Sunday, February 28, 2010

“I would have liked…” (Luke 13:34).

S-1172 02/28/10 2SIL/3C (O) #429; (S) #554 L.S. #157; #725LSB #308; (C) #154

Texts: Jeremiah 26: 8-15; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Theme: “I would have liked…” (Luke 13:34).

Question: “Have you said, I would have liked…?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 2nd Sunday in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved today we continue our Lenten journey. As we do, we meet Jesus just outside the city of Jerusalem speaking very gracious and tender words. This text is riveting and moving, because it shows us the care and compassion Jesus has for all people. As we join Jesus and His disciples on their way to Jerusalem and the cross, we pause for a while and listen to Him as He reveals His deepest yearning with words—words filled with emotions and affections.

Listen attentively please to these words and see, feel and taste what Jesus is expressing here: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34).

We meet the Savior on Tuesday of Holy Week uttering words full of deep pathos. The Pharisees are cold and hard, the Pharisees are planning and plotting to kill Him, but the heart of Jesus is filled with the deepest sadness because of their stubbornness and the coming judgment.

With the repetitive words “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” we see the heart of God. We behold the tender mercy, love, care, concern and compassion He has on those who are lost, and are not under His protection. More than once He wanted to bring together the city of peace—that is killing the prophets and now preparing to add one more death to the list, but they wouldn’t.

These words “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” tell us that Jesus on more than one occasion reached out to the people of the city, but they would not listen to Him. They ignored His pleas. They ignored His cries. They ignored Him as the heaven-sent Savior and the God of all mercy who came to save them. But Jesus didn’t give up even though He knew it will do no good to call them, He still reaches out in love to them, until His voice is actually stilled and the blood is drained from His veins. PAUSE.

What image Jesus gives for us. I would have loved to gather you like a hen gathers her brood under her wings. In the Gospel of Matthew on the same subject, we are told that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, tears streamed down His face as He wept over a city that refused to be saved (Mt. 23:37). Can there be any more comforting scene than a hen gathering her brood under her wings? Out in the world there is danger. Out in the world there is death. Out in the world there is destruction and damnation. The fox is out to destroy and kill the hen, but the chicks are safe under her wings.

This is what Jesus came to do for all people. But so many ran away from Him then, and run away from Him even now. Even though He opens His heart and invites all to come and find shelter, refuge, sanctuary, man still ignores the loving voice of the Savior. Jesus said “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!” And that is still the Messiah’s longing this morning. PAUSE.

“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!” (13:34). Notice the astonishing simile He uses. He compares Himself to a mother hen clucking to call her chicks back into safety under her wings. That is a contrast to what Jesus called the foxy King Herod. “Some Pharisees came and said to Him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill You.’ Jesus’ answer was ‘Go and tell that fox’ that he has no power to kill Me.” There is no way the Messiah can die till He has finished His work in Jerusalem (13:31-32). The humor is obvious. Foxes love to kill and eat little chicks, but little chicks are safe if they gather under the wings of their mother.

My beloved in the Lord, the voice of the Alpha Center (a pregnancy crisis center, which I have been riding my Bike-for-Life event of 100 miles from Armour, to Sioux Falls for the last 12 years), has for the last 25 years been crying out to all who would listen: “I would have loved to end all abortions in SD and the USA. I would have loved to have saved more babies. I would have loved for you to know the little thing in your womb is more than a blob of tissue but you would not listen.” How tragic! How sad!

Jesus came to save more than just 800 babies that are killed through abortion every year in SD. Jesus came to do more than just feed the hungry, heal the sick, open the sight of the blind, and raise the dead. He came to save the world from sin, death and hell. He came to offer His life’s blood as the ultimate sacrifice for all of humanity. The Father sent His Only Begotten Son into our flesh to die, that death would certainly die. PAUSE

As you have been gathered here to worship and pray and give thanks this morning, some of you are facing terrible situations. Things have gone wrong, as they often did in the history of Jerusalem. But the Messiah, the Son of God still loves you, and calls for you to come in out of the danger under the shelter of His wings. There you will be safe, and the Holy Spirit will teach you to pray for each situation that you face. In time your prayers will reach out to be a blessing to people all over the world.

Jesus, the heaven-sent Messiah, like a hen offers warmth, comfort, and protection under His sheltering wings. Jerusalem rejected Him and nailed Him to a cross. But He never stopped loving them. He cries out to us as well. The world threatens to destroy us. Enemies lurk everywhere. We live vulnerable lives, however self-sufficient we consider ourselves. Often we reject the advances of the mother hen. But God continues to love us. That death on the cross availed for our sins. Repentant, we find ourselves securely gathered under the protecting wings of the Savior. Nourished and cared for, we grow and gain strength to live for Him in a dangerous world. PAUSE.

Some years ago there was a shipwreck off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.  A crowd of fishermen in a nearby village gathered to watch the ship as it was smashed on the rocks.  A lifeboat was sent to the rescue, and after a terrific struggle the rescuers came back with all of the shipwrecked sailors but one.  “There was no room in the lifeboat for him, so we told him to stay by the ship and someone would come back for him,” shouted a young man.  “Who will come with me?” Shouted a young man.  Just then a little old lady cried out, “Don’t go.  Jim, my boy, don’t go!  You are all I have left.  Your father was drowned in the sea; your brother William sailed away and we’ve never heard from him; and now if you are lost, I’ll be left alone.  Oh, Jim, please, please, don’t go!” Jim listened patiently to his mother’s pleading, then said, “Mother, I must go!  It is my duty.  I must go!”  The onlookers watched as the men in the lifeboat fought their way toward the wreck.  Anxiously Jim’s mother wept and prayed.  They saw the boat start back, a frail little shell tossed about by the angry waves.  At last it came close enough to hear, and they shouted, “Did you get him?” And Jim shouted back, “Yes, and tell mother it’s my brother William!”

Jesus came to earth to reach out to those drawing and dying in sin. Jesus came to bring about salvation and healing for the soul. Today, He reaches out to us with His outstretched arms from the cross and pleads with us to find our comfort and protections under His wings of love. Jesus knew the heart of man in its evil and fallen state, and this does not cause Him to shrink away with fear but to embrace the lost, hurting, evil world with the Father's great love. Jesus would gather His accusers and deniers even as a hen gathers her chicks - with tenderness. What we needed was not a man made love, but the Love of God, clothed in our flesh - we needed Jesus... He, the ultimate love, the ultimate Gift - God and man in one person - hanging from the Cross!

Does the Hen gather her brood? Yes, from the outstretched arms on the Cross. All of Jesus’ preaching and all His miracles needed to be punctuated by the Cross, the Tomb, and the Resurrection that only He could bring. During Lent we look at ourselves, the chicks in need of the Hen, helpless and defenseless, stupid and wanting to waddle away on our own, where cold and damp, starvation and fear, where foxes gather to devour. What we need we do not know - we peck at the ground, not looking up toward heaven! Ah, but from heaven, He answers us. He deals with that Fox by becoming the ultimate sacrificial Lamb on the altar of the cross.

Saints of God, let foxes stealthily gather, let the cold winds blow, let our own fears grow... He is here... to seek and to save the least, the last and the lost. He is here... to protect and to finally gather the chicks as a hen. We ask the question of the Psalmist, What can man do to me?! The answer: IN THE ARMS OF JESUS NOTHING BECAUSE WE ARE LOVED AND SAVED. AMEN.

Now the peace…

Monday, February 22, 2010



But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Roman 3:21-22).

It is an art to listen to people speak. I mean to listen to them not just hearing what they are saying. How many times have you heard someone say, “I know…BUT?” Perhaps you yourself have said it: “I know…BUT!”

This “BUT” is the biggest little word in the Scriptures, in my opinion. Why you might ask? Because it is the way the devil attempts to confuse us and makes us think—that you have to do something to earn God’s favor and grace.

We say things like this: “I know I am forgiven…BUT. I know God loves me…BUT. I know that Jesus died for me on the cross…BUT. I know that I am redeemed…BUT. I know the gift of God’s grace is free…BUT.

This little “BUT” gets in the way of God’s love and blocks it. Anytime we are adding to the grace of God or the gift of God it is no longer grace or gift—it is simply work—man’s word to climb the ladder of salvation. The devil makes us think we have to do something to make God love us more. His death on the cross is not enough. I should do this or that. Every time we do, we are saying, “I know…BUT!!!

An old Lutheran pastor bemoaned years ago how many of his members were talking like this:

John Schmidt is a good person, but....

Clara Inglish is a nice lady, but...

Joe Smalzt is a fine carpenter, but...

“You know,” added the Pastor, “If people are not careful, a lot of folks are going to slide on their “buts” to hell.

While the Pastor was warning against gossip, against breaking the eighth commandment, against people prone not to put the best construction on everything, he also was speaking closely akin to another topic. So many people today say, “Jesus did everything for us, BUT...”  Any time we add any modifier to the pure, perfect work of Jesus on the cross, we subtract from His perfect work for us. Lent is a time when we celebrate the perfect work the perfect Son of God did on our behalf. “IT IS FINISHED” His Words from the cross equals perfection.

I know I am forgiven…BUT! BUT what must I do... to feel better.... to make people like me... to make God love me more?  When I feel down about myself I remember my brother, Saul of Tarsus.  He oversaw the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58) and could say of himself that he could will what was right BUT could not do it, indeed, that he did the very thing he hated doing (Romans 7).  This man, Saul of Tarsus, was forgiven by God and we know him as Paul, the Apostle.  He knew how weak he was... and he knew how loving and gracious the Lord is.
Feeling better about myself, with others, and with God is something I cannot do, for I always put my foot in my mouth, yes, I can will what is right BUT cannot do it (Romans 7:15).  What do I need?  The cross of Jesus!  I need for forgiveness to be more than words, BUT the reality that the God who is love became love for me by dying on the cross.  St Paul, the former Saul of Tarsus, declares:  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1 ESV)  He goes on to say in this chapter, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom 8:31-34 ESV)
Oh, there is something more I can do - I can say “THANK YOU!!!” - My life can reflect His love simply by seeing that He loves me... and you... and everyone.  Want to feel better?  Give thanks to God for His love that loves, even when I am not lovely or doing the right things.  In His gift of Jesus on the cross you will see what true loveliness is.

The Words of the Apostle Paul from Roman 3 are words that give meaning and purpose in life because it points us away from ourselves to the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ. It assures and guarantees us that our past is ALL forgiven, our present is being carefully guided and our future secure in heaven.

YOU who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ; be careful of the use of the sentence of “I know…BUT.” BUT, is not a vocabulary that ought to be used by Christians to make God love them more or forgive them more. However, we can use it as Paul does in our text. But we are saved apart from the works of the Law. It is ALL GRACE UPON GRACE. There is no but. But the saving work of Christ on the cross of Calvary that makes us what we are.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

“A Life Changing Journey” (Luke 4:1-2).

S-1170 02/21/10 1SIL/3C (O) #300; (S) #262; (C) #245

Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

Theme: “A Life Changing Journey” (Luke 4:1-2).

Question: “Do you like changes?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 1st Sunday in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved I’ve had it. I can’t take it any more. I can’t do this. I am not fit to be a preacher of the Gospel. The temptations are too many and too strong. Life is just too hard in the limelight. It’s time to throw in the towel (have a towel handy to throw) and let someone else take over. It’s time for a change! PAUSE.

Ah…there is change—not an inner change but an external change; it is a life changing journey called Lent. It’s during Lent that I really appreciate the changes this journey provides me and you through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, my opening paragraph could have been written or spoken by anyone of us here today, at different points in our lives, because we are tempted in every walk of life by the master schemer—Satan. But the 40 days journey that Jesus took in the wilderness is for us to bring about the greatest change for our comfort and joy.

Every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve have met their match as they face off the tempter. We think we can overcome Satan. We think we can out smart him. We think we can fight him by our might and muscles. But how foolish we are! Would we enter a pond if an alligator is swimming in it? Would we go into a lions den? Would we play with a Polar Bear? Would we be brave enough to stand in front of hyena? Of course not! We are not that stupid to be a meal for an alligator, a lion, a Polar Bear, or a hyena. But why then do we think that we can face off with Satan?

At times we think we can overcome any temptation by ourselves. But the truth of the matter we can’t. It’s like you and I fighting with the world boxing champ for a 15 round match. How long do you think we would last? How will we look when he is done with us? Of course you know the outcome. By ourselves we are doomed and destroyed.

But thank God that during the 40 days journey of Lent we see the real Champ—Jesus Christ—the Second Adam face the master schemer head on. The first round of this match takes place in our reading today. For 40 days, the devil keeps jabbing at our Lord and Savior. But he couldn’t touch Him. At every punch the devil threw at Him, Jesus stopped him dead called—with one word—the Word of the Living God. He always responded “It is written!”

A little later round two takes center stage. The devil unleashes his first punch by pulling the heart strings of one Jesus’ disciples—Judas who betrayed and turned Him over to the religious authority. In this round the Second Son of Adam, is beaten badly. In the corner you see the blood oozing from every part of His body. The jabs are taking their toll; Jesus is wobbling under the weight of the blows. With every punch, He is disfigured more and more. He is so severely beaten that He is not even recognized. Isaiah paints it this way: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed Him not”

The devil was smiling. For all particular purposes Jesus, the Second Adam has had it. He is so disfigured and bruised that He can’t even lift His hands up. But hey that is not a problem. The Schemer has help, so they lift Jesus of the mat, and hold His hands up with nails to a wooden beam. The devil is running around and around in jubilation. He thinks I, finally got Him. On that wooden beam, Jesus hangs His head and gives up His Spirit, dies, and laid on a cold slap to rot. PAUSE.

But don’t let that picture fool you. It sure fooled the devil and all his helper in their corner. He thought he was the champion. He was the conqueror of this match. He was happy and dancing. But wait there is still another round. From the bloodied cross and wet mat, Jesus the Second Adam rises ever so slowly but surely. He, who looks defeated and dead, has now defeated death and the devil. He rises as the victor and crowned as the Champion.

This Second Adam, need not 15 rounds to defeat the devil, but only three. And these three rounds are the journey that changes our lives for ever—a change that takes place in our hearts and heads through our Champion Jesus; a change that is brought about to all the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve who have been beaten again and again through the master schemer—Satan.

That is why Lent is such a joyful time for us. It shows us again our Champion, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. As we walk with Him on this 40 days journey we learn from Him what to do. In order to defeat our arch enemy we need the Word. One Word will cause him to run. One Word will make him high tale it out of our lives. One Word makes him squirm. That Word is our armor. (LIFT THE BIBLE UP FOR ALL TO SEE) That Word is our shield. That Word is our strength. One Word from the Scriptures and the devil runs and hides.

This is a victory for Jesus. But what does it do for us? What does it do for you, for me? It guarantees our salvation and eternal life. But, we are constantly under the attack of the devil. But this attack isn’t full frontal. It is the subtle attack of “IF.” (Change my voice as I speak in the voice of the devil) The devil starts in on me, always with that insidious little “if.” If you are God’s child, how come you have so much trouble? How come you’re sick? How come your loved one has cancer, your spouse left you for a younger woman, and your teenager is rebellious. God says He loves YOU! But does He really love you with all of the troubles in your life? Do you really call that love?

What should you do? Look to Jesus the Grand Champion of the greatest dual in the world. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” Holy Scripture tells us (1 John 3:8). In the desert we see this truth in action. On Calvary’s cross, I see this truth complete as Christ forever routed Satan for me once and for all. Now when Satan knocks on my heart’s door, I can by the power of the Holy Spirit say, “AWAY FROM ME Satan!” Satan can’t win when Christ fights for me and alongside me.

Beloved in the Lord, this is our confidence. Jesus’ journey to the cross changes our journey as well. It changes Lent from a dirge that leads to death into a march that leads to celebration victory. Jesus’ journey in the temptations changes our journey in this life from a walk in a minefield into a tiptoe through the tulips. Jesus’ journey to the cross leads us on our journey that leads to life—a changed life.

This gives us purpose. This is why I preach and always will. This is why you live for Christ and always will. We do it, because He did it all! AMEN.

Now the peace…


“Life’s Better in My Hands” (1 Peter 2:22-23).

S-1169 AW/2/17/2010 Hymns: (O) # 140; (S) 722 LSB; LS. Choir, #428; (C)#653

Texts: Psalm 51; 1 Peter 2:20-25: Mark 14:12-26

Theme: “Life’s Better in My Hands” (1 Peter 2:22-23). (Sermon series on “Life Together”)

Question: “Who is in charge of YOUR Life?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for Ash Wednesday is from the Epistle Lesson: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21-22).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved a couple of weeks ago I got this e-mail under the title “FRIGTENING!” (An acquaintance by the name of Mona I met about 6 years ago on a plane to Israel sent it to me). This is what the e-mail stated: “A friend of mine drove me to my condo so I could pick up a few things for my surgery. As we drove home we passed by a billboard not too far from here. We need to do some serious praying. I don’t remember word-for-word what is said, but this is the gist of it: Have questions? Need answers? ISLAM. And then it gave an 800 number to call for answers to your questions and the answer is Islam. If you don’t think this is frightening, let me know and I’ll explain it to you. We should be – in the flesh – terrified.”

I wrote back and asked for more details on the billboard. Here is Mona’s response: “At the top of the billboard it said: ‘Way of life…Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed” with this number to call 1 800-662-ISLAM. She goes on, I forgot to mention that this billboard can be seen as one rides the Light Rail Transit in Minnesota which happens every 7-10 minutes during rush hour, every 10-15 minutes at other times, until late evening or very early morning.

I called the 800 hundred number and a nice gentleman responded. He thanked me for calling the Way for Life and asked if he could help me? I didn’t tell him that I am a minister, but asked, “What are the tenants of Islam? He explained dutifully, “What you have to do. Keep God’s law perfectly and follow the teaching’s of Mohammed that are written in the Quran. And he made sure to tell me “That no one can pay for your sins and it is blasphemy to believe that someone can do that.” In the end it is really all up to you. You have to take matters into your hands.

So I asked again saying, “Let me understand you correctly. It is all up to me. I have to do good deeds to earn God’s favor.” He answered, “YES!” I asked again, at what point, can you be sure that you have done enough good to pay for your sins? His response, “YOU CAN NEVER BE SURE OF THAT. WE RELY ON THE MERCY OF ALLAH!” He promised to send me a Quran (Muslim holy book) and other materials to read. I thanked him and in my heart I felt so sorry for him.

Why do I say that? Because all of us, whether Muslims or otherwise, think it is all up to me to earn God’s favor. “My life is better in my hands”. I can do it better than anyone else.

Is that really true? Can you honestly say that putting everything in your hands leads you to have peace and certainty that you will earn God’s favor, your sins are forgiven and you are bound to heaven? If you are honest you must admit that is not the case. It never will be because we never know for certain if we have done enough good deeds to outweigh the bad deeds.

So what is the answer to our dilemma? Ash Wednesday is part of the answer, because Ash Wednesday calls us together to hear again the stories of Lent that God knows best what is good for us. Ash Wednesday points us to Jesus’ passion—His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection. These Wednesday night opportunities of worship open our eyes to the reality of why Christ came to earth—to give His life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We come here tonight so that we may grow in our spiritual walk of faith. We come here tonight to hear again that the heavenly Father knows what is best for us. As Jesus Himself said on the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” We want to leave worship knowing that life is best lived when we live it totally in the Father’s hands. PAUSE.

We all know that life is not always better in the hands of other people or our very own. Is your life better when you leave it in the hands of the government? Surveys tell us again and again that we don’t trust the government to take care of us. Is your life better when you leave it in the hands of Wall Street? Wall Street seems to be doing OK but Main Street is hurting.

Oh, how painfully we know that reality! When we trust others to do what is good for us, we realize that is not the case. You know what you been hearing in the news lately about the car manufacturing namely Toyota. If you have a Toyota you know that technology is not a fail-safe way to accelerate toward happiness.

So what’s left? More and more people are saying, “Life’s better in my hands.” A few weeks ago, I said this sentence, “If you want to get something done and done right you got to do yourself!” But is this true? Of course not! No matter how hard we try, we can never be certain or sure. Well, you get the idea. Review your own life. We’re living in a society of self-willed people and you and I often go our own bull-headed ways as well. Plain old common sense makes us doubt that “Life’s better in my hands.”

What’s left? Only the cross of Christ. From the cross we hear Him say, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Shouldn’t Ash Wednesday repentance drive us to confess that life is better when we entrust it to the heavenly Father? Let me say that again because it is so important “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Ash Wednesday repentance drives us to say, “Life is not better in my hands. Life can only be better when I entrust my whole being 24/7/365 into the hands of the heavenly Father.”

That’s what the sermon text is about, 1 Peter 2:20-25. Peter wrote to Christian slaves in Asia Minor. Many of them were leading wretched lives. Peter urges them not to strike out against their masters. Don’t, he says, take life into your own hands. Instead he points them to the example of Christ the Savior. “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps… He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (vv. 21, 23). Life is better, Peter says, when we entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father. But there’s something even more important here. As much as Jesus is our model for trusting our lives to God, the reason we are in church is because Jesus is our Savior from sin. He has forgiven you and me for taking life into our own hands. Listen. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (vv. 24-

25). The forgiveness He gives you and me is such a change from the world around us, such a change for the world to come, that we are now left to do one thing: Pray the Spirit of God to lead us to totally put our lives in the hand of our Father.

Tonight, as we gather to mark the beginning of our Lenten journey we realize so clearly and concretely how true it is that “Life is NOT better in MY hands”, but in the hands of Him who formed me and made me—my heavenly Father. Jesus knew all along that His life is better in the Father’s hands. For this reason He stated, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.”

And, we, His redeemed children can follow the way of our Savior, because we know He doesn’t lie. Look to His hands, those pierced hands that hung on the cross for every sin of yours and mine. Those pierced hands submitted all, life, heart and soul to His heavenly Father so that He may earn for us forgiveness and life eternal. PAUSE.

I feel sorry for the Muslims and others who rely on their merits to earn God’s favor and receive forgiveness for their sins. I will have another opportunity to speak with Muslim man and guide Him to the truth of God’s Holy Word that Life is better in the Master’s Hands.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, you have come here tonight to ponder anew the suffering of Jesus as He travels from the Mount of Transfiguration to the Hill of Calvary and all in between you see Him using His hands to lead us safely to the other side. Because through these hands we are blessed; by these hands we are washed clean in the waters of Baptism; and through these hands are fed the heavenly manna of His body and blood. No wonder we can say with Dietrich Bonhoeffer our Life together is better in His hands not only for this evening but for the rest of our lives. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Saturday, February 13, 2010

“In the Presence of A Holy God” (Luke 9:33-35)

S-1168 Transfiguration: 2/14/10 (O) #20; (S) #135; (LSB 413; #416); #308; 46

Texts: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Hebrews 3:1-6; Luke 9:28-36

Theme: “In the Presence of A Holy God” (Luke 9:33-35)

Question: “Do you know where you are?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Transfiguration Sunday is from the Gospel Lesson: “And as the men were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah’— not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud’” (Luke 9:33-35).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, if you have ever traveled to Washington, DC., more than likely you would have had a chance to visit the National Mall. You would have seen many of the memorials that adorn our Nation’s Capital. Some are built in honor of our military men and women—the Vietnam Memorial, and others are built in honor of our Presidents. There is one building that sits on 36 columns that really draws you to it from a distance and begs you to see it. As you stand in this building, you feel awe and wonder. You feel part of history revisited. You feel alive. “Within this large stone building sits a massive marble statue of the 16th President of the United States. Above him are engraved the words: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

Certainly the memory of President Lincoln lives in the hearts of many Americans. Many appreciate this man for all that he has done for the union. And anyone who stands in front of his statue realizes what an awe inspiring place this is. PAUSE.

Beloved, wouldn’t it be grand if we had a similar edifice dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ? I wonder how large this memorial would be. Would the tourists flock to it? Would it be built out of marble to stand the test of time?

Now there may be some who think this line of questioning might be absurd. Of course we have monuments to our Savior Jesus Christ! Isn’t that what this building is? This is a sacred space dedicated to the service that the Lord provides for us.

But I wonder if it inspires the same awe that the monument to President Lincoln does? Let me ask you few questions this morning. When you came into this building today, did you feel like you were entering a “sacred space”? Was a part of you moved to “quiet your voice” a little bit, or bow your head toward the Altar? And as you took your seats in the pews today, did you know that you are coming to a most holy place? Did you know you were entering the Temple of God where He comes to us in His Word and Sacrament? What were you expecting? Entertainment? Instruction? Beautiful Music?

On this holy day of Transfiguration, we have been gathered by the Holy Spirit in this most holy place. Luke in his narrative reminds us of the Awesomeness of this day that occurred so long ago with the disciples on the Holy Mountain. Come with me then to the mountain and hear how Luke tells his story: “And as the men were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah’— not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud’” (Luke 9:33-35).

Peter, the spokesperson for the disciples’ uttered words: ‘Master, it is good that we are here’. How true it was for the 3 disciples and how true it is for us today. As we sit in this place, whether we realize it or not, we are in the Presence of a Holy God. We are not visiting a National Monument today, but rather we are standing in a most holy place—God’s Holy Temple, where He dwells among us and with us.

On that mountain the disciples—Peter, James and John beheld a most amazing sight. Jesus stands with Moses and Elijah. Jesus’ whole being is “metamorphosed” changed. His clothing changed to pure white, His face shown like the sun. And then you have to come closer to hear the conversation that is taking place between the three. Moses and Elijah speak to Him about His mission which He came to earth to fulfill—His exodus that is about His cross, His death and winning our freedom.

These disciples didn’t get it. They were overcome with fear. They put their heads to the ground and are terrified. But Jesus comforts them, as He comforts us because we at times don’t get it that when we enter this place that we are in a most holy place— in His Presence. What an awe-inspiring place to be in.

Transfiguration Sunday helps us see, understand and behold with our eyes that this man is no ordinary man and this event is no ordinary event and this day is no ordinary day. This day the disciples of old and the disciples of today saw Jesus as more than man, BUT God in the flesh. That Jesus is truly God in person.

Transfiguration Sunday is all about Christ and His faithfulness - His exodus through the Cross on our behalf!  He knew we could not understand what He was going to do; He knew that we couldn’t make the journey to heaven on our own. He knew that we couldn’t fight the fight against our arch enemy—the devil and so He came to fulfill the exodus.  Yes, the Transfiguration is about Jesus being God, and more to the point, being God for sinners, God for us, God for you, and God for me! 

Oh, my beloved, today, as we are observing and celebrating this special day, let us remember that this day shows us that Jesus is not just a man who performed miracles so long ago; but rather God in the flesh. Let us remember as we enter this place we are not coming here for Entertainments, or beautiful music, but we come here to stand in awe and wonder in the Presence of a Holy God—who takes away our sins and makes us holy. PAUSE.

Do you get the picture? The disciples did! That was really the only thing they did get! They fell to the ground in fear and trembling. When God is truly present, the proper human response is to bow your head in humble submission and tremble in reverent fear. We are sinners, and God alone is Holy beyond our imagination. He sees right through the exterior and into the darkness of our hearts – the sins of thought and desire that we hide so well from the world around us. The Holy Light and Penetrating Gaze of the Living God is enough to strike us dead and burn our sinful flesh to ash… This is most certainly true.

When we are gathered together in this place, we gather on Holy Ground. This is a sacred space, set aside for a Holy Purpose. Inside these hallowed walls, we hear the Voice of God speak through Sacred Scripture as He promised. In this place, the Lord Jesus Christ is truly present, as was on the Holy Mountain and He has promised where more than 2 or 3 gather in His name. Through these Means of Grace – the washing of water and the Word of Holy Baptism, the pardoning forgiveness of Holy Absolution; and the Sacred Feast that is the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ – God is Truly Present to touch the lives of His people.

When we gather together for the Divine Service of the Living God in this place, it is no ordinary meeting or gathering. Here we come as sinners into the presence of Yahweh Sabaoth – Elohim and Adonai… Here the Lord of All Creation hides His Glory in humble means, so that He might come to us with forgiveness instead of judgment. Here is where the messengers of God press the sacred food from the altar of Christ’s sacrifice to our lips and we are made clean… And here we hear the Word of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, when He says, Do not be afraid” a better translation would be “Stop being afraid.”

For Jesus Christ did not come to destroy us – but redeem us all. This is His mission—His Exodus was to go to the cross of Calvary on our behalf, destroy satan and his cohorts and free us to be His forever.

We rejoice that today the Holy Spirit has brought us to this most holy temple—the presence of a Holy God. For today, Jesus reminds us again that He is God in the flesh and we have seen His glory as of the Only begotten of the Father. In 3 days, we begin our Lenten Journey. And this is so important for us to see Him now because the journey is going to be long and we are going to wonder if God can help us. And the answer of course is yes! On that mountain—the holy mountain of Transfiguration, what the disciples witnessed gave them energy and power to come from the mountain to the valley and continue to trust Him and walk with Him as they walk through the valley of death and so can we.

This is the purpose of our gathering together in His name… To hear the Good News of salvation that transforms hearts and lives; to receive by our hearing the Word of forgiveness promised by the lips of Jesus Christ. To behold the washing of water and the Spirit that is done in the name and by the power of the Holy Trinity. To take upon our hands and tongue the body and blood of him who died for our forgiveness and salvation. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, Abraham Lincoln’s memory is cherished and remembered because He saved the union. But today, another man from Nazareth is remembered and cherished because He, too, saved the union. But the union was not an earthly power, but the Union between the Almighty God and His people. He saved you. Transfiguration Sunday reminds us of who He is and what He came to do. And like Peter, James and John all we can say is this: MASTER, IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE. AMEN.

Now the peace…


Saturday, February 6, 2010

“The Taste of FORGIVENES” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

S-1167 02/07/10 5SAE/3C (O) #489; (S) #32; L.S. #246; #250; #358; (C) #54

Texts: Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 14:12-20; Luke 5:1-11

Theme: “The Taste of FORGIVENES” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

Question: “Do you know the treasure of the Church?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany is from the Old Testament Lesson: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved a long time ago when I was still living in Israel, my mom sent me on an errand at 8:00 a.m., (to buy a thermometer) but I didn’t do it. Instead I wasted the whole day goofing off. When I got home late that evening about 6:00 p.m. she was livid. Told me to wait till my father got home and he will take care of me. When he did, he took care of me alright. I got the severest beating in my life. After the beating, he sent me to the kitchen to eat (since I had not had any food all day). However, I was not in the mood to eat. My sister dished out the meal for me. She asked me to eat and I said, “NO! I don’t want to!” She responded, “I will tell dad.” Sure enough she went and got my father, who was still angry with me. He asked me to eat and I said, “I am not hungry.” He said, “EAT!!!” And I wouldn’t. In His anger he took a spoon full of the dish, opened my mouth and starts shoving the meal in. Another spoonful and I am resisting and gagging. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I got sick to my stomach and everything that went in came gushing out. Till today, I can’t even look at that dish, because it reminds me of the bitter taste that was in my mouth so many years ago.

So many things in life leave a bitter taste in our mouths, and that taste is awful and nauseating. The taste of losing a loved one, the taste of being fired from a job, the taste of flunking a test, the taste of being beaten up, the taste of broken relationships; and the taste of sinning against God. All of these experiences leave their residue on our tongues and hearts. We know all too well the taste of bitterness and sadness that comes our way…OFTEN.

But I am thankful that not all of life is bitter. I thank God for my wife who is a great cook and her meals leave a sweet taste in my mouth. I love sitting down for a meal she has prepared but especially when she fixes that special desert…Pecan pie. Yummy! How delicious to the taste buds that is!!!

Today, our Old Testament reading speaks of tasting not some bitter pill, but the grace and goodness of God. Isaiah is summoned to stand before the Lord. When he does he can’t even describe what he sees—the majesty of God is overwhelming. He is overcome with terror because he is standing before a Holy God. At His sight, he shakes to his inner being and declares. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” With fear and trembling Isaiah declares, “I am toast in the presence of the Holy One of Israel. I am doomed. I am dead.”

But how does the Lord respond? Not with bitterness but with sweetness—a sweetness that can be tasted. This is how Isaiah describes it: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” Isaiah tasted the sweet forgiveness from the Lord’s hands. He is no longer a sinner but a saint, he is no longer doomed but delivered, he is no longer afraid, but amazed at the mercy of God’s goodness and graciousness to him.

From the Altar of the Lord forgiveness is given, poured out, tasted and enjoyed. What a blessing for Isaiah to know that his guilt has been taken away and his sin atoned for. That is the message that we need to hear today. That is the treasure of the Church—God’s gift of forgiveness given with the searing coal from the Altar of God-through the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

But this forgiveness that was tasted by Isaiah is not limited to him alone. We have so many of God’s children in both the OT. and NT. that have tasted this sweet forgiveness, are basking in this forgiveness and rejoice in knowing their guilt has been taken away and their sin has been atoned for.

· Joseph’s brothers tasted forgiveness after the death of their father by their brother Joseph.

· Peter tasted forgiveness first hand from His Savior’s lips, after he denied Him 3 times.

· The woman caught in adultery and was about to be stoned, tasted forgiveness from the Man writing in the sand.

· The lost son, having squandered his father’s inheritance tasted forgiveness from his own father as he welcomed him back into his house and showered him with all types of gifts.

· And we can’t forget the thief on the cross. This unnamed thief tasted forgiveness moments before he was put to death and died a happy death. PAUSE.

And so do we. We too, taste the sweet forgiveness from the Lord’s Altar by His hand. Today, once again you will taste this forgiveness, not with a searing coal placed on your lips, but the precious life-giving body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. I know that today is not the day that we are supposed to have the Sacrament of the Altar. I know that we have had it for the last Two Sundays and will be privileged to partake of it yet again next Sunday. But today, yes today you WILL TASTE THE FORGIVENESS ON YOUR LIPS AND IN YOUR MOUTH.

This is the blessing that the Lord gives us continually. The Psalmist put it this way, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (34:8). How good is the Lord you might ask? Don’t ask me. Ask Isaiah, Joseph’s brothers, Peter, the Adulterous woman, the Prodigal son, the unnamed thief and you will see a most clear picture of God’s mercy displayed on the canvas of human history for all people.

But don’t stop there. Look at your life. How many times has the Lord touched you with that searing coal and taken away your guilt and sins. Don’t doubt it, but rejoice in it…For indeed He has done so on the Altar of the cross, by the greatest sacrifice mankind has ever witnessed—the death of the Lamb of God.

Saints in Christ, there is only one way for sin to be erased and done away with. In fact, it’s already been done. At Calvary when His Son said, “It is finished,” God touched us with that searing coal and announced to the world, “Your guilt has been taken away and your sins atoned for.” His Son’s precious blood paid for every sin of every sinner. Every sin, past, present and future has been dropped in the bottom of the ocean never to arise and convict us again. And the Good News is this: When God looks at me He sees a clean page because of His Son’s blood. I am holy in His sight and so are you.

Isaiah’s unworthiness doesn’t block the Grace of God. Our unworthiness doesn’t block the mercy of God. Isaiah’s tongue continued to be touched and his preaching to the exiled became a comforting message of hope and help. This is the ongoing and continual nature of God to pour upon us His eternal love. It is not a one time deal. He touches us always.

And today, He touches you yet again with the sweet taste of forgiveness. The Apostle John put it this way: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). He has already. He will today, and continues to touch us in the future. Today, though, He comes with the searing coal of love from the Altar, and places it on your lips so that you may know and taste first hand His forgiveness.

I know that many of you may commune once or twice a month. But today is special. Today the Lord once again wants to take your sin away. PLEASE COME. The calendar or schedule should not be your guide. Your sins and the forgiveness that our Lord wants to give you is your guide. Today is your invitation…Won’t you come NOW to the presence of the Holy One of Israel and taste His forgiveness again and anew. Amen.

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria