“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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“When Good Things Happen to Bad People” (Luke 13:1-9)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 24, 2019

“When Good Things Happen to Bad People” (Luke 13:1-9)

Did you see the pictures of the terrible flooding across Nebraska this past week? I used to live in Nebraska for several years. Lots of good people out that way, hard-working farmers and their families. Church-going people, too. Did you know that the state with the highest percentage of its population being Missouri Synod Lutherans is Nebraska? But now many Nebraskans are facing huge financial losses. Why did God let this happen?

Or consider an even worse tragedy befalling innocent people. In the last few weeks, hundreds and hundreds of Christians have been murdered, martyred, massacred, in Nigeria and elsewhere, by Muslim terrorists. Simply for being Christians. Such evil! Why did God let this happen?

Floods in Nebraska. Blood in Nigeria. Every week we hear reports of some disaster or terrible tragedy in which innocent men, women, and children are suffering badly–many swept away in sudden death through no fault of their own. We see these stories and we ask: Why? Why did these awful things happen to innocent people? With social media and non-stop news coverage these days, around the clock and around the world, we’re constantly being confronted with this question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

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Published in: on March 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Fox and the Hen” (Luke 13:31-35)

Second Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2019

“The Fox and the Hen” (Luke 13:31-35)

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes describe people by comparing them to animals? For example, if you call someone a “pig,” that word carries with it some associations that are not particularly flattering. On the other hand, when a father calls his little girl “kitten,” he’s using that word as a term of endearment. Animal imagery abounds in our language: “like a bull in a china shop”; “like an ostrich with its head in the sand”; “as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” These references to animals are effective, because they create pictures in your mind that bring with them the intended ideas.

Well, we run into animal imagery in our text for today, the Gospel from Luke 13. There Jesus makes not just one but two such references. So now let’s hear about “The Fox and the Hen.”

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Published in: on March 16, 2019 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What Kind of Son Are You?” (Luke 4:1-13)

First Sunday in Lent
March 10, 2019

“What Kind of Son Are You?” (Luke 4:1-13)

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” So came the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. And we know from the rest of the New Testament that Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense, a one-of-a-kind sense, in his very being. As we said in the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds.” He is the Second Person of the Trinity, true God, divine in his very nature. In this sense, there has never been, and never will be, anyone else who is “the” Son of God.

But in another sense, Jesus did come, he needed to come, as “son of God” like others who have borne that identity. I’m thinking here specifically of three examples of “sons of God”: Adam in the garden; Israel in the Old Testament; and we, the church–all “sons of God” in this respect.

Take Adam, for example. In the verses right before our text today in Luke, there is a genealogy of Jesus going back all the way to Adam. That genealogy concludes, “Adam, the son of God.” You see, Adam was created to bear the image and likeness of God. That’s what good sons do.

Then there was Old Testament Israel. In Exodus, Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’” So Israel had this status of being God’s son, and a good son should serve the will of his father.

Adam, Israel, and now us. We are God’s sons also, God’s baptized children, inheritors of his promise, joint heirs with Christ, privileged to call on God as our heavenly Father. We have been baptized to be God’s faithful, obedient sons, trusting in his goodness and reflecting his character. That’s what good sons do.

But when we look at Adam, when we look at Old Testament Israel, and when we look at ourselves, we have to ask, in each case, “What Kind of Son Are You?”

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Published in: on March 9, 2019 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” Well, that must’ve been quite a sight. I wonder if the Israelites in the wilderness protested at the elaborate details and the exorbitant expense of making such vestments for Aaron. I wonder, did they have to scuttle these plans until the voters could approve the design and expense? Did they put it out for bids to see if someone had a source for pure gold or blue dye, so they could come in under budget and then put the rest in a CD? “I don’t know why one priest needs to be dressed in something way more elaborate and costly than anything we buy or make for ourselves. Does Aaron think he’s better than us?” “I don’t see why we have to use all this gold. Tin would look almost as nice for a tenth of the price!” I could just imagine the grumbling Israelites talking like this.

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Published in: on March 6, 2019 at 1:22 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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