He Will Swallow Up Death Forever

Isaiah 25:6–9

 

[6] On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

[7] And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.

[8]        He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the LORD has spoken.

[9] It will be said on that day,

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the LORD; we have waited for him;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

The Lord makes a great meal, a feast of feasts. The greatest food and drink imaginable. It’s prepared for everyone, all peoples, not just some. Rich, poor, good & bad, male, female, slave & free, the haves and have nots, ALL are invited to this meal, and the Lord does it all. He makes it, prepares it and does all the inviting. So, it’s no surprise that Isaiah 25 reminds us of the Jesus’ parable in the Gospel text today, where a Great Banquet is prepared and we read:

 

“See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ (Matt. 22:4)

 

When we read about this great feast, we’re also reminded of Rev. 19 where St. John sees, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb where there is a great meal prepared for the guests using very similar language to Isaiah 25.

 

Revelation 19:7–9

 

[7] Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

[8] it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”—

 

 

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

 

[9] And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Or as we respond in the liturgy This is the Word of the Lord!

 

Our Lord preparing a meal for His people is actually found throughout the whole Bible, from the garden of Eden and the Tree of Life, to the meal of the Passover, the manna in the wilderness, the bread of the Presence in the tabernacle and Temple and on and on it goes. The Lord always does the giving and the inviting. We don’t cooperate with God in this meal, or do our part with God doing His part, but the Lord does it all. He is the God who gives gifts. He is the God who IS salvation, and that’s what the name Jesus means. Yahweh is salvation.

 

So, What then is He giving here with this meal, this eating and drinking, and what is being celebrated?

 

Isaiah 25:7 says:

“And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.”

 

And what is it that’s covering and veiling the nations, that the Lord will swallow up?

 

Verse 8 answers “He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the LORD has spoken.”

 

Death, as a result of Original sin affects everyone. Physical and spiritual death are inherited by all of mankind. Death is always the result of sin, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) Great and small, rich and poor. Original sin and the resulting death, inherited by us all from birth is no respecter of your country, your status or anything else. We can’t tip the scale, change our nature or come up with any way to deter it’s effects. No political system, leader, legislation, scientist or anyone in the whole world can fix what we are, both by nature and by choice. We are sinners, guilty of not loving God or our neighbor as we ought to. Our very best behavior is still tainted with Original sin in ways we can’t even see or imaging. Although Sin, death and the devil have their way with all of us from birth, the Lord here gives His promise, not through the Law or another commandment, but through His Promise. So that Our hope, our absolution, our forgiveness, is rooted in His Promise to deliver us from this great enemy.

 

Death’s destruction is not through mankind’s betterment, progress or reform, but is alone from the Lord Himself swallowing up death for us. For Jesus, as the Lamb of God who takes away your sin, has taken death for you, in your place, and has overcome it, through His crucifixion and resurrection as St Paul tells us:

 

1 Corinthians 15:56–57

 

“[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Isaiah 25 gives to us the Lord’s Promise that death would be swallowed up for all, and there would be no more mourning or even tears because the Lord has spoken His Word. When the Lord speaks His Word, it is accomplished, it is done. When He says, Let there be light, there is light, when He says Lazarus come forth, Lazarus is resurrected, and when He says your sins are forgiven, it is accomplished.

He delivers and accomplishes His Promise or Gospel to you through the means of speaking it, preaching it to you even through the prophet Isaiah and all the others living hundreds of years and even thousands of years before Word would become flesh, taking up our humanity to live, die and rise again to accomplish this Promise.

He would also give us, people given His very name through baptism, a meal, His Holy Supper, where He delivers to you His true Body given into death for you sins, and His true blood she for you for the forgiveness of your sins. So, as His people, baptized into His death and resurrection we may say in certainty, in faith, along with Isaiah 25:9

 

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the LORD; we have waited for him;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

Our rejoicing and gladness then, is our belonging to the Lord who has swallowed up death for us, cleansed us of our sins, and made us His very own. He has invited us, and all people, to His great banquet and feast, the feast which honors His Son, who has clothed us with His righteousness. Our eating and drinking then, is in faith, it is simply receiving His gifts, His Son, not on the basis of our goodness, or righteousness, for we bring nothing to the feast, but a hunger and thirst for a righteousness which is outside of us, given from heaven to earth, the righteousness of our Lord Jesus who has accomplished all and done all for us and for our salvation.

 

We think of the words of the small catechism on the Sacrament of the Altar where we ask:

 

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?

Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen

 

 

Jesus Came to Die for Sinners

th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17)                 Aug. 30, 2020

 

 

MATTEHW 16:21-28

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

 

Which Jesus do you want? Jesus tells Peter and the Apostles that he is now on his way to Jerusalem to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed, and on the third day rise again, and Peter says, Not so fast. That’s not the Jesus I want.

 

The Jesus who feeds four thousand hungry people on the side of a hill with seven pieces of bread and a few small fish, the Jesus who walks on the water, the Jesus who before that feeds five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, the One who gives the man with a withered hand a healthy hand, who gives sight to the blind men, makes the lame walk, gives a voice to a mute, who before that cast out demons, who stilled the storm with just a word—that Jesus, Peter was there each time, Jesus did it right in front of his eyes, that’s a Jesus Peter can get behind and follow.

 

But to this Jesus who’s going up to Jerusalem to be humiliated, to suffer, and to die? “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

[Matthew 16:22]

 

 

Peter wanted Jesus without the cross, and to be sure Jesus can be preached without the cross. It’s actually still done today, all the time. It’s Old Adam’s default way of preaching and teaching. It’s also the great temptation of the church: take the Jesus you want, use that Jesus for your life.

 

It’s as if you had people sitting around the dinner table, and one wants to pray to the Jesus who does miracles, another wants to pray to the full-grown Jesus with a beard, and another wants to pray to the baby Christmas Jesus.

 

You can do that, take the Jesus you want, but the Jesus you end up with is the one YOU design. That Jesus is actually an idol. Because, he fits just what you want him to fit, just what you need to make your life what you want it to be, and that’s an idol.

 

So, in the church, Jesus can be preached without the cross. That’s not the true church, of course. That’s not the church being who she truly is: the Bride of Christ who would never misrepresent her Groom. But it is the great temptation: to have Jesus as you would want him.

 

So Jesus is turned into a great lawgiver. That’s the Jesus our world can understand and even tolerate and like.

 

That’s the Jesus we, ourselves, in our sinful flesh would ALWAYS have: Jesus teaching better ways to live, Jesus teaching how to please yourself, how to have a better future, how to be the best you now, how … whatever. Jesus as Lawgiver, as new Moses; Jesus as your life-coach. The world, and our own sinful flesh, has no problem with a Jesus like that.

 

In this way, any text in the Bible can be turned into a text of Law, of how to be a better Christian, of how to improve yourself. The Ten Commandments? They’re changed to principles for successful living. The Beatitudes? They’re downgraded to list of ways to live a more blessed life. The dinners eaten by Daniel and his friends in Babylon? That’s changed into a Daniel diet for the Christian family. A little prayer prayed by a man named Jabez? That’s changed into a law about how you are supposed to pray if you’re a good Christian.

 

Any text in the Bible can be changed into a text of Law, of methods for living, of so-called spiritual principles. And Jesus is now a law-giver. The new Moses. The teachers reducing Jesus to being a law-giver will always be able to claim they are Bible-teachers. For, after all, they are preaching from the Bible. As also did the Pharisees—they taught from the Bible. But they used the Bible for Law and methods and principles of living, rather than as the revelation and delivery of Jesus Christ crucified for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.

 

They just teach the Bible. Bible only: to the Pharisees, add the elders, and the scribes, and the chief priests—they’re ll Bible teachers ever last one of them.

 

 

When years later Paul—after Peter had rebuked Jesus, telling him he should not go to the cross—when Paul was defending the church from those who wanted to turn the Gospel into a new law and a method for living, Paul said,

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.

[1 Corinthians 1:23]

 

And then,

I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

[1 Corinthians 2:2]

 

Paul started out as a Law teacher, a Pharisee. He really knew how to preach the Bible. BUT. Now he preaches Christ crucified for the sinner.

 

Even in our own day, everyone is ready to say they preach only the Bible. The trick is to find not someone who preaches the Bible—that only means that they are in league with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who have always preached the Bible—but rather to find someone who preaches Christ crucified.

 

And the trick to that is, it is possible to preach the Bible and end up preaching nothing but law and methods and principles and purposes for living, for the Bible does, indeed, reveal the Law. In short, false preachers can always claim they are “preaching the Bible”—this includes Paul before he was called by the Gospel; it includes Peter when he told Jesus not to go to the cross; it includes every Bible preacher today who thinks that the pulpit is a podium for a life-coach or a Ted talk. False preachers can always claim they are preaching the Bible.

 

But, the preacher of Jesus Christ and him crucified, he is preaching the Bible. For the Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ, all Scripture reveals him, delivers Him and his salvation, and you can’t preach Christ crucified except from the Bible. For it is only from the words of Scripture that the crucified Christ is known.

 

 

So, Which Jesus do we want? Peter’s Jesus, refusing to go to the cross, refusing to be known as the suffering Servant? The Jesus Paul preached before he was called, the Christ of those who teach the right way to live? The Jesus we ourselves might prefer, who will make our lives work right and show us how to improve? The Christmas-baby Jesus, offensive to no one?

 

There’s only one Jesus. The one who went up to Jerusalem to suffer and die for sinners. The one who brings the Body and Blood of the cross to the people he gathers into His church now. The Jesus who is the suffering Servant who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. The Jesus who said to Peter,

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

Peter had never heard words more kind than these. In those words, Jesus refused to be the Jesus Peter wanted him to be. He rescued Peter from creating his own Jesus. And he insisted on being the Jesus to redeem Peter from his sins.

 

The Jesus Peter wanted, the one who didn’t go up to Jerusalem to die, that Jesus could not forgive sins and save the sinner. That Jesus could not bestow upon us his righteousness in Baptism, if he had not first died on the cross to make us righteous. That Jesus could not bring to us his Body and Blood, if that Body and Blood had not first been crucified on the cross. But the Jesus who would refuse to go up to Jerusalem to die, that’s not the Jesus he would be to Peter. He rescued Peter from having a Jesus designed by Peter.

 

He rescues us, too, from creating our own Jesus. In our sinful flesh, we want a Jesus who will show us how to live a victorious Christian life, a Jesus to give us the methods, principles, and patterns of how to improve ourselves—we want a Jesus who is the new law-giver. For then, by following his commands, we could have something to do with our own salvation. But that’s our sinful flesh.

 

He rescues you from that. He goes up to Jerusalem. He dies with your sin on his back. He sheds the righteous blood you could not. He cleanses those who could never cleanse themselves. He makes himself your Lord. For that’s what he went up to Jerusalem to do.

 

From the Catechism we hear:

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Jesus’ Victory Is Given To Us

Matthew 16:13–20

 

“[13] Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” [14] And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [15] He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” [16] Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [17] And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

 

In our Gospel reading today Jesus asks His disciples 2 different questions. The first is about what people claim about who Jesus is. So He asks Peter: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

 

They answer him that according to Herod and others they think he is John the Baptist back from the dead, some believe he is Elijah returned, and others say he is Jeremiah or one of the prophets. This isn’t much different from what many have said both throughout history as well as what many say or speculate about even today.

 

To be sure, people today have opinions on just about everything. There’s never a shortage of opinions, theories and thoughts about anything on religion in general, but specifically there are lots of things people say about who Jesus is.

 

Some say Jesus was a good moral teacher, someone who gave some good ideas or rules about living, like loving your neighbor and the like. Some say Jesus was a prophet we should listen to but just like the other great teachers and prophets in the world. Some would answer that we all like to picture Jesus in our own way, in other words we want to make Jesus what we want Him to be. Others deny Him and His existence outright despite the overwhelming evidence we have on his historicity beyond anyone else who has ever been born.

 

This is the danger of sin, the danger of running things, even good things, in the way of the Law when they aren’t given that way for us, so we turn to speculation, theory and ideas rather than revelation. So Jesus then asks Peter another question, that is much more pointed and personal.

 

Peter, Who do YOU say that I am?

 

Now He gets down to heart of the matter, and what’s most important for both His disciples and for us.

Knowing that people have no shortage of ideas about God or about who Jesus is, He asks about what they confesses about Jesus?

 

We can hear lots of things about Jesus, about the Gospel but just hear them generally. We can study or hear the Bible or the Gospel, and learn what is said about who Jesus claimed to be and what is claimed by those witnesses of His life and ministry, but eventually things must go from general to specific. From what is said to by others and what they believe to what you say and believe.  Jesus goes from all people and what they believe to YOU specifically. This is where Jesus takes the disciples and Peter, and Peter gets the confession spot on. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

Jesus is the Christ, or the Messiah promised from the Old Testament. This is the One promised to defeat sin, death and the devil in Genesis 3 and then the Promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel and all of the world. He is the Son of the living God. Peter gets this confession right, and now notice Jesus’ response.

 

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

 

Anytime we hear Jesus say blessed, we should think salvation, saved, the forgiveness of sins, a sinner pronounced clean by God Himself. This is what Jesus first tells Peter after his confession.

 

Notice however, that Jesus doesn’t then praise Peter for his intellect, or his ability to understand deep things, since Peter was a fisherman, not a schooled theologian, but he got it right about Jesus. How and why did he get this confession right when others said things that were wrong? Was Peter just smarter or better than those others?

 

Jesus says, it’s because of a gift, the Father gave it to him, he revealed it. He showed Peter who Jesus was. This wasn’t something good inside of Peter or his own religious piety. We have lots of Peters failures and sin actually recorded in the Scriptures, when he got mad and fought with the other disciples about being the greatest, when he begged to walk on water like Jesus, but then began to sink, but most glaringly when he denies Jesus 3 times and even curses this one whom he is now confessing as the Messiah, Son of the Living God.

 

So, for both Peter and for you, faith and confession of Jesus as the Christ or Anointed and Promised Messiah is a gift. It’s not something you can just muster up. It’s not something you earn or can accomplish. It’s not something you do, but it’s rather SOMEONE you are given. The Name of this Jesus who the Christ or Messiah, Son of the living God is given to you in His Word of Gospel, in Baptism, it is proclaimed to you in the absolution of all of your sins.

 

It is not just some mantra, like false religion teaches, but you are given the One who truly and actually died and rose in your place for your sins, Jesus, the Christ, Son of the Living God. And because of His death for your sin, your sin is actually removed, they aren’t yours, He’s taken it from you. It’s as far away from you as the East is from the West. You’re a sinner now clean by His gift to you.

 

Jesus then goes on telling Peter after his confession:

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

 

 

The word, translated as Hell here in English, actually refers to Hades, Sheol or the place of death. Since Jesus is the Risen Lord, and will overcome death, which he predicts in the text just following our Gospel reading, there is no power or place for you there, for you belong to life, not death. You belong to the to the Living God.– He has defeated death, your final enemy and final consequence of Original Sin through His resurrection. You have nothing to fear in death because Jesus is risen indeed. So fear not!

 

 

Finally we hear from Jesus where He will be giving these gifts of salvation, victory over sin death and the devil. It will be through the gifts given through the church. NO matter the apparent outlook, doom and gloom in the world, the church is the place where the gifts of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are given. The keys, or the absolution, the means of delivery of Jesus’ victory  belongs to the church, since the church is Christ’s own. His own body. It is the place where He gathers you to Name by which all is forgiven, all is made right and you belong to this Lord who loves you and will always give you that which He has won for you. It is the place where He has called a preacher to proclaim this good news to YOU, where all that is His victory over sin, death and the devil is given to you.

 

WE His people look to His promise in His Word and Sacrament, His supper, where He is truly present to deliver, feed and sustains you in this life of faith through His body, given into death for your sins and His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of all sins.

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

The Lord Who Gathers the Outcasts

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

 

[1] Thus says the LORD:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my righteousness be revealed.

 

[6] “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,

and to be his servants,

everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,

and holds fast my covenant—

[7] these I will bring to my holy mountain,

and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer

for all peoples.”

[8] The Lord GOD,

who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,

“I will gather yet others to him

besides those already gathered.”

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

The Gospel is all promise, all our Lord’s doing, His giving, His working. Another way to see His promise or His Gospel of all sins forgiven in Christ alone, is to see that it is 100% God’s action, in other words is it always God who is “doing the doing” so to speak in all of our salvation. He gathers, calls, forgives, keeps, and is ALWAYs the God who saves.

 

At the same time there are often times where it seems that He is not acting in ways we can understand with our rational thought, things don’t make sense to us, and His timing is not what we can understand or even expect. This holds true with both when God acts in giving His gifts, or confirming His promise, as well as to whom and for whom God acts in giving His gifts.

 

There’s also our wrongful and sinful determination of who His gifts or promise is for. Is it one group of people, one type of person, just the “good guys”, those who are born into “Christian” homes, just the homeschoolers, just those of a certain economic status, those of certain ethnicities, those belonging to certain political parties, those in certain countries or even just the “good” people in our families, neighborhoods and cities versus the really bad people out there. Surely, we’re tempted to think, the promise of the forgiveness of all sin isn’t for the people doing THOSE things or involved in THOSE groups.

 

It is no different for the ethnic Israelites, whether it be during Isaiah’s time of being a prophet, during the exile and divided kingdom, where they had been taken captive by evil nations and were surrounded by awful idolatrous nations who hated their God, cursed their God and practiced all kinds of evil in the site of both God and man. Surely, it’s not for the Canaanite woman who lives in a sinful and idolatrous community who teach all kinds of blasphemous things.

 

WE might even consider the prophet Jonah, and the awful Ninevites, those who deserved to be annihilated for their evil and sin, to whom God sent the prophet Jonah to preach of the gift of repentance and faith in Yahweh’s promise to forgive, despite Jonah absolutely NOT wanting to preach to them. They were awful, enemies and definitely didn’t deserve to be forgiven.

 

Yet, it’s in this context that our texts today, each one of them speaks. The OT, Epistle and Gospel texts speak of a God who pursues, saves and loves people that others think unlovable. He forgives and delivers those considered unforgivable. Showing us once again that that our Lord comes for sinners, for the sick, for the idolator, for the blasphemer, for those who we may be tempted to label as beyond hope. THIS is who He loves, forgives and even uses to build His kingdom and give His amazing gifts and Promise. In fact, from Adam and Eve forward this is how God works and redeems those lost, those who don’t seek Him, but rather He saves and blesses those who are His enemies.

 

In Isaiah 56 he tells us:

these I will bring to my holy mountain,

                    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

          their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

                    will be accepted on my altar;

          for my house shall be called a house of prayer

                    for all peoples.”

          [8] The Lord GOD,

                    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,

          “I will gather yet others to him

                    besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:7-8)

 

And Who are THESE that Isaiah speaks of:

 

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,

and to be his servants,”

 

 

Here we have the scope of who it is for whom the Lord has come, to call and gather to His Name. The Hebrew word here we have translated into English “joined” isn’t referring to their decision to be joined, or their choosing, but rather to those having been joined to the Lord, having been gathered, or brought to the Lord, being made by God His people.

 

This is also how the Lord has come to you, who were born into sin, guilty as charged, but the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for the sheep, has laid down His life on a cross for you, and washed you completely clean by His very blood. Having been repented, baptized in the Name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. AS Paul tells us in the letter to the church in Ephesus

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

 

Our Lord gives His promise of sins forgiven to those who haven’t heard it, to “all nations” as He told His disciples, to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. He gives His gifts to those where were once “not a people” but now, He brings a preacher, one to proclaim this good news in His name, in the power of the Holy Spirit gathering Jew, Gentile and all sinners to Himself to make a holy nation, a royal priesthood.

 

This is the way the Gospel works, not according human devising or grouping, but our Lord will build His church, Jesus said, and the gates of hell itself will not prevail against His promises. His building and gathering His people, to forgive their sin and be their God.

 

So, there is real hope for the sinner, the doubter, the idolater, the atheist, the agnostic, and even the self-righteous religious fundamentalist. Jesus has been crucified for all, for the whole world. We wait and pray in hope for our neighbors, our family members, we commend to our Lord who has given Himself for sinners those who may seem beyond reach in our eyes with, knowing that His promise is both for us and for them. He leaves the 99 sheep to rescue the one. The life of faith, the new man in Christ rejoices in this and extols the only Name under heaven by which we are saved .

 

Faith believes in the Promise of Yes, even when we currently see NO.

 

Faith receives the promise, receives and extols His gifts, trusts in His Name, and believes that He will deliver, save and cleanse sinners. Faith hopes and looks to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith who has accomplished our salvation, not generally or generically, but specifically for us. Faith believes the “for you” of the Gospel, the “for you” of the cross. The “for you” of Jesus as Lamb of God who takes away “your” sin.

 

Faith looks to even the crumbs that fall from the Lord’s table, things that seem to be insignificant, like water, bread, wine, but now have the promise of His Word,  and we see by faith all that is being given even in them. For not some of the Gospel is given in baptism, but all of it. Not some of the Gospel is given in the bread and wine, but truly the body and blood of Christ shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.

 

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?

Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever, Amen”

-Rom. 11:35-36

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

The Comfort of the Holy Spirit

 

[26] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. [27] And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26–27)

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

We are living in days where it’s confusing to know what to do, what to believe, where to get help even. What help is there for us in these difficult times? It’s confusing to know what to expect, how long with this struggle or that one happen? How long before things feel “normal again”? What’s happening with our children, schools, the economy, the sickness all around us? We can see division and violence all around us. We see a world ravaged by sin, death and the devil.  Yet here, this morning, gathered as the Lord’s people to His name, around His Word, St. Paul tells us that we have a helper, we’re not alone, someone is praying for us, with us, through us in the midst of it all.

 

We don’t know how to pray as we ought, Paul says.

 

We shouldn’t be surprised by this difficulty and our weakness as Paul calls it, since we are born as sinners, and live in a world with sinners, all of us. With that sin, rather than look to our Creator, we have a propensity to try to fix everything ourselves, take control, straighten it out, clean it up, justify ourselves through what we do. Paul ended Romans 7 confessing his inability to fix the problem of sin himself, with the law, after trying to do good, and escape his own sinful flesh, but he couldn’t. You can’t run and hide from sin, it’s absolutely everywhere, and its in our hearts, it’s our Old Adam or sinful flesh. So we hear from the Scriptures that the problem isn’t those bad people out there, but truly according to Jesus, it’s what comes out of us, not what goes into us that’s the real issue. It’s our own sinful hearts, that which we confess at the start of every Divine Service as our confession. Paul cries out at the end of CH. 7 “What a wretched man that I am, who will free me from this body of death?” Then, immediately he begins to proclaim Jesus, and thanks God for our rescue, our redemption.

 

Romans 8 then begins

“[1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1–4)

 

So, while we are still here in our sinful flesh, at the same time, we are clean, we are Christ’s, baptized into His name, free from sin and death because of what Jesus has accomplished for us, because of what He through the means of the Holy Spirit delivers to us even now, in the midst of our struggle, our suffering, our weakness.

 

While in our sinful flesh, we have no idea how to pray, what to pray or even a desire to pray, but the Holy Spirit, Paul says is with us in our weakness, praying for us, interceding, showing us what to pray. Giving us His Words that are not even our own to speak on behalf of ourselves, our families, and our neighbor.

 

Just as our weakness is real, so then is the present help and care of the Holy Spirit for us. His name is upon us, His gifts are ours, just as certainly as Christ is risen from the dead.  All that He won is given to us fully. For our Lord loves us, He cares for us, He knows us more than we can ever know ourselves, and brings His cleansing Word of comfort to us, the declaration that all sin is forgiven and Jesus is the light of the world even in our darkest of nights.

 

The Spirit bring this Gospel to you and says:

Cast you cares on Him (Peter encourages us) for He cares for you.

Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear, for even more than His care for the birds or the flowers is His care for you. You are His child, bought with His precious blood.

 

Make no mistake the suffering is real, the groanings are real, but even more, the gifts of the Resurrected Lord are real, and yours by grace through faith. This is the hope Paul speaks of in our text this morning, substantive hope, not just wishful thinking, but the eternal reality, now and forever from heaven’s courtroom brought right to you.

 

So the Spirit teaches us to pray and look outside ourselves and our own capabilities, and instead looking to our loving Father in heaven for “Thy will be done On earth as it is in heaven” for “our daily bread” to be “Forgiven our trespasses” to be “delivered from temptation and the enemies of sin, death and the devil”

 

In Morning and Evening Prayer, when we pray:

Into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and “all things” this is a recognition of the reality of the work of the Spirit bringing the comfort of Jesus’ dying and rising for us. It all in His hands, and He is present to help the weak, the poor in spirit, those sick, and those who mourn. He brings His Word, His Gospel of comfort. He brings Himself to answer our plea for help.

 

Our Lord doesn’t come as we would expect in outward power, but according to Paul it seems like foolishness when we look with the eyes of our sinful flesh, but the eyes of faith look to what appears weak, and ordinary. He comes to you where He has located Himself, in weakness, in a Word of comfort spoken, in water, in bread and wine. This is how He comes to you and His church, so that our boasting is of nothing in us, but in Christ alone. He comes to us even this morning, in the midst of all kinds of seeming uncertainty, to certainly deliver Himself for us, as our Savior and Lord, as our true friend.  The unknowable God of the mountains, the lightning and thunder, has become the baby in the manger. The innocent One became the sinner, bleeding on a cross for you. Taking death for you. He is the One, who once for all has suffered in your place for your sins, that you may have the gift of His hope, definite assurance that you are forgiven, and He is with you and for you. He comes to you in His true Body and blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin, for You are His very own, His child, His bride, today and always.

 

 

2 Corinthians 13:3–4

“ [4] For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.”

 

IN the Name of Jesus, Amen.

The Holy Spirit Given For You

 

Acts 2:14–21

 

“[14] But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. [15] For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. [16] But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

 

            [17] “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

            that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

            and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

                        and your young men shall see visions,

                        and your old men shall dream dreams;

            [18] even on my male servants and female servants

                        in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

            [19] And I will show wonders in the heavens above

                        and signs on the earth below,

                        blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

            [20] the sun shall be turned to darkness

                        and the moon to blood,

                        before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

            [21] And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

We are living in a world divided, it even seems chaotic. It’s evident everywhere we look, social media, the news and anywhere else we get our information about happenings in our life and world.

 

Looking at everything in our life of sinful flesh things look bad, and it is bad. Things seem hopeless and we are looking for answers anywhere and everywhere we can. We listen to people predict this or that and aren’t sure what we are to do. What is God’s will in a time like this, a time where no one can really see what’s going to happen globally, locally, to our families, our friends, those whom the Lord has placed in our paths, those who are our neighbors?

What do we speak to those who are mistreated, persecuted for numerous reasons, those different from us, and those just like us, who have lost jobs, suffered illness, deal with deep depression and even death.

 

In the midst of all of the destruction and chaos of sin, death, and the devil at work in our world, our LORD speaks. He gives. He gives the Holy Spirit. Even in the darkest of nights, our Lord’s light of Gospel shines for us this Sunday of Pentecost.

 

As we have heard from our Lord’s Word this morning, the Holy Spirit has been sent to us and for us, from the Father & the Son poured out for all. Poured out to us and even through us.

The Holy Spirit is sent for young, old, rich poor, every nation and every peoples to give His gifts of life and salvation, cleansing for all. To bring the victory of Good Friday and Easter to all who have ears to hear.

 

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

            that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

            and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

                        and your young men shall see visions,

                        and your old men shall dream dreams;

            [18] even on my male servants and female servants

in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)

 

Twice we hear that all those to whom the Spirit has been given will prophesy. So we ask what is this that we are told we will do/ What is it to prophesy?

 

Will we mysteriously predict the future? Will be able to reveal personal secrets to help people figure the answers to where they’re supposed to work, live, go to school? Is this what Peter is preaching from the prophet Joel on this first Pentecost sermon?

What is he talking about young, old, sons and daughters doing exactly?

 

To prophesy is to speak our Lord’s Word of sins forgiven, the Word of Jesus from the cross. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” To prophesy is to speak of Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil for you. It is to speak His Word of Absolution, that in the stead of and by the command my Lord Jesus Christ all sins are forgiven in the Name by which all men are saved. The Name into which we are baptized. The Name above all names, and the only Name under heaven by which we are saved.

 

As Peter continues in his sermon he says:

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:21)

 

So when we hear of prophesying, think Gospel, think forgiving sin, sin that has been removed and was carried by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world to the cross, where our sinful flesh is put to death, so that the life we live, we live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself, and delivered Himself for us all.

 

Prophesying is His Word of peace in the mist of fear, troubled hearts, sickness and even death. His Word that makes alive those who are dead in trespasses and sin.

 

[4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4–7)

 

For the Christian gives, loves and serves only from that which he or she has received. We give out of the abundance already given to us. We don’t give our words, we don’t give false promises or predictions, and wrongly speak on behalf of God, or speak where He hasn’t spoken which would only add more condemnation and shame to our neighbor, but we gladly speak the truth of His forgiveness for our neighbor. We speak Christ and Him crucified for the sinner. We gladly hand out His word of forgiveness to our spouse, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors near and far, for the Spirit has come, gathered us to the Name, to the One who gives us His gifts gladly, generously, and abundantly pours out all that is ours in Christ, received by faith, the praise of His glorious grace.

 

Even this Sunday morning, you are here because you have been gathered, assembled, called by the Holy Spirit to the Name of the One who makes all things new. To receive the gifts of the Lord of Life who feeds you His true body and blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. You have been gathered to the Name who has washed you with water and the Word and as far as the east is from the west, has removed all your transgressions, you are forgiven, clean on account of His great work of salvation for you.  In the Name of Jesus, AMEN

Jesus Chosen Weakness For You

Transfiguration Sunday

Matthew 17:1-9

 

 

[1] And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. [2] And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. [3] And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. [4] And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” [5] He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” [6] When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. [7] But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” [8] And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 

[9] And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

 

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.

 

 

Given to us in our Gospel reading is one of the greatest conversations on earth at our Lord’s transfiguration, and it is accompanied with one of the most glorious sights ever witnessed, as Jesus reveals exactly who it is that will soon head to Jerusalem to die and rise for all of humanity. The disciples had seen so many amazing and incredible things in their journey with Jesus all through Galilee. They had left their jobs, homes and even families to journey with this man from Galilee whom Peter had just confessed, was not just some prophet or great teacher but “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20). After casting out demons, healing the sick, preaching to great multitudes, feeding over 5000 people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish, then speaking to His closest friends about how He would die on a cross, He asks Peter, James and John to go and pray with Him on the mountain. After falling asleep, Peter, James and John wake up to Jesus, who is now with Moses & Elijah talking on the mountain, and we are told Jesus’ face “shone like the sun”, with dazzling white clothes. An almost indescribable sight, but ultimately given to the disciples and us this morning is a revelation of Jesus, God the Son who has come to gather a people to Himself through His death on a cross.

Moses, who appears here with Elijah in conversation with Jesus, had himself seen something astonishing as well, when Jesus, before taking upon human flesh, gave His name, making Himself known to Moses. “I am that I am”, the name Yahweh.

 

Not by accident we see all of this given to us on a mountain, like Mt Sinai, or Mt. Carmel in the Old Testament, or the Sermon on the Mount or the mountain later in the gospels where Jesus sent out his disciples to preach and baptize every nation, or even the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascends to heaven after His resurrection. It is here, this mountain of transfiguration that we see so clearly that is was Jesus who was with Moses, and the One delivering the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Jesus, present here in our text who took His people through the Red Sea to a mountain, Sinai, speaking His ten words to Moses. The same Jesus, who in the Old Testament fed His people with bread from heaven, lead them day and night as a cloud and pillar of fire, and ultimately led them across the river Jordan and into the land He Promised. Moses knew Jesus and all He had done and now he, is speaking with Him on another mountain, and Jesus again is revealed, but now Incarnate, having taken upon Himself our flesh, as fully God yet one of us, one who is FOR us. Jesus is soon after this account in Matthew heading toward accomplishing His final work of redemption, not just for Moses and those who were Jewish, but for the whole world.

Here also with Jesus and Moses is Elijah, a great prophet spoken of in the Old Testament, who Jesus was with on the mountain called Carmel after mocking the false gods that King Ahab had wrongly brought into Israel. It was Jesus who defeated Ba’al and all the false gods in a powerful demonstration of fire showing that He alone was the true God and causing all the idolaters present to confess, “The Lord,(Yahweh) he is God” (1 Kings 18:39) In addition, Elijah also prophesied about the coming and promised Kingdom of God which would be prepared by one like Elijah, John the Baptizer, who preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, pointing to Jesus who inaugurates His kingdom with His coming to us on earth as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

For the “kingdom of heaven” mentioned so much in the Gospels is truly Jesus Himself, revealed at His baptism into our sins with the Father speaking the same words at Jesus’ baptism that He speaks here, connecting these two great events in Jesus ministry on earth exclaiming ““This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” Matt.17:5

 

Luke 9:30-31 tells us more specifically about the conversation the disciples overhear:

“And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,

 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

 

These great men could have spoken about many subjects, and we may imagine lots of things that could have been more pressing for them to discuss, “problems with the government, the lack of leadership in Israel, the economy, cleaning up all those tax collectors and adulterers. They could have spoken about a better system of getting their message out, how to draw even bigger crowds than the 5000, so they could show people their “purpose in life”.

They spoke instead of Jesus’ upcoming death, resurrection, and ascension, His “exodus” (which is the exact word Luke uses here). The Great Exodus of Jesus saving His people, or His departure to death on a cross. They didn’t discuss a clean-up plan for the earth, but rather Jesus building His church, a people gathered to Himself and cleansed with His own blood.

 

Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain shows us who it is that will die on another mountain, the mountain of Calvary. His upcoming death and resurrection there, makes known that you have no hope in your ability to save yourself, but Jesus does it all for you. Apart from His dying and rising for you, there is no hope for forgiveness. At His transfiguration, however, Jesus reveals to you exactly who dies for you and rises for you. Jesus is the same God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, the God of Moses and those whom He delivered from the Egypt. Jesus is Promised Messiah spoken of by Elijah and the prophets, the One promised for you from the beginning. He is the final Prophet of whom the Father says,

““This is my Son, my Chosen One;  listen to him!”” (Luke 9:35) And yet, the mighty and glorious Jesus although He is all powerful and glorious as shown in His transfiguration comes to you in weakness, comes to you in real time and space, on a cross, bearing your sins for you. As St. Paul reminds us in Phil. 2:6-8

 

 

“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (ESV)

 

 

Jesus exodus or departure from earth, through death to is now yours by gift. He gives to you, through Baptism, all the benefits He won on the cross.  His  body and blood  deliver this same cross to you now, so that you would have full assurance by grace through faith that He is always for you and eternally yours.

 

 

In the Name of Jesus,

AMEN.

The King of Kings is Coming to Serve You

Advent Midweek 3- Is. 9:6-7 (Savior of the Nations Come)

 

1st Reading

 

Isaiah 9:6–7

 

[6] For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

[7] Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (ESV)

 

 

2nd Reading

 

John 1:1–14

 

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

 

[9] The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

[14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)

 

 

A King is coming! And not just any King, but the King of all Kings, the King of heaven and earth. “Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,” Isaiah tells us.

He isn’t coming the way we might expect, in glorious fanfare and pomp, with shouts of trumpets and lightening flashes. This King comes from heaven to earth, but clothes Himself in meekness and humility. He comes to be born of a woman as was promised from the beginning. He comes to earth leaving His heavenly home to be born of a virgin, as was Promised from the beginning when sin entered through the first man and woman. There was no way for Adam & Eve to fix their situation and no way for them to make amends for the evil that entered the world, they were helpless to save themselves, but the Lord who made them and made all the earth, in His great love, would come to save the man and the woman, and all their children, grandchildren and on and on…He would come and save, come and reverse the evils of the Fall by taking upon Himself human flesh. He would come and be with us, He is Emmanuel. He would eat and drink with us, and then He would suffer and even die on a cross for us. He is a King like no other. As we sang in our hymn tonight:

 

Here a maid was found with child,

Yet remained a virgin mild.

In her womb this truth was shown:

God was there upon His throne.

 

The child, Jesus who was born of Mary, was the King of all Kings. A King who didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a Ransom for us. He came as a gift for us, as Isaiah prophesied in our first reading tonight. “For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;” Is. 9:6

 

The King of all Kings is One who loves us and therefore gives to us. He gives us Himself, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son”. For He is “full of grace…”. He would give us the ultimate gift of Himself, to make us clean. He would come to cleanse sinners with His own body, given into death for our sins, and His very blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin.

This King of all Kings comes to serve you, He has Baptized you and spoken you clean with Word of the forgiveness of all sin on His account. He died Once for all for you. He shouted His victory over sin, death and the devil into hell itself and has Risen and Ascended to be your defender and He calls you His friend and heir of His kingdom, which has no end.

 

 

As we sang tonight:

God the Father was His source,

Back to God He ran His course.

Into hell His road went down,

Back then to His throne and crown.

 

 

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.