Sunday, April 29, 2012

“Are You Serious?” (Acts 4:8-12)

S-1314 4SAE/3B 4/29/12 Hymns: (O) #388; (S) #360; LS. #377; #345; #379 (C) #447

Text: Acts 4:1-12; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Theme: “Are You Serious?” (Acts 4:8-12)

Question: “Have you said, ‘It Can’t Be’?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Acts: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:8-12).

Oh, you who are most cherished, loved and sought after by Him who has defied gravity and physics and burst forth from the grave, Jesus Christ our faithful Good Shepherd. Amen. In relationships, there are times when apology is necessary. In marriages, in neighborhoods and in Christian congregations, there are times when things are done and said where the only godly way to deal with them is sincere apology. This apology is needed because one sinner has said and done things that have hurt another, and in the process sinned against God. In those occasions, repentant confession is KEY. What was wrong is confessed to each other and the Lord and healing ensues!

But there are other times when apology is the WORST possible option. This happens when you and I are placed in a position to speak the clear and direct Word of God. When we preach about forgiveness, the world loves us. But when we preach about sin: like homosexuality, adultery, false religions like Islam and Mormonism, the world doesn’t like us much. They see these as lifestyles that are equal and opposite of Christianity and they should be tolerated and accepted.

However, the problem is that when we do, we begin to apologize for God’s Word. This weakens our testimony, and worse, forsakes our Lord, the very same Lord who laid down His life for us on the cross of Calvary. This is especially true when we are confronted with the temptation to apologize for St. Peter when he tells the Jewish leaders that there is only ONE way into eternal life with our Lord. That way is ONLY through the Name of Jesus!

Often people ask, “Pastor, are you serious that there is only one way to heaven, your way?” Not my way, but His—the Good Shepherd’s who laid down His life for the world. Yes, I am very, very serious that this truth be taught and learned by all people. Though, it may not appear to be a politically correct statement. It is! Even Jesus our Good Shepherd taught the multitudes that followed Him saying: I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John. 14:6). PAUSE

Peter, that man, who on the night when Jesus was dragged to the High Priest courtyard denied Him 3 times; today stands in the light before all those in authority and tells them by what power he had done the miracle of healing. Without batting an eye, he confessed that it was: “by the name of Jesus Christ” and he further declared: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:10, 12).

Indeed, that is the case. Yet, I am amazed at how many people claim that there are many ways to get to heaven or even be saved. I am dumbfounded that even Christians teach that other religions such as Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses etc., can get to heaven without believing in Jesus Christ. I am truly astonished, that we still allow the devil to deceive us in thinking that we can save ourselves and get to heaven by our own works.

Sadly, in our time, people frequently entertain the idea that there are many true churches and religions, each of which has a different form of the truth. Many maintain that the Christian religion is not the only saving faith. In fact, they claim that nothing depends on faith: If a person acts according to his conscience, if he loves his fellow man and treats everyone fairly, he may then believe whatever he wants and ultimately, he will be saved. How tragic that thought is. PAUSE.

Let me say it again, there will be no apologies today or ever from this pulpit. And yes, I am very serious when I say, that not all religions lead to the same place. People want to feel good that all religions lead to heaven. But that is not TRUE. I don’t care who you are or what you are—poor or rich, man or woman, prince or pauper, know this fact—salvation is found only in Jesus Christ ALONE. NO APOLOGIES.

Am I serious? Yes, I am! Let me demonstrate: I have a very good car. My car is dependable, comfortable and takes me all over the USA. But if I think that my car can take me to Israel, I am going to be mistaken when I get to the edge of the body of water.

So it is with all the religions of the world. There will come a day when they have to stand at the edge of that large body of water—called DEATH. Then they will know the truth that their religion is wrong.

By Jesus’ own admission, He taught that salvation and entrance into heaven is only through Him. In John 10 we read these words: I Am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (9-10). Paul also states: For there is One God, and there is One MEDIATOR between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Oh, precious children of God don’t be mistaken, this is the truth that all of Scripture teaches. Peter and the other disciples were willing to die to let the world know that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ alone.

To be sure, there are different religions that teach their way leads to heaven. Follow this path and you will get there. Sadly, many Christian congregations are no longer calling sin for what it is—breaking God’s laws. Sin has been diluted to a minor mistake. Living together outside of the bonds of marriage, practicing lesbians and homosexuality, cheating on your taxes, lying and dishonoring your parents is not sinful. How tragic that is because this is false teaching.

Sin is serious. It has deadly results. The Apostle Paul taught saying, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Notice again, Paul, like Peter, states eternal life is in Christ our Lord. I don’t care what other churches teach and confess; but we confess Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And anyone who believes in Christ will be SAVED. PAUSE.

That cross is the Ark that will carry us across that large body of water—death and takes us to the other shore—heaven. The beating heart of the congregation is the life of Jesus Christ—His life given for us on the cross of Calvary. In, through and by the power of Jesus we stand included as part of the redeemed and forgiven.

For over 70 plus year, this pulpit has been used not to apologies, but to confess the truth that salvation is found only in Jesus alone. For over 70 years we have been teaching the truth and for as long as God gives us breath we are His witnesses to confess this golden fact, that Jesus and ONLY Jesus SAVES.

Like Peter, we are called upon to be faithful witnesses. As a baptized Christians, we are encouraged to love the adulterer, tax cheats, fallen away Christians, and those who think they are doing just good enough for God to love them and let them into eternity. We should ask the Holy Spirit to help us reach out to them and teach them the truth, life without Christ leads to death. This is more than just a different life-style—it is living in sin.

You and I CAN’T accept their teachings or hold to it, but we are called as the redeemed of God to be faithful confessor of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Scripture alone on account of Christ alone. We are called to be a light to the world and to teach them the truth about Jesus and that He alone SAVES.

Am I serious? Yes and a 1000 times yes. You, yes, YOU, are to be witness in your community. You are the ones to look for the lost. Invite them to come and drink from the water of life freely. You are the ones who are called upon to invite them to be refreshed and renewed as they eat at the table. Therefore, stand in the public square and declare without apologies that there is ONLY one way to heaven—Jesus and ONLY Jesus. PAUSE.

You who are baptized and blood-bought Christians, while I was at the seminary, I was invited to preach in Nebraska. Walking through the small town, I noticed on a bar this sign which read: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!” And just recently I was listening to our Synodical radio station, KFUO and the same sentence was spoken to describe those who are not part of the family of faith.

Let me ask you a question. Are you absolutely certain that one day those who have died in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life in heaven? If you are, then you can be just as sure that unbelievers will be resurrected to eternal torment in hell.

While many jokes have been the subject of hell, it is not a laughing matter. Hell is the absence of God. Hell is the place of “darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12); a “fiery furnace” (Matt. 13:42); a “lake of burning sulfur” (Rev. 20:10). Its torment is continuous (2 Thess. 1:9), unquenchable (Matt. 3:12), and eternal (Jude 7).

Therefore, without apologies, the preacher of God’s Word does not lessen the sharpness of the law or subtract from the comforting message of sins forgiven in Christ. And we the redeemed don’t want to have our family and friends spending eternity in hell. We want to introduce them to the faithful Good Shepherd Jesus, the ONE who tends the helpless, the dumb, the blind (us), but who is utterly good.

Know this truth and know it well. Our Faithful and gracious God—the God of love, sent His Son to die for all people and He desires us to be with Him in the paradise of heaven. Certainly God is all inclusive. But He is also exclusive: This is the ONLY way to be with Him. May we NEVER apologize for what we believe, teach and confess that salvation is found ONLY in Jesus alone! And YES, I AM SERIOUS. AMEN.

Now the peace…


Sunday, April 22, 2012

“Can It Be?” (1 John 3:1)

S-1313 3SAE/3B 4/22/12 Hymns: (O) #52; #52; (S) #43; LS. #59; #53; #9; (C) #57 SOD

Text: Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49

Theme: “Can It Be?” (1 John 3:1)

Question: “How many times have you said, ‘this offer is too good to be TRUE!’?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Epistle lesson: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1).

In the name of the Risen Christ, Amen. You and I from experience know too well that if there is something to good to be true, then it IS. We have watched too many TV commercials that promote different gadgets that will make our lives better and happier. Every day there is a new product on the market that we are encouraged to buy, and when we do, our life will be enhanced and our troubles will go away.

But can it really be that simple? Can a product improve our life so much that our troubles go away? Can a gadget take all our worries and pain away? Of course there are gadgets, tools, equipments that make our life a little easier to function. I think of the blessings of the microwave, power tools, computers, cell phones and many other gadgets that help make our life easier, but not necessarily happier or trouble free. We know that when these gadgets don’t work, our frustration level is higher and our troubles are increased. PAUSE.

In today’s text the Apostle John, known as the “One whom Jesus loved” tells us: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Can it really be that we are God’s children? Can it be that easy, that God loves us in spite of us and wants us to be in His family? Can it be that the God of the Universe is even concerned with a little worm like me? Can it be? Can it REALLY be?

We know from Scripture that God has only one Son. The same author of our text, in his Gospel states: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16). In another place we read: “And behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I Am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17). And again, we hear these words: “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him” (Mark 9:7b). But the Lord of heaven and earth was not content of having only one Child, He wanted more—many more. He wants you, ALL of you to be in His family and to shower upon you His everlasting love, grace and favor.

Again, can it be that God wants me to be His child? Can it be that God loves me as I am a poor miserable sinner who always goes against His holy will? ABSOLUTELY! That is the case of which John presents to us: “that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” That is exactly what it means. PAUSE.

The story I’m sharing with you is true. Amber and her husband Kevin (from Gregory) adopted four children. However, one of these children—Jarrit, was an unusual case. This is Jarrit’s story. Jarrit was born on the Rosebud reservation to an unmarried mother with severe alcohol problem. His father was out of the picture completely. His mother, due to her alcoholic problem was neither able to care or provide for his needs, nor did she even attempt to.

It was therefore left up to his paternal grandmother to care for him. Due to the high rate of poverty and alcoholism on the reservation, this grandmother has about a dozen other grandchildren besides Jarrit to care for. Like any other boy, Jarrit, sought attention from the one he knew to be his mother (grandma). But grandma was almost always angry, because of the demand on her life and the children she needed to care and provide for. For this reason, Jarrit got ignored for the most part.

He learned quickly, that to get her attention he would have to scream. The louder he screamed the more attention he received. It wasn’t the kind of attention you or I would like. His screaming always warranted a beating. But at least, to this young boy’s mind, it was attention. Finally the social services were alerted to the neglect and Jarrit was placed in various foster homes. The way it works in the foster system is the child will be placed with foster parents long enough for his biological parents to get their act together.

To the best of her abilities, grandma would try to get Jarrit back to live with her. But each time he returned, the abuse would start up again and the cycle would be repeated. Finally one day the social services took the little man away for good. He was placed in the care of a good family who tried their very best and even agreed to adopt him. Yet try as they might they could not handle Jarrit’s outbursts of anger and screaming. Reaching the end of their wits they finally asked the social services to come and get him. You can only imagine how this child felt, neglected, unwanted, unneeded and dumped yet again.

Then one day the Lord working through His Word melted and molded the hearts of Amber and Kevin and they agreed to take Jarrit. Admittedly the road was rough but they knew the Lord loved them and they knew with His help no matter what, they could and would Love Jarrit. A Year after he was placed with them, Jarrit and his Foster parents went before the Judge and he was granted a new last name and a permanent home with someone who loved him unconditionally.

I visited with Amber the other day and asked her about her adopted son—Jarrit. I asked if he struggled with the fact that he is adopted. Did he question their love? Did he trust them not to send him back to the reservation? Can it really be that he is now their son—a gift from God. And she said, “Absolutely, and he still does. But we are hoping that in time, there will be no doubt in that, and he will know he has a home and family that loves him and always will.” PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, this is not Jarrit’s story, but OURS. We too, have been born into a family that couldn’t care nor able to provide what we need—salvation. And under the devil’s load we were abused and neglected. We were beaten by the cruel master of sin and neglected, so that we would often lash out against our holy God in every sinful manner searching for someone to love us just the way we are.

We long to be accepted and loved. But deep within us there is that emptiness and void because of the disease—the dreadful disease of sin, that runs rampant on the reservation of our hearts, that causes us to doubt that someone wants us, care for us and loves us unconditionally. And when we are told that truth, we ask, “CAN IT REALLY BE?”

And the answer now and until eternity it is TRUE. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John wrote: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” We see here the definition of love demonstrated by Jesus Christ who in mercy is moved to adopt us. This is definitely how Jesus loves us—His love is unconditional. Before we could come to Him and ask Him to love us, He came to earth. On the cross of Calvary He painted love like a master artist describing His love to us is eternal and unconditional.

Can it be? That our gracious Lord chose us in love? Yes! What mercy! What grace! What undeserved action! What love! What compassion! What a family! Before He hung the stars in the sky, He sought of you.

Oh, the joy of knowing that in the waters of Baptism, we have been made children of the heavenly Father. On Good Friday, our Big brother Jesus forgave us our sins, and on Sunday morning as He burst from the grave gloriously, He stood before the Eternal Judge—His Father and introduced us to Him as His new bought children—bought by His blood. And because of that blood, we now have a different last name—Christians. PAUSE.

Precious and beloved children of God, for that is what we are! Therefore, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate with thanksgiving our adoption into the family of God, and by His mighty power, may we share what the Savior has done for us with those who are still being abused by the devil that they too, maybe part of the family of Faith.

As the blood-bought children of the heavenly Father, go in His peace knowing full well you are wanted, cherished, love and cared for, not only for a season, but FOREVER. AMEN.

Now the peace…


Sunday, April 15, 2012

“Resurrection Power Gives Us Purpose!” (Acts 4:32-35)

S-1312 2SAE/3B 4/15/12 Hymns: (O) #198; (S) #339; (C) #205

Text: Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Theme: “Resurrection Power Gives Us Purpose!” (Acts 4:32-35)

Question: “What’s your purpose for life?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the book of Acts: “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:33-35).

In the name of the Risen Christ, Amen. From the beginning of creation God had a purpose—to have a personal and intimate relationship with His created beings. The master plan was designed from before the foundation of the world. In the Garden of Eden, God made a place for Adam and Eve and their descendants to live and grow beneath His wings of love and protection. But He also knew we would fall. He didn’t think only of the Garden of Eden, but of Gethsemane, with its kiss of betrayal, and the Garden where Joseph of Arametha’s tomb was to be found.

For you see, God knew that someone else had another purpose. The devil’s purpose was to destroy life and the intimate relationship humanity had with their loving God. Through deception and lies, the deceiver caused them to doubt God’s goodness and forsake the oasis of the lush Garden and streams of living water to the wilderness and wasteland of troubles and heartaches.

Knowing that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, and that He would breathe new life into the dust with the Word of Re-Creation through resurrection, God didn’t give up on His loving creation. He chose Noah and purposely had him built an Arch to save a remnant. He purposely chose Abraham, through whom the “Son of promise” would come. He purposely chose David to be a prototype of the everlasting King, Jesus Christ who would restore fallen humanity to God. Christ is Risen, He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

From the opening pages of Holy Scriptures to the last verse of this holy Book, we are told of God’s everlasting purpose—[“God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Yes, God’s purpose was to have you and every created and living soul to spend eternity with Him. Study Scriptures and you will read story after story where God intervenes in the lives of His people. Deliverance was brought about when the Israelites were freed from the bondage and slavery of Egypt. Deliverance took place when God saved the Israelites from the abuse of the Philistines. Deliverance occurred when God delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace.

The purpose of God was revealed most in the story of His Son’s life when He walked the wilderness of our earth to bring us back again to the oasis of the lush Garden and streams of living water to be with His Father.

God’s purpose is revealed with the great and glorious procla­mation of the angels to the shepherds outside Bethlehem. (A proud father was announcing the birth of His Son Lk. 2:11-14). God’s purpose is revealed with the voice at Jesus’ baptism, “This is My Son in whom I Am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). God’s purpose is revealed at the Transfiguration of Jesus by sending Moses and Elijah to the mountain top to encourage Him as He prepares for His purpose of going to the cross (Lk. 9:30). God’s purpose is explained by showing how His heart must have ached as He heard the cracking voice of Jesus begging Him saying: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). PAUSE.

The purpose of God is carried out only by the heaven-sent Savior; He became one of us, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, standing under our curse just to save us and redeem us and give us what we couldn’t obtain on our own. For 3 years, faithfully and diligently He taught the disciples of His mission. And before He ascended into heaven He gave them the purpose of calling them His followers: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And after the glorious resurrection from the grave, He commissioned them again to go in His name to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19-20).

In today’s text, we behold the resurrection of their Lord that gave them the power to go in His name to the farthest seas and proclaim that salvation is found in the crucified and risen Christ. We see this power at work after the resurrection of Christ. Because of Him the dual dragons of sin and death have been slain. And the disciples stood on Christ’s victory and by His power cared for the needs of others; as they shared and gave freely from the abundance of what they have received with one another. Therefore, it is the resurrection that gave them a powerful purpose to continue the legacy of man’s redemption by teaching the next generation all that Christ has done for them on the cross and the empty tomb. PAUSE.

But there are others whose purpose, like their father the devil is death and destruction like Ivan the Terrible, Mussolini and Hitler. There are those whose purpose is chaos and confusion like Ahmadinejad. Still others, whose purpose is treachery and torture like, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad.

That’s the world’s purpose. Ours as Christians is to be used by God to further His purpose of calling sinners to repentance. Ours is like the Apostles to tell the great story of our redemption and salvation. To be sure, it is the resurrection power that gives us a purpose to live and even die for the sake of the Gospel. This was evident in the story of the “Saint of Auschwitz”

In February, 1941, Maximilian Kolbe was incarcerated at Auschwitz. He was a Franciscan priest. In the harsh­ness of the slaughterhouse he maintained the gentle­ness of Christ. He shared his food. He gave up his bunk. He prayed for his captors. He was soon given the nickname “Saint of Auschwitz.”

In July of that same year there was an escape from the prison. It was the custom at Auschwitz to kill ten prisoners for everyone who escaped. All the prisoners would be gathered in the courtyard and the commandant would randomly select ten names from the roll book. These victims would be immediately taken to a cell where they would receive no food or water until they died.

The commandant begins calling the names. At each selection another prisoner steps forward to fill the sinister quota. The tenth name he calls is Gajowniczek. As the SS officers check the numbers of the condemned, one of the condemned begins to sob. My wife and my children,” he weeps. The officers turn as they hear movement among the prisoners. The guards raise their rifles. The dogs tense, anticipating a command to attack. A prisoner has left his row and is pushing his way to the front. It is Kolbe. No fear on his face. No hesitancy in his step. The capo shouts at him to stop or be shot. “I want to talk to the commander,” he says calmly. Kolbe stops a few paces from the commandant, re­moves his hat and looks the German officer in the eye.

Herr Kommandant, I wish to make a request, please. I want to die in the place of this prisoner.” He points at the sobbing Gajowniczek. The audacious request is presented without stammer. “I have no wife and children. Besides, I am old and not good for anything. He’s in better condition.” Kolbe knew well the Nazi mentality. Who are you?” the officer asks. “A Catholic priest.” The block is stunned. The commandant, un­characteristically speechless. After a moment, he barks, “Request granted.”

Prisoners were never allowed to speak. Gajowniczek says, “I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me—a stranger. Is this some dream?”

The Saint of Auschwitz outlived the other nine. In fact, he didn’t die of thirst or starvation. He died only after the camp doctor injected phenol into his heart. It was August 14, 1941. Gajowniczek survived the Holocaust. He made his way back to his hometown. Every year, however, he goes back to Auschwitz. Every August 14 he goes back to say thank you to the man who died in his place. (Story is used and modified to fit my sermon from Six Hours One Friday, by Max Lucado pp. 66-68).

Gajowniczek had a purpose to live now and use it well as he returned every year to Auschwitz on the anniversary of the man who died in his place and thank him. The disciples had a purpose too; it is to tell the story of the resurrection and its power that changed the world one soul at a time.

But what about you? What is your purpose for living? Surely you know: just like Gajowniczek you are to bear witness to the great love that took your place on the firing line, to set you free and into the family of men. However you do it, and it will be distinctly your witness, He is using you by the power of the Holy Spirit to live your lives sharing the greatest story ever told—the story of your salvation and redemption. For indeed, not Kolbe, but Mary and Joseph’s Son, the Light to the Gentiles and Glory of His people, Israel, even Jesus, He took YOUR place. He offered it freely as He laid down His life on the cross of Calvary. And because He lives we have the Resurrection Power that gives us Power, Privilege, and the Purpose to share His love with that particular part of the world where you are planted… who need to know not of the “Saint of Auschwitz, but the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ to whom be glory now and FOREVER. AMEN. Go forth and sing it, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed… and so have you… Alleluia! Amen

Now the peace…


Monday, April 9, 2012

“Jesus on the Grave” 9th in sermon series Places of the Passion (John 19:38-42)

S-1311 Easter Sunday/3B 4/08/12 Hymns: (O) 199; 193; 200; (S) #201; L.S. 204; 208; 210; (C) 32 SOD

Text: Ps. 118:1-9, 15-24; Jer. 31:12; Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8;

Theme: “Jesus on the Grave” 9th in sermon series Places of the Passion (John 19:38-42)

Question: “Have you buried someone in a grave?” Armour, SD.

(There will be a casket at the front of the church as the service begins)

In the name of the Risen Christ, Amen. The text for the Resurrection Sunday is from the Gospel Lesson: “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:38-42).

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Today, we conclude our sermon series on the Places of the Passion at the Grave site of Him who was crucified for the sins of the world—Jesus the Christ, the heaven-sent Savior and Lamb of God.

After twelve years as a church organist, Cathy Norman did the almost unforgiveable thing, she overslept on Easter morning. The church service was scheduled for 6:30 AM. At 6:31 AM the pastor called to see if she was on her way – but she was still in bed. She lived near the church, however, and in ten minutes was seated at the organ. The following Easter her phone rang at 5:45 AM. When she answered, she heard the familiar voice of her pastor: “Christ is risen! And you’d better, too!” (7700 Illus., # 2783)

A little boy was always stealing things. So momma took him everywhere to get help but nothing seemed to work. Finally, she took Johnny to the pastor. She sat in the outer room while Johnny went in to the pastor’s study. After a long time the pastor asked, “Johnny, do you know where God is?” The boy bolted from the room, looked at his mother and said, “I’m getting out of here! God’s missing and they’re trying to blame that on me, too!” (Emph., Mar., ’91)

We might laugh and muse at the above illustrations. But it was no laughing matter to those few followers who stood beneath the cross on Friday. They had heard Him say: “IT IS FINISHED!!!” And, that He was dead. In the minds of some confused women, and confused disciples, the Son of God, their Savior was missing. On Friday, they had hurried to get Jesus’ body down from the cross and into the grave.

As our text tells us, Joseph of Arimathea who was part of the Jewish council came and asked Pilate for His body. Nicodemus, too, brought spices and the women did their best in preparing His body before sunset and laid His cold dead body in the grave with the intention of going there on Sunday to complete the work.

You can about imagine their broken hearts and spirits on Friday night. All their hopes have been dashed. Their Rabbi, Teacher and Lord is dead. Their eyes are wet with tears. There is an emptiness and void in their lives. Their dreams and aspiration all left and they are fearful of what the future may hold. PAUSE.

Perhaps you know that empty feeling too. You have stood by the side of your loved one as he/she was lowered to the grave. You felt your heart stop beating and your lungs stop breathing. You have felt the void and emptiness that came over you. Tears wet your cheeks, a lump is felt in your throat; and darkness envelope your sight. And you wonder about the future and how will you face tomorrow.

That is how the women felt. That is how Joseph of Arimathia and Nicodemus felt. That is how Mary His mother felt. That is how His disciples felt. And that is how many of His other followers felt.

But that was Friday and today is Sunday. As the old preacher said so well “Its Friday, but Suuuuunday’s coming.” Early on that first Sunday the women hurried to the grave intending to finish preparing Jesus’ lifeless body, only to find the great stone that had covered the grave had been rolled away by the angel. Now before them stood this dark, cold, grave, EMPTY. Now what? PAUSE.

With Sunday new hope is born to these women at the words of the angel that greeted them saying: Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him (Mk. 16:16). All of a sudden life had new meaning. Death has been swallowed up in victory. The Words of their Lord and Savior, which He spoke often, that He would be raised on the third day, had become alive in their broken and battered hearts. Light shined brighter than ever. The darkness of Friday has been replaced with the Light of Sunday and the glorious hope of the resurrection.

The grave is now open. The grave is empty and Christ is alive. Friday all hope seemed gone, but today hope is alive and well. Friday, hearts were filled with tears, but today their hearts dance with joy. Friday, fear enveloped them but today, courage and confidence is born anew. The cross of Good Friday has led us to the empty grave this morning. The body of our lifeless Lord is no longer in the grave. That is because we no longer have a lifeless Lord. No, our Lord is alive!

I will tell you, that I have stood at the grave site with many a family and their eyes were tinted with tears and sadness, but at the same time joy and gladness. That joy and gladness is found in Him who promised that those who die in Him shall rise again, have an eternity with Him. And with that promise they long for the glorious reunion that awaits all who put their faith and hope in Him alone.

As God’s sons and daughters, we realize that many people in the 21st century would say that He couldn’t have survived a Roman whipping, a crucifixion and a stab through the heart. Indeed, he didn’t and couldn’t because He died. But there is more, that they don’t and won’t address. Though He was in the grave, though He was dead; yet on the third day, the crucified Son of God and Man, defied physics and gravity and burst forth out of the grave. THIS IS OUR MESSAGE. Jesus is no longer in the grave, He is alive forever more. HE IS RISEN INDEED!

(Now come down to the casket and open it) On this glorious Easter morning, as your pastor, I am privileged to share with you the mighty deeds of the Savior of the world. But this means nothing unless He is YOUR Divine Savior. The One who has destroyed death, the One who has done away with Satan and the One who has done it all for you—paid for your salvation by His own life. When He is YOUR Savior, He gives you a promise. In baptism you are promised that a day will come when YOUR casket like this one will be empty. Because of Jesus, death is not a permanent thing!

Today, we stand at the grave, no longer occupied, but empty because Christ FINISHED YOUR salvation and redemption and reconciliation. What joy it is for us to be here today to hear again the glorious announcement of the angel, “He is not here, He is Risen as He said!” And thus, we, who stood at Golgotha on that Friday and saw our Lord’s death and His body being placed in the grave, stand here and now shout the shout of victory: HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! AMEN!


Now the peace…


Saturday, April 7, 2012

“Jesus on the CROSS” 8th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1310 GF/3B 4/06/12 Hymns: (O) # 175; 140:1-3; 4-6; (S) #172:1-2; 3-4; 171:1-3, 4-6 TLH

Text: Psalm 22:1-11; Hosea 6:1-6; Hebrew 4:14-16; John 1:29; 19:17-30

Theme: “Jesus on the CROSS” 8th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “No question tonight?” Armour, SD.

In the name of the Crucified Christ, Amen. The text for the GF is from the Gospel Lesson: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’... After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, “I thirst.” 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 1:29; 19:17-30).

Precious saints in Christ, it all started long ago when the Creator of the Universe stood by our fallen parents in the Garden of Eden and spoke His first Gospel proclamation: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). Many centuries had gone by and now in the Judean hills, a young maiden in a stable is being coached to give birth to her first-born Son. One more push and the baby comes out and suddenly the angels fill the skies and announce: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

That night of long ago; was one of joy and great anticipation that the Savior of mankind has been born. But tonight is totally different. This night is one of sadness and sorrow, agony and affliction. During this time of the year as they observe the Passover, every Jewish boy asks: ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery” (Ex. 13:14).

Tonight, the scene is played over as it has many years before. A river of pilgrims has traveled from every corner of the world to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. Every language is heard on the streets, but the greatest noise is of the bleating sheep that will be sacrificed for the temple offering. As every lamb is slaughtered blood runs down. This blood is a payment for sins. But what kind of God is this who would be appeased by the death of an animal? So many years have come and gone. So many sheep have been slaughtered? So much blood has been spilled. Is that all there is to it? How many sacrifices? How many carcasses are needed to pay for man’s sins? PAUSE.

And thus, we too, join the great crowds and listen in our own language to what is taking place on Golgotha beneath the cross this Friday. On this night we are moved to ask: ‘What does this mean?’ Again, the answer resounds, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out from the house of slavery.”

It is the extended hands on the cross of the Carpenter from Nazareth, Jesus the Christ who makes this night different and bring about eternal changes. He accomplishes the impossible in the course of one day. A single Friday! All carried out in the short span of 6 hours. He takes what is upside down and turns it right side up. He restores God’s broken world to its Creator God.

From 9:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m. 6 short hours. 6 hours one Friday in the Judean Hills, and the angels are silent. No good news announcement. No mention of the Babe in the swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Tonight, there is stillness and darkness as the heavenly chorus remains silent. Instead they watch this same Babe who became a MAN, now hanging totally naked upon the cursed and cruel tree of death called the cross.

Six hours one Friday. To the casual observer these six hours are mun­dane and monotonous. But to the handful of awestruck witnesses the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed. Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramps. Yet, death is not ready.

Far worse than the breaking of His body is the shredding of His heart. His own brothers screamed for His death by crucifixion. His own disciple planted the kiss of betrayal—the kiss of death. His closest companions ran for cover. The Governor of Jerusalem, despites His clear and convincing innocence, slams the gavel down and gives the order of death to be carried out. And now, now, even His own Father turns His back on Him, leaving Him alone. And there is no one to save Him, to rescue Him, to sooth His pain or wipe away His blood from His disfigured body. He is sacrificing Himself as the Passover Lamb promised long ago.

These are no ordinary six hours. They begin with a beautiful sunshine and end in total darkness. This is not a normal Friday. It is God’s Friday. This is no ordinary night; but a night that God long ago set in motion to redeem humanity from the slavery of sin, death and hell. To be sure this night is DIFFERENT from all nights—because this night, the good, the bad and the ugly meet on Calvary’s Hill. This Friday begins with life and ends with the death of the innocent Son of God.

Things changed quickly. The air is cool now. The sky is black as black can be. No thunder. No lightening. No clouds. The sheep are restless. The feeling is eerie. And all people are in awe as they wonder what has happened to eclipse the sun/Son. Many have heard the clamor of soldiers taking the Rabbi to crucify Him. Indeed, this Friday is DIFFERNT.

On that Hill stands 3 condemned criminals hanging on the cruelest instrument mankind has ever devised—a Roman cross. In the middle hangs Jesus Christ the Lamb—of God. But before this Lamb takes its last breath and shed its blood, one of the thieves speaks and pleads for mercy. This thief makes confession of His sins and profession of Jesus’ innocence and receives from Christ’s own lips the promise of life-eternal beginning today.

Why is this night different from all other nights was the question the young Jewish boys asked as they gathered to celebrate the Passover. And we must ask the same also. The answer is given by God Himself. “For God so loved the world that He gave His…” The cross: deepest demonstration of God’s unending love. Dead tree, living Savior.

On the cross God brings together the best and worst: His fiery judgment and His boundless love, His wrath and His forgiveness, hell and heaven. Because of our sin He pours His furious wrath on His Son. Because of the perfect obedience of His Son Jesus Christ He pours His love and forgiveness out for you and all people.

We can’t help but ask this heart-wrenching question: “My Jesus, why do you give no thought to saving yourself? Why not use Your power and come down from the cursed tree? What keeps You there? What holds You to the cross? Nails don’t hold gods to trees. What makes You stay? In 4 simple words: HIS LOVE FOR YOU!

It is His love for you as His created beings that causes Him to stay on the cross and endures the wrath of God and the punishment of hell. It is His love for you as a condemned sinner that He, the INNOCENT One exchanges His life for yours. It is His love for you that He offers Himself as the Passover Lamb so that the angel of Death passes over you.

This evening as we are in the Places of the Passion beneath the cross, let us hear anew the sweetest Words spoken by Jesus from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” From the cross you and I receive blessing after blessing. A Song by Joseph Martin called “Without the Cross” helps us grasp the value of Christ’s cross.

Without His tears, there is no comfort (refrain)
Without His death, there is no life
Without His blood, there is no pardon
Without His cross, there is no crown.

Without His shame, there is no glory
Without His grief, there is no joy
Without His stripes, there is no healing
Without His cross, there is no crown.

Lamb of God, who bring salvation
And with Your grace, our hearts are sealed
Lord, with Your tears of love, You bathed our sorrows
In Your eyes we stand revealed. (refrain)

Those 6 hours one Friday with Jesus hanging on the cross changed History. As darkness descended on the land, life was ebbing away from Lamb of God. And then, that figure on the cruel tree of death speaks yet once more. “IT IS FINISHED!!!” Satan is Finished! Death is Finished! Salvation is Finished! Redemption is Finished! And Eternity is guaranteed! YOUR ETERNITY BELOVED IS CERTAIN BECAUSE OF HIM WHO IS OUR PASSOVER LAMB WHO STRETCHED HIS HANDS ON THE CROSS TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH HE LOVES YOU. AMEN.

Now the peace…


Friday, April 6, 2012

“Jesus In the Upper Room” 7th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1309 MT/3B 4/05/12 Hymns: (O) #154; (S) #156; L.S. #163; #307 (C) TLH

Text: Psalm 116; Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Matthew 26:17-29

Theme: “Jesus In the Upper Room” 7th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “What is the best meal you have ever eaten?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the Maundy Thursday is from the Gospel Lesson: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (Matthew 26:26-29).

Saints in Christ, last Sunday during the Triumphal entry to Jerusalem we heard these words: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” That began a week of wonder and amazement. May God bless you as we continue to the Places of the Passion and journey from the throngs greeting Christ at the Eastern city gate to the gift of grace in the Upper room, to the solemnity of the Garden, to the mockery and scorn of the abuse heaped upon Him, to His suffering and anguish on the cross, to His being laid in a borrowed grave and finally to our waiting in vigil for the announcement of His resurrection and the ensuing celebration.

Jesus in the Upper Room and the Setting (Passover), it is a Solemn, Sacred, Sublime event with special meaning not only to those who were celebrating the Passover then, but to us too, when we behold the Divine Physician in mercy dispenses the medicine of immortality.

It is in the quiet, stillness and calmness, that we see the love of and face of Jesus fully in the Upper Room. Tonight, in this place we, behold the Carpenter from Nazareth exchanging the tools of His trade—wood, hammer and nails, to basin, water and towel; then stooping so low that He becomes a servant for His 12 followers and washes their feet.

This act which was only reserved to the lowest servants in the house is performed by Him who is the Greatest Servant of all—Jesus Christ. Then, He continues to serve them, by preparing for them the Passover Meal—a sumptuous Meal for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of their faith.

This Meal is delicious. This Meal is beneficial. This Meal is for the healing of both body and soul. And whoever is privileged to eat of this Meal knows the joy that fills his heart and the blessings received by it. This is not a Meal that satisfies your physical hunger, but spiritual. This cup is not one that quenches your thirst, but in you it becomes a living spring of hope and peace. PAUSE.

Perhaps, you remember statements such as this: “You’ve got to taste this!” So said our mothers as they thrust lima beans into our face. “You’ve got to taste this!” So say our spouses as they thrust their latest concoction of hot dish into our face. But all this pales in comparison to the taste test conducted by a gourmet cook as she thrust dog food upon an unsuspecting guest!

That’s right, you heard me right…dog food! It all happened at an elegant reception near Denver, Colorado. The dog food was served on delicate little crackers with a wedge of imported cheese, bacon chips, an olive, and a sliver of pimento on top. You’ve got it. It was hors d’oeurves a la Alpo. The hostess had just graduated from a gourmet cooking course and decided it was time to put her skills to the ultimate test. After doctoring up those miserable morsels and putting them on a couple of silver trays, with a sly grin she watched them all disappear. One man just couldn’t get enough. When they broke the news to him he probably barked and bit her on the leg! In all likelihood, he was famished for real food and thirsty for a gallon of water.

Tonight, in this place the Carpenter who becomes chef and server, serves us a truly gourmet Meal—not dog food, but Lamb’s food. As He entered the Holy City of Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate otherwise known as the sheep gate, He knew that He would be slaughtered. He knew He would be butchered. He knew His blood would be spilled to ransom the world, so that the angle of death would pass over His followers and they would never be forsaken by God.

On that Solemn, Sacred, Special night in the Upper Room, Jesus left His disciples the greatest gift He could. It was a gift built on the Old Testament sacrifices that had pointed to His death for many centuries. When a worshiper brought his sacrificial animal to the priest, he laid his hand on the animal’s head. As he confessed his sin, God transferred his guilt onto the animal, which was then killed in his place. In one special sacrifice the meat of that sacrificial animal was roasted and then given back to the worshiper and his family to eat. By eating the very body of the sacrificial victim who died so they might live, they were reassured they were forgiven by their God.

Gathered together around the table, Jesus gave His disciples His own body, miraculously united to the bread—the very body that would carry their guilt and sin to the cross. In the wine He gave them His own blood, soon to be shed for the forgiveness of all people. As Jesus’ followers continue to receive His body and His blood in Holy Communion tonight, they receive the assurance of their forgiveness for Jesus’ sake.

Here in this place beloved in the Lord, Jesus becomes the Chef of dispensing food and drink for the soul that brings life and salvation. The hymn writer captured it correctly when he wrote: “Draw nigh and take the body of the Lord; And drink the holy blood for you outpoured. Offered was He for greatest and for least, Himself the victim and Himself the Priest” (TLH 307 vs. 1).

This High Priest who is after the order of Melchizedeck offers to His disciples of old and us the miracle of LOVE. He left us the treasure of His Holy Supper, in which He gives His true body with the bread and His true blood with the wine so that penitent sinners might be assured of forgiveness. “Go in peace,” this Priest tells the penitent, “your sins are forgiven as surely as the body and blood prepared that forgiveness which you now have just received.”

Oh, the blessings we have tonight on this most Sacred, Sublime and Solemn night. Jesus knows what lies ahead for Him—suffering, extreme agony, shame and humiliation and finally crucifixion and death—death on a Roman cross. Yet, He doesn’t think of Himself for this is the reason He came to earth to win man’s redemption by the shedding of His blood as the Passover Lamb.

Oh, the privilege He gives us tonight, to dine with Him and drink with Him the Holy FOOD and the Life-giving CUP to take away our shame and disgrace and give us eternal life.

Unlike the gourmet cook in Denver who prepared dog food, Jesus gives us Lamb’s food prepared on the wood of the cross for you. Therefore, when this Meal of LOVE is offered soon, come please, come eat, come drink and receive the GRACE and Treasure of heaven in, with, and under the bread and wine His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

THIS IS GIVEN FOR YOU, by Him who loved you then, and loves you now. And when you receive this gift, go home in peace knowing full well your sins and forgiven you and heaven’s gate is opened wide.


Now the peace of God…


Sunday, April 1, 2012

“A Letter of Obedience” (Philippians 2:5-8) 6th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1308 Palm Sunday/3B 4/01/12 Hymns: (O) #161; (S) #160; (C) #162

Text: Zechariah 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 15:1-47

Theme: “A Letter of Obedience” (Philippians 2:5-8) 6th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Question: “Would you rather serve or be the boss?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for Palm Sunday is the Epistle Lesson. “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 emptied Himself, by 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 (Philippians 2:5-8).

You, who are most precious in His sight, it appears that our world has lost its focus and everyone is looking for something better and grander. This is evident with the rise of Reality TV. I am amazed at what people are willing to do on shows like Survivor, endure on shows like the Jerry Springer and share on shows like The Real Housewives, Jon & Kate Plus 8; (which is no longer the case), Sister Wives and Teen Moms. It seems that so many of our neighbors have given in to the temptation to seek out what Andy Warhol called the 15 minutes of fame. They are in search of the cash prizes. But I think even more, they seek the notoriety and the fame. They will do anything, eat anything, say anything and endure anything all in search of being noticed. I am dumbfounded, that so many people don’t consider it a big deal to embarrass themselves. The airwaves are full of these stupid and senseless shows that vie for our attention, and gives the indication that this is the real way to live.

It would be very easy for us to look out there at the world and shake our head and just marvel at how stupid the world is in search of fortune and fame. But on this Palm Sunday, it is important for us to take a long hard look not at the world but at ourselves. How often do we (you and I), do, say, and think things to put us in the spotlight before the world, co-workers or family? When we go the extra mile at work and we get noticed and appreciated, we feel great. When we put in the extra work and no one says a thing, don’t we secretly burn inside? Don’t we fuss and fume because the applause we deserved and secretly craved never came? Parents how often have you slaved and sacrificed for the sake of your children, only to have them not notice and even complain about you in their ingratitude? How does that make you feel? Husbands, how often have we on a rare occasion did something around the house without being asked and when we aren’t thanked for it we feel bruised. And when we bring it to our wife’s attention we get back the fact that we never thanked them for their day to day work? How does that make you feel?

The real truth is this: we long to be the one taking the credit for what we have done! We dream of being the kid who hits the winning shot in the state championship game. We want the lead in the play. We want to be the go-to-guy for the boss. We dream of the dinner in our honor and the accolades that come with it. Our entire existence is driven by our secret need, longing and even lusting for power! It is hard to hear. But it is the truth!

This desire is the root reason that we struggle so much with obedient service. There are just too many things in our lives that paint sacrifice and service as weakness. The world around us practices the theory to take care of yourself first and climb the ladder of success at all cost. But it isn’t just the world that is the problem. The biggest problem we have is the voice inside of us that has never been satisfied with being created beings. Inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve we are beset with the desire to be “like God.” Ever since they reached for what they could not have apart from God, their children, including you and me, have been reaching as well. The reach is driven by our desire for glory, fame, power and position. Again, this was evident this week, with so many people rushing to buy the Mega Lottery. PAUSE.

But on this Palm Sunday, we are not talking about Reality TV, or 15 minutes of fame that the Rabbi Jesus wanted to have. No, we are talking about the Real and True Savior, who obediently came to earth to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. The REAL Deal is this humble Suffering Servant comes riding on a donkey, to make our lives right with God. And this is not something stupid or senseless, but one that brings life and salvation to poor miserable sinners like us.

The Real Deal is to watch in amazement what Jesus is willing to do to win our redemption. He is willing to endure anything the devil throws at Him, anything the Jewish Leaders accuse Him of, anything Pilate dishes out to Him—scourging, flogging, nails, spear, twisted crown of thorns and crucifixion; and the full wrath of God as He is forsaken by the Father of all grace.

Therefore, on this Sunday of the Passion, we join the crowds in Jerusalem as Jesus makes His Triumphal entry to the city of peace to bring about once and for all peace between God and man. We travel along the busy streets to the cheers and waving of Palm branches and the singing of the loud hosanna, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Then there is that sweet quote from Zechariah 9:9 that speaks of how He comes humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey - and not on the steed of the conqueror. He conquers in humility, in lowliness, in service and in love. He who holds the Universe in His hands will go so low that you are lifted up by Him.

While the crowds may not understand what is happening, Jesus knows the full plan. In eternity, it was clear that selfless sacrifice was going to be the only way that our death was going to be undone. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are what this obedience is ALL about. It is the very thing that St. Paul writes about in the text, when he shares the ancient song of the Christ that says “Though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by 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 crossIt is this song that gives us the REAL DEAL and the wonderful joy of Holy Week.

In Jesus’ obedience to the will and mission of the Father, we have salvation, we have redemption and we have victory over sin and death. There is no other way. No shortcut. No easy button. Just a cruel, cold cross. Just death. That’s it. Here we behold the true meaning of obedience done for our benefit. PAUSE.

In the 2nd book of Samuel, we see another type of obedience carried out by Uriah. David had slept with his Uriah’s wife and she became pregnant. He asked Uriah to go home to be with his wife so he can hide his sin, but he wouldn’t. Finally, David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter, [David wrote to Joab], “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.”

Uriah in obedience carried the King’s letter which was his death sentence without him knowing about it. Yet he obeyed the King. When Joab got the letter he, too, obeyed David and put Uriah to the death.

But Jesus knowing full well that He holds in His hands the Letter of Obedience which was His death sentence He still obeyed. This letter of obedience was discussed around the heavenly Kitchen table, when the Father told Him, “Son, you must go. You must give Your life as a payment for the world’s sin. You must be crucified and pay the price of redemption by shedding Your blood.” And He did. He became obedient even unto death the death of the cross.

In obedience to the will of the Savior, the pastor puts on the stole, to remind Him and His hearers of Christ’s perfect obedience by which He obtains for us the Robe of eternal life. In the waters of Holy Baptism, we are called to this obedience as well. The cross we bear on our foreheads and on our hearts marks us for this service. It is not a service that saves, for Jesus has already done that. No, it is a service that is in willing obedience to the One who had us in mind as He went to the cross for us. It is not deserved and it does not draw attention to us. Instead, that obedience points to another.

Therefore, today, we don’t offer our Lord our palms or our cloaks. No, today by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we offer our Coming King our bowed knees. We place ourselves under His care. We sacrifice our desire for a false reality of glory for the reality of His salvation won for us on Calvary! We do this knowing that by faith we are trading 15 minutes of fleeting fame, for an eternity with Him in a lasting glory! So sing your hosannas with the crowds. For today that prayer is answered! Today the Lord comes to save His people. Including you and me! Amen.

Now the peace…