1 Peter 1:17-25 – The Lamb Slain before the Foundation of the World

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1 Peter 1:17-25

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,
and the flower falls,

25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Because of sin, all of us are born of perishable seed. This fact shapes how we live and how we act. We have inherited futile ways from our forefathers. And in this time of exile, we end up on a pendulum of pride and despair because we let the things of this world form and shape us.

When life is good, you figure it will always be good. You get prideful, and in your pride, you get comfortable thinking that you are the master and the little “g” god of everything around you. But then, things take a turn. Your world is rocked, things fall apart. You fall into despair because you don’t know what to do or where to turn. And between those places of pride and despair, we figure everything is futile.

We see this happen in our Gospel lesson (Lk. 24:13-35). As the two disciples on the road to Emmaus talk with Jesus, we see that their thinking and their actions were shaped by the futile ways of this world.

Jesus appears to these two as they walked on the road that first Easter afternoon. The two disciples talk about how glorious following Jesus had been. Jesus was mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. He was healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, feeding the hungry, and raising the dead. Good stuff. They figured that He was going to be the one to redeem Israel, and since they were following Him, their pendulum had swung to a place of pride.

But, then, things changed. Jesus was arrested. He was delivered up to the authorities. He was condemned. He was crucified. The one they thought going to redeem them, died and was buried. They figured they must have been wrong, wrong about everything. So their pendulum swung all the way to despair.

And the events of the morning left them totally unsure of everything. The women said they had a vision of angels who said He was alive. But when Peter and John went to the tomb, they didn’t see Jesus. Their pendulum was moving once again, but they didn’t know if it would be to something good or something bad. They wanted to hope. They wanted to believe. But they didn’t know what to think or do.

And the irony in that Gospel text is that Jesus was right there with them. But because they were focused on themselves and their circumstances, they didn’t recognize Jesus.

What happened to these two disciples also happens to us. Even when we are following Jesus and in His presence, there is this danger of letting the futile, momentary things of this world shape us, our actions, and our belief.

Repent. Repent of being focused on yourself and the things that happen to you. Repent of letting the momentary things of this life form and shape you. Repent of missing Jesus’ presence when He is right there speaking to you.

In the closing words of this text, Peter gives a warning. He reminds us that we are like the grass. “All flesh is like grass…. The grass withers and the flower falls.”

But Peter also gives us a promise – an unfading, unshakable, certain, eternal promise, “the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news (the Gospel) that was preached to you.”

Strong and secure in the howling winds of change has always been the Word of the Lord, the Word of the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen, which stands forever.

This Word of the Gospel declares you that you are born again. You are born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable seed.

You see, God’s eternal plan was to send Jesus to redeem you from sin, death, and the devil – not with silver and gold, but with Christ’s holy and precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death.

This Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world. That means even before Adam and Eve believed the devil’s lies and fell into sin, even before God created this world, God had determined to save you, to ransom you, to purchase you from sin by sending His own beloved Son.

Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, is this imperishable seed. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world.

God had promised to send Him. The prophets foretold His coming. But Jesus’ love for you has been made manifest in these last days for your sake so that your faith and your hope would not be in futile things, not in perishable things, not in things that fall and fade. God’s eternal love for you has been made manifest in Jesus and what He has done for you so that your faith and hope would be in Him – the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

Remember that this is your time of exile. Remember that you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but imperishable seed. You have been born of the living, abiding Word of God.

You are His flock, and He will watch over you.

You are His brothers and sisters, and He will defend you.

You are His children, and He will protect you and provide for you.

You are His bride, and He will always remain faithful to you.

Alleluia! 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.

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John 20:19-31 – Like Newborn Infants

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John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Introit today began and ended with 1 Peter 2:2-3, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

As I was talking with my wife about the texts for this Sunday, I mentioned that verse, and she told me about something wonderful and beautiful that I hadn’t heard of before. Within an hour of being born, if a newborn infant is laid on her mother’s abdomen, that weak, helpless baby will move herself, find her mother’s breast, and start nursing.

God has fearfully and wonderfully made us, and this natural instinct or phenomenon (whatever you want to call it) is one of the many testimonies to that fact. God has designed us so that, even from the moment we are born, we know what we need physically, and we know where to get it.

Two weeks ago, on Palm Sunday, ISIS terrorists bombed two churches in Egypt killing 45 and injuring more than 120 other Christians. As those brothers and sisters in Christ gathered just as we did to wave palms shout Hosannas in praise to their Savior, their cries of welcome were stopped short. They were welcomed by Jesus into His presence where they now wave palm branches around the throne of Christ in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

Why mention these two things together? Why speak of the beauty of a newborn infant nursing and the horror of a terrorist attack?

Because of what happened later that same day. Hours after their neighbors, friends, and relatives were killed, hundreds of your Egyptian brothers and sisters in Christ took to the streets. Outside of the rubble of those sanctuaries, believers gathered together and publicly, boldly confessed the Nicene Creed.

Despite their loss and despite the danger, these Christians, like newborn infants, knew what they needed and knew where to get it. They needed the comfort of their Savior, and they knew the peace that was in their shared confession with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

This Gospel text begins the very first Easter evening. Jesus has risen. The women have seen Him and talked with Him. Jesus has appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they have told the other disciples that they have seen Him.

But there are the disciples locked inside because they feared the Jews would accuse them of stealing Jesus’ body and faking His resurrection. But just as the sealed stone lying over the entrance didn’t stop Jesus from getting out of the tomb, so also locked doors couldn’t do anything to keep Jesus from His disciples.

Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them His hands and side, relieving their fear. And Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Twice comforted by Christ speaking peace to them, sent with the presence of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins, and given the promise of serving a risen Savior, you would think the disciples would immediately be out in full force to proclaim the Good News of Christ crucified and risen. But… eight days later, there they are. Inside. Behind locked doors. Again.

Does Jesus just give up on them? No! Should He? I would.

But Jesus is slow to anger and abounding with steadfast love. He shows up again and gives them the same word, “Peace be with you.”

Thomas had not been there the first time, and because of that, he gets his (unwarranted) surname, doubting. You rarely hear him called ‘Apostle Thomas.’ Sometimes, you might hear him called ‘St. Thomas.’ Most of the time you hear him called ‘Doubting Thomas.’ Yes, of course, Thomas should have believed the testimony of his friends. He should have. But his vow of unbelief until he could see for himself is simply Thomas wanting to have the same blessed experience as the other disciples – nothing more, nothing less.

The other disciples, they should get more criticism. They had seen. They had been sent with authority. They had received the Holy Spirit. But they still feared. Yet, Jesus shows them mercy. The next Sunday, Jesus is back to preach the same sermon to all eleven of them. “Peace be with you.”

There is something to learn from both the disciples and from Thomas.

First, from the disciples, we see that we always need these comforting words from Jesus. As your pastor and brother in Christ, I need to hear this because I fall into doubt. I fall into unbelief. It doesn’t matter how many hours I spend in God’s Word each week, I need to be here – not just to preach and lead the service. I need to be here and hear Jesus give me His peace. I need to hear Him say to me, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Second, from Thomas, we should learn that we need to be where Jesus is to hear His preaching. We all, myself included, need to be where Jesus comes to preach to us, “Peace be with you.” Without constantly hearing Jesus, all of us quickly fall into doubt and unbelief.

The only thing that can keep Jesus’ peace from us is our own sinful neglect of hearing God’s Word.

Every week, we go out into the world and get ourselves beat up and kicked down, and we fall into the same fear that made the disciples lock themselves in. And every week, God is here giving out the treasure of His Word. Every week, Jesus is in this place to give us exactly what He repeatedly gave the disciples – His sermon, “Peace be with you.”

But too often, there is some excuse. “I was getting over a cough and needed to sleep in.” “We were just too tired from that tournament.” “We were busy with some guests from out of town.” Whatever the excuse is, it’s rubbish.

If you knew that a billionaire was going to be here one Sunday morning to dole out $1 million to anyone that showed up at 10:30 AM, would you miss it for any of those same reasons? Of course not!

How much more valuable is the Word of God? What greater treasure is Christ’s Gospel? Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Ro. 10:17). Without continually hearing Christ’s word, your faith will die, and you will perish for eternity.

Repent. All of us need to repent. We come to church as nonchalantly as we go to the grocery store. We live and we act as though we will always be able to come to this place to hear the Gospel. But that isn’t promised.

Christ has promised that the gates of hell will never overcome His church. Christ has promised that He holds you in the palm of His hand from which no one will be able to snatch you. But that doesn’t mean that this church, Christ the King, will always be here. That doesn’t mean that someday you won’t have to break the laws of man to hear the Word of God.

So the question you need to answer today is this: Do you know what you need, and do you know where to get it?

Satan is attacking this church. The devil has this congregation in his sights because He knows that what happens here week after week is nourishing food for your soul. The devil knows that the singing, the liturgy, the absolution, the reading of the Scriptures, the confessing of our faith, the preaching, the administration of God’s Sacraments is leading people out of his kingdom into the kingdom of God, and he hates it. He absolutely hates it.

So the devil has been patiently nibbling away by tempting all of us with anything that will distract us from being here. But Satan is upping his efforts. Fight the good fight of the faith.

Brothers and sisters, you have tasted that the Lord is good. Keep longing for the pure spiritual milk. Hear again today Christ’s pronouncement, “Peace be with you.” Then, come hear it again next week and the week after and the week after. Through this nourishing Word you will grow up into salvation.

Alleluia! 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.

Matthew 28:1-10 – Come, See the Place Where He Lay

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Matthew 28:1-10

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On Good Friday, Joseph of Arimathea took the dead, lifeless body of the Son of God and laid it in his own new tomb which he had cut in the rock (Mt. 27:57-61). A great stone was rolled in front of that tomb and sealed so the disciples couldn’t come and steal Jesus’ body.

But that first Easter morning, something happened. There was an earthquake as an angel descended, broke the seal, and rolled away the stone. And a vacancy opened in that tomb. When the women got there, Jesus was gone. The tomb was empty.

Because the tomb was, and is, empty, everything has changed.

Listen to the angel’s invitation, “Come, see the place where He lay.”

On the cross, Jesus suffered the punishment that your sin deserved. On the cross, God poured out all His wrath and spent every last drop of His anger against your sin. On the cross, God turned His back on His beloved Son because Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for you.

On the cross, Jesus, the Lamb of God, took all your sin, all your doubt, all your shame. He brought it all to the tomb. On the cross, Jesus bore all your sins in His body (1 Pet. 2:24).

Now, the tomb is empty.

Today and forever, Jesus’ resurrection proves that sin and death has no power over you because God has joined you to Christ. The only thing that belongs in that tomb is the sin that Jesus has taken from you and rendered lifeless by His death on the cross. But see, the tomb is empty.

“Come, see the place where He lay. Come, see the place where Jesus took your sin.” On Good Friday, Jesus bore all your sin to the tomb where it was sealed, locked up, and hidden forever from your Heavenly Father.

Today, the tomb is empty. Your sin is gone.

When your heart is haunted with the guilt of your sins, when you are weighed down with the effects of the sins that others have committed against you, look at that empty tomb. When Jesus killed your sins on Calvary and erased them from the memory of God, He gave you the right to forget those sins as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, set your minds on these things. Set your minds on the things that are above. You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your Life appears, your tomb will be as empty as His. And you also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:1-4).

Alleluia! 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.

Matthew 26:1-27:66 – Who Is This King of Glory?

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Matthew 26:1-27:66

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Who is this King of Glory?

The events we heard about in the Processional Gospel reading (Jn. 12:12-19) are grand and glorious. The crowds. The shouts of “Hosanna” (which means “save us now”). The people welcoming the King of Israel coming to them on a donkey’s colt.

We might be tempted to think this is Jesus’ moment of glory, but we would be wrong.

In that Processional Gospel, there is a curious statement: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.” As grand as it was, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday was not Jesus in His glory.

So, who is this King of Glory? He is Yahweh, strong and mighty, Yahweh mighty in battle.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Jesus who emptied Himself and took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men for you.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Jesus, obedient to His Father. Obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross for you.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Jesus. Delivered up to be crucified. Betrayed by Judas’ kiss. Giving His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sin. Denied by one of His closest friends. Arrested by soldiers. Seized. Spat upon all for you.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Jesus. Sentenced to die in exchange for a notorious, rebellious murderer. Stripped of clothes. Mocked. Flogged. Beaten. Crowned with thorns. Carrying His own cross all for you.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Jesus. Crucified. Mocked. Abandoned by God for you.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Jesus. Dead. Buried for you.

“Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.”

Who is this King of Glory?

He is Jesus. At His name, every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is His glory to win you back. It is His glory to defeat your enemies of sin, death, and the devil. It is His glory to redeem you.

It is His glory to show His unfathomable mercy by giving Himself unto death for you.

It is His glory to do all of this for you because the stone will not hold Him. Jesus is not dead, but lives.

Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to the King of Glory. Amen.

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

John 11:17-27, 38-53 – Come Out of Your Stinky-ness

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John 11:17-27, 38-53

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

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

Sure, you’re a decent person – not perfect, but decent. Yeah, you could try harder, but your intentions are good. A slight improvement here and a little more effort there, and just imagine how good you could be.

The only problem is that, eventually, you die. And when you die, your prospects for improvement and goodness decrease. Rapidly.

Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ house four days late. There stands Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life. He stands before the stone of His buddy’s tomb and says, “Roll away the stone.”

And Martha – practical, practical Martha – says, “You probably don’t want to do that. It’s been four days. My brother, God bless him, he stinks.” The KJV is quite a good translation, and here is one of the places I love it. In the KJV, Martha says, “Lord, He stinketh.”

When you stinketh, nothing – no matter how good or moral or upright you were – nothing about you matters. When you stinketh, the only thing that matters is what kind of God you have.

So, what kind of God do you have?

You see what kind here and in our Old Testament lesson (Ezk. 37:1-14). Ezekiel sees the valley full or bones. There were many, and they were dry. They weren’t full of love for God or love for their neighbor. They weren’t even able to muster up a stink – not any more.

God asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

Not wanting to give the wrong answer, Ezekiel defers, “O Lord God, you know.”

“Well,” God says, “Preach to the bones.” (There’s a suggestion for a new congregation’s name – Dry Bones Lutheran.) “Preach to the bones, Ezekiel. Say, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. You will live and you will know that I am Yahweh.’”

So, Ezekiel preaches to a congregation without ears. And through that preaching, both the preacher and the bones know who Yahweh is.

Who is this Yahweh? He is the Resurrection and the Life. When God says, “Live,” you do. You can be dead as Lazarus and stinketh, you can be dead as those dry bones, you can be as dead as Marley from “A Christmas Carol,” when the Lord and Giver of life says to the dead, “Get up! Come out!” you do.

That is the kind of God you have. At His word, you who are dead gain life – endless life.

You have the kind of God who comes with life-giving words. The kinds of God who simply speaks to stinky Lazarus, “Come out,” and he does.

Ezekiel preached a sermon to dry bones, and they lived. Jesus preached to stinky Lazarus, and he lived. So, here is your sermon:

You – yes, you sinner. You are dead in sin. You stinketh. Come out. Come out of your stinky-ness. Come Holy Spirit and breathe on these dry bones that they may live.

Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life has taken your death and killed it in His death on the cross. You will not stink. You will live. And by this, you will know that He is Yahweh.

Your God and your Lord is here today to put His resurrected Body and His resurrected Blood into you so that you will not stink. Instead, you will have the pleasant, fragrant aroma of Christ. 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. Dr. Stephen Paulson as inspiration for this sermon.