Sing – Sermon on Isaiah 12:1-6 for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Listen here.

Isaiah:12-1-6

You will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,

your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

2   “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the LordGodis my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,

make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.

5   “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.

6   Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The day of salvation that Isaiah speaks about is today. 2 Corinthians 6:2states that, because Christ has died and risen for you, now is the day of salvation. God was angry with you because of your sin, but His anger has turned away. Jesus lives, and God has given you His comfort. Christ reigns in heaven, and God is now your salvation. Jesus has delivered you. God is your strength and your song. Whether or not you realize it, you are here today to draw from the wells of salvation which will never run dry.

Higher Things - Singing.jpgSo, “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” The Scripture readings today have called you – in fact, they have commanded you – to sing to God five times (Ps. 98:1, 4, Is. 12:5, 6).

Many places in Scripture, you are commanded to “sing a new song.” There are some Christians (and they may have good intentions) some Christians who say that we should be singing songs that appeal to people’s current taste in music. In other words, we should always be writing songs that will make people tap their toes or something. Other denominations go so far as to say this command to ‘sing a new song’ means that we should only sing songs that have been around for so long – say fifty or one-hundred years. And once a song reaches that age, it should be retired, put out to pasture, and not sung anymore. But that is not what it means to ‘sing a new song.’

When Scripture tells us to sing a new song, it always goes on to tell us, not about the musical style of the song, but about the content of the song, and the content of the song is always God’s deliverance. We sing of how God has delivered and rescued us from our sin and the devil. In other words, we sing of Christ who has saved us.

God’s salvation is always new. An ancient Greek philosopher (Heraclitus) said, “You never step in the same river twice,” because it isn’t the same river and you aren’t the same person. In a similar way, the best Christian songs, no matter how old they are, are always new. It doesn’t matter how long the song has been around because the salvation Jesus has won for you means something different to you now than it did yesterday. Yes, you have sinned again, but God’s steadfast love never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.

Songs that you have memorized and have been singing your whole life can bring new comfort in a different way than they had before. None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be writing new songs. No, no, no. Christians should be the best artists – especially when it comes to music. Until Christ returns, the church should always be writing songs that speak clearly of God’s deliverance and salvation while we continue singing the faithful songs of our ancestors in the faith.

Zephaniah 3_17 - Quiet you with His loveNow, why does God command us to sing; isn’t speaking good enough? Apparently, no. There is a great passage in everyone’s favorite Old Testament book, Zephaniah 3:17. Listen to this, “The Lordyour God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” It is an absolutely beautiful picture. But the reason I bring this up is that this is the one place in all the Scriptures where God sings, and the reason He sings is His joy over you.

When God expresses His joy over you who have been redeemed by His beloved Son, He does it with singing because nothing else will do. Music and song is the only thing capable of expressing the joy that God has because of you. God sings in joy over you, so you sing for joy to Him. And this is why we spend time in our services singing. We don’t do it to make our service more interesting. Rather, we sing because singing is, in fact, a form of spiritual warfare against God’s enemies and your enemies. Let me give you two quick examples:

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat ruled in Judah. His kingdom was threatened by the armies of the Moabites and Ammonites. Jehoshaphat doesn’t know what to do, so he calls all the people of Judah to come to the Temple to pray. While they are praying, a prophet comes in and says that the people don’t need to be afraid of the hoard coming against them. That prophet says that the army won’t even need to fight because the Lordwill fight for them. When the people hear this, they all bow down with their faces to the ground. But then, suddenly, two clans of the priests, the Kohathites and the Korahites, stand up and begin to sing loudly. Those two classes of priests had been appointed by King David years earlier to be the singers in the Temple. Basically, they had been appointed to be the church choir.

The next morning, the battle lines are formed. 2 Chronacles 20_21 - SingAnd Jehoshaphat appoints the front line to be – guess who – the Kohathites and the Korahites, the choir. The Lordwould fight for them, so why not have the singers be the first into battle? The army marches out behind the choir and listen to this, it’s from 2 Chron. 20:22, “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lordset an ambush against the men of Ammon [and] Moab… who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.” Through their singing, God defeated the enemies of His people.

And don’t think this is an isolated event. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are beaten with rods, arrested, and thrown into prison for preaching about Jesus. While they are there in the dank, stinky dungeon, guess what they do. They prayed to God, but then they began, you guessed it, they began to sing hymns (Act. 20:25). They weren’t worried about the other prisoners hearing them sing. They sing, and God acts. God sends an earthquake, the prison doors are all opened, and all the shackles of all the prisoners fall off.

We could also talk about how David used to play his harp to drive away the demons that tormented King Saul (1 Sam 16:23). Or how Jesus and the disciples, in that dark hour before Jesus was arrested, sang a hymn before they departed the upper room (Mt. 26:30).

The devil hates music and flees when God’s people sing. So, the devil tris to get us to not sing. If Satan tries to get you embarrassed of your voice or your ability to sing, get over it. God doesn’t care how good of a singer you are. He’s not looking for Grammy winners or finalists from American Idol or The Voice. He wants you and commands you to sing.

So, sing. Sing when you are happy. Sing when you are depressed. Sing when you are apathetic. Sing of Jesus. Sing of His victory. Sing of His deliverance. Sing of His forgiveness. Sing how His right hand and holy arm have rescued you. Sing because the battle is the Lord’s. He has won the victory over Satan, sin, and death. Sing and watch the devils flee.

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

Amen.

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

Advertisements

A Little While – Sermon on John 16:16-22 for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Listen here.

John 16:16-22

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’;and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus says, “I’m here, but in a little while I won’t be here. Then, a little while later I’ll come back.”And the disciples are confused. They whisper to each other about this and none of them knows what this ‘a little while’ means. So, Jesus explains it to them.

First and foremost, this ‘little while’ refers to what would happen in a couple of hours. Jesus is soon to be betrayed and arrested. He will be tried, crucified, killed, and buried. Somewhere in that sequence, all of the disciples will no longer see Jesus. For most of them, it is when Jesus is arrested. For Peter, it is during Jesus’ trial while he is out by a bonfire denying he knows Jesus the third time (Lk. 22:61). And for John, it is either at the cross or at the burial. The disciples don’t see Him anymore, and they weep and lament because Jesus is dead, buried, and sealed behind the stone in the tomb.

But it is only for a little while – Friday evening and night, all day Saturday, Saturday night through Sunday afternoon before they see the resurrected Jesus once again. Again, first and foremost, this is the ‘little while’ Jesus is referring to.

But Jesus also alludes to something more. He is also speaking about His ascension, which is what Jesus was referring to when He said He was “going to the Father.” Don’t miss that part of our text. The morning of the Resurrection, Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene. When she recognizes Jesus, Mary falls at His feet and embraces Him (Mt. 28:9), but Jesus says to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

So, yes, He is referring to the time that the disciples weep and lament and have sorrow between His burial and resurrection. But here, in this text with this ‘little while,’ Jesus is also referring to the time while you have sorrow between His ascension and return in glory on the last day, which means, you, dear saint, are even now living in the ‘little while’ Jesus refers to.

A Little While WaitingThis ‘little while’ has lasted nearly two thousand years and counting. Yet, two thousand years is nothing when you compare it to everything that lies ahead for you in eternity. And it is even more miniscule when you realize that it will only be a few short years before you meet Jesus face-to-face – even if you live to be one-hundred-twenty. But we still have a problem. During our pain and anguish, our difficulties and seasons of tribulation, time seems to stand still while we suffer. But we can take heart and be encouraged. Jesus says it will only be ‘a little while.’

This little phrase from Jesus – ‘a little while’ – is meant to be comforting in the midst of sorrow, pain, anguish, trials, and tribulations. First, it lets us call that trouble what it is – it is suffering and not something that God ever intended you to experience. When you suffer, you don’t have to put on a brave face and say things like, “I know other people have it worse than I do.” No. No matter how great or small, call suffering what it is – suffering. The second reason this is comforting is that you can know that your God and Savior promises that your suffering can only last ‘a little while.’

Mothers, you understand Jesus better than anyone else which is why He uses you as an example here. As a man who has never and will never give birth, and as a father who has been present at the births of all four children, I hesitate to speak too much about this – especially on Mothers’ Day. But as a pastor who has been called to preach God’s Word, I must echo what Jesus says.

Kids, your mom suffered to bring you into this world. The pain and anguish of a woman in labor is real – there is no denying it. And, mothers, Jesus knows the pain you have been through, not because He ever gave birth, but because He is the one who said that a woman’s pain in childbirth would be greatly increased after the Fall (Gen. 3:16). But when a mother has delivered the baby – and remember this is according to Jesus – she no longer remembers the anguish because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.

It is not as though her memory is erased and she forgets the pain of labor – that is not what Jesus says. Instead, her anguish is swallowed up by joy that she now has a child to love and cherish. This is the main thing Jesus is teaching us in this text. Sorrow and suffering is temporary for you, Christian. It can only last ‘a little while’ and no more.

Grace is Sufficient, suffering, new creationNow, there is no denying that your suffering is real. Some of you are currently enduring that suffering in severe ways right now. We pray that your relief will be soon and swift. But know this: God is working through those sorrows. He is using your trials to keep you close to Himself, to work virtue in you, to teach you to trust in Him. This does not mean that you should rejoice because of trials and tribulations. Instead, it is a reminder that you can rejoice in spite of and in the midst of that suffering. Like buds on a tree indicate that full blossom is coming, those troubles, trials, sorrows, and crosses are harbingers of the joy that is to come.

And if you aren’t currently going through trials right now, you will. Jesus says that you will weep and lament, and you will be sorrowful. Jesus has called you to take up your cross and follow Him. Good Friday always comes before Easter, but Easter joy always overcomes Good Friday sorrow. Resurrection always defeats death.

Christian, the crosses you have borne in the past, the crosses you bear now, and the crosses you will bear in the future will and must give way to Resurrection joy because – already and now – Christ is risen.

Pain, sorrow, trial, and tribulation is real and there is no getting around it. A slave is not above his master. If Jesus is persecuted and suffers, you will be persecuted and suffer (Jn. 15:20). And Jesus promises, “You will weep and lament, and you be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. And no one will take your joy from you,”because Jesus has promised it will only be ‘a little while.’

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.

The Kalos Shepherd – Sermon on John 10:11-16 for the Third Sunday of Easter

Listen here.

John 10:11-16

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus the Good Shepherd 1For our great comfort, Scripture gives many images of God shepherding His people. Psalm 23, of course, comes to mind. We have a picture in the entry of our church of Jesus walking through green pastures and still waters leading a flock of good-looking sheep. Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd who goes out seeking his one lost sheep, hefts it on his shoulders, and brings it home. All of that imagery is Scriptural and comforting and good.

However as comforting as all of that is, it not our Lord’s focus when Jesus calls Himself the ‘good Shepherd’ here. The people who heard Jesus say these words figured He was a lunatic. Their response down in v. 20 is, “He has a demon and is insane; why listen to Him?”

In Jesus’ day and even now, shepherds keep sheep for their wool or their meat. Shepherds put food on the table and a roof over the heads of their family by sheering and slaughtering sheep. In the ways of the world, a ‘good shepherd’ is someone who is successful in making money off of his sheep. Imagine a cattle rancher saying, “I am the good rancher. I love the cows. I like to go out and pet them. And I let them live to a good old age in the field while I go and die for the cows.” You would not call that rancher ‘good.’ You’d call him a fool and a lunatic.

Here’s where this is going: Our translation has Jesus saying, “I am the good Shepherd,”and we use the word ‘good’ to describe all sorts of things that aren’t actually good. Teachers might write ‘good’ on assignments or tests when a student has actually done poor work. Some fathers are sleazy fornicators and only spend time with their children when it is convenient for them while treating their children’s mother like trash. But single mothers might still call them ‘good’ dads even though they scumbags. The word ‘good’ can be vague and simply don’t cut it when we think of Jesus as the ‘good Shepherd.’

On the one hand, ‘good’ is a perfectly legitimate way to translate the word (the adjective) Jesus uses to describe Himself as the Shepherd. But the word that Scripture gives us is much deeper than our word ‘good.’ So, you get to learn a Greek word today. Jesus calls Himself ‘the καλός Shepherd.’

1 Peter 2-24-25 - By His wounds Shepherd overseer of your soulsYes, it does mean ‘good’ but not in a subjective sense, not in a way that is open to anyone’s interpretation. Jesus is uniquely qualified to be the Shepherd of sinful sheep. Christ is the ‘good for you’ Shepherd. Kalos also means ‘right, fitting, true, beautiful, and competent.’ And Jesus Himself defines exactly what makes Him the kalos Shepherd. His the kalos Shepherd because of the fact that He lays down His life for the sheep.

In other words, Jesus, the kalos Shepherd, guards you, His flock, from the wolf no matter what. Jesus talks about the ‘hired hand’ who doesn’t own the sheep. A hired hand might not leave the flock if he sees a wolf way over there. In that situation, the hired hand might make a bunch of noise to scare away the wolf and save the flock he is watching over. A hired hand might even try to save the majority of the flock while a wolf picks off one or two sheep, and we’d still call him a good hired hand.

But Jesus, the kalos Shepherd, does something unimaginable. Jesus overcomes, defeats, and destroys the wolf by filling the wolf’s mouth with His own Body and thereby saves you from being lost and devoured by the wolf.

Right after our reading ends, Jesus goes on to say that the reason the Father loves Him is that He lays down His life for the sheep. Listen to this: Jesus says (v. 17-18), “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge (lit. “this command”) I have received from My Father.”

So, ask yourself, “If death cannot separate Him from me, what can?” If Jesus will go to the cross for you, and if Jesus will die for you, and if Jesus will come through death to be with you, He will always abide with you and will not leave you.

Hear this, you wandering sheep: When you had cut yourself off from God by your sin, Jesus, the kalos Shepherd, came down to die on the cross for you. Jesus could have run away like the hired hand, but He didn’t. If Jesus didn’t run away then, what would cause Him to run away from you now? The answer is nothing. There is nothing that will make Him throw up His hands and say, “Well, I’m done with that sheep.”

The Good ShepherdMy dear fellow sheep: Jesus is the kalos Shepherd; you are the sheep. You are not called to stand toe-to-toe with the devil. Satan, sin, and death are the wolves, and you are the sheep. Hide behind Jesus. Christ, your kalos Shepherd, places Himself in danger to rescue you from every threat. But even as you hide behind your kalos Shepherd, you do not cower in fear. Hide behind Jesus confidently knowing that He has overcome the wolf, won the victory, and His victory is your victory because you are His.

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

Amen.

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

The Milk of Peace – Sermon on John 20:19-31 for the Second Sunday of Easter

Listen here.

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, Thomas Sees Jesushe 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.

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The first words of Scripture you heard in today’s service came from 1 Pet. 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” Hear that again, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” A newborn child, when placed on her mother’s abdomen, will push herself up to nurse from her mother’s breast. This is such a beautiful testimony to the fact that God has created and designed us so that even from the moment we are born, we know what we need and where to get it.

And then, we grow up… and think we know better.

As kids get older, their sinful nature becomes more and more evident. Kids don’t know what they need and they chafe under the direction and discipline of their parents. When I was a teenager, I would beg my parents to give me more freedom and let me stay out late. God be praised that they knew better than I did and loved me enough to not allow it. When I moved away for college and had the freedom to make my own decisions about when to be home, I quickly realized that freedoms came with responsibility. Just because I could stay out until all hours of the night didn’t mean actually doing it was a good idea. The need to study, pay attention during lectures, and function at work didn’t go away just because I exercised my freedom to start another round of Mahjong with my friends at 2:00 AM.

Christian, God knows better than you do. God has begun a good work in you, and He will complete it. But it isn’t complete yet. God knows that you need to be nurtured and fed, and God knows exactly what food you need – the pure spiritual milk of His Word and specifically the Gospel. Which is why Scripture tells us to continue longing for the pure spiritual milk of the Word as a newborn infant.

1 Peter 2_2 Pure Spiritual MilkListen carefully: You don’t outgrow your need for the Gospel. Ever. There are many things that Scripture teaches that are important about how to live and function in this world, and all of us need to heed that instruction from the Word. But you don’t graduate from the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel. You never mature past the point of needing to hear about the peace that Jesus has won for you on the cross and which He preaches to His disciples in this text.

That is why Jesus preaches the same little sermon three times in this text, “Peace be with you.”He proclaims it to them twice the on evening of His resurrection, and again one week later.

The day of Christ’s resurrection was a day of both joy and fear all mixed together. Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9; Jn. 20:11-17). Then, Jesus appears to all the women who had gone to the tomb (Mt. 28:8-10). Jesus appears to the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus (Lk. 24:14-32). Shortly after that, Jesus appears to Peter (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). And now, all the disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem minus Thomas. They are wondering what might happen to them because they knew that the chief priests were concerned about them stealing Jesus’ body which is why the stone had been sealed and the Roman soldiers kept watch at the grave (Mt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15).

So, imagine the ten disciples (again minus Judas and Thomas) gathered in that room terrified of any sounds outside. At any moment, soldiers could arrive to arrest or kill them. But instead of soldiers banging on the locked door, Jesus suddenly appears in the room. It is possible that they were even more afraid of Jesus than of the soldiers. Jesus could have shown up angry and mad. Jesus might ask them, “Where were you guys? Why did you all abandon Me?” Or they might have been afraid of Jesus because it was, after all, their sins (and ours) that He died for.

But Jesus doesn’t do any of that. Instead, Jesus is almost giddy (if you’ll allow that description of our risen Lord). He stills and removes their fears with His word, “Peace. Peace be with you.”And He shows them His wounds. In other words, Jesus is saying, “All of My suffering, My being forsaken by My Father, My death, and My burial is all so that you can have the peace which I have secured for you.”And He preaches to them once again comforting them with the same sermon, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus tells them that He is sending them out into the world with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins in His name. Keep this in mind for a minute: Jesus breathes on them, giving them the Holy Spirit, and commissioning them with the message of forgiveness.

Eventually, Thomas meets up with the disciples, and Thomas doesn’t just doubt, he is disbelieving. We have inherited the bad habit of calling him ‘doubting Thomas,’ but Jesus will call him ‘disbelieving Thomas.’ He refuses to believe until he sees what the other disciples have seen.

Now, fast forward to the following Sunday (Easter 2, if you will). Remember, the disciples have been given the Holy Spirit. They have been sent by Jesus with His authority to forgive sin. But where are they? Not out forgiving sins in Jesus’ name! They are in the same room, behind the same locked doors. If I was their pastor, I’d be irate. Time to give them some Law. Time to preach a new strategy – Four Steps to Being a Better Apostle. But what does Jesus preach? Literally, the exact sermon: “Peace be with you.”Jesus gives them the same pure spiritual milk of the Word – the same milk of peace. Jesus knows how to preach better than I or anyone else.

Christian, according to Scripture, you need this constant milk of peace. Paul writes, (1 Cor. 1:22-24), “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Jesus, with His same preaching of peace, also removes Thomas’ disbelief and calls him to faith,“Do not disbelieve, but believe.”And, of course, Thomas does.

Now, I could spend a lot of time on Thomas, his disbelief, and his conversion, but I have in the past. Instead, I want to close with Jesus’ response to Thomas’ conversion. “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blood and Water from JohnJesus is speaking about you. Christian, Jesus had you in mind when He spoke those words. You have not seen Your resurrected Savior in the flesh. You don’t see the marks in Jesus’ hands and side. Instead, you see crosses that remind you of the death that Christ died for you. You see the font where Jesus delivers to you His mercy and forgiveness and washes away your sins. You see an altar on which nothing has ever been sacrificed but which Jesus uses as His table to feed you His risen Body and Blood.

You do not see, but you hear the same proclamation of Jesus, “Peace be with you.”That peace is yours because Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity was crucified, died, and was buried. He is risen again to give you the milk of peace, the forgiveness of your sins now and for all eternity. And, according to Jesus, because of what He has done, you are blessed. Christian, nurse on that, now and forever.

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.

Where Is Your Sting? – Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 for the Resurrection of Our Lord

Listen here.

1 Corinthians 15:51-57

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Too often we think of death in wrong ways. We think that death is a state or a category or a condition. But v. 55 of that Epistle Lesson says that death is an enemy, a person who can be talked to and, most importantly, an enemy who can be questioned.

Imagine encountering death. When you or someone you love dies and you cross paths with death, you need to only ask death one simple question: “O death, where is your sting?”

Death might try to answer you with a pale, menacing, frightening voice, “My sting is your sin. I sting because you sin. If you didn’t have sin, I would have no sting. But I sting everyone because all have sinned. I am the wages and payment of sin (Ro. 6:23). And I will sting you because your sin is my sting.”

But you can simply respond, “I know all of that, death. I know that my sin has put me under your thumb. I know that the Bible says, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ So, what you say is true. But, death, I didn’t ask you, ‘What is your sting?’ I asked you, ‘Where is your sting?’ So, death, where is it, where is your sting?”

And death might smile and respond, “You simple Christian, have you forgotten how powerful my sting is? It is more powerful than the most poisonous snake or spider or jellyfish. My sting is the most powerful sting imaginable. My sting burns forever because the power of my sting is fueled by the Law. Yes, God’s eternal Law that abides forever, and you have broken that Law over and over.”

But you can look back at death and say, “I know my sin is no small sting. I know my sin is against the God who created me and loves me. I know the penalty of my sin is everlasting death, and I feel it in my conscience. I also know that the Law is not ever going to go away. I know that God’s Commandments are eternal. In fact, the Law was what made me scared of you. Because of the good and righteous Law, I know what you can do to me. I know that your sting is my sin, and I know that the power behind that sting is the Law. But, death, you still have not answered my question. Where is your sting?”

At this point, death is uncomfortable and a little fidgety, but he musters as much gusto as possible and says, “Well, you are face-to-face with me, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am, but the sting of death is not death. The sting of death is sin. So, I ask you again, ‘Death, where is your sting?’”

Finally, death hangs his head. “I have used it, and I have lost it. But I’ll get it back again.”

Jesus Coming out of the TombAnd you can smile in his face, “Yes, death, you used your sting, didn’t you? You should have used your sting on me. The sting would have stuck on me. But you didn’t. Instead, death, you used your sting on my Savior, my God, and my Lord. You used your sting on Jesus, didn’t you? You had Jesus pinned tightly on the cross, and you stuck Him with your stinger and buried it into Him. Death, you were a fool that day. You stung God Himself. You stung Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25). But when you went to the tomb to find your stinger and get it back, Jesus wasn’t there. And guess what, death, Christ has taken my sin as He hung on the cross. And, death, you will not ever get your sting back. Never. That empty tomb means that your sting is lost forever. Death, I don’t fear you any longer.”

And having no other answer, death now turns around and walks away from you.

Dear saints, this is why we celebrate every Easter and every Sunday. Every Sunday, we celebrate what Christ has done in absorbing the sting of death so that death no longer has his sting.

And the day is coming when Christ will return. On that day, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable. The day is coming when your perishable body will put on the imperishable and your mortal body will put on immortality.

Yes, death can and does buzz around now for a while. But death is like a bee that has used its stinger and soon dies.

Dear saints, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Yes, the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So now, Christian, you need have no fear of death. Jesus has conquered the bitter tyrant of death. And He has connected you to that victory. You do not need to fear and watch out for death hiding behind a corner to pounce on you. Instead, Christian, you continue to look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Because Christ is risen, death is overthrown. Christ is risen and life reigns. Christ is risen, and dear saint, you are safely anchored in Christ who has given you the victory, now and forever.

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.

Our Lord’s Passion – Sermon on Matthew 26:1-27:66 for Palm Sunday

Listen here.

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

Throughout history, great kings and rulers have been given great titles. Cyrus, Alexander, and Charles all had “the Great” as monikers. There was also William the Conqueror and Richard the Lion-Heart. Two of my favorites – there was Brochwel “the Fanged” who ruled in Scotland and Ferdinand “the Bomb” who ruled in Italy.

Palm Sunday King of GloryThe main focus of Matthew’s Passion account we just heard is the royalty of Jesus. Christ rode into Jerusalem on a royal donkey just like King David and King Solomon (1 Kgs. 1:38) had done. But Matthew doesn’t focus on Jesus’ royal greatness or magnificence. Instead, Matthew focuses on King Jesus’ innocence. Matthew points us to King Jesus “the Innocent.”

Though Jesus is falsely accused of many things, constant, consistent testimonies keep showing up that our Lord is innocent. After he had betrayed Jesus, Judas confesses, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Mt. 27:4). Pilate’s wife tells her husband, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man” (Mt. 27:19). Pilate knows that Jesus was innocent and tries to wash his hands of the capital punishment. And the centurion, when he witnessed Jesus’ death, confessed, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54). Yes, Jesus was innocent.

Jesus was innocent, but you are not. When you stand on trial before God on the last day, innocence is what you need, not greatness. But, again, you have not been innocent. Instead, you’ve sought to be great, mighty, important, and powerful. In your quest for greatness, you have left a wake of pain and suffering behind you. You’ve been selfish, and your words and actions have hurt those who love you most. By your thoughts, words, and deeds, you place yourself not beside Jesus “the Innocent,” but by Barabbas “the Murdering Rebel” (Lk. 23:19).

But in our Lord’s Passion, guilty Barabbas goes free. The Gospel text you just heard is called “the Passion” because this is how God loved you and the reason that you love Him.

When you hear John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” have the Passion accounts in your mind. The word ‘so’ in John 3:16 means “in this way.”

King Jesus the Innocent has come into the world to trade places with sinners – to trade places with you. The weight of sin you carry on your back was whipped into His back. Your hurtful actions went into His hands so that your hands may be cleansed. The bitter words you have spoken have gone into His ears so that you can hear the sweet words, “Not guilty,” on the Last Day.

And even now, you are declared to be innocent by God. Connected to Jesus the Innocent’s death and resurrection in your Baptism, there is now no condemnation for you (Ro. 8:1). This is Christ’s love for you.

Revelation 17 14 War against the LambJesus has arrived in Jerusalem. The Priest has come to the Temple. The Prophet has come to Mt. Zion. The King has come to His city. But most importantly the Lamb of God has come to His altar, where He would in five days breathe His last and pour out His blood for you (Pr. Wolfmueller). This is your Lord’s Passion, done and completed for you. Amen.

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

 

Jesus Hid – Sermon on John 8:42-59 for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Listen here.

John 8:42-59

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

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

If you want to play a game you are sure to win, play hide and seek with a small child. When it comes to hiding, kids are silly. “Why is that door half closed?” “There can’t be anything attached to that leg sticking out from behind the couch.” “I wonder what could be under that bulging, wriggling blanket?” Kid hides with eyes closedOr my favorite, the boy standing in the middle of the room with his eyes closed tight. (To my great shame, I learned closing your eyes doesn’t make you invisible when I was in fourth grade.) Silly kids.

But adults are even more silly when it comes to hiding. The first game of hide and seek was when Adam hid from God because he was afraid. His hiding spot? A few leaves and a couple of trees. Did he really think he could hide from the Creator? I guess he did. Silly Adam. And then there was Israel’s first king (1 Sam. 10:20-24). Saul was a whole head taller than anyone else in Israel. But when God chose him as king, Saul went and hid behind some luggage. Silly Saul.

And, let’s consider the hiding you do. Do you really think you can keep hiding your crummy work and half-hearted efforts from your boss? For how long? Silly thief. Do you think you can keep making up stories? Silly liar. When you say, “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but you should be aware that so-and-so is…,” we know you’re a loudmouth. Silly gossiper. Do your eyes keep wandering for more glances at that woman? Silly adulterer. Your anger is plain as the nose on your face. Silly murderer (Mt. 5:22). And even if you can hide your transgression from others, you can’t hide it from God. Silly sinner.

Repent. You’re guilty. You’re guilty, and you can’t hide it. Or do you really think you can stand before God’s wrath against your sin and say, “Well, nobody’s perfect”? Silly, silly sinner.

Repent. You don’t have to hide. Jesus has freed you to speak the truth and confess your sins. Christ has provided all the cover you will ever need – no luggage, no fig leaves, no closed eyes. He has provided His holy Body and Blood. Don’t hide your sins. Hand them over to Jesus. Let Him have them and receive what He wants to hand over to you – His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. You can hand your sins over to Jesus because, today, Jesus hid for you.

Jesus threatened by stonesJesus stood in the middle of people who have been looking for a reason to kill Him for almost His entire ministry (Mk. 3:6). Today, Christ declares Himself to be no less than Almighty God. When He declares Himself to be the great I Am, Jesus announces that He is the One who is Lord over all things, and the One who always was, always is, and always will be, the One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, the One who led their ancestors through the Red Sea on dry ground, the One whom Isaiah saw in the Temple.

They didn’t like that, so they picked up stones to throw at Him and kill Him. Silly sinners, thinking they could kill God. But Jesus hid. Jesus didn’t hide because He was scared of death. He didn’t hide because didn’t trust His heavenly Father’s protection. Jesus hides because He is fully in control. Jesus hides so that He could die at the right time and in the right way. Judged and condemned twice, once by the religious leaders and a second time by Pilate. Jesus sentenced and condemned to death bearing all your sins in His body (1 Pet. 2:24).

Jesus hides here because His hour had not yet come. Christ had more to accomplish for you. He still had to raise Lazarus from the dead. He still had to institute His holy Supper. He still had to be betrayed by a kiss, arrested, and denied by Peter. Jesus had to hide here because His death won’t be by stones. It can’t be by stones; it must be on a tree for all to see. Today, Jesus hides Himself in the thicket so that He will be there at the right time to die in the place of another (Gen. 22:13) – to die in your place.

There on the cross, He must die for you. And then, He must be hidden again. Hidden at dusk on Friday night and all of Holy Saturday in that tomb sealed with a stone. Hidden with Him is the wrath of God, the Law, and Hell. Cross and CommunionAll of that is hidden so that you do not have to face it. It is hidden so that you do not need to hide.

And now, Jesus hides Himself again but this time in Bread and Wine. Soon, He will come in glory when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the crucified Lord who is risen and reigns. And know that you are joined to Him. You have died with Him and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, you also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:3-4). Amen.[1]

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

[1]This sermon was adapted from a sermon by Rev. Ralph Tausz on the same text (http://www.apostlesmelrosepark.org/index.php?page=Sermons&sid=235).