Tag Archives: propitiation

Renew and energize your disciples Lord Matthew 28 First Saint Johns Lutheran Church April 17, 2017

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the hope and joy of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ said … AMEN!

For us in a liturgical church, this season, starting on Ash Wednesday, for many people seems to be such a dreary day, I put ashes on your forehead, which in itself is certainly counter-cultural what the world would see as “weird” and then I quietly tell you from dust you came and dust you shall return. Not exactly a “whoopee do” moment. Then we spend the next 40 plus days sacrificing something, hopefully, and remembering our sins. In a world that is all about lurching from the next exciting/breathtaking event, again seems weird that we should invite such reflection when the world around us is all about denial and minimizing their sin. But we get it, we get the whole human condition, when we are serious about our faith, we are equipped by our yearly liturgical calendar to deal with all the conditions of life. We don’t live in a zippity-do-da world, that when the trials strike, we don’t just curl up in a cocoon and become a zombie. That is part of what being in the church, in the Body of Christ is all about. We know that we have a pastor and brothers and sisters in Jesus that are there to strengthen us and remind us of the glorious promises that we have in Christ. While the Words and promises of Jesus give us inspiration and strength, the resurrection of Jesus is what gives us the ultimate, slam dunk hope that it really isn’t about this world and the trials. It is about the New World of the resurrection that gives us the deep down peace and joy that we will live an eternal, perfect life of true living and fulfillment.

Palm Sunday is good, but we know what it’s leading to, it’s kind of a interval, but certainly not the end. Maundy Thursday doesn’t really get the notice it should. Maundy is Latin, mandate or commandment, when Jesus told His disciples “ESV John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.” How we minimize this in our church calendar mystifies me. That Jesus gives us this incredible direction, you will not find in any other belief system, to love one another. That He is telling them, again, this is it, I am laying down My life for those I love, for My friends, that He is also telling them, and us, His disciples, that we are His friends. I certainly have a friend in Jesus, but it is the most one –sided friendship you can imagine, He gives me everything, up to and including His life in order for me to truly live now and the eternal life of the resurrection. But there’s more, He puts an exclamation point on this by giving His disciples His Body and Blood, we who are His disciples now are fed Jesus’ Body and Blood to the strengthening of our body and soul. We receive this actual nourishment of His Body to build us up and make our relationship with Him as strong as conceivable.

Good Friday, that’s a tough day. To see Him who called us friend, who is there for us all the time, and we helplessly watch as He is mercilessly beaten, abused, and then brutally murdered. Completely innocent, completely holy and abused so ruthlessly, showing how we can be so debased and so cruel as a people.

It seems unnecessary to have such a brutal scenario. But we know our greatest fear is death, to blink into non-existence, to leave behind everything we’ve known and just stop living. In order for our greatest fear, terror, our greatest anxiety to be defeated it had to be met head on, how else could death be defeated but for someone to die and then be restored to life? We are all doomed to die, without Jesus there is nothing but death. No human being could overcome death, because by our lives, we are already dead in our sin and trespasses, we deserve death. But not Jesus. Jesus, He who is completely holy, completely without guilt, no sin. He is not destined to die, He has eternal life because He is eternal, God the Son. He could pay the penalty, overcome death, which none of us could ever do. In God’s economy, in order to have mercy on us, in order to keep us from eternally paying the penalty for us, God permitted His Son to be the paschal victim. He did all that was necessary mostly during this season in order to give us the promise of eternal life and life in this world of joy and promise.

In all this it is very little about feelings. Yes we have feelings, but the point isn’t about how you feel, why etc, what you “feel”, just doesn’t change anything. Sam Storms writes: “What you and I “like” is utterly and absolutely irrelevant. God doesn’t set his eternal agenda based on what we “prefer”. What we might “hope” to be true simply doesn’t matter. What does or does not make us “feel comfortable” has no bearing on the truth or falsity of this issue. The fact that we have an intuitive sense for what strikes us as “fair” or “just” doesn’t really matter, what actually is, is what matters to God.”[1] To our harm we let our “feelings” our opinions, the way we think things should be dictate way too much of what we think. In God’s providence, in His Lordship, His creation it is about what He thinks. It is going to be His way, whether we think it’s fair or not. Yet, He does so much for us. We live the sinful lives, He doesn’t, Jesus didn’t and doesn’t, yet who was made the way to God and eternal life? Jesus. Not about our opinion or our feelings, entirely about what Jesus did for us. What we like and don’t like is certainly about our “feelings”. We could walk away on Good Friday, decide “what’s the point”, give up, give in to our feelings of loss and depression and not wait for the true joy. Jesus’ resurrection isn’t a jump up and down the Patriots won the Super Bowl happy. That’s superficial, it’s there for a moment and then back to reality. It’s that time when you stop in your life, a smile spreads over your face. Not a goofy, giddy smile, but a smile of knowing, of contentment, a mature and thoughtful smile knowing that the shallowness around us is just passing. That there is true joy, contentment. Have you ever noticed that when you’re all giddy-up happy, it’s quickly followed by kind of a crash? You were all yippy, then just kind of settled down into a discontent of “why did I do that”? The temporary giddy-up is fine, so long as we don’t get hooked on it and require continuous shots of “happy”. It doesn’t last. It’s been a tough last few months for me. On Friday I had to be with a mother whose 22 year old son was murdered. A few weeks ago I did a funeral for a ten year old boy, the week before that my father died, a few weeks before that I had to be with a mother and father whose 22 year old son committed suicide. Throw in car problems, other assorted issues, the strain has been huge. If I was dependent on happy how do you think I would continue to function? Being a Christian means you have the support of brothers and sisters in Jesus and pastors who are there for you during the trials and encouraging you. I really appreciate how some people here stepped up to encourage and support. Ken stepped up and really helped with a lot of the worships of the last few weeks. How can I stand before people who’ve just lost a child and make them “happy” as the world thinks they should be? Amusing them, stand up comedy, platitudes? Do I just leave them there to deal with it, get over it? As difficult as you think your trials might be, imagine being the parents going through such trials. There’s nothing that’s going to make them “happy”. But as a pastor, I am going to do whatever I can to give them true joy. That is the whole purpose of the resurrection. Tertullian wrote about the resurrection: “It is by all means to be believed because it is absurd.”[2] There will be tragedies in our lives of varying degree, the longer the life the higher the chance and even more tragedies. We might think of Jesus’ being horribly murdered on Good Friday as tragedy, yet out of His suffering on that day, came the greatest promise that we can imagine and as a pastor that is what I get to share with people who have endured ghastly tragedy. By doing this I am going to help them to know joy. That our God is very much aware of what they’re going through. He saw His own son unmercifully brutalized, beaten, nailed into wood and left to suffer. God understands our horror when we have to endure tragedy, He is right there with you reaching down through the layers you experience in order to help you understand that there is a far greater promise that overcomes the horror. The horror is for a time, the promise of our eternal life, the joy that we have in Jesus right here and now gives us the joy, the hope, the promise that restores, renews and energizes us now. The world tells us just to accept tragedy and move on, to find happiness or turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex to overcome tragedy, because it doesn’t matter anyway. That is such a hopeless, appalling lie straight from Hell. We were created by our all-powerful – all loving God. He knows the horrors, but He also knows that it is not the end and gives us that promise, that there are more and greater eternal joys that He has for us in our eternal life and that restores and renews us in our life now. That is what the promise of the empty grave of Jesus is all about, that at the end of time all of our graves will be empty. Our bodies we will be resurrected, restored to a perfect life that we were always intended to have. Martin Luther wrote: “The resurrection consists not in words, but in life and power. The heart should take inward delight in this and be joyful.”[3] Happiness only lifts us up to drop us again, the joy, peace and promise of God the Father in the resurrection of Jesus, God the Son, gives us joy now, that when we have the tragedy of the death of someone we love, we know that when we are all in Jesus, this life and all its tragedies will be a dim memory as we live life together in the eternal, fulfilling, perfect life of the resurrection.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom


[1] Sam Storms “Ten Things you should know about Hell”   http://www.crosswalk.com/slideshows/10-things-you-should-know-about– hell.html?utm_content=buffere08f1&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_source=cwpg&utm_campaign=cwupdate


[2] Cal and Rose Samra “Holy Humor” p 59

[3] Ibid

Faithful discipleship and not going through the motions

It’s one of those cliches that Christians fall into, “God gave us the best in Jesus, we should give Him our best.” OK, you can’t argue with that, but it’s that sort of platitude that gets “ya-ya’d” and then pretty much left as a platitude. To be sure God has given us His best, He continues to do so and not only that is looking for our faithfulness, our growth, our trust in Him and our honest attempts to serve Him. I get it, that is not always going to be our “best”. No doubt, when we are doing things that are new, things that God is pushing us into, that are intimidating, that make us challenge our boundaries we are going to shrink back a little. To be sure, we’re not always going to produce our best, but what God wants is for us to rely on the faith that He’s given us in order to push us to do the things that He wants us to grow in. Anytime, there’s something new, something that is kind of towering over you, it does kind of freeze you up. So that’s the point, that’s what God is doing with so many in the Bible, making them go beyond what they thought they were capable of.

God gave us His best, Jesus picked up from the glory of Heaven, His place in the Godhead next to God the Father. He became a man in order to live the perfect life and therefore the spotless sacrifice, payment for all of our sins and restore the relationship in salvation with God the Father. As the Blackabys point out: “…He reliinquished the glory of His heavenly existence in order to become a man. He was born n a cattle shed; he slept in a feeding trough. His life was spent preparing for the day when He would suffer an excruciating execution…” (Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 362) Jesus was He who all creation came into being and yet He is in a shed, in a humble place in Israel, which is itself a humble backwater to the rest of the world.

So having said all that, and realizing that we aren’t going to be “all that and a bag of chips”, but it seems that when we are pushed, we don’t even think about excellence, we think that we throw some crumbs, go through the motions and then we should be good with God. We need God to be great, perfect, Holy, almighty, sovereign Lord, we will never come close to being even a speck to the God who has created all and that’s good, we have a God that is Lord of all. Having said that and understanding that He does understand that we can never be anywhere near enough, that we have human limitations, we still expect that He’s supposed to lower His standards to ours. I get that a lot as a pastor, talk to me on my level, heck the church has been doing that since you and I were in Sunday school. It’s really not an attempt to help people to grow, to push themselves to new levels of Christian maturity, it’s the same old story. Pat us on the head, make everything nice and easy and everyone will be happy. We want God to come down to our level, but we still want Him to do all the great, magnificent things when we want them.

OK, God comes down to our level, but what does that even mean? Whose level of mediocrity should He lower Himself to, mine? Yours? The take-away is this. God sets the standard that we should all strive for and we should strive for God’s best. That’s not what saves us, we are saved simply and solely through Jesus who died as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. We cannot earn our way into salvation, nothing we will ever do will ever be enough to save us in our sin. Jesus is the only One who could save us and is all there is, nothing we could ever come close to.

But instead of always offering our mediocre efforts, our gifts of crumbs and indifference, expecting that it should be “our way”, as if God is going to do billions of people individual ways. Instead let’s really trust in God’s leading, if He’s pushing you to trust more, to do something that seems out of your reach, to learn and to lead beyond what you think you can, then trust His leading. We have to get out of our mediocre, hum-drum ruts that’s so typical of the world and really strive for what the Holy Spirit is pushing us to. Are there new groups at church to help you learn and apply what you learn and are led to do? Are there ministries that are crying out to be established? Are there people, maybe even just one who could use attention, guidance, mentoring?

Our church service is not in terms of some pompous, “ya, always the best rah-rah”. It’s I’m here to be led to where the Holy Spirit is moving me, it’s not always going to be the best, the most successful, the most effective. It’s going to be in terms of the faithfulness that He gives us and lose the attitude of just going through the motions, throwing some crumbs and then moving on to “fun”. Ya, which is usually being a slug, that it’s all about you and don’t make me really make an effort. God gives us the faith, the talent, the ability, and when needed lifts us up past our ability and helps us to achieve to His glory. Let’s glorify God, focus on His will and not our weaknesses, get out of our mediocre ruts and really know His will and what He can do through us and then do it as well as we can.

Remembering our sin in preparation for the Child First St Johns November 30, 2014 Isaiah 64: 1-9

For the audio version of this sermon, click on the above link, or copy and paste it into your web browser. Thank you and God bless.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who prepare for the coming of the Son in the new liturgical year said … AMEN!

Happy New Year, sounds a little weird, aren’t we supposed to have Christmas first and then have New Year? Today is the first Sunday of the church New Year, the time of Advent, the time where we wait in anticipation, our whole life is a time of waiting in anticipation of the coming of Jesus in the clouds of His power and glory. But for now we wait on the feast, the celebration of the coming of the Christ child. The Advent of His Kingdom in the world. We joined together in the Apostle’s Creed to remember that He will come again, to judge both the living and the dead. Those who have died in Christ will be raised to the resurrection the eternal Kingdom, the New Jerusalem.

Isaiah says “Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold please look, we are all your people.” (Is 64:8-9) Ya, Isaiah is addressing the Old Testament God. Remember Isaiah 6? Isaiah is raised into the presence of God: “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips… for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!’ (Is 6:5)? From the beginning of Isaiah to the end, our reading today, Isaiah is readily acknowledging the fact that we are sinful and unclean, we are simply not suitable to be in the presence of a pure, holy, God. Clearly God has revealed to Isaiah that we are sinful and there needs to be a solution to our condition. Yahweh makes it very clear to Isaiah that the sacrifices of Israel; rams, bulls, lambs, just doesn’t cut it. Read all through Isaiah 1: 10-15. But then what does God do? He promises that they will be made as white as snow… our sins will be like wool, nice and white, cleaned, made pure. He makes it very clear all through Isaiah’s book that we are sinful, and Isaiah is completely aware of his own condition. Imagine being brought straight into the presence of our completely holy God, just being overwhelmed by His holy presence, His Holy being and our being, the complete opposite, totally depraved and sinful. It must be an overpowering experience. Many people demand that God come into their presence, we couldn’t begin to cope with that, we would be consumed by our sinfulness in contrast to His holiness, we would be completely blown away and that’s why God won’t do it.

Until we completely internalize Paul’s words in our epistle reading: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus… who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ( 1 Cor 1: 4, 8) Only in Christ are we guiltless, that we can then be in the presence of the Father, totally righteous and holy, but only through our baptism-new life, we are made holy, we don’t have to be reduced to the fear and disgust that Isaiah felt. In Christ, in the Father’s presence we are lifted up to joy, we can rejoice. I have no doubt that it will be an overwhelming feeling of love and freedom in Christ, in the Father’s presence.

Isaiah is making a plea for restoration. He has been made completely aware of how unworthy he is, how unworthy we all are. Isaiah is no better or worse then we are, none of us is any better or any worse. Isaiah is making this plea that we can be restored. In what way are we restored? We can now be in the Father’s presence, we are no longer separated from Him, alienated from Him. We are alienated from Him because we are aliens in relation to Him. No we aren’t green or odd-shaped, we don’t have antenna’s in our head, but our nature, as Isaiah has been made profoundly aware of, is totally opposite to His. He is completely holy, completely perfect, we are imperfect and deeply sinful. Walter Roehrs in the Concordia Self-Study Commentary writes: “Isaiah devotes the remainder of his book to correct two misconceptions his hearers and readers are prone to harbor about the way God wants to lead them to glory.” I might add that this is the way we think today, probably more so, then what the people in Isaiah’s time thought. “It is a fatal mistake on the one hand, to … walk with God with one foot, and with the other to stalk through the sewer of sin.”1 That’s the way we think today, “I’m good enough, I haven’t killed anyone, there are others much worse than me.” So we continue to live our lives in this mind-set that I can give God what ever I decide and He has to take what I give Him and deal with it. God is not a half-way kind of guy, it’s His way or no way. How the world comes to another conclusion totally baffles me. Why should a perfect, holy God be happy with some scraps that we throw Him, bring us into His presence and just allow whatever phony, mooshy, sentimental whim we chose over His perfect being? Why would He let our lusts and greed overcome His Holiness. Through our sin, we’ve messed up what God created, away from Him, cutoff from Him. He drove Satan out of heaven when Satan presumed to be better than God, why would He let us in to do the same thing Satan did? He’s not and if you think otherwise, you’re only kidding yourself. Dr Roehrs writes: “Isaiah had to set Israel straight [and by extension us who are now Israel] on both counts. He [Isaiah] foretold certain disaster for a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity’ and so depraved as to lift ‘hands … full of blood’ to the Lord in a pose of prayer.” (Is 1: 4, 15)2 That’s us, and that’s not going to work in the presence of God the Father, but in Christ we become cleansed and pure and suitable enough to be saved to eternity in God’s salvation in Jesus.

Isaiah is acutely aware of the human condition in relation to God: “We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

So what now, what needs to happen. Can we do anything that is going to make us closer to God, to make us more desirable, more deserving of being in His presence? No… But earlier in his book, Isaiah knew that God was going to move, to do something. It was going to take about 700 years, for us that would be intolerable! We want the solution, we want it now and well, if you can’t make it happen on our time table, we’re just going to have to get ourselves a new “god”. But in God the Father’s time, it is perfect, complete, not a band-aid fix, an eternal, complete, perfect fix: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6) I like what David Johnson says: “…Advent is not just anticipatory of a saccharin sweet nativity story, but bona fide bitter judgment against sin! Heaven and earth collide and are mingled in Jesus! God and man! Jesus is wrapped in human flesh; the world is wrapped in divine grace…”3 The seasonal color for Advent is usually blue, although purple is acceptable also. What other season is purple the seasonal color? Lent. The blue, and some say it’s bluish-purple, is a symbol of waiting, it represents Mary waiting with the rest of the church for her child. But the more traditional color is purple and like Lent means a time of repentance, in the sense of preparing for the coming of the Savior in repentance, being prepared for Him by repenting of our sins. That’s why we don’t normally sing Christmas carols, which are celebration, we are faithfully preparing and repenting so that in the Christ Child we are saved and we spend the Christmas season in joy and celebration. Spend the Advent season raising up your sins for forgiveness, clean out your heart, like you clean your house on Shrove Tuesday and you will be prepared to receive the child on Christmas Day as we receive the risen Christ on Easter.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Roehrs, Franzman Concordia Self-Study Commentary p 490


3David A Johnson Concordia Journal Fall 2014 p 322

Unemployment it’s especially hard during the holidays. Enjoy the holidays, but on Monday try this

I have developed a heart for those dealing with unemployment. I worked in corporate finance for twenty years and went through my share of. Corporate challenges  I do know the drill. If you are dealing with this I am sure you have been working hard, doing all the things that are recommended and still keeping a great attitude. I would certainly encourage you to keep trusting in God, looking for His will and trusting that he is moving you where you should be.  I truly hope that you will take your foot off the pedal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep a positive attitude, keep regular hours do what you can do but take time to enjoy family and friends to let a group like ours give support, for your pastor to encourage and give comfort. I know how you’re feeling and you need to stop beating yourself. This time of year is particularly tough for two groups, those who have lost a loved one and those who are unemployed. Please be with brothers and sisters in Jesus and enjoy their support. If you are in the York, Pa area and we can provide support of clothing, food, fellowship, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bm2driskell@aol.com.

Now something to think about for next week, maybe you’re kind of in a rut so try this. This is something we suggest to people in the group we facilitate, but now it is backed up with professional opinion. The following is from “Men’s Health” Jul/August 2014 page 20:

“Donating your time really will help you get ahead. In a study in the “Journal of Career Assessment”, unemployed people who volunteered weekly were far more likely to have a job within six months than those who didn’t lend a hand. Even those who volunteered less than two hours a week had a better shot at being hired elsewhere, says Varda Konstam PhD, the study’s lead researcher. The key word here is “elsewhere”. The ability to ladle out soup doesn’t mean you’re qualified to work only in a cafeteria. Interviewers are increasingly viewing such basic skills as indicators of broader skill sets. That means serving soup isn’t about serving soup; it shows that you’re good at customer service and work well with others. Try telethons to show off your sales and marketing tactics  or find another opportunity in your area at volunteermatch.org ”

i have seen at least two people in our group end up with really great positions by following this advice. One other note we are more and more seeing ages forty and over with this group. Either they’re the only ones taking the initiative to be part of such group or it’s hitting older workers. I’d be willing to be a combination of both. Any discussion on that would be appreciated we would like to get better in this area and input would be appreciated. Again Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.

Questions can often only be answered by doing and not fussing.

Having been a still, relatively, recent seminary graduate, Master of Divinity (2010 – Concordia Seminary St Louis, Mo.), I think I can comment with some authority on Henry Blackaby’s comment”…merely ‘talking about the Christian pilgrimage is not sufficient. We must actually set out on the journey! We can spend many hours debating and discussing issues related to the Chritian life, but this means little if we never actually step out and follow Christ!” (“Experiencing God day by day” p 24). Yea and amen, it doesn’t just apply to seminary students, although it seemed as if too many thought that ministry was all about sitting around thinking great thoughts and then on Sunday morning coming down to dispense their great wisdom. Yea, well neither one applies to anyone that I met, and I think that after 4 years of actual ministry (my anniversary was this past August), I think I can say with some authority that I didn’t meet any students that had many, if any great thoughts.
The same can be said for many who have spent years, decades in the church. Sure we are to study Scripture, right up until they are throwing dirt on our face, but as Blackaby writes “Christianity is not a set of teachings to understand. It is a Person to follow. As he walked with Jesus, Andrew watched Jesus heal the sick, teach God’s wisdom, and demonstrate God’s power. Andrew not only learned ‘about’ God; he actually experienced Him!”
OK, point taken Christianity is about being a disciple, unless you are in unusual circumstances, discipling means being taught by another person and teaching another person, at the same time. While also continuing to study and be encouraged by Scripture.
I disagree that “Christianity is not a set of teachings to understand…” Yea, it really is, you always have Jesus and He will disciple you, but there may be unusual times when you just have Scripture and no one to disciple, be discipled by. Certainly we turn in prayer to God and are guided by the Holy Spirit. But point taken, bottom line being a Christian is being in relation with Jesus.
In that discipling relationship there will no doubt be questions. Certainly it is our nature to have our questions answered before we start out. In the Coast Guard you had these guys who had to have every question answered before they got underway, generally they just got shoved out the door. You can stand around talking it to death or you can get underway, get on scene, and you will get answers and rely on your training, experience and greater minds at the station to address the situation. In the meantime, yapping about it at the station and instead of getting there produces very little.
In my Christian walk it has been uncanny how many times the answers have come while I was in the process. Sometimes they wouldn’t come until after you were settled in the lane you were guided to travel and realize that the only way those questions could have been answered was to actually follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and play it out. I’ve had many experiences of looking back and thinking “ohhhh, that’s how that was supposed to be, that’s so cool, I would have never have thought that.” Like it or not, the Holy Spirit is going to do it much better than you and in a way that often just leaves you in awe. “I would never have done it that way.”
Despite what you think, you are not entitled to answers to everything, often the whole point is for you to get underway and the answers come. Your growth comes in being guided by the Spirit, getting answers on the way and it’s the only way it could have happened.
Many think that they have a “choice”, well yea, the right way (God’s way) or the wrong way (your way). Some people like to go to God with an attitude of; “You answer all my questions, give me your pitch and then I”ll think it over and get back to you.” As if God’s Son is some kind of vacuum cleaner salesman.
Blackaby suggests that Jesus might say, ‘Put on your shoes, step out onto the road and follow Me.’ As you walk daily with Him, Jesus will answer your questions, and you will discover far more than you even knew to ask.”
Get off your high horse, listen, quit quibbling. There are no better offers and when you really submit yourself to God and trust in His Word instead of listening to your own, often, pompous nonsense, you will find that you really do understand, and that you aren’t even close to really understanding. That you realize you don’t need to know everything. You can trust Jesus and His Lordship and you can get on with what you need to do.

Spiritual attack

I suppose Good Friday isn’t a time to be whining, good things are happening, the Lord has been blessing us. But it’s hard to break this feeling of being under both spiritual attack and spiritual oppression.
In my heart I know that is a good thing, if you are truly being effective for the Kingdom, you certainly put a target on your back, you are going to attract Satan’s attention. In that sense I say bring it, if I’m going to be the one to suffer the slings and arrows, if I am taking the hits for Jesus, He tells us that we should rejoice, that it is commendable: “ESV Matthew 5:11 “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.”
People who are just going through the motions, trying to stay “safe”, not stepping out for Jesus or His church, they aren’t a threat to Satan, so he’s not going to cause them grief. Wouldn’t the strategy be more to keep people kind of fat and happy and isolated? You just stay there and go by the numbers and nothing happens to you, I’m just interested in the guy who is trying to bring the Kingdom of Christ into my world. This is Satan’s world, those who are Christians are in the world, but not of the world. Seems that for those who actually step out, they draw the fire, while everyone else hides behind their barricades.
Jesus certainly stepped out, Jesus certainly confronts the world and no matter how attacked I feel, I know that Jesus is going to be there to support me and to keep me going. Jesus promised us: “And behold, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28: 20) In the meantime I certainly covet your prayers, I continue to pray that I stay strong and faithful, trusting that if I am drawing Satan’s fire, then Jesus must be using me effectively and I’m staying out of His way as best I can. But pray that this oppressiveness will be turned from feeling as if I’m being pushed down and give me strength to rise up and push back hard in the strength of Jesus Christ. We remember the death and sacrifice of Jesus today, His paying for our sins on that cross. Good Friday is the second most important day on the Christian calendar. On this day, Jesus made full payment for our sins, lifted what separates us from the Father. Sunday, He rises from the dead, our sins have been paid for and now we are restored to eternal life in Christ, the life that the Father had always intended for us in our resurrection. This is a great time for family, but set some of that time to worship together, today and Sunday. In His peace.

The Dying Word

First Saint Johns

April 9, 2014

This is from Concordia Publishiing House “Words of Life from the Cross” series


The sixth word is Jesus’ dying word, a word of committal, a word of trust. His dying words are faithful, full of trust in His Father, trusting that in His death His Father will receive Him in loving arms just as the father of the prodigal received his son with open and welcoming arms. Here again is the paradox of faith. Jesus had cried out in abandonment, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and yet now He cries out in faith, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!”
Isn’t that how it is with the life of faith? God seems so distant at times, especially those times of darkness and woe, those dark nights and days, and yet He stands ever near to embrace us in those strong, loving, fatherly arms. Jesus trusted His Father, and He did it on behalf of all of us. His trust is complete and unwavering. Though He dies, yet He trusts. Though He suffers, yet He trusts. Though the Father is silent and hidden, yet He trusts.
But take note of something—this dying word is not sighed or whispered. This is not a weak word of resignation by a man who is overcome by death. No. He shouts this word in a loud voice. He summons His strength and shouts it to the highest heavens. He wants the whole world to hear what He has to say. He is the Son of the Father, begotten and beloved from all eternity. He trusts His Father’s mandate that sent Him on this mission to the cross.
Jesus is not overcome by death. Rather, He overcomes death by dying. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Jesus has taken the sting of death and the venom of the Law into His own flesh, shed His own blood, and now He cries out in victory and triumph as He commits His life to the Father who sent Him. This strong word of the cross cuts through your doubt and disbelief. Adam’s death is conquered by this Second Adam’s death. Adam hearkened to the doubting word of the devil and became a transgressor, plunging the world into the chaos of sin. But this Second Adam, the new head of redeemed humanity, holds true to His Father and will not waver even as He dies. His life is in the hands of the Father.
With His final breath, Jesus shows Himself to be the faithful Son. Where we have failed, He has succeeded. Where we have sinned, He has proven sinless. Where we doubt, He remains strong.
Being self-absorbed and self-oriented, the old Adam in us resists this surrender. It fights like crazy against the loving embrace of the Father, like a small child throwing a temper tantrum who will not be held. We want to be in control, we want to be in power. We resent any notion that we sit not in the driver’s seat, but in the passenger’s seat of our lives. Like so many drowning victims, we think we can swim to shore ourselves. We do not need a lifeguard; we even resist the attempts to save us. We want it all on our own terms.
You know how it is in your own life—the bargaining, the denial, the transactions—anything but letting go and leaving to God our Father to hold us in safety. Jesus does it. On the cross, He entrusts His life, His mission, His death, everything to His Father. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
The words are from Psalm 31. The psalms are the hymnbook of the living and the dying. Jesus takes up the words of David on His lips, for they are His words, too, wrought by the Spirit of Christ in David.
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in Your righteousness deliver me!
Incline Your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For You are my rock and my fortress;
and for Your name’s sake You lead me and guide me;
You take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for You are my refuge.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
David, surrounded by his enemies, commits his life into the hand of God. Jesus, the greater Son of David, hanging in the darkness with the burden of humanity’s sin hanging heavy upon Him, commits His life to His Father. In committing Himself into His Father’s hands, He entrusts us as well, gathering all into His death that we might be gathered to Him in our death.
In Luther’s day, people were quite intentional about writing down their last thoughts and confession. What you said at your death was what would be remembered about you. This is Jesus’ last word of His being humbled unto death in obedience to the Law. This is the last word of His work that began with His Baptism where His Father voiced His approval over His beloved Son. Now at the end of His mission, His work completed, the Scriptures fulfilled, the redemption of the world accomplished, He closes His eyes and breathes His last breath with a faithful, trusting word.
Remember these words when it comes time for your last words and make them your “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit. Say them each night, as the Small Catechism instructs, in case you should die before you wake. Hold the cross of Jesus before your closing eyes, and rest in peace and joy, knowing that death has been swallowed up in the victory of Jesus’ death.

For Your last triumphant cry, for Your faithful trust to the end, for Your final breath of the old creation, for Your entrusting Yourself and us to Your Father, we give You thanks and praise, most holy Jesus. Amen.

Please cllick on the following link for a audio recorded version of this sermon



My God why have You forsaken Me

From Words of Life from the Cross  – The Faithful Word

From Concordia Publishing House Wednesday Night Lenten worship

Sermon: The Faithful Word (Matthew 27:45–46)

 The third word of the cross is an entirely different word. It is a word directed to the Father, a cry of abandonment in the God-forsakenness of our sin. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” spoken in Jesus’ native tongue, Aramaic. This emanates from the very depths of His soul.

Onlookers would have recognized the opening verses of Psalm 22, the desperate cries of King David in his time of trial. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (v. 1). If they had the psalm committed to memory, and many did, they would have remembered David’s vividly prophetic portrayal of a crucifixion long before crucifixions were even invented. “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (vv. 16–18). Jesus is living and dying this psalm.

With His cry of dereliction, Jesus underscores the prophetic nature of His death. This is no accident, no simple miscarriage of justice, no quirk of history. His death in the darkness between noon and three is written large into every page of the Old Testament. It is the thread that connects the Torah and the Prophets and the Psalms into a unified whole. David’s sufferings are a picture, a type, of the Davidic King in His time of trial, of Jesus on the cross. The sentences are no coincidences; they are the plan of God from all eternity that the world should find its redemption in the death of the Son of David, the Son of God.

This is an easily misunderstood cry. Those who heard Jesus misheard Him and thought He was calling out for Elijah to save Him. They offer Jesus a drink of sour wine and wait to see if Elijah comes.

But Jesus has no need for Elijah’s services. He has come to fulfill Elijah and all of the prophets. His cry is not a call for help, but a cry out of the depths of our fallen humanity, out of our own death and despair. This is your abandonment, your darkness, your sin, your death that Jesus is experiencing in His own flesh.

He became the Sinner, damned under God’s wrath, cursed on the tree. He is the adulterer, the thief, the murderer, the idolater. He is you. He willingly, knowingly, freely offers Himself on the altar of God’s justice, taking on Adam’s sin and rebellion and yours and making it His own. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sin is alienating. It drives a wedge between God and us and between each of us. Because of sin, Adam and Eve were driven from the garden and barred from the tree of life. Because of sin, we are driven into the isolation of self, the solitary confinement of our own selves curved inward. Sin would shut us from God and from one another, leaving us permanently warped inward in a prison locked from the inside. In our time of darkness and despair, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” but the truth of the matter is we have forsaken God. We have turned from Him. We like sheep have gone astray, each in his or her own way. We have turned from God; God has not turned from us.

Jesus, as the perfect Substitute, takes our place. He puts Himself where we are, and in so doing, experiences the silence and darkness and despair, the “dark night” of our collective human soul. He places Himself into our killing fields, our death camps, our concentration camps, our abortion clinics, our prisons and gulags. He enters into all the God-forsaken places where we cry out in despair, “Where are You, God? Why have You forsaken us?” Jesus utters the “why” question on behalf of all of us. Why does God permit this to happen? Why do the innocent suffer? Why does a just God permit suffering and a merciful God not prevent it?

There is paradox in this cry. Jesus prays to a Father who appears to have abandoned Him in His time of need; the God who is absent and silent. He cries out into the darkness from His cross, and His cries trail off into the silence of space. And still, like David who prayed these words before Him, He prays. Here is the paradox of faith. Faith prays to the God who is silent, who appears to have withdrawn, whose hand of blessing has shut tightly, who appears not to be there. Faith calls out “my God” and will not let God off the hook. This is faith that clings to the promise of God, when all that you have is the promise of God. Like the centurion who said to Jesus, “Only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8), faith trusts that the word of Jesus is sufficient.

This is the faith of Jesus that is at the heart of our faith. He trusts for us. He prays for us. He cries out for us. He suffers for us. He dies for us. He embraces us so that we will never be forsaken in our time of need; we will never be alone in the hour of our death; we will not be abandoned in the Day of Judgment. Jesus is there, joined to us and we to Him in baptismal faith. He is with us, always, promising never to leave or forsake us.

Remember this faithful word when God seems to have forsaken you, on your dark Good Friday afternoon. Remember this cry of the Son of God calling out to heaven in your place, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, and know that God has vindicated Jesus in His death, and He vindicates you in Jesus. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). You are reconciled to God in Jesus. You are justified in Jesus. You are safe in Jesus. And you are never forsaken.


For Your suffering in the darkness, for Your cry of abandonment, for Your becoming our sin so that we in You might become the righteousness of God, for Your taking upon Yourself our alienation, our division, our estrangement, our death, we give You thanks, most holy Jesus. Amen.