“Behold, the New Jerusalem!” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 26, 2019

“Behold, the New Jerusalem!” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

This Memorial Day weekend is kind of the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. If you’re like me, I always looked forward to summer vacation. Maybe go up north, get away from the heat and the stress, relax by a lake, enjoy life. And it’s nice to know some things about your vacation destination–where you’re going, the place. This gives you something to look forward to: the beauty, the scenery, the pleasant temperatures, enjoyable activities, time to relax and unwind with people you know and love. And even though you’re not there yet, just knowing that you are going and knowing what you have to look forward to–this can put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It lifts your spirits.

Well, today I want to lift your spirits by lifting your sights. I want to lift your sights to a place where you will be going one day. It’s the new Jerusalem, a place we were introduced to a little bit last week, but today we’ll get to see more of it. St. John will show us around the holy city. We’ll get to see the wall, the gates, the foundations–the layout of the city. We’ll see what’s there–and what’s not there. And even though we’re not there yet, just knowing that we will be there, and to have some idea of what to expect–this will lift our spirits, in the midst of all the tribulation of this world. So let’s take a look now, shall we? “Behold, the New Jerusalem!”

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Published in: on May 25, 2019 at 9:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 19, 2019

“Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Today we’re starting a three-part sermon series I’m calling “Behold, the New Jerusalem!” These messages will be based on the readings from Revelation chapters 21 and 22, where St. John is given a vision of our eternal dwelling place, the new Jerusalem. What we will discover over these next couple of weeks is what you and I have to look forward to as the people of God. Brothers and sisters, it will be new and exciting and beyond our wildest imagination!

We begin today with the opening verses of Revelation 21. Here St. John is given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and he sees a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. In fact, the Lord God says–and this is our theme this morning for the first message in our series: “Behold, I Am Making All Things New!”

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Published in: on May 18, 2019 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“My Sheep Hear My Voice” (John 10:22-30)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2019

“My Sheep Hear My Voice” (John 10:22-30)

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus says to us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is our text.

“My Sheep Hear My Voice.” I should certainly hope so! But how closely are we listening? And when we hear the voice of our Shepherd, do we follow where he is leading? Today we will hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, and by God’s grace we will follow where he leads.

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Published in: on May 11, 2019 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Jesus Is in the Restoration Business” (John 21:1-19)

Third Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2019

“Jesus Is in the Restoration Business” (John 21:1-19)

So far this Easter season we’ve heard about Jesus appearing to his disciples two times, on Easter Day and then a week later. Today we hear about a third appearance to a group of his disciples. Why does Jesus do this? Why does he manifest himself to his disciples repeatedly during these forty days from his resurrection to his ascension? The most obvious answer is to show that he is indeed alive, risen from the dead, physically, bodily. Christ’s resurrection shows that he who died on the cross now is risen from the dead. These resurrection appearances demonstrate that the sacrifice for sin Jesus made on the cross was sufficient to remove the curse of death. Showing himself to his disciples, with the marks of his wounds in his risen body, makes the connection that the crucifixion was not a defeat but rather a victory. Christ’s death was God’s plan for solving the sin-and-death problem. These resurrection appearances underline the centrality of the death and resurrection of Christ in the good news the apostles are being sent out to preach.

So far, so good. But there’s also another dynamic at work in these resurrection appearances. And that is, in a word, restoration. Jesus has some restoration work to do, and it has to do with these disciples. But why? What had they done that they need restoring? All the disciples, really, needed to be restored. They all had deserted Jesus in his hour of need. They all had fled, fearing for their safety. Then they all failed to believe in Jesus’ promise that he would be raised on the third day. So they all were in need of restoration, forgiveness, absolution. And the good news is, for them and for us: “Jesus Is in the Restoration Business.”

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Published in: on May 4, 2019 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Rises” (John 20:1-18)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 21, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Rises” (John 20:1-18)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Behold the man who is risen, who died and now lives. His heart was stopped, but now it pulses with renewed rhythm and vigor. His blood was spilled on Golgotha, but now his veins course with a fresh supply. His lungs were stilled after that loud cry with which he breathed his last, but now the breath of life has returned. His eyes were shut in death, but now they are open and see the light of life. His hands had been nailed to the cross, but now they pick up the grave cloths and fold them neatly in place. His legs were limp as his body was placed in the tomb, but now he stands upright. His body was cold and lifeless, but now he lives. He still bears the marks of the nails and the spear: those are Christ’s holy wounds by which he always wishes to be known. Behold the man, Jesus Christ, true God and true man–he lives. He rises triumphant from the dead and strolls out of the tomb into his green creation.

And Mary Magdalene mistakes him for the gardener. It’s an honest mistake, really. She was understandably confused. She showed up first, while it was still dark and the disciples were asleep. And she probably hadn’t gotten much sleep these last couple of days, so distraught she must have been. As soon as day began to break after the Sabbath, she went to the tomb. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away, dislodged from its fixed location, she ran and told the disciples. She found Peter and John, and her words came crashing out so quickly, it’s a wonder they understood her at all: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

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Published in: on April 20, 2019 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Bleeds, a God Who Dies” (John 18:1 – 19:42)

Good Friday
April 19, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Bleeds, a God Who Dies” (John 18:1 – 19:42)

“Behold the man!” So Pilate said as Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. “Behold the man!” “Ecce homo” in the Latin. “See, I find no guilt in him.” Nevertheless, Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified.

So now: Behold the man on the cross! This is his purpose. This is why God became man. This is why the eternal Second Person of the Trinity has taken human flesh. This is the reason. Behold the man on the cross, bleeding, gasping, suffering, dying.

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Published in: on April 19, 2019 at 7:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Loves” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Holy (Maundy) Thursday
April 18, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Loves” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

If Jesus’ incarnation teaches us anything about love, it’s that love is not the stuff of mere sentimentality. Love is more than warm fuzzy feelings. On the night when he was betrayed, the one who had all the power of God, who, as the song goes, “has the whole world in his hands,” used his hands to pick up a bowl of water, wrap himself in a towel, and scrub the dirt from the feet of his disciples. And then he gives them–and us–a new commandment: Love like this. Love with hands. Love with actions. Love by dying. As I have loved you.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

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Published in: on April 18, 2019 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:1-9)

Palm Sunday
April 14, 2019

“Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:1-9)

Here comes Jesus, riding into town. Like a boss. Well, maybe not like a boss. More like a servant, sitting on a donkey, a beast of burden, rather than on a war horse. Yet as he enters Jerusalem, Jesus is greeted like a king. Which he is, only not the kind you would expect. There are a lot of people pouring into Jerusalem at this time. There’s a big holiday coming up, Passover, and all the Jews are supposed to go to Jerusalem and to the temple for the occasion. So lots of crowds on hand to greet Jesus as he enters. They had heard of this man Jesus. Many of them had seen his miracles and heard his teaching back in Galilee. Jesus had made a big impression on them. Now these pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem for the week of the Passover, and there’s a buzz running through the crowd: “Could this Jesus–could he be the one sent by God as the promised Messiah? We’ve never seen anyone do the works this man does! We’ve never heard such wisdom like this man speaks!” The excitement, the electricity, is palpable.

The crowds were looking for a new king, one who would throw off the shackles of Rome and make Israel great again. They were hoping for a new David to restore the glory of the nation. And indeed, the Lord had promised that one day he would send a son of David, one of David’s descendants, to be that king who would usher in the messianic age of blessing and glory. Could this be the one?

So the crowds start cheering. They’re welcoming Jesus in a grand way. People are throwing their cloaks before him. They’re strewing palm branches before him, a symbol of victory, fit for a conquering king. And the people are shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Let’s talk about this shout of acclamation with which the people are greeting Jesus, as he enters the holy city. And let’s find out how it applies to us here today, for Jesus is coming into our midst also. And so our theme: “Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!”

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Published in: on April 13, 2019 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Does This Spark Joy?” (Philippians 3:4b-14)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 7, 2019

“Does This Spark Joy?” (Philippians 3:4b-14)

Have you ever heard of a woman named Marie Kondo? She’s a young Japanese woman who is an expert on organizing the stuff in your house. Marie Kondo is the queen of decluttering. She has written a best-selling book called, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” And this year she has her own television show called, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

This is a popular trend right now, this tidying up. And Marie Kondo has a certain method for doing it. She says to pick up this or that item you’re debating whether or not to get rid of–hold it up in front of you and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” If it doesn’t, then get rid of it.

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Published in: on April 6, 2019 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Gracious Father–and the Two Lost Sons” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 31, 2019

“The Gracious Father–and the Two Lost Sons” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

“This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling against Jesus. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus was welcoming tax collectors and other bad, disreputable people when they came to hear what he was saying. “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” “Such a disgraceful thing this Jesus fellow is doing! We certainly wouldn’t do such a thing! We’re better than that!”

The Pharisees and the scribes didn’t approve of what Jesus was doing. So Jesus proceeds to tell them a series of parables in which they ought to see that, instead of grumbling, they really should be rejoicing with him! If heaven is rejoicing over these lost sinners being found and brought back home, then how come you guys are grumbling? That’s the message of the three parables in Luke 15, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son–that last one more commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is our text this morning.

The Prodigal Son, or the Lost Son: But, as we’re about to see, perhaps a better title for this story would be “The Gracious Father–and the Two Lost Sons.” Because, really, the point of the parable is the amazing grace of the father in dealing with both of his lost sons.

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Published in: on March 30, 2019 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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