Jeremiah 33:14-16 – The King’s Secure City

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

God promises that a new King will rule rightly and justly over a secure city which will be called ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ This promise came even as the city of God’s people sat besieged and surrounded by enemies. From our Gospel text, Jesus says, “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life” (Lk. 21:34). In the days of Jeremiah, the cares of life weren’t just a heavy burden – they were a bone-crushing hammer. The bottle would have been a tempting escape from reality as the capitol city, Jerusalem, sat in shambles and the country was teetering on the edge of complete destruction.

Captives Leave JerusalemIn Jeremiah’s days, the Babylonians had already sacked the capitol city once. They had stormed the Temple and stolen the important vessels of worship. But the Babylonians didn’t stop there. They took all the government officials, military officers, craftsmen, and King Jehoiachin captive into Babylon. In his place, King Nebuchadnezzar had set up Zedekiah, a relative of Jehoichin, as ruler (2 Kgs. 24:17).

In those days, many false prophets were guaranteeing that Babylon’s power would be broken within two years (Jer. 28:2-4) and that the Temple vessels would be returned. But Jeremiah said otherwise. Speaking on God’s behalf, Jeremiah told the priests and rulers to serve Nebuchadnezzar if they wanted to live (Jer. 27:16-22). Jeremiah told them that the few items left in the Temple would be taken away because Babylon was going to come again. But Zedekiah and his advisors didn’t listen to Jeremiah. Instead, they all listened to the false prophets who were speaking deceitful words and fake prophecies of peace. Zedekiah made an alliance with the surrounding countries who were plotting against the Babylonian empire and joined in a multi-nation rebellion against Babylon. Not a good idea.

Babylon came back. Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem a second time. The food started running short, and Jeremiah told Zedekiah that Babylon would take him captive. But Zedekiah still didn’t listen and put Jeremiah in prison for speaking the word of God.

Can you imagine the darkness of those days for those inhabitants of Jerusalem? Can you imagine watching and waiting for the Babylonians to invade your capitol city a second time? Can you imagine going to the already decimated Temple knowing that Jeremiah had prophesied that the few things that were left in that Temple would be taken? Again, it would have been easy for your heart to become weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the cares of life.

Finally, the food did run out. The Babylonians broke through the walls. Zedekiah fled the city, but he didn’t get very far. He was caught by Nebuchadnezzar near Jericho. As punishment for his rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes. And that was the last thing Zedekiah saw. After the execution of his sons, Zedekiah’s eyes were plucked out (2 Kgs. 25:5-7), and he was taken to Babylon where he spent the rest of his dark days in a dungeon (Jer. 52:11).

But before Jerusalem fell, in the midst of this second siege of Jerusalem, the words of this text come from Jeremiah who was doubly captive – imprisoned by his own king, Zedekiah, and besieged by a foreign king, Nebuchadnezzar. Yet Jeremiah promises that a new King would come. This Righteous Branch would rule over an enduring capitol city where justice and righteousness would reign. These words came even as there was no justice for Jerusalem. Jeremiah was held captive for speaking God’s Word. There was no righteousness in the city where King Zedekiah ruled (even though Zedekiah means ‘Yahweh is my righteousness’); he did evil in the sight of God and rebelled against God and God’s messenger. But through Jeremiah God gave this beautiful promise.

Days were coming when God would cause a Righteous Branch to spring up for David. In those days, a King would come who would execute justice and righteousness in the land. In the midst of the destruction of the capitol and the uncertainty, Jeremiah spoke of days when Judah would be saved and Jerusalem would dwell securely. Jeremiah and his neighbors were soon to be captives in a pagan land and homeless. But Jeremiah speaks of the day when he and his countrymen would be citizens of the city of God which would be called, “Yahweh is our righteousness.”

Jeremiah was, of course, speaking of the coming, the Advent, of Jesus the true Righteous Branch. Five-hundred-eighty-four years after these words from Jeremiah, Jesus, the Son of David, was born to rule God’s people. He came in justice and righteousness, but we sinners treated Him unjustly and wickedly. King Jesus was crowned – but with thorns. King Jesus was proclaimed as king – but only with mocking and ridicule. King Jesus was enthroned – but only as He hung naked on a cross. Jesus came as your King – not the kind of king you would expect, but as the King you needed.

Jesus came as the eternal King for the people of Jeremiah’s day and for you. Through Jesus, the Righteous Branch, God has provided a place, even in the midst of this fallen world. He calls you right here, right now, to your home in His presence. Your city is safe and secure not because of your efforts or the efforts of some government or military. It is secure because of Christ’s work and God’s enduring promise.

In these days of Advent, you can celebrate as you wait because even now you have an enduring city you can call home. Even though foes surround you on every side, you dwell securely. In this eternal city, God is with you and loves you with an everlasting love. You are part of the Church, the Body of Christ. In this secure city, your King rules to forgive, renew, and empower you as you await the second advent of your King. Amen.

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

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Mark 13:24-37 – Stay Awake

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Mark 13:24-37

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

Jesus speaks about the destruction of the temple28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Bad News TerrorismIf you look around at everything happening in the world, it is easy to despair. Just think of the ride you have gone on this year watching the news: from Ebola; to Ferguson, Missouri; Boko Haram; Charlie Hebdo; the Supreme Court’s ruling on “gay marriage”; endless presidential primaries; Planned Parenthood’s calloused, soulless selling of aborted baby parts; the riots on college campuses; the attacks in Paris and several other places the past week.  It is easy to believe that things can’t go on much longer. It is easy to believe that the world is coming unhinged. It is easy to focus on all those terrible things and become worried, wearied, disheartened, and despairing. But don’t.

Jesus, your Lord and Savior, said that all sorts of terrible things are going to take place in this broken, sinful world. In Lk. 21:28, which is parallel to this text, Jesus says, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Don’t focus on the evil that surrounds you. Instead, straighten up. Raise your head. Look for your redemption.

Jesus is very clear in v. 31 of our text, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” What is Jesus’ word to you? He says, “You are forgiven. You are My child. You are redeemed, holy, sanctified.” You belong to Jesus because He was willing to become man for you, to suffer the punishment of your sins, to hang on a cross and bleed out His holy and precious blood for you. And Jesus promises, He promises, that He is coming for you. So don’t let the bad and evil things that happen in this world distract you and lead you to despair. Jesus told you that they would happen, and He ascended to heaven where He is seated as king over the entire universe. He is with you always. He will never leave you nor forsake you. So don’t freak out when Chicken Little comes and tells you the sky if falling.

Chicken Little loved to walk in the woods, look at the trees, smell the flowers, and listen to the birds sing. One day while she was walking, an acorn fell from a tree and hit her on the head. chicken-little“Oh my, oh my. The sky is falling. I must run and tell the lion about it,” she said.

As she ran, she met the hen. The hen asked her, “Where are you going?”

“Oh hen, the sky is falling and I’m going to tell the lion about it.”

“How do you know the sky is falling?” asks the hen.

“It hit me on the head, so it must be so.”

“Well, let me go with you,” says the hen.

So off they run to the lion. On their way, they met the duck. “The sky is falling, and we are running to tell the lion about it!” the hen says to the duck.

“How do you know that?” asked the duck.

“It hit chicken little on the head,” answered the hen.

“I’m coming with you,” responded the duck.

So Chicken Little, the hen, and the duck run along until they met the fox. “Where are you going?” asked the fox.

“The sky is falling and we are going to tell the lion about it,” exclaimed the duck.

The fox, licking his lips, asked, “Do you know where lion lives?”

“I don’t,” said Chicken Little. “I don’t,” said the hen. “I don’t,” said the duck.

“Well, I do,” said the fox. “Come with me and I’ll take you to him.” The fox led the three to his own den and said, “Come right on in.” The three go in, but never come out again.

I’m sure that acorn caused Chicken Little pain. But acorns fall, and bad things happen in this sinful world. Now, don’t think I’m comparing what happened in Paris to an acorn falling on someone’s head. But you and I shouldn’t be surprised when things like the terrorist attack in Paris happen. Frankly, we should be surprised that they don’t happen more often. Evil will always be present in this world, but don’t let the presence of evil cause you to despair. Don’t let yourself get so befuddled that you trust the fox. Stay awake.

Jesus says, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”  And Jesus tells this little parable about a man going on a journey. He puts His servants in charge and gives them all tasks to do, and He leaves. Where does Jesus go? Remember from last week, Jesus is now sitting at God’s right hand, the place of all power and authority. Jesus is there because His work as your High Priest, His sacrifice for your sin and the sin of everyone is done. Jesus is patiently waiting until the time when God says, “Ok, Jesus, it’s time for You to return.”

Table of DutiesIn the meantime, go about the work that God has given you to do. God hasn’t called you to stop ISIS or figure out the Syrian refugee situation. If you have opportunity to speak God’s truth into those situations, sure, do that. But God has given you important tasks to busy yourself with. Be the best spouse, parent, employer, employee, child, student that you can be. Remember that it is not up to you to save the world. Jesus has already done that. You don’t have to worry about this fallen creation coming apart at the seams and crumbling into dust. Jesus is in control. Don’t tire yourself out with anxiety over this fallen world. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words to you of forgiveness, life, and salvation will not pass away.

Jesus has given you work to do. He has given you vocations to carry out. Just imagine the witness it is to those who do not have faith, when you calmly and dutifully go about the tasks that Jesus has given to you simply trusting that He has everything in control.

Stay awake. Do what Jesus has given you to do. He is coming again. He will gather you, His elect, from the corners of the earth. Even through the destruction of this creation, Jesus, your Savior, will bring you safely to the resurrection, the new creation, and the life everlasting. Amen.

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

Hebrews 10:11-25 – Access Granted And So Much More

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Hebrews 10:11-25

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Can you imagine the life of the Temple priests? They would go into the Temple every day and start slaughtering, hacking, handling blood, waving offerings, burning offerings. And on and on it went. When that priest finally finished his day of work, what do you suppose he would do when he finally got home? Probably what I will do after the service today – change into comfortable clothes and plop into a chair and sit. But those priests would be back at the Temple the next day standing to repeatedly and continually offer the same sacrifices which, as our passage says, “can never take away sins” (v. 11).

Passion of Christ on the CrossBut now, the offerings for sin have stopped. Jesus has come and offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins. And now Jesus sits. His work is complete. “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). Blood is no longer spilled in the Temple from bulls and sheep and goats. Sacrifices for sin are done, and yet the blood still flows. It is given to you in Communion where you are sanctified, made holy, by Jesus’ body which was crucified for you. You now have the purifying blood which flowed from Calvary poured into your mouth.

The one offering of Jesus on the cross was for you – for your sins. Because of that one-time offering, God remembers your sins and lawless deeds no more. Because of Jesus’ finished work, you have forgiveness.

Jesus, your Savior, now sits at God’s right hand because all the Law’s demands have been met. There is nothing left to accuse you. God remembers your sins no more. The angel of death sees Jesus’ blood on you and passes over you. You have forgiveness, so there is no longer any offering for sin. And because you have the perfect, complete, one-time sacrifice of Jesus for your sins, there is no longer any offering that Jesus has to do for you or that you have to do for yourself. Your sin is gone, done away with. You, brother and sister, are forgiven.

What does this mean, now, for you? Look at v. 19-25 of our text. Because Jesus’ work is done, you have full and complete access to God. Think of that for a minute. You are denied access to many things in this world. You do not have access to other people’s bank account. Generally, you do not have access to people’s homes. You do not have access to the president. Just try to waltz into the White House and say, “I’m here to see the president” (I’ll try to visit you in prison). Even though you are denied access to many things, you do have direct access to God.

The door to God doesn’t just stand ajar, it is wide open. You can confidently enter the Holy of Holies, the place where only the High Priest was allowed to go, and only once a year. To you, Jesus has opened the new and living way through the curtain of His flesh. Because you have this access, go!

But, maybe, you are still timid. You know that you have rebelled against God. You know that you have mocked Him. You have not feared, loved, and trusted Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You know that you are a sinner. Sinners do not want to be in the presence of a holy God. It makes you feel dirty, unclean, and ashamed. Too often for us sinners, we only hear a God who is critical, damning, and judging. We think God is only waiting for the right moment to zap us and burn us to a crisp.

Baptism 2But this text says the exact opposite. Jesus has completed His work as your High Priest, and He is sitting at God’s right hand. Draw near to God in full assurance of faith. You have been sprinkled clean from your evil conscience. God has washed you in the pure water of your baptism. He does not want you to run from Him and His presence any more. Jesus wants you to be with Him so He can serve you. So He can place His own body and blood in your mouth. You have access to God. You have a conscience washed clean in baptism. And you have one another.

So, come. Meet here together with God and with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Coming to church on Sunday is important for you, but it is also important for your fellow believers. Through meeting together here, we stir up one another to love and good works.

Missing church hurts this congregation. It tears this congregation down. But meeting together to receive all that God has to offer us through Christ builds us all up. By coming here into the Father’s presence, you encourage your fellow believers and your fellow believers encourage you. We need this. I need this. You need this because the Last Day is surly drawing near.

Brothers and sisters, because Jesus is seated at God’s right hand you have blessings beyond comprehension. You have access to God. You have confidence to enter the holy places by Jesus’ blood. You have a clean conscience. And you have one another. Amen.

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

Matthew 5:1-12 – Blessed

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Matthew 5:1-12

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3   “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4   “Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

5   “Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

6   “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

7   “Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.

8   “Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.

9   “Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Lamb of Judah Jesus Revelation 5In his vision (from our first lesson: Rev. 7:2-17), John sees what Jesus describes on the mountain. John sees those who are blessed. A great multitude that no one could number is there, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They are clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. John sees the poor in spirit who are made rich in the grace of Jesus which has given them the kingdom of heaven. John sees the comfort of those who mourn. He sees the satisfaction of those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness. He sees the pure in heart who now are before the throne and before the Lamb, the Son of God.

This great multitude has left behind all poverty, all mourning, all meekness, all hunger and thirst. Now, they are before the throne of God serving Him day and night. God shelters them with His presence. Nothing can touch them except the grace, love, and mercy of God. They are satisfied because the Lamb has freed them for eternity.

In his vision, John does not identify any one, particular person –  no apostle, no martyr, no prophet, no reformer, no faithful king or celebrity is named. They are all there, absolutely they are, but John does not notice them. The only individual who stands out is the Lamb. All John sees are saints, honored and loved by God. They are not all identical. John notices that they are from every nation, tribe, people, and language. But John’s attention, and the attention of the whole multitude is on the Lamb.

To the Lamb, and to the Lamb alone, belongs blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might forever and ever. Salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, and He freely gives it to this blessed multitude beyond number. Even though every last one from this multitude had sinned against Jesus and rebelled against Him, He has purchased them all with His blood. He has brought each and every last one of them out of the great tribulation that is this world ever since the Fall into sin. He has made their robes white in His blood, and they suffer no more.

No one sins against them any more. But even greater than that no one in this multitude sins. They are all free. Jesus has cleansed their hearts and consciences. They are free of gossip, jealousy, anger, and fear. They are blessed; they are with their Savior.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be nice to be like them? To be with them? You know what? You are.

The only difference between you and this multitude is that they have already passed through death. You and I still live in it. Our day will come. Our sins will end, and our toil will flee. One day.

But now you too are blessed. Jesus, your Lamb, is with you here in your midst. The kingdom of heaven is within you – even now it is yours (Lk. 17:21). You are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). God commands His angels to watch over and protect you. Body of Christ CommunionYou have been and are sealed for God in the water of your Baptism. God has placed His name upon you. In the waters of your baptism, your old sinful nature was killed and brought to nothing (Ro. 6:6). You were raised to everlasting life. And here you are today to receive the forgiveness of sins, to be absolved, to hear the Word, to pray and praise your God, and to join in the most intimate communion with Jesus – to eat His body and drink His blood. Jesus is here to come inside of you and join you to Himself.

Jesus says to you, present tense, here and now, “Blessed are you.” In his vision, John was transported out of time. John didn’t see only the Old Testament faithful. He didn’t see only those who had died before him. They were there of course, but there was more. John saw the culmination of creation. He saw the what comes after the resurrection on the Last Day. John saw people who weren’t even born yet. John saw his friends, the disciples. He saw Mary and Paul. He saw Augustine, Chrysostom, Luther, and he saw you, believer.

What John saw and what we read about from Revelation 7 is your future, and it is also your present. Jesus says, “Blessed are you, now.” So it doesn’t matter what happens a week from Tuesday. It doesn’t matter what others say about you. It doesn’t matter if this country and your life completely falls apart. The only thing that matters is what endures – the Lamb who was slain lives. You are His, and He is yours. He will bring you to Himself. Amen.[1]

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

[1] I am thankful for a sermon by Rev. David Petersen as inspiration for this sermon.