptiness of a tomb and believes that guilt is gone.

Anyone can see God’s power by looking around at creation. But only through faith can anyone see God delivering His grace through something as simple as the Word and Sacraments. Only by faith, can we find God working through bread and wine to forgive sins. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.