Proper 19

denarius

What Drives Our Giving?


People are fascinating. When I first started High School, we had to take fine arts classes. So I signed up for drama classes. And one of the first homework assignments I had was to go out somewhere and study someone so that we could act and pretend to be that person for a minute or two. So that’s what I did. I went across the street from our home to the grade school. I took out a notebook and a pen and studied the children. And there was this boy who began to tie his shoes. But half way through he realized that it was work to tie his shoes. So he put on the saddest face—the sort of face that makes mom’s sigh and dads act. And then he said, “Teacher, I need help.” And as the teacher kneeled down and tied his shoe for him, this smug, self-contented smile spread across his face, as if to say, “Life is good. My mom makes me tie my shoes at home. But I just successfully trained my teacher to tie my shoes at school. Life is good.” I walked home after that thinking to myself one thought: people are fascinating. But I was not the only one who thought that people were fascinating. Jesus too thought that people were fascinating too. And they were so fascinating that they were worthy of time to observe and study. And in our gospel for this morning that’s exactly what Jesus does. In Mark 12, we read: “Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury.” (Mark 12:41 CSB17)


As we read these words, it’s important to see the setting. It’s Holy Week. Jesus is in the temple area. He has just answered every tough question brought to him. And now no one is coming forward to test and challenge him. And so, for a rare moment in time, he has spare time. But he doesn’t let it go to waste. He sits down. Then he stares at and studies the people in the temple because they are fascinating to him.1 And as he does this, what is it that he sees? 41 Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.” (Mark 12:41–42 CSB17)


What Jesus sees first is crowds of people coming up and dropping their offering into the temple treasury. But then, as time goes by, he sees more. He sees how there were many rich people who stopped by and dropped large sums of money into the treasury. This is a reminder for us that in those days there was no such thing as a check or credit card. If you had masses of money you had to carry it. One of the parts of the Old Testament that I thought was funny when I first read it was the description of Abraham. In our english versions it just says that Abraham was “rich” in gold and silver. But in the Hebrew it says that he was weighed down with gold and silver.2(Genesis 13:2 BHS-T)}} If you were rich, it was hard to hide it. Everyone could see the masses of money that these rich people brought because they had to carry them. Or, to be more specific, they had people to carry them. And as all of this happens, Jesus is just sitting there. But then there is this change in Jesus. And we hear about this in the verses which follow: “Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” (Mark 12:43 CSB17)


So Jesus is sitting there watching one person after another. But then he sees someone get in line. And what he sees fascinates him. He sees one woman. He does not see teams and groups of people, as with the rich people. And he sees that she is a widow. There is no husband to go with her and support her. And then the final detail we learn about her is that she is poor. There was no trust-fund for her or life insurance. Her income died with her husband. Jesus sees her and studies her. In fact she is so fascinating to him that he calls his disciples over to him. And he tells them all that this one woman gave more than all the others who showed up that day. And then he tells them why this was true: “For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on.”” (Mark 12:44 CSB17)


Notice the contrast Jesus sees. On the one hand, what drove all these people to give was the fact that they had enough if not even more than enough. And because they had enough, they could give some to the Lord. But just the opposite was true with this poor, lonely widow. What drove her to give was her lack. She did not have a husband. She did not have and income. And with that lack she arrived at a conclusion: “I can do no nothing because I have nothing.” And that was what fascinated Jesus. For from that conclusion she arrived at an even more important conclusion: “Since I can do nothing, the Lord will have to do everything. He will have to be the one who will save me from sin and from starvation.” And from this conclusion she arrived at a final conclusion: “since the Lord will provide for me, I can give freely and joyfully to him.” And so she did.


Joy in Christ—that’s what drove her giving. But for us here today, what is it that drives our giving? Here is where we face two temptations: first, our temptation is to give out of apathy and peer-pressure. After the sermon ends and it’s time for the offering we look around and all the other people are giving. I guess I should. And so, without much thinking and pondering we put our money in the plate. That’s one temptation. But the other temptation is just as bad. The second temptation is to give out of panic and desperation. We publish these numbers in our bulletin every week. And if we don’t understand them properly, we they can lead us to sin. If I see a negative number here in the bulletin, it’s so easy to conclude, “I have to give because if I don’t this church might close down.” And that’s not true at all. I’ve been in many congregations over the years and what causes churches to close down is a lack of love for God’s word, not a lack of money. The lack of money is an effect, not a cause. In one of the churches I served in, there was a guy who bought into a false teaching. And when our congregation refused to give into that false teaching he left. And he left with a strange sort of glee. You see, he was a very generous giver to the church—and everyone knew it. And, with glee, he left the church, expecting it to fold because he was no longer there. But the church didn’t collapse. In fact, it grew. It was a powerful reminder that that church belonged to Jesus. He died for those people. He gave them faith. He gave them their daily bread. And our great trap is to either care too little about our offerings (apathy) or to care too much (panic and desperation).


Those are our temptations. But what is the truth we see in these words? Just look at that widow. Did Jesus rescue her from her sin? And there’s the amazing part: we find no hint that she even knew he was there. But she knew her good and gracious Lord would forgive her sins. And the same is true for us. And did Jesus rescue her from her starvation? Year after year we walk through these words in catechism class. And I ask the kids: “So, do you think that this widow put her coins in the box and then went home and died of starvation.” And, in all my years of asking that question, they all had the same answer: “no.” They knew that the same Savior, Jesus, who died for us will also provide for us.


So where does that leave us this morning? That leaves us in the same place as this one poor widow. What drives us to give is our great joy in Christ. And what this joy in Christ drives us to do is to give freely. So when we get to that part when I say, “We continue with our thank-offering,” care about that money that you put in that offering plate. But do not let your care be driven by pressure or panic. Give freely, out of joy in Christ. Amen.



1 “ⲉⲑⲉⲱⲣⲉⲓ” (Mark 12:41 GNT-ALEX)

2 ”וְאַבְרָ֖ם כָּבֵ֣ד מְאֹ֑ד בַּמִּקְנֶ֕ה בַּכֶּ֖סֶף וּבַזָּהָֽב׃“

Proper 17

Moses

Take Away The Weight


It’s out of my hands. Part of being a doctor—especially an ER doctor, is that it’s your job to save lives. And the situation you can get yourself in if you are that kind of a doctor is that you get good at your job and you begin to conclude that you can save all people. But then there are those times you cannot save them. There are those times where you realize that both the problem and the solution are out of your hands. In Numbers 11, Moses faced the same situation, that both the problem and the solution are out of his hands: 4 The riffraff among them had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites wept again and said, “Who will feed us meat? 5 We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna!”” (Numbers 11:4–6 CSB17)


Here we are again in the desert, just as we were several weeks ago. And here we are reminded that there was this “mixed-multitude” coming up out of Egypt along with the Hebrews—or to use the word here, the “riffraff.” These many people who fled from Egypt continually tried to lead the Hebrews astray. But, sad to say, as we look at these words, we see that the Hebrews wanted to be led astray. So what happens next? 10 Moses heard the people, family after family, weeping at the entrance of their tents. The Lord was very angry; Moses was also provoked. 11 So Moses asked the Lord, “Why have you brought such trouble on your servant? Why are you angry with me, and why do you burden me with all these people? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth so you should tell me, ‘Carry them at your breast, as a nanny carries a baby,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are weeping to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me. 15 If you are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now if I have found favor with you, and don’t let me see my misery anymore.”” (Numbers 11:10–15 CSB17)


Week after week, month after month, the people complained about their food. And look at Moses. The Moses here is a different man than the one we saw months earlier. He is worn down. He he demoralized. Moses wasn’t the one who created these people. It wasn’t Moses’ plan to take them out of Egypt. And he wasn’t the one who was providing food for them in the desert—It was the Lord who was doing that. And yet, he felt the weight of a problem that was out of his control. So, in a low and lonely moment, he prays to the Lord that the Lord might murder him.1 And he prays that the Lord would just take the weight away.


Now, before we move on in these words, realize that nothing at all has changed from Moses’ time to our own. Christian congregations often have a habit of blaming a pastor for issues that are out of his control. Years ago there was a pastor who was called to a congregation after a long vacancy. And there were people who had left that church and weren’t coming back. But yet, when he got there, the leaders in the congregation made sure he knew that his job was to get those families who weren’t coming to church back into church. That was an issue that was out of his control. But the congregation was more than happy to pile on the weight. So the ancient Hebrews weren’t the only ones who face this temptation. Today Christians face the same temptation.


Now, if you were in the Lord’s shoes, what would you do with these problems? Notice then what the Lord does: “The Lord answered Moses, “Bring me seventy men from Israel known to you as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the tent of meeting and have them stand there with you.” (Numbers 11:16 CSB17)


Moses cries out, “Take away the weight.” But is this what the Lord does? The answer is “yes” and “no.” He still leaves the weight of caring for souls on Moses’ shoulders. But, notice what he also does. He spreads the weight. He chooses 70 elders to help Moses out in his ministry to the people. And there are some important details to learn about these men. We read: 24 Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. He brought seventy men from the elders of the people and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord descended in the cloud and spoke to him. He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed the Spirit on the seventy elders. As the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they never did it again. 26 Two men had remained in the camp, one named Eldad and the other Medad; the Spirit rested on them—they were among those listed, but had not gone out to the tent—and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and reported to Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 Joshua son of Nun, assistant to Moses since his youth, responded, “Moses, my Lord, stop them!” 29 But Moses asked him, “Are you jealous on my account? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets and the Lord would place his Spirit on them!”” (Numbers 11:24–29 CSB17)


Notice the two points these words teach us: First, elders are called servants of the word. But they only have a part of that ministry. Elders are not pastors. But they carry out pastoral work in a very limited way. Second, Moses says, “If only all the Lord’s people were prophets” (Numbers 11:29 CSB17) Moses says this because only a very small number of men will have the gifts to serve as an elder. I know of congregations of more than 500 members and they have no elders. And the reason for this is very clear: there will be few men who will have the maturity in God’s word to serve in this ministry. Notice what it is to be an elder. An elder is a man who loves God’s word and loves God’s people. And from this fact there arises two temptations. The first temptation comes from the congregation. The call, work and role of an elder is to spend time in God’s word. He needs to be reading God’s word at home. He needs to be sharing that word with his family. He needs to be coming to bible study class at church for one simple reason: Elders are asked pastor-level questions. But they do not have a pastor-level education. So they need to be in bible study class, immersed in God’s word. And the temptation the congregation faces is to take this man whose call has to do with God’s word and then divert him to other service in the church. So, instead of spending time reading God’s word, praying and studying God’s word with the pastor, the congregation has the elder fix door knobs and faucets. That is a real sin. But there is a second temptation. That is the temptation for the elder to divert himself. I have no desire to clean my office. I don’t. But when Saturday morning rolls around, all of a sudden I have this deep yearning to tidy up my office. Why is that? That is the time when I write my sermon. And my sinful nature wants me to do anything rather than get the sermon done. Since the fall into sin in the Garden it has always been this way. And it’s the same for elders in the church. Their work is carrying your weight. Their work is to pray for you. Their work is to grow in God’s word so that they can share that with you. And it is a sad and shameful thing when we divert them from that work.


And what do we do with this shocking realization that our energy and efforts are diverted? We repent of it. We turn to the God we see here in these pages. We turn to this God who has such amazing patience. If God was patient with his people and prophets in the Old Testament, won’t he be the same with us? And hasn’t he already been in Christ? Look at our Savior, Jesus. He was continually and constantly being invited to divert himself from the ministry of the word. But, in every example, he said, “no.” And he did this as our substitute, so that in the times we divert ourselves or others divert us—those sins are forgiven in Christ. And they are paid for on the cross.


With all of this in mind, how should we treat our elders in our congregation? Treat them as tremendous gifts. For there are congregations who do not have any. Thank God for them. But also help them. An elder’s primary role is to be in God’s word. So then, my dear friends in Christ, help him in that. If there is an elder who gets caught up in fixing doorknobs and dishwashers in this church, what should you do? Make sure that he is reading God’s word. Make sure that he is coming to bible class, for again, elders are asked pastor-level questions without a pastor-level training. And so that they can spend time in growing in God’s word, take that work away from them. Fix the doorknobs and dishwashers for them. Do this so that the weight of caring for you can rest on their shoulders once again. For each of us as pastors and elders at some point in time cries out, “take the weight away.” But our Lord, in is mercy toward us spreads the weight out among pastors and elders. Amen.



1 הָרְגֵ֤נִי נָא֙ הָרֹ֔ג Numbers 11:15

Proper 16

Faith

Faith Chooses Us


You do not want to leave too, do you? In the words we just read, that was the question that Jesus asked his disciples. And the fascinating part of that question is the word, “too.” They could see multitudes and masses of people walking away from Jesus because, to them, he was speaking above their level of comprehension. And Jesus, no doubt, with sadness in his voice, tells them, “All the rest are walking away? Are you?” Peter lifts up his voice and says those words, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68 NIV) And the question we ask is “how?” How is it that Peter stood with Jesus when all the rest walked away? The answer is that Peter’s confidence came by faith. Peter did not choose to have faith in Jesus. No, instead, God the Father gave Peter faith so that he could choose to stay with Jesus. Or, to put it differently, Peter did not choose faith. Instead, faith chose him. And notice that this amazing gift of faith that God gave to him was not frail and faltering. No, instead, it was fierce and forceful. All of this we look at this morning because we see the same pattern and example 1400 years before Peter. We find the same example in Moses. In the book of Hebrews we read: 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter 25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. 26 For he considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking ahead to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24–26 CSB17)


Faith chose Moses. But notice that this gift of faith was not frail. It was strong and forceful. And it needed to be. For Moses was caught and ensnared in a powerful web. Moses was a Hebrew baby. And Pharaoh had commanded that all the Hebrew boys be put to death. But Pharaoh’s daughter found a Hebrew baby in the Nile. She adopted the child and made him her own. But this makes Moses’ life weird, strange and dysfunctional. Today, they talk about Stockholm syndrome. It’s this condition where a person is kidnapped and then abused and then, after a while, bonds with the person who kidnapped them. And that’s nothing compared to what Moses grows up in. His adopted grandpa went out of his way to kill all the Hebrew males he could get his hands on. And yet, there in his own household is a grown-up Hebrew male that he calls his own. And what is it that keeps Moses there, living in denial of his family and his faith? All the wealth of Egypt is his.


And this is a warning to us. We are citizens of two kingdoms. The bed where you lay your head at night is your earthly home. But the promise of heaven is where you lay your heart. Worldly wealth is the tool this sinful world and our sinful hearts use to rob us of our earthly promised kingdom. Earthly wealth wants to give us such joy that we forget about the joy promised to us in heaven. Earthly wealth wants us to put our trust in it. And even worse, we can look around us and see so many people being enticed by it.


What was it then that led Moses out of that trap, and us too today? The answer is faith. This gift of faith that our Father in heaven gives to us is forceful. This faith chooses us. And it chooses us to say, “No!” And that’s exactly what Moses did. He had every ability to stay with his mother and have every benefit of worldly wealth. But his soul cried out, “no!” His faith in Christ led him to say, “no” and suffer with his fellow believers because the treasures he was promised in Christ were far bigger and far better. The wealth of Egypt gave him fame and power. But it did not give him forgiveness. It did not give him the truth. And the same is true for us. This gift of faith chooses us to say “no” to worldly wealth. And what moves us to do this is the promise of forgiveness promised to us in Christ. And what a great, amazing promise that is! For all those times we, in such a dysfunctional way loved our worldly wealth more than our Savior—that sin is forgiven in Jesus who loved us enough to lay down his life to pay for our sins.


Faith chooses us. This gift of faith chooses us to say, “no” to the enticement of worldly wealth. But as these words continue, we see that faith chooses us in another way: 27 By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees him who is invisible. 28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the Israelites.” (Hebrews 11:27–28 CSB17)


Here we bump into some of the strangest words you could possibly bump into as you read the bible. God tells us that Moses was not afraid. But that’s the exact opposite of what we read in the book of Exodus. And we know why Moses is so afraid. He’s afraid because he just got done murdering and Egyptian and burying him in the sand. How do we make sense of this? The answer is that in between verse 26 and 27 in these words 40 years has passed. Moses was a different man 40 years later. And in this too we see a huge temptation to sin. Moses’ faith was forceful. It was not frail and faltering. But what was the problem? His faith was not formed and informed by God’s word. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. But Moses took vengeance in his own hands, without a call and without a command from God. We too can fall into the same trap. There are those times we are put on the spot and put to the test. And then, when that time of testing comes, we take our stand with Jesus and shout out, “no!” But then we fall into another trap. We might do so without love and compassion for the person we are speaking to. We might do so like Moses, not just showing sin, but also bringing divine wrath and punishment. And all of this happens, because, just like Moses, instead of having our faith formed and informed by God’s word, we choose to live in ignorance. And so we have a faith that is forceful; but it is also foolish.


The Moses that we see in these closing verses was a different man. He wasn’t different in that, somehow, he stopped sinning or even that he sinned less than before. No, instead, he was a different man in that, for 40 years, he was one who kept continually seeing the One who was Unseen. The Lord hid himself and spoke to him out of that burning bush. But that’s not all he had. He also had God’s word shared with him through his Father in law, Jethro, who was a high priest of Midian. Moses had God’s word and grew in it. And that same invitation is here for you today. The faith that God has given to each and everyone of you is forceful. But what is it that moves us to actually open up our bibles and read them? Just like Moses, there in those pages of the bible, the Jesus that is unseen, we see. We see his great love for us in forgiving the times we have been cowards. We see his great love for us in the times we found how forceful our faith was and then became fools by going in directions God’s word didn’t—how he forgives our foolishness. And if you want an example of that, just look at Moses. Such shame he had for decades at murdering an Egyptian. But why was he so unafraid of Pharaoh and so unafraid to have Pharaoh call him a murderer? In God’s word he saw Christ, the Savior from his sins. That’s why we read God’s word. Our sinful natures have every reason and right to call us, “adulterer, slanderer, lier, and even murderer.” But in God’s word we see the Jesus who is unseen. And he calls us, “forgiven.” And in God’s word, he calls us, “friend.”


And so, my dear friends in Christ, don’t let your bible be this dry and dusty book on your shelf. Open it. Read it. And as you read it you will find your faith grow and be stronger. It will lead you to say “no.” But right along with that, I will also form and inform you as you see Jesus, who is unseen. Amen.


Proper 14

Bread

Flee From Idolatry


How did this happen? Years ago, in the town we used to live in, there was a bridge over the river. And the bridge had become so worn down that vehicles, especially trucks, weren’t able to cross it safely. So they shut the bridge down. Then people asked the question, “how did this happen?” You would expect the answer to that question to be, “time and rust.” But no, the question was getting to a different answer. The question says, “how,” But what it really means is “who?” Who did this? And how incompetent can they be so as to let this happen? When we see tragedies like this, it’s hard to not ask that question, “how did this happen?” And we aren’t alone. In the apostle Paul’s day, it was the same. In 1 Corinthians 10, we read: 1 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–5 CSB17)


The Lord God led thousands of Hebrews up out of Egypt. They were rescued from Pharaoh’s army as it was drowned in the Red Sea. They drank water from a rock. And even more amazing, Paul tells us that that rock that watered them was Jesus. Well, if they were so blessed by God, then how did this happen? How is it that other than two men, that entire generation’s bodies died one by one and never made it into the promised land? How did this happen? They concluded that they were saved for their sins instead of from their sins. This is a warning for us too. We have been baptized into Christ. Through water and word he has delivered the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross to us. But it is possible to throw that gift of salvation away and not make it into the promised land of heaven. How is that possible? In the words that follow, Paul tells us: 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did. 7 Don’t become idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to party. 8 Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in a single day twenty-three thousand people died. 9 Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes. 10 And don’t complain as some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:6–10 CSB17)


How is it possible to throw heaven away? The answer is idolatry. That’s not a word we use very often. So we need to ask the question, what is it? Luther, in his large catechism puts it this way:


What does “to have a god” mean, or what is God?
Answer: A “god” is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need.1


Where do you go to find fulfillment and joy? And where do you go when things fall apart? Where you go is your god. If we go to any other place than to our Triune God, either when things fall apart, or to get fulfillment, that is idolatry. And Paul gives two example of idolatry from the Old Testament. First, There is the example of sexual immorality. Second, Paul gives the example of grumbling. And notice what Paul says about these sins: “These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 CSB17)


Why does the bible record the fact that many Hebrews committed sexual immorality and then were put to death? Why do we read that thousands of them grumbled and then were bit with burning poison until they died? Were these events written down for them? No, they died. They were written down for us. And so we take these words to heart. When the bible warns us against the idolatry of sexual immorality, we listen. Guard your eyes. There are places on the internet that should never be seen by anyone. But now they are easily accessible to all. Guard your eyes so that you don’t go there. And if you go there by accident, quickly run away. Also, guard your hearts. For those of you who are married, be very careful what you think and say about your spouse. Infidelity starts in our hearts. It starts when we begin to conclude that someone else has better assets and attributes than the person God gave to us as a husband or wife.


Idolatry is like a salty spring. You go to it expecting to have your thirst quenched. But you end up worse after than before. It’s true when it comes to sexual immorality. But it’s just as true with grumbling and complaining. I hear it as a pastor. Some hymns are too short. Some are too long. And the difficulty with this grumbling and complaining is that its thirst is never quenched. If the number of verses isn’t enough, then the next target is the style of music isn’t enough. And if it’s true here in the worship setting, then it’s also true out there in the world. It’s shocking that now, on Facebook, you can post a shocking, eighth commandment-breaking insult to hundreds of people. And you never have to actually speak to that person. Grumbling is a salty spring and an empty well. That’s the sort of idolatry that it is. And that brings us to the final words of this section of scripture. Paul urges us to flee from idolatry. But what does that look like? Paul tells us: 12 So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. 13 No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12–13 CSB17)


Paul brings up two important points. First, sin is common to humanity. Every sin is common to humanity. God’s word wants us to hear these words because each of us is capable of the worst sins. The people in prison are no different than you are. If put in the right circumstances each of us is able to do horrible sins. And even though we might conclude that gossipping and grumbling isn’t as sinful as sexual immorality, God says just the opposite. And shockingly, there is a very real comfort in that fact. How so? When there are those times when we fall into sin, and we feel guilty because we are guilty, Satan will be there to tell us that some sins are forgivable—but not yours. And when that times comes, we can remember this verse: “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB17) That heinous, horrible sin I committed is able to be forgiven by Jesus. And that’s exactly what he did. Each one of us can say that, for all the times I thought impure thoughts or took impure actions; for all the times I gossiped and grumbled—those sins are paid for. They are paid for by a perfect Savior who never sinned even once. They are paid for by Jesus who as true God and true man died to pay for them.


So no temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But notice what he says in these closing words: “But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB17)


Now, notice what these words do not say. These words do not say that God will magically take away the temptation. No, he says that along side the temptation there is a way out. God has placed his Holy Spirit in us. He has given us a new person, born of water and word, to combat that old person. There is a way out. There is a way to say, “no.” There is a way to flee from idolatry.


So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, flee from idolatry. Do not give into sexual immorality or into gossipping and grumbling. Flee from it. Do so by remembering that no temptation has come on you except that which is common to humans. Do so by remembering that your Savior Jesus forgives these sins and promises to give you a way out—a way to say, “no” to them. Amen.



1 Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Accordance electronic ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 386.

Proper 13

Anchor

Jesus, Free Us From Our Fears


What scares you? Years ago, when I was a child, there was a movie on TV. And it was scary. It was edited for television. But even after the editing, it was scary. And, looking back, what made it so scary was that it took not just one scary, but several and put them together in a movie. The movie was called, “IT.” And in the movie was one of the most scary creatures that could exist: the clown. But even more scary than this, there was this scene where the the scary clown was in a sewer grate. And, as the children passed by, it was there, ready to grab them. What scares you? Well, if there is one area of your life that you are scared in, how much more scary is it when there are several added? In our gospel for this morning, we find the same pattern. There are several sources of fear that are put together. We read: 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After he said good-bye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray. 47 Well into the night, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:45–48 CSB17)


Jesus goes off on his own to pray. But then what happens next? Stress is what happens next. The real stress of real physical danger piles up. The disciples begin to go across the lake, but then a storm begins and builds. And the only way for them to survive is to row against the wind and waves. The daylight turns to night time. The hours move onto the third and fourth watch of the night, about 3 or 4 in the morning. And as each minute and hour passes by their fear grows. They become terrified and afraid for their bodies. They don’t want to die. And who could blame them? But physical dangers aren’t the only dangers they face: 48 Very early in the morning he came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them. 49 When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.” (Mark 6:48–50 CSB17)


Not only did these disciples face physical danger. They face spiritual danger. Jesus walks out to them on top of the sea. And he is intending to walk by them. And you would think that that would bring them comfort. But instead, it makes the situation worse. They conclude that he is a ghost. They conclude that he is a dead spirit that is out to get them. And how is it then, that Jesus deals with their fears? We read: 50 Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.” (Mark 6:50–51 CSB17)


They had real fears. They were afraid of physical danger. They were afraid of spiritual danger. So what does Jesus do for them? First, he prays for them. They are there by themselves straining at the oars and stressing over the wind and waves. But Jesus is on a mountain praying for them. Second, Jesus speaks with them. Jesus gives them real faith and confidence with his powerful word. And Third, Jesus deals with the source of their fear. They were afraid of real wind and real waves. So Jesus really calms down the wind and waves. Compare this, my dear friends in Christ, with how the world deals with fear. You watch a movie, for example. And in that movie there’s a danger that is threatening to destroy people. And there’s that scene where the child asks the parent, “Will everything be allright?” And what does the mom say? She says, “I promise that everything will be all right.” Then later, when she’s talking to the grown-ups she confesses that she just lied to her child because it was necessary. Jesus frees them from their fear by actually dealing with the source and cause of their fear. And he does the same for us today. Jesus prays for you. Jesus shares his word with you. And Jesus deals with the source and cause of your fear. We live in fear that we won’t have enough food and he gives us our daily bread. We live in fear that a slow cancer or sudden tragedy will take us. And he promises to watch over us. We live in fear of Satan’s power with his evil spirits just like these disciples on the sea and in his word Jesus reminds us that he has conquered Satan in the desert and on the cross. And he will continue to conquer him. We live in fear of death itself. And Jesus then dies for us in our place paving a path for us so that if we die we will be with him. Jesus frees us from our fears. He frees us from our fears by praying for us, sharing his word with us, and dealing with the source of our fear. But there’s more to these words. Mark tells us: 51 They were completely astounded, 52 because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:51–52 CSB17)


Notice, how in these words, Jesus shows them the sort of Savior he is. Why? Why is it that they were so afraid? Mark tells us why. They hadn’t learned their lesson from the loaves of bread. What is the “loaves of bread” Jesus is speaking about? He’s speaking about the feeding of the 5000. They had not learned that the Savior that provides food also protects from danger. And what else does he teach them? 53 When they had crossed over, they came to shore at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As they got out of the boat, people immediately recognized him. 55 They hurried throughout that region and began to carry the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went, into villages, towns, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch just the end of his robe. And everyone who touched it was healed.” (Mark 6:53–56 CSB17)


What sort of Savior did they have? They had one who provides. They had one who protects. They had one who was powerful. There these disciples were. They had been with Jesus for many weeks and months. They had heard Jesus teach them so much from God’s word. But then they go on dry land and what do they see? They see people who have almost no instruction in God’s word who have a stronger faith than they have. The disciples need signs. They need speeches. They need to not be separated from Jesus or their heart falls apart. But then they see crowds of people who only hear about Jesus. And then they trust in his promises.


What did they learn from all of this? Yes, Jesus freed them from their fear by dealing with the source of their fear. But Jesus did more. He reminded them to turn to and trust in him because he was powerful—all-powerful. And the same is true for us. When you are afraid, what should you do? Where should you go? Turn to Jesus. Trust in him. For all the times our fear threatens to drive away our faith, know that Jesus forgave that sin. He paid for it on the cross. He gave you faith in him through his word. Now, whenever you are afraid, turn to him. For he is powerful—all-powerful.


I’ve always wondered why people love to be scared. Why would anyone like to watch “IT”? People love to be scared to deaden themselves to the fear. If I watch a scary movie about disasters and demons and then tell myself that I am immune to both eventually I will believe it. And outside of Christ they have no shelter for and solution to their fear. We, on the other hand, speak about our fears because Jesus is the one who frees us from them. He frees us from them by dealing with their source and by encouraging us to trust in him, because he is all-powerful. Amen.


Proper 12

Bread

Why Does The Lord Test Us?


Heat and hunger. If you want to see people at their worst, all you have to do is add heat and hunger. For the past several weeks we were on vacation. And going out too and coming home from Montana we went across highway 200. On that stretch of road there is nothing. There is heat. There is dry, dusty air. There is sagebrush and rattlesnakes. But there is not water and food around for many miles. It’s the sort of place where you stop at the side of the road and read the historical marker and then get back into the minivan and enjoy air-conditioning. And we all know why. If you were there in that area it’s hot and dry. And that’s bad enough. But if you add hunger to the situation, it will bring out the worst in you. That fact is important for us to understand as we tackle these words here in Exodus 16. The Lord sent the ten plagues. The Lord drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red sea. And they’ve been on their own for a month. They are hot. They are hungry. Oh, and they’re running out of food. With that in mind, we read these opening verses: 1 The entire Israelite community departed from Elim and came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left the land of Egypt. 2 The entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”” (Exodus 16:1–3 CSB17)


The heat and the hunger bring out the worst in the Hebrews. They act out and lash out. Notice the ways in which they sin. First, they revise history. They say to Moses, “Oh, if only we were back in Egypt where we had big pots of meat to eat.” Now, my friends in Christ, what was the occupation of the Hebrews when they were in Egypt? They were slaves. The Egyptians gave them barely enough to survive on. And you don’t give slaves meat. Only the rich people get meat. But they also committed a second sin. They rebel against God’s representatives. The Lord was the one who commanded the Hebrews to leave Egypt. The Lord was the one who sent Moses and Aaron. This was the Lord’s command and the Lord’s work. But the people blamed God’s representatives instead of taking up the issue with God himself.


These are words for us to take to heart. For we too fall into the same traps. There is a temptation for us to revise history. Years ago, I remember talking to a mom. And the mom was complaining about how hard it was to handle her daughter now that her daughter had gotten into the teen years. The mom said, “My daughter says and does the worst things—things I never did when I was her age.” And it was hard to hear her and keep a straight face because I knew her mom. I had heard the grandma tell me how sinful the daughter had been when she was a teenager. All of us can fall into the same trap. We face this real temptation to conclude that we were better in the past than we really were. But just like the Hebrews, not only do we face the temptation to revise history. We face the temptation to rebel against God’s representatives. In his own wisdom God chose to put people over us in our lives for our good. But when they tell us the truth that we do not want to hear, just like the Hebrews, instead of taking the issue up with the Lord who commanded those representatives to say and share his word—instead, we are tempted to tear down God’s representatives. And so, when the child is told by the parent, “You aren’t going to the movies with your friends because you lied to me, “ the child lashes out against the parent. When the teacher hands back a bad grade to the student to didn’t study, the student says horrible things about the teacher behind her back. The pastor preaches against sin, but not the sin that others commit, no, the sin that I commit, and then what do I do? I speak against him. We face these real temptations not just to revise history but also to rebel against God’s representatives.


And so, if we ask the question, “Why does the \textsc{Lord test us,”} here is your answer: To show you your sin. But there is another answer we find in these words: 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites: “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because he has heard your complaints about him. For who are we that you complain about us?” 8 Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and all the bread you want in the morning, for he has heard the complaints that you are raising against him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.”” (Exodus 16:4–8 CSB17)


As we read these words, what we find amazing is first of all not what God says, but instead what he didn’t say. I don’t know about you, but if I were God for a day and my people revised history and rebelled against the people I had set up for them for their good, I would be tempted to punish them and pound them into the dust. That’s what I would have done. But look what the Lord does. Instead of pounding them into the dust he sets aside the time to teach them so that they would know that he is the Lord. The Lord is the one who doesn’t just test them to show them their sin. He is also the Lord who shows them his salvation. And what does that look like? We read: 9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron was speaking to the entire Israelite community, they turned toward the wilderness, and there in a cloud the Lord’s glory appeared.” (Exodus 16:9–10 CSB17)


The Lord goes out of his way to test them so that they will see that he is the one who gives them salvation from their sin. He allows them to see the Lord’s glory. My dear friends in Christ, this is not a small, trivial detail worth throwing away and forgetting. In the book of Exodus, the Lord would lead them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And wherever they were, they could look out, see that cloud, and know that the Lord was there in that cloud to lead them, guide them, and above all, forgive them. The Lord cannot tolerate sin. And the only way that the Lord could be with them was if their sins were forgiven—The times they revised history and rebelled against his representatives—those are the ones that needed to be forgiven. He reveals himself to them in the cloud to show them that their sins are forgiven.


Today the Lord does not appear in clouds, does he? Instead he shows his salvation in his word. Here in God’s word we hear about our Savior Jesus who was absolutely true to all of history, never twisting it ever. And Jesus was treated as if he were the biggest rebel and revolutionary ever. And all of this he did to pay for the times we revised history and rebelled against him. There in his word you will find him—his glory and his salvation. But there’s more: 11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them: At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will eat bread until you are full. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” 13 So at evening quail came and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, there were fine flakes on the desert surface, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.” (Exodus 16:11–15 CSB17)


Why does the Lord test us? He tests us to show us our sin. But he also tests us to show us his salvation—shown to our souls and also shown to our bodies. He gives to us our daily bread every day.


My dear friends, what is our response to all of this? Let us, with joy in our hearts, thank him. And what does that thanks look like? We thank him by remembering that he has forgiven our sin, so we don’t need to revise history. We don’t need to go back and pretend that we never sinned or that our sins weren’t as bad as they were. Why? Those sins are forgiven by Jesus. We thank him by following those in authority for one simple reason: God chose them. And we worship God by following them. And finally, we thank God by thanking him for our daily bread. We can say along with Luther, “God surely gives daily bread without our asking, even to all the wicked, but we pray in this petition that he would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”


Why does the Lord test us? He tests us to show us that it is a sin to revise history and to rebel against his representatives. He tests us to show us his salvation—salvation both for our souls and also for our bodies. Amen.




Proper 11

Anchor

I Need Rest


Thorns and thistles. So long ago Adam and Eve went their own way away from the Lord. And the consequences of their sin we share today. Work used to be fun. But after they sinned, work is work. And yet, because it is work and because it wears us down and makes us weary, we need rest. That’s the context to understand as we begin to walk through this part of God’s word in Mark 6. The twelve disciples had been busy. They had worked. They had toiled. They went out two by two. Their legs were worn down as they walked from town to town. Their hearts were worn down as they preached God’s word again and again not knowing if the people would receive them into their homes or drive them out of their town. They needed rest—for both their legs and hearts. And so, we read: 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”” (Mark 6:30–31 NIV11-GKE)


They need rest. They know it. Jesus sees it. So he tells them, “Let’s get a little rest.”1 Now, notice, Jesus does not tell them to get an overwhelming amount of rest. Instead, he tells them to get a little rest. So what happens next? 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:32–34 NIV11-GKE)


They get on a boat to get away from the crowds and get some rest. But the crowds see them and they travel by foot.2 They run around the sea while Jesus and his disciples sail across the sea.3 And then, what happens next is shocking and surprising. What we would have expected is that Jesus would have sent the crowd away or sailed to a different place. Because he had just invited them to get some rest with him. But when he sees the crowds he has compassion on them.4 There are times that you can’t find a perfect word in english to bring out what is going on in the Greek or Hebrew. The word here describes something that disturbs you so much that your guts feel twisted within yourself. It’s that feeling you have when your teenager goes driving for the first time. It’s that feeling you have when your high-schooler graduates and then they leave—on their own. Jesus heart was in turmoil over these crowds. They were sheep without a shepherd. They had wolves—false teachers. But they didn’t have shepherds.


But just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of those twelve. Jesus invited them to get some rest with him. But then what happens? The crowd comes and Jesus seemingly forgets about them. And here is where they learned a powerful lesson. It is true that those disciples needed rest. But what about those crowds? What about their need for rest? These were people who were so desperate that they traveled on foot, even running ahead of their boat for one reason—to hear God’s word. For they needed rest for their souls. From this, no doubt, they saw their sin. For it is a sin to lift up our own needs and then forget about the needs of others. And the same is true for us. The new mom loses so much sleep because of the little child. And there is the temptation to hate the child because of its needs. You go to work. And at the end of the day you have your keys in one hand and your jacket in the other. And then your boss comes around the corner with some extra work that needs to get done before you leave. And there hangs over you the temptation to hate him because, after all, you need your rest. When we were in school I remember a professor telling us, “When you get that phone call at 2 AM, letting you know that your member is in the hospital, there will be that temptation to ignore it because you need your rest. But when that phone call comes, you answer it, and you get to the hospital. Because they need rest from God’s word.”


This a real temptation to sin, isn’t it? It is a real temptation to conclude that my need for rest is more important than others. And so we see this sin and repent of it. And, as we do for all of our other sins, we turn to Jesus. Jesus had compassion on them. His heart was in turmoil over them. And his guts are twisted in care and concern today for us too. Look at your Savior. Look at the many times and ways that your needs came before his own. There were times that he should have eaten. But he didn’t so that he could teach the people. There were times he should have slept. But he didn’t so that he could teach the people. There were times that he needed privacy, but he didn’t have it, so that he could teach the people.


Jesus went without all these so that you would know that your needs went before his own. And with that perfect obedience in our place he won forgiveness for us. And with his perfect payment on the cross he payed for all the times we made our need for rest a ruthless right.


He has compassion on us to forgive us. But he also has compassion on us to give us shepherds. When we began vacation, we got out to MT in just enough time to arrive there for the installation of a new pastor at my parents’ church. They had been without a pastor for a little less than a year. And you see how much they needed a shepherd. They needed a fellow sinner as they were that God chose to share his word with them. And by sharing God’s forgiveness to them, again and again, they received rest.


Now my dear friends in Christ, this is an important point. Notice what Jesus did not do. Jesus did not show his compassion on the crowds by buying then a timeshare on the Mediterranean coast for a year. Jesus showed his compassion on them by sharing God’s word with them. For God’s word is what gives us rest. What good is it to have time for rest without a soul at rest? All you’ve gained is time. But you have no rest in that time. Every day off and every vacation should be a brief glimpse into our life in heaven, where we will have complete and perfect rest. But without God’s word, all you have is a fearful expectation of hell. Time off should be a time to relax and recharge. But what good is it to have that time off and then be all stressed out because you’re worrying about what will fall apart when you’re gone. Only in Christ, in his word, do you hear and receive these promises that Jesus will watch over all the details while you are away. And with that time off you actually get rest—both for your body and for your soul.


I need rest. There will be those times we say those words. Your Savior and Shepherd, Jesus knows this. And so he has compassion on you by forgiving you and by giving you a shepherd to share God’s word with you. Amen.



1 “ⲁⲛⲁⲡⲁⲩⲥⲁⲥⲑⲉⲟⲗⲓⲅⲟ̅” (Mark 6:31 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲡⲉⲍⲏ” (Mark 6:33 GNT-ALEX)

3 “ⲉⲇⲣⲁⲙⲟⲛ” (Mark 6:33 GNT-ALEX)

4 “ⲉⲥⲡⲗⲁⲅⲭⲛⲓⲥⲑⲏ” (Mark 6:34 GNT-ALEX)

Holy Trinity

Trinity

We Are Children Of The Triune God


Ididn’t see it. One of the difficulties of being in MN is that there are deer around—but you don’t see them. You can be driving along, and not even too fast. And you only notice these huge eyes staring back at you as you look to the side. And that deer was there all that time. But you didn’t see it. As Christians, we have a God that is not seen. And this morning in God’s word we see so very clearly that we are his children—but not with our eyes. We are children of the Triune God. But like that deer at the side of the road, it’s not something we can see with our eyes or smell with our noses. So it’s easy to forget what it really means that we are children of the Triune God. So, in Romans 8, we read: 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:12–14 NIV11-GKE)


We are children of the Triune God. And that means that the Holy Spirit leads us. Look at how God’s word describes the sin in our lives and in our hearts. Either sin puts us to death, or we put sin to death. We are in a death-struggle against our sin. And in this context it is so vitally important for us to realize that we are children of the Triune God. For the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us. As we came into this world, we did not know who God was, so the Holy Spirit revealed the Triune God to us. We did not trust in him, so he gave us faith in him. And, as Paul points out here, we don’t just need the Holy Spirit to make us Christians, we also need him to keep us in the faith. We need him to lead us to carry on this fight against our sin. And day by day, that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit does. He leads us to put to death our sins, repent of them and wage war against them every day.


But, my dear friends in Christ, there too is where we see our sins. One of the traps and temptations we can so easily fall into is that we forget. We forget that the Holy Spirit is the one who gave us the ability to hate sin and wage war against it. And where there are those times we resist the sins that confront us, there is the temptation to conclude that we were the ones, by our own power, who were able to get this work done on our own. Or, to put it differently, we forget that we are Children of the Triune God and that the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us every day to put sin to death. And that’s why what Paul says next is so important: 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15–16 NIV11-GKE)


We are children of the Triune God. The Spirit leads us. But here in these words we learn that the Father adopts us. And that’s a very beautiful and interesting picture. We are not God’s children by essence and genetics. We are adopted children. Last summer we stayed for a little while with some friends in Texas. They have three children—all of whom are girls. But one of them is adopted from China. All you have to do is take one look at them and see that as far as blood and genes go, that little girl born in China doesn’t have much in common with that family. But also, all you have to do is take one look to realize that she is part of that family. She is treated with the same love and dignity as the other two daughters.


We are like that. We are not children of God by blood and genes. But we are still children of the Triune God. We are his children because the Holy Spirit leads us. We are his children because the Father adopts us, declaring that all our sins are forgiven—even those sins we commit when we take credit for ourselves for putting sin to death, when that credit should to to God alone. And because the Father adopts us, we are able to call the Father those small, little, precious words: “my father.”1 And that leads us to the final words of this section: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17 NIV11-GKE)


We are children of the Triune God. The Spirit leads us. The Father adopts us. And Jesus, the Son of God—what does he do? He forged friendship with us through his own suffering. Jesus is the one who died on the cross, suffering miserably and mercilessly for us. And because he did this, our sins are paid for and we have every right to call ourselves children of God.


But notice the point that Paul makes with this. We share in Christ’s suffering. We do not share in his sufferings so as to somehow pay a little bit for our sins. For Jesus paid for them all. Why do we suffer now, since are we children of the Triune God? One of the reasons we suffer is so that we can find proof that we are Children of our Heavenly Father. How so? If your Father cares for you, he disciplines you. One saddest things you see when you grow up is that there are Fathers out there who do not care for their children. And they show it by doing nothing. When their children need to be corrected, they ignore them and let their children continue to do what is wrong. Your Father in heaven is just the opposite. He disciplines you. He shows you what is wrong and how wrong it is in his word. And he even allows you to suffer. Why?—So that you would have proof that you are children of the Heavenly Father.


And so, my dear friends in Christ, you are children of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit leads you. The Father adopts you. And the Son suffers for you. But, like that dear on the side of the road, it’s not something you can see with your eyes. So all that much more so, on this day I’m not asking you to go home and do works of service with your hands. No instead, I’m inviting you to go home and ponder this in your heart. If you look at our hymns, there are so many of them that end with a final verse praising the Trinity. And these are the verses, that when we cut down the hymns to save time, are the first verses that are cut. But they are there for a reason. They are there so that the people singing these words would stop and ponder this amazing fact that they are children of the Triune God—not by blood, but by faith. The Holy Spirit led them. The Father adopted them. The Son suffered for them. They took these words, sung them and then throughout the week and throughout their lives, they pondered them. That is what these words invite you to do this morning. For you are children of the Triune God. The Spirit leads you. The Father adopts you. The Son suffers for you. Amen.



1 “ⲁⲃⲃⲁⲟⲡⲏ̅ⲣ” (Romans 8:15 GNT-ALEX)

The Coming of the Holy Spirit—The Day of Pentecost

Pentecost

What Does This Mean


There’s something you don’t see everyday. Every day I travel to the church along Bavaria road. And, over the weeks, there are certain sights I have gotten used to seeing. I’ve gotten used to seeing people walking their dogs, people biking, and people jogging. One day though, I was on my way to church, and there on the sidewalk was a guy riding a unicycle. It was such a jarring, shocking sight that I had to slow down and have a look. Finally then, the only conclusion I could reach was, “Well, there’s something you don’t see everyday.” This morning, in these words here in Acts 2 we very quickly arrive at the same conclusion. We read: 1 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:1–5 CSB17)


Every year it was commanded in God’s word that every male present himself to the Lord at the temple three times a year. On of those holy days was the feast of unleavened bread. And so, Jerusalem mushroomed and ballooned into a place where there were hundreds of thousands of men. And I deliberately mention the word, ‘men’ because it was the men that God’s word commanded to present themselves at the temple. And they weren’t just men. They were devout men.1 You don’t travel all the way across the Mediterranean Sea because you don’t care. These were devout men who knew their Lord and they knew their bible.


But what did these devout men see? They saw flames of fire resting on the heads of the apostles. They saw the apostles speaking in languages that they knew. So that’s what they saw. But what then did they say? 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.” 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re drunk on new wine.”” (Acts 2:6–13 CSB17)


They see fire on the apostle’s heads. They see the apostles speaking in their own dialects. So then, what do they say? “what does this mean?” Peter then stands up and lifts up his voice. And first he tells them what all of this does not mean: 14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning.” (Acts 2:14–15 CSB17)


The flames on their heads and the dialects coming out of their mouths did not mean that they were drunk. Now here is where we need to pause for a minute. What kind of men were these? These were devout men. These were men who learned, cared for and studied God’s word. And without knowing it they ended up despising the Holy Spirit fulfilling God’s word. That was their sin. But we too sin when it comes to the question, “what does this mean?” One of the huge temptations we face is to make the one-time event of Pentecost into an everyday event. It is ever-so tempting to say to ourselves, “I want proof that I’m a Christian inside of myself.” We can say that we can proof that we are Christians by what we say or by what we do. And indeed, we are not alone. Sad to say, there are entire church bodies out there, who if they are asked the question, “how do you know that you are a Christian” they have an answer: They do what Christians do. They conclude that they are Christians because they have earned Jesus with their hands—they have done good works that everybody can see. Or they have earned Jesus with their hearts—they have decided to become Christians. And when they made that decision they felt different. Or even worse, there are those who conclude that they are Christians because of what comes out of their tongues. They can speak in unknown languages.


But what’s the problem? The problem is that both that these were known languages, not unknown one. And the other problem is that this was a one-time event. Or to put it differently, For all those people who say that they have proof that they are Christians because they babble in weird, unknown languages, how many of them can make real, true fire rest on their heads whenever they want? But we too can fall into the same trap and temptation—every time we want to find proof for our faith inside of us, by what we say or do.


So Peter gives a “not” answer. This does not mean. But then he tells us what these signs did mean: 16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy. 19 I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:16–21 CSB17)


What does this mean? The Holy Spirit provides a one-time event to prove an every-day fact. The one-time event is the flames of fire and the many known languages. And the everyday fact is that whoever and whenever a person calls on the name of the Lord, that person will be saved. Look at the amazing work the Holy Spirit does. First, because we could not know God, he reveals God. Because we could not choose God, the Holy Spirit chooses us. Because we could not come to God, the Holy Spirit comes to us. He gives us this amazing gift of faith. Second, he brings salvation to us. Jesus died for our sins. Jesus rose to prove that they are forgiven. And whenever anyone repents of his or her sin, again and again, the Lord forgives them. What good news that was for these devout men—that they forgot what they should have known, and they are forgiven. What great news that is for us—for those times we try to find proof that we are saved with proof inside of us instead of promises from God’s word on the outside. And not only is that sin forgiven. But again and again, throughout our lives we continue to call on him. And he forgives us and gives us even more promises of his forgiveness in his word.


Now there’s something you don’t see everyday. They saw fire resting on the apostle’s head. They saw them speaking in their own dialects. So they asked, “what does this mean?” And now you know the answer: The Holy Spirit provides a one-time event to prove an everyday truth. What is that truth? Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Since the Holy Spirit has done his wondrous work in you to give you faith, call on him. Every day we sin. So let us call on him to forgive us. And he will. Amen.



1 “ⲁⲛⲇⲣⲉⲥⲉⲩⲗⲁⲃⲉⲓⲥ” (Acts 2:5 GNT-ALEX)

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Confirmation)

Confirmands

Which Path Are You On?


Which path are you on? Aidan, Camille, and Hannah, imagine a wreck at the side of the road. It’s one of those big semi-trucks. And its trailer is one of those huge tankers. And all around that huge tanker is a massive spill of something that looks like oil or gas. What would you do if you were driving by that? I hope that you would drive by that as far and as fast as you possibly could. You don’t want to be the guy who slows down, stops and then gets caught in the blast-radius, right?


This morning God’s word starts out with the same sort of picture: “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers!” (Psalms 1:1 CSB17) Notice here that there is a progression from bad to worse. There’s a guy walking down a road. But instead of a turned-over tanker at the side of the road there’s a group of God-hating, Christ-despising unbelievers. When you see them at the side of the road, what should you do? You should keep going and not stop. But notice what the guy does here in these words. First, he slows down and walks. Then he stands around and talks with them. Finally then he sits down and joins them and becomes one of them.


That, my students, is the bad path. And that is the path you need to avoid at all costs. But just how is it that today you can end up on the same path as the stupid guy pictured here in God’s word? It happens in a slow progression. First, you say the words to yourself, “I don’t have to.” You say to yourself, “I’m confirmed. I don’t have to come every Wednesday night to class. I don’t have to memorize parts of the bible anymore. I don’t have to.” After that, you end up saying, “I don’t want to.” This middle stage is a sneaky one because it you can so easily replace God’s word with something fun. So, for example, some of the fun parts of being a confirmed member of a church replace the fun you have found in God’s word. You the bell choir or the voice choir. You sign up to mow the lawn or care for the flowers. But very quickly your joy turns to sadness and anger. Why? You replaced the fun of growing in God’s word with the fun of service. And the same can happen at home. it is not a sin to have games to play at home. But when the fun at home is more fun that the fun you have in reading God’s word by yourself and for yourself—that is a problem. So, “I don’t have to” becomes “I don’t want to.” And finally where does it lead to? “Don’t tell me to.” You end up mocking and despising those who invite you to receive the Lord’s Supper often and grow in God’s word often.


Which path are you on? That, is the bad path. What then is the good path? We read: 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” (Psalms 1:2–6 CSB17)


The good path is meditating on God’s word. The word here describes something that is so much a part of you that you talk about it under your breath.1 It’s like that song you can’t get out of your brain that you heard on the radio. You spend so much time in God’s word that it flows off of you and oozes out of you.


And know that right now you are on that good path. For so many years you have been drenched and saturated with God’s word. It started when you were tiny children. And your parents carried you forward to a baptismal font where Jesus performed an amazing good work. He washed away your sin and made you his child. It continued when, week after week, your parents brought you to church to hear God’s word so that you could sink your roots into that deep, rich soil of God’s word and grow. And it continued in these last two years as you have had the opportunity to move from milk to meat in catechism class.


That is the good path. And that good path leads to good fruit. Being drenched and saturated with God’s word leads to trust. These years that you’re going through are years of working and waiting. You do your homework year after year and then what do you do? You wait. And through God’s word, God causes you to trust that he is good and kind and that he knows what is best for you.


God’s word bears the fruit of trust. But it also bears the fruit of joy. One of the saddest rotten fruit I’ve seen over the years is the anger and panic I’ve seen in leaders of the church over many years. There’s this great irony. They are doing fun activities. They sing in choirs. They mow the lawn. They plant flowers and bring yummy food to church. What fun this is. But very quickly they become sad or mad. Why? The promises they made when they were confirmed, they forgot. They forgot that the source of their joy was not serving Jesus, but instead Jesus serving them. They forgot to receive the Lord’s Supper often. They forgot to read their bibles at home and come to bible study at church often. But you, right now, are on the good path. You have the great joy of seeing your Savior, Jesus so clearly because you were brought to those waters of baptism and taught in these years of catechism.


God’s word bears fruit. It gives you trust and joy. But finally, it gives you defiance. Who would have thought that saying, “no” would be a good fruit? But it is. And being drenched in God’s word gives you the anger against the Devil enough to say “no” when death comes to you. When you die the Devil will be there to say, “See, Jesus doesn’t love you. And here’s proof: you’re dying.” And now, being drenched and saturated in God’s word, you can sing out and cry out, “No.” You can say, “I may die, but Jesus died for me. I may die, but I will never die because Jesus rose for me.”


Aidan, Camille, and Hannah, you are on the good path. Now stay on it. Amen.



1 יֶהְגֶּ֗ה