Sunday, April 25, 2010

“A Voice To Follow” (John 10:27)

S-1184 4SOE/3C 4/25/10 Hymns (O) #735LSB; S #277; L.S. 201; 193; 314; (C) #54

Texts: Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

Theme: “A Voice To Follow” (John 10:27)

Question: “Can you remember the sound of a familiar voice?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The Good Shepherd Sunday is from the Gospel lesson: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved the other day I was watching TV and I heard this infomercial. “Do you have trouble keeping track of the items in your purse? We have the right solution for you. We have here a kangaroo (Brown) insert that will help you organize every item in its place. (They demonstrate it by placing every gadget in a pocket and then insert the whole thing in your purse) This item is valued @ $50.00 but today we are offering it to you for $19.99 plus S/H; BUT WAIT, if you order in the next 10 minutes we will give you another Kangaroo insert (Black) a total value of $100.00 for only $19.99 plus a 2nd S/H. How gullible people are. They can be distracted by all the voices out there.

Indeed, my beloved in the Lord, there are so many voices in our world today that are vying for our attention; voices from every coroner—the Politician, President, Preacher and plumber. Just this past week, we saw two vastly different kinds of voices collided in conflict. I don’t know how many of you are regular viewers of the show South Park? I am not. If you aren’t, that is probably a good thing. The creators of South Park are the poster children for the voice of irreverence. They have disrespectfully and sacrilegiously spoken of everything that most people hold sacred. Most times, people have laughed. But this week was different. They took aim at Mohammed, the prophet of Islam. And that is where the other voices of extremism answered back. Except their voices was nothing other than voices of hate. They threatened to murder the creators of this show.

We would be mislead, if we thought there were only voices that speak of all that is wrong in our society or those who hold to a different moral standards. This past week, Franklin Graham, son of Evangelist Billy Graham, was told to not come and speak at the military Day of Prayer because he called Muslims heathens, wicked and evil. The voices of South Park people and Graham have major differences between them. Graham is not being irreverent. Graham speaks the truth. His voice carries the truth that those outside of the Christian faith are in serious eternal jeopardy. But this truth was rejected because the voice that spoke it happened to be Christian.

We see something very similar in the text for this Good Shepherd Sunday. St. John gives us the Words of Jesus in a conflict that is rooted in the voice. In this conflict, we find Jesus minding His own business walking through the Temple. But there is no “routine trip” to the Temple for Jesus. He is immediately surrounded by religious leaders. Those encircle Him have one very direct, very important question: "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." On the surface, this would seem like a very earnest, simple question. And that would have been a good question had it not been for the fact that Jesus preached, taught and performed miracles among them for some time! The real problem for the religious leaders was not a lack of a voice to follow. It was a refusal to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus indicts them directly. I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not part of My flock. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” There were so many voices that were swirling around in those days. There was the clear testimony of the miracles of Jesus. But there was also the voice of those who would say that Jesus was a threat. In the winter of that year there in Jerusalem there were the voices of faith and rejection.

Sounds like today for us too, doesn’t it? There are so many voices out there in our world today that would compete for the hold of our ears, our minds, our hearts and even our pocket book. There are those that would try to tell us that Jesus isn’t the Son of God. There are those who would tell us that the voice of Jesus and the truth to which He calls us is just one of the many roads that would lead to eternal life. There are the voices that call the message of the cross of Jesus Christ foolishness. And worse, there are even voices within the Church who would tell us that Jesus is the key to wealth and happiness in this world. So within and without, there are so many voices that would assault our ears!

But today, as we look at John 10, we rejoice because the Holy Spirit has tuned our ears to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him. Amid the mixtures of voices, we have been blessed by our Lord to be able to hear the voice of our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the One that has called us to faith in Him. We know His voice. We hear His voice. And then, we follow.

This is the major difference between the voices of the world and the voice of Jesus. We can hear those godless voices. But the Holy Spirit has led us to hear the voice of Jesus and follow where He leads. This voice is exactly why you are here today. The Shepherd has called you to be here in His presence. And this presence gives you something very special. For it is here that Jesus gives you what is promised in these words. Here you receive eternal life! The call to faith gives you eternal life. The Words of absolution give you eternal life in the place of the death that your sins deserve. You will have eternal life placed on your lips as you receive the Life-Giving body and blood of the Lord. Today, the voice of the Lord calls you to eternal life once again!

But my friend, this voice calls us to hear something more today. There are those voices that are telling you that the possession of this faith is good enough. These voices will tell us that when we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd we can now sit back and relax. These voices will tell you that you can just sit back and wait for eternity to be revealed. But the voice of the Shepherd calls us to so much more. Hear again what Jesus says to us today. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”. The call of the Shepherd is a call to follow!

You and I, as Christ’s little lambs are called to follow where the Good Shepherd leads. This calling that we receive from the Lord is one that will take us to places where we may not expect. The Lord leads us to green pastures of nourishment AND into the harvest fields for the sake of the Kingdom. The voice of the Shepherd calls us to serve the Gospel wherever we are pastured. Paul in our first reading heard the voice of Jesus which led him to many places to share the Good News. All along his life was in jeopardy because he only listened to one voice and one voice only—the voice of His Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Voice, Paul faced all kinds of challenges: He was beaten and abused, left for dead, shipwrecked, thrown into prison and eventually led to lose his head.

Like Paul, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd’s promise to us. And that promise is confirmed in the bloody cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday! This voice promises eternal life. It doesn’t promise a life of ease and comfort; but one that demands of us to follow the ONLY voice that matters—the voice of Jesus. And this voice today, calls us to go out and search for others who have wondered from this voice of truth that leads to eternal life.

Because of this promise and because of the Call of the Shepherd, we follow. We answer His call and we go where He leads. When we meet others along the way like the lost religious leaders of our text, we speak only the Words that the Good Shepherd calls us to speak. There is no guarantee of success in worldly terms. However, we still go and we still speak. Why? The Shepherd calls!

The Voice of our Good Shepherd is not the only voice in the world today. But it is the ONLY one that leads to eternal life. The voice of the infomercial will take your money. The voice of South Park will lead you to skepticism and unbelief. The voice of Islam will feed you the lies of Mohammed. Any of the other voices in the world will lead you to destruction and damnation. As true as this is, the Voice of the Shepherd proves to be the voice to follow. For no matter what the situation, what the time, or what the circumstances, that voice will always lead to eternal life! AMEN.

Now the peace…


Monday, April 19, 2010


  • My sister Soumia is not improving. actually she is getting worse. please pray for wisdom so that the doctors might know what to do for her. She can hardly walk. Her legs are almost always black since no blood circulation is taking place. she is getting despondent. Pray for patience and strength to endure this challenging time.
  • The upcoming Luther Tour and Holy Land Tour departing for 13 days on October 26th
  • The continual preparation for the Doctorate of the Ministry Program. I am in the writing stages of my MAP. Waiting to hear from the committee of their approval.
  • Our Synodcial convention that will be held in Houston, TX on July 10-17. That the Church’s work might be God pleasing and the Kingdom of God is expanded.
  • My house in Sioux Falls, SD to be sold. Have had it on the market for almost two years but no luck.
  • For continual stamina and strength for the ministry in this place and every place.

2010 Bike-For-Life date

The final tally for the Bike-For-Life for 2009 is $9700.00. We praise God for all riders, prayer warriors, financial donors and providers of all kinds of support for this worthy project. Without your aid we wouldn’t be able to carry on this life saving activity.

We encourage you to set aside the date of 9/11/2010 for the next Bike-For-Life. Please begin praying for us that the weather will be wonderful and for the pledges to start coming in.

Anyone who wishes to ride may contact Pastor Nour @ or 605-724-2489.

In Christ’s love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor, Foot washer and Biker-For-Life

“Come!” (John 21:12-14)

S-1184 3SOE/3C Hymns (O) #204; S #239; (C) #740 LSB

Texts: Acts 9:1-22; Revelation 5:8-14; John 21:1-14

Theme: “Come!” (John 21:12-14)

Question: “Has anyone told you to ‘come’ Lately?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for meditation for the 3rd Sunday of Easter is from the Gospel lesson: Jesus said to them, Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead (John 21:12-14)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved you and I are alike in many way—in that we have all been invited to come either for dinner, barbeque, go to the river, graduation, confirmation, birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries. When we are invited, we attempt to go if possible. However, I would venture to say that none of us have ever been invited to the elegant or extravagant events like dinner at the White House, or the Palace of Queen Elizabeth. You see, we are not considered special or royalty enough to be told to come to the gala event. We are just common ordinary folks who attempt to make a living, and thus are unable to rub against the rich and famous.

Today, St. John reveals to us the Risen Lord Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, bidding the seven disciples to come to Him and have breakfast with Him. These faithful followers of Jesus while waiting for Him to arrive in Galilee didn’t wait idly, but labored in their profession but to no avail. That is a picture of anyone who is without Christ; his life will be a failure. But with Jesus at the helm, the blessings abound and so is His grace.

On the shores of the Sea of Galilee the Risen Lord reveals Himself to His disciples by allowing them to dine with Him. When the Ruler of the Universe and Creator of all that exists tells them to come, He demonstrates to them, that He holds no grudges or resentments against them for leaving Him all alone in the Garden and when He endured the cross. With this invitation Jesus was restoring them with the table fellowship with Him. Eating at the table is a sign of friendship and communion with the risen Lord, Jesus.

What a great picture! Jesus says, “Come!” These disciples needed to hear the message after all they had done. They all ran away when the tough got going. Peter denied Him, Tomas doubted Him and the rest forsook Him. They needed to know that His love was constant and His mercy will not run out. And so His tender words spoken on the shore were aimed to the troubled and burdened hearts of His followers.

But this is Jesus the Risen Lord. He is in the habit of inviting all people, not only the special, affluent or royalty—but all people in spite of their state in life. Throughout all of Holy Scripture we see Jesus again and again saying “Come!” He invited the disciples to come follow Him. He told the followers of John the Baptizer to come and see where He dwelt. His gracious invitation first was to see where He dwelt and then to remain with Him which they did. But He also says “Come unto me, all you that labor and heavy laden and I will give you rest”.

There were personal invitations too. To Zacchaeus, the seeking sinner glimpsing Jesus from a sycamore tree, He said: "Come down: for today I must abide at thy house" (Luke 19:5). To His friend Lazarus, dead and bound in a tomb, He cried: “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43), and not even the grave could hold His companion but released him so that he came to His Lord.

There are other invitations from the Lord, with gracious promises to those who come, but note especially the final invitation of the Bible, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).

Today, you and I see the Risen Lord reaching out to those who are too poor to even come up to Him or seek Him out. Grace, the true grace of the pierced One, enables these feeble tongued fishermen, too poor in their strength to catch even one fish, to now find 153 and no torn nets – God’s provision is ever and always to overfilling.  That He has the charcoal fire going, ready for breakfast is comforting. That Jesus says, Come, let's eat breakfast together” means that as far as He is concerned, the fellowship is not broken. Since Jesus and the Father are One (John 10:30), just as the Father cannot disown His children, so also, Jesus, the Son never breaks fellowship with Peter, or you, or me! What grace!!!!

When the Risen Lord invites, He is never short of supplying what we need. He knows what our greatest need is before we even ask for it. Today, this Risen Lord is not seated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee but in your midst right here in Redeemer Lutheran Church inviting you to come to Him with all of your burdens and baggage, troubles and trials, suffering and sins. He welcomes you to His table with wide open arms and shares with you not only daily bread, but the finest of wine and richest of food—His body and blood. PAUSE.

Tony Campolo, in his book, The Kingdom of God is a Party, tells the story of John Carlson, who noticed that in his town on the night of the senior prom only the kids who were preppy, polished, and popular were invited. The prom left out those whom, “the system” deemed rejects and losers. So Carlson came up with the idea of holding an event for teens that could not get a date because they were not all-state and were considered second rate. He called it the “reject prom.”

Have you even been rejected? Told you don’t belong? Have you ever experienced partner rejection? Peer rejection? Parental rejection? Parishioner rejection? Or perhaps you are stuck in the hell of deep-running personal rejection. If so welcome to the presence of the Risen Lord and the Ruler of the Universe Jesus Christ.

Here you will know you ARE accepted to this gala affair not because of what you own, who you are, do or don’t do, but because the Risen Lord, Jesus has made you His own special Treasured Possession. He loved you enough to suffer for you, die the death of criminal for you and rise again for you from the grave and now bids you to come to Him as you are—but He won’t keep you as you are. He will dress you for the grandest gala in eternity with His white robe of righteousness.

My beloved and His beloved, you may say, how can I come to the Lord just as I am? Don’t you notice that I am stooped with worry and burden, my face is marked with trouble and anguish, my arteries are clogged with sin and my hands are clutched with fits of anger and rage? That may be true—but the Risen Lord Jesus comes to you because you CAN’T come to Him. He takes you as you are, cleanses you and makes you whole and sets before you a table to overflowing. The Psalmist David put it this way, You prepare a table before me” (Ps. 23:5). And what a table He prepares one that dispenses forgiveness and peace and joy.

Today, by the Spirit’s power hear the words of the Risen Lord as He speaks to you these gracious words of promise “Come!” Amen.

Now the peace…


“Afraid…? (John 20:19-20)

S-1183 2SOE/3C Hymns #(O)#208 vv 1-5; S #208 vv 6-10; L.S. #192; #209; #307; (C)#47

Texts: Acts 5:12-20; Revelation 1:4-18; John 20:19-31

Theme: “Afraid…? (John 20:19-20)

Question: “What Are You Afraid Off?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for meditation for the 2nd Sunday of Easter is from the Gospel lesson: On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:19-20)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved what are some of your fears? Each of us in this room has fears that shackle us and place us behind doors. Doors built not by carpenters, but by our minds. Some of these fears are so strong that we freeze, become immobile, and loose hope. Some are afraid of the dark and death. Others are afraid of hearing the dreaded word from the doctors office—“it is terminal there is nothing that we can do.” Still others are fearful of loosing a job, home, spouse or your child. Fear grips us, binds us and imprisons us. Though we may not admit it, it is true none-the-less.

This is where we are in our text. The time is Sunday evening after the resurrection. The disciples we are told by John are hiding behind locked doors because they are afraid of the Jews. Fear bound them. Fear drove them into hiding. Fear caused them to loose hope. Talk about fear! It was so real behind those locked doors that first Easter weekend in Jerusalem that you could almost smell it. Just when the disciples were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, the bottom had dropped out. They had walked with Him and witnessed His words and works. Twice they had even heard the Father call Him “My Son” and seemed to have their answer as to who He was. But then the stone had been rolled before the tomb, shutting in Jesus’ lifeless clay. And another stone, one of fear, had rolled before their hearts shutting out their trust that He was the Son of God.

Now don’t blame these disciples. They had spent 3 wonderful years with their Master and Lord. They had talked with Him, ate with Him, saw Him perform miracles and were taught by Him that He is the Lord who comes to bring salvation. But, they also saw what happened to their Master and Lord, Jesus Christ during Holy week. They had witnessed His arrest, His suffering, His humiliation and some even witnessed His death. They were afraid to get the same thing that their Lord received. But this is Sunday evening now. The Mary’s had told them the Lord has been raised. John and Peter ran to the tomb and saw it empty. But they didn’t believe it. They hid not only behind constructed walls, doors and window but their hearts shut the world outside.

While in hiding, the Risen Lord comes to look for the troubled and fearful disciples. The ten are prisoners of fear and doubt. The fact that Jesus seeks them out and says “Peace be with You!” even though they are filled with doubt and fear tells us something about this mighty, merciful Messiah—His compassion and grace are never short to unlock and remove the doubt from our minds and hearts.

These fearful and bewildered disciples stand with their mouth wide open and say nothing. Envision the scene. There they are huddled behind the closed doors but all of a sudden there is someone in the room with them. Through locked doors Jesus enters into their presence. He comes in the form of flesh that has been dead and is now alive. Jesus comes into that locked room so full of fear and brings PEACE! And this peace is in concrete form. HE IS THE PEACE! The crucified and risen Christ is the ultimate peace for these fearful followers. He looks like Jesus. He sounds like Jesus. And this One has the things that ONLY Jesus can have. He offers them His hands and side. He has all the marks. He IS the Messiah! He is Jesus! HE IS ALIVE!

And if these words—“Peace be upon YOU” is not enough, the resurrected Christ says, “Look, at my pierced side, hands and feet: “It is I! Fear not little flock!” He stands in their midst, alive, bearing the scars of the cross. But these scars are now His badge of honor, for they reveal that the payment has been made in full for all that caused our peace to vanish. The full payment is received in His nail marks, in His pierced side. Surely He was dead – but in His dying, He destroyed death. He stands alive, and so do we!

He declares with creative force, not light out of darkness, but life for death, therefore, “Peace be with YOU!” That is, Peace is Yours, the bad stuff is gone, not a wisp or a whisper remains – He says, “Peace be with you!” and in that He means, “Lo, I am with you. . . always . . . even to the end of the age!”

When you are shackled with fear it is hard to hear the message spoken to you. But Jesus doesn’t stop communicating His grace and love to His troubled and fearful disciples. He shows them the scars and tells them I have overcome the world. He breathes on them and sends them out with power that changed History forever.

It is ironic how quickly things change for these troubled and hiding disciples—they go from fearful to faithful, from cowards to courageous, from bewildered to bold confessors of the faith. The 11 men understood the true meaning of peace. Peace is found in the love of God who sent His Son to die for all of our sins. Jesus’ death on the cross brought about peace between God and man. This peace is not only for the disciples but all who trust in Him. Even the apostle John said: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

Having comforted their hearts and heads with His presences the Risen Lord Jesus sends His disciples out to work for Him. He breathed on them and told them to forgive others in His name and to take the message to every corner of the world. PAUSE.

My beloved are you afraid? Stop being fearful! Hear the One who said, MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU. Do you have doubts? By faith be like Thomas who said, “My Lord and My God!” When Christ comes into our shackled hearts, He drives out fear and doubt and in its place, places faith and security.

No need to be afraid—in Me the Risen Lord there is pardon and peace. No need to doubt—Jesus the Risen Lord says in Me there is hope and heaven. In Me the Risen Lord states, no need to worry or lose sleep because I have loved you and forgiven you all of your sins. Today, the Risen Lord proved His love for you by seeking you out. Even here in this place, the Risen Lord Jesus comes to us with His Word and Sacrament and gives us His peace in the Meal of peace.

The Risen Lord gives us the Word in which we find confidence. The Word is not only a message from long ago, but something alive and active right now. The Word has power because it is God’s Word. Through it He comes into our “locked rooms” of doubt. He unlocks the doors and leads us out into fresh joy and freedom and hope.

Faithful followers of the Risen Lord hear Him well today, again: My peace I give to you” Instead of fear in our hearts the Risen Lords places His love and peace for now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Easter MATTERS!!!” (1 Peter 1:3).

S-1182 Easter/3C Hymns #(O)#199; #189; S #191; L.S. (633); #200; #198; #201; (C) #193

Texts: Isaiah 65:17-25; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

Theme: “Easter MATTERS!!!” (1 Peter 1:3).

Question: “Does Easter Matter to you?” (9th in sermon series of Life Together).


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! (3x) The text for our glorious Resurrection Celebration is from 1 Peter “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because according to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, take a moment and look around. Isn’t the church beautiful? Look at all these Easter lilies! They’re so white and fragrant, what a sight! How about the music? Wow! Wasn’t it wonderful to be able sing “Alleluia” again? Oh, and, didn’t the organ sound great this morning as we sang that joyous hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”? And how about our choir singing on the top of their voices to make our worship extra special? Resurrection Sunday for me is so special. I just get goose bumps all over. After forty days of Lent, we have come to the other side of Easter and it is such a wonderful event in the life the church. Just take a moment and savor it with me. [Inhale deeply, enjoying being on the scene and, especially the smell of the Easter lilies. Pause Then after a few seconds and then say:] That’s it. Amen. PAUSE AGAIN A LITTLE LONGER

Now, what if the sermon had actually ended right now? If it did, I know some of you would be saying, “That’s it? What do you mean, that’s it? You mean to tell me that I got up at dawn, put on my Sunday best, and came to church for this? What a joke!” But then, again, others of you might be saying, “You know, that’s the best sermon I’ve ever heard him preach. It was short and to the point, and now, the best part is that we just might get out of here early! Yes! Yes! We are DONE!” But in all seriousness, my brothers and sisters in Christ, what if that was the end of the sermon? What if that was it? If Easter is only about smelling the lilies and taking in the special emotion of the day, then Easter really doesn’t matter all that much. On the other hand, if Easter is about some profound, eternal truth, then our time together in God’s house and this worship service really matters.

How much does Easter matter for us? How much does our celebration of Easter matter for others? We are living in a time when people are fond of saying, “You have your opinion; I have mine. Maybe your Easter celebration turns you on but don’t tell me it’s God’s truth,” they say. “Jesus? Well, what about Buddha? Mohammed? And don’t you Christians remember that Pontius Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ Truth is whatever you make it out to be. What you Christians believe as ‘truth’ is whatever you and your church friends believe is true for you, but it’s not for me.” That’s the way many people look at it today. Easter and Jesus, many people say, may be “true” for us but not for everybody.

To address this, we’ve got to ask a basic question. How much does Easter matter for us—for you and me faithful followers of Jesus? Ponder that for a moment with me: How much does Easter matter for you? Will our celebration of Easter matter for others?

The Apostle Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because according to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We couldn’t agree more! Jesus died and rose for the sins of the whole world, especially for you. In fact, it’s because Jesus did die and rise for you, that you can be assured that every stain and stench of sin has been removed and ALL of your sins are forgiven and eternal life is guaranteed. For you, Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten and bloodied, suffered and scourged, mocked and mauled, teased and taunted. And for you, Jesus allowed a crown of thorns to be thrust on His head. But most important of all, it was for you that Jesus laid down on a fateful Friday, and allowed His hands and feet to be nailed to a wooden cross. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Now, at any time, Jesus could have said, “That’s it! I’ve had enough. No more. I’m out of here!” But for you, yes, for you (point at the crowds), Jesus not only endured the cross, Jesus died on the cross. And He did it to pay for all of your sins. He was then laid in a tomb. And just when it looked like all was lost, just when it looked like this Messiah was just some cruel joke, just when it looked like that was it…that was it!… Just then it happened. Jesus rose from the dead. Alleluia! St. Peter says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (1:18-21). Yes, Easter matters…to you…to me…and to all believers the world over!

As followers of Jesus we believe this is the truth. St. Peter says, “You have purified yourself by obeying the truth” (1:22). That’s what we believe but still others could just wave us off. Remember what we said earlier, that some people say “truth” is simply a creation of community? “That’s your opinion.” We here at Redeemer Lutheran Church are a community. And, as a community that is a part of the body of Christ, we live by faith and hope that is anchored in a past activity that assures our present future. We trust that God’s Word is the truth. Yes, we believe this Word of resurrection is the truth and true for us. Our eternal destiny depends on this Word of faith, that “God has given us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Let me ask you an honest question: What will it look like to others because Easter matters to us? When Easter matters to us, will it look like this? Once the service, the music, the organ and the Divine Worship is over, we leave and leave Easter in the church parking lot and head out to our daily lives. Maybe we’re headed to that big traditional ham dinner at Grandma’s house. Then again, maybe you go out for brunch. Oh, and if you are really lucky, you’ll even get a nap in this afternoon! But, as fun as that may all be, by about oh, three or four o’clock, life has pretty much returned to normal. And, Easter is over and done with for another year. If Easter matters, will it look like that? No! When we live as though Easter matters, we put a high priority on being community, on our life together as the body of Christ. We continue to come to God’s house to hear His Word and receive our Lord’s Supper. We continue to be fervent and faithful in our daily prayers and devotions. “Lord, we believe Your Word is truth; help our unbelief!”

When Easter matters we continue as a church to do good works in our community. We make sure that our lives touch others. We care for the needy among us and in our community. We help when and where possible. Or, maybe we put a little extra in the collection plate to take care of the needs of our global missionaries like Amy Kashenov (our own SD daughter who is Kazakhstan), or the Bike For Life, or the congregations that are springing around the States; and to make sure that people in our congregation are able take some short-term missionary trips to wherever there might be need for workers for the harvest of souls.

When Easter matters to us, it not only matters to all of us but it matters to each of us personally. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together [San Francisco: Harper, 1954], 99). Since Easter matters, will you allow yourself to be interrupted by God? For example, what if you and your spouse go out for what is supposed to be a nice, quiet brunch? It’s the two of you. No kids, no distractions, just some time alone. But now suppose that after being seated at the table, you notice that your waitress ends up being a daughter of this congregation. You know this girl, even though she hasn’t been in church for awhile. You could pretend you don’t recognize her. But when Easter matters, you are concerned when your sister in Christ misses out on the grace and forgiveness that the Lord gives in the worship service. So you spend some talking with that young girl. You let her know that you miss her, and you pray for her.

Or perhaps you allow God to interrupt your busy schedule just long enough to visit some of our seniors who are shut-in and cannot attend church. Take them a plate of cookies. Visit with them. Read a Psalm together and say a prayer. That’s an excellent way to not only care for others within this faith community, but it’s an excellent way to live your daily life to show that Easter matters. Easter matters to you, and it will matter to the person you visit.

When we think of taking Easter into our daily lives, what can be more daily than going to Walmart or Shopko? What if you’re walking down the aisles, and all of a sudden, there he or she is. This is your neighbor, and they are hurting. Maybe they have been laid off and can’t find work, maybe their spouse has left them, or maybe there’s been a death in the family. The easy thing to do would be to put your head down and pass them without saying a word. But when you live like Easter matters, when you take the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously, you don’t shun that person. Instead you say something like: “John, I’m so sorry about your job. Jennifer, I can only imagine how much you are hurting. Julie, even though we take comfort that Bob is now with the Lord, it must be hard to be alone. May I pray for you?” PAUSE.

My beloved and His beloved, people will continue to say, “Oh, Jesus and Easter, that’s just your opinion.But when you live your life like Easter matters, people will get curious. Your co-workers and friends, and maybe even your family will say things to you like, “Why are you always spending so much time helping others? Why are you always caring for people? What makes you the way you are?” St. Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (3:15). Then you can say, “You want to know why I’m different? I’ll tell you the truth. It’s Easter. Easter matters to me and I pray Easter will matter to you. Jesus matters, therefore Easter Matters.” That’s it! Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“It Is Finished!” (John 19:29-30; Rev. 21:1-7).

S-1181 Good Friday/3C 4/02/2010 Hymns: #140; #180; #181; #182; #153; #172 vv. 1-4; #143 vv. 1-5l; #146

Texts: Seven last Words from the Cross

Theme: “It Is Finished!” (John 19:29-30; Rev. 21:1-7).

Question: “Do you always finish the project your start?” (8th in sermon series of Life Together).


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The text for our G. F. is from the Gospel of St. John: “A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:29-30).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, imagine what it may have been like at the beginning of time. Everything was so pristine, pure, peaceful and perfect. The Scriptures indicate that Adam and Eve enjoyed a fearless and loving, intimate relationship with God. Some of their time was spent walking with God in the Garden. Imagine if you were there and the feeling of the blades of grass beneath your feet and the “feet” of God walking in the garden. Imagine God’s conversations with you. How wonderful it must have been to talk with God! To commune with God! and to have peace with God! Can you imagine it? But, then tragedy struck and suddenly the picture changes. Adam and Eve fall into sin. Would He still be their God? Would He still love them? Would He walk with them?

God told Satan, but Adam and Eve heard it and we, hear it too… God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike His heal” (Genesis 3:15). That’s where we are tonight. From being present with God, to hiding behind fig leaves; from sunny skies of paradise to the dark, dismal, black clouds of Calvary; from intimacy with God in the Garden to separation from God to judgment and death.

What was started so many years before comes to it’s conclusion with these Words from the dying lips of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tonight the serpent’s head is crushed, evil is defeated, death is destroyed, but at such great, great, cost! God’s Son is hanging on the cross; God’s Son is calling out, “It is finished.” Let me ask you, what is finished? All things on earth begin and all things end. People are born, people die. The music starts and the music ends. The dance start and the dance end. It’s interesting how so often beginnings are celebrated while endings are mourned. Is Good Friday that kind of mournful ending? “It is finished,” Jesus cries out. What is finished? The dark scene of sin and death surrounds us. Far, far from us, it seems, are the images of paradise.

But listen now to another Word from God’s Holy book, Revelation 21:1-7. At first, this will seem to be a very strange text for such a dark and somber night, but please listen to the Holy Spirit…

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I Am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be His God and he will be My son.”

When God says in Revelation 21:5, “I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” it means that He was there when the skies of paradise were sunny and His communion with His children was perfect. When He says, “I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” it means that His presence spans the dark times, Good Friday and all our mournful times. Yes, Good Friday times are mournful but not, definitely not, a mournful end as the world views death. For when the Lord God says, “I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” He invites us into images of a new paradise. And even on this dark, dismal, Good Friday God gives us a vision of a brighter future. Hear it again: He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

“It is finished,” Jesus cried out. What is finished? The price of our sin has been paid by His death—in full. You are reconciled to God. No longer do we need to hide behind fig leaves. No longer is there separation from our Holy God. Paradise has been restored. How do we know that? Listen to this from Revelation’s vision of our wonderful future. “And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I Am making all things new. Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done!’” “It is finished.” Jesus has earned your forgiveness. “It is done.” His death opens a glorious future and the words are written to give us hope. “It is finished.” “It is done!” says the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Can you be sure of that? Can you be certain of your hope and heaven? Yes, we can. But not all people believe that. This past Tuesday some of our saints went to discuss with the Jehovah witnesses about the benefit of Jesus’ death. One of our saints Terry Hochhalter asked one of the elders, “If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?” The elder’s response was “Absolutely not!” How sad and how tragic! This man and many like him in this cult have no certainty of salvation, no guarantee of heaven. Terry asked “Why not?” “Because I don’t know for sure! I don’t feel it in me heart”.

These people work so hard to do the right thing, the work at earning God’s favor and His love, but they are doing it the wrong way. We can be certain. Jesus cried out with a LOUD VOICE: “IT IS FINISHED!” PAUSE.

There was a philosopher named Nietzsche who is famous for having written “God is Dead.” The words “God is Dead” sound blasphemous but Nietzsche’s intent behind the words was to say that God may as well be dead if God makes no difference to one’s life. I’ll say that again. Nietzsche meant that God may as well be dead if God makes no difference in your life. Do you live as if “God is Dead” in your life? Christ did die and we know the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. That makes all the difference for Christ-followers, even though we’re still plagued with sin and sorrow, suffering and sadness, yet we have hope—hope in the One who said: “It is finished!” You and I see creation fall into ruin before us. Sorrow comes and tears are shed. But the dark scenes of our lives are not the final scene. You see, God did indeed die on the cross – God the Son, very God of very God, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity! And because God did die and wrote for us words of a new heaven and new earth…because “it is finished” and “it is done,” you and I have glimpses of glory even in the darkest of our times.

The full effect of Jesus’ death won’t be realized until that last day, but until then, Your God is your source of joy and confident hope. “I Am with you,” He says (Matthew 28:20). With you to hear your prayers, with you to speak soothing words, with you to give you the nourishment of His body and blood, with you to wipe away every tear from your eye and with you to embrace you with His tender and pierced hands.. “It is finished.” “It is done.” “I will be their God.”

Tonight, the scene is dark as we mourn the result of our sin…and what that sin caused our Savior to endure. We mourn the broken relationship with our Creator…and we miss those walks through the garden. We remember the suffering and death of our Savior…we remember what He taught us and what His life means to us. In a world where it’s easier to tear down and start over, our God has made Himself the God of restoration. Tonight the Word restores you to Him. Tonight He is Your God and you are His people. Tonight, He opens those pierced hands and holds you and tells you “this much (open hands wide open) I love you”. Tonight the dark scene begins to brighten. “It is finished.” Redemption is accomplished. Your sins are paid for. Paradise IS restored! And, we have communion with God, Amen.

Now the peace…


“Finding Ourselves!” (John 13:1-5).

S-1180 M.T./3C 4/01/2010 Hymns: (O) #445; (S) words to the tune of 423; L.S. #159; #428; LSB #550

Texts: Exodus 12:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 23:1-56

Theme: Finding Ourselves!” (John 13:1-5).

Question: “How well do you fit with others?” (7th in sermon series of Life Together).


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The text for our M.T. is from the Gospel Lesson: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” (John 13:1-5).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, sometimes you find yourself in a place where it becomes clear how God wants you to live your life. One such place for me was the Mcgreevy Clinic in Sioux Falls. It was in the early 80’s and I was working with my brothers in the painting business. As painters working on this clinic we were part of many laborers. All the workers would take their breaks and lunches together. One man in particular got under my nerves. Listening to this Plummer made my ears hurt at his vulgar language. Day after day he would speak, loudly and coarsely about everything. Listening to his colorful language bothered me a lot especially when he would use God’s name in vain.

I prayed to the Lord to give me strength to witness to this man about the Savior’s love displayed on the cross. I was looking for the perfect opportunity. I prayed for the right moment, using the right words. But I was afraid. What will the others say? How will they react to what I would share with them?

The opportunity came one day. And I thought, “Lord, this is it, isn’t it! This is the time to talk about You, isn’t it!” I was a little worried, my hands began to sweat, I felt a lump in my throat if all he would hear as I began my witness was Blah-Blah-Christian-Blah-Blah. But I knew I needed to speak and speak well. I began, “May I ask you a question?”Sure was his response!” I continued, “Are you a Christian?” “Of course!” was his answer. “Do you speak like this at home to your wife and children?”Why no!” was his response. Then I asked, “Then, you are able to control your tongue so that you don’t have to use such foul language every time you speak.”I suppose I could,” I told him as Christians we should always attempt to honor God. I spoke of the Savior’s love and His death on the cross and what He accomplished for us. How our lives should reflect that we are new creatures to bring glory and honor to His holy name. If we are Christians how can we use His name so thoughtlessly and carelessly? Now, I’m not sure what impact, if any, my words had on this plumber. But it was an affirmation in my life that I had done the right thing for the Lord.

Maybe you’ve tried to share your faith and got a roll of the eyes, a polite suffering through your witness, or just outright rejection. You thought all the other person could hear was Blah-Blah-Christian-Blah-Blah. But maybe, like my experience at the work place, it went pretty well, at least far better than you imagined it would. And maybe that experience helped you to understand more clearly that God wants you to stand for Him, and He will help you to do that. That caring conversation helped you discover more about yourself and your place in this world.

Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is the day Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper and told this is New Command for us. Maundy Thursday helps us discover more about how God wants us to live our lives.

John chapter 13 begins, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.” In other words, Jesus knew His death was near, very near…the next day. What would you do if you knew that you would die tomorrow? PAUSE. This is what Jesus did: John writes, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”

That Maundy Thursday the first disciples found themselves served by the Son of God. Jesus knew that He was going to die tomorrow and what did He do? He showed His love by the menial service of washing the disciples’ feet. But Peter balked. “It was as if Peter says: “I’m in charge here! I’ll pick and choose how I relate to you, Jesus!” We might say that Peter was an individualist, a good-hearted individualist, but still someone who wanted his will, not God’s, to be done. Jesus challenged Peter’s individual judgment. Tonight Jesus challenges you and me: Do you choose how you will relate to Me? And if you think you can relate to Me in any old way you choose, is that how you’ll relate to one another?

This is the most challenging time of this evening’s sermon. Listen to the Bible. Jesus “came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.’”

This was evident to me this past Tuesday as few of us traveled to the Jehovah’s Kingdom Hall to listen to them express what benefit is there in Jesus’ death. It is interesting to note the use of words just like us but mean something totally different. They want Christ on their own terms. He is only a sacrifice, but not God. They can pick and choose what portion of Scripture applies to their individual person. Oh, they are polite, they dress well, but their hearts are far from the crucified One. Did you know that they observe and commemorate His death, but not His resurrection? How absurd that is. These people want to do only what they want to do but not adhere to the whole counsel of God. In my conversation with them, I asked, “Why do you observe His death, but not His resurrection?” There response was, “He didn’t tell us observe His resurrection but His death!” How tragic. I shared with them the words of the apostle Paul from the great Resurrection chapter “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Without the resurrection we have nothing. I further added. What you are doing in your individual practice is like a woman who is pregnant but doesn’t give birth. What benefit is there in this pregnancy? NOTHING! We want to be individualistic in our approach to Christ. But Jesus goes against this do-your-own-thing individualism. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Our life together as a church is not a voluntary association of independent individuals. It’s not for us to decide how we relate to Jesus or to each other. Jesus says, “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16). Peter backed right off. “‘Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean.’” By washing their feet Jesus was giving the disciples a sign. They were cleansed…we are cleansed…by His coming, by His passion, by His death for us, by His resurrection and going back to the Father, and by the cleansing work of His Holy Spirit in our lives. Your Baptism cleansed you. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit,” says Jesus (John 3:5). This Word you are hearing cleanses you. My words are spirit and they are life,” says Jesus (John 6:63). The Meal we shall shortly receive, the Supper of our Lord, is our cleansing. “I Am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty,” says Jesus (John 6:35).

Maundy Thursday is where God works in our hearts and find us to be used for Him. What God does this evening is show us again who we are. Our sitting together to hear Jesus’ Words, our gathering at His table, is a visible sign that our life together is not autonomous individuals who voluntarily came to church, but we are made one body, washed by our servant Savior, brought together by Him and the Holy Spirit.

Social commentator Robert Bellah wrote, “We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning” (in Stanley Grenz and John Franke, Beyond Foundationalism [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001], 203).

Listen again to this from John 13 -- “When [Jesus] had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I Am. Now that I, Your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’”

Let me close by going back to that much younger Nabil Nour. Remember how I was worried that all the workers could hear was “Blah-Blah-Christian-Blah-Blah.” But that wasn’t the way they reacted. They were pretty respectful. Perhaps they knew that I cared. The experience taught me that God is awesome; that He’s at work in the details of life. Maybe the conversation changed me more than the others, because it forced me to acknowledge that God is in loving control and I’m not; but always to be open to be used by Him to serve others.

The earliest Christians gained a reputation for loving and serving one another. This Maundy Thursday God finds us. We are the people who have been washed and loved. He even finds us so that we may love and serve others in His name and for His glory. Amen.

Now the peace…


Theme: “How Quickly Things Change!” (Luke 23:13-16).

-1179 Palm Sunday/3C 3/28/2010 Hymns: (O) #160; (S) #162; L.S. #456; 547; 535; (C) #161

Texts: Psalm 118:19-24, 28-29; Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 23:1-56

Theme: “How Quickly Things Change!” (Luke 23:13-16).

Question: “How do you cope with change?”


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The text for our Palm Sunday is from the Gospel Lesson: “But they all cried out together, ‘Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas’— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify Him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found in Him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release Him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will” (Luke 23:18-25).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, it was 1970 I was still living in Israel, my oldest brother Moussa (Moses) and one of his friends went to a soccer game in the town of Aco (Acre) against their arch rival a team from Nazareth. The game was a delight to watch. People were jumping up and down cheering their players to do the best until the referee gave the opposing team a red card (a player is ejected out of the game and the team must continue to play with only 10 against 11). And all of a sudden things changed rapidly. The joy of the game turned into the biggest brawl. My brother was grabbed by an angry mob by his necktie. They began to swirl him round and round, his eyes bulged out, he was beginning to lose consciences, and his life was in jeopardy, until his friend miraculously got him loose and they fled.

On Thursday night I was watching a program called “Caught on Tape” on the animal planet (one of my favorite shows). The incident that was caught on tape was in the Philippines. A zoo keeper whose main responsibility is to take care of the tigers was in the courtyard with them. In one corner he was tending to the care of one tiger and all of a sudden another tiger came from behind and attacked his leg and got him to the ground. The tiger in the corner pounced on the other leg. Before long a third tiger and then a 4th were on the man mauling and shredding him to pieces. People were horrified as they watched him being bitten and bleeding. They could hear the bones crushing with each bite. Finally, another zoo keeper stepped into the courtyard with a sledge hammer and began to hit the tigers and took his co-worker to the hospital. Amazingly he survived. What is more amazing how quickly things changed for this zoo keeper? PAUSE.

Who would have thought it? No one in all of Jerusalem, not the disciples and not even Mary His mother suspected things could change so quickly against Him. Earlier in the week, the people shouted and laid their garments and palm branches before Him and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna to the King of Israel” But that was then. Today, we hear two things: first Pilate declares he finds no crimes that Jesus has committed, and second the crowds cry for His blood—they want to see the Man from Nazareth dead so they make sure Pilate hears them well. The refrain is this: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

The irony of all of this is that the people ask for a criminal to be released and for an innocent man to be condemned. How quickly things changed! On Palm Sunday there was a crowd (it is possible these are not the same people) crying out “Hosanna” or “Save us now!” Yet less than a week later a crowd with even more gusto raised their fists and voices for this same Savior to be crucified!

It is interesting to note the names of these two people—the Criminal and the Innocent that take center stage on that Friday. Barabbas’ name means “Son of the Father.” Jesus’ name means “Savior”. How ironic it is in what they are asking for even without knowing it. They are asking for Barabbas—the “Son of the Father” to be released. At the same time, they want the TRUE “Son of the Father”—Jesus to be condemned. Without knowing it, they were still shouting their Hosanna’s. For after all this is why the Son of the Father came to earth, to go to the cross, be crucified to give them hope and heaven. PAUSE.

Oh, how quickly things change. We don’t like to change. As Lutherans, we have a hard time with change. The oft made comments around Lutherans are: “We have never done it this way before!” When change is brought about, people begin to scream some under their breath and others vocally. We don’t want to change, we like things the way they are and if there is a change that needs to be done, it better be a change to our liking.

But isn’t this the reason the Savior came? Did He not come to change our status with our heavenly Father from sinners to saints, from hell-bound to heaven-bound, from enemies of God to friends of God, from strangers to families of God? INDEED IT IS! The whole ministry of Jesus is about change—changing our lives for the better.

Yes, Jesus came to change us and change He did by His crucifixion on Calvary’s tree. We see these changes in many of the saints before us: Saul the persecutor by his encounter with the Savior on the Damascus road was changed to be the great preacher of the Gospel. Peter the denier of Jesus, with one glance of His Savior in the High Priest’s court yard was changed to be a bold confessor of His Lord and Savior that he actually would die for his belief. How quickly things changed.

Golgotha was the center stage on that Friday afternoon. Jesus, the Rabbi from Nazareth and two other criminals were hanging on crosses condemned to die. One of them was changed quickly as He observed and heard Jesus speak to those who wished to see His blood spilled and Him dead. For three to four hours more the thief would draw his ragged breath but that very day his cross would be exchanged for a crown and his soul would be lifted up to heaven’s glory. That morning saw the thief being led out of his prison cell to pay his debt to society. That afternoon saw his life fading away on a cross and his soul facing hell’s gaping doors. But that evening saw him walking hand in hand with His Savior in heaven. What change took place that night in the life of that thief!

That same change takes place in us as well. By the loving act of the Father, the TRUE Son of the Father laid down His life for our redemption to bring about the change that is needed in us. By His mercy we receive the same promise and blessed forgiveness. We are changed as those pierced hands touch us and cleanse us in the waters of Baptism. By those same tender, wounded and outstretched arms we are fed the Meal of heaven. Not only that, but we also receive the great gift of forgiveness from Christ’s own lips. These heavenly gifts are the reasons we have been changed.

Changed for the better; changed by the One who never changes—Jesus Christ. Whose love remains constant; whose compassion never fails; whose mercy is new every morning.

My beloved and His beloved, you and I are changed people. We don’t remain like we were yesterday, but live in the present and presence of Christ. We have received the greatest change from the inside out. This change is not brought about because we went to the greatest fashion designer, makeup artist, or hair stylist; but because the Creator of the Universe has touched us and changed our filthy hearts to His dwelling place.

No wonder the Apostle Paul could and would boast of His Savior. With boldness, he would continue to hold out to others the gift of heaven, won for all earth’s inhabitants. That good news alone can change an uncertain future. As sin’s captives hear about Jesus and “the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control,” fear of the future is replaced with a joyful longing for Jesus’ return. PAUSE.

Some years ago there was a television show in which the hero received a newspaper at his apartment door every morning. Ordinarily, such a thing would not be considered unusual, but this was. Each day’s delivery was tomorrow’s newspaper. It came to him a day before the events reported on its pages took place. He took upon himself the responsibility of trying to head off the tragedy with the fore-knowledge he now possessed. By the end of each episode, he would again be holding the paper and the success of his efforts to change the outcome would appear on its pages.

We don’t know if our bold confidence in Jesus will avert the tragedy of a life being lived without Him, but we do know that the Gospel is the only Means by which Jesus may enter such a life and change the outcome. We are proof of it!

How quickly the crowds turned against the Savior and asked for His death by crucifixion. They asked for Barabbas to be released. And the TRUE Son of the Father was nailed to the tree. And because of that sacrificial act, we have been changed forever. And what a change! Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“I Want This…And This…and This…” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

S-1178 6MIL/3C 3/24/2010 Hymns: (O) #178; #184; (S) #159; (C) #652

Texts: Psalm 69:13-21; 1 Peter 4:1-6; Passion Reading

Theme: “I Want This…And This…and This…” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Question: “What are you thirsting for?” (6th in Sermon series on “Life Together”)


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The text for our Sixth Midweek in Lent is from the Epistle Lesson: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, you have seen it many times on TV. The camera zooms in on the people who have camped all night long waiting and waiting. You have read about it in the newspapers describing the mad rush of people trying to be first in line. You have heard about it on the radio, as the announcer speaks of the throngs of people lining up one after the other.

What am I talking about? Black Friday—the biggest shopping day of the year. Black Friday falls after Thanksgiving Day, when multitudes of people young and old, boys and girls pitch their tents in all kind of weather to be first in line as Wal-Mart, Walgreen, Herbergers, J.C. Penny’s and the like open their doors. As soon as the doors are open there is a mad rush into the store similar to the Running of the Bull in Pamplona, Spain. People grab a shopping cart and begin to dump this and this and this item.

What possess people to do this? Why would anyone desire to spend a sleepless night standing in the frigid cold or sleeping on a hard floor to be first in line? By nature the human nature always looks to fulfill its needs. We thirst for this and this and this because we think they will satisfy us. This is how foolish we are and deceived we have become.

Tonight, as we continue on our Lenten journey, we reach Golgotha. Just outside the city walls of Jerusalem, we see the Rabbi from Nazareth nailed to a tree. As we draw near enough to the cross, we can actually hear His deep and laboring breath. As we stop silently near, we also hear Him utter these words: “I Thirst!”

Please ponder this scene with me for a moment. (Invite them to close their eyes) Attempt to see His face. Study the sight before you. Look deep into His eyes and see Him weighted down; His blood dripping one drop after another to the ground crusting beneath Him in the hot Palestinian sand. He looks down and then up and says: “I Thirst!” How can it be that He who made the oceans, placed the seas and rivers in their places, and dug the deep wells of the universe is thirsty. Can it be? He who is the Creator, longs for the created things to satisfy His dry and parched mouth with a drop of water? PAUSE.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will help us tonight to grasp another view of Jesus—His humanity. Dr. Luke with these words displays for us fully the humanity of Jesus. His Divinity is veiled in His humanity. And from the cross He who holds the universe on its axes refuses to quench His thirst by one single drop of water, so that He may take upon Him the sins of the world.

Why? Yes, Why? Let Paul answer that question for you: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:4-8).

Here is the answer to this question. Jesus thought of you first. He put your interest before His. He wanted to save you and you and you. He didn’t come to earth to get this and this and this. But He came because of you, and you and you.

In the text before us this evening Peter calls us to give up thinking of ourselves, and instead think of others. Peter put it this way: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God”

However, you and I know that from childhood we think of ourselves first and foremost. How often do we ask, “What’s in for me? Or “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Little children ask that question. High school students begin to seek in earnest an answer to that question as they begin to think about colleges and careers. Even working adults ask periodically, “Is this where I want to be?”

Holy Scripture reminds us to aspire to know nothing save Christ and Him crucified. The Word teaches us to aspire to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. It is not enough to know about Jesus. But we want to know Him better; intimately knowing His suffering, His journey to the cross and His glorious resurrection. We want to know what it means to live as a redeemed child of the resurrected Christ. Not only that, but we should desire to share in suffering and dying, just like Jesus.

But we don’t like to suffer. None of us do. Neither you nor I want to go through suffering. But In this sinful and broken world, we are attacked from every corner by the prince of darkness, from the outside and from the Old Adam from within us. Both seek to rob us for our hope, our happiness and our place in heaven. The prince of darkness always attempts to get us of the track of living the life of a child of God. But don’t listen to the devil. Don’t give in to the temptation. Thirst for that which is holy, pure, right and salutary.

This evening I am talking to you, my beloved and His beloved. I am talking to the Christian church, those redeemed by the blood shed by our Savior on the cross, those whom the New Testament calls “the body of Christ.” I am talking to those who know the promise of an end to suffering because Christ died for us. I am talking to you. I’m talking to you who fit the description of 1 Peter 4:1-2: “Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” I hear Peter calling us to “arm” ourselves with the same thinking of Christ. I hear Peter saying we’re done with sin but I know we still struggle with sin. Yes, we struggle with sin. How many times have you said, “I’m not going to do this again?” But end up doing it anyway. You cry out to God for strength and forgiveness. And Christ draws near to us and says, “My son, my daughter be of good cheer, you have been forgiven.”

I exhort you therefore, for the sake of Christ to think of yourselves as that body of Christ, as sinners but redeemed and washed by the precious blood of the Savior on the cross; who are already armed with the same manner of thinking as Christ. With this in mind, what do we thirst for? We thirst for justice, for healing, for an end to suffering. We thirst for a stronger economy, for those without work to find jobs, to be able to provide for their families. We thirst for safety, for those in Haiti to get the supplies and protection they need. We thirst for the protection of homes in the water-drenched areas of northeastern SD. We thirst for an end to abortion, slavery, and an end to sin, death, and the power of the devil. One look at our weekly prayer list will show you what we thirst for. We thirst for…this and this and this for the benefit of the whole body of believers to be whole, brought back to the fold, to kneel at the altar, received the blessings and peace God offers us in Christ our Savior.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing wrong with us Christians thirsting for better things. It is not sinful to thirst to be an accountant, CFO, nurse, teacher, or computer programmer. But the word that belongs before any label or title we ever have is Christian. It is our thirst to follow Christ first.

And the only way we can do so is if we drink from the fountain of the living water—Jesus Christ Himself. Remember, what the Evangelist Luke stated: “From His side water and blood flowed.” What a picture from His pierced side we are quenched because His gift alone satisfies. No wonder Jesus offered us the cup of Salvation—His blood to take away our sins and quench our thirsty souls with the living river flowing from His pierced side.

Beloved in the Lord, when will our parched throats be quenched? Will our suffering never be alleviated now? By no means! God is daily intervening. In countless ways God is indeed giving us little sips of water so we can endure throughout this drought. Help may not always come, but because Christ lives we live in hope. In fact, that is one of the reasons why we are here. We are the body of Christ in this hurting and suffering world. We are often the instruments God uses to alleviate suffering and bring hope in the here and now, as we wait for the day when final healing will come. We are the ones who wipe tears from the eyes of others as we wait for the day when sorrow will end. We bring the sip of water as we wait for the day when the drought will end. As we wait for the day… the day when the source of living water will return and we will thirst no more. Amen.

Now the peace…


“How Can I Believe in A God Who Would…?” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

S-1177 5MIL/3C 3/17/2010 Hymns: (O) #153; #183; (S) #402; (C) #558

Texts: Psalm 107:1-15; 1 Peter 4:7-11; Passion Reading

Theme: “How Can I Believe in A God Who Would…?” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Question: “How do you cope?” (5th in Sermon series on “Life Together”)


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Fifth Midweek in Lent is from the Epistle Lesson: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by) various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, a wife walks into the house and is shocked to find her husband lying on the bed non-responsive. Right next to him is an open bottle with a note. The note read: “Darling, I am so sorry to put you through this. But I can’t take life any longer. Without a job, I am unable to provide for you and the children. I feel all alone, there is no hope in this life and I feel forsaken. Tell the children that I love them!” The wife calls 911 and the ambulance rush her husband to the hospital and pump his stomach clean. PAUSE.

A young couple is in the delivery room about to give birth. They have had five miscarriages and now ready to give birth. The Dr. instructs the wife what to do. After a long, hard labor and delivery, the Dr. looks at the couple and says: “I am so sorry; you gave birth to a still born baby.” The husband hugs his wife and both begin to sob. The wife with tears looks up to heaven and utters her frustrations and anger: “Why God? Why after 5 miscarriages, after nine months of carrying this baby, the baby is born dead? Dear God why? Why wouldn’t you answer our prayers? Why do you forsake us Lord?” PAUSE.

On Sunday evening I got this message via e-mail: “I certainly know that there is no easy answer to the question I will pose. Also, God never has to give us an answer… He’s God, not we humans. But…I wish I could see some type of reason or purpose that this pastor came to our church. Never have we had such conflict and division. Yes, there have been some problems, as we are all humans, but never this!  What good can come of this as a church?”

These are the voices of people who are going through afflictions and agony. You can hear the pain in their voices, and aches in their hearts. You know there is sorrow and suffering in their lives. I have spent time in prayers and on the phone speaking and helping whenever possible. I have tried as a pastor to point them to the only place possible–God’s Holy Word for comfort and consolation.

These are not isolated situations. These events happen daily in the lives of God’s people. How often do people cry out to God over failed relationships? How many people cry out of the despair of unemployment? How many would-be mothers have begged God to give them a child to hold, nurse and nurture? Does God ever hear us? Is He even real? Did He ignore the cries of His people?

Tonight, we need not go the woman’s home, the delivery room or the church in ND to hear the aches and pains in their voices. Instead come with me to Calvary. Open your ears and hear the voice of Him who is hanging on the cross crying out to His Father and saying: “My God, My

God, why are You forsaking Me?”

As the dark clouds swirled over the head of Jesus, He faced His greatest trial—everything He stood for hung in the balance. In a matter of hours He would be dead, and already He had been shamed, humiliated, and discredited. Everyone around Jesus had reason to abandon faith because the pressure to despair was immense. What good was it for Him to patiently wait any longer? What could He possibly be waiting for as death reached out to embrace Him? How could this be the arrival of God’s kingdom that He had so forcefully preached? How could He be the Messiah and long-awaited King of Israel? Had He been mistaken? Now was the time to own up to that! Now was the time to give up! No one could fault Him for it! But stubbornly, defiantly, Jesus pressed onward. He did the unthinkable—He resolved Himself to patiently wait on His Father in heaven. He refused to give up His hope that God’s kingdom was at hand. He did not fight to bring Himself down from that cross. He did not call on an army of angels to intervene. He did not curse God. Foolishly, some mocker would say, Jesus threw Himself into the hands of His God. Foolishly, a scoffer would ridicule, Jesus continued to bless and love those who stood against Him. Following the way of love, He persisted till the end and refused to back down. He would not be deterred; He threw Himself headlong into the destructive path of death itself. And to the despair of those who stayed and watched, death did not yield—it pushed forward unwaveringly, crushing this Jesus under its feet. PAUSE.

In this world death also stands on your doorstep—diseases, disasters, destructions of every sort, wars, and violence rage all around threatening to tear your life apart. Will you continue to look to God in hope or will you walk away in despair? Alone, you will eventually fall into despair, but with others there is a chance for hope. Like the wife, the childless couple and the ND congregation, it is important that you and I face the harshness of reality in the company of each another. If you and I try to go it alone, then we will not make it—we are simply not strong enough. God has given us a community of brothers and sisters that we might build each other up and strengthen ourselves in the face of the world’s darkness. Peter’s first letter was written to Christians facing persecution, people tempted to give up on God. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “Now for a little time you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine.” He wrote these words to Christian communities, not to individuals. He wrote about facing despair as part of a community in Christ. Without community gathered around the cross the task ahead of us would be too much. When you and I stare death and despair in the face, refusing to buckle, we need each other. The hymn writer put it this way. “When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer” (TLH 279, v. 4).

On Friday they laid Jesus’ body in the tomb. He had stared into the abyss and it swallowed Him up. It looked like the kingdom He preached never came and now He was just another dead Messiah—a failure. Scoffers said His trust in a God who would let Him face rejection, suffering, and crucifixion was a joke. How, they ridiculed, could He have thought that such a God was real? His God had been too late—His trust had been in vain. In a world where the strong conquer, He had been weak. In a world where wisdom ruled, He had been a fool. In a world where death had the final say, He was dead. This dark and unforgiving world once again asserted its strength. But as it pressed down relentlessly on this weak and seemingly foolish Jesus, its iron grip began to slip. On Sunday morning, the way of the world was shown to be a fraud. The world that everyone thought they knew was completely turned on its head. Jesus, this crucified failure, was bodily raised to life! His foolishness was proved to be true wisdom—His weakness, true strength! Everything the world thought it had figured out began to crumble in a pile of rubble. PAUSE.

In the stories shared with you this evening, and in countless others throughout the world, we are given small reminders that our natural understanding of what is good or evil, right or wrong, wise or foolish, strong or weak, has been turned upside down in Jesus Christ, the crucified. The insignificant and humble ways of faith, hope, and love are shown in Him to be God’s way. The dark world around us continues to mock their foolish hope but our confidence is that the outcome of faith in our God is nothing short of true rescue on the other side of death.

Until then, we have a living Savior. No one stays closer to you than Christ. Christ is better than the most faithful husband, more understanding than the most comforting wife, more reliable than the best friend. No one is more available or more interested whom you can talk to in the middle of the night, or at any other time, simply by calling out in prayer.

No one comforts better than Christ. In the midst of your deepest pain, His presence brings comfort and strength, through His Words of promise, often delivered by trusted Christians.

No one sees the benefits of your pain clearer than Christ. He sees through the dark, winding tunnel of your Gethsemane all the way to the end. You see only the unrelenting, frightening, thick darkness. He sees beyond it into the shining light of eternity, knowing that the difficulties help to keep you close to Him until you see Him in heaven. This is why you and I can say, with Peter: Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Pet 1:8-9).

My beloved and His beloved, from the cross Jesus in the hour of suffering and agony looked up to heaven and cried out in a loud voice: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Do you know why? So that you and I may never, no ever be forsaken by God. Isn’t this wonderful news? You bet it is. Though the world plants doubts in our hearts and heads by asking, “How Can You Believe in a God Who Would…” You may answer because He is the ONLY true God who promises, “LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.” Amen.

Now the peace…