“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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“Words of Spirit and Life” (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-53)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 29, 2020

“Words of Spirit and Life” (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-53)

Have you been starting to feel like you’re Lazarus? I mean, you’ve been cooped up in your quarantine “tomb,” not just for four days, but now going on fourteen days. You’ve been stuck inside so long, maybe skipping showers, maybe skipping laundry–“Lord, by this time there will be an odor!” You’re stuck inside, and you’re waiting for someone to speak the word, “Lazarus, come out!” But for now, it looks like you’re going to have to wait a little longer. The President’s hope that we will be able to go back to church on Easter–well, we’ll have to wait and see if that can come to pass.

And so we wait. Inside. Virtual reality. But what is very real, and what is very powerful–indeed, what is creative and life-living–is the word of God. The word of God gives us hope and joy, in the midst of economic uncertainty and social isolation, even in the midst of disease and death. The words that God speaks to us–even today, now as you hear them–these are “Words of Spirit and Life.”

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Published in: on March 28, 2020 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Quarantine of Lent” (John 9:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 27:5)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2020

“The Quarantine of Lent” (John 9:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Psalm 27:5)

“Quarantine”: That’s a word we’re hearing a lot of these days. It means “a period of forced isolation,” and it is done in the interest of the public health. But do you know the origin of the term “quarantine”? It comes from the practice in medieval Italy of keeping ships suspected of carrying disease–of keeping those ships in isolation for a period of forty days. You see, the term “quarantina” literally means “forty days.”

Well, the church has its own period of forty days, during which we are to self-isolate, in a way, in the interest of our spiritual health. This time, this season of the church year, is called Lent, and we’re in it right now. Lent is a penitential season, in which we are to inspect ourselves, to see the symptoms of the underlying deadly disease we all are carrying–namely, sin–to repent of our sins, and to turn to God for forgiveness and renewed life.

It just so happens that this year the forty days of Lent coincide almost exactly with our national health crisis. Lent began at the end of February, which is just about the time concern over the coronavirus began to grow. We’re in the midst of the pandemic panic right now. Businesses are shutting down. Churches are canceling services. Governors are issuing “shelter in place” orders. People are “self-isolating” and doing “social distancing.” People are scared, both of the virus itself and of the impact it’s having on the economy–and your own personal economy.

Dear friends, while this pandemic is real, and people’s fears over it are real, today I want to invite you to use these forty days of Lent to good purpose. See this time as a quarantine, a time in which you come to grips with your sins and your fears, a time to trust in God to forgive and sustain you, and a time to look with hope to your long-range–yea, eternal–future. And so our theme this morning: “The Quarantine of Lent.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2020 at 2:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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“How Being Justified Changes Your Life” (Romans 5:1-8)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 15, 2020

“How Being Justified Changes Your Life” (Romans 5:1-8)

How has this coronavirus thing changed your life? Has it? Maybe it hasn’t. But for lots of people, it has. Let me count the ways. No baseball, that’s the main thing. No hockey either. No March Madness. Universities have shut down. K-12 schools have shut down. No toilet paper to be found on the shelves. Travel plans are being disrupted. The economy is being hurt. The stock market is down big-time. I know for myself I’ve lost about $5,000 on my investments so far this year, almost all of that in the last few weeks. Cancellations, closures, and precautions like crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life. Lots of negative impacts, lots of bad effects, all rippling out from this one virus. One thing leads to another, and the dominoes begin to fall. People’s lives are being negatively affected by this epidemic and the reaction to it.

The coronavirus is an example of how one thing can change your life in many ways. In this case, most all of the effects are negative. But how about an example on the positive side? Is there anything that can change your life for the better, with the effects rippling out in many ways? I think there is. In fact, I know there is. God’s word tells us about it today. In our Epistle reading for today, we hear about “How Being Justified Changes Your Life.”

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Published in: on March 14, 2020 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Happy Rebirthday!” (John 3:1-17)

Second Sunday in Lent
March 8, 2020

“Happy Rebirthday!” (John 3:1-17)

Yesterday, March 7, was my birthday. Or was it? Oh yeah, sure, March 7 was the day I was born–so many years ago now. But that’s not my only birthday. I’ve got another one, too, and it’s even more important. And that’s September 10. You see, that’s the day I was baptized–again, so many years ago, but that’s my re-birthday. For on that day I was born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit. And all of you who have been baptized in the name of the triune God–the day of your baptism, likewise, is your “Happy Rebirthday!”

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Published in: on March 7, 2020 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Two Men You’re Related to” (Romans 5:12-19)

First Sunday in Lent
March 1, 2020

“Two Men You’re Related to” (Romans 5:12-19)

You know those ancestry tests you can take? You know, the ones where you spit into a little tube, and you send it off, and then they let you know what your ancestry is. And they’ll even give you lists of names of people you’re related to, including people maybe you didn’t know you were related to. Well, today I’m going to tell you about two people you definitely are related to, and–guess what–you don’t even have to spit into a tube. And so our theme this morning: “Two Men You’re Related to.”

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Published in: on February 29, 2020 at 9:14 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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