Sunday, March 29, 2009

“Memory Gone” (Jeremiah 31:34c).

S-1111 3/29/09 5SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #32 (S) #157; L.S. #315; 307; (C) #342

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Theme: “Memory Gone” (Jeremiah 31:34c).

Question: “How is your memory?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Fifth Sunday in Lent is from the Old Testament reading: “...For I will wipe away their iniquity, and I will not remember their sins again” {my own translation Jeremiah 31:34c).

Saints in Christ, one of the most memorable and gripping movies I have watched in recent years is “The Notebook” The Notebook is an epic love story centered around an older man who reads aloud to an older, invalid woman who he regularly visits in an Alzheimer institution. From a faded notebook, the old man’s words bring to life the story about a couple who are separated by World War II, and is then passionately reunited after many years. Even though her memory is gone, his words give her the chance to relive her turbulent youth and the unforgettable love they shared.

Anyone of us who has gone through this type of experience knows what I am talking about. Alzheimer and dementia is debilitating, destructive and demeaning. It rips your heart out, and tears roll down your cheeks as you consider the life of the person before you. At one time you knew them as vibrant and vivacious father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, but now they are simply a shell, a body that exists, but no memory to connect them to those before them. My heart aches for anyone who has/is dealing with a family member with this devastating disease.

In the text before us today, the prophet Jeremiah describes a God whose memory is gone. “...For I will wipe away their iniquity, and I will not remember their sins again.” God’s memory is gone, not because He has Alzheimer, dementia, or some other dreadful disease, BUT because He has chosen to forget. PAUSE.

As we grow older in years, our memory is not what it used to be. We begin to forget. Sometime we even say, “My memory is gone.” We call it, “Senior Moments.” Saying things like “I have hearafter’s disease”. When I get in the room I always ask myself, “what am I here after?” We joke about it, but it is not a joking matter, because we don’t remember all of the things we should remember. Oh, we try. How many times have you said, “Where did I leave my glasses…keys…wallet, and the remote control?”

In the days before cell phones many wives would ask their husbands on their way home from work to stop at the grocery store and pick up an item or two. And they always say, “DON’T FORGET.” The husband may write it down, or put a rubber band on their finger, or hold on to their ears in the hope that they remember.

He who made the universe and our brains to function as they do doesn’t have any trouble remembering our sins. King David wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). He knows all of them. He sees all of them. Even the sins I attempt to hide from others, though are living in my heart; and the ones I don’t even remember. Not one single sin escapes His memory. Because of them, I deserve to die. Because of them, I deserve hell’s punishment. Because of them, I should be cast into the outer abyss of hell; through an eternity of burning fire and gnashing of teeth.

Why then does Jeremiah tell us that God will not remember our sins again? Is it because He is in some Alzheimer unit? Is it because He is getting older? Is it because He is forgetful? Is it because they slipped out of His mind? No! No! No!

To get the answer to the questions, let us listen to Jeremiah speak the words of the text: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be MY people(Jer.31:31-33).

With these words, we get the blessed answer. God chooses not to remember my sins. He chooses to wipe my slate clean. He chooses to remove every stain of sin from my heart. He chooses in love to send the One who can remove every sin that has colored the heart of man—His Son, Jesus Christ. His Son is the New Covenant. He took upon Him the sins of the world. Each of those sins; He nailed to the tree of the cross and cancelled the hand-written code against us (Col. 2). He paid for each of those sins with blood—His blood shed for the sinners—you and me.

God chooses to let go of the sins that separate us from Him. Indeed His memory is gone when it comes to our sins. Now we stand covered before Him NOT with the stains of sin, but with the garment of righteousness—the garment given us by our Savior in the waters of Baptism; and kept alive in the meal of forgiveness-His body and blood, given to us today on His holy table. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, what a blessing it is for us to read and re-read the Words of God before us today. These Words should be studied and printed before us lest we forget them. Because by these Words, we know we are the forgiven, blood-bought and heaven-bound children of God.

St. Augustine, one of the 4th century Christian Fathers, on his death bed had someone write on the wall before him these words: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). That man, that woman is YOU. Our sins have been forgiven and God doesn’t remember them any more. He has chosen on account of His Son, to remove them from His memory forever.

Even though, we know what Scripture teaches, yet we doubt that is true. Sometimes we wish we can forget some past sin, some previous life we lived not in the presence of God, and yet the memory of the past event haunts us and hinders us from moving on. The devil keeps reminding us that we have not lived like a child of God and accuses us of our sins. And if that is not bad enough, how many times someone has hurt us and they asked for forgiveness, and we respond. “I will forgive you, but I will not forget.” That is not forgiveness. I call this sin “transference.” When we do this, the sin of the other against me becomes my sin against them. When you do that you are holding a grudge, you are keeping a score, you are not letting go of the past. We can’t live that way as the redeemed and forgiven children of God.

Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer teaches us saying, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That is what God on account of Christ has done for us and continues to do for us even today. PAUSE.

The Red Cross was established by Clara Barton in 1881 to bring relief to suffering people not only in the United States but around the world. A story is shared about her. Someone had done a heinous act to her. When that person saw her, he reminded her of this act, but somehow she didn’t remember it. “Don’t you remember?” she was asked. “I distinctly remember forgetting that,” she responded. Thankfully God does the same for all of our sins. He remembers them no more. When it comes to sin, God’s memory is gone. And for that we thank Him now and always.

God forgets our sins, but we are not forgotten. We have the promise of God in the Words of Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me”. Why does God forget our sins, yet doesn’t forget us? Jesus is the reason for this memory loss. From the tree of the cross, we hear Him say, “Father, forgive them.” And He has, He does and He will. And that my dear friends, we dare not forget, not now, not ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Friday, March 27, 2009

“His Throne” (Mark 15:20b)

S-1110 3/25/09 5MIL/3B Hymns: (O) #821 HS; (S) # 821 HS, by choir; (C) 143 1-3, 15

Texts Psalm 9:1-9; Hebrews 4:14-16; Revelation 4:1-6; Mark 15:15-20

Theme: “His Throne” (5th sermon series in Lent on HIStory, Mark 15:20b)

Question: “Have you ever seen/scene a throne?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our fifth Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel reading: “Then they led Him out to crucify Him(Mark 15:20b).

Saints in Christ, in first kings we read these words: “The king also made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with the finest gold. The throne had six steps, and at the back of the throne was a calf’s head, and on each side of the seat were armrests and two lions standing beside the armrests, while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. The like of it was never made in any kingdom” (1 Kings 10:18-20).

What a magnificent throne that must have been for King Solomon. He spared no expense to show the power and prestige he had. His fame and honor was evident by this throne that he built. Normally, kings have thrones. It is the seat of honor and power in their kingdom. Travel to Madrid, Spain and you will see a most beautiful throne. It is fashioned with the finest of gold and upholstered with the richest velvet.

So many years ago, in that dark and dreary night in the courtyard, the soldiers thought that Jesus as the King of the Jews should have a throne as well; a place of honor; a place where they can see His power and prestige. So they made Him one. It was not fashioned with the finest of gold or the richest upholstery. It didn’t have armrests and lions on each step. But it was made in an unlikely fashion—it was a seat reserved only for the worst criminals and the lowest of slaves. Mark, in our reading tonight tells us what kind of throne it was. “Then they led Him out to crucify Him.” (Mark 15:20b)

Tonight’s appointed Scripture readings suggest a progression, a movement, a sequence—from the throne room of Pilate, to the courtyard, to Calvary’s mountain—from a throne of wood to a throne of blood to a throne of good.

A Throne of Wood

The cross has more than once been referred to as Jesus’ throne. Some throne!

The word “To crucify” literally means “to stand,” or to a “standing,” a stake, of wood. That night so long on the cross of wood, there was no place to sit for Jesus! Even though some historians note that some crosses did have seats. The seat is called a sedile (pronounced se-dahy-lee), shelf-like, it hung halfway down the cross to lessen the bulk of the weight borne on the arms of those being crucified. However, the purpose of the sedile was far from compassion and mercy. Instead, it was intended to prolong the crucifixion, bring about the most severe pain as each person labored up and down to fill his lungs with air. Each time the criminal goes up he rubs his body against the rough timber, slivers slide into the skin and blood oozes out and drips to the floor. The up and down progression caused havoc on the body, all the while people looked at the exposed and naked body and brought about the humiliation of the one being crucified. As if being on a throne of wood isn’t humiliating enough!

Who can describe the pain of the rough nails tearing through flesh as nerve endings scream out? Who can lay out in words what it meant to hang on that rough wood and wait for life to ebb slowly, all too slowly, from a pain-wracked body? Still worse, who can plumb the depth of what it meant for Jesus to have hell’s punishment was over Him, one crashing wave after the other, as payment for every sin in the world was demanded? Who can describe what it meant for the Son of God to drink that cup of suffering to its bitter end on the cross where He was enthroned.

Up and down, breath in, fill the lungs; up and down, breath in, fill the lungs; up and down, breath in, fill the lungs; al the while the blood, the red crimson blood falls unto the ground. His body ached, His eyes swollen, His lips are cracked, His tongue is sticking to the roof of His mouth and more blood, more blood; and more blood. The blood dirtied the floor below Him and crusted in the Palestinian sun.

A Throne of Blood

“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood…” (Revelation 1:5b)

From a throne of wood to a throne of blood. Not a pretty picture, because really we don’t know what that meant. We don’t know the anguish. Oh, yes, we see the cross everywhere. Some are shiny and smooth like ours; some are gilded with gold or silver. Some are hand-carved and others are painted; but not Christ’s cross. Did you think about the hymns that we along with the choir sang?

Deep were His wounds, and red, on cruel Calvary,

as on the cross He bled in bitter agony

He suffered shame and scorn and wretched, dire disgrace;

forsaken and forelorn, he hung there in our place…

His life, His all, He gave when He was crucified;

our burdened souls to save, what fearful death He died!

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow, where the blood of Christ was shed,

perfect man on thee did suffer, perfect God on thee has bled!

Here the King of all the ages, throned in light ere worlds could be,

robed in mortal flesh is dying, crucified by sin for ME.

O mysterious condescending! O abandonment sublime!

Very God Himself is bearing all the sufferings of time!

It may not be a bad idea to watch again Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ following Good Friday worship. Maybe that will bring it all back home—and for a good purpose, as from a cross of wood to a cross of blood we are led to…

A Cross of Good

“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father—to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b-6)

Think of it! First “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…”, last, on the cross, a stranger, seatless, was led. The Son of God has no place to call His own; but the soldiers provide Him a place. Even His grave is borrowed. Yet the story has a happy ending—and not only the resurrection of Jesus, as happy as that. Equally happy, we get a throne that is rightfully Jesus’—and entire kingdom, no less! He makes us “priests to serve” and, daunting though that may seem He provides the power for it. As the hymns also sang:

But they, whom sin has wounded sore, find healing in the wounds He bore…

But all who would from sin be free look to His cross for victory…

But each of us, though dead in sin, through Him eternal life may win.

WIN you say? You bet. We are winners. We have won! The word for victory in the Greek is Nike—nikao! Victory! Not “Just do it,” but “He did it”—for us! From a cross of wood to a cross of blood to a cross of good.

Rabbis taught that God had two thrones, one of mercy (not getting what we deserve) and one of grace (getting what we don't deserve). Some teachers used to use dunce’s chair in classrooms, or of a time out, although the former is no longer, I believe. (have a chair in the middle of the sanctuary) Let me ask you in which chair|throne would like be seated? . Which one does God sit in now? Yes! Both, although Jesus is now in the dunce's chair, so to speak, for us. Ah, grace! Ah, goodness! Ah, mercy! God gets off the throne so we can rule for and through Him!

The world thrones are beautifully decorated and adorned, but of more value is the throne of Christ—His Cross. That wooden cross, the bloody cross and the good cross for us. The cross details for us the awesome love of God. God loves you now and always. That LOVE is evident by the THRONE of His Son—the Cross of Calvary. Amen.

Now the peace…

Sunday, March 22, 2009

“The Pole of Salvation” (Numbers 21:8-9)

S-1109 3/12/09 4SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #2; (S) #297; L.S. #462; 145; 245; (C) #21 SOD

Texts: Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Theme: “The Pole of Salvation” (Numbers 21:8-9)

Question: “Have you ever Gawked at any thing?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Fourth Sunday in Lent is from the Old Testament reading: “And Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Make to yourself a fiery [serpent] and place it on a poll and it shall come to pass whoever looks at it [the pole] becomes alive.’ Moses made a bronze serpent, and placed it on the pole. And it came to pass whoever was bitten by the snake and gazed/focused/stared upon the bronze snake became alive” {my own translation Num. 21:8-9}.

(The next two paragraphs can be dangerous to share. But my people know me well enough to accept this from my heart. Speaking the truth in love).

Saints in Christ, it is really hard to be a pastor at times. The people I serve are never satisfied. They grumble, groan and complain. Here are some of the statements that have been shared with me. “Pastor, your sermons are to long. Your sermons are to short. You pastor don’t know how to talk with people. You don’t know how to teach Bible study. You don’t visit me. You don’t care. You visit non-members in the hospital, but don’t visit your own people. You are boring. You are mean. You don’t care.” This is to name but a few. PAUSE.

Not to be outdone, you should know that your pastor complain, gripes and grumbles as well. My people are slow to show kindness. They don’t care about worship. They are interested in fishing, hunting, and boating more than in being in God’s house. They don’t give enough money to the Lord’s house. Many don’t come to Bible studies. We can’t get enough people to serve on committees. We have many non-caring Christians in this congregation. This is to name but a few. PAUSE.

You see all of us whether pastor or people, find ourselves complaining and grumbling from time to time against each other and against our loving and caring God. We are all sinners. We follow the footsteps of our first parents. We are never satisfied with what we have. When we have something special, we complain and when that special something is taken away from us, we complain. We have not learned to live as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (4:11).

It seems that we almost always find a reason or something to complain about. But don’t think you are alone. In the text before us today, we meet the people of Israel on the move again traveling. Along the road, they begin to grumble, gripe and complain against Yahweh and Moses saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food” (5-6).

With this complained, God had had enough. Understand God is not thin-skinned here. This is just MORE of the on-going griping that God’s ungrateful children have been heaping on Him. But enough is enough. And to quote Popeye the Sailor Man, enough is enough and enough is too much! Even for God. In His righteous anger He sent snakes-deadly snakes to destroy the grumblers and groaners. God wanted to get rid of the virus of unbelief and complaining that has infected the Israelite’s camp by destroying all of those who didn’t accept His gracious gift of food. As the snakes came upon the scene, many of the people ran for cover. These people were so puffed up, but because of sin, their voice became muffed and their lives snuffed. The snakes were lethal, their venom was fatal and the outcome was total. And there in the desert many people laid dead on the hot sand. The righteous anger of God brought about deadly disaster in the lives of those who grumbled, groaned and griped—death.

When the living ones though dead saw what was happening to the others, came quickly to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us” (7). And Moses, the man of God, did intercede on their behalf. God in mercy heard their confession and provided a solution for the pollution by absolution for them. He commanded Moses saying, “And Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Make to yourself a fiery [serpent] and place it on a poll and it shall come to pass whoever looks at it [the pole] becomes alive.’ Moses made a bronze serpent, and placed it on the pole. And it came to pass whoever was bitten by the snake and gazed/focused/stared upon the bronze snake became alive.”

Moses obeyed the Words of Yahweh. He made the bronze snake and placed it on a pole and everyone who gazed, focused his eyes on that pole, became alive again. There in the desert, where death and demise were present, there was a Pole of Salvation. Anyone who looked to that Pole found salvation and restoration again. That Pole became the breath of God. That Pole became the solution to the pollution of sin. Anyone who stared at it found in it life and safety.

We the new Israel are like the people of old. Our grumbling and complaining brings about our demise and death also. But when we in true humility come and confess our sins and say, “We have sinned against the Lord” God hears this heart-felt confession and He gives us another Pole to look at—The Pole of salvation. This Pole is not made out of a bronze snake, but out of flesh and blood. When we in faith gaze upon the man extended upon the Pole of the cross we see Him lifted high. We see Him suspended between heaven and hell to give us a new lease on life. John the Baptist invited us saying, “LOOK, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” When we see Him, we live!

The sermon hymn for today captures this thought beautifully. “God loved the world so that He gave His only Son the lost to save That all who would in Him believe Should everlasting life receive…If thou be sick, if death draw near This truth thy troubled heart can cheer: Christ Jesus saves my soul from death; That is the firmest ground of faith.” (1, 5). And the author to the Hebrews adds these encouraging words for us. “Oh come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus...” “LOOK, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He doesn’t say just look see Jesus. He doesn’t say take a slight look, but fix, gaze, focus and stare at Jesus. PAUSE.

Look at the Pole of Salvation again. See Him on the cross extended. See Him carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders. See the solution to the Pollution is absolution. See Him taking the righteous anger of God against sin. See His hands cuffed, His mouth muffed and His life snuffed on the Pole of death. Keep your eyes on Him. Don’t take them away from Him. There, gaze now, now focus and see the Pole of Salvation upon which the Lord of life gave His life for you. See Him as the people of Israel looked at the bronze snake and live.

Take a look at your Scripture insert. Look at verse 8. “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” But that is not strong enough language. The sentence “Shall live” sounds to be a future promise. However, it is richer than that. This is a resurrection language. This is a baptism language. The person who gazes upon the Pole BECOMES ALIVE NOW. Not in the future, BUT, today.

Beloved in the Lord, today the Pole of Salvation is in our midst. The cross of Christ is here. Through the cross our hands become un-cuffed, our voices un-muffed, and our lives un-snuffed. In reality we become living, breathing and speaking of the goodness and mercy of God. Today, take another look at the Pole of Salvation and see the Lord of heaven offering the rich banquet of food—food that is not detestable but delicious; food that is not deadly but daintily; food that is not loathsome but luscious.

Thank God that He has provided us with the Pole of Salvation. Thank God for the snake on the stake. Thank God that He gives us the solution to the pollution by absolution. Thank God that He forgives our sins. Thank God that He gave us Son. Thank God now and always because YOU LIVE. Amen.

Now the peace…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“His Homage” Mark 15:18-19

S-1108 3/18/09 3MIL/3B Hymns: (O) #175; (S) #166; (C) #237

Texts Psalm 95:1-7; Isaiah 52:7-15; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 15:15-20

Theme: “His Homage” (4th sermon series in Lent on HIStory, Mark 15:18-19)

Question: “Have you ever bowed before a king?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our fourth Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel reading: “And they began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they were striking His head with a reed and spitting on Him and kneeling down in homage to Him” (Mark 15:18-19).

Saints in Christ, the Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat worked hard to bring about peace between Egypt and Israel. He signed a peace treaty at Camp David, by the aid of President Carter and Menachem Begin. For this treaty he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech he shared these words: Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples, and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to the hopes of mankind.”

Because of his attempt to gain peace with the Israelis, he was invited by Prime Minister Menachem Begin to visit Israel. Anwar El Sadat accepted the invitation and on November 19, 1977, Sadat became the first Arab leader to officially visit Israel. When he landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, he was met with cheering crowds waving both the Egyptian and Israeli flags. In that historical moment when an enemy of the state of Israel made peace with them he came to that country to show that he meant it. The people of Israel paid great homage to him because of what he did.

Rulers, kings and presidents are used to receiving homage from their people. People love to stand in line to waive their national flag and cheer as their ruler, king and president come by. We saw that just recently when President-elect Obama was about to be sworn into office. Hundreds of thousands of people waved the American flag and cheered him as he went by, paying homage to him.

So long ago, another man visited Israel, and throughout His earthly pilgrimage He lived as a man of peace, promoted peace and proclaimed peace to all who would listen to His voice. However, the Jewish leaders of the day objected to His mission of peace. They accused Him of trying to overthrow the Romans and claiming to be King Himself. They took Him to Pilate (with a large crowd following) and asked Pilate to condemn Him to death by crucifixion.

Pilate attempted to release Him but the shouts of the Jewish people would not permit him to do so. In his attempt to release Him, Pilate went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber. (Jh. 18:38b-40).

Pilate delivers the King of the Jews to the soldiers to be crucified. In the courtyard the cruel and cold soldiers thought King Jesus must also have homage. The Soldiers began to mock Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” In jest they bowed before Him. And if this wasn’t enough, let’s make this homage more exciting, they spit on Him—dirty, disgusting spittle for His face; such was the homage considered worthy of this King. Others entertained themselves by snatching the reed from His hand and rapping Him over the head with it. Such was the respect they had for this King.

That night in the courtyard, the Romans soldiers bowed before Him in contempt and charade. They mocked Him because they thought He is no King; but how fitting homage is for this King. Before them stood more than just a man who lived in peace or promoted peace, more than a traveling Rabi from Nazareth, more than Jesus the Son of Mary. He was Jesus, the sinless, Almighty and Eternal Son of God, co-ruler of heaven and earth.

Yet, the Man of peace said nothing that night. He could have you know. One word from His lips and angels would have flocked to His defense. One sentence and those shady soldiers would have sprawled and stumbled on the pavement. One glance from His eyes and Pilate would have rendered helpless and powerless. One finger of His hands would have executed the death sentence upon them. But He didn’t stop them.

These cruel and callous soldiers were manhandling the King of kings. Finally they took Him outside the courtyard and the city of Jerusalem to a skull hill and there crucified Him on the cross. We wonder why He didn’t stop them. It isn’t that He couldn’t; but because He wouldn’t—He didn’t want to stop them. His love wouldn’t let Him stop them. In love He was “laying down His life for the sheep” as He taught them: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jh. 10:10-11). His love would compel Him to. This King, would humble Himself to the point of death, death on a cross. Here’s the true glory of our King! Willingly, joyfully, lovingly, He lays down His life for the sins of the world in order that we might inherit an eternal Kingdom.

So where are our cheers and flags? Where is our devotion to our King? Where is our loyalty to the Prince of peace? Are we not at times just as cold and cruel as the Roman soldiers? Are we not at times callous and calculating as others have been in the past? Do we not often turn and run away from the King of glory when the feet of faith get close to the fire? Do we not mock Him in our false homage to Him? Do we not give Him the external homage, but the heart is far from being honest? Do we not praise Him in public and curse Him in private? Do we not pray to Him and yet doubt His power to answer prayers? PAUSE.

When Anwar El Sadat came to Israel, many waved the Egyptian and Israeli flags and paid homage to Him. For his great and historic effort many of his countrymen hated him for what he did. On October 6, 1981, he was assassinated for making peace between the Egyptian and Israeli people. He died for what he believed in.

Jesus came upon the land of Israel to bring peace between God and Man. There was no Camp David,. There was no flight. There were no flags waiving that day outside of Jerusalem. But there were people screaming and shouting “crucify Him!” On Calvary they did. Christ was crucified and by His crucifixion and resurrection He brought peace between God and sinners. Jesus died for what He believed in—the saving of sinners-from hell’s grab, the grave’s slab and the devil’s trap. PAUSE.

As we live our Christian lives in general and during Lent in particular certainly we want to be on our knees before Him, sending prayers and praises to Him. But that’s the easy part. Far more difficult it is to keep on waving those flags and shouting those praises in the daily routine of life. Let our fellow church members see by the way we worship Him each Sunday; let our family members see by the way we lead them daily to His throne; let our fellow workers see by the way we dedicate workday matters to Him that we know who our King is, what He has done for us and how worthy He is to receive our homage every day of our lives and forever in heaven.

In the courtyard, under the shadow of darkness the soldiers mocked Him saying, “Hail King of the Jews!” That night in distain they paid homage to Him. But tonight, by the Spirit’s power we say, He is King indeed. He is my King and My Lord. And in joyfully obedience we dedicate our hearts and lives in service to the King and His Kingdom—for after all He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.

Now the peace…

Sunday, March 15, 2009

“Why?” (Exodus 20:1-3)

S-1107 3/15/09 3SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #287 1-4; O.T. 5-8; Ep. 9-12; (S) #295 (C) #286

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-22

Theme: Why?(Exodus 20:1-3)

Question: “How many times have you said, ‘Why’?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Third Sunday in Lent is from the Old Testament reading: “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I Am the LORD Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me’” (EX. 20:1-3).

Saints in Christ, why does a day-care provider in Sioux Falls abuse an infant? Why does a man in Illinois walk into a church and kills the pastor and injures others? Why does a man in Alabama kills and burns 9 members of his family? Why does a court forbid a crossing-guard from giving students high five? Why did God give the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel? Why did God tell the Israelites to keep them? Why should we keep them? Why oh why? PAUSE.

Life is full of mystery. And we the enlightened ones want to know the whys of the world. As we reflect on the questions, we really ask the honest question WHY? I don’t know why a man would want to kill his family. I don’t know why a day-care provider abuses an infant. I don’t even know what motivated these people to do the evil they did.

However, when it comes to God’s Word in giving the Ten Commandments, it is no secret of why He gave them to the People of Israel and to us. The first why, because God in mercy reached out and delivered the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. In the previous chapter we read: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex. 19:4). Second, because He wanted them to be different people. This is how Moses told it: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation(Ex. 19:5-6b). Third, because the Israelite’s were people with a mission—being a light to other nations. God gave them the Commandments, so that they might live with Him in peace and demonstrate that they are a people of God. Their lives were to reflect the story of God’s salvation. They were to tell the world the mighty deeds of the ONLY TRUE GOD.

These 10 Commandments which God gave the people were to be the blueprint of how they will live, how to interact with God, and treat their neighbors. These Commandments were given to help them always focus on the God who delivered them from the slavery of Egypt.

God didn’t give them the Commandments so that by them, they might be saved. ON the contrary because they had been saved and delivered from Egypt, He gave them these blessed Words to guide and guard their hearts and let them know that He is the ONLY GOD in whose presence they should walk humbly and worship Him joyfully.

These Words of God show us His heart. These Words of God show us what He loves and what He hates. These Words of God point us to the might, power, and protection He will provide for us. By obeying these Words, we honor God, and help our neighbor.

King David in Psalm 19 wrote these helpful words: The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:7-9).

Do you see the blessings that come from knowing the Lord’s Commandments? They revive the soul, make our hearts glad, make us wise, make us right with God and open our eyes to see Him for who He really is—the One who delivers from the hand of the snare. PAUSE.

As we continue in our Lenten journey to Jerusalem, we ask, “Why do we need to go through Lent again since we have heard the story before and know it well? Why do we need to come to God’s house Sunday after Sunday, since we hear the same story again and again? We ask “Why?” and we are overwhelmed by tidal waves of worry, stress, and fear.

One why leads to another. We the enlightened ones want to know why. Why doesn’t Jesus come to the aid of those in need? Why did Jesus allow some idiot to kill others, rape, murder and steal from others? Why doesn’t He intervene and stop all of the hatred, the theft, the rape, the murder and the evil that fills our world?

Perhaps our preoccupation with asking “why” is an attempt at gaining control. If I could understand the “why,” then maybe I can affect the “what.” The fallacy is that we think we are the ones running the world, not God. The fact is I am powerless over any of the situations around me, just as I am not in control of virtually everything else in the world. I can ask questions about God and the way He runs this world from today till tomorrow, and I am still just as powerless—and just as confused. PAUSE.

Maybe those are the wrong whys? How about these: Why did Jesus have to be born like all human beings? Why did Jesus have to live in Nazareth? Why did Jesus have to work as a carpenter? Why did He have to suffer at the hands of the Jewish Leaders? Why did Jesus have to be rejected? Why did He have to be nailed to a cross? Why did He have to die? Do you really want to know? Honestly, do you want to?

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus came as a fulfillment of the promise of God to our first parents in the Garden. He was born like us to take our place under the punishment of hell and the wrath of God. He suffered and was rejected for our sins. He endured the punishment and wrath of God so that you and I may never know that kind of suffering, rejection and pain. In a nut shell Jesus came to be the Savior for sinners and deliver them from the slavery of the devil, sin, death, and hell.

Jesus knew His place well. He obeyed His Father completely. He obediently fulfilled the will of the Father in everything that He did. He obeyed His earthly father and heavenly Father. He even worked as carpenter with His father in Nazareth.

Think please how often Jesus carried a tree back to the carpenter shop to turn it into a useful lumber? How many times did He pick up hammer and nails to make some useful items out of those boards? Now others use the tools of His trade to nail Him to a tree. And I know why My Carpenter let them do it. It was because of His love for ME—a sinner—love that wanted to make me one of His creation to adorn His Father’s house forever.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we may never know the answers to all of the why questions in the world. Instead of being part of the question, by the grace of God and His might we become part of the answer. We do know why God gave us the 10 Commandments. The Law only makes us aware of sin. It is the Law that sends us fleeing to the cross for our salvation. The Law should make us say WHY? Why would God be so merciful to a sinner like me? Why would God be willing to lay down His life for me while I am still a sinner? And the answer is not the Law. No, the answer is because that is who God is. He is the One who is slow to anger and abounding in love. He is the One who calls us to worship Him, fear Him, honor Him and love Him above all else. He gave them to us to make us His people that point others to Him. He gave them to us because we are the people who have been redeemed, restored and delivered. He gave them to us to be a light to the nations.

By our words and actions, we pave the way to others to meet the One who is Mighty to deliver. By obeying these words, we tell the world we are ones who have been paid for with the precious blood of Jesus. These Words guide us when we stray, guard us when we play and bless us when we obey.

Why does God give us these commands? The answer is simple. Because, these Ten debarim (Words) are the footsteps of freedom, the boundaries of love, the framework of justice and compassion. God gives us in the law the boundaries of love and in the Gospel the story of Jesus boundless love. Part of the boundless love springs forth from His glory in the Exodus but the greatest manifestation of His glory is in the cross! On the cross Jesus comes into clear view. And we see all the whys clearer. He died so that we need not fear this Law. He rose because this Law has been fulfilled. When we wander, it drives us back to Him. For in Him we find life—life for now and forever. AMEN.

Now the peace…

Thursday, March 12, 2009


This is a test

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“His Crown” Mark 15:17b

S-1106 3/11/09 1MIL/3B Hymns: (O) #140 vs.1-4; (S) # 341 (C) # 145

Texts Psalm 21:1-7; Isaiah 61:1-3; Revelation 19:9-16; Mark 15:15-20

Theme: “His Crown(3rd sermon series in Lent on HIStory, Mark 15:17b).

Question: “Have you ever worn a victor’s crown?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our third Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel reading: “[They…twisted together a crown of thorns, [and] put it on Him” (Mk. 15:17b).

Saints in Christ, tonight we continue to walk on our Lenten journey, a journey that will take us by spirit into Pilate’s courtyard and there view with unbelief the Roman soldiers twisting together a crown of thorns and placing it on the sacred head of the man that is standing still before them. Come closer (motion to them) and see what I see. Come and watch history in the making. Come, learn, consider, and reflect and ponder the cruel punishment that the Savior endured that night for YOU.

Enter any high school or college hallway and you will see many trophies behind enclosed glass. These trophies tell of the many victories the athletes of these schools have won over the years. These trophies are placed there with pride and each has its announcement telling the event, the person or the team that earned such a trophy.

In the local papers, or on TV from time to time, you will notice young ladies wearing a skimpy bikini, sash, and crown won for a beauty pageant. As each of these contestants moves from the local, to the region, to state and national, the bigger the crown gets. The biggest pageant crown is the Miss America crown. The winner walks with great pride, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks and holding a bouquet of roses. As she takes her winner’s walk, people applaud and congratulate her. TV cameras zoom in on her face and the next morning her face is printed in every newspaper and on the internet

Crowns have been worn by beauty pageants, athletes of old, kings and queens and even during marriage ceremonies in my country. Crowns stand for something special, as a reward of sorts. Royalty adorn their heads with these crowns and parade them for all to see. Some of these crowns are simple circles of flowers, or palm branches, others are a golden circle and still others are ornate and precious jewels. From Egypt’s ancient dynasties, to Europe’s modern monarchy, to the Middle East’s Kingdom, the royalty wear a crown.

Tonight, though, we are not considering the latest pageant crown, or the athletic trophy, or the crown of a monarchy; bur rather a different kind of crown—a crown not made from flowers, metal, or precious gems, but of twisted thorns and placed on One called Jesus of Nazareth.

As we stand by, in the darkness we see the shadow of a man standing still, not attempting to escape. We see soldiers—Roman soldiers like a pack of hyenas ready to jump on their prey. They kneel in mockery before the royal subject that is before them. With cruelly they mock Him. And to make the mockery complete, one of the soldiers takes a prickly branch and twists it together in the form of a crown and placed it on Jesus’ head. If Jesus is a king, then a crown needs to be on His royal head. But in the darkness that crown didn’t sparkle. But that is not a problem. This could be easily remedied. But the remedy is one that we don’t like to see. A few blows to the head and the thorns are driven deep into His skull and blood begins to pour down and glisten like rubies.

Do you see that crown on His head? Do you see the blood running down His face? That night on Good Friday, the Roman soldiers mocked the man form Nazareth by placing a crown of thorns upon His head. But do you know why? Why would the crown be part of His lot? Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and His Word. Since the fall all our life is a journey through the land of thorns and thistles. In Adam’s fall we saw the world become a thorn-infested place, of sin, shame, and disgrace. Because of the fall, God’s wrath had to be implemented. Because of that Jesus would take our place. To the endth degree He would suffer misery. Thorns were part of the brutal barbs He endured on Good Friday.

Tonight, in the courtyard, we see Him standing and wearing a crown adorned with His own blood—blood more precious than all earthly treasures. Blood—precious, innocent, holy blood able to win that which nothing else could buy—the life mans soul. That crown touched with His innocent blood speaks of the cleansing it accomplished for sinners, and the victory it earned for the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, the cross ALWAYS comes before the crown except for Jesus. The reason Jesus came to earth was to suffer and die as the substitute for a sinful world. Being the Christ didn’t mean good times and a life of earthly glory. Jesus would have to bear a cross. Before the true robe of royalty would come the fake robe of mockery, before the crown of glory would come a crown of thorns.

In the same book by our author, we read these words: “And He [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mk. 8:31). After all, this is why Jesus came. He came to offer His life blood for the world. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (Jh. 3:16-17).

The heaven-sent Savior, Jesus rejected the way of a crown without a cross. Every step Jesus took led Him closer to Calvary. He never stopped or turned back. That is why He let the soldiers mock Him. That is why He stood still until they drove the crown of thorns into His sacred head. That is why that night He wore the crown of thorns with pride. That is why He willingly took up His cross. He accepted it. He carried it. He welcomed it. He bore it for you and you and you. (Point at the people).

When Jesus embraced His cross, He was really embracing you. He knew that that this crown He is wearing will be exchanged someday for a different crown. He knew that His cross and everything that it brought with it would bring you life, forgiveness and salvation in His name.

Jesus didn’t refuse to wear the crown of thorns. Jesus let the pack of hyenas devour His flesh for you. He endured the mockery, the mob, the mauling and bleeding for you, so that someday you will know the sacrifice He endured to secure your salvation.

Only the victors get the trophy. Only the victors get crowned. Only kings are crowned and paraded with pride. But Jesus didn’t look like a victor that day. That was Good Friday, but Sunday’s coming. That first Easter Sunday our champion rose victoriously from the grave, the pack of hyenas ran for cover, and the spoil comes to us.

Our Savior and King rules in our midst, and also from heaven, where the angels who have ever been, and those who have gone before us join in the chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power, and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Shall we not join them? Can we be silent while angels sing the great Redeemer’s praise? Is it not rather, “Oh, that with yonder sacred throne we at His feet may fall. We’ll join the everlasting song and crown Him Lord of all?” Why wait for heaven dear friends to crown our eternal King? The King reigns among us even now. Right here as we stand in the courtyard of Pilate and see Him with our own eyes; let us by the power of the Holy Spirit give Him the throne room of our hearts. Let us by faith lift our eyes heaven-ward, bow our knees before Him, and raise our voices, and proclaim what the apostle Paul said at the end of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

May the Savior, whose sacred head was scornfully surrounded with thorns as His only crown, forgive our frequent lack of loyalty and fainthearted service to Him. Remember how the hymn writer shared this awesome love: “See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

“King” the Romans soldiers cried that Good Friday in mockery. But tonight, we shout back “King indeed!” For He who wore that crown of thorns, by His glorious resurrection has prepared for us a crown of glory. Jesus gets the crown of unrighteousness. We receive the crown of righteousness! The happy exchange, how strange. Amen.

Now the peace…

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

“Kings Shall Come From You” (Gen. 17:6).

S-1105 3/08/09 2SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #17 1-3; (S) #239; L.S. 442; 41; 39 (C) # #17 4-63

Texts: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

Theme: Kings Shall Come From You” (Gen. 17:6).

Question: “Do you have any Royal blood in you?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our second Sunday in Lent is from the Gospel reading: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you” (Gen. 17:6).

Saints in Christ, as a Palestinian Christian growing up in Israel, I felt I was cheated in life. I didn’t know why I couldn’t be born into a rich family. I didn’t know why I didn’t have enough money to do the things I wanted. Why did I have to be born into a poor family? Why couldn’t I be born in Saudi Arabia as one of the children of King Faisal, or in Jordan as one of the children of King Hussein? Why couldn’t I have lived in the royal palace and have servants waiting on me hand and foot 24 hours a day? I don’t know why. But looking back on my lot in life, I thank God that I wasn’t born in the Arab Muslim world, but in my family and as a Christian.

As I look out upon you the saints sitting in the pews, I know that you too, have not been born into a royal family. You were not born as children of kings or queens. You don’t have servants answering your beckon call day and night. And neither were you born in a royal palace. Maybe at times you wished you were, but you weren’t.

Today, Moses the author of our text shares with us an awesome promise made by God to Abram. But this is not the first promise given to Abram. The first time we meet God speaking to Abram he was 75 years old in chapter 12. “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s 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.’” (1-3).

And by the time we get to our text in Chapter 17 God speaks again to Abram, and this time he is 99 years old, 24 years after he migrated from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land, 13 years after Ishmael was born; and 14 years after God promised him a son will be born to him and his aged wife. But nothing happened YET.

In this brief encounter, El Shaddi (that’s the Hebrew name for God in this passage) the “Almighty One” or “The All-Sufficient One” and “One who is really STRONG.” And here in this discourse, God the Mighty One—the God of the covenant swears by Himself to do what He promised. El Shaddi, possess the power to deliver on His promise to Abram even when the order of nature appeared unable to help them conceive a child. The name which Yahweh uses for Himself was to be a pledge, that in spite of “his own body now dead,” and “the deadness of Sarah’s womb” God, El Shaddi could and would give him the promised innumerable posterity.

And what does El Shaddi promise to Abram? Let Moses say it in his own words: “Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you (4-6).

God promised that out of nearly century old lions of Abraham and Sarah kings shall come. History and Scripture testify to this being fulfilled. From Abram come the famous Kings Saul, David, and Solomon. Then there are the others. Some noble, some scoundrels, but they all came from the same Father on the basis of a promise. But none of the Hebrew kings compare to the true King, the son of Abraham—Jesus Christ.

What was it the Magi sought when they came following the star? Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (Mt. 2:2). What did Pilate discover while questioning Jesus before the judgment seat?” You are a king, then!” Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I Am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me” (Jh. 18:37).

Jesus IS the true King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One who has been born from the line of Abraham. He was born not in a royal palace but in a manger, not to be served 24 hours a day, but to serve others in love and mercy 24 hours a day. He didn’t come to be the king for the wealthy, but He came to be the king for the commoner—to serve them by laying down His life for them. He came as the fulfillment of the covenant of El Shaddi—the All Sufficient God who keeps every Word. PAUSE

What you and I are called to see and believe is that we are summoned week in and week out by the Holy Spirit to be in the presence of a real, living breathing King. This king has the power and authority over everything and everyone. And furthermore, we need to remember that a kingdom exists because Jesus is the King. He is the Messiah, the Savior promised by God in the Old Testament. Jesus is not only Israel’s King, but the international Christ for all the nations. He came to rescue the nations—the children of Abraham from the destructive power of hell and satan.

When Jesus came upon the scene, He announced the Kingdom of God is at hand. This was foretold by Scripture and announced by John the Baptist. Jesus had come to establish His rule. However, He disappointed the expectations of many people—both then and now. Many people believed that He came to set an earthly kingdom. But He taught that His Kingdom wasn’t of this world. His Kingdom is a spiritual one. Many left because like me in my younger years, in foolishness were looking for an earthly benefit

At the end of Jesus’ life, Pilate asked Him, Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus gave an affirmative response; and Pilate sanctioned His crucifixion on that basis. This is how John tells the story of this King: “Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He [Pilate] said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified” (Jh. 19:14-16).

Today, we see King Jesus in a different light through the Lens of the Gospel—a King who serves rather than being served; a King who loves, rather than demand on being loved; a King who gives, rather than takes. What does this King Jesus gives? He gives ETERNAL life, forgiveness and peace. He gives us the Kingdom of God. Because of His crucifixion you and I become children of the King of glory. As the Apostle Peter reminds us in his epistle: “But you are a chosen race, a [ROYAL] priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). Did you hear what Peter said? “You are ROYAL Priests!” You ARE royalty. You are sons and daughters of the King of the Universe. You are heirs of the Kingdom of believers. Yes, you (name different people here). You have a King for a Father. You have a Kingdom to live in. You have servants called angels whose sole mission for being is to take care of you.

Remember my question to you, “Do you have any Royal blood in you?” Perhaps, in the beginning you answered NO! But after you listened to the Word of the God—El Shaddi, you come to see that YES, indeed you are royalty, and the blood of Jesus runs deep into your veins. That blood is what makes you royalty. That blood marks you as the children of the King of glory.

Remember also how I said, I felt cheated in life, because I was born in poverty and wished I was born in the royal palaces of King Faisal or Hussein. Well, I don’t wish that anymore, because I know better. I know that even though I was poor, on account of Christ I am rich. Even though I didn’t have any servants answering my beckon call, My King Jesus is ready and waiting to give me more than I deserve or desire. Though I wasn’t born in a royal palace, I will live the rest of my life in the Royal palace of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Saints in Christ, the Words of our text have iron in them. Iron to life or to death. To those who believe these words as Abraham did, they will be iron words of life—a life in the royal palace of the Savior—the KING Eternal, Jesus Christ. But to those who don’t believe they are iron words of death—a death in the fires of hell.

May we thank God for making us His royal sons and daughters and caring for our needs by inviting us to dine at His table often and live with Him happily ever after. AMEM.

Now the peace…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

“His Robe” Mk. 15:16-17a

S-1104 3/04/09 1MIL/3B Hymns: (O) #388; #147; (S) #371 (C) # 558

Texts Psalm 45:6-8; Revelation 6:9-11; Mark 15:15-20

Theme: “His Robe” (2nd sermon series in Lent on HIStory, Mark 15:16-17a).

Question: “What is your favorite garment?’”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our second Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel reading: “The soldiers took Jesus inside to the courtyard of the governor’s palace and called together the rest of the company. They put a purple robe on Jesus” (Mk. 15:16-17a).

Saints in Christ, tonight we continue our journey in Lent as we consider again the HIStory of the Passion that took our Savior to the cross and the grave. A faithful student of the Scriptures sees the many vivid pictures that are painted in them. These pictures are imbedded in our minds and hearts. These pictures tell stories of both good and evil that took place among God’s people. And these stories engage us as we grow in the knowledge and grace of the Almighty God.

Such a picture—a sad picture is what happened in the Garden of Eden. After man fell into sin, Adam and Eve attempted to cover their shame and nakedness with fig leaves. But those leaves were not useful or sufficient to cover their naked bodies. And so God intervened—He intervened by making something better. He had to sacrifice an animal to cover them up.

Ever since that day, man has been wearing a garment to cover his/her body and the shame. We don’t walk around naked for a reason. Although certainly some people haven’t gotten that message, they reveal more than should be seen. But robes are what we put on before we leave our homes and they are useful to be sure for many reasons.

In tonight’s text, Mark speaks of another sad picture that took place, not in the Garden of Eden, but in the courtyard of Pilate’s palace. This event happened to our Savior in the final earthly days. Listen to the voice of Mark as he paints this picture to you. “The soldiers took Jesus inside to the courtyard of the governor’s palace and called together the rest of the company. They put a purple robe on Jesus” (Mk. 15:16-17a).

“The Royal Purple” people called it in the past. In years gone by kings and queens wore robes of purple, because only they could afford the costly price in making such a robe. The purple robe then became a symbol of the magnificent palaces, gilded chariots and rich splendor which showed the world how royalty lived

On Good Friday, in the Palace of the Roman curator Pilate, another king wore the royal purple robe. But what a king He was and what a robe He wore! In mockery some soldiers found this robe in a dusty corner of the barrack and draped it over the shoulder of the Galilean Rabi—Jesus. And if the color was faded, that didn’t matter at all. Before long it will be darkened by the blood of the victim’s body standing before them, who will be beaten and bludgeoned by their cruel and brutal hands. A king he was supposed to be, so with taunting and screaming the soldiers dressed Him like one, in a purple robe stained by His own blood.

They placed the robe on Jesus’ back in mockery and meanness that day. But if you study that picture deeply and intently, you will realize how fitting it was to do so. If anyone in the world had a right to wear the “Royal Purple Robe”, it is Jesus—for He really is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, on that day, He didn’t act like a king, He didn’t look like a king and He wasn’t treated like a king; no homage paid to Him as king. On the contrary, He was humiliated and spat upon. He was mocked and mauled. He was taunted and tormented. He was disgraced and dishonored by that act.

The author of our text knows us all too well the value of garments. You see the night before, the Jewish Rabi and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was praying all by Himself to His heavenly Father to give Him the strength to face the next few days. And while He was on His knees the soldiers came. They came with torches and clubs and swords. They came to take the leader of this small band away. All of the disciples ran for fear of the company of soldiers. And Mark ran too. In his haste to get away one of the soldiers grabbed his garment and he left it and ran naked. (Mk. 14:51-52).

Running in the street naked is humiliating. But not as humiliating as it was for our Savior that night in the Palace Court. There the soldiers were making fun of Him as they draped that purple robe on Him and bowed before Him as if He was truly a King. PAUSE.

How many times do we act like kings? How many times do we put on different garments to show the people what we have? We don on our best suit for others to see—the garment of good works, the garment of self-righteous, the garment of pride and arrogance, the garment of power and prestige—acting as if we are better than someone else.

Tonight, as we study this picture, we look deeply into the eyes and heart of the Savior, and learn from Him true humility. He left the Royal palace of heaven and humbled Himself as He came to live here with us on earth. He came to serve us. He came to suffer for us. He came to seek us out and dress up with the true royalty garments.

He left heaven to live the life of a humble servant. He who owns all has to borrow a place to lay His head, a boat to cross a lake, a cape to cloak His body, a tomb to hold His corpse. Willingly He chooses to endure poverty and pain, self-denial and death, beaten and bleeding. Never has the world seen such royalty.

That blood stained robe reminds us tonight of His royalty. It reminds us also of something else. How the Rabi from Nazareth loved us—loved us enough to endure the shame and humiliation, the spitting and mocking, the beaten and death to pay for ALL of our sins. PAUSE

This love caused God to intervene—to intervene in our lives—to give us something to cover our shame and nakedness. He did it by sacrificing an animal—a lamb to cover our sins. That is what took place on Good Friday; the Lamb of God was put to death for us.

This He did so that He can weave for us another robe—the robe of righteousness and holiness. This robe He put on our shoulders on the day of our baptism, to mark us as one’s redeemed by His red and innocent blood. Because of His robe, we can stand before our God in heaven. Because of this robe we are assured that not one drop of sin will stain our garments. Because of that robe the world will know that we are His beloved sons and daughters.

On Good Friday, they draped on His shoulders a purple robe to mock Him. But tonight He gives us a robe of mercy. They draped Him with a robe of shame, and He drapes us with robe of grace. They draped Him with a robe of gory, and He drapes us with a robe of glory.

That night they cried out, “King” in mockery. They mocked and shamed Him, but the day will come when every knee in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth will bow before this true King. For those who believe in Him as their Savior, He gives them the white robes of righteousness to make worthy of His Royal palace. But to those who don’t believe in Him, they will be dressed with the robe of ashes and annihilation to burn in hell forever.

Tonight, dear saints in Christ, Jesus once again reaches out to you with His scared and pierced hands and dons on you His robe, the Royal Robe holiness and righteousness to let you know that you are heirs of heaven on account of His suffering, death and resurrection. Thank God with me for the robe you are wearing now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…

"A Full and Happy Life” John 8:31-32; Psalm 91:16

S-1103 3/3/09 Hymns: #200; # (solo Amazing Grace), (S) # 360; # 341

Texts: Job 19:21-27; Romans 8:35-39; John 10:11-18

Theme: "A Full and Happy Life” John 8:31-32; Psalm 91:16

SOLI DEO GLORIA Armour, SD. Celebration of the New Life of Erwin (Erv) Knodel

Goal: That the hearers rejoice that Christ has given them eternal life through His suffering, death and resurrection.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia (3x)

Saints in Christ, Jerry, Virginia, and Shirley, family, friends and neighbors, we gather in the Lord’s house today to celebrate the new life granted to our departed brother by His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The text for this blessed and glorious celebration is Erwin’s confirmation verses: “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jh. 8:31-32). And from Psalm 91 “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (91:16).

Beloved in the Lord, in the Gospel of John Jesus says these words: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jh. 10:10). The reason Jesus came to earth was to suffer and die for the sins of all people including Erv, and by His death and resurrection from the grave He gave to all who believe in Him a full life. This life is a gift from the One who spoke in our Old Testament reading “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” We can certainly say that our departed brother Erv had a full and happy life. Oh, what a life Erv had—truly a full and happy life. A life lived to the fullest under the watchful eyes of His Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

I have been privileged to know Erv since the summer of 1994 and ever since that time, I have learned to appreciate Erv for all that he is and all that he did. Anyone that knew Erv knew that this man enjoyed life. It seemed like he wouldn’t settle long enough to allow any grass to grow under his feet. He was always busy doing things he loves. Whether it was being a father, husband, grandfather or a farmer he had fun doing it. Erv didn’t do things the normal way. He always had to be different. He always designed his own thing or made something that might work for his benefit.

Someone once told me Erv had nine lives. It appears he always lived dangerously, because he didn’t want to miss having fun doing it. Whether flying his plane, plowing with his Studebaker, or riding his motorcycle he did with gusto.

One day I happened to visit with Lea and Erv in their house. Lea was telling me about a recent event that Erv did. He was in Rapid City visiting his daughter Virginia and her husband. He took off on his motorcycle to head to Armour. Sometimes later, Virginia called her mom to let her know that her dad should be arriving before too long. Lea said, “Honey your dad is here already.” Virginia said, “It can’t be. He left just a little over 3 hours ago.” And Lea responded again, “Your dad is here already.” To which again Virginia said, “It can’t be.” Finally, Lea said, “Here, you talk to your dad.” In a little over 3 hours, Erv who at the time was in his mid 80’s made the trip from Rapid City to Armour. Now that must have been a fun ride to be sure. Oh, yes, Erv lived a full and happy life.

But there was another side to Erv. Even though he loved life and lived it to the full, he lived it as a true disciple of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As his confirmation verse stated, “If you are my disciples you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

That truth is what he longed to hear Sunday after Sunday as he sat (point to the location of his pew) in the house of the Lord with his lovely wife and children. He sat in this house of worship for years and years so that he might be blessed to receive the Word and Sacrament.

Part of the truth that Erv cherished in his walk of faith he wanted to share it with others. For this reason when some saints determined to build a house of worship, Erv rolled up his sleeves and began to work to erect this place. He even designed a small gadget that will allow the builders to transport cement from one location to the others. And if that wasn’t enough, he was part of the crew that anchored the bell tower so that it might ring to call Sinners and saints to hear God’s Words of Law and Gospel, of death and life. That same bell called us to these words of life even today.

It is this truth that Erv longed and hungered for and that is why he supported the ministry with his presence and finances. This truth in love he passed on to his children and grandchildren. This truth he wanted others to know because it is the most important part of his life. Having fun was great, but greater to him was living under the watchful eyes of His Savior feeding on this truth and sharing the truth with others.

But there is more. I am not sure how many of the family members or even the saints of Redeemer know about what Erv did. In October of 1994, shortly after I arrived to Armour; I was sharing with him and Lea that I have a desire to begin a ministry of allowing people to listen to a Scripture, brief comment on that Scripture and prayer 24 hours a day. The more we visited the more he was interested. Then looking at Lea and looking at me asked, “Pastor, what do you need to make this a reality?” I told him “We needed a recording machine and a telephone line to the church”. He told me “let me know how much money you need” I checked into it and let him know. He asked me to come and see him and he gave me a check for $200.00 to purchase the unit and the phone line. And Dial A Prayer was born. And this ministry has been active since October 1994. He gave the seed money and the saints of Redeemer have continued to keep it going and growing. 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year the ministry of “Dial A Prayer” has touched many lives in this community, county and country. All because someone cared to teach others the truth about Jesus Christ.

This is true discipleship. Discipleship, that brings joy not only to one’s life but to the lives of others. Erv lived as a true disciple of Jesus even to his final weeks on the earth. Once he no longer could come to the house of the Lord, the Lord came to him through the Word and the Sacrament at his home and then at the nursing home. He always had a smile to this pastor when I walked in. And when I would visit him at the home, I would ask him, “How are you doing today?” He would respond, “I am weak.” He may have been weak in body, but was strong in spirit. He hungered to be fed with the heavenly manna. He repented of his sins. And he relied on the Lord Jesus Christ to give him the strength to go on.

As true disciple of Jesus, Erv lived a full and happy life. Living it into ripe old age of 100 plus 11 days. Those years were blessed by the One who called him in the water of Baptism on March 7, 1909 and made him his very own and last Friday evening, the Lord who died for him and rose again said, “Erv, come to my home and rest. Come and live the true and happy life full of grace. Come and rest in my house without any pain or suffering or hardships. Come Erv and live the full and happy life promised to you by Me. And that Friday, God with His pierced hands reached out and took Erv and transport him from this vale of tears to the life eternal where he really is living the full and happy life. And what a life he is having now. He is not weak. He no longer has problem with his hearing. He no longer has to worry about sin or any kind of affliction. But now he is basking in the glories of heaven, living life to the fullest. Pause.

Someone had written these thoughts:

Aging. It’s no fun. The way we try to avoid it, you’d think we could … This body must die so the new body can live … Aging is God’s idea. It’s one of the ways He keeps us headed homeward. We can’t change the process, but we can change our attitude. Here is a thought. What if we looked at the aging of the body as we look at the growth of a tulip?

Do you ever see anyone mourning over the passing of a tulip bulb? Do gardeners weep as the bulb begins to weaken? Of course not … We don’t mourn the passing of the bulb; we celebrate it. Tulip lovers rejoice the minute the bulb weakens. “Watch that one,” they say. “It’s about to blossom.”

Could it be that heaven does the same? The angels point to our bodies. The more frail we become, the more excited they become. “Watch that child of God in the nursing home,” they say. “He’s about to blossom.” …

Erv has now “blossomed!” The body has been left behind and the spirit has gone home to peace and glory! Erv is now living the full and happy life.

In Jesus' Name. Amen.

“Held His Hands” (Gen. 22:10-12).

S-1102 3/01/09 1SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #262; (S) #142; (C) # 400

Texts Genesis 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15

Theme: “Held His Hands” (Gen. 22:10-12).

Question: “How do you use your hands?”


“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ 12He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’(Gen. 22:10-12).

Children of God, I want you to do me a favor right now. Stop what you are doing, empty your hands of everything and just study them closely. What do you see in those hands? What story do they tell? What images do you grasp?

Someone asked a young lady of 93 at a nursing home, why she was looking at her hands? Here is her response: "Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse. They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And by His hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”

Hands are very special, because they permit us to do the things we need to get along in life. In the text before us today, God asks Abraham to do the unthinkable and unimaginable with his hands. God puts Abraham to the test, saying: Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2). Can you believe what God is asking Abraham to do with his hands? I certainly can’t fathom that request from a loving God. Yet Moses in this Chapter tells us that is precisely what God asked of Abraham—to use his hands to sacrifice his son, his only son as an offering to his God.

And in our reading we see the obedient Patriarch going with God’s request to the mountain. He takes his son, saddles him with the wood for the burnt offering and heads up the mountain to sacrifice him. PAUSE.

What if God asked you to give the most important thing in your life to Him? What if He asked you to sacrifice your job, your position, your house, your car, or the life of your children, would you be willing to carry it out? We have to admit this kind of testing challenges us to the core. It challenges us to acknowledge who hold the first place in our heart. It challenges us to put God first. As the Lord Himself taught us in the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”. God doesn’t want us to have anything or anyone to take His place. But this is what God asked of Abraham. And we know that Abraham heard the call, and headed to the mountain to carry out God’s command. PAUSE.

Before you get too far ahead of me to the Ram that is caught in the thicket, consider with me the emotions, the pain, the anguish that father Abraham is facing. He is to give up his only son, the son of Promise for whom he waited 25 years. And now that he is blessed with this gift from God in his old age, God wants Abraham to give him up. Oh, how his heart was bleeding from the inside. Oh, how his heart was aching for what he was about to do. Oh, how his heart was screaming for a way out.

Yet, without hesitation, Abraham marches up the mountain, lays his son on the altar he built and draws his knife to sacrifice his son as a sweet offering to the God he worships. But before he could cut his son’s throat, he hears the voice of God saying, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me’

God held Abraham’s hands from hurting or harming Isaac. God held Abraham’s hands before the knife would slit Isaac’s heart. God’s angel intervened and wouldn’t permit Abraham to carry out the death order. Instead, God provides a substitute—a ram. The ram in the thicket dies and Isaac lives.

What God wouldn’t permit Abraham to do, He did Himself. He sent His Son, His only Son, the One He loves, the Son of Promise to earth to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. God sent His Son to the appointed mountain—Calvary to be offered as a sweet smelling offering for the sins of the world. God held His hands back from reaching out and stopping the soldiers from beating His Only Son. God held His hands back from stopping the nails to go into His Son’s flesh. God held His hands back from stopping the thorns to be implanted into His Son’s head.

There on the altar of the cross God held His hands back from reaching out to save His only Son, from the knife that would put Him to death. God held His hands back and turned away His face from His only Son, when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” God for the first time in history didn’t come to the aid of the One who cried out to Him for deliverance—He held His hands back, and let His Son die our death. Bound to the wood of the cross in place of Isaac, Abraham and all, Jesus is the answer to the saying “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Think with me please what it was that God endured to secure your salvation? Consider the emotions, the pain, and the anguish that God was enduring. He couldn’t look at His Son because His only Son became the worst sinner in the world. God shut His ears to Jesus’ cries. God held His hands back from helping Jesus in the hour of need. Oh, how his heart was bleeding from the inside. Oh, how his heart was aching for what He was doing. Oh, how his heart was screaming for a way out. But there was none—the sentence needed to be carried out. The promise needed to be fulfilled. Sin had to be taken care of. So, God Held His hands back and let His Son be put to death on the altar of the cross. God Held His hands back as they lowered Him from the cross and carried Him to the tomb. Our loving God gave up His only Son, so that you and I may be sons and daughters of our awesome God.

I can’t fathom that. I can’t understand that. I even have a hard time believing that God would love me enough to exchange my sins with His Son’s righteousness. But it is true. What an Amazing God we have. His Words are true. His promises are sure, and He fulfills them as He uses His hands to bless us.

Study the Scriptures and you will see the mighty hands of God at work for the benefit of His Sons and daughters. In Psalm 145 we read these words: “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing” (vv. 15-16). In His powerful hands the fish sandwiches grew into enough to feed the crowd. By His hands life is given, sickness is removed, sight is restored and forgiveness offered. God’s hands are at work among us.

Saints in Christ, take another look at your hands and ask yourself this question. How will I use my hands for the glory of God and His kingdom? Will you use them to lead a young child to the house of the Lord? Will you use your hands to open the Bible and read it to others? Will you use your hands to open your wallet to further the kingdom of God? Will you use your hands to embrace the hurting and help the needy? I pray that we will use our hands for the benefits of our neighbor and for the glory of God.

But more importantly know how Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ extended His hands to save you and deliver you. Remember faithful saints that Jesus means “Savior.” As the Savior of the world He permitted the hands of the enemy to nail His hands to the cross of Calvary, and by these pierced hands He opened heaven’s paradise for us. During this Lenten Season, I pray that the readings of the Passion History, hymns and sermons, YOU will see Jesus and His incredible hands of mercy at work in your lives more clearly. And I hope you hear again God’s call in your life as Abraham did and said, “Here am I Lord.”


Now the peace…