Maundy Thursday, 2017
Exodus 24:3-11 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules.[a] And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
Dear Christian Friends
Our sermon series – Sacred Head Now Wounded
· Ash Wednesday – 1) Lent is about spending time staring in amazement at a sacred head now wounded instead of just passing by unimpressed, 2)about pastors and congregations gathering in sacred assembly admitting that we are wounded and crying out for mercy, 3)Lent is about getting turned around by God and going in the opposite direction instead of just going through the motions.
· (Betrayal)Judas the disciple, a trusted friend, betraying Jesus with a passionate kiss
· (Apathy) Peter, John, and James, three best friends, laying down and falling asleep instead of kneeling and staying awake, watching, and praying
· (Denial) Peter cursing and swearing that he’s never even met Jesus
· (Wound of mockery) Soldiers stripping Jesus naked, putting on a scarlet robe, twisting a crown of thorns into Jesus head, kneeling before, ridiculing, striking, stripping naked one more time, crucifying
· (Wound of abandonment ) – worst injury of all, His own Father leaving Him to suffer alone)
Tonight, we find our wounded and about to be crucified Savior instituting a meal that will be for His wounded and weary warriors for generations to come. It will be a meal Jesus will be hosting again and again, at this meal He will be holding close those He loves, at this meal He will be forgiving those who have fallen short, at this meal He will be strengthening the faith of those who are feeling ever so weak, at this meal He will be providing refuge to those who being tossed to and fro by the storms of life.
On Palm Sunday, I gave you this image of Debi and me getting tossed to and fro on a snorkeling excursion in the choppy Atlantic Ocean waters near the Bahamas. That snapshot showed on the one hand Debi breathing well, knowing what she was doing, and having the time of her life. On the other hand, it showed me gasping for breath, swimming against the current, thinking I might be dying, just wanting to get back to the boat. On Sunday, I invited you to see every local Christian congregation as a place of refuge, a place where Jesus Christ would be showing up as promised, a place where He would be handing out gifts of grace in the waters of Baptism, handing out gifts of mercy in the bread and wine of the Supper, handing out gifts of truth which will set you free in the preaching of His Word.
This evening, I invite you to zero in on your Lord’s Supper as a meal for the wounded, a meal which is pure and unadulterated Gospel. This meal is entirely Good News and it is for you. This meal is for you in all the circumstances of life, be they smooth or rough. Here is where you are invited to bring all of your brokenness, all of your bad attitudes, and all of your bonehead mistakes. Here is where your souls will be loved, your sins will be forgiven, your faith in Christ will be increased, your marching orders will be clear. Here is a meal for wounded sinners provided by your Savior who was wounded all the way to the cross, even to the point of death, by His wounds you are healed, by His death you have been saved, buried, He carried your sins far away, rising He justified you freely forever, one day He’s coming, and a glorious day that’s going to be!
Not two, not just three, but four specific meals I bring to your attention this evening.
Meal #1 – Sarasota, Florida about 15 years ago/ story of a family member married in a wedding that was as beautiful as it could be/ the marriage turned ugly, it ended in divorce, on a hot September Thursday I flew to Florida, on Friday we loaded up his uhaul truck and drove away with shattered dreams and wounded hearts, on Saturday we started a new chapter of life, on Sunday morning there we were singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus with tears turning into father and son weeping out loud, and then our Lord’s Supper, eating a little piece of bread and receiving the very body of Christ broken for us, drinking just a little bit of wine and receiving the very blood of Christ poured out for us, Jesus starting to heal our wounded hearts, Jesus holding us close, Jesus washing our sins far away, Jesus telling us there was a way through, Jesus giving them an appetizer of a feast yet to come, Jesus giving clarity to our future, Jesus giving a peace only He can give.
Meal #2 goes all the way back to Egypt, where the people of God were still reeling from 450 years of vicious oppression, reeling in recent years from having to make bricks without the straw provided, reeling from plagues of water turning to blood, frogs swarming into their countryside, into their houses and bedrooms, frogs swarming into their ovens and kneading bowls, reeling from gnats covering men and beast alike, reeling from swarms of flies, reeling from Egyptian livestock dying by the thousands, reeling from boils breaking out on men, women, children, and beasts, reeling from the mother of all hail storms, reeling from Pharoh deciding to let Israel go and then changing his mind, reeling from a blizzard of grasshoppers, reeling from nationwide darkness, reeling finally from the killing of the firstborn in every household except where the blood of a lamb without blemish would be smeared.
Meal #2 is in the context of 600,000 men plus women and children being saved by the blood of a lamb without blemish being put on their doorpost. In this context, a meal was to be prepared on the tenth day of the first month, a month we call April. At this meal, the wounded people of God would kill their lambs at twilight, they would roast that flesh and eat it, they would prepared unleavened bread and bitter herbs and then eat it, the head of the household would tell the story of deliverance, a story to be handed down from one generation to the next. In that meal, the one true God of this universe would hold His people close, He would remember their sins no more, He gave them an appetizer of a feast yet to come, He would reassure them there was a way through, He would give clarity to their future, He would give a peace only He could give.
Meal #3 is in our text for tonight. It was a once in the history of the world kind of a meal, a meal where God would formally set aside the people of Israel to be His people. It was a meal preceded by Moses approaching the Lord one on one and receiving instructions, Moses writing everything down and passing them along to the 70 elders, the elders responding, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Keep in mind who these people were and what they would be famous for. They were the wounded people of God still reeling from 450 years of slavery, reeling from Egyptian armies chasing them down and trapping them between a rock and a hard place, they would be famous for not keeping their part of the deal, famous for breaking the covenant again and again, famous for chasing after other gods and grumbling about matters mostly small and once in awhile large.
Meal #3 was where young Israelite men offered up burnt offerings, they sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings, Moses took half of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar, he read the book of the covenant and then sprinkled the other half on the 70 elders, the Lord ratifying the covenant, then we see Moses and Aaron, their two sons and seventy elders going up and seeing the one true God. Under God’s feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, it was clear as the sky itself, God did not scold His people, nor did He give them what they deserve, He gave them to eat and to drink, they enjoyed a meal in anticipation of a journey yet to come. In this meal, the one true God of this universe would hold His people close, He would remember their sins no more, He gives them an appetizer of a feast yet to come, He would reassure them there was a way through, He would give clarity to their future, He would give a peace only He could give.
Meal #4 was on the night Jesus was betrayed. Jesus had already been wounded in His spirit, and soon His body would be pummeled beyond imagination. Already His hometown folks had rejected Him, already His family had pronounced Him insane, already His religious leaders had plotted to do away with Him, already Jesus knew that his trusted friend Judas would betray Him, already He knew that His three best friends would fall asleep at a most crucial time, already He knew that Peter would deny, the soldiers would mock, the chief priests would get their way, Pilate would be a sniveling coward, the people who had shouted out hosanna son of David one day would cry out for his crucifixion five days later. At this meal, a wounded and about to be crucified, dead, and buried Savior would hold His disciples close, He would remember their sins no more, He gives them an appetizer of a feast yet to come, He would reassure them there was a way through, He would give clarity to their future, He would give a peace only He could give.
The kingdom of God is like a little flock called and gathered into a sanctuary this very night. Some of them come with a lot on their mind and some with nothing in particular. Many of them are coming as part of a life long habit, a few are coming for the first time. All of them are coming as people who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They have messed up by doing bad things and by failing to do good things. They have transgressed intentionally and unintentionally. They are coming just as they are, nothing fancy, they are who they are. And oh my goodness, are they in for a treat. At this meal, their wounded, crucified, dead, buried, risen, and coming again Savior holds them close, He remembers their sins no more, He strengthens their faith, He gives them an appetizer of a feast yet to come, He assures them there is a way through, He gives clarity to their future, He sends them forth with a peace that only He is able to give.
Palm Sunday, 2017
Class Members – Cassandra Bade, Brandi Boyd, Aubrey Fischer, Torri Gens, Danielle Gerdts, Emma Johnson, Sage Lang, Jack Morsching, Gabriela Otto, Ethan Palmer, Taylor Rinehart, Gabriela Rodriguez, Adam Schlueter, Abby Schumacher, Brooke Sonnek, Darsie Stockman, Megan Walz, Katey Witt
Isaiah 50: 4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. 6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. 7 But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
Just get me back to the (boat) Years ago Debi and I went on a little cruise near the Bahamas, which was lovely in every except for one afternoon, the afternoon Debi convinced me to go with her on my first and last snorkeling excursion. Debi would tell you that the snorkeling that day was easy, it was fun, it was as beautiful as it could be. I would tell you that they gave us about five minutes of training, we put on the snorkeling gear, about 80 of us slid off a little slide into the choppy waters, and from my point of view it was like a scene out of the movie Titanic. Many were having the time of their lives, but a few of us, including me were gasping for breath, trying to figure out how to relax and breathe under water, terrified by the fish swimming by, drifting farther and farther away from the boat. No life guards that I could see, nobody looking out for me, every person on their own. About ten minutes later, I found Debi, she came up to marvel at how wonderful it was, I sputtered that I couldn’t breathe, I was going back to the boat, see you later. For the next ten minutes, I had one thought and one thought alone, just get me back to the boat! I set my face like a flint, I was determined to get back to the boat. The boat was my refuge, my place of safety, that place where I could breathe and be happy and be feasting on snacks and beverages!
Our prayer for our confirmands this weekend is that the Church would be their refuge, their place of safety, that place where they can breathe and live and have their being. That place where they would feast at their Lord’s Supper as an appetizer for the great feast that is yet to come.
Two parts to our sermon today. 1) Jesus set His face like flint, He was determined to get to the cross. 2) This very day, Jesus Christ has set His face like flint on you and me, He is determined to usher you safely into the very gates of heaven.
Just get me to the (cross)
In our text for today, the Suffering Servant is speaking 550 years before He was born. He spoke about how He would suffer in complete and perfect obedience to His Father, He spoke about how He would be anointed with the Spirit of God, He would be awakened every morning by His Father, He would listen carefully to every Word His Father wanted Him to hear, His tongue would be instructed so that He would know how to sustain the weary. He knew that the Lord God Almighty would help Him, He knew He would not be disgraced, He knew that when all the dust had settled He would be vindicated, and therefore He set His face like flint towards a little hill outside of Jerusalem.
Flint is a massively hard quartz that was used to strike fire with steel. To this day, it is used in cigarette lighters for striking fire. Luke records that as the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Matthew records that from that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, He must suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the Law, that He must be killed, and on the third day He must be raised to life. Two truths we want to remember about Jesus determined to get to the cross and suffer all that He was appointed to suffer.
First, Getting to the cross was all about (His Father’s will). It was God who so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, it was the Father who knew that the Savior would need to be a true man so that he could be a substitute for all of humanity, it was the Father who knew the Savior would need to be true God so that His sacrifice would be sufficient ransom price, it was the Father who insisted that His Son drink this bitter cup of divine wrath all the way down to the last drop, it was the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who knew the way of the cross was the way it had to be. And so on the one hand, Jesus getting to the cross was all about the will of His Father, and on the other hand,
Jesus getting to the cross was all about (us). It was about paying the price once and for all we could never pay, it was about offering the bloody sacrifice once and for all we could never offer, it was about making certain that our sins could be forgiven, our souls could be redeemed, our names could be written, our mansions in heaven could be reserved.
When Jesus listened and learned at the feet of his parents and religious teachers, He was in training for a three year public ministry yet to come. When He gave His back to those who whipped bloody, He gave it with you in mind, when He gave his cheeks to those who pulled out his beard, He gave them with you in mind, when He hid not His face from disgrace and spitting, He hid not with you in mind, when He stood there like a man and let them crucify him until He was dead and buried, He stood there with you in mind. Getting to the cross was all about you, it was all about me, it was all about sinners in every generation in mind. Paul says it this way, that this was the mindset of Jesus Christ, that he would be in human form, that he would humble himself, that he would be obedient even to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Which brings us to today and our second snapshot of the mind of Christ. What is it that Jesus Christ is determined to do in the lives of these 18 confirmands? Just get my loved ones to (that glorious day!) In our Palm Sunday Epistle Lesson,we have this picture of a glorious day when Christ is returning, when all knees are bowing and tongues confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
This is the bottom line for your parents, it is the bottom line for your Godparents and your grandparents, it is the bottom line for the elders and members of this congregation, it is the bottom line for your pastors, that the 18 of you be found among the faithful on the Last Day.
This is the desire of Jesus Christ, it is our desire that you would be diligent in the use of the means of grace, that you would be hearing the Word of God and keeping it, that you would be eating and drinking in regular fashion at your Lord’s Supper through thick and through thin, in good health and in sickness, in easy times and in hard times. In closing today, I invite you to think about the life that is to unfold before you, first about the easy chapters of life, and then about the not so easy chapters.
Looking out for the smooth spots, because that’s where the (land mines are). I told this story on Palm Sunday in 2002 and so some of you may have already heard it. Sorry about that. It’s a story about how years ago, the Portuguese had withdrawn from a nation called Angola and that nation had fallen into tribal unrest and civil war. As the years went on, the bridges became untrustworthy, the roads were filled with potholes. It happened that a missionary kind of a person went there on a fact finding mission. He noticed that his driver made no attempt to miss the deep holes and ruts in this road. On the contrary, it seemed as though he headed right for broken up parts. When they came to a stretch of road that had been repaired, the driver almost always headed for the side of the road, and so the missionary finally asked about it. The answer, “I avoid the smooth spots because that’s where the land mines are.”
Dear friends, this very day you will be promising to spend the rest of your days renouncing the devil, renouncing his ways, renouncing his works. Understand that the devil has all kinds of tricks up his sleeves for your days of smooth sailing. Look out for those days that are pleasant and fun and easy going for those are the days he will tempt you to swerve off into a lukewarm, an indifferent, and a lackadaisical brand of Lutheran Christianity.
Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, we invite you to be Looking forward to the rough spots, because that’s where the (teachers are). The kingdom of God is like a speed bump, because that’s where many have been taught the foolishness of not slowing down. The kingdom of God is like a 13 year old boy whose smooth sailing days were interrupted by the death of his brother in a car accident, because those very days, the Holy Spirit nudged Him towards being a pastor. The kingdom of God is like a 17 year old boy whose first real girl friend dumped him in unceremonious fashion and ran off with a friend of his, because in the months following, the Spirit of God taught him not to pin his hopes for happiness on having a girl friend. The kingdom of God is like a thousand times a thousand other Christians who have traveled through every type of tragedy you could imagine, because in those days of trouble, the Spirit of God worked in them a spirit of endurance, which produced strong Christian character, which produced a hope which was and is and ever shall be based on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Just show me who needs (my help) One of the heroes in my life is an elderly man known by many of you, he is from Waldorf, and for many years now, he is happiest when he is helping other people. A number of times in my ministry, he would show up in my office, we would shoot the breeze for a time, and then he would say he was looking for something to do, he was wondering if there was anybody he could help. That’s my prayer for you, dear confirmands, that as the years go on, the Spirit of God would work in you a faith in Jesus Christ that is rock solid, that He would make it so that your face is set like flint towards making this world a better place, that you would be taking your Gospel lights and running towards the darkness all around you, that years from now, you would wander into the office of one of your pastors, that you would shoot the breeze for a time, then be asking that question your Savior loves to hear, “Hey do you know somebody I could help?”
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Dear Friends in Christ,
· Last week, we heard Peter wounding Jesus by denying three times before the rooster crowed, denying as predicted, we see Jesus looking Peter in the eyes and Peter looking away in shame, we see a wounded Jesus Christ proceeding to the cross, as predicted, on behalf of Peter and all of us who have wounded Him by not standing up for Him under pressure, we rejoiced that by his wounds we have been healed, we looked forward to that day when He will confess us before His Father in heaven.
· Two weeks ago, we saw Peter, James, and John wounding Jesus by falling asleep instead of staying awake, watching and praying, we saw how drowsiness can turn into apathy and how apathy can go ugly in a hurry, we saw a wounded Jesus praying, crying, sweating great drops of blood, proceeding to the cross, on behalf of all who have meant well but have fallen into a lukewarm of Christianity. We rejoiced that by his wounds we are healed, we rejoiced that our God is a God who never slumbers, never sleeps, is at our side in every situation.
· Three weeks ago, we saw Judas wounding Jesus, as predicted, by betraying with a kiss, we saw how betrayal comes from friends, we saw Jesus proceeding to the cross with grace in his heart and not bitterness, we rejoiced by his wounds we are healed, that by virtue of his death and resurrection, our sins are remitted, our souls saved, our heavenly mansions on reserve.
· Four weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel cried out for God’s people in all generations to see in the mirror of God’s law how far we have strayed, to see at the cross how far our Savior has come for us, we were reminded by the sign of the cross that from dust we came and to dust we shall return, we rejoiced that although the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
· Today we see Roman soldiers having some fun at Jesus’ expense. We see them stripping Him naked, putting a purple robe on him, twisting a crown of thorns into his head, putting a floppy reed in his right hand, kneeling before him, and mocking him as a fake king. We see them insulting him in the best way they knew how, by spitting, we see them smacking him on the head and having the time of their lives, killing some time, thinking to themselves how big and how important and how funny they were. We see Jesus today. We see Him wounded, we hear Him to be silent, we watch as he goes as a lamb silent to the slaughter. We see him proceeding to the cross, as predicted, we see him with pity in his heart instead of bitterness, with love for his enemies instead of hated, with a desire for mercy instead of vengeance.
· Two truths we want to learn one more time as we stand with Jesus in the governor’s headquarters, as we see Roman soldiers taking over, as we confess the times we have made fun of Jesus by making fun of one another.
1) We see how cruel people can be, even though we’re not exactly sure what their motives are. (Advice from a presenter at a pastors’ conference – to avoid at all costs trying to figure out people’s motives)
2) We see how deep is God’s love for us, and we know exactly what His motive is. (How blessed we are as often as we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and why He suffered what He suffered and did what He did)
· We see how cruel people can be, even though we’re not exactly sure what their motives are. Even though we say again and again that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, there were all kinds of Jews and all kinds of Gentiles with all kinds of motives who joined in on the wounding and the crucifying.
1) When Jesus was arrested, there was a great crowd of chief priests and elders of the people, crowds including all kinds of common Jewish people. Their motives? Maybe they were angry, maybe they were jealous, maybe they were afraid, maybe they were going along with the crowd, maybe they just wanted to be part of history, who knows? What we do know is why Jesus kept on proceeding, it his desire to do what his father had sent him to do, it was his desire to pay the price nobody else could pay, it was his desire to
2) At the mock trial before a Jewish council, the Jewish ruling elite joined in. Their motives? Maybe they were angry, maybe they felt threatened, maybe they were afraid for the future, maybe they were feeling guilty about the past, maybe what Jesus had said really irritated them, maybe the miracles he had performed really were upsetting their apple carts, who knows? What we do know is why Jesus Christ set his face like flint for Jerusalem, we know his motive, it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the worst kind of mockery, it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross, He scorned its shame, He was crucified until He was dead and buried. His desire was to be our Savior and King, His motive was mercy, His end goal was to save our sorry souls.
3) Before Pontius Pilate, there was a Gentile ruling class who joined in on the mocking, they joined in on the wounding, they joined in on the Thursday evening festivities. They thought it was hysterical – a Galilean peasant pretending to be a king.
4) So also did the Roman soldiers get in on the fun / perhaps they had some time to kill / maybe they just had a mean streak in them / maybe some of them felt guilty about it/we don’t know their motives / maybe it made them feel important / maybe it made them feel big / we don’t know / they wound Jesus with their mockery. Three aspects of their mockery we note:
a) Stripped him naked and put a scarlet robe on him / scarlet is a symbol of kingly authority / we remember the Old Testament tabernacle where God dwelt with His people and forgave their sins through the blood of sacrifices / we hear Isaiah predicting, “tho their sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow / we hear Jesus praying, Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing /we hear from Jesus silence and we watch one unblemished lamb going forth to the slaughter
b) Twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on his head and put a reed in his hand, kneeling before him and mocking him / I don’t know what it is like to be mocked / High school stories of Annette, Linda, Jane / stories of not standing up for others getting made fun of / Debi / why can teens be so cruel? / adults hearing name of God used in vain and saying nothing / society openly making fun of traditional doctrines and saying little or nothing / why can adults be so cowardly and passive and let such mockery continue? Don’t know / What we do know is that on the Last Day, Jesus will say when I was hungry….when I was thirsty…..when I needed someone to stand up for me, you did……….He won’t remember the times we humiliated others to make ourselves feel big and important, He won’t remember the times we were quiet when we should have spoken up and the times we blurted sarcasm when we should have been quiet.
c) And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him / Why spit? / I can remember a few spitting contests with my cousins – for no particular reason / Perhaps they wanted to insult / perhaps it just felt fun / perhaps it was their custom /we would look at the painting today and look at the mirror at the same time / When children make fun of teachers behind their backs, they are making fun of Jesus / when teens roll their eyes in sarcasm at their teachers, you are rolling your eyes at Jesus / when we adults make fun of others / when we make jokes at the expense of others / when we look down our noses at others for whatever reason,we are wounding Jesus / and yet Jesus proceeds to the cross/sent by His Father / helped by crying women and Simon of Cyrene / pushed and shoved by soldiers /
He is stripped, that our sinful nakedness might be clothed in the bright robe of His righteousness. He wears a crown of thorns, that we might wear a royal diadem. He is beaten and mocked, that we might be welcomed and treasured. The everlasting love of God is on this Good Friday overcoming all hatred and all mockery. Jesus goes to the cross in kingly fashion. You see, none of this mockery can take from Him His majesty, His glory, His peace. He suffers all that He suffers and He walks every step that He walks with a burning love for sinners in every generation, those of us who have relatively easy roads to travel and those whose roads are incredibly rough.
This evening, I invite you one more time to not hide your faces from his, one more time as you look into His eyes / in this Lenten season:
· Do notice the humiliation, notice the mockery, notice the spitting even as you remember the waters of Baptism that have already washed over your soul and claimed you as sons and daughters of your Father in heaven.
· Do notice the despising, notice the rejecting, notice the bleeding, even as you rejoice that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from every one of your faults/ failures/ foibles.
· Do notice the crushing, notice the striking, notice the crushing, even as the forgiveness of sins sweeps over your souls - He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Amen.
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Dear Friends in Christ,
In these four weeks of Lent, we have fixed our thoughts on the central article of the Christian faith. That we are justified by the grace of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Four different metaphors for the Gospel are before us, four different metaphors out of John chapters 3,4,9, and 11. Two weeks ago, the Gospel was a new birth, one week ago, Jesus offered living water, next week Jesus will declare Himself to be the resurrection and the life, today, Jesus identifies himself as the light of the world.
West End Township Darkness…Back in the fall of 72, Debi and I met up at Concordia College in St. Paul, and it wasn’t long before I took her to the little farm where I grew up to meet up with my family and show her off to my friends. Ever since, she has told the story of how dark it was out there in the countryside. Other than a few mercury lights dotting the countryside about every half mile or so, and if the stars weren’t shining, when we turned the lights off at night, it was dark. Debi had grown up in the city of Milwaukee, where she tells me, it’s never really dark. Add to the darkness a few black angus cattle grazing nearby and a few dozen boxelder bugs flying around, and it wasn’t long before she was asking me if we had any nightlights. The answer was no.
I tell you all of that to tell you part #1 of our sermon today, which is that
There’s darkness, and then there’s (darkness.) In our Gospel lesson for today, there is the man blind from birth who experienced physical darkness, and there’s the Pharisees who kept on choosing spiritual darkness. In real life, there’s folks who travel through days of trouble with a faith that is stronger than ever, and then there’s folks who travel through days of trouble declining in their faith and even losing it.
In the first part of our sermon today, we focus on the Pharisees, and in the second part. In the first part, we see spiritual darkness deepening, and in the second part, we see the light of the world shining more brightly than ever. Darkness is a metaphor for sinfulness. Paul writes to the Ephesians that they were once darkness but now are light in the Lord. Sin flourishes in dark places. It lurks in the back streets and alleys, it hides behind closed doors, it sneaks around in the hidden places.
Even more frightening than sin and darkness which lies around the next corner is the evil that lurks in the darkness of our own hearts. Who among us wants to have our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds exposed for all to see? Who among us would like to be totally transparent before God and others when it comes time for the confession of sins? Who among us want to be told, as the Pharisees were told by Jesus, that we’re blind as bats and have no idea what we are talking about? As the Pharisees engage in conversation first with the man born blind, secondly with the parents of the man just healed, and third one more time with man, finally with Jesus Himself, we have a case study in the dangers of the blind leading the blind. Three lessons we learn from the Pharisees about what not to do as we spend our days renouncing the devil and all of his works and ways.
Lesson #1 is that Darkness deepens when we keep on asking ( bad questions) I suppose there is some truth to the old adage that there are no dumb questions, but in John 9, we see the Pharisees asking one question of unbelief after another. (Story of Pastor Schauland on vicarage in response to a Bible class participant who kept on asking hard questions and didn’t seem to be listening, “that is a question of unbelief.” It’s clear in our text that the Pharisees weren’t interested in the truth of what had just happened. They started out with the false premise that Jesus was a sinner, they pushed and they shoved and they bullied in an effort to get the answers they desired, and even though the very Light of the World was standing nearby, their darkness just kept on getting darker.
The kingdom of God is like a man caught up in the sin of pornography. A big part of him knew he was playing with fire, another part of him kept on asking, “Am I really hurting anything? Am I really hurting anybody else?
Lesson #2 is that spiritual Darkness deepens as often as we refuse (to listen) The blind man told the Pharisees exactly how Jesus had restored his sight, but they didn’t want to hear it. They asked the man who he thought Jesus was, he answered “he is a prophet,” they didn’t want to hear it. The parents told them their son was in fact born blind, they didn’t want to hear it. Again and again the blind man told them he was blind and now he could see, they didn’t want to hear it. The man told them Jesus was from God and God would listen to the prayers of anybody who would worship him, they didn’t want to hear it, they went a step further and threw him out of the synagogue. They wondered out loud to Jesus if they were also blind, and when Jesus affirmed that in fact the very teachers of the church were spiritually blind, you guessed it, they didn’t want to hear it.
The kingdom of God is like a teenager whose grandparents keep inviting her to church, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Her parents keep warning her against hanging out with the party crowd, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Her own conscience bothers her on a regular basis, but she has found a way to tune that voice out.
Lesson #3 is that spiritual Darkness deepens when we make it a habit of taking (wrong turns). In our Old Testament lesson for today, God is described as a mighty warrior who had for a long time held his peace, but his patience had run out. His people had been taking so many wrong turns for so long they thought he was indifferent to their idolatry, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In today’s Epistle lesson, Paul pleads with Christians to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness and to know that sooner or later, all things shameful will be exposed by the light.
The kingdom of God is like a married couple that keeps on ignoring the signs of a troubled marriage. Less and less do they confess their faults one to another, more and more time they spend explaining, excusing, and blaming. Less and less do they forgive as they have been forgiven, more and more likely they are to hold onto their bitterness and travel the road of self righteousness.
In the first part of our sermon today, we focused on the Pharisees who thought they could see, but were in fact blind. Now we consider the blind man who thought he would always be blind, but now he sees. We rest now in the truth that for you, the baptized and believing people of God, There’s a light at the end of every one of your (tunnels)
Jesus said it this way, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” In chapter 1 of his Gospel, John wrote that in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men.” To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, For God, who said,’Let light shine out of darkness made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Peter writes to early and suffering Christians, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Dear friends in Christ, whatever fears and foes and failures are dragging you down these days, Jesus Christ has a desire to lift you up and get you on your way again. Whatever guilt of the past or worries of the future are overwhelming your heart today, know once again of your Father’s everlasting life, know once again of your Savior’s desire to have mercy, know once again the Spirit of God who would be your teacher, your counselor, your comforter. However lonesome and long are your tunnels of darkness these days, believe there is a way through, believe there is a purpose for every bit of your suffering, believe that Jesus Christ has gone on before you and even today He walks alongside of you. Three truths in closing, three stories by way of thinking about what it means to be walking as children of light.
Truth #1 is that Light shines more brightly as often as we ask (good questions).The kingdom of God is like a young couple who one day is ecstatic about being pregnant and the next is bent low in grief over the darkness of miscarriage. Initially they are angry, they think they deserve better, they ask, “Lord, how could you be so cruel as to let our little one die?” As the days go on, the Holy Spirit teaches them to be still, they begin to look forward, they ask, “Lord, would you help us not to be bitter? would you help us to trust in you? Lord would you be so kind as to take us by the hand and lead us? For what divine purpose are we suffering?
Truth #2 is that Light shines as often as we (listen well) The kingdom of God is like a middle aged woman whose husband dies suddenly. Initially she is angry, she thinks she deserves better, she asks why God is punishing her. As the days go on, she keeps on hearing the Word of God, she believes the Word of God, she holds close the Word of God. As the days go on, she wonders what the Lord might have in store for her, she wonders how the next chapter of her life might bring God glory, she wonders for what divine purpose she might be suffering.
Truth #3 is that Light shines for others as often as we stay on the (right path) The kingdom of God is like an elderly couple who has been walking hand in hand and humbly before the Lord for sixty years now. The Word of God has been a light unto their path and a lamp unto their feet. Without really thinking about it and just be being who they are, they let their light shine so that all kinds of family and friends see their good works and give glory to their Father in heaven.
Billy giving glory to God. (Story of Bill, born with Downs Syndrome, singing Gloria in excelsis deo every Christmas Eve. He was born with Downs Syndrome not because of his sin, nor the sin of his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.[b] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Dear Friends in Christ,
On the first two Wednesdays of Lent, the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, has invited us to be gathered, to be honest, to be sorry, and to be amazed. To be gathered into the presence of a gracious God, to be honest about the ways we have wounded our Savior, to be sorry for the ways we have betrayed our best friend Jesus, and to be amazed at our God’s desire to have mercy, to be amazed at a sacred head, now wounded. Again tonight, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, to be gathered, to be honest and to be sorry specifically with regard to the sin of apathy, and to be amazed. Amazed at the desire of our God to have mercy, to spend some time focused on Jesus praying, His best friends sleeping, and the angels watching over.
Sit here, while I go over there and pray……So, could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Truth #1 – We have a standing invitation from Jesus to watch with Him and pray. (Jesus praying, disciples sleeping, Father listening, angels preparing cross) To stand and watch with Him against the enemies of the faith. 1) Sinful nature 2)Sinful world 3)Devil himself
The Setting is the Garden of Gethsemane. A garden where a man and his friends could come in the cool of the evening to get away from it all, for discussion, for relaxation, and for prayer. This garden is likely where an oil press was located. Most likely located near the trees so they didn’t have to carry the olives too far. For Jesus and His friends, this night was as dark as darkness can be. The soul of Jesus was as lonely as loneliness can get, as painful as pain can hurt. If you’ve ever had to drink a gallon of nasty tasting solution to get yourself ready for a colonoscopy the next day, and then multiply that by a thousand and then again by a million and then again by a billion, you will begin to taste what Jesus was about to taste. Jesus was about to drink a chalice full to the brim and even running over. Running over with the wrath of a righteous God and aimed at sinners in every generation.
It was the wrath of God aimed against all of our orneriness and poured into a solitary chalice. Aimed at all of our laziness and poured into a single container. Aimed at all of our wickedness and all of our nastiness and all of our self centeredness and all of our indifference an poured into one lonely chalice. Oh how our Savior was shivering and shaking like no one else had ever shivered and shook. Trembling and troubled like nobody else had ever been trembling and troubled.
The Simple Request of our Lord was that he not have to do this alone. It was that his three closest friends in life would watch and pray with Him for one hour. He was asking that they stay awake and be interested in what He was going through. He was wondering if they could stay close, stay awake, and be alert. Just for an hour or so, could they sensitive to his pain, could they feel what He was feeling, could they cry what He was crying, could they pray what He was praying?
Truth #2 is that apathy can get ugly in a hurry. (Jesus praying, disciples sleeping, angels preparing cross) “And he came to them and found them sleeping…..And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy…..He came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on….”
No doubt the disciples meant well, but they failed Jesus in a strong way. They cared for Jesus, but drowsiness prevailed. Their mistake may have been that they laid down instead of sitting or kneeling. (Story of my brother Curtis who made the mistake of driving when he was tired, it cost him his life.)
In an article, “How God cares for those who don’t”, Paul Maxwell defines apathy as “the disposition of dismissal or reluctance toward a particular idea, person, or group, often experienced as a lack of emotion. He lists five basic components to apathy.
1) Meaningless / “apathy is the emotional middle finger to meaning.” / it is to say “thanks but no thanks” to life’s purpose / blank stare / contrast with Luther’s “What does this mean?” and “How is this done? questions
2) Easiness / it’s easy to be apathetic / it is to put a “do not disturb” sign to opportunity and people / an emotional Saturday afternoon nap / Difficulty is considered a vice and ease a virtue / Way is easy and road is wide that leads to destruction
3) Trendiness vs. holding dear what we have been taught from our mother’s knees
4) Entitlement / apathy spreads when it becomes an assumption / we end conversations with a scoff, a shoulder shrug, a rhetorical confused look / we listen to a sermon with “when will this be over?
5) Stuck – Apathy’s “battle cry is ‘whatever’. Try to rouse the apathetic, and you have a real fight on your hands. Apathy is a powerful non emotion. It shackles you to yourself. It’s a motivational straight jacket that you can’t feel or try your way out of.” Truth # 2 – Apathy can turn ugly in a hurry.
Truth #3 is that Father knows best. Three times Jesus prayed earnestly (as disciples slept, His Father listened, angels prepared cross). He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” / My soul is sorrowful, even to death / Luke writes, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat become like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
The primary will of God is that whoever believes and is baptized be saved. The corresponding will is that whoever believes not be damned.
The will of God for us is that 1) we do the good works ordained by God for us to do, 2) we avoid the evil the devil tempts us to do, and 3)we suffer patiently whatever afflictions we face.
The will of God is to make disciples of all nations through a faithful Word and Sacrament ministry and that God get all the glory!
Author Paul Maxwell on Redeeming the Apatheetic / God keeps on loving us, keeps on pursuing us / doesn’t give up on us / we’re under construction.
· Affirmation / God affirms the “I don’t care” attitude towards trivialities / burns away the dross / faith is like gold which gets tested by the fire and impurity is driven out
· Invites us to rest / go to a quiet place / Divine Service / create in me a clean heart
· Security – Being secure in God means saying, “Things matter, and I care.” Goal #1 is to be faithful, effectiveness is secondary.
· Community –we travel together /we stir up one another towards good works / caring about the kingdom of God is contagious
· Himself –The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town more and more amazed by their Savior’s steadfast love. Regularly they see in the mirror how with regard to the kingdom of God they have fallen into lethargy, listlessness, and lukewarm Lutheranism. Regularly, they fix their eyes on their wounded Savior and see how patient, how peculiar, and how persevering is His love for them. Regularly, their sins of apathy are forgiven, their faith is strengthened, and their desire for the mission of God to go forward is renewed. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther