Wednesday of Lent 3 Trinity Lutheran Church
22 March 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Hebrews 12:22-34 / Blood That Speaks
As Jesus stands before the high priest His enemies thirst for His blood. They want Him dead. Capitally punished. They’re all in for the death penalty when it comes to that Jesus! They want to be rid of this troublesome preacher once and for all. “Let His blood flow!” PDQ! They get what they want. Very swiftly Innocent-Son-of-God-Servant-Jesus gets convicted, sentenced and crucified. His blood is shed.
Like innocent and faithful Abel who was brutally murdered by his unfaithful brother Cain, Jesus dies as a guiltless victim. From the ground Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance. Revenge. Retaliation for his brutal murder. Not the blood of Jesus! His blood preaches forgiveness. Pardon. Mercy. The blood of Jesus pronounces pardon from heaven. Jesus’ blood gives gracious access. Heavenly access.
As the text declares, you have come to “the blood for sprinkling that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” This is quite astonishing! It is the essence of the divine service. The divine service is all about receiving the gift of Christ’s holy-precious-Good-Friday-blood in the Lord’s Supper. After all, it is only through His divine blood that you have access to heaven, the millions upon millions of angels in joyful assembly, the universal church, God the judge, the faithful departed and Jesus Himself.
Yes, all of you that are baptized believers have total and complete access to the sprinkled blood of Jesus that speaks the better and eternal Word of forgiveness, life and salvation.
This really is remarkable. Noteworthy. Amazing. After all, in the Old Testament ONLY THE PRIESTS were allowed to approach God and officiate in the divine service of the temple. Before they could officiate they had their bodies sprinkled with blood at their ordination into the priesthood to cleanse them from impurity and to make them holy. The right ears of the priests were smeared with blood, so that they could hear the holy word of God; the thumbs of their right hands were smeared with blood, so that they could handle the holy things of God; the big toes of their right feet were smeared with blood, so that they could walk on holy ground. And then blood mixed with the holy anointing oil was sprinkled on them and their vestments to consecrate them. In this way God shared his holiness with them. They could only approach God as long as they remained clean and holy. Sprinkled with the blood.
But now, through the sprinkled blood of Jesus you have access to the heavenly Jerusalem. And each of you can do what no priest ever did in the Old Testament. You can approach God the Father in the heavenly sanctuary and serve there together with Jesus. Jesus has not just sprinkled your bodies with his blood; he sprinkles it on your hearts, your conscience. Amazingly, he gives you his blood to drink in Holy Communion. And that blood speaks something eternally good to you and FOR YOU. His divine blood does not speak of vengeance and banishment, as the blood of Abel did to his brother who had murdered him. No, it speaks of grace and pardon and acceptance.
By giving you his life-giving blood to drink, Jesus cleanses you entirely from the sins that you have committed as well as the sins that have been committed against you. Through his blood He shares his own purity and holiness with you. He makes you as holy as he is holy. Holy through and through. His blood consecrates you as holy priests for service with the angels in the heavenly sanctuary. You can therefore approach God the Father boldly and unafraid, because you have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. You can bring others and their needs to your heavenly Father, even as you mysteriously bring him and his blessing to the people around you as you go about your daily work.
So, where are you as you come to Holy Communion in the diving service? Heaven. With all the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. You come to an extraordinary place that makes you extraordinary people. You are people who live double lives as citizens of heaven here on earth. Your ordinary life with its everyday routines is but the façade of something far richer and deeper and more expansive, for you are holy people who live heavenly lives on earth. Wherever you go, the Triune God goes with you. Wherever you happen to be, you have open access to God’s presence. So no matter how ordinary you may appear, you are all secretly extraordinary people engaged in a truly extraordinary project. You are holy people because you, on Sundays, are involved here and now in the divine service together with Jesus and all the angels. That makes you and everything that happens to you far more significant than you could ever imagine.
What joy to have the privilege of worship and to live as in God’s presence while you go about your daily business! With the blood of Jesus you are holy as Christ is holy! To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Lent 3 Trinity Lutheran Church
22 March 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Let’s cut right to the chase. No sense messing around. It’s time to get wet. It’s time to have a big dog drink of salvation today!
Jesus plays a verbal chess game with a Samaritan woman. The conversation revolves around drinking. A drink of water that leaves you thirsty or a drink of water that gives eternal life. So, with this conversation Jesus leads her out of her spiritual death and darkness and into the marvelous light of salvation that comes only through Him. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. That water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Imagine the look on her face when Jesus clinches the conversation with the categorical promise: “I’m glad you are interested in worshiping God. I’m happy you’ve been waiting for the Messiah. Well, honey, look no more. Wait no more. I am the Christ. I who speak to you am He! Worship Me. Believe in Me. You’ll never be thirst again. I give you water for eternal life.” I’ll bet her jaw hit the side of Jacob’s well. I’ll bet her ears and heart were busting with joy.
I repeat the conversation revolves around the language of “water.” “Give me a drink of water…. The water I will give will well up to eternal life.” Water is salvationally huge with Jesus and so too in the gospel according to St. John.
It all starts with Jesus’ baptism in the water of the Jordan. It continues with His changing water into delicious wedding wine at a blowout wedding reception at Cana. Then there’s his baptismal — you must be born of water and of the Spirit promise to Nicodemus. Today it’s Jacob’s well and His “give me a drink” and “water” welling up to “eternal life” pledge to the sassy Samaritan woman. John’s gospel climaxes with “blood and water” gushing from Christ’s slashed-open-Good-Friday-on-the-cross-torso.
In the text before us the difference is Jacob’s water and Jesus’ water. Water that you get from Jacob’s well and water that Jesus gives. Well water and living water. Water that doesn’t quench your thirst forever and water that does. Water you work for and water that works FOR YOU. If you’re starting to sense an undertow of Baptism in all this water talk, then you’re picking up what Jesus precisely is throwing down.
Jacob’s water is well water. Law water. You work for it. You earn it. You wake up every day, put your empty water jug on top of your head, walk across the field that Jacob gave to Joseph, hook your jug to the rope and lower it down into the deep well then draw it up and put the full jug of water back on top of your head and walk it home so your family can cook and clean. Makes you appreciate tap water, doesn’t it?
It’s hard work. Thirsty work. By the time you get home, you want a drink of water, and by the next day, you have to do it all over again. There is no end to the work or the thirst. That’s the way it is with the law. It is all work. It never ends. It promises life but can’t deliver. It quenches thirst for a while, perhaps, but the thirst for righteousness returns the moment you realize how great a sinner you are even in your best moments. You can work and work and work at keeping commandments, but there are always more and they run as deep as Jacob’s well, going right to the sinful heart from which flow all sorts of evil, self-centered desires. You can do all the right things but if the heart is not right the thing is still sinful. And the sinful heart is never right.
The thirst for righteousness is a thirst the law cannot quench. Work only makes you thirstier. Commandment keeping leaves you salvationally parched and dry. Well water won’t save you exactly because you have to work for it. What you need is living water. You need salvific water that flows to you freely. Grace water. Not the water of Jacob and Moses, but of Jesus. The law came through Moses; grace and truth come through Jesus. He gives water that quenches the eternal thirst for righteousness. It is not water that you work for. It is a water that flows TO YOU. It is a gracious water welling up in you to a spring of eternal life.
You heard from Exodus today that as Israel wandered in the wilderness, there was no well. The Israelites were dry-as-dust-thirsty. Dying OF THIRST! So, Moses strikes a rock. From the rock comes fresh spring water for the Israelites to drink. According to St. Paul that rock was Christ (1 Cor 10). Jesus is the Stricken Rock with Streaming Side. Jesus needs no bucket because Jesus is the Source, the Wellspring. From His wounded side flows the stream of living water that quenches your thirst for righteousness. It isn’t water you work for, but water that flows from the side of dead on the cross Jesus to the font of your Baptism.
We are like that Samaritan woman in so many ways. We are born outcasts. Outsiders to the kingdom. “Not a people,” and by birth certainly not the people of God. While we may hide behind our ethnic, national or religious pride, that’s all nothing before God. It’s simply a flimsy facade. Fig leaves. Jesus cuts through all that to get to the heart of things, to get to the core of who we really are before God.
How does He do it? Well, He comes with the law and initially He seems harsh and demanding. It seems as though all He wants is for you to serve Him, to do His bidding and run to meet His every demand. Help that man in the ditch. Sell all your possessions. Give me something to drink. He holds up the mirror of the law and reflects back to us our broken lives and the sins of our past. “You have had five husbands and the one you’re living with is not your husband.” He reflects the truth back into our faces, and frankly it’s a truth we can’t handle. It’s embarrassing to be in the presence of someone who knows you that well, that deeply. It’s frightening. You just want to run and hide from someone like that.
Jesus, however, doesn’t come to shame you or condemn you. He’s not there to rub your nose in your past or give you marching orders in your present to guarantee your future. He comes to redeem your past, present, and future. He comes to cover you with His righteousness, and holy you with His holiness. He comes to rescue you from the riptide of sin and death that threatens to pull you out into a sea of darkness and misery. He comes to rescue you from yourself and give you a life you can’t have on your own.
After holding up that mirror of the law to your eyes, He puts it down and says, “Now look at me. Don’t look to Moses and his commandments to see who you are. Look to me. Look into the mirror of my gaze and see reflected back to you who you really are in Me. Moses calls you a sinner. That’s true. That’s what you are in Adam. But I call you a saint. That’s who you are in Me! I’ve died for you, I’ve bled for you, I’ve baptized you in the living water of my death and life. The old you is drowned, the new you, FAITH, is born in the living water. I, the Christ, am speaking to you in font and sermon and Supper, telling you who you are. And when I speak, it is so.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
You are baptized. You are a child of God, washed, sanctified, and justified in the Name of Jesus and the Spirit of God. Eternal life is yours. That is what the living water that Jesus brings will do for you. Happy drinking! Happy swimming in the water of your baptism in to Christ!
In the Name of Jesus.
Wednesday of Lent 2 Trinity Lutheran Church
15 March 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Hebrews 10:10-22 / Blood That Gives Access
God’s presence is never neutral. In fact, to come into God’s presence can be quite hazardous. Perilous. Threatening. Here’s what I mean. Sinners, apart from Good-Friday-Dead-On-the-Cross-Jesus, cannot presume to step into God’s presence. Sinners cannot barge right in on God on their own terms, conditions or stipulations. On their own and without the blood of Jesus sinners do not have proper access to God. It would be hellacious for sinners to claim access to God on their own terms! It would invite instant death. Unholy sinners cannot charge or burst into God’s most holy presence because it would be like throwing a match on gasoline. Most holy and unholy do not go together.
A classic example of this is Exodus 19 when God gathered Israel around Himself at Mount Sinai. To protect sinful Israel from being wiped out or incinerated by God’s most holy presence, God solemnly instructed Moses to set boundaries around the holy mountain. In fact, God said, “Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely BE PUT TO DEATH,” (Ex 19:12).
Here are a few more examples. Only the sons of Levi were permitted to touch the Ark of the Covenant (God’s throne). If anyone else dared to touch it they died because the ark was the revelation of God’s most holy presence and sin cannot coexist with His glory. The holy of holies, the most holy place in the tabernacle was off limits to all except the high priest. He could only enter it once a year on the Day of Atonement as long as he had the sacrificial blood to cover his own sins and they sins of Israel. Well, here the point. The Old Testament makes it quite clear that God’s most holy presence is very dangerous for those who are unclean, impure, unholy, that is to say, polluted by their sin. Holy and unholy don’t go together!
This helps us understand properly St. Paul’s high pastoral care to the Christians at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 11 St. Paul speaks of those who partake of the Lord’s Supper but have become guilty of sinning against the body and blood of Jesus by eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. Then he goes on to say: “For this reason many of you are weak, sick and some have died,” (1 Cor 11:30). To treat the most holy body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion as only bread and wine that you eat and drink at home is to profane the sacred gift and it harms you. That’s precisely why the church practices “closed” communion. We want people to commune but we want them to communion worthily and not to their detriment. So, sometimes we have to say to those that deny Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament, “we love you so much that we kindly request that you not commune unworthily and bring God’s judgment against you and perhaps against us all.”
C.S. Lewis knew all this too. God’s holiness can have a detrimental effect on anyone who comes into wrong contact with His own glory or holy gifts. Make no mistake – we are not given to profane God’s holy glory or His holy things. So, in Lewis’ children’s novel The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver tells the children that if there is anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly. Lucy, of course, asks, “Then he (Aslan) isn’t safe?” and Mr. Beaver answers, “Who said anything about being safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tells you.”
God isn’t safe but He is good. That goodness God has provided you with is the flesh and blood of His Son Jesus. You only have gracious access to God’s most holy presence in Jesus. Tonight’s text from Hebrews 10 tells you that you have boldness to enter the Holiest Place – the inner sanctuary where only the high priest was permitted to go on the Day of Atonement. Remember, in the Old Testament, the high priest entered into the holy of holies once a year with the blood of bulls and goats. You, however, have access to the Holiest Place, the place of God’s most holy presence, by the flesh and blood of Jesus offered on His Good Friday cross.
Whereas the Old Testament high priest stepped behind the veil, the curtain, into the presence of God Himself, with the blood of the sacrifice, now Jesus Christ, your Great High Priest establishes your entre to God’s gracious presence with His own divine flesh. His body is the new and living way by which you come into God’s presence and live. In addition, it’s only by Jesus’ divine blood that you are sprinkled clean and holied so that you are able to stand before the living God and not be destroyed. You, dear brothers and sisters, are given such heavenly access to God in the Lord’s Supper. After all, it is in the Lord’s Supper that Jesus gives you His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. The Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ gift to you in order to give you access to God. Through His Word that says, “This is my body given for you” and “this cup is the new testament in my blood,” you are given the forgiveness of sins that holies you. Holied by His words and gifts you have admittance to God’s presence and you live.
So, brothers and sisters, you do not have to retreat from God’s most holy presence. With a repentant heart and the assurance of faith in God’s promises of forgiveness in Jesus, we draw near to God. Think of it. The Lord of heaven and earth – the God that dwells in unapproachable light – draws near to you and invites you to dare to step into His gracious presence. Sin would drive you from the Lord’s presence (like Adam and Eve that hid from God). However, I’m here to tell you categorically that God Himself has atoned for all your sin by the divine and poured out blood of Good Friday Jesus. By means of Jesus’ blood God forgives your sin, adopts you as His children, and invites you into His life-giving presence. God Himself qualifies you to come into His most holy presence for life, not death.
So, I beg you, as much as a pastor can beg. Lay hold by faith to the gifts God has given you in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I beg you in the way of verse 22 in tonight’s text: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Brothers and sisters, Jesus shed His divine blood on the cross to atone for all your sin. The blood that He shed for you there He then gives for you to drink in the Lord’s Supper in order to purify you from your unholy sin and give you peace and life with God. In baptism you are joined to Jesus death and given the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life. Each in its own way, both the blood and the water, Lord’s Supper and holy baptism, are the gifts that give you access to God Himself and boldness to live in His gracious presence.
Jesus is your great High Priest. He has provided entrée into God’s gracious presence for unholy sinners. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. By His Good Friday death He has delivered you from sin. By his forgiveness given in baptism and the Lord’s Supper He delivers the very Good Friday forgiveness He won FOR YOU. Washed in baptism and sprinkled with His blood in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, you have the privilege of access to our heavenly Father.
In the Name of Jesus.
Second Sunday in Lent Trinity Lutheran Church
12 March 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
What is God’s cup of tea? His modus operandi? It’s this: God makes promises. God is the God of the promise. Especially to save sinners. Redeem them. Restore them. To put death to death. Give forgiveness. Crush Satan’s head. All through Jesus His Son. That promise was first given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. Adam and Eve believed God’s promise of salvation in Jesus. Faith trusts the promise. The justified live by faith. God promises. Faith receives.
All of God’s promises in the Old Testament flow from the Genesis 3:15 divine promise of salvation because of Jesus. All the Old Testament promises revolve around and take their meaning from the Genesis 3:15 pledge.
All history then, Israel’s and the world’s, gets directed by God so that Jesus gets conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffers under Pontius Pilate, gets Good Friday-ly crucified, buried graveyard dead and then rises from the grave victoriously never to die again on Easter morning. Absolutely everything recorded in the Old Testament, even down to the smallest detail, takes place FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR SALVATION! In other words, the climax of world history takes place when Suffering-Servant-Immanuel-God-With-Us-Jesus dies on the cross TO GIVE YOU forgiveness, life and salvation!
So, today in Genesis 12 what is God up to? Well, I’ll give you one guess. Yes, that’s right. He speaks A PROMISE … to Abram. “Leave your county, your people and your father’s house. Go to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. ALL PEOPLE ON EARTH WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH YOU. Trust me. I will do it.”
Really? How unlikely is that? All people blessed through a seventy-five year old senior citizen whose barren wife is ten years his younger? They can’t have kids. Never could! No pill or no science can change that. And why trouble themselves, pick up stakes and move? After all, Abram and Sarai have a contented life and happy home in Haran. Servants. Sheep. Goats. Camels. Cattle. Name it. All the conveniences and creaturely comforts of the ancient world. Comparable to an upper class suburban lifestyle in Lincoln with a house on Firethorn Golf Course, triple car garage, swimming pool, in-home theatre with surround sound, and closets loaded with Joseph Abboud suits and Ivanka Trump outfits with shoes to match every occasion.
That’s when God interrupts Abram’s at ease and well-to-do life with these words: “Abram, it’s time to pack up an move. Tell your Melania Trump look-alike wife Sarai to empty the closets and take down the drapes. Tell your beloved homeland, relatives and friends sayonara. Time to travel and wander for a lifetime like a homeless nomad in a land I promise to give you.”
Move. You now that most of us, me especially, will do just about anything to get out of moving. Moving disrupts your entire life. Throws a big pipe wrench into your life plans and most cherished dreams. Abram and Sarai had planned to live out their childless existence in the comfy and cozy home of Haran. God, however, had other plans. “No! You’re going to move. You’re going to wander as pilgrims. I want you to LIVE OFF MY PROMISE that through you the Savior of the world will come!”
So, when Abram arrives at Shechem the Lord promises again: “To your offspring I will give this land.” Abram, in response to the promise, builds an altar to give thanks and praise to the God of promise. God promises. Abram believes. Promise / Faith. This is why Abram is the father of us all. Abram worshipped through faith in God’s promises. God’s Word – His promises sustained him. St. Paul puts it this way: “He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
Abram packs up everything and wanders. He endures all kinds of adversities, misfortunes, heartbreaks and fears along the way. Why? FOR THE SAKE OF THE PROMISE! FOR SALVATION! God’s will to save sinners sometimes means inconvenience, hardship, suffering, and even death. The world’s salvation comes by a Good Friday cross and grave – through death and resurrection – not around it. All that is never a pleasant, convenient or happy experience. God promises eternal salvation in His Name. Sometimes that means that you don’t have temporal peace, happiness, security or an easy life. Just ask Abram and Sarai! Ask any believer!
Your life isn’t so rosy and comfortable all the time. God interrupts your life and then you endure many hardships and difficulties as you travel in this foreign land waiting for the promised land of heaven. Tragedy strikes. And you wonder “Why?” When “bad” things happen to “good people” you ask, “Why?” When people you thought you could trust betray you or when those you love the most, hurt you, you are tempted to doubt and despair. As if God has forgotten you. Like He has amnesia or as if He is unreliable. Not trustworthy. Like He doesn’t keep His promises.
Well, I’m here to tell you today that the answer to your whys is given in the text from Genesis today and the long view of the Bible. God is in the midst of all things. He’s been there all along. Ordering everything down to the littlest detail in order to give you salvation that comes only in Jesus JUST LIKE HE PROMISED!
This is exactly what St. Paul means when he writes: “We know that in everything God works for good to those that love Him who are called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is SALVATION THROUGH THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS, not your personal convenience, happiness, or contentment. God’s purpose is your salvation. Rescue from all your sin. Slamming the door on the grave. Binding Satan and stomping on his head. Freeing you from the condemnation of the Law and propitiating God’s wrath by taking all your sin in His Good Friday Body and getting damned with it. That is what God is up to!
So, let me finish this sermon in a flourish. I’m here to tell you that Abram and Sarai moved from Haran to the land of Canaan SO THAT JESUS WOULD REACH DOWN FROM THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD AND COME TO YOU this morning in the divine service at Trinity. To gather you around Himself and His Good Friday wounds. To give you, in His Word and sacrament, all the forgiveness and salvation that He won FOR YOU on the cross. A washing of renewal and regeneration in holy baptism. His true body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins in His Supper. He has moved you here, put you at this place and this time FOR A PURPOSE. What’s that? TO SAVE YOU! TO CLAIM YOU! TO FORGIVE YOU! TO CLEANSE YOU!
God’s cup of tea is not only making promises but it’s also keeping them. The promise He made to Abram He kept. The promise He made to you in holy baptism – that you belong to Him and He belongs to you – that Jesus’ death and resurrection are yours – He keeps! His promise of forgiveness in Jesus will bear fruit for the long haul – the resurrection of the body and life everlasting in heaven. You are blessed! God said so to Abram. God keeps his promises.
In the Name of Jesus.