“The Light Shines in the Darkness” (John 1:1-5, 9-14)

Good Friday
April 2, 2021

“The Light Shines in the Darkness” (John 1:1-5, 9-14)

Tonight we’re doing a traditional Good Friday evening service called “Tenebrae.” The Latin word, “tenebrae,” means “shadows” or “darkness.” This is the Service of the Shadows, the Service of Darkness–moving to complete darkness at the end of the service. This reminds us of the darkness that came over the land when Christ was hanging on the cross, the great darkness that occurred when the author of life was put to death. And then his lifeless body was placed in the tomb, and night fell, and all was darkness and shadows. The loud noise that will come at the end of this service, called the “strepitus”–that will remind us either of the earthquake at the time of Christ’s death or of the shutting of the tomb, when the heavy stone is rolled into place. In either case, the sound will signify the finality of death. Boom! Death wins.

This is the time of darkness and shadows. It seems that darkness has covered the earth. The one who had done only good, a righteous man–murdered. The one who had brought healing and had shown God’s mercy to so many–dead. The one in whom men had put their hope, now has been killed, and hope died with him. Jesus of Nazareth–crucified, dead, and buried. Now what?

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Published in: on April 2, 2021 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Washed Clean with Jesus’ Love” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Holy Thursday
April 1, 2021

“Washed Clean with Jesus’ Love” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

One thing we’ve been reminded of a thousand times over the past year is to wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands, we are told, is an important way to keep you from getting the virus or spreading it to others. And so we wash our hands. Frequently.

But you can wash your hands fifteen times a day, eight days a week, and still, eventually, something is going to get you. We’re all going to die of something. But there is one type of washing that will keep you from dying eternally. And that is, when you have been “Washed Clean with Jesus’ Love.”

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Published in: on April 1, 2021 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Hosanna!” (John 12:11-19)

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
March 28, 2021

“Hosanna!” (John 12:11-19)

Today is Palm Sunday, and if there is a “word of the day” for this day, it’s “Hosanna!” How often do we see that word show up in our service today! We started the service by saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Then we heard the Gospel reading, where the crowd cries out, “Hosanna!” As we processed in, we sang the refrain six times, “To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.” And we concluded the procession by saying, “Hosanna in the highest.” So before we even sat down, we heard or said or sang “hosanna,” nine times! And when we get done singing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty,” you can add four more “hosannas” to the list, for a total of thirteen. Truly the word of the day for Palm Sunday is “Hosanna!”

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Published in: on March 27, 2021 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Hand-Washing Won’t Do–Blood Is Needed” (Matthew 27:11-50)

Good Friday
April 10, 2020

“Hand-Washing Won’t Do–Blood Is Needed” (Matthew 27:11-50)

Right now in the news we’re hearing about governors making life-or-death decisions. Should we be open? Should we be closed? How far can I go to protect people’s health? What about the loss of freedom? What about the loss of jobs? Governors are feeling pressure from all sides to make a decision one way or the other. And these decisions do affect people’s lives and their livelihood.

No governor has ever made a more momentous life-or-death decision than the one we read about in today’s text, on this Good Friday. And that governor was Pontius Pilate. He had to make a life-or-death decision about one man who was brought before him, Jesus of Nazareth. How did Pontius Pilate do on this decision? Let’s find out. And let’s find out what this means for us.

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Published in: on April 10, 2020 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Washed and Clean, We Have Life Together with Christ” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Holy Thursday
April 9, 2020

“Washed and Clean, We Have Life Together with Christ” (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)

Right now, everybody is concerned about washing their hands, washing their face, and keeping clean. Yesterday I went to the grocery store, and at the entrance they had some Purell wipes. So I wiped my hands and the grocery cart handle, and afterwards, when I had loaded the groceries in my car, I wiped my hands again. Then when I got home, I made sure to wash my hands and my face and so on. Earlier today I saw this comment on the internet: “I just Clorox-wiped a bottle of Purell and Purelled my hands cuz I touched the Clorox canister.” Everybody, it seems, wants to have their hands washed, their face washed—all their body parts washed–so they can be clean.

Everybody, that is, except Peter. Yeah, Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. He objected to having his feet washed. Jesus wanted to wash his feet, but Peter objected. “Lord, do you wash my feet?” he asked Jesus. You see, Peter thought it was beneath Jesus’ dignity to stoop down and do such a menial task, a task normally reserved for a servant. But Jesus was his master, so Peter objected.

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Published in: on April 9, 2020 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!” (John 12:12-19)

Palm Sunday
April 5, 2020

“Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!” (John 12:12-19)

I don’t know about you, but these last couple of weeks I’ve been watching the daily briefings from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. I find these briefings fascinating. Not only do they provide information on the virus itself and how to slow the spread–I’ve become familiar with terms like “mitigation,” “models,” “flattening the curve,”; “granular” is the latest one–not only do I find that part fascinating, but it’s also interesting to see how the government responds to calls for help from around the country. “New York, you need 2,000 ventilators? Don’t worry; help is on the way.” “Los Angeles, we’re sending you a hospital ship to help with relieving the stress on your system.” Much-needed supplies are being sent out, like N95 masks for health-care workers. And then there’s the financial assistance. The Treasury Secretary reports on the emergency money that’s coming your way. The Small Business Administrator tells businesses how to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, so that they can keep paying their employees. So you’ve got the President, the Vice President, the Treasury Secretary, the SBA, an assortment of admirals and private-sector business leaders–they’re all delivering the same message: “Don’t worry; help is on the way.”

Well, in a way, this reminds me of what we find in today’s Palm Sunday Gospel reading. The main message is likewise, “Don’t worry; help is on the way.” Only in this case, it doesn’t take a whole White House task force to do the job. No, here the much-needed help comes in a task force of one, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so God is saying to us today, in the words of our text: “Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!”

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Published in: on April 4, 2020 at 6:49 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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“It Is Finished” (John 19:17-30)

Good Friday
March 30, 2018

“It Is Finished” (John 19:17-30)

“Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” This is our text.

“It is finished”: one of the last words of Jesus on the cross. But just what kind of a statement was it, this “It is finished”? What is it that is “finished”? What was Jesus talking about? How did he say, “It is finished”? What did he mean by that? Was it a statement of defeat and resignation? A statement of final relief? And whatever it was that was finished, and however Jesus may have been saying it, what in the world does it have to do with us? As we’ll see now, the answers to these questions are all wrapped up in this one little word: “It Is Finished.”

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Published in: on March 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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