Tuesday, February 26, 2008

“I’ve Never Been This Way Before” Joshua 3:4

S-1035 2/27/08 4SMIL/3A. Hymns: (S)#376; # 780 LSB; (C) #554

Texts: Psalm 46; Exodus 17:6 1 Corinthians 10:1-10; Matthew 26:57-7:10

Theme: “I’ve Never Been This Way Before” Joshua 3:4

Armour, SD. SOLI DEO GLORIA (4th sermon in series on “Singing the Songs of Zion)

“You have never been this way before.” (Joshua 3:4).

My son David was taken by my wife to his first day of Pre-school. As my wife introduced him to his teacher and classmates, his face changed. He had that look—a look of fear. My wife was about to leave, and David clung to her leg for dear life. Every time she attempted to walk, he grasped tighter and harder and cried louder and would not let go. Finally, my wife had to slowly remove each of his fingers and quickly close the door behind her. While she is walking away, she could hear his screams and sobbing. And she cried too. This went on for two full weeks. Each day the emotions, the tears, the holding and screaming were the same. David was frightened to be left behind. He more than likely thought that mom was not coming back and maybe even there were giants behind those closed doors. You see, David had never been this way before.

Neither had Joshua. The officers in our text remind both him and Israel, “You have never been this way before.” Joshua had traveled along with Moses from Egypt to Sinai, and all of the places God had led them. For 40 years they have traveled by the guidance and leadership of God as revealed to Moses. Joshua even entered Cannan to spy out the land. But now, he stands on the east bank of the Jordan River gazing west into the Promised Land, Joshua knew in all his travels he had “never been this way before.”

The Pre-school room for David looked as an ominous and fearful place. And so it was for the Israelites as they stood at the Jordan’s bank. They thought that giants were waiting to JUMP OUT and eat them for late-night snacks. Didn’t those who spied the land say “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size!” (Numbers 13:32)

What made this time difficult for them is that Moses is now dead. There had been no circumcision or Passover for 40 years. But now the time is different, it is spring so the Jordan River was at flood stage; Jericho was looming in the immediate future with its wall. And according to Numbers: “The Amalekites live in the Negev, the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan” (Num. 13:29) Joshua stands before a difficult, ominous, and fearful place. “HE HAD NEVER BEEN THIS WAY BEFORE.”

You know that same sinking feeling and so do I. Maybe you’re terrified at the thought of what is happening to mom. She is beginning to loose her ability to think, and you are looking for a place to place her. You have never been this way before. Maybe, you are looking at the casket of your child who died due to a bus crash. You have never been this way before. Perhaps you are bringing a new child home or watching your last child leave home. You have never been this way before. Maybe you’re faced with a company that is downsizing the work force and your stomach tied in knots. You have never been this way before. Maybe you’re facing a difficult marriage, or have lost a sibling, or bills that won’t go away. You have never been this way before. Some of us are facing a future that is known only to our God because it is so painful, so private; so problematic. Whatever the difficult, ominous, and fearful place, we mutter under our breath, I’ve never been this way before.”

These difficulties and hardships could lead to three-fold temptations: First, do nothing. Joshua could have said, “Let’s park the car. There is no reason to enter the Land. Second, turn back. Joshua might have thought, “Egypt never looked so good – give me leeks and onions by the Nile!” Third, try another way. Joshua could have commanded, “Let’s go north, around the Sea of Galilee, and make Hazor our first hit.”

Numerous times we are in the same boat as the Israelites. Sin can have us do nothing or turn back or try another way. On the brink of our Jordan River with giants waiting on the other side we doubt that our God has given us His “very great and precious promises.” We doubt that our God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” We create a small, impotent god that is made in our image and in our likeness. And the voice of God is drowned by our fears and foibles.

This disobedience is compounded by our inclination to tune into radio station KF ...EAR – KFEAR. Satan, the daily host of the program says, “Take no chances. Say no to courage and yes to caution. Expect the worst. Triple-lock all doors. Protect yourself in a tight radius of won’ts, don’ts, cant’s and quits. Think about every possible peril, focus on the dangers, and worry yourself with ‘What if?’ Come weal, come woe, make your status QUO!”

But “GO”, is the chorus line in Joshua 3; the word appears nine times in the chapter. The LORD has always called His people to go. To Abram He said, “Go to the land I will show you.” To Moses, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh.” To Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh.” To Samuel, “Go anoint David as king of Israel” To Elijah, “Go tell Ahab there will be no rain in the land”

And He calls us to Go into ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.” Yet, when the LORD says “go”, it is in His heart that we never go it alone. He knows that a difficult, ominous, and fearful place is not conquered by promising, “I’ll be with you in spirit.” A mystical, abstract, vague presence does no good. Just ask David of his real fears. When you are standing on the Jordan of difficult, ominous and fearful place, you need real presence. And real presence is exactly what the LORD delivers. In Joshua chapter 3, for the first time in Israel’s history, the Ark of the Covenant leads. This ark is mentioned 17 times in Joshua 3 and 4. Get it?

The LORD calls his people to go, but never to go it alone. And what is this ark, but the LORD Himself! “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up ... the LORD!’” Numbers10:35).. The ark does not symbolize the LORD or represent the LORD. “Rise up, O LORD!” In, with, and under the ark is the LORD Himself, really present.

And real presence means real victory. The ark leads and Joshua marches, beginning at Jericho and continuing to conquer the whole land and defeating all his enemies and placing them under his feet. “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel” (Joshua 11:23).

In the fullness of time, the Ark of the Covenant “became flesh and dwelt among us ...and we have seen His glory!” His march began at Bethlehem and Nazareth. It continued in the face of kings – Tiberius Caesar, Herod, Philip. From East to west and North to South He traveled to accomplish the saving of the world. When God the Father said, “Go!” Jesus went. He came to the heart of the city of Jerusalem, and there He marched to face the destructive powers of hell. From the Upper Room to Gethsemane, and on to the Hill of death, He marched. Dripping with blood that was pouring out of His veins, He went to Golgotha, and there they crucified Him. In all of His travel, Jesus had never been this way before.

Yet three days later the march went on!

And this victory march continues today. Jesus leads us from victory to victory by His real presence; the Gospel proclaimed, the baptismal deliverance remembered, and the body and blood of the Eucharist celebrated, “This is the feast of victory for our God!” And with joy we await our final journey the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come!

Because of the cleansing blood, the resurrection joy and the power of Pentecost many on the east bank of their Jordan Rivers have dared to march straight ahead. Paul tells us why. 2 Corinthians 2: 14: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.” Whatever your difficult, ominous and fearful place is, God is telling, “lo, I am with you always to the very end of the earth.” God is calling. He says GO, but guarantees you will never, ever, ever go it alone. Joshua 3:11: “See, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.”

And our response?

“Christ be my Leader by night as by day; safe through the darkness for He is the way. Gladly I follow my future His care. Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there” (LSB # 861.1).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

“An Arduous Journey” (Gen. 12:7, 8)

S-1034 2/24/08 3SIL/3A. Hymns: (O) #354; (S) #149 L.S. 356; 315; 355; 489; (C) #54

Texts: Exodus 17:1-7; Romans 5:1-8, John 4:5-26

Theme: “An Arduous Journey” (Gen. 12:7, 8)


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. “All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink” (Ex. 17:1)

Saints in Christ, we are all traveling on a journey on the road of life. From the day we are born till we die we are journeying. Some of our journeys are short and others are long. Some journeys are sweet and others are bitter. Some journeys are physical, emotional and still other is spiritual. Some of our journeys are smooth and others are arduous.

Each of you knows what I am speaking about. Some of you have been on these journeys, and some are traveling on them even today. Some of these journeys causes you a lot of pain, and others give you a lot of joy.

For the last 6 months my journey has been a difficult one. On September 14th, I had gotten word that my youngest sister was diagnosed with cancer. On November 2nd she went to be with the Lord. That was a heavy journey. A month ago, I got another word that 4 family members were injured in a terrible car accident. Though God spared their lives one of the members (my sister has had a rough time with her legs). A week later my other sister was admitted to the hospital with inflammation in her shoulders. When she got out, my older brother was admitted for five day to the hospital. And if that is not enough two weeks ago we found out that Jean’s brother (Phil) has been diagnosed with cancer.

All of these events in my life have been indeed a heaven burden to bear. It is an arduous journey on the road of life. Many bitter tears have wet my cheeks. Many prayers have been lifted up. Many hours of concern have occupied my heart, head and home. Through all of these pains, I have been crying out to God for His help and support.

In the readings before us today, we meet others who are traveling on a road, not just any road but a road to the Promised Land. The Israelites had been delivered by the mighty hands of God. He has overthrown Pharaoh and his armies. He had provided them protection in the day and night. He gave them enough food to eat the manna and quail. And now they reached a point that they are beside themselves. They have been traveling for days on end. The wind was blowing on their face, the sun’s blistering heat baking them; and anguish and fatigue took its toll.

And now at Rephidim they fall down, they complain and grumble against Moses and against God. At Rephidim they cry out against God instead of calling upon Him to help them as He has done in the past. Instead of seeking His counsel, they rely on the human figure that stood before them.

They forgot that they are God’s very special people. They forgot the goodness and grace of God in all that He had done. They lost focus that the One who delivered them from the bondage of slavery in Egypt will bring them to the Promised Land.

Before you say how can they forget so soon? How can they treat God in that way and disregard all of the blessings He has given them? Ask yourself these questions: “How often have you asked God on your arduous journey of life, ‘why God?’ ‘Where are you God when I need you most?’ Father in heaven, ‘how come You don’t respond to my prayers?’ Lord, why are You are so far away from me in my hour of need? My road is hot, my burden is heavy, and my heart is broken

At times like these we need to lift our eyes from ourselves and look to Him who supplies all of our needs. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Being confident of this very thing that He who has began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” Again, “My God will meet all of YOUR NEEDS in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6; 4:19). And again, “Our [God], will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8).

Search, seek and study Scripture and you will find if you don’t know already God’s hand is not short toward those He love. Spend time with Him and you will see how provide you and me with all that we need—the greatest of which is our salvation, forgiveness of sins and life eternal.

Don’t for a moment think that you are the only one who has an arduous journey. All of us do and all of us will. At different times it may be more severe than at others, but none-the-less we feel the pain and anguish as we go through these journeys.

Consider the example of St. Paul, whom Jesus told that He also must suffer greatly on account of Him (Acts 9:16), so that when Paul encountered beatings, rejection, and imprisonment while on his journeys, Paul thought nothing of it but that he was privileged to be blessed by the Lord.

But if ever there was One who took a journey that was indeed an arduous one it is Jesus. Matthew put it this: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt. 16:21).

The difference between the Savior and us is very clear. We never wish to go through an arduous journey. No one wants to go through pain, suffering, hardships and difficulties in life. If we are sincerely honest, we would rather that our lives are smooth sailing without any complication.

C. S. Lewis wrote this bit of wisdom: “Pain is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads”. We may not want pain, but pain draws us to a closer walk with the Lord and Savior.

However, Jesus chooses to go to Jerusalem. He chooses to suffer. He chooses to be persecuted, crucified and be put to death for YOU. This was His choice for YOU. This choice was made because of His love for you, because He couldn’t imagine not having you with Him in heaven. C.S. Lewis has described Jesus’ life well. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, not my will, but Thine be done.” Where the Israelites and US failed God’s testing, grumbled against Him, and doubted His presence, Jesus did not put the Lord God to the test, but praised His Name in the hour of testing, and put His trust in His ever-present Divine Father.

Jesus had an arduous journey. It started when He left the beauty of Him and choose to become flesh and blood and be born like us. His journey took Him to Bethlehem, to Egypt and then to Nazareth. Then it led Him to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem that journey got more severe as He gathered His 12 apostles on Thursday night in the Upper Room. He walked to Gethsemane and asked God to take that pain, anguish and hardships away from Him. He was further dragged to Caiaphas, from the High Priests’ house He was taken to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back to Pilate. The journey didn’t end there, but the command was given take Him and beat Him and crucify Him. So He carried the cross after his beating. He walked for miles until He reached the mountain upon which He would be crucified and there He died.

His was an arduous journey. A journey that He took for us and in our place for all of the times we have grumbled and complained against God. A journey that He willingly endured for YOU and YOU and YOU, so that satan may not lead us to the journey of the Abyss of hell.

Today, as you and I go through our journeys of life, they may be short or long, they may be sweet or bitter, they may be physical, emotional, or spiritual, no matter what the journey is, be certain of the promise that the Savior Almighty will never leave you or forsake.

And for that we can give thanks to the Father of all grace who gave us His Son, Jesus to take our arduous journey for us. Amen.

Now the peace….

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Theme: “A Construction Man” (Gen. 12:7, 8)

S-1031 2/17/08 2SIL/3A. Hymns: (O)#473; (S)#467 (C) #32 S.O.D.

Texts: Genesis 12:1-9; Romans 4:1-8, 13-17; John 3:1-17Matthew 4-1-11

Theme: “A Construction Man” (Gen. 12:7, 8)


(This sermon will be done in a first person narrative. Abraham will come out during the last stanza of the sermon hymn. He will be dressed in a Mesopotamia’s garments. He will sit on the steps by the Altar). (Gen. 12:7, 8)

Abraham comes out slowly looks at the congregation and sits down. Lifting his head upward begins to speak:

I am an old man now and have seen much in my 75 years upon the earth. I need to sit, because I am very tired from my travel. I would like you to know that I come from a long line of godly men—Construction men in my family. My 10th generation grandfather Noah, is well known to you. He is known to you as the builder of an arch that floated on the flood water for 150 days. But you probably didn’t know that he also built an Altar to the God of the Universe and the Maker of heaven and earth after the Lord delivered him and his family from the flood waters.

This same God, the God of all Grace, the one who made heaven and earth out of nothing came to me and spoke to me. This God who is unlike any of the other gods that many of my country men had in their homes and bowed too, came to me with a promise that I shall never forget.

Here is what He said to me:

“Abram, Leave your country, your people and your father’ household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

As I said before, I come from a family of construction men. My brother Nahor was busy building a city that he named after himself. But God came to me so that He might build a nation out of my seed. Out of my own body a nation would be raised to be the chosen people that speak of the God of all Grace.

It is hard for me to grasp this kindness, this grace, this love that God poured on me. As a way of thanking my gracious God, I built an altar to worship Him. That was my way to declare that God was the number one in my life and in my heart. As I picked each stone, I thought of what the altar upon which I would offer a sacrifice to praise Him meant.

This altar was used by my whole family. It was dedicated to the God of all Grace, the God of Noah, by whose Spirits I got to know Him. I didn’t worship by this altar alone, but all who came with me from Haran. I would teach these people about the God who has power and who has made Himself known to me and showed me kindness. In the new land we would worship the God of might and power, the God of goodness and grace, the God who called me out of all the men of my country.

Can you believe those promises? Me, Abram who am childless, would one day, have children as numerous as the sand of the sea shore and the stars in the skies. That wasn’t easy for me to believe. How can that be? I am just one man with a lovely wife and old man at that and my wife is past her childbearing years. Yet the promises of God entailed details that were beyond my understanding.

What if God spoke with you and told you these things? Would you have believed them? Would you have taken them to heart? But for me there was something in that voice. The voice of the One of all Grace who brought the world and everything that is in it out of nothing.

Oh, I should tell you that this was not the only time I constructed an Altar. Years later after these promises had been fulfilled and God gave me my own son—in my old age—the son whom I loved and named Isaac—meaning laughter, God came to me again. This time He asked me to do the impossible. PAUSE.

He said to me, “Abraham!” (by now my name has been changed from Abram to Abraham meaning the father of many nation).

“Here I am,” I replied.

Then God said [to me], “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Did I hear what God said? Was it true that He asked me to sacrifice my son or did I imagine it? God couldn’t! He wouldn’t! He can’t do this! Isaac is my son, he is the promised seed. He is the one who would be the line that would be the source of all nations. If I sacrifice my son, how will I be the father of many nations?

Yet, in my ears I heard the words, but they were hard to swallow. But in obedience, I knew I needed to follow the will of God. I had been walking and constructing altars for him for over 25 years. Even if I put my son to the death, I BELIEVED, God could and would raise Him from the dead.

And so, in obedience to the will and command of God, I took my son, the one I love and headed to the mountain that the Lord directed me to. As we reached the mountain, I asked my servants to wait for us, while Isaac and I would continue to the mountain to worship the God of all Grace.

As we were walking, with Isaac carrying the wood for the burnt offering; he said, “Father, we have the wood, and the fire but with the lamb?” I looked at him with tender eyes and said, “My son the Lord will provide.”

Off to the mountain we went. One step after another and with each step, my hands began to sweat, my throat began to dry and tears began to well up within. I knew what lay ahead, but I kept hearing the voice of God, “Abraham, take your son, your only son Isaac the one you love…”

{Abraham gets up from the stairs and goes to the middle of the sanctuary}

Slowly (as if to drag the inevitable) I took the stones as Isaac brought them to me and piled them high, until at last the construction project was done—the altar for the sacrifice was complete.

Then, I had Isaac stretch out his hands and I tied them. I bent down and tied his legs, and picked him up and laid him on the altar (demonstrate) PAUSE.

I had hoped that I had forgotten the knife, but no it was right were it always has been by my side. I picked up the knife. I took a deep breath, and the smell of smoke burned within my lungs as I was about to torch the wood which was upon the altar, which held my son, my only son Isaac the one I love.

My hands now wet from sweat lost its grip on the hand of the knife. So I tightened my fist harder against the knife. My eyes met my son’s eyes as he lay on the wood looking up. I attempted to say sorry son, but this is what God had commanded me to do. It was a test of faith for me and also my son’s test—a test of obedience.

I looked down. I looked at my hand. I looked at the altar, the wood and living body on it. This doesn’t make sense I said. I spoke tender saying, “I love you Isaac” with tears coming down my eyes. And I heard my son say, “Father, I love you too.” Would you tell mother that I love her too? She is a great mother.” Chocking now for words, as tears shadowed my eyes, I spoke softly, and you will tell her son”

I held the knife tighter, raised it higher (lift the knife high) and it glistened against the fire. I took a deep breath for as long as I could and began to lower my shaking hands to slice Isaac’s throat. And then, out of nowhere, the voice vibrated in my ears as an earthquake, “STOP!” The knife came to a halt. In the split of a second before the execution God provided a solution. God spoke again, “Abraham, Abraham, I know that you fear Me, your son will not die” In an instant the knife fell to the ground and I bowed down and embraced my son in my arms and unloosed him from the wood and the altar. As I lifted him up, there not far from us was a ram stuck in the thicket. Isaac and I took the ram and sacrificed it at the altar in thankgiving to the Lord for what He has done. That day God constructed a nation.

But this is not the entire story. I speak to you today; I look from beyond the Jordan, the everlasting life of eternity. Remember what I said to my son the day he asked, “Where is the sacrifice?” I responded, “God will provide.” Indeed, God did. He sacrificed a lamb—His very own son for the sins of the world.

I, Abraham the father of the Nation that God would raise up from as good as dead man, wouldn’t be permitted to offer my son as a sacrifice, yet He who is the Father of all nations, offered the greatest and most precious gift—His beloved son—the LAMB of God. God in love and mercy and grace provided a solution for humanity. And He constructed an altar for the sacrifice. It was mot made out of stone or brick, but out of wood. On the same hill of Moriah, God gave His son’s life for me, Isaac and all people.

This is the God who in Grace gave me a son to fill my heart with joy, is here today to assure you of the gift of His Son that not only fills our hearts with joy, but more importantly removes every stain of sin and give us eternal life. I share this story with you because it needs to be told. When you see others tell them you met the Construction man.

(Abraham exits without saying a word).

Saturday, February 9, 2008

“The Warrior Son and Eve’s Savior” (Gen. 3:15)

S-1029 2/10/08 1SIL/3A. Hymns: (O)#359; (S)#135 ; (C) #126

Texts: Genesis 3:1-21; Epistle Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4-1-11

Theme: “The Warrior Son and Eve’s Savior” (Gen. 3:15)


Faithful followers of the Savior, ‘Christ is Risen!’ “He is Risen! Indeed!” The text for this First Sunday In Lent is from the O.T. lesson: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15).


Saints in Christ, we know tragedy. We saw the images of this Thursday night. Cookie Thornton, crazed with perceived injustice, took the law into his own hands and murdered 6 people. The image of this kind of carnage that brought such death to our sight is nothing short of a tragedy.

But this tragedy Thursday night is nothing compared to the greatest tragedy of all time. We read of it in the Old Testament lesson today. It is the story that took place between the children of God and the fallen angel—the devil, who seduced them and brought upon them God’s wrath and anger. This story is so tragic that the results are still being felt today. Death, evil and hatred are the fruits of that fall; all because Adam and Eve obeyed the devil instead of taking God at His Word.

Since that tragic day in the garden there has been war between the sons of Adam and the evil forces of the devil. The war is so severe that there are casualties all along. Look at the war in Iraq and you will know what I mean by casualties—death, destruction and disaster of both life and property. Homes demolished, limbs torn, trees uprooted and death played out on the streets. These are the signs of war.

But unlike the war that is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war I am talking about is war for the souls of humanity—yours and mine and every child of God. A war that is not fought on the streets, but in the hearts of people; a war that is not fought by bullets, and bombs, missiles and planes, tanks and torpedoes, but with words of deception and sleazy ideas. This war, while we freely admit that it is closer to home than we care to admit, it comes even closer. The war is waged in our own flesh. The first battle was fought and lost in the Garden when Eve was deceived by the serpent. It raged at Babel. It was a pitch battle there in the wilderness when Jesus faced down that age old accuser. And it continues in us. The battle still rages. Every time you sin, you, like “Cookie” Thornton, go to war against authority. You go to war against the authority of the Word of God and the very Lord who spoke that Word into existence. Think about that! You go to war with God when you sin? Do you think for a moment that you can win that war? No! That war will end in your utter, total and complete annihilation! But the Father would not sit still for this!

The war began, when Adam and Eve broke the Commandment of God of eating from the tree of good and evil. Yet, while they were hiding in the bushes from fear of the God who created them; God gave them a life-giving promise—a Covenant that will last forever. To Adam and Eve the Author of Life spoke of a coming Warrior an everlasting Messenger, and a Messiah. This Warrior would take on the fallen angel who had seduced Adam and Eve into rebellion.

To our first parents, in the presence of the evil, wicked, slimy enemy of man—the DEVIL, who had tricked them into grasping at God-hood; God gave this precious and life-giving promise

I Am declaring war between you Serpent and the woman, between your offspring and Her Descendant. He will crush your heard and you will bruise His heel. (Gen. 3:15)

The Warrior Son and Savior of Eve would in the fullness of time come from the seed of Abraham. He would have to come in a most unlikely manner and crush the head of the evil foe in a most unusual way.

And so it was, the Warrior Son came. He came from heaven to fulfill the promise of God. He came to redeem the fallen children of Adam and Eve. He came to bring salvation and healing and to restore the broken relationship with the Father of all grace. He came to undo what the fallen angel had done. He came to give His life as the payment for all mankind.

While He was on earth, we are told of the battle that ensued between the Warrior Son, and evil foe. We saw it play out in the Wilderness in the heat of the day and the coolness of the night. The war was severe and lasted for forty nights. For forty nights the war roared and raged.

On one side of the mountain stood the Warrior Son, and the other side the enemies of man—all of the evil forces of darkness and wickedness. While the Warrior Son was hungry and thirty, the wicked One sent His full artilleries to destroy Him from completing His Mission. Every arsenal weapon at his disposal the devil unleashed, but with the Shield of the Word, the Warrior Son stopped every bullet and bomb, every missile and weapon. For forty nights and days, the Devil tried again and again to lure the Warrior Son from saving fallen man, but he didn’t succeed. Finally, he left from the presence of the Warrior Son, until the opportune time.

The opportune time finally arrived during the Holy Week of the Jewish celebration of the Passover. The evil, wicked, slimy enemy of man—the DEVIL, lured another son of Adam to join his forces to defeat the Warrior Son. Judas took the bait and followed the deceptive words of the devil in betraying the One who had come to save him.

And the war raged the battle was fierce when all of the rulers, authorities, powers and spiritual forces of this dark evil world. The venom came upon the Warrior Son in full force. They grabbed Him, beat Him, made fun of Him and finally crucified Him on a tree, and laughed and mocked Him as they saw Him struggle for every breath. The war continued not with bombs and bullets, but with His blood. The carnage of His death, His savage suffering, His hanging in humility are the marks of the battle. They continued to send the artilleries until at last the Warrior Son, with every ounce of energy, lifted His bleeding and bruised body enough to scream the shout of victory. IT IS FINISHED! (Jh. 19:30). What was finished was the suffering. What was finished was the carnage. What was finished was the humility. What was finished was His life. The Victory was marked by His death.

The Warrior Son and the Savior of Eve rose victoriously on the third day. And with that glorious resurrection, the victory had been proclaimed in the streets of Jerusalem and every street ever since. The enemy had been defeated, destroyed and demolished. The Warrior Son and the Savior of Eve had won the battle, had given us the sons of Eve the spoils of war—freedom and peace, Light and Life, Forgiveness and Faith.

The Warrior Son and the Savior of Eve has fulfilled the demand of the Father. The Warrior Son and the Savior of Eve, Jesus Christ and our second Adam had accomplished the undoing of the first Adam, by restoring us to life again with the Father of all grace once more.

The thought of losing you was unthinkable to the Father. He wanted to go to war to save you. So He gives Eve and You this Warrior Son. He has armed Himself for the fight. His weapons are not bombs and bullets or guns and grenades. Rather, the secret weapon that this Warrior Son brings to bear in this War for your soul is His life.

That war, while the battle still rages, is already over. Even though we struggle in the flesh with the weapons of war of the evil one, the outcome of the War is decided. That is the reason we observe the season of Lent. We don’t walk with Jesus to Jerusalem with the outcome in doubt. No, we KNOW that Jesus has already won for us the only thing we need.

Today, we receive the spoils of this war. You heard the words of Absolution. You hear the words of the Message of this Warrior Son proclaimed week in and week out. You will receive into your mouths the very body and very blood that this Warrior spent on the battlefield for you. This Victory is yours. This Warrior fights for you. This Warrior has won for you. Thank God that our Champion is alive again. AMEN.

Now the peace…

Thursday, February 7, 2008

“There Is No Place Like Home” (Ps. 137:4)

S-1028 2/06/08 1SMIL/3A. Hymns: (O)#359; (S)#135 ; (C) #126

Texts: Psalm 51:1-12; Psalm 137:1-6; Matthew 26:14-30

Theme: “There Is No Place Like Home” (Ps. 137:4)

Armour, SD. SOLI DEO GLORIA (1st sermon in series on “Singing the Songs of Zion”

Psalm 137:4 – “How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?”

HOME! The very word evokes feelings of love and laughter. Home brings to mind your childhood—mom and dad. Home allows you to dream about the days of sumptuous food mom had prepared; it is the place where you can take your shoes off and relax and sleep for a long time. Home is where the heart is. In the movie The Wizard of Oz, says it best, “there’s no place like home! Ask any military person what do they want most? And they will tell you “TO GO HOME!”

Home doesn’t mean much to you, unless you have moved away from home. I have moved from home a long time ago. But Last October I was privileged to go home again. I saw my sister before she went home for good to be with her Savior and Lord. I saw friends and loved ones; and it was a wonderful time.

But now Israel is a fading memory. I’m in SD in the heart of the winter. And it will not be long before the heat, humidity and wind return to the prairie. All that was familiar to me, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, and Jerusalem have been replaced by the wide open spaces, the Corn Palace and Mount Rushmore; permanently exiled in a foreign land. “There’s no place like home!”

For Israel in our text, Zion is a distant, fading memory. They’re stuck in Babylon, with its heathen gods and lustful living. Judah, Jerusalem and the Jordan have been replaced by being salves in Babylon. Israel now has no king, no temple, no royal city, no land, no liturgy, no sacrifice, no hope, no future and no HOME.

By the rivers of Babylon they sit and weep, reminiscing about the good ol’ days when they worshipped in the splendor of Solomon’s temple – when they worked and shopped in the city of David and saw the Mount of Olives from a distance; permanently exiled in a foreign land. O God – “there’s no place like … HOME!” But where is home? Home is not were we are, it is far, far away from here.

“There’s no place like Zion, there’s no place like home.” On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:2-4).

It’s a sad song, and their captor’s rubbed their noses in it. “Sing us one of your songs of Zion, now.” Like the western bad-guy firing bullets at your feet saying, “Dance, dance.” “Welcome to the Hotel Babylonia, - you can check out any time you like but you can never leave.” That is a terrible feeling. That is the same feeling the People of Bethlehem are feeling today. They can drive all over the territory, but can’t leave the compound of the wall that separates the occupied territory from Israel’s proper.

Israel’s problem isn’t just one of location; it’s also one of the heart. They weren’t just far away from they Land; they were far away from God, the Father. God warned them what would happen if they began to worship other god’s at home. But Baal worship was too enticing. The pagan fertility gods were too sexy to resist. They wasted all that God had given them in the Promised Land. God sent someone to shut it all down. Jerusalem was destroyed in 586BC. As far as the Israelites were concerned it was the day the music died.

Some of us are far from home, but all of us are far from the Father. We have no one to blame but ourselves. Right now, right here, we are exiled in our own Babylon. It’s a Babylon we’ve made for ourselves. The god of culture is too enticing. What’s going on around us is just too sexy to resist. The god of this world is just so seductive and so
very deadly. When we live as we are told to live by the world our lives are left in tatters, our relationships are broken and bloody, our lives are empty. Satan whispers in our ear “Sing me one of the songs of Zion! Welcome to Hotel Satania – you can check out any time you like but you will never leave.” What’s worse we believe his lie. We think we have to live the way everyone else lives. We think we have to agree with their values. And we sacrifice our children, our friends, our neighbors and even ourselves on the altar. There is no song to sing.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:4). There’s something very unique about Psalm 137. It’s not in your hymnal but 136 is. Open your hymnal on page 154. 137 follows 136 for a reason. Twenty-Six times Psalm 136 says the same thing. His mercy endureth forever. Over and over again it is sung. And although it is a good translation the word love doesn’t carry the weight of the language the Psalm was written in. The Hebrew word is hessed. It’s more than love. It’s a promise made by someone who doesn’t need to make it. It’s a promise to never break the promise. That’s why Psalm 136 repeats it over and over again, like driving a nail into a very hard wood. God’s mercy endures forever, He never breaks His promises, His hessed, His mercy and promise will last forever and ever and ever.

At first that might seem like an unrelated side track, but remember I said that 137 our psalm follows 136. The folks who cataloged these psalms and placed them in order wanted you to read 137 after you read 136. The songs of the Lord go on and on, in spite of how we feel about it.

God promised that the exiled of His people in Babylon wouldn’t last for ever, His mercy endures for ever. He would send someone to deliver them, His mercy endures forever. They would return to Zion, His mercy endures forever. A few short weeks ago, we celebrated God’s promised hessed. God Himself took on flesh and blood. Jesus described Himself in exile from His home, And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt. 8:20).

But Jesus was exiled not only from His Father’s home, but finally from the Father.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46) His mouth is dry, His lips are cracked, His voice is hoarse, He can barley speak, let alone sing. His captors torment Him, “sing us one of those songs of Zion, now! He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He’s the true king of Israel. Let Him come down from the cross and we’ll believe!” He wouldn’t do that. That was the day the music died.

But, the song goes on. Jesus was raised, physically, bodily, really, from the grave on the third day. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I Am you may be also” (Jh. 14:1-3) And
For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor. 5:1).

In the 1994 movie titled Forrest Gump, the simple but good-hearted Forrest falls in love with his childhood sweetheart. But she breaks his heart again and again by using him, taking him for granted, abandoning him, and repaying his loyalty with unfaithfulness. At the end of the movie, they meet up again after years of separation. She tells Forrest that she is sick and that the doctors can do nothing to help her. Forrest doesn’t hesitate, but immediately says, “You could come home with me, to my house, Jenny.”

That is what our loving Savior does for us, as He bids us to come and stay with Him in His HOME that He built by His own hands which were stretched on the cross of Calvary. And this home is NOT just any hotel. Our Zion is not the Ritz, it’s much better. The reservation is made and the price is paid in full. We have an eternal home in the Hotel

How can we sing the songs of Zion while in a foreign land – while still in this body of death – while still in the midst of a life that is marked by the words, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust”?

John Newton, who composed the hymn “Amazing Grace,” also wrote a song of Zion that ends with these words. “Savior since of Zion’s city I through grace a member am. Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in your name. Fading are the world’s vain pleasures, all their boasted pomp and show. Solid joys and lasting treasures none but Zion’s children know” (TLH # 469.4).

We sing with John Newton and all of the baptized a grand symphony of celebration because we’re going HOME! HOME TO BE WITH OUR FATHER AND GOD FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.

Now the peace…