“Turn to Jesus When You Face Temptations”-A Sermon on Mark 14:32-41 for Midweek Lenten Services

Do we always take temptation seriously? We often make light of temptation with very trivial matters. The sweets sitting on the kitchen counter tempt us to break our diet, which we have been working so hard on. At the store we think how tempting it is buy some clothes to add to our wardrobe, after all they are on sale. Spring break will quickly be upon us. It might be tempting to get away for a day or two or the whole week for some much needed relaxation. Yes, there might be temptation in these situations, but they do not affect our spiritual condition.

Do we always recognize how dangerous real temptations can be? When it comes to harm to our spiritual life, we might shrug it off as nothing. We will deal with it as it comes. If the pain does not come immediately, maybe it is no big deal. The worst scenario might be that we grow cold to temptation just forgetting to protect ourselves from the great harm it inflicts.

Temptation is serious. We never want to think of it lightly in any way. We also know where to turn when temptations come. We turn to our Savior who overcame all temptations for us.

Jesus faced his own temptations during his time here on earth. If I asked when he faced those temptations, how would you answer? Many might go to the three famous temptations Satan came to Jesus with them in the desert. We cannot argue with that. Satan brought those temptations to Jesus in order to deter him from his mission in this world.

We cannot forget another time Jesus faced enormous temptations. Our lesson today points us to the great agony Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he would die on the cross.

The passion of Jesus would soon kick into high gear. The triumphant entry on Palm Sunday amid shouts of “Hosanna” would soon turn to the loud cries of “Crucify!” The time with his disciples in the upper room started the somber mood for the evening. Now, with the meal done, Jesus and his disciples traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane. Usually this was a beautiful place. Jesus visited this garden often on much better days.

On this night Jesus did not come to enjoy the beauty of the garden at night. He came to pray. He took Peter, James, and John with him away from the others. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). Jesus felt the pressure mounting. He knew what awaited him. He knew the pain of the cross. He knew the punishment for the world’s sins would be placed upon him.

Jesus prayed this night earnestly, perhaps more earnestly than he had ever prayed before, “Abba, Father everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35). The Son approached his heavenly Father with a heartfelt plea. If only there would be another way sin could be atoned for, let it happen! If all the pain and suffering waiting him in the near future could be done away with, let it be so! It would be tempting for Jesus to walk away from it all. He could have called down those legions of angels to protect him from the Jewish police marching closer. He could have went to heaven leaving Pontius Pilate and the Jews in bewilderment at what to do next.

The devil was there with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He whispered in Jesus’ ear, as he prayed, “You don’t need to do this. Walk away. Think of the pain. Think of the ridicule. Let God figure out another plan for the salvation of the world.” The turmoil of Jesus’ soul reached a boiling point.

Jesus would quickly close the door on any temptation trying to enter. Even though he wished for another way to save the world, he put himself under the will of his Father. Jesus would go through with all the pain and suffering if it meant sin would be paid for. There was no other way. Jesus needed to suffer. Jesus needed to face punishment for our sins. Jesus needed to die.

No one asks for temptation to come. We do not wake up in the morning hoping that temptation will come in waves throughout the day. Rather, we pray that God would keep temptation at bay from us, even going so far to asking for no temptations even to arise in our life.

However, we know that will not happen. When temptation does come, do we always recognize it? Temptations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The temptation to swear comes as we gather with our friends. We think it is harmless. We join in thinking we can do it just this once. We feel the temptation to skip church. Again, it does not seem like a big deal. Everyone does it. One week of missing church will not hurt. It will feel good to sleep in and get things done around the house. Before we know it, we grow too comfortable in missing church. We miss so often, we lose our favorite pew.

We might think of temptation lightly. We might not even recognize temptation, but we need to remember our Savior. He carried the punishment for all our sins. Our Savior needed to die so that those sins might be remembered no more by our gracious God. Every sin is an act of disobedience to God. We can be thankful that Jesus backed away from his temptations, so that we might be forgiven for walking head first into our temptations. He would fight the devil and crush his head by his death on the cross.

If we think temptation will not harm us, we need to hear Jesus’ warning to his disciples. After Jesus finishes his prayer, he returns to the disciples. Those men should have been praying alone with Jesus. They should have been there for their master whose heart was heavy with sorrow. How did Jesus find them? They are asleep.

“Simon are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:37). It had been a long day for the disciples. They grew tired from all the activities of the Passover. They wanted to go home to bed, but Jesus brought them out here to the Garden of Gethsemane. They fell asleep failing to recognize the magnitude of the situation.

Jesus warned them again to pray. He went back to pray by himself. When he returned, he found them all asleep. Their spirit might have wanted to remain alert and awake. Their bodies let them down. The time was too late. Judas entered the Garden. He came not to join Jesus in prayer, but he led the Jews to arrest Jesus.

We might be like those disciples sleeping when temptation comes. We go through this life blind to all the temptations around us. We think somehow all those temptations will be handled and not bother us. We also will look to our own strength to overcome those temptations. The devil dare not come after me, because I will defeat him all the time. I am wise to his tricks. All too soon we fall.

Our feeble flesh will fail. We need to stay alert. We need to come to Jesus for strength to overcome all temptations. He knows what it is like to overcome temptation. He went to the cross to pay for all our failings. We look to his victory over sin, death, and the devil to overcome our temptations.

Jesus promises to help us. We fend off Satan’s attacks by going back to God’s Word. We point to our Savior who overcame Satan, and he will help us overcome our temptations. Our faith trusts firmly in God for all of this.

We cannot take temptation lightly. Our spirit is willing to fight against those temptations. It does so not with its own power but with God’s power. We will overcome temptation with God’s power and his victory on our side. So the next time temptation comes, turn to Jesus! Amen.

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“God Has Changed Me”-A Sermon on Ephesians 5:8-14, for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

Change. If there is one word that causes tension and disagreement, this might be it. We think to ourselves, “Why should I change? I do not want to change. There is no reason to change. I will not change.” We get set in our ways. We grow comfortable with the status quo seeing no reason to upset the balance in life. Even when it comes to our behaviors or actions, either good or bad, we can say we will change. In theory it sounds good. Practically speaking it becomes very difficult.

If we want any concrete example of how hard it is to change, we only need look at some of our habits. We grow accustomed to loading the dishwasher a certain way. We have our morning routine down pat. Even the way we drive to church, the grocery store, or the pharmacy always remains the same. If someone tries to change the way we do things, it might be very difficult for us. We dig in our heels. We argue. Maybe we finally give in, but not without a fight.

Change can be hard. However, all of us have undergone a change in our life. It changed us at our very core. It happened without our asking, maybe we even forgot about that great change which took place in our life. With all of that said, it was a very important change. It is a change very important to our eternal being.

God Changed Me

  1. I can now see
  2. I am now a light.

 Light and darkness have been used often, and not just in the Bible, to denote the battle of good and evil. In the movie Star Wars Luke Skywalker, dressed in white for good, battles Darth Vader, clad all in black for evil. In any movie when a dark ominous scene comes up, we know it does not mean anything good is on the horizon. The Bible uses this picture of light and darkness for believers and unbelievers.

The Apostle Paul has carefully crafted in this section how the Christian ought to live. The Christian’s life would be vastly different from the life of the unbeliever. He said of us, “For you were once darkness” (Ephesians 5:8). Notice how Paul described our lives. He did not say we were in darkness. Nor did he say we were influenced by the darkness. He said we were darkness.

By nature we came into this world as blind unbelievers. We went around without any direction. The only thing we did know was the dark life of sin. The long list of the dark deeds, which Paul described in the last chapter and a half, of unbelief described us. We wanted nothing to do with God. We walked in step with our culture. We fulfilled all of our wishes, no matter how dark and dreadful. The only person we looked out for would be ourselves, and how much pleasure we could gain in life.

We were darkened by sin and unbelief. Spiritually blind we walked through this life destined for only one place, and we did not know any better. However, the darkness would not hold us forever, “But now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). God has changed me. God converted me.

Conversion makes a complete change in a person. It describes a one hundred eighty degree turn. We are driving east and then turn a U-turn to go west. We once lived stealing and cheating; we now live an honest life. God changed me. God changed my spiritual condition.

We changed from darkness to light. We changed from blindness to now seeing. Light serves a very important role in this world. Without light we would never be able to see. God shines a new light upon us. Paul explains it this way, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). Once we slept. Now, we rose from the dead. Christ fills our heart with the light of faith, so that we can see clearly.

We see how awful our life of sin was. Our deeds of disobedience against God now are laid bare. Our evil thoughts plague us. Our lustful thoughts weigh down the guilty conscience. Our covetous thoughts cause us to feel unhappy. We left the dreadful way of life. Christ shines on us. Our focus shifts from us to Christ and what he did for me. God has changed me.

Christ has opened our eyes in conversion to show us the answer to all of our problems. Jesus no longer is just the name of another prophet. Jesus brings us peace. Jesus brings balm to the wounds sin inflicted upon us. Jesus says to look to him for he is the Savior of the world.

Our eyes focus clearly now. We look in the distance and see a cross. We walk a little closer. The cross bears the stains of blood, the innocent blood of our Savior. We see a tomb in the background. We see the stone rolled away. No one lies in the tomb. The angels tell us that he has risen. Christ shines in glory. Christ’s glory shines upon us opening our eyes so that we can see him as our Savior.

Our life will never be the same. Paul urges us to live a much different life, “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10). We leave behind our old way of life. We embark on a new journey. A life not lived to please ourselves, but a life lived to please God. A life not walking in blindness, but we walk seeing clearly the path God has laid out for us.

We know what pleases God. We find it on the pages of Scripture. Christ did not leave us wondering, but he it laid out for us. Everything we do in faith pleases our Lord. As we come to worship, we do a God pleasing thing. This week of spring break families will relax and enjoy each other’s company, and that is a good thing. We go to work. We help others. All of this is what pleases our Lord and Savior when it is done in faith.

God has changed me, and it is a change for the better. I can now see. I can see as a child of the light. The Christian’s life will be different from the life of everyone else. It should be evident, because we can see. As Christians we also live as a light.

Paul’s encouragement for the Christian’s life continues, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). Our life of faith is a complete separation from all that will harm us. In our physical life we will stay away from things that harm. We do not eat too many sweets. We don’t do drugs. We exercise.

Christ calls us to stay away from the deeds of darkness. They look good. They even come masking their true intentions of harming us and our faith. We need to stand firm. All those deeds of disobedience will kill us with their poisonous bite.

We should rather expose all those dark deeds. One purpose of light is to expose things. We drive with our headlights on so that we can see the road. On country roads we will even turn on our brights so that we can see the deer and raccoons that have death wish as they dart out into the road. When a storm knocks out the power to our house, we retrieve a flashlight. This way we will not trip over kid’s toys or dirty laundry. Light exposes any dangers in our path.

God calls us to expose those deeds of darkness. We expose them for what they really are, sin. “For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). We do not even want to know what some people do in secret. It makes us shutter what some people are capable of in how they treat people and their actions.

When we look at the things we are capable of, it should make us shutter. We would like to think some of our deeds can be covered by darkness. The things we look at on the computer go against God’s commands of keeping us pure. The books we read make us imagine what it would be like to have everything and answer to no one. The things we say in the privacy of the company of friends would only lead to trouble, if they got out in the open.

We need to expose those deeds. The light of God’s Word shows us the dangers of those sinful actions. We then need to separate ourselves from those actions. For God has changed me. He has made me a light. As a light we point the way to Jesus.

As an answer to all those sinful deeds we commit, we point ourselves, and others, to Jesus. He is the only answer to all the selfish deeds of darkness. He is the light of the world, as we just sang in our hymn of the day. In Christ all our sin has been removed. No longer do we live in the shadows covering our actions. We come to the light. We point to Jesus and the great action he has done for us, washing our sins away.

We find peace in him. We find strength in him. Christ shines on us with his love, peace, and forgiveness. That is a place where we can be forever. We live as children of God, eager to please him and do his commands.

God has changed me. Thanks be to him that he has. It was needed for our life. We needed to see for the first time how far we were in the darkness of unbelief. God has changed me to be a light in this world. He wants us to expose the evil deeds and point others to him.

We might try to resist change. We might not even want to change in life. We might make change a lot more difficult than it really needs to be. There is one change we can thankful for. God has changed me! Amen.    

 

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Sermon on Genesis 12:1-8 for the 2nd Sunday in Lent – March 12, 2017

Genesis 12:1-8

1Now the LORD said to Abram, “Get out of your country and away from your relatives and from your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you.  2I will make you a great nation.  I will bless you and make your name great.  You will be a blessing.  3I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse anyone who dishonors you.  All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you.”  4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.  Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  5Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother’s son, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to travel to the land of Canaan.  Eventually they arrived in the land of Canaan.  6Abram passed through the land until he came to the Oak of Moreh at the place called Shechem.  The Canaanites were in the land at that time.  7The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.”  Abram built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.  8He moved on from there to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent there, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.  There he built an altar to the Lord and proclaimed the name of the Lord.   (Evangelical Heritage Version)

Dear friends in Christ,

There are two or three questions that seemingly recur many times through each of our lives.  Basically, the questions ask the same thing; just asked a couple different ways.  The questions are:  “What should I do?”   “Where should I go?”   “What direction should I take?”

These questions come up rather early in life, as early as 6th, 7th or 8th Grade, at least here among our Christian children these questions should come up:   “What should I do?  Where should I go … to high school?”  Should I attend Beaver Dam High School?  Or should I attend Lakeside Lutheran High School, where I’ll hear God’s Word every day and where every class subject has God’s Word for it underpinnings?  Or should I attend Luther Preparatory School over in Watertown, where God’s Word also is the foundation of everything taught and done there, and where they would also be putting before me the possibility of serving Jesus in my life by being a Lutheran School Teacher or a Pastor?

Then the questions arise again as high school graduation nears.  “What should I do?”  “Where should I go? College?  What college?  Tech or trade school?  Into the work force?”  Once you’re in the work force, the questions will occasionally arise again.  A job offer comes.  “What should I do?  Where should I go?”  Maybe job offers don’t come, but you realize it’s time to get out of the current job and find a new one.  “What should I do?  Where should I go?”

I don’t know that Abram was asking these questions at the time of his life recorded in Genesis 12.  Perhaps a couple decades before, with his father Terah, his wife Sarai and Lot his nephew, son of his deceased brother they had moved from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, originally intending to move to Canaan.  But they stopped and settled in Haran.  (Just a little geography to help us picture on the globe where these places were … Haran was in the area that today would be northern Syria, right near the border with Turkey; in the news these days due to civil war in Syria causing people to flee for refuge toward Turkey.  Ur, his original home, was in what is now southern Iraq, toward the Persian Gulf, near Kuwait.)  Abram seemed to be content there; probably not asking those questions.  Then it all changed!  The Lord God told him to pick up and move, to go where he would show him.  Now the questions may have entered his mind!  “What should I do?”  “Should I go?”

But, setting aside what we would think might have been several good reasons to stay, Abram went where God told him to go.  We also might think Abram had good reasons to stay put.  He and his family were now familiar with and comfortable in Haran.  They were established in business among the “ranchers / herdsmen” around Haran.  They had already made a long move, from Ur to Haran, maybe 500-600 miles.  A move to Canaan, as Abram and his father had originally intended to make, would be another 400-500 miles.  They would be far from family and friends.  And, Abram was 75 years old!    But God’s reasons to go far outweighed any reasons Abram could come up with to stay.  So he went.

Today we look at Abram and his relationship with the LORD, then look at ourselves and our relationship with him.  We consider “going” in the sense of not only physically picking up and moving somewhere, but also in the sense of just going about life; going in a particular direction in life.  To evaluate our relationship with our God in this way, we ask the question:

Will You Go Where God Tells You to Go?

He Gives you good reasons to go. 

     Reason number one for Abram to go where God told him to go wasn’t a reason that God spoke to Abram.  The reason is in the One who was speaking!   This was the LORD, God himself!  As Adam and Eve and every one of their descendants has found, it’s not good to disobey your Creator.  It results in a separation from him and from all of his goodness. 

     But now for the reasons the Lord gave directly to Abram to go where God was telling him to go.  “I will bless you”, the Lord told Abram.  God promised Abram that as he went where the Lord told him to go he would bless him.  When we think of the words “bless” and “blessing” we tend to think of good things, things that make us happy.  And that is certainly true.  But there’s more.  As we consider our relationship with our God and God’s working in our lives, it might be better to understand God saying to Abram and to us, “I will cause and allow things to happen in your life that will be for your good and happiness now and in eternity.”

As God had blessed Abram, so he would continue to do so.  He had provided for Abram’s earthly needs, allowing him to amass herds and flocks.  He had workers and extended family members in his life.  He had the promise of God’s love and eternal blessing in the promise of a Savior who would gain for him eternal and perfect happiness with God himself.       Those good things continued through Abram’s life, wherever he was.  But the Lord also allowed challenging circumstances in Abram’s life, through which the blessing of growth in trust and love in the Lord would occur.  Such was the case when Abram would deal occasionally with his nephew Lot or when the Lord called on Abram to sacrifice his dearly loved son, Isaac.  And, oh, how the Lord taught and nurtured the virtue and blessing of patience in Abram and Sarai as he promised them that son whom He didn’t give until they were about 100 years old!

God’s Reason #2 for Abram to go where God would tell him to go was:  “I will make you a blessing”.

How true that already was regarding Abram, but it continued, perhaps to a greater degree.  Abram had moved to Haran with his father.  Certainly in the later years of his father’s life Abram the son was a blessing as he cared for his elderly father.  Abram was a husband, a godly husband.  What a blessing to Sarai his wife!  Abram’s brother, Haran, had died while the family still live in Ur.  It seems Abram took over guardianship of Lot, which was a blessing to Lot throughout his life.  At least once, after Lot had chosen to live close to Sodom and Gomorrah, Uncle Abraham came to his physical, and maybe spiritual rescue.  And finally, Abram had “acquired” many people while in Haran, servants and hired laborers, who were physically and, no doubt spiritually, blessed through their relationships with this godly man.

     But Reason (Promise) #3 given by the Lord to Abram is the “biggie”!  “All the families of the earth will be blessed in you.”  One part of the keeping of that promise of blessing is in our Gospel lesson today (John 4:5-26; Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar). This promise of blessing is just the continuation or repeating of the promise we heard in last week’s Old Testament lesson (Genesis 3:1-15) in which God handed out his condemnation of Satan which was also his promise of rescue to Adam and Eve after their fall into unbelief and sin and death.  The Lord God said to Satan:  “I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. HE will crush your head and you will bruise his heel.”  That was the first promise of the Rescuer.  A descendant of the woman Eve would come to the rescue of sinners.  Now the Lord was telling Abram that he was part of that Rescuer’s earthly lineage.  “In you”, through your family, the Rescuer will come who will be a blessing for the entire human family!

The world needed this Rescuer!  Abram needed this Rescuer!  For as often as Abraham is set before us in the Scriptures as that “hero’ of faith, the “father” of believers who went where God told him to go, there are several accounts in Scripture of his lack of faith; going opposite to God’s directions.  One of them appears shortly after today’s lesson.  Abram and his entourage had reached Canaan.  Then a drought and famine came, forcing him to move the clan to Egypt to find food.  Since they were foreigners there he was worried about poor treatment.  He was especially worried about himself, since Sarai was a very lovely woman.  He worried that the Egyptian leaders would notice her beauty and that one of them would want her for himself and would kill Abram to have her.  Abram concocted a boneheaded plan in which they would tell the Egyptians that Sarai was Abram’s sister.  If you ask me, that just opens the door for the Egyptian Pharaoh to take her, since she was apparently “unattached”!  Nice husband!  Certainly he was not a blessing to Sarai in that situation!  In the end, the Lord himself had to step in and rescue his people.  And then, there was the lack of faith and following the Lord’s direction when it came to the promise of the son.  They ran out of faith and patience.  Sarah suggested that Abraham have relations with her servant woman, and that perhaps a son would be born who could be Abraham’s heir.  That created problems that are probably still afflicting the entire world.  Yet the Lord remained faithful to his promise, and in his time gave them that son who would be another generation in the line of the coming Rescuer Jesus.

That Rescuer came for people like the Samaritan woman he met at the well at Sychar (which, by the way was probably near to where the town of Shechem mentioned in Genesis 12 was).  She, like Abram, was pretty careless regarding God’s institution of marriage.  5 previous husbands!  Possibly divorced 5 times (?) and now was shacking up with a guy to whom she was not married!  Definitely she (and he) were not going where God wanted them to go regarding marriage and sex!  Yet suddenly in her life there was that “offspring of the woman”, descendant of Abram, reaching out with the living water of forgiveness to her!  There was that Rescuer holding up God’s gift of marriage for her, and for Abram, too!  There was that Rescuer who is the greatest blessing to a world of sinners!

THAT RESCUER CAME FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME AND YOU!!!  In our lives we, like Abram, will try to not let ourselves be seen for who and what we are.  He didn’t want to be known as Sarai’s husband.  Too often we try to hide that we are the children of God.  We hide it through behaviors that go along with our culture or with people around us.  And when it comes to God’s gift of marriage, many times we don’t go where God wants us to go!   We who are husbands are self-centered men, like Abram, who will often hang our wives out to dry, so to speak.  Wives and husbands will often forget, as did Sarai and Abram, that we’ve committed to be in this together, in the good times and in the challenging ones.  The lusts in our hearts have led all of us to sinful thoughts about others, and in many cases to acts that might be called “love” by our culture but in reality are love for no one except self.

SO, WHEN IT COMES TO STANDING OUT AS A CHILD OF GOD OR STANDING UP FOR HIS INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE, or any of his other commands for our lives, DO YOU GO WHERE GOD TELLS YOU?  Abram didn’t always.  The woman at the well with Jesus certainly wasn’t.  I?  No way.  You?   But he gives you and me reason, good reason, to go where he tells us.  It all starts with reason # 3.  You are part of all families of the world.  And Jesus the descendant of Abraham, and God’s Son, has come to be your Rescuer.  Not only did he go where God told him to go in his living, but in dying, too.  Jesus came to be obedient to every command of God for you and me and for all.  And then, he even went when God told him to go to a cross to die and to go to hell because we haven’t gone where God has told us to go in our lives!  When he rose from that punishing death, he told you and me that he is taking us to that perfect and eternal heavenly home of his, since we aren’t able to get there ourselves!

Because of that greatest of blessings, the others that the Lord promised Abram he promises to you.  For all these reasons, we go in life and living where he tells us to go.

“I will bless you.”  Wherever you go, he promises to bless in Jesus.  He made the promise in your baptism.  He continues to make it and keep it in his supper of forgiveness and in his precious Word.  That means eternal blessings!  But physical blessings included – he provides for our needs; gives us joyful happenings; lets some tough times come for our growth.

“I will make you a blessing.”  Has he made you to be a godly husband or wife?  You’re a blessing to your spouse.  Are you a godly child?  You are a blessing to parents and grandparents.  Are you a godly parent?  You’re a blessing to children God has entrusted to your physical and spiritual care.  Are you a God-fearing employee who works faithfully?  You’re a blessing to your company.  Are you a humble, godly employer or supervisor?  You are a blessing to those under your leadership and authority.  We could go on, touching every nook and cranny of our lives.

But let’s bring great promise and blessing #3 back into the picture – “All families of the world will be blessed in you.”  Again, that was promise of the Savior every person in this world needs.  Whatever part of this world you occupy, with the people in “your world” you have many opportunities to speak of the need you have for this Savior and the need your “neighbors” have for him.  When you talk about that Savior, heaven, and your expectation of it, you are a blessing to everyone in “your world”.  So, will you go where God tells you to go?

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What We Can Learn from the Temptation of Jesus, Sermon on Matthew 4:1-11, Lent 1, March 5, 2017

What We Can Learn from the Temptation of Jesus

  1. Temptations are custom made (Matthew 4:3,6,8),
  2. Temptations can be resisted (Matthew 4:4,7,10),
  3. Jesus’ victory over temptation overflows to us (Romans 5:15).

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, dear brothers and sisters in him.

I have to tell you—the lesson on the temptation of Jesus is a part of Scripture I have struggled with. I struggled because I thought that these temptations were too easy to see, and thus should be easy to resist. The devil said, “Turn these stones into bread…” well it’s the devil saying it, so it must be a bad idea. Resist. Or “Jump down from the high point of the temple.” Obviously a bad idea and a temptation to evil. Resist. “Fall down and worship me…” well, that’s the most obvious temptation of all. Well, I have to say those thoughts came from a shallow reading of the text. The devil probably tempted Jesus the same way he tempts us—with quiet suggestions. Thoughts that quickly came to mind—and we should also note, these were temptations that were custom made for Jesus.

I. Temptations are custom made (Matthew 4:3,6,8).

  1. The temptation of Jesus is in Matthew chapter 4. Do you remember what happened in chapter 3? It’s what we observed on the Sunday after Epiphany—Jesus’ baptism. Right after that, Jesus went out into the desert, and we have the Gospel for today. Do you remember the message from Jesus’ baptism—the words he heard his heavenly Father say from heaven? “This is my beloved Son. In him I am well pleased.” And how does this first temptation begin? The devil wants to cast doubt on that truth that was spoken from heaven: “This is my beloved Son.” “If you are the Son of God…” prove it! “Turn these stones into bread.”  Ah! Here we see the temptation custom made for Jesus in many ways. First, questioning the word from his Father he just heard. Then, attacking Jesus at his weakest points. In the Gospels we see, and in our Creeds we confess that Jesus “became fully human.” So the devil custom makes the temptation to attack Jesus in his humanity. Remember he was fasting for forty days and forty nights in the desert. When you’re hungry, what temptation could be easier to fall for than “Feed yourself”? In the Gospels we see, and in our Creeds we confess that Jesus is “God from God, light from Light, true God from true God.” He has the power to do turn stones into bread if he wants to. The Wedding of Cana and the feeding of the thousands show us he had the power to do it. But it would have disrupted Jesus’ purpose for being out in the desert… to get away from it all and think and pray about the work ahead. It also would have been a selfish use of Jesus’ power—his miracles always had the purpose of serving others. This temptation was custom made for him.
  2. The devil custom makes his temptations for us, too. He’s had thousands of years to observe human nature, and he’s been observing your strengths and weaknesses for your whole lifetime. So what is your weakness? Is it vanity? The devil knows how much you love yourself, so he’s going to tempt you to a high-level of anger when you feel insulted or left out. Is it self-doubt? The devil then is going to use that doubt to paralyze you and prevent you from doing anything, good or bad, especially doing your God-given duties. Is it curiosity? Then he’ll try to get that curiosity to lead you to seek out things that aren’t your business, even to try to understand evil and leading you into the darkness at the same time. Are you vulnerable in any way? Perhaps because of some past hurt, or maybe because of some physical weakness? The devil will strike there. He’ll bring up the memory of the past hurt. He’ll put you in a similar situation again and try to get you to make the same mistakes all over again. Are you sick? He’ll use the sickness to give you an excuse not to do some important duty, or as an excuse to indulge yourself, after all being sick is a bummer—you’ve got to give yourself a lift—even if it is something God forbids. Your temptations are custom made to your weaknesses, too.
  3. The next temptation of Jesus was custom made, too. “Jump down from the high point of the temple.”  Imagine that you’re the devil and that your goal is to tempt someone who has perfect faith—perfect confidence in his Father’s plan and in his Father’s care. What temptation would you come up with? “You’re secure. Completely safe. So take a risk.” The devil even throws in some Scripture: “He will command his angels concerning you. And they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”  “You’ve got God’s promise. …so test it. Find out. See if he cares.”  Yes, it’s stupid to jump off tall buildings, but that’s the way the devil’s temptations work. First he attacks some clear truth of God (“Are you really God’s Son?” for the first one, and “Does God care?” for this one), and then he gives you some reasons to try it.  This temptation was custom made to one of Jesus’ strengths: his perfect faith.
  4. And the devil custom makes our temptations with our strengths in mind, too. What can you do? What can you do well? The devil will use that as a temptation to pride. Do you have athletic ability? Musical ability? Are you smart? Then you’re unique. In a class by yourself—so much better than those without talent. Or he’ll twist that pride. Look at all the talents you have. Because you can, therefore you should. Perhaps you must. Push yourself. Make yourself God’s gift to the world! Try this. Try that. You know all kinds of things? Put that knowledge to work—even if it’s self-serving. You know where to draw the line so it doesn’t become self-destructive, don’t you? Yes, your temptations are custom-made to your strengths, too.
  5. The last of Jesus temptations seems obvious, too. “I will give you all these kingdoms of the world and their glory if you will bow down and worship me.” Later Jesus would call the devil “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). Looking at what was going on in the world then or now—doesn’t it look like the devil is in control? Imagine the temptation going like this, “You know who you are, Jesus. And you know my control of the world. Just give in to me a little, and I’ll back off a little. I’ll loosen my grip on the Pharisees and the Romans and you’ll have some satisfying successes. You can see your kingdom come without any suffering. How about that?” It would truly have been worship of the devil, because it would have thrown out the Father’s goal for Jesus of redeeming the world with suffering (Psalm 22, Isaiah 52-53) and put the quick-and-easy in its place. And like all the devil’s promises, what he promises, he never gives. He knows what promises you want to hear, and custom makes them for you, too. …And he never gives.

II. Temptations can be resisted.

  1. Even though Jesus’ temptation’s were custom made for him—aimed at his human weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) or at his divine strengths, he resisted. He drew on the strongest thing he had, and that we have. The Word of God. “You’re hungry. Feed yourself. You’ve got the power to do it.” No. “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” “Jump down. Test God’s love and power.”  “You shall not test the Lord your God.”  “Rule the world the easy way. Just give in to me a little.” No. “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Really, every temptation is a temptation to doubt God’s Word—so the Word of God is the best ammunition against the temptation. A temptation to steal is a temptation to doubt the clear Word of God in the commandment, “You shall not steal.” A temptation to satisfy desire is a temptation to doubt the clear Word of God in the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Because temptations are attacks on God’s Word,  “Go away, Satan! For it is written…” is the best response for any temptation.

III. Jesus’ victory over temptation overflows to us

  1. Because our temptations are custom-made for us, we often fall for them. We listen to the subtle suggestions and the twisted reasoning and give in. When we fail, we have someone who succeeded for us. This is what St. Paul was writing about in the Second Lesson. As Adam’s failure destroyed God’s holy image in us and corrupted human flesh, Jesus’ success and obedience also comes to us. We look at a past of failure after failure. But we have a Savior who did not fail. The letter to the Hebrews says “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He covers our failures—and he’s able to do so much more. He helps us when we are tempted. He helps us resist. It’s like calling you’re big brother in when the bully is threatening to beat you up. Hey Satan!—Remember that Jesus already beat you. I’ve read about some of the worst kinds of temptation and oppression and even possession by the devil, and in all of those, being reminded of Jesus’ victory over him is the one thing the devil simply cannot stand. It’s our victory, too, even when we are struggling with temptations of the devil and of our broken human nature: “Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 7:25). We have redemption from our failures. We have strength to overcome, given us by Jesus, who defeated temptation. So we share in those victories, and we enjoy ours—and our freedom in him.

Amen.

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Turn to Jesus, He Changes Your Life Sermon on Luke 7:36-50, 2017 Lenten Sermon

Turn to Jesus, He Changes Your Life
Sermon on Luke 7:36-50
St. Stephen’s, Beaver Dam, March 1
Good Shepherd, Beaver Dam, March 8
Salem, Lowell, March 29
St. John’s, Juneau, April 5

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, dear brothers and sisters in him.

  1. The Hebrew word for repent, shuv, is the same word for The word then is picturing someone walking away from God, turning, and then walking back. The Greek word is metanoia which means a change or a transformation of the mind or heart. Repentance means change. Stop doing the evil, start doing the good. Stop the disobedience, start obedience. Stop wickedness and begin holiness.
  2. Repentance is something that has been greatly misunderstood in the history of the church. 500 years ago, repentance was confused with penance, which means paying a penalty. You do something bad, then do something good to balance it out. The idea isn’t much different from the Hindu idea of It isn’t really repentance, is it? It doesn’t necessarily involve a change. Do more bad things, okay, then pay the penalty. Keep the balance. No change required—and not true repentance.
  3. In this lesson from Luke 7, we see two people and two attitudes about repentance. We see one person with a very fine outward appearance. Simon the Pharisee. At first everything looks good. He invites Jesus to be a guest at his table. But then it isn’t so nice. He doesn’t greet Jesus at the door in the customary way with a kiss. He doesn’t wash Jesus’ feet or offer him lotion for his face—niceties—almost necessities in Palestine when most people wore sandals and where the climate was dry. Worst of all, Simon sat across the table from Jesus and judged him. He didn’t invite Jesus to learn anything from him but to observe him and catch him making some mistake or committing some offense.
  4. On other occasions, Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites (Matthew 23:13ff). That is a word Jesus could use because he could read hearts. It’s a word we need to be very careful with because we can’t read hearts. Hypocrite is a word that literally means under-judge. To rightly judge the person, you have to look under the mask, the false outward appearance. The Pharisees worked very hard on keeping an upright outward appearance. But for that, Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:37). Nice on the outside, but inside full of rot. For Simon, the reality of who he was underneath was leaking out. Not hospitable, judgmental. Repentance or thinking about a need for change was the farthest thing from his mind. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, he thought that those other people, those sinners, who need to change—and they’re pretty much a lost cause anyway.
  5. Then we meet one of these “lost causes.” St. Luke simply calls her “a woman of the city who was a sinner.” We are told nothing more. We could guess what her sin may have been. It was something everyone in the town knew about. What was her outward appearance? Unfortunately, her outward appearance was stained by people’s memory of what she had done and how she had been living. But the change in her heart leaks out and shows itself in her actions. Somewhere she must have heard about Jesus or heard Jesus himself teach about new life in him, forgiveness, or about himself as the way to the Father. Maybe she saw or heard about the Centurion’s servant Jesus healed or the dead man from Nain who Jesus raised from the dead. She knew Jesus had something she needed, and she knew she needed a change. So she sits at Jesus’ feet, weeping. What does that tell you? And then she anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume. This is not a six-to-twelve-dollar bottle of perfume that you buy over the counter at the department store. This would have been an expensive ointment—imported from nearly a thousand miles away costing nearly a year’s wages. She pours out her very best on Jesus’ What does that tell you? She is giving Jesus some kind of offering. An offering of love. She knows that her God is near. She knows her own sin. So she weeps. King David wrote, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51). “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand, but with you there is forgiveness” (Psalm 130).
  6. Jesus explains what all this means with a short parable: “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (A denarius was about a day’s wages for common labor. So a modern equivalent might be that one owed $50,000 and the other $5,000.) “Which will love him more?” Jesus asks. 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” The sinful woman knew how great a debt she had. She knew her many sins, and poured out her love knowing or anticipating Jesus’ forgivingness. So she loved much. She displayed her love, which showed a repentant and forgiven attitude of her heart. A changed heart. A clean heart. Simon didn’t show much love at all. He displayed a heart that didn’t see much need for repentance or forgiveness. He was wearing the mask when he looked at himself—like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who thought he was just fine. “I thank you that I’m not like other people.” “Just fine. No change needed.” Guess again. Sins of thought—sins of pride, anger, and despising a neighbor are just as evil in God’s sight as the gross sins of action. He saw little need for change, felt little-to-no gratitude for forgiveness, and it was displayed in his actions, or in his lack of hospitality to Jesus.
  7. I am afraid that those of us who have spent our lives connected to the church—perhaps even those of us who do our best to live upright lives have the temptation to be like Simon the Pharisee. To look at the picture of the guy on the front page of the paper in the orange jumpsuit and think, “That person needs to turn his life around. Confession or repentance is what that person needs…” without thinking of our own need for repentance. We need to take off the mask when looking in the mirror—look deep into your own heart and mind. Repent of the anger. Repent of the envy. Repent of the jealousy. Repent of the resentment. And then enjoy the freedom of forgiveness. Enjoy the change–the change Jesus brings with his joyful pronouncement, “Your sins are forgiven… Go in peace.” Peace instead of anger. Peace instead of jealousy. Peace instead of hate. And then, much love, reflecting the forgiving love of Jesus.

Amen.

 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say amongh]”>[h] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

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“Where on the Mountain Will We be Found?”-A sermon based on Exodus 24:12, 15-18 for Transfiguration Sunday, February 23/26, 2017

This past summer, when I went to the International Youth Rally in Fort Collins, CO, we drove from Mt. Rushmore to our final destination. I have never seen the Rocky Mountains before this. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty and majesty of God’s creation. It made one feel very small. As the elevation became higher, we were warned about the toll it would take on our bodies. We were encouraged to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. As I took walks in the morning, I could feel my heart and lungs working harder in the higher elevation.

Mountains can be beautiful, but they can also be very scary. Hiking around trails can leave one traversing narrow trails with drop-offs to one side. Palms sweat. The heart beats quickly. Eyes stay focused straight ahead rather than looking down. However, the views prove amazing making the trip well worth it.

Today, we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord. On this day we climb another mountain. The sight, at least initially, we might call downright scary. Yet, at the same time we know it to be a glorious sight. So, where will we be found on this mountain? Will we be standing at the bottom frozen in fear? Or will we be entering into the glory of the Lord?

 Three months passed since the exodus from Egypt. Still fresh on the minds of all Israel would be the ten plagues the land of Egypt endured. They recalled the lifesaving blood brushed across the doorframes of their homes causing the angel of death to pass over. The complete annihilation of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea gave them confidence of God’s protection on their journey.

Now, they stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God’s glory settled upon the mountain. God spoke all the commands to Moses. He gave the people the Ten Commandments, his will for their life. He instructed them about various other laws concerning their property and life. God called to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Wait there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commands that I have written, so that you can teach them” (Exodus 24:12 EHV).

The famed stone tablets inscribed by God’s own hand would be given to Moses. No one else could come up the mountain. Moses, along with his young aide, Joshua, hiked up the mountain. Then Moses had to continue the journey alone to receive the laws. “Moses went up onto the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain The Glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered the mountain for six days” (Exodus 24:15-16 EHV). The cloud leading the people came atop Mt. Sinai. God’s glory rested upon the mountain. For six days nothing happened. Moses waited. The nation watched.

We often think of God’s glory as something bright and glorious. Our gospel lesson certainly paints that picture for us today. Moses records for us, “The appearance of the Glory of the LORD looked like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel” (Exodus 24:17 EHV). God’s all-consuming glory looks like a fire destroying everything in its path. The hearts of Israel filled with fear as they looked up at the glory of the Lord.

This picture reminds us of the holiness of our God. God rules in absolute perfection. Our hearts are filled with sin. The nation of Israel cannot come up the mountain for they are sinful human beings. We cannot ascend the mountain either because our sins separate us from our holy God.

Moses, God’s chosen leader of his people, ascended the mountain to receive the commands of God. These commands ratified a covenant between God and his people. Israel had to obey all the commands of God, and he promised them blessings. If they disobeyed them, they would face God’s wrath. It did not take long for these people to break their covenant with God. Even before Moses descended from God’s glory, they built a golden calf hailing this as the god who brought them out of Egypt. Constantly on their journey to the Promised Land they grumbled and complained to God about not having enough of this or that. We want to turn around and go back to Egypt. The holiness of God displayed as a devouring fire should have rightly devoured these people.

How would we react to witnessing the glory of God? As we read God’s commands for our lives, those very same Ten Commandments given to Israel, we see a reflection of God’s holiness. He sets the bar high. He tells us to be perfect as he is perfect. Not even the best pole vaulter can clear that height.

We are far from perfect. Our feet stand frozen to the ground at the bottom of the mountain. We cannot move. We do not want to move. This devouring fire of God’s glory should swallow us up. One by one we go down the Ten Commandments, and we see how far we have wandered from them. Our hearts do not always honor God. We grow distracted by all the idols this world throws in our direction. Our minds push out nothing but covetous thoughts. Our hearts harbor vengeance against our neighbor. Our sins, the long dirty list of them, cannot come into the presence of a holy God. We stand frozen at the bottom looking up.

The view of God’s glory at the bottom of the mountain causes our feet to remain planted and not willing to move due to fear. We know that our sins cannot enter into the presence of a holy God. Despite all this, God calls us to enter into his glory.

As the nation of Israel stood watching the glory of the Lord upon the mountain, “Moses entered into the middle of the cloud and climbed up the mountain. Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18). On the seventh day Moses continued his journey. He went into the heart of God’s presence. Moses was well aware of the nation’s sinfulness. Moses also was too aware of his own sinfulness. This should have kept him and all out of God’s glory. Moses also saw another side of God’s glory.

This time it took place on another mountain. It happened long after Moses entered the glories of heaven. Jesus stood on the mountain with three of his disciples. Here Moses appeared with Elijah in the full display of Jesus’ glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. The two great heroes of the Old Testament talked with Jesus. What was the topic of conversation? It centered on Jesus’ impending suffering and death in Jerusalem.

There would be Jesus’ glory for all to see. God’s plan of salvation would be fulfilled upon the cross. God would establish a new covenant with his people. No longer would it be a two sided covenant promising destruction for disobedience. God would take everything upon himself. His Son would pay the debt we owed. His Son would be punished in our place. His Son would live and die for the sins of all people.

We cannot remain at the foot of the mountain with our feet frozen in fear. Yes, our sins are a rebellion against God. Yes, God hates our sins. Yes, sin is punishable by death in hell for all eternity. At the same time God did away with all our sins. We come up the Mount of Transfiguration to see Jesus for who he really is. His earthly life hid his glory for a time. Here we, along with the three disciples, see Jesus’ glory. It assures us that he is our Lord and Savior. The voice heard from heaven declares him to be God’s Son who does all things to the glory of the Father.

Still we cannot stay on this mountain for long, as tempting as it might be. We want to remain in God’s glorious presence, but work still needed to be done. Our journey of Lent begins this week. Throughout Lent we walk with our Lord all the way to Jerusalem. One step closer to accomplish his great mission in life. Humanly speaking the road is not glorious. It is filled with pot holes. Our Savior is betrayed, arrested, beaten, and let out carrying his own cross to another mountain, Calvary.

There we see God’s glory in his bloodied Son. We hear his glorious cry, “It is finished!” Sin atoned for. Death swallowed up in victory. Satan’s, the ancient serpent, head crushed. One day God will call our name. Through faith we will enter into the glories of heaven. What a glorious day that will be. We will not be fearful. It will be a day filled with joy.

We cannot stay at the foot of the mountain paralyzed with fear looking up at God’s glory. God calls us to enter into his glory with confidence of sins forgiven. Where will we be found on the mountain? Lord willing, we will be standing in the presence of God for all eternity. Amen.

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“Where Does Sin Begin? How Can It End?” Sermon on 2 Samuel 11:1-17,26-27 and Matthew 5:21-37 Epiphany 6, February 9 & 12, 2017

  1. I want you to think about that first lesson we read today. David and Bathsheba. It’s a bit uncomfortable to read, isn’t it? Embarrassing. We have seen similar storylines in soap operas, movies, the stories in People magazine, (I only look at it when I’m in the doctor’s waiting room…) and we’ve seen it up close, too. It’s uncomfortable because we see a fellow human being’s life fall apart—we see the life of a hero of faith fall apart—and in it, we see some reflections of our own failures, our own sins.
  2. Now where did David’s troubles begin? Was it in the chapter after the one we read today—2 Samuel 12? That’s where Nathan the prophet comes to David and tells him this story about a man with a pet lamb—it grows up in his household. He treats it like his own child. And then a wealthy neighbor steals it, kills it, and cooks it up for a visitor who stopped by. David is enraged and says, “That man deserves to die.” And Nathan says, “You are that man. You’ve done the same thing, only worse. You had everything anyone could want, but you had to have another man’s wife, and then you killed to try to cover it up.” That’s when David was squirming because then his sin was exposed. I suppose you could say that was when he knew he “got caught.” But that wasn’t when his troubles began.
  3. Was it when David invited Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, for feasting and drinking, and then Uriah refused to go home. His fellow soldiers were living in tents and sleeping on the ground out near the battlefield. He just couldn’t enjoy the comforts of home and the company of his wife. That’s when David saw that his plan for a cover-up wasn’t working—and that he might have to do something more drastic. His scheme was falling apart. But that wasn’t when his troubles began.
  4. Was it when David was going about the business of his palace and a messenger comes in with a piece of parchment—a small piece of parchment, but I imagine it all sealed up like some high state document, and David opened it up and it said, “David, I am pregnant. Bathsheba.” That’s when David started to see that his actions—even his frivolous actions—things he did for his own enjoyment and pleasure—were having consequences. But that wasn’t when his troubles began.
  5. Was it in that first verse of 2 Samuel, chapter 11. “Springtime arrived, the time when kings go out to war. David sent Joab out with his officers and with all Israel. They ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem.” In those days, a king was expected to lead his army, or at the very least be near the front so he could know what was going on and give commands that could be carried out without delay. “But David stayed in Jerusalem.” And what was he doing? He was bored. While his army was fighting battles, he was bored, looking out on the rooftops of the city. He thought, “Ah, that woman looks very nice. …Hmmm, I wonder….” And then he said to one of his servants, “Why don’t you go and bring her up.” That’s where David’s troubles began. Not when he got caught. Not when his schemes weren’t working. Not when he started to see the consequences of his actions. It started when he was bored. When he put his own pleasure above anything else. When he thought “It’s good to be the king. I’ll bet I can get away with this.” That’s how sin begins. With a thought—a thought that sets aside what you know is right. In Psalm 19 David wrote “The law of the Lord is perfect. … the precepts of the Lord are right.” He would have known the commandments “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” “You shall not commit adultery.” “You shall not murder.” But despite that, he followed his wayward heart—the desires of the moment.
  6. Jesus talked about that in today’s Gospel, not just in the verses “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I tell you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In the whole lesson, Jesus mentions almost all of the commandments, and he says of each one, it begins with a thought. It begins in the heart. “You have heard… ‘Do not murder,’ …but anger is just as deserving of judgment. If there’s something wrong between you and your neighbor, settle it before you try to offer something to God. You have heard ‘Do not swear’ … but be honest in everything. Let your speech be plain, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’”
  7. There are temptations from the outside. Some temptations are intentional, put there by the devil or by his agents. Some temptations come just from the circumstances of life. A woman bathes and David is happens to be looking out from his rooftop. The circumstances aren’t necessarily evil. People need to take baths. At that time a rooftop was like a patio—private space connected to your home. What we do with the circumstances is another thing. Martin Luther once said, “Temptations, of course, cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair.” David let the temptation nest in his heart. He acted on it. Jesus taught that we should avoid temptation whenever we can. “If your right eye causes you to fall into sin, pluck it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to fall into sin, cut it off and throw it away from you. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Is it the eye that causes us to sin… or the hand? Or is it the top four inches of your head? Your mind is what directs the eye and the hand, and you can’t chop that off.
  8. How can sin end? Well, you can’t depend on human willpower. Some days we may have it. Other days not. King David wrote about it in one of his psalms—words we will sing in a minute: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Sin ends with the forgiveness that comes from God. After Nathan pointed his finger at David and said, “You are the man,” David said, “I have sinned against the Lord,” and Nathan pronounced the absolution, “The Lord has put away your sin.” That’s where sin ends. And not just with the guilt or our status as God sees us. David found cleansing, renewal, joy and power in God’s forgiveness looking to God’s unfailing love and compassion alone (Psalm 51). From our New Testament point of view, we know that forgiveness is ours because Jesus took what we deserved. We don’t need to beat ourselves up because of our feelings of guilt because Jesus already took that beating. We don’t need to feel powerless when faced with temptation, because Jesus has clothed us with forgiveness, righteousness and power. St. Paul writes in Romans 6: “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. … Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. … For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Sin ends with forgiveness. Sin ends with the power of Jesus at work in our lives. He saved us from Think of what he said in his ministry. When the adulterous woman was about to be stoned, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11 ESV). When Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector said, ““Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Then Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:8-9 ESV). He wants us to be forgiven and to live forgiven—forgiven and free. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The way out is to look to Jesus for power. Remember who you are as God’s people, cleansed and connected to Christ in Baptism. Remember his commands which still stand as our guide for living as God’s people. Keep watch over your hearts, because that is where sin can begin. Keep your hearts and minds focused on Christ, his power, his guidance, because that is how sin can end.

Amen.

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“Our Life Changes”-A Sermon on I Peter 2:9-12 for Epiphany 5, February 2/5, 2017

Around twenty-two hundred people climbed aboard for a life changing experience. Some of the richest people wanted to partake of the history making journey. Goodbyes were said with the assurance that they would be reunited again. The press covered the event as if a political figure came to town. The ship was built and hailed as unsinkable. How little those people how greatly their lives would change.

As the Titanic sailed from Ireland to New York, it hit an iceberg on a fateful night. Around fifteen hundred people perished. Only seven hundred five people survived. The lives of the survivors changed forever with one of the greatest disasters in history etched permanently on their mind.

Life changing events happen all around us. They can range from the huge spectacular events to quite mundane. The Apostle Peter tells us about another change in our life. It is a change in our relationship with God and with our neighbor.

Everyone wants to feel special. At the heart of every relationship this is true. We look for ways to express how much we care and appreciate the person. It might be something big done, but so often the small things are the most memorable. It makes us feel loved and cared for.

In our relationship with God this was not always the case. Peter told us how we came into the world by nature, “At one time you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. At one time you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy” (I Peter 2:10). Our relationship with God was strained. Sin stood as the big white elephant in the room. We tried to ignore it, but God could not ignore it.

Sin left us out of God’s presence. We lived not in another part of his kingdom, but we lived completely apart from him. We had no business being called God’s child. We had no mercy coming our way from God. God declared us his enemies. Our sins brought this upon us, and we could do nothing about it.

It all changed. Our entire life changed once God created faith in our hearts. God now calls us his people. The white elephant has left the room. Mercy comes to us. God no longer wants us to suffer the pains of hell because of stubborn unbelief. God frees us from sin by giving us mercy. The comfort of all of God’s blessings comes into our lives.

It comes more personally, as Peter tells us. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the people who are God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). Phrase after phrase Peter details the great change happening in our life. Our relationship with God, once marred by sin and hatred, turns to one of being called his very own and not a mention of sin.

We are a chosen people. I can remember as a kid during recess teams needed to be picked. We played dodge ball, basketball, soccer, basketball, or some other game. Two captains needed to pick teams. A lot of strategy went into this. Whom would the captain pick first? Will they pick their friend? Will they pick the best athlete? How will the person picked last feel? The captain needed to choose wisely.

God has chosen us to be his very own. All of a sudden we puff up our chest and say, “Why not choose me?” I am a good person. I give of my offerings every week at church. I help out others. I volunteer my time wherever I can. God should choose me to be his own. Can we point to all our own works as evidence of why God chose me? The answer would be no.

The truth is God does not look at our works in order to call us his own. God choose us long before we had the opportunity to do anything good. God picked us to be his very own before he created the world. God’s love moved him to choose us to his people. That comforts us greatly. It does not depend on me. God has done it all. He loves me so much that he has chosen me to be his own.

God also makes us a holy nation. This pictures the change in our relationship beautifully. We were far from holy. We sinned. Our lives wanted to go against God’s commands and follow our own ways. The stain of sin dotted our bodies. God has taken them away. He has made us holy, or perfect.

Again, it points us to God’s work. His life changes our life. His death takes the fear of death away from us. We live as forgiven children of God. God’s holiness changes everything in our life for the better. It means that we belong to God.

Human nature desires a feeling of belonging. We want a connection with others. No one likes to feel lonely. God brings us into his family. He makes us his very own possession. I am not my own. I belong to God. He is my Savior. He is my master. I am God’s. We live no longer on the outside, but we live on the inside of God’s family.

This brings us to the final part of our new relationship with God. God declares us to be a royal priesthood. The term priests would not just do, but we become royal priests in God’s service. Priests have a job to do. They must proclaim God’s Word. That is our job in the world. We proclaim the message of God’s love and forgiveness to all.

The message is based on the very change in our heart. We can speak with firsthand knowledge of God’s love and faithfulness. God has called us out of the world of darkness and unbelief into the wonderful light of faith and forgiveness. At the heart of our message is that wonderful news. God love us. God wants us to be his own. We cannot help but speak this wonderful news. God lays a wonderful gift at our feet. Will we be able to keep quiet with this news? Will we want to stand on the sidelines?

God’s praises flow from our lips every day. We spread his Word all the time. The gospel lesson today calls us the salt and light of the earth. We let our light of faith shine for all to see. We tell others about the light of the world. We want others to know about how God has changed the relationship between sinful mankind and himself.

Through faith our entire relationship changes with God. God calls us to be his very own people. Our life will no longer be the same, as we enter into God’s service. Our relationship with our neighbor changes as well.

Peter now turned his attention to how the believers would live in the world. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and temporary residents in the world, to abstain from the desires of the sinful flesh, which war against your soul” (I Peter 2:11). Peter’s readers lived in a world that would war against their beliefs. Peter warned them about the sinful desires bubbling from their own heart. The battle would be long and hard.

The way to overcome all those temptations would be the following. The people needed to live remembering where their home was. An inheritance awaited them in heaven. Their hearts yearned every single day as they stepped one foot closer to their eternal home. Slowly the entanglements of this world loosened, as their focus shifted from the temporary to the eternal.

It sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? We too live as strangers in a harsh environment. We echo the words there is no place like home. Even though we put down roots in a community, even though we build our dream home upon the earth, even though we register as citizens of a country and state, it never feels like home.

Heaven is our home. As we walk to our home, life will be tough. The world tries to trip us up We walk along and our friends seize every opportunity to question our faith. Our own sinful nature deals with the thoughts of cheating and laziness. It struggles with the thought of which is right on its view of marriage, God or the world. It whispers in our ears that we can sin just once, it will not hurt anyone.

Live like you are not home! We are not. Walk with the eyes of faith heavenward! Those temptations only want to destroy the foundation God has already laid. We do not live according to the world. We need to abstain from those temptations. “Live an honorable life among the Gentiles so that even though they slander you as evildoers, when they observe your noble deeds, they may glorify God on the day he visits us” (I Peter 2:12).

Previously we spoke how God uses our words to spread his love. Now, we see how our actions help spread the gospel. It is often said that we might be the only Bible a person ever reads. If that is the case, what are they reading? Can they tell that we are Christians? Or do they point the accusing finger at us? We swear with the rest of them. We cheat our employer by not giving our full effort at work. We tell jokes that really should not be told. Gossip spreads rather than stops with us.

We want the unbelieving world to point their finger at us in awe and amazement. They ask, “Why do Christians face death without fear? Why do they have a certainty in a world fill with so much uncertainty?” Our life reflects God’s love to the world. It is through our actions that people also read about God’s love and forgiveness.

A life changing event took place in our life. It involved a death in us. Our sinful nature was drowned by the waters of holy baptism. A new man arises in our hearts to serve God. The new man also leads us to confess and share Christ with all. A change in our life happens in our relationship with God and in our relationship with our neighbor. Amen.

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“Darkness Covers the Earth, but the Light of Christ Shines!” Sermon on Isaiah 8:19-9:2 Epiphany 3, A January 19 & 22, 2016

  1. “Deep guile and great might / Are his dread arms in fight.” In Luther’s famous hymn, we sing about the Old Evil Foe’s tactics in temptation. “Guile” means deception, and we see it in the very first temptation. “You will not surely die. … For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). That was deception by being technically correct, but deceiving. “Your eyes will be opened,” not to new wisdom, but staring in horror, “what did we just do.” “Knowing good and evil…” Good as what they had been, and evil as what they had now become. Today’s lesson from Isaiah shows us a different kind of It’s the guile of a counterfeit, a fake. Fake solutions. Fake enlightenment. Fake salvation. Like counterfeit money, it resembles the real thing, but resemblance is where it ends. It has no real value. Like counterfeit money, it also has no authority.
  2. That’s what Isaiah is writing about in Chapter 8. You would think that people living in Jerusalem and Judah would have some appreciation for their privilege—living in the Promised Land. At that time they would have enjoyed the glory of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. And they had Isaiah, one of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets—the greatest if you are rating prophets by what they foretold about Jesus the Messiah. Instead, what do we see? We see people running to counterfeits. Counterfeit enlightenment. Counterfeit prophets. “Consult the mediums and the spiritists, who whisper and mutter.” It is what God prohibited in the Second Commandment, “practicing superstition” or “witchcraft.” These things aren’t really a misuse of God’s name, but a use of something else in place of God’s name. A counterfeit. You might remember Saul, the first king of Israel went to one of these mediums to talk to the prophet Samuel. What is sad is that Saul didn’t listen to Samuel when he was alive. Now he wants to hear from him when he’s dead?!
  3. Mediums and spiritists are still around. If you drive into Madison on Washington Avenue, about four or five blocks before the capitol on the right there is a sign in front of a house advertising palm reading and other fortune telling. In Wonewoc, Wisconsin, where I went to St. Paul’s Lutheran School, there is still a spiritualist camp. People still practice these things. I recently read a book (Afraid) that said that many people like the word “I’m a spiritual person, but not a religious person.” Usually that means that they want to be eclectic in their practice of faith. Use a little of this, a little of that. A few psalms or favorite passages from the Bible here, a horoscope there, carrying a magic charm or amulet for luck there, and seeing a fortune teller. What’s wrong with that? Well, if the definition of faith is trust, then your trust is divided. Instead of trusting God above all things or God alone, you trust many things as the source of guidance and enlightenment. And are these things enlightenment? Hardly. At best, these things are fake. At the worst, there may be some power of the devil in it. And even when they are fake, the devil can use them to divide and distract our faith and trust. Long ago, after my grandpa died, a neighbor told my grandma, “Go up to that spiritualist camp. Talk to one of the mediums. I’m sure Walter would come through for you.” Grandma didn’t go. I have no idea what kind of message they would have supposedly given her from Grandpa or about him. But could you get any message about Grandpa that would be better than the words of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled. … I go to prepare a place for you… [so] that where I am you may be also” (John 14). “Those who live and believe in me will never die” (John 11). Isaiah’s words are for our ears, too. “When they tell you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists, who whisper and mutter,” shouldn’t a people seek their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20Turn to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them.”
  4. Isaiah also said, “They will pass through the land, distressed and starving, but when this happens and they are starving, they will be frustrated, and they will curse their king and their God.” Isaiah is writing about the condition of their souls—hungry and starving because they aren’t being fed. Think of the wonderful word-pictures Jesus used about himself and his Word: ““I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). It isn’t politically correct, but it’s true nonetheless. People without Christ are in darkness. Without Christ, there is no forgiveness or pardon from God. That’s why Isaiah pictures the people of the nations starving and stumbling around in the darkness. Spiritually, they have nothing. And the Devil’s tactic is to keep people starving spiritually and keep them in the dark spiritually so that they will be forever hungering and searching. But Jesus feeds us. Jesus shines his light on us.
  5. When Jesus was calling his disciples, he was feeding them and enlightening them. When he said, “I will make you fishers of men,” he was preparing them to go out and shine the light on those living in darkness. As Isaiah said in prophecy and as Matthew quoted in fulfillment: “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and on those dwelling in the region and the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Jesus begins his ministry where his cousin John left off: “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Mark records these same events, he adds that Jesus also said, “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Repent. Turn away from the world. Turn away from the devil. Turn away from self. Stop hurting others with your selfish words and actions. Believe the good news. God forgives. He has sent Jesus to bear your sin for you (that was John the Baptist’s other sermon), and because of Jesus, you have the status of a child of God. In Jesus you have the power not just to be forgiven, but to live forgiven, empowered and equipped to resist temptation and to rise above who we are—to rise above our broken, weak, sinful nature and to love. When we feel we don’t have it in us—we’re right. The power to love and the power to serve come from God alone. As St. John wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
  6. John’s first letter talks about living in the light—it also talks about our struggle with the darkness. Based on human strength alone, what St. John writes is impossible: “If anyone keeps God’s word, the love of God is truly made complete in him. This is how we know that we are in him: 6The one who says he remains in him should walk as Jesus walked.” But with Christ, we ae not stuck in the failures. He overcomes them with forgiveness. He puts it behind us. And he equips us to overcome so that we don’t continue to sin (1 John 3:6), but walk in the light as he is in the light (1 John 1:7).

Amen.

Isaiah 8:19-9:2

19When they tell you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists, who whisper and mutter,” shouldn’t a people seek their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20Turn to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. 21They will pass through the land, distressed and starving, but when this happens and they are starving, they will be frustrated, and they will curse their king and their God. They will turn their faces upward, 22and they will look down to the ground, but listen: They will see only distress, darkness, and the gloom that brings anguish. They will be banished into thick darkness. 9:1On the other hand, there will be no more gloom for the one who was in anguish. In the former time, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will cause it to be glorious, along the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, the light has dawned. (EHV)

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“God Declares His Servant Ready for Service”-A Sermon on Isaiah 42:1-7 for the Baptism of our Lord, January 12/15, 2017

All of us have those “big” moments in life. Those moments of our life when all we can do is sit back and say, “Wow!” A moment in our life that we know is special, maybe even life altering. For many of us it might be our wedding day. This joyous day brings two lives together as one. Husband and wife get set to enjoy a life filled with whole new adventures. Another big moment might be a dream vacation. The setting is beautiful. This comes as a once in a lifetime opportunity to take in another culture. At a younger age a “big” moment of life might be receiving a driver’s license, celebrating a birthday party, or scoring a winning basket on Friday night.

One “big” moment is missed so often by people. As we quickly go back over our life’s memories, can anyone think of it? We just celebrated it a few minutes ago. Our baptism often goes unnoticed. Family gathers together. A big meal is prepared. People take many pictures that soon we see nothing but flashes of light. However, after the dust settles, it is so often forgotten. We celebrate birthdays, but we do not celebrate our baptism. We proudly display our driver’s license, but we need to dig through the junk drawer to find our baptismal certificate, if we even remember having one.

Our baptism serves as the biggest moment of our life. With the sprinkling of water and the words spoken, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” something truly amazing happens. God makes us his child. Our sinful nature drowns making room for a new creation to rise. We become heirs with Christ. Our baptism most certainly is a “big” moment of our life that needs to be celebrated.

Jesus also had that “big” moment happen to him. He came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. Why would Jesus have to do such a thing? He had no sin to wash away. He possessed no sinful nature needing to be drowned. He already enjoyed a perfect union with his heavenly Father. So why go through all this spectacle? Jesus was baptized for us. He did it to fulfill all righteousness for us.

The Prophet Isaiah foretells about a special servant of God that would come to this earth for a very special mission. We turn our attention to those words of Isaiah to examine them in the light of Jesus’ baptism.

Perhaps the first question we need to answer is the following, “Who is this servant of God?” Many people deserve this title. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could rightly be called servants of God. Their lives show faith in Jesus’ promises. David lives his life as a servant of God, as a king ruling according to God’s commands. We can classify ourselves as servants of God. We want to live according to God’s will for our life.

Even though all of these could rightly be called servants of God, Isaiah spoke of someone else. The answer lies in the very first verse, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I am placing my Spirit upon him. He will bring forth the verdict for the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 EHV). Isaiah spoke these words as if he stood on the banks of the Jordan River at Jesus’ baptism. The Father’s voice thundered down from the heavens how this was indeed his Son whom he loved. The Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus as the servant of God.

Jesus’ baptism served as his public declaration that the Messiah came to do his work. The spotlight shone directly on him. God declared him ready for service to save the world from their sins. God’s servant could begin his work to establish his justice upon the nations of the earth. “He will not grow dim, and he will not be crushed until he establishes the verdict on the earth” (Isaiah 42:4 EHV).

The verdict he would proclaim to all people would be the world’s sins have been taken away. God’s servant did not come to beat down those already loaded with the guilt of sin. God’s servant did not come to provide nothing but fear of punishment for those bothered by their great debt of sin. His verdict proclaimed the opposite. It relieved the guilt from the sinner’s conscience. It loosened the bonds from the hands of the sinner bound in sin.

God’s servant presented himself ready for this important work. Jesus’ baptism started his earthly ministry. At the Jordan River he saw what awaited him in the distance. The cross stood waiting for him at the end of the road. Even though Jesus knew the pain and suffering which he would endure, he never wavered. Nothing would keep our Savior from his job. He would walk upon this earth healing and teaching. He would walk with hands bound behind the Jewish authorities from the home of the high priest to the steps of Pontius Pilate. He would walk under the heavy weight of the cross to Calvary for the sinner’s salvation.

The servant of God needed to tread along this road. Sin would be paid for. Death would be swallowed up. The devil would be crushed by the heel of the Savior. News about the work done by the Savior would travel all across the world. “The coastlands will wait for his teaching” (Isaiah 42:4 EHV). This big moment in Jesus’ life still has benefits for us today. Our hope can be found in no one else. Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection from the grave, and his ruling in heaven is all for me. He turned his big moment into a big moment for me.

This is the good news of Jesus’ baptism. He fulfilled all righteousness for me. He passed down his life of righteousness so that it would become my life of righteousness.

God was with Jesus in every aspect of his life. From his birth, baptism, life, death, resurrection, and ascension all the way to his returning to earth as judge have been declared by his heavenly Father. The very same God who created all things and gave life to all people declared that his one and only Son would come to accomplish the saving of many souls. “I am the LORD. I am calling you in righteousness. I will grasp your hand, and I will guard you. I will appoint you to be a covenant for the people, to be a light for the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of the dungeon and to bring those who live in darkness out of prison” (Isaiah 42:6-7 EHV).

 God made a covenant with his children Israel. The Israelites would be God’s chosen people. The Messiah would come from Abraham’s line. All throughout history God kept that covenant even though the Israelites would break it. Yet, it would be too small of a thing to only keep it for the Israelites. The Gentiles also saw the light.

We spoke about that light last week. The Wise Men traveled from a great distance to come and worship the Christ child. The Son of God shone as the light to bring forgiveness to a dying world. Jesus’ baptism once more provided the light to shine. Not just upon the Jews, but upon all.

This light comes to us in our baptism. All of us come into this world as prisoners. We live as prisoners to the devil. We do not know God. We deem God’s Word as foolishness. We want nothing to do with God’s Word. The devil fills our mind with the thought that we should only live for ourselves and build ourselves up through works. We sit in the darkness of sin. We know nothing else but sin. Our only inclination is to sin. The dungeon of death holds us captive. Finally, we end up in eternal death, the damnation of sin in hell.

Jesus came to do away with all of this. This is where Jesus’ big moment tumbles into our big moment. Through the waters of holy baptism our life changes. Our eyes have been opened. We see a new master who wants us to follow him. He leads us not according to selfish desires, but he points us to his selfless deed which saved us. He points us to the words of Holy Scripture which turn from foolishness to fresh words containing life. Our eyes focus on Jesus, our Master, who gives us new life, eternal life in heaven.

We live no longer in blinding darkness, but we live in the light of faith. Our life no longer revolves around sin and what we can get away with. Our life is one of service to God. The dungeon of death has opened its doors. We walk out and see that death does not have the final say. Christ has overcome death. Christ has given life.

God declared his servant ready to give us our “big” moment in life. God’s servant not only served his Father; he also served us. Everything he did, everything he said, everything he suffered was so that we might enjoy our “big” moment of new life in baptism.

We look back in joy as God Declared His Servant Ready for Service. It is for us Jesus came. It is for us that this servant would do his work. We now live for him. We now put our faith in him. He has given us our “big” moment by adopting us as his child through baptism, all because our servant did his work for us. This will never go unnoticed. Amen.

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