Holy, Holy, Holy, Atoning Lord – Isaiah 6:1-8

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Isaiah 6:1-8

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Isaiah 6 Burning Coal4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We can invent all sorts of excuses for sin. The dog ate my homework. He hit me first. I didn’t see the speed limit change back there. I just thought you should know. I didn’t think you’d find out. Everyone else is doing it. The devil made me do it. I didn’t do it. When all the evidence points to us being guilty, we try to find a way around it. We try to hide the evidence. We try to discredit the accusations. We try to hide the sin. We try to hide ourselves because we know we are guilty. We know we are unclean.

But you cannot hide from God. The God who is holy, holy, holy is inescapable. You cannot block His calls or flee His jurisdiction. The whole earth is full of His awesome and terrifying glory. You cannot dodge God the Father. He created the universe. He knows every step you take, every molecule you breathe, every thought you think. You cannot hide from God the Son. He is coming on the clouds and every eye will see Him. Jesus’ blood has stained your hands and my hands, and it cannot be washed off. You cannot elude God the Holy Spirit. He has come to convict the world concerning sin and judgment. And the Spirit will knock down any barrier you set up to avoid Him.

Isaiah experienced this when he stood in the presence of God. As Isaiah saw the Lord sitting high upon the throne, as he gazed at the train of God’s royal robe filling the temple, as he watched the flaming seraphim with their six wings, as he heard the chorus, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” as he felt the foundations of the thresholds shake, as his nostrils were filled with smoke, his excuses became invalid. All evidence pointed to Isaiah being a guilty man. Isaiah knew his guilt. He knew that all his alibis and excuses would not clear him of his damned lips. The presence of God was not a comfort – it was a terror he could not escape. All that was left for Isaiah to do was to cry out, “Woe is me! For I am lost. I am undone. I am unmade.”

Crying to GodToday, you have come into this sanctuary and into presence of the holy, holy, holy Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, no, you didn’t see a vision of God high and lifted up. You can’t see flaming seraphim. You don’t feel the foundations of the thresholds shake. But God is here. Today’s Psalm (29) spoke about it. The glory, majesty, strength, and splendor of God’s holiness fills this place. God sits enthroned forever. His voice flashes forth flames of fire. The Word of God strips the forests bare. And we here in this sanctuary have cried, “Glory!” And the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a terrifying thing for you and I who are sinners.

The glory and holiness of God sheds light upon our sin. All alibis and excuses are revealed to be utter nonsense. We stand before God with unclean lips. We stand before God with defiled hands. We stand before God with depraved hearts and minds. We stand before the holy, holy, holy God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And our sin has made Him our enemy.

So what is left for us to do? All our avenues of escape are cut off. All our excuses are gone, and all our alibis have failed. Where can we flee? Like Isaiah, we flee from God by running to God. Why would we do that?

Flee from God to God because of what He has said. In our Gospel lesson (Jn. 3:1-17), Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Flee to God because God the Father who created you, doesn’t throw you away because you are a sinner. God formed you to be His own child. He created you to love you and to share with you all of His good things. So the Father sent God the Son. Jesus was sent to live a holy life free of sin. He lived this perfect life for you. And Jesus died for you. He was pierced for you. His body was broken for you. His blood was shed to cover you. On the cross, Jesus bled out your forgiveness and pardon and life, and He proclaimed that you are innocent. And God the Son handed this innocent verdict to the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit comforts you with the Word of God which declares that because of Jesus you are innocent, righteous, sanctified, and holy.

How can you know this is true for you? Isaiah had a seraph come to him with a burning coal to touch his lips. But God hasn’t purified you with fire. Instead, He has made you pure with water. Baptism 2In your baptism, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has washed away your sins. In the waters of your baptism, the holy blood of Jesus covered you and made you holy. In the waters of your baptism, all evidence of your sin was washed away in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In your baptism, you were given the right to no longer fear the holiness of God.

And God continues to remind you of your baptism. God has sent this minister to declare to you that your sin is atoned for. Like the seraphim who had to cover themselves, this minister doesn’t have the right to be in the presence of God either. But God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has sent me – a forgiven sinner – to forgive your sins in the stead and by the command of Christ. And God continues to feed you and your faith. He gives you the very body of Christ to enter your body. He gives you the blood of Christ poured over your lips and coursing through your veins.

You do not have to run anymore. When the glory, majesty, and holiness of God is present, you can stand there and know that you belong there because God has made you worthy. When God comes you can know that there is your Father, your Brother, and your Comforter. You don’t have to make up excuses. You have the right to forget that your fear of God ever existed. Now, in the glory and majesty and holiness of God, all evidence of your sin is gone. You stand holy and righteous in the presence of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

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Ezekiel 37:1-14 – O Spirit, Breathe on These Slain, That They May Live

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. Valley of Dry Bones Skeleton Ezekiel3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the  word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Femurs, tibias, and fibulas. Humeri, radiuses, and ulnas. Carpals, metacarpals, tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges. Pelvises, ribs, sternums, and skulls. The valley was full of them – many of them. And they were dry – very dry. Frozen in death, the bones cried out, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost. We are indeed cut off.” Dead. Dry. No resources, no motivation, no plan, no hope. Only despair.

Surrounded by the dead, dry, and dusty skeletons, Ezekiel must have asked God, “Why have You brought me to this defiled valley? Where did all these dry bones come from? What happened here and why?” But one question rose above his own. In the presence of all that decay and deadness, the most haunting question comes from God Himself, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

Miracle MaxIf you have seen the movie, The Princess Bride, you will remember Miracle Max talking about different categories of deadness. Miracle Max was able to revive “mostly dead” Wesley, but he said there is only one thing you can do when someone is all dead – go through their pockets for loose change.

God asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Well, God had raised the widow’s son through the prophet Elijah. But he was “recently dead.” These bones before Ezekiel were really dead, hopelessly dead. “Son of man, can these bones live? Is there still hope for even these bones?”

“O, Yahweh God, You know.”

“Preach over the bones. Tell those bones to hear the word of Yahweh.”

Preach to bones? This would not be a sermon to a sleeping congregation. This worse than Isaiah’s call to preach to people who had ears but could not hear. This goes beyond any of that. Preach to a bunch of empty, hollow skulls. What if they don’t listen? This congregation is hopeless.

“Preach over the bones. Tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will join your bones with sinews and ligaments. I will put muscle over your bones. I will fill your torso with organs. I will cause blood to flow through your veins. I will cover you with flesh and skin. I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel preaches. As that sermon echoed through that dead, dry valley, the Word of God came to those dry bones. The bones were changed through that Word. A loud sound, a rattling fills the valley. Before Ezekiel is a bunch of perfectly formed yet lifeless bodies. “Well God, it kinda worked.”

Yahweh says, “I’m not done, keep preaching. Prophesy to the breath (A quick side note, ‘spirit,’ ‘wind’ and ‘breath’ are all the same Hebrew word in this text); prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” Ezekiel preaches as God tells him, and the breath, the spirit, came into them. They lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Life comes to the valley of bones. Out of despair and hopelessness comes a fighting force. Strange event. Strange sermon. Strange congregation. But as odd and peculiar as this passage from Ezekiel is, it is  not unique. In fact, you essentially heard the same story twice today.

In our text from Acts [2:1-21], the day of Pentecost arrived. People from every tribe, language, and nation were visiting Jerusalem. They came together when they heard the sound of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter PreachingThey all stood there as people who were alive with bones, sinews, organs, muscles, skin, and flesh. But there was no Spirit within them. But as the apostles spoke in other languages, the living dead heard the mighty acts of God in their native tongues. And the Holy Spirit gave Peter a sermon to preach. He preached to those people who lived but were dead. Each of them heard in their own language of the death and resurrection of Christ. The end result that day was that more than 3,000 souls were added to the number of God’s army.

But God still isn’t done. There are still more dead to raise. There are more soldiers to be added to God’s army. God still has more sermons to preach to the dead so they can be raised to life.

You and I are dead in our trespasses and sins. We have dead hands that have clicked on images and videos that fill our skulls with death. Those dead hands have neglected to help our neighbors when possible.  We have dead jawbones that have been used to speak gossip and lies about others. We have dead feet that have brought us to places we should not have gone. We have dead hearts that coldly withhold love and forgiveness.

Yet, here is God once again. He has sent a preacher with nothing but a sermon. Let me tell you something, this preacher often wonders if a sermon is able to bring life out of death. A preacher who, when asked if these bones can live, has no answer but, “O Lord God, You know.”

Yet, as the Word of God is proclaimed here in this valley of death, the Spirit of God is at work to create. The Word of God is always creative. The Word carries with it the power to call into existence that which does not exist.

The ResurrectionSo hear again, you bones, the Word of God. Your Savior has atoned for your sin. Christ Jesus has passed from death to life. Through God’s Word, He breathes on you today. His breath is His life-giving Spirit. By your own reason and strength, you cannot believe in Jesus Christ, your Lord. But the Holy Spirit is here now calling you through the Gospel, enlightening you with His gifts, and sanctifying and preserving you in the one true faith. He daily forgives abundantly all your sins. And at the last day, He will raise up you and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to you and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true. Amen.

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

John 17:11-19 – Holy Aliens, Batman!

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John 17:11-19

Jesus is the Vine11 “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Make a list of the most important days in the Church. Make a ListYou probably start with Christmas Good Friday, and Easter, of course. Maundy Thursday might come next. Throw Pentecost in there too. But then what? Tap your pencil on your notepad a few of times, and scratch your head. Think through the Apostle’s Creed. You confess that Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day, He rose again from the dead.” Well, you’ve hit all those, and Pentecost comes up when you get to the Third Article, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” But notice that your list has skipped over the Ascension. “[Jesus] ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

The Ascension is easy to miss as an important day in the Church year because it occurs f Jorty days after Easter and always falls on a Thursday. I will admit that the celebration of the Ascension wasn’t on my radar until the last few of years, but that was my loss. I hope, after today, the last scene of Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Scriptures will rise in importance for you because the Ascension is an amazing but fitting end to Jesus first visit to earth.

The New Testament shows us an odd Savior – an other-worldly Savior. If Jesus were a lifeguard, the story would go something like this: A lifeguard, sitting up in his stand sees a body floating lifeless in the surf. He jumps off his stand and quickly swims out to the victim. But instead of rescuing the person and swimming back to the shore, he drowns. Three days later, the lifeguard rises from the dead and proclaims that everything – including the now-buried, drowned victim – is hunky-dory. Forty days later, the lifeguard disappears.[1] If you don’t like that, I’m sorry. It doesn’t make sense to me either. But it is the Jesus we have been given.

All of Jesus’ ministry makes no worldly sense at all. The Savior of the world is born to a peasant, teenage virgin, raised as a carpenter, baptized in the sin-filled waters of the Jordan, tempted by the devil, and rejected by the religious people of His day. Jesus is condemned under a provincial Roman governor, nailed to a piece of wood. He is deader than dead and buried in a tomb. But then, after three days, He rises again from the dead. Jesus appears for forty days to His disciples to prove that He is truly risen from the dead. But resurrected Jesus doesn’t stay around. He does not go on a publicity tour appearing on Meet the Press, The Tonight Show, and Oprah. Instead, Jesus ascends into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God. A strange, other-worldly ministry to save you and make you an other-worldly people.

As strange and other-worldly as it is, Jesus’ ascension does not mean that Jesus is absent from us. To say that would contradict Jesus. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20). The Ascension means that Jesus is with us even more powerfully now than when people could physically see Him.

Ascension of JesusRisen Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father. God’s right hand is not a particular place that we can think of. Instead, it is representative of the whole power of the omnipotent God. Jesus is where all God’s power and authority is, and He promises that He is with you. He is with you always. And He is with you even to the end of the age. Because He is going to the Father, Jesus prays this prayer, He speaks these things, for you so that you may have His joy fulfilled in you – even while you live as an alien in this sin-filled, hostile world.

This prayer of Jesus is for your encouragement. Jesus prays, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name.” Because of your sin, you are prone to wonder and stray from God. But you are kept in God’s name by the Word Jesus has given you. Jesus prays that you would be sanctified, made holy, in God’s truth. God’s Word is truth which has made and continues to make you holy. Once you were in darkness but now you are in Christ, the light of the world. Once you were not a people, now you are a people holy and blameless in the sight of the Lord. Your old has passed away and the forgiveness of Jesus has made you new. All of this is pure gift, a gift given you when you were baptized into the triune name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And the world hates you because of it. Yet, Jesus does not ask the Father to take you out of the world but that you would be kept safe from the evil one. The devil and the world hate you and attack you because you are alien and holy. The devil and the world want to destroy you and your faith which makes you holy. Sin has corrupted this world, and even your presence makes the world hate you because you have been made holy. Holiness reminds the world of their sinfulness. The world doesn’t like that, so the world is going to persecute you. Persecution is coming and it is here. We should not be surprised when we meet it.

Blessings from the CrossBrothers and sisters, Jesus says we are in the world, but we are not of the world – an important distinction. Jesus does not call you to change the world. The only thing that can change this world is Christ’s death and resurrection which has already redeemed us and all of creation. But that doesn’t mean that we can just sit back and relax either. We must speak out against sin. But even more importantly, we must announce the forgiveness that Jesus’ death and resurrection has won. We are kept in this world to be evidence of God’s forgiveness. Our lives are witness to the grace and mercy we have received in Christ. The Word which makes us holy is the Word of forgiveness that we are left in this world to proclaim.

And through all of this, Jesus asks the Father that you be kept in the world safe from the evil one. And you will be kept safe. You are Christ’s holy aliens left here to do holy work. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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

[1] Illustration from R. F. Capon.

John 15:9-17 – Abide in My Love

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John 15:9-17

Blessings from the Cross9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Husbands, when was the last time you told your bride, “You are my wife, if you keep the house spotless, have supper ready at 6:00, and let me go fishing on Mother’s Day”? Wives, when was the last time you told your groom, “You are my husband, if you let me go shopping every day, send me for weekly spa treatments, and do everything I tell you”? Parents, when was the last time you told your children, “You are my kids, if you make your bed every morning, keep your room clean, and do your homework on your own”? Hopefully, the answer is, “Never. I’d never say something like that to my spouse or kids.” If you have, let me know after the service. We’ll set up a time for private confession and absolution.

Jesus’ words in v. 13, are well-known, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” But did you catch what Jesus said In v. 14? “You are my friends, if you do what I command you.” If anyone besides Jesus ever said this to us, we would ask, “How petty can you be? What kind of friendship is that?”

Last year, one of my children (who shall remain nameless so I don’t have to pay her for using this illustration), this child had a lot of ”girl drama” in her four-year-old preschool class. The girls in the class would get on each other’s nerves one way or another, and the constant threat was, “If you keep doing [whatever],” or, “If you don’t do [whatever], I won’t invite you to my birthday party.” Many tears were shed at our house over all hostage parties. But I am sure my child was not innocent either.

“You are My friends, if you do what I command you.” Those words should be enough to scare us straight. Jesus – the Man who can cast out demons, heal diseases, feed the hungry, and raise the dead – He’s a good friend to have. And He only gives one command, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” You would think we would trip over ourselves to obey Him. “Sure Jesus, whatever You say, I’ll do it. You want me to love others, I’ll do that. I will obey Your command so that I can be Your friend.” And yet, we don’t obey Jesus. We do not love one another.

Sinful Tree PersonThe disciples didn’t either. Remember, Jesus is speaking these words to the disciples just moments before He is betrayed and delivered to be crucified. The disciples did a poor job of loving Jesus that night. They did not stay awake and watch with Jesus even one hour as He prayed. The disciples all fled, abandoning Jesus when He was arrested. When a little servant girl asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples, he denied it three times.

Did that cause Jesus to wipe His hands of the disciples? Did Jesus refuse to go to the cross for those unloving, faithless disciples? No! Jesus knew all of this would happen. In fact, moments before Jesus spoke these words of our text, He told the disciples they would all fall away (Mt. 26:31).

Moments before the disciples’ greatest failure, Jesus says to them, “I have called you friends.” Some friends they proved to be. Their friendship failed Jesus, and they fell away. But Jesus loved the disciples. He called them friends. He laid His life down for them, and He lays down His life for you because He loves you. And Jesus makes sure He puts this love in the proper order, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.”

With these words, Jesus is calling both the disciples and us to faith. These verses are all about faith, even though Jesus doesn’t say the word ‘faith’ a single time. We hear Jesus talking about commandments, and our sinful minds can only think about all the, “Thou shalt,” and, “Thou shalt not’s.” But all God’s commands are first eternal truths that must be believed.

Actions are the fruit of belief. We first must believe God’s word in His commandments before we can obey. Adam and Eve failed to believe God when He said, “In the day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.” It was their unbelief that resulted in the action of eating.

When God created Adam and Eve, He said that they were good and needed nothing more to be complete. But Satan told them that they could be something more, something better – they could be like God. They believed Satan rather than God. They took from the tree and ate. They did become something more. After they ate, they knew what evil was, but it was not better.

Look at all the wonderful things Jesus says to you. He says, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love. Remain connected to me, connected to My love and My promises.”

“Abide in My love.” Jesus does not say, “Work really hard, do everything I command you. Then and only then will you earn My love.” Jesus says we are already in His love. He is the vine; you are the branches. But we do not believe Him. We think that we have to do all sorts of things to earn the love of God. We think that God’s love of us is contingent on our actions.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the wolrdGod’s love for us is not contingent upon our actions. Jesus has already laid down His life for you. Because He was crucified for you, you know that He loves you. He loved you while you were still His enemy. While you were a sinner, Christ died for you (Ro. 5:8). Jesus commands you to do nothing more than believe that His death is for you. Jesus commands you to do nothing more than abide in His love.

When our epistle text (1 Jn. 5:1-8) says that God’s commands are not burdensome, it is true. All of God’s commands are simply to believe what is He says is true.

So believe Jesus when He says that you are His friends, even when you don’t see yourself being especially friendly to Jesus. Believe Jesus when He tells you that already you are clean because of the word that He has spoken to you because God’s word always creates what it says. Believe Jesus when He tells you that He loves you as the Father loves Him because it is true. Believe Jesus when He tells you that you did not chose Him, but that He chose you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that would abide.

All these things Jesus has spoken. He has promised and you can believe. That faith will result in the fruit of love for one another because it is the natural fruit of abiding in His love. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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

John 15:1-8 – Abide, Bear Fruit, & the Father is Glorified

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John 15:1-8

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I am in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

VinesVines, vines, vines all over the place. Scripture is literally crawling with vines. Jesus is making a big statement in these verses – calling Himself the “true vine.” So we’re going to take a little time  to see how God speaks about His vine in the Old Testament.

First, Psalm 80:8-18 talks about the people of Israel as a vine. This vine was brought out of Egypt, and God drove out the pagan people to plant it. The vine took deep root in the ground and filled the land. Isaiah 5:1-7 picks up the imagery and talks about the vine. God planted Israel on a very fertile hill. God cleared the ground of stones and put a watchtower to guard it. But when God looked for His vine to yield grapes, it produced a bunch of wild, garbage grapes.

So you have this picture of Israel being a choice vine, planted in the perfect place. But they did not produce fruit like they should. God says that He was looking for the fruit of justice, but found bloodshed. He looked for the fruit of righteousness, but there was an outcry (Is. 5:7). So God destroys the vineyard. The vine is reduced to a stump. God breaks down the walls of protection, allows thorns and briers grow up, and commands that the clouds do not send rain upon the vineyard.

But later in Isaiah 11:1, God promised that a shoot would come from that stump. And in Isaiah 53:2, God said that His servant would grow up like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.

So when Jesus says, “I am the true vine” He is saying that He is the fulfillment of what Israel failed to be. Jesus is the vine who grows where nothing should be able to grow.

Around the dead stump of the cross, Jesus was wrapped like a vine. The bark of Jesus’ skin was torn by a whip. His growth was strangled by a crown of thorns. Jesus was scorched and blackened by God’s wrath against your sin. And His lifeless body was tossed into the ground. But, of course, Jesus, the true vine, grew up from the earth. He rose again.

Jesus, the true vine, has continued to grow and spread out His branches to all the earth. And now, Jesus, the true vine, bears and sustains the branches that do bear good fruit.

“I am the true vine,” says Jesus, “you are the branches.” Jesus speaks about two types of branches – branches that bear fruit and branches that do not bear fruit. According to Jesus, there is only life and death. Either you are alive, joined to Jesus, and bearing fruit, or you are dead, apart from Jesus, and withering.

Carry this analogy out: There are no plants that have branches that are sometimes connected and sometimes not connected. You cannot be connected to Jesus sometimes and disconnected other times. You either are connected or not connected – no middle ground. Unless you are connected to Jesus and His gifts, you wither and die.

Jesus is the VineBut Jesus promises, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” Seven times in these nine verses, Jesus uses that word ‘abide.’ We don’t use that word very often anymore. But Jesus, your source of life, your true vine, invites you to abide in Him. Grow in and with Him as He delivers everything you need for life. Remain connected to Him where you receive nourishment. Stick with Him through the good and bad seasons of life. And you absolutely will bear fruit.

If you abide in Jesus, you are bearing fruit. Maybe you are having a hard time seeing your fruit. That doesn’t matter. You are not the judge of your own fruit, neither is anyone else. God the Father will take care of that.

But notice that all branches do get cut. Branches that do not bear fruit are cut off and taken away because they are dead. They wither and are thrown into the fire and burned. Branches that bear fruit are pruned. I’m not a plant (obvious statement of the day). But I would assume that getting pruned isn’t the most pleasant experience for a branch. Being pruned might not be pleasant, but it will cause you to bear more fruit. Jesus says the Father prunes you. He cuts off all your sinful dead weight so that you will produce even more fruit.

This pruning takes place through the Word of Christ. If you want to abide in Jesus, abide in His Word. The Father uses that Word to clean you so that you will bear more fruit. And this is so cool. Please, if you haven’t listened to anything else in this sermon, listen to this. Jesus says that every branch that does bear fruit the Father prunes. Then, Jesus says, “Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” The word ‘clean’ there in v. 3 is the same word Jesus uses that gets translated ‘prune’ in v. 2.

Blessings from the CrossSoak up the Word of God. Read it daily. Come here and drink God’s Word as it comes through the songs, hymns, liturgy, readings, and sermons. Let the rain of your baptism, which is water connected with the Word, precipitate through your whole life. Open your lips to receive the nourishing sap of Christ’s body and blood given in bread and wine.

You will bear fruit. Jesus promises. And this fruit brings glory to your Heavenly Father. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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