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One of Jesus’ Hangers On!

April 13, 2014

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Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion                           Trinity Lutheran Church

6 April 2014                                                                            Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Matthew 26:19

Confirmation of Cole Wendt, Katelyn Vogler, Faye Jacobsen, Jared Drake, & Jennifer Sedlacek


Cole, Katelyn, Faye, Jared, Jennifer and all here gathered — did you hear the dire advice?  A very prominent woman gave it.  The wife of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  Let’s call her Claudia.  Claudia’s been haunted by a horrible nightmare.  The dream has shaken her to the core.  She’s as white as a ghost.  Mascara smeared. Hair all messed up. Her body drips with sweat.  Voice shakes.  She can barely manage to get the words out.  From her pale, thin lips come these persistent words:  “Have nothing to do with this Jesus.” 


Did you hear her? Claudia’s adamantly warned you “to have nothing to do with Jesus!”  She’s as serious as a heart attack!  And she’s not alone.  The World wags its finger, gets in your grill and screams this at you 24-7-365.  “Be forewarned!” the World barks. “Stay away from that preacher Jesus! You’ll never reach your potential hanging around Him!  Divorce yourself from Him ASAP! Don’t you dare be seen hanging around this Jesus! Otherwise …” the World warns, “We’ll target you as a bitter clinger, a freak, a hatemonger, a radical homophobe, an enemy of the state, or any other moniker we want to hang around your neck!  We’ll make your life absolutely miserable!  You’ve been warned!”    


Might be good advice.  You might want to take it.  After all, do you see how it’s going with Jesus?  It may just happen to you too since you’ve been hanging around Him!  Learning how to be His disciple.  Jesus sure looks like a big time loser.  His closest friend Peter has denied Him.  Another disciple, Judas Iscariot has betrayed Him for cash.  He’s been put under arrest and on trial for false teaching in the church and for sedition or subversion against Rome.  It’s not going well for Him.  Going quite poorly.  Downhill fast.


Pilate offers to let Jesus go.  After all, Jesus is completely innocent.  And Pilate knows it.  But the crowds insist on paroling Barabbas the notorious hardened homegrown terrorist.  The crowds insist on having Jesus’ head!  “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” they shout.  The Palm Sunday praises have totally changed.  And if they don’t get their way, they threaten to riot.  So the governor caves.  He sentences innocent Jesus to the gallows.  Death on a cross!


Then the soldiers have Him in their brutal custody.  Roman soldiers are not nice people.  They are vicious and very nasty.  They flog Jesus mercilessly.  The talons at the end of the whip rip and shred huge chunks of Jesus’ flesh from His shoulders and back.  A horrific flow of blood.  Flogging is so extreme that it usually exposes the internal organs.  Barbaric!  Appalling!


Perhaps now you’re ready to take Claudia’s warning seriously.  Maybe you’re eager to listen to the World and dump Jesus overboard or throw Him under the bus!


Especially when the soldiers strip off all His clothes.  He’s exposed.  What humiliation.  And then the purple robe, crown of thorns and staff.  “Hail, King of the Jews!” is their ridicule.  They spit in His face.  Take the reed and bash His head in.


Jesus has been so physically brutalized and shattered He can barely walk.  Simon of Cyrene is recruited/forced to carry the cross.  At Golgotha the soldiers pound the spikes through Jesus’ hands and feet.  Agonizingly piercing muscles and bones.  Then He’s lifted up to hang – suspended until dead.


Do you still want anything to do with this Jesus?  Do you really want to be associated with Him anymore?  Are you ready to take your promises back?  You know, that you believed in this Jesus as God and that you’d be faithful to Him and suffer all for His name, even death.


Take a good, hard look.  There He hangs!  Numbered with the worst of sinners Jesus is.  Terrorist criminals hang on each side.  Everyone mocks Him.  Lampoon Him.  “He saved others but He can’t do anything for Himself!”  “If you’re the Son of God, come down now from the cross!  Then we’ll believe in you!”


It doesn’t take long.  Jesus dies.  Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, is dead.  And the scoffers leave.  No doubt laughing and joking all the way home.  “That Jesus!  What a fraud!  After all Sons of God don’t suffer and die like that!  Since he died He had to be a fake!  Now the joke’s on Him!” 


Remember Claudia’s advice?  The world’s notice?  “Don’t have anything to do with this Jesus!  Dump Him!  This Christianity stuff is a joke.  You have more important things to do than to worship Him on a regular basis on Sundays.” 


So, what will it be?  Will you have anything to do with this Jesus?  I heard your answer at the beginning of the service.  So did the entire congregation.  AND SO DID JESUS!  And we were all delighted with your answer.  It gave us all great joy.  You confessed Jesus.  You confessed His saving Name.  And you promised to be one of His hangers-on, one of His baptized disciples for the rest of your life.  That is to say, you said you will live off His Good Friday forgiveness and salvation week after week, month after month, year after year that gets bestowed to His sinners in His Church through the preached Gospel and the Lord’s Supper.


Now, I’ve been through this confirmation rodeo for over 23 years as a pastor.  And I’ve been stumbling and bumbling around at this parenting thing for over 22 years.  I’ve struggled and failed.  I’ve sinned.  Grievously.  I’ve got the sinning perfected.  I’m no better than any of you.  But I think I’ve learned a little from my mistakes.  And I don’t want others to pull a Kuhlman.  Pull a Kuhlman and it will all end in disaster.  A hellacious mess!  So I want and I need as your pastor to have a Come-To-Jesus-Conversation with all the parents here today.  A heart-to-heart with every Dad and Mom of our congregation.  It’s time for us at Trinity-Murdock to have a serious but salutary conversation.


So here goes. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Dad and Mom inadvertently or purposely push Claudia and the World aside and take their place?  Wouldn’t it be a shame if Dad and Mom derail their children from being one of Christ’s hangers on or faithful disciples Sunday after Sunday, week after week, month after month and year after year?  Parents – your actions speak louder than your words.  Your actions contradict your words.  Children can sniff this out.  And too often parents don’t pass the sniff test.


Of course, you’d never say it (at least I don’t think you would), but your actions and priorities preach a contradictory sermon to the kids 24-7-365.  And the actions speak volumes.  Your actions preach a sermon of which Claudia and the world would be proud.  It goes like this:  “As a family, Children, we will have very little or hardly any relationship with this Jesus you confess.  We won’t take the time.  We won’t make the time.  While we strenuously teach you to never break a promise, we’ll make an exception when it comes to your baptismal and confirmation promises.”


“We’ll make the minimum effort to see to it that you get baptized and confirmed.  But that’s it.  We draw the line there.  Yes, we know you kids desire to hear Christ’s Word and want to eat and drink His body and blood frequently, but we don’t see the need for it.  We will always find something else to do.  Jesus?  He’s just not that big a deal. Not a high priority.  Good Friday and Lord’s Supper Jesus?  Who’s He? We don’t know the man!”


Whether you intend to or not, parents, this is the sermon you communicate to your children by your actions.


I know.  From first hand experience.  That’s the kind of sermon my parents preached to me by their actions when I was growing up.  It wasn’t until we moved to Glenrock, WY and Pastor Bundschuh, Roger and Bonnie Schlechte, and Bill & Lenora Fincher loved my parents enough to tell them the truth.


Without these folks, who knows where I’d be?  Seriously.  Who knows?  Would I even be a believer in Jesus?  Humanly speaking – probably not.  I probably would have been confirmed.  Dad and Mom would have done their duty.  What was expected of them as members of the community and the Kuhlman family.  But that would have been it.  However, the tough but loving words from Pastor Bundschuh, the Schlechtes and the Finchers bore much fruit with my parents.

And the rest is history as they say.  Here I am.  Still a sinner.  But a sinner who is one of Christ’s hangers on – living from His forgiveness day by day, Sunday after Sunday.  And, incredibly and/or miraculously, the Lord even has a little bit of good use for me as Lutheran pastor here with you at Trinity!  Boy, do I pray for that!


So what’s the point of me bringing all this up?  It’s really quite simple.  Like Peter, who denied Jesus and didn’t want anything to do with this Good Friday-ed and Graveyard Dead Jesus, it’s time for all of us to repent, to trust in Jesus with His forgiveness for us His sinners, and for us to do better, that is to say, to grow in grace and holiness of living.  What else is there for a Christian to do?  Seriously!  Don’t you want that too?


Surely you don’t want to stand before Jesus today and justify your sin?  Offer all kinds of excuses?  Go in full-blown denial mode?  I hope not.  Instead, it’s time for all of us to confess our sin honestly.  To die to it.  To put our old Adamic selves to death.  Maybe for the first time in our lives. Or maybe you’ve been struggling with this for a long time but you were afraid to admit it and confess it.  Well, it’s time to come out of the shadows, into the light and own up to the truth.


So that all of us, together with all our children, have good use for this Jesus – who suffered died for us His sinners.        


Yes, that’s right, He died FOR YOU.  For all of you gathered here!


He took all your sin in His Body on the Cross.  He answered for it all.  He who knew no sin became the sinner on the Cross as He bears all your sin.  Jesus suffers the damnation sinners deserve:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


And He’s sent me to speak and to give you His Word that you are forgiven.  I’m under His orders to do that – Office of the Keys (Matthew 16; 18; & John 20) and all – you know.  So here goes.  Listen carefully.  In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.   


So now ALL is forgiven.  As you believe so you have!   You have a proper relationship with God through Jesus.  Now you’re all proud to bear Christ’s Name given to you in Holy Baptism.  Proud to be His disciples.  Proud to be seen with Him.  Pleased to be families that live on and from Jesus’ Good Friday death which includes coming to the Sacrament on a regular basis because of His command of invitation and promise – namely, His Body:  given into death FOR YOU.  His Blood:  Golgotha shed FOR YOU.  Where He definitively promises once again your sin doesn’t belong to you anymore because He took it from you and doesn’t count it against you.


Therefore, you get right up in Claudia’s and the World’s face and tell them to get lost.  They’re not the Lord!  Jesus is!  You audaciously dare now to always be seen with that crucified but risen Jesus, today, year after year and the rest of your life.  You dare to sit and be seen with Him as His hangers on at His Supper.  You have everything to do with this Jesus.  After all, He is the Savior.  The Savior of sinners.  What joy!


Happy Confirmation Day Cole, Katelyn, Faye, Jared and Jennifer!  Happy being the Lord’s hangers on!


In the Name of Jesus.


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