The End of All Is Near (Easter 7)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
The End of All Is Near (Easter 7)

The End Of All Is Near

What if the last day were today? That question makes you think, doesn’t it? Would you take a different course of action? Would you take the day off from work? Martin Luther was once asked that question, “what would you do if today was your last day?” He said that he’d go out and plant a tree. You see, the point he was making was that if today were our last day, we don’t need to go out and perform some amazing, over-the-top, dramatic act. No, instead, we live our last day the same as all the rest: trusting that God has all the details of the universe in his safe hands. Last Thursday was Jesus’ Ascension. He is with his Father preparing a place for each of us. All the signs and all the prophecies are fulfilled. He could come back for Judgment day at any time. And so God’s word says to us: “The end of all things is near.” (1 Peter 4:7 NIV11-GKE) And what follows then after this is the answer to the question how should we live our lives if the end of all is near? So Peter answers our question: 7 Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:7–9 NIV11-GKE)

The end of all is near. So then, what should we do? Do we finish off a bucket list? Do we make a mark in the world so that our name will be remembered after us? Peter’s words are so clear and simple: love each other. Now, in these words, first we need to define our terms. I make it a point to not say in my sermons, “the Greek word here is this.” But here is the exception. If ever there’s a word worth memorizing, it’s this one. The word is “agápe.”1 This is the sort of love that looks for and does what is best for its object. You think of the love a mom has for her tiny toddler. Out of love for the child, she’ll pick the child up and play games with her and snuggle with her. But also, out of love for her, when that little toddler thinks it’s fun to pull the cat’s tail, that mom will say, “no!” And that might hurt the little toddler’s feelings. But it is what is best.

That’s the invitation that God’s word gives to us. Jesus has ascended. He could come back at any time. The end of all is near. So Peter invites us to love each other, doing for others what is best for them. But what’s the problem? Each of us has a sinful nature that does not want to do what is best for the other person. Instead, we want to do what is best for ourselves. I can speak to this. For there are days I spend my days listening to people in my church. And I get home. It’s been a long day for my wife or my girls. And all they want to do is have me listen to them—that’s it. But, all my listening energy is already used up. So, I look at them, pretending to listen.

How, then? How do I show this sort of love to others? It starts when we see how much Jesus loved us. It starts there on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It starts when we see a sea of sins covered by Jesus’ love for us. Years ago I worked at a summer camp. And there at that camp I got to see teenagers interacting with other teenagers. I remember seeing a young man go over to a pretty young girl by the beach. And he wanted to strike up a conversation with her. So what did he do? He made fun of her. Because that worked out fine with all of his guy friends. It didn’t work out well with her. What he did was not very loving at all. So also, I remember a young woman. She had eaten her meal and she was still hungry. She went to her counselor and asked if she could have some more food. And there was a kind, generous young man at that table. Even though he was very hungry, he offered to give her his french fries—his cherished french fries. She got this disgusted look on her face and said, “Yuck, that has your germs all over it.” That was not the most loving way of handling the situation.

I remember those events so many years ago for one simple reason: I remembered myself in them. I remembered the times in my teens when, without thinking and without caring I said words I could not take back. And I remember how my Savior was there to forgive those sins day by day. How patient he was with me! How unwavering and unswerving his love was for me! And it is that love toward me that moved me to be there for those teenagers at camp, to reach out toward them with the same love that Jesus showed toward me.

So, Peter tells us that the end of all is near. And if today were your last day, there would be no better way of spending your day than loving others. But as these words travel on, Peter gives us another invitation: 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10–11 NIV11-GKE)

The end of all is near. We have the invitation to love others. But here in these word we also then have the invitation to serve others. In a gracious, undeserved way God has given to each of us at least a gift.2 And many of us, if we looked at our lives and our abilities, we could find many examples of gifts God has given to us. And since the end of all is near, how does God invite us to live? He invites us to use those gifts to serve others. What does that look like? It’s the older brother helping the younger sister with the homework. It’s the daughter putting away the dishes in the dishwasher. It’s you picking up the garbage that blew over onto your neighbor’s lawn. This kind of an interesting picture, isn’t it? The end of all is near? Where’s the bucket list? Where’s the mountain to climb or the ocean to plummet down into? Notice what the wise and sober action to take is: loving others.

But, my dear friends there are traps that we can fall into as we serve others. First, we can envy the gifts of others, wishing,
“if only I had that gift, not the gift God gave me.” Second, we can serve in such a way that we need need thanks when we serve others. Jesus says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NIV11-GKE) Notice how Jesus speaks. He does not say, “glorify you”; instead, he says, “glorify your Father in heaven.”

These are the traps we can fall into. And when we do, these are sins we repent of. And gently and unfailingly, our Savior, Jesus forgives our sins. And he sends us our once again to thank him by serving others. And that, right there, is an amazing thought. Our Triune God made all and owns it all. What good act could I perform that would get his attention and make him pleased with me? The answer to that is found first in your forgiveness. God does not see you as one who needs to earn his attention and devotion. No, you already have it. Sunday after Sunday you say, “Our Father” not so that you might wear him down into being your dear Father in heaven. No you say those words as baptized children of God who already have his attention and devotion. And second, if we ask the question, “what would God be pleased with,” we do not need to look to the sky above or the lakes below. All we need to do is open our bibles. For yes, it’s true that we look to the 10 commandments to show us our sin. But to our new person inside of us they are a different tool entirely. If we want to thank our Lord and praise him—If we want to know kind of service the Lord cherishes and rejoices in, then children listen to your parents, Parents love your children, help others protect and care for their bodies, take care of the property of others, defend the reputation of others. The end of all is near. How then will you live? There is no need to climb the highest mountains or plumb the lowest depths. There isn’t even any need for a bucket list. The wise, sober way of living, knowing that today could very well be our last, is to reach out and love others and to serve others. What do we say to all of this? Peter’s final words are a beautiful way of saying , “amen:” “To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11 NIV11-GKE)

1ⲁⲅⲁⲡⲏⲛ” (1 Peter 4:8 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲭⲁⲣⲓⲥⲙⲁ” (1 Peter 4:10 GNT-ALEX)

How Do I Get Past The Past? (Easter 6)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
How Do I Get Past The Past? (Easter 6)

How Can I Get Past The Past?

There are some events you don’t forget. Years ago, when I was a child, even though my Dad told me not to, I touched an electric fence. If I had to go back and use one word to describe what it was like to touch an electric fence, the word that would fit the best is: trauma. Now, notice, I did not say the word, “drama.” That event was dramatic. It was dramatic to hear me shout in pain and see me sit on the ground. But that’s not the word. The word is: trauma. Trauma is this immense wounding that is done to your body and soul. And it’s such a catastrophic wounding that you can’t really grasp how much it affected you. But even worse than that, for months afterwards, whenever I was riding my bike and saw a fence out of the corner of my eye, I instinctively jerked my bike away from that side of the road. In my own way, I was not able to get past the past. All of that I mention this morning so that you would realize that, if I went through a little trauma this morning, the people we meet in God’s word here in Jeremiah 29 went through so very much more trauma than I did. In Jeremiah 29, in verse 4, we read: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:” (Jeremiah 29:4 NIV11-GKE)

In 586 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. There were many people who were killed. There were many who saw their loved ones killed. They were enslaved. They were deported from their own land and exiled to a land full of godless pagans. There is no other word for what they experienced than trauma. And as we begin these words, in a very real way, they were not able to get past their past.

What God’s word brings to focus in our eyes is that there were believers in the the Old Testament who were traumatized. And the same is true today. There are members of our churches—even our own congregation, who have been traumatized. Terrors and tragedies that should never happen to anyone, happened to them. And they, just like these believers in the Old Testament, out of such pain, ask a very real question: “how can I get past the past?”

There are believers who are traumatized, who are in our churches. And the very real temptation we face today is to not realize and recognize that there are people in our churches that are dealing with trauma and the effects of trauma in their every day lives. There is this temptation to not talk about trauma at all. I face this temptation. I read this part of history and think to myself: “it would be so much easier to just pretend it didn’t exist.’” It’s embarrassing to talk about trauma. And after all, won’t I drive away visitors and guests if I share these parts of God’s word?

The truth, however, is that I’m not fooling anyone. There are people who have been traumatized in our churches. You’re not fooling them. And you’re also not fooling guests to our church. The people who visit our church know that there is trauma out there in the world. And many of them know this because they have faced it in their own lives. And so, there are believers that are in our churches that live with trauma. But the Lord has more to say to us: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:5–9 NIV11-GKE)

There are those who have been traumatized who are in the church. But notice the point here that the Lord makes. There are also those who have been traumatized by the church. So here’s the situation in the 500’s B.C. They are slaves and exiles in Babylon. They want to be back in Jerusalem. They don’t want to hear the tough truths. So, to fill the void, there were false prophets, dreamers, and diviners who committed two horrible sins: first, they refused to tell these Old Testament believers the tough truths that the Lord was speaking to them. Second, Instead of speaking God’s truth, they told the people that their own dreams were what God planned and intended to do. For, when trauma strikes, it’s always so easy to not face it and dream it away.

And the same is true today. It’s not just true that there are believers who have been traumatized who are in the church. There are also people who have been traumatized by the church. And it happens in the same two stages. The first way is that churches avoid the tough truths in the bible. And the second way is that they tell the people that their own dreams have to be God’s will. In fact, if you were to do a google search for these words here in Jeremiah, you could find an amazing amount of sermons that will preach to you that if you plan it, God has to prosper it.

There was a man who grew up in the church. But he never heard the tough truths of scripture. And so, on one Easter after another he heard that Jesus was victorious. But he never heard what Jesus was actually victorious over. He ended up living with his girlfriend outside of marriage. They had a child. But she refused to marry him. And she kept the child away from him. He went back to his pastor in the church he grew up in and told him, “why didn’t you tell me that adultery was a sin?’” Sad to say, just like in Jeremiah’s time, there are those who are traumatized by the church because the pastors in the church sidestep the tough truths of scripture. So my dear friends in Christ, what does the Lord do with all of this? What will he do for those who are traumatized who are in the church and those who are traumatized by the church?: 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”” (Jeremiah 29:10–14 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord promises. He promises to give these traumatized people both a real hope and a real future. That hope starts in Babylon and leads all the way to the empty grave on Easter Sunday. For the Lord promised that there would be a Savior and Messiah born in the promised land. That Messiah was born. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us. And that fact gives hope. It preached to them that out of the trauma they faced the temptation to dream away the pain instead of facing it. And the Lord forgave that sin. But even more, he comforted them in their pain. That is a real hope.

The Lord promises a real hope. But he also promises a real future. When I read these words in Jeremiah, I can’t help but think of the man who wrote two of our hymns this morning. His name is Paul Gerhardt. He was a man who was a pastor during a time of war and plague. He buried maybe as much as half of his congregation within a few short years. Four of his children died. Then his wife died. Then, he was kicked out of his church because he was willing to teach the tough truths of God’s word. And finally, we are told, he ended his years ministering to a “cold an unsympathetic people.” And yet, he could write and sing hymns like the one we just sang, full of confidence, hope and joy. He could do this because he knew he had a God who forgave his past and promised him a future. And the Lord dealt with his trauma day by day until he finally brought him home to heaven.

Yes, there are those who are traumatized in our churches. And there are those who might have even been traumatized by our chuches sometimes. And that drives us to say, “how can I get past the past?” What great promises our Lord speaks to us, just as he spoke to his people of old! He promises us a real hope in sins forgiven. And he promises us a real future, so that whether our lives have small bumps along the way or instead, have terrible tragedies—like those in Jeremiah’s time; like Paul Gerhardt, we find strength, comfort, and peace in knowing our Lord Jesus is in control of all of time and all the events in it. And that’s how he helps us get past the past. Amen.

God’s Word Is A Gift (Easter 5)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
God’s Word Is A Gift (Easter 5)

God’s Word Is A Gift

Where did you get that from? Years ago I was visiting one of the members of my church in her home. I would go there month after month and give her the Lord’s Supper because she had lost her balance and couldn’t drive to church anymore. And as we were sitting in the living room I saw a belt buckle on the shelf. So I got up and went over to it. The belt buckle had a guy with a bolo-tie and an outstretched arm. And holding onto his arm was a woman in dress that poofed-out at the bottom. And when I saw the belt-buckle I asked the woman, “where did you get that from?” And her face lit up and she she smiled and said, “Oh, they gave that to my husband as a gift for all the years he and I square-danced.” For her, that gift brought her so much joy because she remembered. She remembered what the gift was for and where it was from. In the words that we look at this morning, in the book of James, God invites us to ask that same questions about the gifts we have in our lives: where did they come from? In James 1, we read: 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16–17 NIV11-GKE)

That kind woman was thankful for that belt-buckle because she remembered where she got it from. She could remember the good and true friends that she had at that dance hall and the gift they gave her husband and her. But the gifts that are real and true and the ones that are complete and perfect—those are from above. They are from our Gracious God above. And those gifts last forever. And then, in the words that follow James highlights one of those perfect and complete gifts: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (James 1:18 NIV11-GKE)

A belt-buckle is a good gift. But a much better gift is rebirth. This word is a theological word. So it’s good for us to spend some time defining and describing what James means here. When we came into this world on the inside we were dead. There was no spiritual life in us. We did not know who God was. And the very little we did know about God, we hated. But then what happened? God made us “born again.” He gave us rebirth. He gave us faith, trust and confidence in him so that we now know who our Triune God is and trust in him.

And notice then how this rebirth came about. Because we were dead spiritually we were not able to choose him. Instead, he is the one who chose us. We were so helpless that he is the one who had to breathe life into our lifeless corpse and make us Christians.

But my dear friends in Christ, what was the tool that God used to give us faith and rebirth? The “word of truth” was what God used. Somewhere at some point in our past God’s word came to us. And it performed a miracle. For some of us it happened when we were tiny when God’s word was combined with water in baptism and he gave us rebirth in those waters of baptism. For others it was God’s word by itself preached and taught to us. That’s what God used to give us rebirth.

These words move us to stand back with awe and appreciation. For God performs miracles with his word. He takes lifeless and breathless corpses of people and breathes life into them with his powerful word. He chooses them and gives them faith through his word. And this too is part of the preaching of Easter. When Jesus rose from the dead he put the entire future of his church not in the power of seeing his resurrected body face-to-face. Instead, he sent them out to preach and teach God’s word. For God’s word had and still has the power to give rebirth and create faith.

All of this is true. But what’s that problem we face in our every day lives? God’s word is an amazing gift. But very often our words are the opposite of a gift. James tells us: 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19–20 NIV11-GKE)

What should our lives look like? James tells us. We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to wrath. But so very often the opposite is true, isn’t it? And as your pastor, I can speak with experience about this. A pastor is called to speak. He has to use words all the time. But the problem is that the old proverb is true: “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19 NIV). The more one speaks, the more potential there is to mis-speak. It is so difficult to listen. It is so difficult to be slow to speak and then pour out wrath. And that’s why the words which follow are so important: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21 NIV11-GKE)

God’s word is a gift. It’s a gift that gives rebirth. But it’s also a gift that gives rescue. God’s word saves us and rescues us. This is such an important gift and truth to have sink deep into our hearts. Each of us needs to recognize that there are times that I am not quick to listen. Instead, I am way too quick to speak and way to quick to pour out wrath. But God gives us rescue in the gift of his word.

My dear friends, how do you look at God’s word? For so many years I recognized that this collection of books was God speaking to me. But it took years of study and schooling to recognize that it also is a gift that does something in me and for me. As James says here: It saves us. For Jesus died there on the cross. And Jesus rose out of an empty tomb. But neither of those is actually what delivers that forgiveness to us. I need forgiveness for the time my words were the opposite of a gift. And the tool that God uses to deliver that forgiveness is his word.

God’s word is a gift. It’s a gift that gives rebirth. But it’s also a gift that gives rescue. And when we begin to realize this it completely changes how we treat God’s word. For example, who do you suppose we have a three readings from the bible every week? When I was in high school I would have answered, “because there’s a lot in the bible that God wants us to remember.’” And that’s true. But there’s more of a gift there. God’s word is a gift that gives rebirth and rescue. The reason we read it three times in our churches Sunday after Sunday is that God’s word is able to perform this miracle of creating faith in people’s hearts just as he has done in our own. Why do we read it three times every Sunday and even have a sermon based on it? We do this because it is able to rescue us. It is able to deliver forgiveness to us. When God’s word is read, heard and studied, there are miracles. They are not miracles that you happen for your eyes to see. Instead, they are miracles that the faith that God gave you embraces.

God’s word is a gift. It is a gift that gives rebirth. It is a gift that gives rescue. Since this is true, let us treat it that way. Let us treasure the time we have in worship here hearing God’s word. Let us treasure the time we have in bible study class studying God’s word. Let us treasure the time we have at home reading it and praying to our God based on it. For God’s word gives rebirth and rescue. Amen.

The Lord Is My Shepherd (Easter 4—Good Shepherd Sunday)

Good Shepherd
Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
The Lord Is My Shepherd (Easter 4—Good Shepherd Sunday)

The Lord Is My Shepherd

If it weren’t so tragic, it might be humorous. In our gospel this morning Jesus tells us of shepherds who were really not good shepherds at all. When the wolf comes, what do the shepherds do? Do they stay and stand against the wolf? No, they run. It’s the sort of picture that you find in comedy movies and cartoons. And it would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. In God’s word this morning, in Psalm 23, King David tells us how the Lord is the opposite of that. He is good, kind, faithful and reliable. In the opening words of Psalm 23, we read: 0 A psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalms 23:0–1 NIV11-GKE)

Who is our shepherd? Is our shepherd and incompetent hired-hand? No, instead, our shepherd is the Lord. And David gives us much food to chew on in that statement. The Lord is our shepherd. And because he is our shepherd, there is this natural and necessary result that follows: We lack nothing. Since the Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing. And to drive this point home, David gives us a picture to anchor that point to: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,” (Psalms 23:2 NIV11-GKE)

Notice the picture that David gives us. The shepherd leads the sheep down by the river where there is grass by the side of the river. And what happens? They are so calm, so at peace, that they lie down and rest there. But what do they not do? They do not eat. I grew up with sheep. And I can tell you that when we lead the sheep from one area to another area, they would stop eating and then, when we got to the other area, what would they start doing again? They would begin grazing yet again. Here the picture is that of sheep who are so at ease and so content, they don’t even bother to eat. They just rest beside the beautiful waters. The Lord is their shepherd. And so, they lack nothing.

And that picture drives us to ask ourselves a question: why don’t we act like that? We know that the Lord is our Shepherd. So why is it that we don’t have that peace and calmness that David speaks about here? You can see this in how different generations treat money. I have met more than one person who grew up in the depression era. They grew up in fear, wondering where their next meal would come from. So when they grew up, what did they do? They saved. And they did not throw out. And, when they died, you’d find cupbords and closets full of Reynold’s wrap. And yet, I’ve spoken to people in the generation younger than mine who are in the opposite category. When it comes to money, instead of saving it, they make it a point to spend it. Why? They are the generation that grew up and bought homes in the mid-2000’s. And in those years they found out that the money you put in homes can fall away and the money we put into Social Security can fly away. And so, instead of saving, they started spending. And in both of these groups, we ask a simple, but important question: why did they do this? The answer is not out there. The answer is in here—in our hearts. Each of us has a sinful nature that refuses to trust that the Lord is our Shepherd, and because he is our Shepherd we will lack nothing. So what does the Lord do with our untrusting hearts? We read: “he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalms 23:3 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord guides us in paths of righteousness. Righteousness the word for perfection and holiness. And here in this Easter season we have every reason to speak about this righteousness. For there on the cross on Good Friday our hearts that want to save too much or spend too much are covered by Jesus’ righteousness. When we were unwilling and unable to depend on our Lord, Jesus depended on his Father completely in our place.

And that fact fills us with peace and contentment. For faithless and careless shepherds are not over us. Instead, the \textsc{Lord is our shepherd}. And because of that we lack nothing. But these words continue: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord is my shepherd. Because of this I will lack nothing. But notice the point that David makes in these words. Because the Lord is my shepherd, I will also fear nothing. There are consequences to sin. As we read in the New Testament: “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NIV11-GKE). And David preaches to us an amazing truth. Because the Lord is our Shepherd, we do not need to fear death. That consequence of our sin is paid for and dealt with. But notice where David goes to in these words after this: 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms 23:5–6 NIV11-GKE)

David makes the clear and important point that God’s goodness and kindness will be with us all the days of our life—not just on the day of our death. And that is the amazing fact that David preaches to us during this Easter time. Jesus rose from the dead. If he dealt with that consequence of our sin, won’t he then be there to deal with the consequences of our sin, as David says here, “all the days of our life?”

And so, for example, the Christian young man, completely underestimates how much time it would take to study for a test. It’s 2 in the morning and he still is not ready for the test the next morning. So, he takes the tragic step of deciding to cheat on the test. The next morning he gets caught. Who will be there to help him with the consequence of that sin—not on his last day, when he dies—but on that day that he cheats? Who will be there for the young woman who is not invited to a party along with all the rest of her friends. And so, she spreads a horrible rumor about the other girl who didn’t invite her to the party—and then gets caught? When she sees her sin and repents, who will save her from the consequence of that sin? Yes, Jesus will rescue these Christians from the consequence of sin on their last day—death itself. But who will save them from the consequence of their sin today? Who will save them from their well-earned status of “cheater” and “gossiper?”

What would you say to the young Christian who might cheat or gossip? What do you say to them after they have confessed their sin? What does David say? David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I will fear nothing.” And David knew what it was to live with the consequences of his own sin. There was that time in his own life when he had idle hands and wandering eyes, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. But he confessed his sin. And not only did the Lord deal with his sin by forgiving it, but he also dealt with the consequence of his sin by dealing with it. It might sound strange. But in the years after that sin David was closer to the Lord rather than farther away. For he could see how the Lord not only forgave his sin, but also dealt with the consequence of his sin and used it for good to discipline him and strengthen his faith.

The Lord is David’s shepherd. And If you were to speak to the cheating and gossiping teenager who came to you in repentance to ask for forgiveness, that is what you will say to that person. You will teach them to say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I will fear nothing.” And in your soul and in your heart you know how true these words are. For the Lord is your shepherd. How many times in your own life has the Lord not only forgiven your sin, but then also, kindly and graciously, dealt with the consequence of your sin.

It might be amusing when the wolf comes and the hired-hand runs away. But in our own lives, the very thought can be terrifying. How thankful we are that each of us can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Because of this, I lack nothing. Because of this I fear nothing. Amen.

I Will See You Again (Easter 3)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
I Will See You Again (Easter 3)

I Will See You Again

We panic when we miss the point. One of the places which inspires panic so very easily is the DMV. You go there to get a new license and it’s filled with one arena after another which, if you miss one small detail, you are filled with panic. You have to get in the proper line. Because if you don’t, you have to go to the back of the line. You have to bring the proper papers, otherwise, you have to come back. You have to answer questions about “turnabouts” on the exam. And if you get those details wrong, you have to take the test again. When we miss the point, when we miss vital details, we begin to panic. That’s the context we find ourselves in in these words in John 16. It’s Maundy Thursday night. Jesus is only hours away from being taken away from them. And he’s telling them and teaching them as much as he possibly can so that, after it’s all done, they eventually would begin to understand. In John 16, we read: 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” 16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” 17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”” (John 16:15–18 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Jesus tells them their future. What did their future hold? Their future held fears and tears because, for a little while, Jesus would be taken away from them. And then, later on, Jesus tells them, “I will see you again.” And the more the disciples talk about this, the more filled with fear and panic they become. And who can blame them? Other than short periods away from Jesus, day in and day out, for the past several years he has been there with them as their friend, prophet, Savior and King. And now in clear language he lets them know that they will not see him. So, Jesus steps in and calms their panic with these words: 19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:19–20 NIV11-GKE)

Here Jesus tells them a bitter and beautiful irony. Very shortly they will mourn and grieve because Jesus will be taken from them and they will not see him. And when that happens, the sinful, hostile world around them will rejoice. But it will not stay that way. The situation will be flip-flopped. Later on, they will rejoice while the sinful, hostile world around them grieves. And after saying this, they still don’t understand. So he gives them a concrete illustration to help them: “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus uses the illustration of a mom and her child. I remember when I was a teenager. And one Sunday a mom brought her newborn child into church so that the child could be baptized. And after the service a bunch of women gathered around the mom with joy and smiles on their faces. And then, one by one, they talked about how harsh and horrible their labor and delivery was. And was thoroughly confused. They were saying that their labor and deliver was harsh and horrible. But the entire time they were speaking they were smiling. It made no sense at that time. But here in these words Jesus tells us why that happens. When another human, her own child, is brought into the world, her view of that pain changes. So Jesus tells the story. Then after that, Jesus tells the point of the story: 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:22–23 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus lets them know that they will not see him. But, later on they will see him. And when they see him it will not flip-flop again. They will have joy and no one will take away that joy. And if you travel through time after that, you see that what Jesus said was true. Jesus died, but he rose from the dead, giving them joy in being able to see him again and knowing that their sins were paid for. But he also left them again, didn’t he? He ascended into heaven. But, one by one, each of them died. And the moment each of them died, they saw their Savior face to face. And their joy has not been taken away from them. And it never will be.

Jesus promised them, “I will never leave you.” He made them that promise. And today he says the same promise to us. He says to each and every one of us, “I will see you again.” This is the great joy and promise of Easter. Jesus has been taken away from us. None of us can see Jesus face to face. But what does Jesus do for us? First, The Holy Spirit gives us faith to know our Triune God and cling to him. Second, he promises to us that because he rose from the dead, we will see Jesus. And no one—not anyone ever will take that joy from us.

“I will see you again.” This is the promise that Jesus speaks to us. But because this promise is real and true, this is also a promise we can speak to others. The apostle Paul spent many months in Ephesus preaching and teaching his fellow Christians there. But then he had to say, ‘good-bye’. And at the end of his farewell sermon, this was the people’s reaction to his good-bye sermon: 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.” (Acts 20:37–38 NIV11-GKE)

They had pain, real and true pain, because they knew it would be the last time they saw Paul. But, my dear friends in Christ, was it the last time they saw his face? No, Paul died and saw his Savior’s face in heaven. And then, one by one, each of them died. And then they saw Jesus face to face in heaven. But they also saw Paul. That is the great joy and confidence we have as Christians. When pastors take calls to new congregations, usually after they take their call, what falls on them like a mountain of bricks is the realization that there are people in that congregation they will never see again. And pastors have real pain because of this. But because Jesus says, “I will see you again,”, we can say to each other, “I will see you again.” And so, on the final Sunday I was there in PA, as an extra final hymn, we sang “God be with you till we meet again.”1 And with this, they reminded me that, sure, there is pain. But along with that pain Jesus gives to us a promise: Because he rose from the dead, he will see us face to face, and we will see our fellow Christians face to face.

And so, my dear fellow Christians, when you say good-bye to your children when they grow up and graduate, and you know that you will not see them nearly as often as you used to, speak this promise to them and to yourselves: “I will see you again.” When your cherished Christian friends move away, say good-bye. But also say to them, “I will see you again.” When you no longer see your fellow Christians and loved ones because the Lord called them home through death, you can whisper those soft but true words at their casket, “I will see you again.” You can say those words with every confidence of joy to come. And you can do this because Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus says, “I will see you again.” This is a promise Jesus speaks to us. And because he rose from the dead, this is a promise we can speak to others. Amen.

1 CW 327

The Lord Is Our Shield (Easter 2)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
The Lord Is Our Shield (Easter 2)

The Lord Is Our Shield

I‘ll wait. One of the scary parts about being a human is how patient Satan is. Last week, on Easter Sunday, we feasted in the Lord’s Supper without fear and sang alleluias with such strength. But then what happened? Time traveled on. And throughout the week the confidence we should have had in the Lord we gave up on. If we trusted in the Lord—if he was our source of strength and hope, then there would have been no need to curse, swear, lie, lust, or be lazy. And this is a powerful reminder to us that Satan is both sneaky and strong. And if there is a day or an area that we are strong in, so very often, he just waits until we are week. That is the context we find here in these words in Genesis 15. In Genesis 14 there was a battle. The kings from far away came and fought with the kings in Abram’s land. The kings in Abram’s land lost. And normally that wouldn’t have been too huge of a concern. But when they lost they carried away the people living in Sodom and Gomorrah. Who was living in Sodom at that time? Abram’s nephew, Lot, was living there. So Abram got his trained men and traveled way up north. He beat up the kings and took back Lot and his family. And, as we read those words in the previous chapter, we do not find a hint that his faith faltered or collapsed. But you turn the page to chapter 15, and this is what you read: 1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. ” 2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”” (Genesis 15:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

When Abram was busy in battle, he was fearless. But when he was alone, by himself, at night, with too much time on his hands, his fears rose and threatened to destroy him. So, in response to this, what does the Lord do? He speaks to Abram. He appears to Abram when he is in his home in a vision. And he gives him two beautiful picture-promises. First, he tells Abram that he is Abram’s shield. A shield is what you need in battle. It keeps both the piercing arrows and the slashing swords away. And notice how the Lord speaks. He says that Abram’s courage and creativity was not his shield and protection. No, instead, the Lord was the one who protected him. Second, he tells Abram that he was Abram’s reward. If the shield is what you need in battle, the reward is what you look forward to after the battle. He lets Abram know that far better than diamonds and rubies, silver and gold, was his great God.

Ahh, but the context has shifted, hasn’t it? It’s not the battlefield anymore. It’s the middle of the long, cold night. And a different fear rises in Abram’s heart. He is childless. Abram has been waiting for almost 20 years. And even though the Lord promised to give him a son, he still remains without a son. And this is no small concern. There are consequences if the Lord does not deliver. And the consequences are far worse than being denied the the joy of having a son. If there is no son, then there is no Easter. You won’t need to worry about Jesus rising from the dead because there will never ever be a Jesus born at all. The stakes are high because the world will remain in its sin if Abram doesn’t have a son. Listen then to how the Lord responds to Abram’s very real objection: 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”” (Genesis 15:4–5 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord took Abram outside and showed him the stars. Then he told Abram to count them. How long do you think it took before Abram gave up counting? Then the Lord piles another promise on top of all the other promises: So shall your offspring be. What an amazing statement to make. But, by dear friends in Christ, words mean nothing unless they contain power. It was not the number of stars in the sky that calmed Abram’s fears. Instead, it was the power of God’s word.

The same was happening to the disciples in the upper room. Their way of guiding their own faith and getting through this world was now shaken and shattered. Jesus rose. And he promised to go to his Father and no longer be with them face to face. Instead, he promised to be with him through his word. And his word contained power.

How easily we forget this. When the context and circumstances in our lives changes, how easily it is to forget the power contained in the promises of God’s word. We are someone else loses a job, gets sick or even dies, and what do we say to those who are grieving? We share statistics. We say, “These problems tend to work out on their own.” Or even worse, we change the subject. We could be sharing God’s powerful word, like the Lord did with Abram, like Jesus did with his disciples. But we don’t. And the reason we act like this is either because we forget that God’s word is that powerful or we don’t believe that it is that powerful. But look how our gracious Lord responds to our selfish sins: He sends his word not just to fearful Abram, but also to us. And God’s word carefully and powerfully calms the fears in our heart and crushes the lies in our heads.

And so, the Lord is our shield. And he shows this by sending his word that contains power. But there’s one more detail to look at in these words: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6 NIV11-GKE)

At first, when we read these words, it is ever-so-tempting to conclude that these words are not that important. Abram believed God. So what? But these words are some of the most important words in the entire bible. After the Lord came and spoke to Abram, he could go to bed at peace. But, my dear friends in Christ, know where that peace came from. That peace that Abram had and Jesus gave to his disciples in the upper room did not come from them. It came from the power of God’s word. And from God’s word, the Lord created faith. You see, one of the traps we can fall into is that when we are confronted with the amazing news, we can then conclude that it’s our job to earn the good instead of simply receiving it. On facebook people shared a bunch of beautiful pictures with trees and lakes in the background and word in the foreground last week. And in more than one there was this main point and message: Jesus has risen: what are you going to do about it? Notice the very blatant and blunt point it was making. Jesus has risen. So you have to earn that fact with your hands—good works done for others around you. Or you have to respond and earn Jesus with your heart—a good work done deep down in our hearts where we somehow get ourselves to feel the right and perfect way about Jesus’ resurrection and decide that we believe it. It is ever-so-tempting, but ever-so-unbiblical. Jesus did not put the burden on them to do a good work for him either with their hands or with their hearts to earn his favor. And we see the same here in Genesis on this dark, starry night. Abram was filled with doubt and was on the verge of despair. And the Lord did not appear to him and push him in his weakness of faith over the edge by making him earn the Lord’s favor with a decision made in his heart or effort shown by his hands. Instead he shared his powerful word with Abram and strengthened his faith. For faith is not an act of the will where we decide to earn the Lord and follow him, nor is it a driving force of emotion. Instead, it is confidence and trust. And this trust does not come from us. It comes from the Lord, created by his word.

And just look at what this faith did for Abram: He believed the Lord. He received this status of forgiven and perfect in God’s sight because of the sacrifice one of his male descendents would offer up. The shifting situations where Satan says, “I’ll just wait’” are dealt with as this faith that Abram had washed away all his fear and replaced it with peace. This faith so much cal amidst so much stress. And all of this is true for us today. The Lord is our Shield. He is our great joy and our very great reward. For his word contains power. And our faith gives us peace. Amen.

Have Hope Forever (Easter Festival Service)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Have Hope Forever (Easter Festival Service)

Have Hope Forever

It’s hard to not be short-sighted. Those of you out here this morning who have children, how do you teach your children what money is and how best to use it? I ask this because one of the challenges we all had when we were children is that we are unable to not be short-sighted. I remember when I was a tiny child I got some money as a gift from one of my relatives. We went to the store. And I had the option to spend none of that money, some of that money or all of it. So, naturally, what did I do? I spent all of that money. And, by the end of that day my stomach was happy and filled with candy. But then the next day came. My brother had not eaten all of his candy. And he taunted me the entire rest of the day with the knowledge that he could eat his candy any time he wanted. It’s hard to not be short-sighted. It’s a challenge we face when we are young. And it’s a challenge we face when we are all grown-up. That is the thought that God’s word brings to our attention this morning: Where is your hope? And how long will that hope last? In 1 Corinthians 15, we read: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV11-GKE)

Where is your hope and how long does it last? Paul makes this ever-so-important statement, that if we have hope for now alone, we are to be pitied more than all the humans on the face of the planet. And that’s an important point to ponder. If this bible is just a giant book full of fictitious fun stories whose only purpose is to give us good feelings, then how sad is our life here right now. No, this book if full of promises. This collection of books that we call the bible is full of so very many promises that there would be a Savior who would die and then on the third day after he died, his body and soul would be raised back to life. And because of this we can have hope—hope now and hope forever. And what follows after this is a number of answers to the question, why? Paul writes: 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22 NIV11-GKE)

Through one man death came into existence. So very long ago Adam sinned at the same time Eve did. And through his act of unbelief and rebellion every human being after him was born into unbelief and rebellion. And because each one of us are sinners, each one of us dies. But, just as death came into existence through one man, so also, through one man, Jesus, resurrection from death came to all of us who belong to Christ. This bible is not full of flattering lies and empty promises. Jesus in his body and soul rose from the dead, proving that Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection. But, even as we say this, God knows that we have difficulties with this fact. For Paul writes: 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:23–24 NIV11-GKE)

Because Jesus rose we have hope for now and forever. But what’s the problem? We mess up and we sin. We are used to speaking about the fact that Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden and because of that each of us has a sinful nature that entices and seduces us to think about and carry out sin. That is true. But look at what the Holy Spirit brings to our attention: Dominion, Authority and Power also lead us to sin. What is “Dominion, Authority, and Power?” It’s Paul’s way of speaking about demons. It’s like the deck is stacked against us. It’s bad enough that we have a sinful nature that attacks us and entices us to sin. But it gets even worse: God’s word tells us that there are evil angels out there that we cannot see. And they too entice us to sin. How then can we have hope—any hope at all for now or forever if these two powerful allies are stacked against us? Paul answers that question with these words: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25 NIV11-GKE)

Our sinful nature and demons entice us. That is true. But what also is true? Jesus rules over them. And there’s a beautiful picture. It’s the preaching and picture of an orderly progression of events. Years ago, when I was a child, I watched a show about a chicken inspector. One person would put one little chick onto a table after another. And then the inspector of the chicks would pick them up, look them over, and make sure that they were healthy. But that wasn’t the interesting part. What was interesting was that he did that at the same time he kept the other little chicks from falling off the table. When you looked at the table at first, it seemed like there was chaos and no control. But then, when you looked a little longer, you realized that that inspector was in complete control. That’s the picture that Paul gives us here. There are all these enemies that Jesus has. And he deal with them one after another, each in their proper time. The first enemy he deals with is demons. And he gives to us this amazing promise: We have hope for now, but also forever. Because Jesus rules over the demons. And as we walk through our lives, wrestle against our sins and repent of our sins, Jesus promises to us that our hope is not in vain. So the first enemy that Jesus rules over is demons. But what is the final enemy that Jesus rules over? 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”” (1 Corinthians 15:26–27 NIV11-GKE)

We have hope for now and forever. But what about death? The biggest and hugest problem we face is death. It is a huge problem because, first of all, it was never meant to be at all. God did not create and intend for us to die. He created us to be with him and live with him forever in joyful perfection. But through sin death came. And so, now there is this unnatural end to our lives. That’s the first frustration we have. But there’s a second. Because death is unnatural, we fear it. But the other extreme is that we envy it. As a pastor who has had his fair share of funerals over the years, one of the strange temptations that happens to us who remain after a funeral is missing not just our loved one who died, but also the joy, bliss and perfection that that loved one is enjoying now. And when those thoughts—whether thoughts of fear or thoughts of envy, come into our minds and hearts, we cling to these words. For the first enemy deals with in our lives is the demons that affect and afflict us. But then, at the end of our lives here, the final enemy is death. But, Jesus rules over death itself too, so that whether you die soon or decades down the road, we can have hope because Jesus rose from the dead. And since he rose from the dead all his enemies are under his feet. And he can deal and dispose of them whenever he wants.

And so, my dear friends in Christ, the joy of having ham, bacon and donuts from our Easter breakfast is already fading, isn’t it? And all the possessions we have in this life we will someday have to say ‘good bye’ to. But on this day we celebrate the fact that Jesus in his body and in his soul rose from the dead. And day by day, he is putting all his enemies under his feet, first the demons who affect and afflict us, and finally death itself. With that fact have hope for now, and forever. Amen.

Give Us Time (Easter Sunrise)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Give Us Time (Easter Sunrise)

Give Us Time

It is permissible to be beaten, but not surprised. Many years ago the French emperor, Napoleon, said that. You see, if your army is about to be beaten on the field of battle, you can withdraw a large chunk of your troops. And they can fight on another day. But if you are surprised, those are the times when you can lose your entire army. When you read any of the gospels, you very quickly realize that Jesus knows that he will die. But everyone else does not. So he goes out of his way to prepare them and teach them. And the women we meet here in the darkness of Easter morning were some of the few who had a decent grasp on the fact that Jesus would die and that he did die. In Mark 16, we read: 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”” (Mark 16:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

It is permissible to be beaten, but not surprised. These women had more than two years of teaching to be prepared for the fact that Jesus would die. But when the time came for Jesus to die, how could they really ever be fully prepared? And, in the midst of dealing with Jesus’ death, they aren’t even able to focus on it as much as they would like because they have to deal with a funeral. They buy spices to prepare Jesus body in his tomb on Friday and then now, on Sunday they can finally use them. One of the shocking and frustrating situations I’ve had to deal with is funerals. A person loses their loved one through death. And more than anything the family members just simply want time to deal with the death. But instead, they have to prepare and attend a funeral service. It doesn’t seem fair. But these women went through the same situation as we do today. But if they had a problem dealing with Jesus’ shocking and surprising death, they were even more unprepared for what followed: 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”” (Mark 16:4–7 NIV11-GKE)

If they were shocked and surprised at having to deal with Jesus’ death then they were even more shocked and surprised in having to deal with Jesus’ life. The angel in the tomb tells them simple, plain and eloquent words. Jesus is raised. He is not here. This would be the part where they’re supposed to take out their “alleluia” banners and wave them around while they sing, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” But they don’t. Instead, this is what happens: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8 NIV11-GKE)

They were not ready. They were not really ready to deal with Jesus’ death. And even more so, they were not ready to deal with Jesus’ life. And so their minds collapsed and their hearts gave way and they ran away in fear. And so, what is their Savior’s solution to their inability to deal with his death and with his life? He gives them time. Over the next 40 days he appears to many people revealing that he had risen from the dead.

He gave them time—both to deal with his death and with his life. And today he does the same for us. Every year our Savior gives us this 40 days of lent to prepare for his death, so that by the time Good Friday arrives, we’re ready. But what he also does is that he gives us time to prepare for his life. In the first congregation I served in we had an Easter Sunrise service like this one. And after it was done there was a lady who came and spoke with me. She told me that she was frustrated and angry with me because she expected to come to church and sing “alleluia” instead of diving back into darkness. And she said, “You took Easter away from me.” I was really shocked by what she had said. But what it showed me is that she had never really grappled with the words we have in front of us today. These poor women were not ready. They were not ready for Jesus’ death and they were not ready for his life. What they needed was time. And that’s what our Lord and Savior gave them. And that’s what the Easter vigil gives us—time.

For many centuries what would happen is that Christians would gather around midnight on Saturday night and then read God’s word, hear sermons, have bible studies and sing hymns to prepare themselves not as much for Jesus’ death, but instead, for Jesus life. And then, when the sun came up in the morning they rejoiced in their Savior’s resurrection and then went home and got some sleep. They needed time to adjust to Jesus’ life. And so they set aside the time. Do realize that if Christians saw what we do on Easter Sunday they would think that it’s strange. Where’s the time to adjust from Jesus’ death to his life? We slowly walk through lent and slowly work through Jesus’ death on Good Friday, and then what do we do? With no time for transition we suddenly show up and shout “alleluia” at each other. That would have been weird for the ancient Christians.

And that then is what this order of service is: time to deal with Jesus’ life’. The light outside that slowly fades away on Good Friday we slowly allow to come back. The candles that we put out on Good Friday, we slowly light back up on Easter morning to give us time to deal with Jesus’ death and his life.

And so, out of love for us, Jesus gives us time—time to deal with his death and time to deal with his life. And this is not just important to speak about on Easter. It’s also important to speak about on our last day. Sunday after Sunday, year after year, y0u have the great privilege to hear, study and grow in God’s word. And through this what does Jesus do? He makes us ready for our own death. Because Jesus died, we are able to look at our own death with faith and confidence even amidst our own fear. But Jesus also gives us time to deal with our life. They had the privilege to see a resurrected Savior. And that showed them a glimpse of what their resurrected life would be. And through God’s word we have the same privilige.

And so, my dear friends in Christ, I encourage you to look at this hour of worship this morning as a great gift of time. Here in these words this morning we have one last time to deal with Jesus’ death. And we have time to deal with Jesus’ life. And that gives us every reason to be ready for our own future death and our own future life. Amen.

Have This Mindset (Palm Sunday)

Palm Sunday Cross
Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Have This Mindset (Palm Sunday)

Have This Mindset

How do you find the right mindset? When you watch the Olympics it’s good not to just watch the event. Instead, it’s good to also watch the athlete before the event. I like watching the athletes before the luge or bobsled. You can see man or woman sitting there with their eyes closed. And what are they doing? They are picturing every turn and texture of the pipe they are about to slide down. But along with that, they are getting their mind in the right place. What about us? How do we accomplish the same goal? How do we have the right mindset? The apostle Paul answers that question here in Philippians 2: 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8 NIV11-GKE)

Paul says, “Have this mindset.” Then notice where Paul directs our focus. He invites us to look at Jesus. Jesus had all the same divine atributes that his Father had. But how did he treat them? He did not use those attributes for his own advantage.1 And what follows is one staggering, amazing detail showing just how much he did not use his attributes for his own advantage. First, he becomes like a slave. And what does a slave do? He humbles himself and becomes obedient to his master. Jesus did this for his Father. And Jesus did this so perfectly and completely for his Father that when his Father said, “Obey me by putting yourself to death,” Jesus willingly obeyed that command all the way to the cross. And that word, cross, is not a word to read and then forget. It’s hard to consider a person choosing to be a slave and then throwing themselves on a grenade for someone else. But what happened on a cross was not a quick death. It was torture.

Paul says, “have this mindset.” When we look at Jesus, that’s the sort of mindset we see. But what do we see when we look in our own hearts? We see the opposite. We have attributes too. They are not the same as God. But we do have attributes. We have physical attributes, the ability to see, think, ponder, consider and work. But what do we do with these attributes? We use these attributes for ourselves.. And when people acknowledge that we have these attributes, we give credit for these attributes to ourselves. And if there should be a time when God takes some of these gifts, blessings, and benefits away, we blame God and get angry.

Paul says, “have this mindset,” but who actually has it? We don’t see this mindset in ourselves. And we don’t see it out there in the world. Everyone remembers the quarterback who throws the touchdown pass and the receiver who catches it. But who remembers the guy on the scrimmage line who gets hammered, play after play, so that nobody tackles the quarterback? Who remembers the mediocre guy on the bike taking the brunt of all the wind so that his teammate who is a better athlete overall can win for the team? What award is there for the mom who selflessly raises her children and then they grow up in just enough time for her to take care of her parents? What award is there for the guy who stays in the job that doesn’t fit him for one simple reason: He has a family to support? We do not have this mindset because each of us has a sinful nature that serves and worships itself to tell its own story and gain its own glory.

So, my dear friends in Christ, to have the right mindset, do not look at Jesus as your mentor and cheerleader. Look at him as your Savior. Look at the Jesus here we see slowly riding as your humble king up the hill to Jerusalem. See him preaching to people who didn’t understand who he was or even worse, wanted him dead because of who he was. See him humbly preaching to them and just a few days later on Good Friday, dying for them—yes even a torturous death on a cross. See that Jesus. For that humble king pays for our sins of wanting to tell our own story and gain our own glory by following his Father’s will all the way to the cross.

Look at Jesus your Savior. Then you will have the right mindset. Look at Jesus as the only one who was obedient to his Father. But, as Paul invites us to, we can also look to Jesus in another way too. We can look to him as the one who gives us a new mindset. First, he gives us the ability to see that humility is good. Second, he gives us the ability to have the mindset that we see is actually good. He gives us the ability to reach out and humbly serve others in this life even though it might mean that people might take advantage of us. And why is that that we are able to do this? Paul tells us: 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11 NIV11-GKE)

The Father did not forget his Son. He kept his promise to him that he would not abandon him. He raised him from the dead and then raised him above every place and every name in heaven. And if in a much, much greater way God can lift Jesus up, he can do the same with us. The mom who cares for her children and then her parents until the lines under the eyes come and the hair fades from color to grey can say, “that’s ok.’” She can say this because she knows that her Father in heaven will take care of her. And the guy toiling away at a job where they take advantage of his time and gifts and yet he doesn’t get the bonus or the raise he might deserve—that’s ok. It’s ok because he knows that his Father in heaven will watch over him.

You see, it’s impossible for our old, sinful nature to hear these words of Paul, that we are to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Because we need to tell our story and gain our glory. But with this promise of forgiveness for our sins and protection for our weakness, our sinful self is put to shame and silence. And God then gives to our new nature true humility and true contentment in serving others.

And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, have this mindset. Hold onto it. Do not ever be ashamed of serving others—especially when there is no flashlight or spotlight on your service. When others do not acknowledge your attributes and abilities, be content. For the God who gave you these abilities and attributes acknowledges them. And his opinion is worth far more than the world around you. Have the same mindset as Christ because in obedience to his Father Jesus first showed this mindset toward you. Amen.

1 “ⲟⲩⲭⲁⲣⲡⲁⲅⲙⲟⲛ” (Philippians 2:6 GNT-ALEX)

Let Us Borrow A Prayer (Lent 4)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Let Us Borrow A Prayer (Lent 4)

Let Us Borrow A Prayer

Some prayers are impressive. Years ago, when I was a vicar, my bishop was asked to give the blessing before the potluck dinner. And after everyone quieted down, he spoke these words:

The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Amen. Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us through these gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

I was really impressed. I was so impressed that I thought about asking him where he got that prayer from. And of all the questions I asked my bishop and he patiently answered, I’m glad that I did not ask that question. And the reason is that the prayer he spoke was from Luther’s Small Catechism. That, evidently, was a part of the catechism that I didn’t have to memorize. So I didn’t. But since then I’ve borrowed that prayer because it was so good. This morning we borrow a prayer. But it’s not a prayer from Martin Luther. Instead, it’s a prayer from the Apostle Paul. In Ephesians 3, we read: 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” (Ephesians 3:14–16 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Paul was just amazed over the fact that we Gentile would be included in God’s family with the same status as our fellow Jewish believers. And with that fact in mind he gets down on his knees and prays. That right there is an important detail. Normally, when people prayed in those days they stood up and lifted their hands up. But when people were overwhelmed with such amazement as Paul was standing wasn’t good enough. Instead he kneeled down in worship of our our Triune God. And then he prayed. His first prayer is that we would know that our inner self would be powerful. Now, there are some questions to ask and answer in these words. What is an “inner-self?”1 When God creates faith in our hearts, alongside our old, sinful nature, he gives to us a new nature. This new nature knows who God is and both trust in and follows him. When Paul speaks about the inner self or inner being or hearts, that’s what he’s talking about. And what detail does he want us to know about our inner self? He wants us to know that it’s powerful.

One of the temptations to sin we face is to forget that we have an inner self and that it’s powerful. Sin is often described as addiction. And the problem with addiction is that it works so hard to intimidate and dominate every part of our lives. But what has Christ done for us? He has given to us an inner self. So when we are tempted to sin, we should not conclude that we are powerless. For there is this inner self in us born of water and the word. You can pick whatever sins you want: lusting, lying, laziness, pride, greed, envy. And the huge temptation is to conclude that our sinful nature is so powerful that we can’t confront and refuse it. And the reason why it’s so easy to conclude that our sinful nature is so powerful is that so very often what it does, it does on the outside. We can hear the sinful thoughts that so often flow through our hearts and minds. We can hear the words that come out of our lips. We remember the sinful actions we have taken to obey our sinful nature. But, when it comes to our inner self, it’s on the inside. Just as faith and the Holy Spirit are invisible, so also is this inner self inside us. But make no mistake. Just because it’s unseen on the inside, that doesn’t mean that it’s powerless. And what follows is an answer to the question, “How do we know that that inner self is powerful?”: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,” (Ephesians 3:17 NIV11-GKE)

This inner self is powerful because when the Holy Spirit gives us this gift of faith, Christ takes up residence in our hearts. And if Jesus dwells in you then he is the one who will fight for you.

That’s what Paul prays for. And here this morning that’s what we pray for. Even though we cannot see this inner self, we thank our Triune God that he has given to us this inner self. And we ask that it would be powerful. But that’s not the only prayer that Paul speaks. What follows is his second prayer: 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18–19 NIV11-GKE)

Paul prays that we would know that our inner self is powerful. But here, notice what he prays for. He prays that we would know that Christ’s love would be plentiful. And how he explains this is wonderful. First, Paul mentions the phrase, “the love of Christ.” Whenever you bump into a phrase with an “of” in the middle, you have to make a decision which direction it goes. Does this mean the love that we have for Christ? or does it mean the love that Christ has for us? It’s the second. It’s Christ’s love for us. And Paul then pictures this amazing love that Christ has for us with dimensions. He wants them to know how wide and how long; how deep and how high Christ’s love for them is. And if that picture isn’t enough, he gives them the picture that Christ’s love “goes beyond.” It’s the picture of throwing a baseball and it goes way over the head of the person you are throwing to—by a lot.

That’s what Christ’s love for you looks like. That’s how much Christ loves you. And there’s a reason Paul goes out of his way to emphasize this fact twice. This too is so very easy to forget. The problem we face is that it’s ever-so-easy to live down to expectations. I know that the popular proverb is that people can rise to the challenge and live up to expectations. But the opposite is true too. We can live down to expectations. If we look at the sin inside of us we can reach this conclusion because we lose so very many battles to sin. And when we lose them day after day we can give up trying to not sin. And we can reach the conclusion that, if people really knew us, they would have no reason to love us.

But look what Paul prays that you would know. Know the full breadth and depth of Christ’s love for you. Know that it’s real and true for one simple reason: The reason it is true is that it didn’t come from you or depend on you. This love that Chist has for you came from Christ and depends on what he did to forgive you. The best words I can use to describe this come from Martin Luther. He says: “God’s love does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. Human love comes into being through that which is pleasing to it. ““ 2 We can live down the expectations placed on us. We reach this conclusion from the inside. But we can also conclude this from the outside. You picture the child at school who is picked on and bullied by his or her classmates. What can so easily happen, if given enough time and enough repetition, is that the victim believes the bully. And when that happens it’s only a very short distance until the victim gives up and becomes what the bully preaches to the person.

When we reach this conclusion from the outside, what is the prayer that we need to know and have others know? Know that Christ’s love for you goes way beyond the sort of human love you find here. And if Christ loved me enough to live for me and die for me then that means that the answer to the question of who I am and what I am is not answered by the pack of bullies on the playground. No, it’s answered on the battleground of Golgatha where Christ died for my sins.

Those are the two prayers that Paul prays for you: that we would know both that our inner self is powerful and that Christ’s love for us is plentiful. But look at how Paul closes these words: 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV11-GKE)

We borrow Paul’s prayer. And out of Chist’s love for us, he answers our prayer. For he can do far more than we can ask or imagine. So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, borrow this prayer. Pray that you would continue to know both that your inner self in powerful and that your Christ’s love for you is plentiful. Amen.

1 “ⲉⲥⲱⲁⲛⲟ̅ⲛ” (Ephesians 3:16 GNT-ALEX)

2 The Roots of Reform, The Annotated Luther 1; ed. Timothy J. Wengert; Accordance electronic ed. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 104.

What Would Drive Her Into The Desert? (Lent 2)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
What Would Drive Her Into The Desert? (Lent 2)

What Would Drive Her Into The Desert?

Nike has always had the best ads. When I was in the 8th grade I got a Nike calendar. And there was a dusty sunset. And in the middle of all this orange and red there was a road. And in the middle of the dirty and dusty road was a woman kicking up dust as she ran up the hill. And at the bottom of the picture were the words, “When the road calls, it screams.” Day after day I would pass by that picture. And I asked myself the question, “what would drive that woman to run so far in the middle of the desert?” So I looked closer. And on the back of the poster there was a biography answering my question. The woman was a smoker. And she had smoked so much that the doctor told her that she needed to stop smoking and started exercising. Otherwise she would die. So she started running and eventually ran marathons. But I had my answer. At least at the beginning, to avoid dying, she began running. This morning we meet a woman. And we ask the same question about her: What would drive her out into the desert? In Matthew 15, we read, 21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”” (Matthew 15:21–23 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Jesus goes way up north into the land of Tyre and Sidon. And we meet a woman who seeks Jesus out. And first of all, we notice the words that are used to describe her. She is called a Canaanite. You remember from Old Testament history that the Canaanites were so bad that the Lord sent the Hebrews up from Egypt to put all of them to death. What is strange about these words is that by the time Jesus speaks these words the Canaanites had been dead and gone for hundreds of years. Nonetheless, she is called a Canaanite. That’s like calling a person in Germany today a Nazi. So also, Sidon didn’t have a shining history as well. Chemosh was the god of the Sidonians. And you worshipped Chemosh by burning your children in the flames. This was a sinful woman from a long line of sinful people.

But what does she do? She seeks Jesus out. And when she finds him, in such desperation, she cries out. The word here isn’t a normal sort of cry. It’s an animal-like cry.1 She is not calm and composed. She was desperate and almost despairing. And you could hear it in her voice. But when she speaks everyone listens. Sure they listen because she won’t go away and just keeps crying out to Jesus.2 But they also listen to her because she does not speak like a Canaanite and a Sidonian. She uses Jewish words to speak to Jesus. She calls him, “Lord.”3 She even calls him that ever-so-important title, “Son of David.”4 That’s like someone showing up at our church from out of nowhere and then reciting from memory Luther’s Small Catechism.

So my dear friends in Christ, what drives her? What drives her away from her home to cry out for mercy? And, yes, part of the answer is her determination and desperation. Her daughter is being wickedly tortured by a demon.5 But there’s more going on here. She keeps following after Jesus, begging for mercy. And Jesus keeps walking and doesn’t even say one word to her. What happens next? 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”” (Matthew 15:24–27 NIV11-GKE)

Finally, he turns around and speaks to her. he challenges he. He says that he was sent first and foremost to the lost sheep of Israel. What right does she have to ask for what belongs to someone else? Now here is where it gets amazing. I don’t know about you, but if I were there, that would be the part where, embarrassed and demoralized, I would just go back home. But she doesn’t. And what is it then that drives her to do so? She stays. And even more so, she responds to Jesus. She says, “Yes, that’s true. But even the little dogs get the crumbs.” Notice what she does. First she cries out for mercy. Second, she describes and even defends what God’s mercy is. For there’s some word-play going on here. There are two words for dogs in the New Testament. There’s the normal word for dogs.6 Those are the wild, feral, mangy dogs outside. That’s not the word Jesus uses here. He uses the word for “little dog.”7 That’s the word for the dogs that are inside the house, not outside. They are pets. Pets get to stay in the house. Pets get to even have crumbs that fall from the table. Pets may not be children. But they are still loved by the Father. This woman knows what mercy is. Mercy is this undeserved love that God has for us based on his love toward our pitiable, tragic, sad condition. And she doesn’t just know what it is, she takes her stand on it and even defends it. The little dog has no right to sit in the chair where the child sits. But it has every right to be in the house and get the scraps. But even that right does not come from the dog. It comes from the gracious master of the house.

We look at this woman and we ask that question: What drives her? What drives her not only to cry out for mercy but then to also defend that mercy? Finally then, at the end of these words we have our answer. We read: “Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.” (Matthew 15:28 NIV11-GKE)

Faith—this massive and amazing gift of faith that Jesus gave to her. That is what drove her to cry out for mercy and then when that mercy was questioned she defended that mercy in front of the very one who was extending that mercy to her.

What an amazing faith. And yet, as we look into our own lives, we see that there have been times when we have been such spectacular failures. For we face such temptations and fail. We face tragedies and hardships and instead of crying out for and trusting in Jesus’ mercy, we don’t pray. We don’t pursue Jesus like this woman in the dusty desert. And if we do cry out for mercy and then receive it, when we are put in a place to stand on that mercy and even defend it, we fail. Years ago, I was at a gym on a treadmill running. And there was this guy who liked to find Christians and try to wear them down. He’d complain that God would be so evil as to send good people who had never ever done anything wrong to hell. Then he’d complain that God would allow such evil people into heaven. So finally, a little cranky and a lot out of breath, I said, “So God sends sinners to hell and he’s not kind; and God sends sinners to heaven and he’s not fair; if only [Bob] God had you up there in heaven to tell him what to do with all these sinners.” I was ready that day. And the reason I was ready that day was because there many other days before that when I was not. There will be those times in your life when God expects you not just to cry out for mercy but also to ready to defend that mercy. And we sin when we are not ready.

But look what our Savior Jesus does. Just as he gave a massive and mighty faith to this woman, he does the same to us. Through God’s word by itself or through God’s word combined with water in baptism, he created faith in our hearts. And through this gift of faith we cry out, “Lord, have mercy; Son of David, have mercy.” We cry out those words and trust in them for we know who it is that we’re crying out to. Through this faith we are content that we are in God’s house at all, not crying out for a better place as if we deserved one. But instead, through this gift of faith he gives us contentment to be in God’s house at all. And through this gift of faith he gives us the ability to not only take our stand on God’s mercy, but also to defend it. We defend it against our own sinful nature that is so offended that God would forgive us. And we defend God’s mercy against people out there who are so offended that God would led sinners into heaven. And at the end of the day, it’s not just this woman in the desert who is driven. Out of joy, the Holy Spirit drives us. He drives us to cry out to him for mercy. He drives us to defend that mercy. Amen.

1 “ⲉⲕⲣⲁⲩⲅⲁⲥⲉⲛ” (Matthew 15:22 GNT-WAS)

2 “ⲗⲉⲅⲟⲩⲥⲁ” (Matthew 15:22 GNT-WAS)

3 “ⲕ̅ⲉ̅” (Matthew 15:22 GNT-WAS)

4 ⲩⲓ̈ⲟⲥⲇⲁⲩⲉⲓⲇ’

5 22 ⲕⲁⲕⲱⲥⲇⲁⲓⲙⲟⲛⲓⲍⲉⲧⲁⲓ 23” (Matthew 15:22 GNT-WAS)

6 ⲕⲩⲱⲛ

7 ⲕⲩⲛⲁⲣⲓⲟⲛ

If You Have A Tempter, You Need A Savior (Lent 1)

Jesus In The Desert
Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
If You Have A Tempter, You Need A Savior (Lent 1)

If You Have A Tempter, You Need A Savior

It happened so quickly. Year after year I walk our catechism class through the book of Genesis. And, every year, what shocks me, is how quickly Adam and Eve fall and fail. You’re at day six. And everything is good—and not just good; they are very good. And so soon, so shortly after that everything falls apart. Adam and Eve sin and then are enslaved by sin. Why did it happen so soon and so quickly? One of the answers to that question is that every moment and every second, Satan was there to tempt Adam and Eve. And Satan has amazing skills and strength in that area. And so, as we look back at Genesis, chapter 3, what we learn is that if you have a tempter, you need a Savior. And here, this morning, in these words in Matthew 4, we see what that Savior looks like: 1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”” (Matthew 4:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

Moment after moment, from the time we are conceived we have a sinful nature and Satan to tempt us. Since we have a Tempter, we need a Savior. And look at the Savior our Father in heaven gives to us. He gives to us a human to be tempted and tested in our place. These words take us to the beginning to Jesus’ earthly ministry. He is anointed in the Jordan River to be our Prophet, Priest and King. And then what happens? Jesus is brought up into the desert by the Holy Spirit.1 And there he goes without food for 40 days. And so, it should not surprise us then when we hear that Jesus was hungry. And look then at how the Tempter works and acts. He goes after Jesus where he is weak. Human beings have bodies. We have hunger. We have hormones. Before the fall into sin, God made Adam and Eve with yearnings and desires. But what’s the problem? At the fall and now after, the Tempter uses these yearnings and desires against us. And very often it’s not that difficult for the Tempter to tempt us because, as humans with sinful natures, we want to be tempted. And there’s a horrible progression that we find our lives. A person wants and desires something good and natural. Then the Tempter goes to work. We then cross the bridge from yearning to coveting. Then, finally, we end up hating our bodies instead of sin. So, for example, a person is hungry. So he puts a frozen pizza into the oven. Instead of eating a healthy amount, he eats the whole pizza. And afterwards, when his stomach is letting him know that he went too far, he hates what he has done. And instead of hating the Tempter and his own sinful nature, he hates the body that God gave him. It’s true when it comes to hunger. And it’s true when it comes to hormones too. Jesus says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 NIV) And so, a guy sees a woman. What happens first is that he notices her beauty and appreciates it. But then what happens? He crosses the border. Appreciation turns to lust. And finally, what happens. Instead of hating the Tempter and his own sinful nature, he hates the body that God gave him.

If you have a Tempter, then you need a Savior. And look at the Savior you have: “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” (Matthew 4:4 NIV11-GKE) For 40 days Jesus was hungry. But notice how Jesus was different than we are. Jesus was tempted and tested by the Tempter. But his hunger didn’t enslave himself. And he didn’t hate his own body. Instead he clung to the promises of God’s word completely. And that, my friends is such amazing news. Where Eve stretched out her hand and took the fruit because the hunger got the best of her, Jesus did not. And he did this continually, for 40 days, in our place.

If you have a Tempter, you need a Savior. First, you need a Savior from weakness. But, second, you need a Savior from false worship. We read: 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”” (Matthew 4:5–9 NIV11-GKE)

In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther asked the question, “What does it mean to have a god?” His answer was: Having a god is “who do you thank when times are good” and “who do you trust when times are bad.” It’s that second category that Satan tempts Jesus in in these words. The Tempter invites Jesus to recklessly and carelessly throw himself off the highest point of the temple, because, after all, there are angels. Then the Tempter invites Jesus to bow down to him. Now, from the outside, that might seem as if it’s the weakest temptation. But, most likely, it’s the worst. Before Jesus is lifted up he needs to harmed and humiliated. Before he rises from death he needs to descend into it. How easy it would have been to bow to the Tempter and not have to worry about the cross and Calvary.

Again, see very quickly and clearly the temptation that the Tempter throws in front of Jesus. Whom will Jesus trust? Will Jesus trust his Father to keep him safe from harm with his angels. And even when there are those times will Jesus trust that his Father will keep his word? When Jesus is perfectly aware of his life draining from him and dripping out of him, will his Father be there for him when he dies? Or will he abandon him?

And each of us faces the same temptation. We face the temptation to abuse God’s care and concern for us or to abandon it. Danger is a part of our every day life. But it’s so easy to abuse it, isn’t it? God has sent his angels to watch over us, so we don’t need to worry. We don’t need to worry about how fast we drive. We don’t need to worry about how much we drink. We don’t need to worry, because, after all, the angels need to do something. And then, on the other side, there are those times that God does allow danger to come to us and affect us. And when that happen, we are ever-so-tempted to conclude that if there’s danger at all, even though God has promised to watch over us, we do not trust him.

And so, if you have a Tempter, you need a Savior. And look at the Savior our Father gives us: 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:10–11 NIV11-GKE)

There is such beauty in that word, “alone.” Worship and serve the Lordalone. That is what our Father commands and demands of us. But, on the one hand, we abuse his protection of us. And on the other hand, we abandon his promises to us. Here in these words we see a perfect human being worship and serve our Father perfectly in our place. And the result is that all the times we have abused the Father’s protection and abandoned his promises are paid for by both the obedience of this perfect Savior in our place. And they are paid for on a cross where Jesus died on Good Friday.

So if you have a Tempter, you need a Savior. And Jesus is your perfect Savior. Our entire lives are a time of being tested by God and tempted by Satan. During this time of the year and throughout your entire life, cling to Jesus. For since you you have a Tempter, know that you also have a Savior. Amen.

1 “ⲁⲛⲏⲭⲑⲏ…ⲩ̇ⲡⲟⲧⲟⲩⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲥ̅ⲡⲓⲣⲁⲥⲑⲏⲛⲁⲓ” (Matthew 4:1 GNT-WAS)

How Much Are You Forgiven? (Ash Wednesday)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
How Much Are You Forgiven? (Ash Wednesday)

How Much Are You Forgiven?

The lack of politeness is frustrating. There are times you expect people to be polite. And when they are not, it’s frustrating, if not even offensive. You pay good money to go to a movie. And there, right in front of you, is a group of people giving a loud, minute-by-minute commentary on the movie. Don’t they see how impolite that is? Or you go to a restaurant with your family. And in the booth right next to yours is a group of people who seem to be having a contest to see who can the most inappropriate joke. Don’t they know that that is not polite at all? It’s frustrating when people are not polite, isn’t it? In the words we look at this evening we see just how frustrating and even offensive the lack of politeness is. In Luke 7, we read: 36 Then one of the Pharisees invited him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume 38 and stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to wash his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:36–38 CSB17)

In these words we see how offensive the lack of politeness is. Jesus is invited to a Pharisee’s house. And in the middle of the dinner there is a woman who shows up. And as we work into these words we see that there is one layer and level of impoliteness after another. First, in Jesus’ day it was customary for the men to eat by themselves. So, it was very impolite for a woman to barge her way into a meal where men were gathered. Second, notice the type or kind of woman this was. Luke tells us that she was a “sinner.”1 That word is a very specific word here. It’s a word that describes a professional sinner. A professional sinner is one who makes a living to survive on by sinning. And, for women, that occupation was prostitution. Oh, how impolite it was for her to show up there at the dinner—especially considering what kind of woman she was. But it gets even more offensive. She stands behind Jesus, at his feet. And she begins to cry. And her tears keep falling all over Jesus’ feet. Then what does she do? She lets down her hair. That too would have been very impolite and offensive. But then what does she do with her hair? By this time the tears have mixed with the sand and the sweat on Jesus’ feet. And it stinks. She wipes away the sand and some of the sweat. And what does she do next? She begins to kiss his feet. And notice when she does this. She does not kiss his feet after she pours out the perfume on his feet. No, instead she first kisses his sweaty, stinky feet again and again. Then she pours the perfume on his feet. Then what happens? In verse 39, we read: “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!”” (Luke 7:39 CSB17)

The Pharisee is offended at her extreme impoliteness. But then he’s offended that Jesus isn’t offended. And he concludes to himself that Jesus must not be a prophet. Because if he were, he would get rid of this woman who has shattered politeness in every way. So Jesus responds to the man’s secret, inner thoughts: 40 Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He said, “Say it, teacher.” 41 “A creditor had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” he told him.” (Luke 7:40–43 CSB17)

As Jesus so often did, here he tells a story. It’s the story of two men who both owed a debt. One owed vastly much more of a debt than the other. Both were forgiven. And the question Jesus asks this Pharisee, Simon, is this: Which one will be more loving toward the one who forgave the debt. And in cold, heartless way, the Pharisee, Simon, says, “I suppose, the one he forgave more.” Then, for the first time that night, he acknowledges the presence of the woman. He looks at her. But he speaks to him: 44 Turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she, with her tears, has washed my feet and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48” (Luke 7:44–47 CSB17)

Notice how Jesus piles up the contrasts here. He says, “You provided no water for my feet, but this woman provides tears and wiped them with her hair.” This would been a shocking statement for the Pharisee to hear. For what was expected of a host in Jesus’ day, was that if you had a guest, you’d have the youngest child or lowest slave wash the feet of the guests. At the very least you’d provide a bowl with water so the guest could wash his own feet. And so he says, “you provided, no water, this woman provided tears.”

Then he says, “You gave no kiss, but this woman has not stopped kissing.” In Jesus’ day, when you saw a friend, you would kiss the friend on the cheek. The Pharisee didn’t treat Jesus even like a temporary friend. But the woman humbly kept kissing his feet.

Jesus says to Simon the Pharisee, “You gave me no oil for my head, bu this woman poured out oil on my feet.” If you had a friend over for dinner you kissed their cheek. If you had a rare honored guest, you’d provide perfumed oil for his hair. That thought of providing oil for Jesus probably didn’t even enter the Pharisee’s mind.

In all of this, notice the point that Jesus is making: There is a far, far worse sin than having no politeness. Having no repentance is far, far worse than having no politeness. Simon saw how much and how many her sins were. But he refused to see how much and how many his own sins were. And when, out of love for him, Jesus sets aside time to tell this Pharisee the truth and correct him, the Pharisee is more concerned about propriety and politeness instead of repentance.

And my dear friends, that is the same trap and temptation we can all fall into. The first temptation is to conclude that, yes, we sin, but our sins are not as bad as the other people. The drug dealers, the prostitutes, the embezzlers, the bribers—all those professional sinners—they are so much worse than me. How horribly wrong we are. For the same question that Jesus asked the Pharisee, he asks us tonight: how much are you forgiven? How many sins have you committed? And how bad are they? If you are concluding in such a cold and calloused way that you’re a little sinner with little sins that need a little help, then you’ve completely missed the point Jesus’ words here. Oh, but it gets worse. The first sin is concluding that our sins really aren’t that bad. But the second sin is concluding, just like this Pharisee, that no one gets to accuse you of sin or correct you unless they, in the most proper and polite way, speak to you about your sin. If they are urgent and sincere, we are offended that there wasn’t enough small talk before they corrected us. But what Jesus says here is so very vital: a lack of repentance is so much worse than a lack of politeness.

So my dear friends, how much? How much are you forgiven? The sincerity of Jesus’ words here move us to confess both the weight and the number of our sins. For the lack of repentance is so much worse than the lack of politeness. And then what does our sincere Savior do? He forgives us. And notice how beautifully Jesus does this. We read: 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”” (Luke 7:48–50 CSB17)

Finally, at the end of all these events, Jesus looks right at her. And with such sincerity he tells her, “Your sins are and remain forgiven.”2 And this evening he says the same to us. We did not come here this evening with little sins for a little Savior to take hold of and forgive. No, our sins are many and they are much. And Jesus looks at each and every single one of us and says, “Your sins are and remain forgiven.” So tonight, rejoice in that forgiveness. And as Jesus said to the woman, so I say to you: “Go in peace. The faith that Jesus has given to you has saved you.”

1 “ⲁⲙⲁⲣⲧⲱⲗⲟⲥ” (Luke 7:37 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲫⲉⲱⲛⲧⲁⲓ” (Luke 7:48 GNT-ALEX)

People Are There For You (Transfiguration)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
People Are There For You (Transfiguration)

People Are There For You

Where would I have been? For many years when I was growing up, we used to take family vacations to National parks. And what everybody does in National Parks is take hikes. And every year, if you could stay on a busy trail long enough, you’d see parents who tried to do too much. They go out five miles on a hike, but then what do they have to do? They have to carry their children back on their shoulders because their little legs couldn’t travel that far. But where would those children be without their parents to carry them? It’s a wonderful fact that God places people in our lives who are there for us. In our words this morning from Matthew 17, we see how true it is that God provides people who are there for other people. We read: 1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”” (Matthew 17:1–4 NIV11-GKE)

God places people to be there for other people. But notice here in these words who it is who is there for whom? In these words Moses and Elijah are there for Jesus. They are there to encourage him as takes on the last and most important leg of his journey to the cross. Here is where it is good for us to remember that doctrine we learned about in our catechism days, called Jesus’ active obedience. Jesus in his active obedience keeps all the commandments we cannot. Jesus in his active obedience is tempted in every way just as we are but does not sin. And not only does he do this, he grows as a human being, so that in every age and every stage of his life, he keeps God’s commands for us, in our place. So here are Moses and Elijah commending, complimenting and even worshipping Jesus. You can just see Moses there saying, “So long ago, you commanded me to command a rock to pour forth water from a rock as a sign of your mercy, but instead, I made that preaching of gospel a preaching of law. I am not worthy, Jesus, but you are.” You can just see Elijah there saying, “So long ago Jezebel wrote me a note saying that by this time tomorrow you”ll be as dead as all the prophets of Baal who died in one day. And, instead of trusting in you, I ran as far and as fast as I could. I am not worthy, Jesus, but you are.”

Jesus received their compliments and commendations. He was built up by them. But here is where we see our sin. God provides people who are there for us. And what do our Christian family and friends do for us? Out of love for us, they correct us. And when they correct us, we face this real temptation to get angry. But just as real as that temptation is, there’s the opposite temptation. There is the temptation to disregard the compliments and commendations too. Years and years ago when I was in school, I had an english teacher who said that he went to a band concert. And after the concert was done, he went up to a young woman who had played her instrument very well. And he said to the young woman, “well done.” And, in response, she said, “It was nothing.” He got angry and said, “when I say you did well, I meant it. I know what I’m talking about.’” How much worse is it when we recognize that God is the one who gives to us our gifts.

And so, there is a temptation to sin by refusing corrections from from friends and also from refusing compliments from friends too. But look what our good and gracious God does. He provides people—people who are there for us. When we sin, especially when we sin like this, we need forgiveness. And through our Christians friends and family he forgives us. Yes, they remind us that our sins are forgiven. But they do even more, they actually forgive our sins as if God had forgiven them himself. In John 20, Jesus says: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”” (John 20:23 NIV11-GKE) And that’s how our good and gracious God provides people who are there for us. Yes, they correct and commend us. But even better than all of this, they forgive us. They point us to the Jesus we find in these words who was uplifted and commended by his friends, Moses and Elijah. But unlike us, instead of refusing their true commendations, he was encouraged by them.

Your good and gracious Lord provides people who are there for you. But as these words travel on, there is another way in which God provides people who are there for you: 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”” (Matthew 17:5–9 NIV11-GKE)

Our friends forgive us. But look who the person is that God’s word focuses in on. A voice came from heaven. And that voice was God, the Father. And so our friends forgive us. But notice what the Father does. He reminds us. He speaks from the cloud and says that Jesus is his beloved Son. And because he is his beloved son, he urgently asks us to listen to him. Peter, James and John were not able to do what the Father asked of them. Even though Jesus had spoken about what would happen to him—how he would suffer, be crucified and die, nevertheless, they did not listen to him. And so, they were completely unprepared for all the sad tragedies that were poured out on Jesus.

And can we say that we are any different? The Father says, “listen.” But how many sermons have we drifted in an out of focus in? How many times have we read God’s word as if it were a task to get done instead of God speaking to us by his Holy Spirit?

And that’s why it’s good news to learn that God provides people who are there for us. And in these words who is the one who is there for us? It’s the Father himself. And what does he do? He reminds us. All the truths in his word that lay dusty and neglected, he goes out of his way to remind us. What kind of Savior we have—one who was rightly and properly complimented and instead of refusing, Jesus received that compliment. And he did so in our place. That is what the Father reminds us of. And that is what he then urges us to listen to and gives us the ability to hear.

And so, my dear friends in Christ, rejoice. Just as Moses and Elijah were there for Jesus, so God has placed Christian friends in your life for you. But unlike with Jesus, the greatest gift they give you is the forgiveness that Jesus won for you. Your friends forgive you. And rejoice. For your Father reminds you again and again what kind of Son he has and the sort of Savior you worship. Amen.

Do Not Be Afraid (Epiphany 5)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Do Not Be Afraid (Epiphany 5)

Do Not Be Afraid

How could they not be terrified? When the Hebrews ran out of Egypt, they ran for their lives. Pharaoh’s army was behind them. And at least they had a path forward. Pharaoh and his army were behind them. But at least the way in front of them was clear. But then they came to the Red Sea. And whatever courage, strength and hope they had vanished. It’s important to start with this picture in our minds: Pharaoh and his chariots behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. For it’s only with that image burned into our brains that what comes next makes sense. In Exodus 14, God’s word tells us: 13 But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you must be quiet.”” (Exodus 14:13–14 CSB17)

In these words Moses tells the Hebrews who were terrified that there wsa no reason to be. And again, remember what the situation looks like: Pharaoh is waiting behind them to cut them down and the Red Seas is waiting ahead of them to drown them. He tells them to not be afraid. And you’ll notice the order in which these events happen. And it almost always follows this pattern in the bible: First, God’s people hear the message. Second, God’s people are delivered. Why doesn’t it happen the other way? Why aren’t the people delivered and then later on after that Moses says: “You see what kind of God you have?” The Lord shares his message first because he gives strength through his message. God’s word is powerful. It creates faith in our hearts to know who the true God is and trust in him. It conveys the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross to us. It gives us strength to take our stand on God’s promises just as Moses told the Hebrews to so long ago.

And as we face these words today the challenge we face is that we know them here, in our minds, but we so often don’t know them here, in our hearts. And we see evidence of this in how we treat God’s word. When we encounter scary and truly frightful times in our lives, how do we deal with it? If you’re on a plane and you look out over the vast land that you’re flying over and you realize that if all those electrical devices up front gave out, you would crash into that ground, what is is ever so easy to latch onto for strength and courage? Statistics. “They say that it’s more safe to fly than it is to drive.’” You go in for a cancer screening, and you try to find solace and strength in the fact that your doctor or your hospital has a good track record in treating this type of cancer. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t do homework and find a safe airline and a safe hospital. But when fear threatens to take you over, wouldn’t it be so much better to remind yourself of what God speaks to you in his word? That’s what Moses does to his terrified congregation. He urges them to not be afraid. Then he follows that exhortation up with a promise from God’s word.

So, my dear friends in Christ, do not be afraid. For God gives strength through his message. But God also gives strength in a different way: 15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to break camp. 16” (Exodus 14:15 CSB17)

God gives strength. He gives strength through his message. But he also gives strength to his messengers. The assembled thousands of Hebrews with Chariots behind them and a drowning Red Sea in front of them were not the only ones who needed strength and courage. Moses needed that strength and courage just as much as they did. So the Lord tells Moses, “Why do you keep crying out to me?”\footnote{”מַה־תִּצְעַ֖ק אֵלָ֑י“ }(Exodus 14:15 BHS-T)}} He deliberately comforts and strengthens the one who is delivering the message.

And the Lord reminds us of this because there will be a time when you will be the one who has to reach out with God’s message and give strength to others through God’s message. And you might be afraid. As a pastor it’s my calling and job to be the messenger. But there have been times it has not been easy. There have been times when I’ve been able with such strength and confidence to share God’s promises and truth to people amidst such hardships they faced in their lives. But there have been other times when I said the words but had so difficult of a time believing them. I remember visiting a shut-it my Vicar year month after month. This lady had severe health problems. And on top of that both her eye-sight and hearing were almost gone. And I would say, “The Lord has a plan and purpose for your life. Cheer up, the Lord will lift you up in his own good time.” And then I’d look at her and think to myself, “how can I believe the words I am saying”?

The Lord does not just give strength through the message. He also gives strength to the messenger. And a time will come in your life when you will have to be the messenger too. And in the words that follow we see how the Lord gives strength to us: 16 As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 As for me, I am going to harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh, all his army, and his chariots and horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I receive glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”” (Exodus 14:16–18 CSB17)

The Lord gives messengers strength by teaching them that the Lord is doing more than we can see. We can maybe do one or two tasks well at the same time. Our Lord is doing thousands of tasks at the same time. And he’s doing them all perfectly. And so we can go to the person who is fearful, grieving or even dying and tell them that there is so much going on here that we cannot see. We cannot juggle the universe and eternity. But our good and gracious Lord can. And after we are done preaching that sermon to others we can then preach the very same sermon to ourselves. So, the Lord lets us know that he is doing more than we can see. But there’s another way he gives us messengers strength: 19 Then the angel of God, who was going in front of the Israelite forces, moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. 20 It came between the Egyptian and Israelite forces. There was cloud and darkness, it lit up the night, and neither group came near the other all night long. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left.” (Exodus 14:19–22 CSB17)

These words are so beautiful to picture, aren’t they? The Lord goes in between the Hebrews and the Egyptians in this pillar of cloud. Then he cleaves the water in half and makes dry ground appear. And the Hebrews walk through on dry ground. But my dear friends in Christ, don’t miss the obvious and important point. What the Lord promises, he keeps. Moses tells the people at the beginning that the Egyptians they saw that day they would never see again. And the promise he made, he kept.

The Lord does the same for us today. One of the joys of being older is that you have a track record, a past to build on. You can ask yourself the question, “when I am full of fear, are there times in the past I can remember that I was terrified and then the Lord delivered me?” And the older you are, the more examples you can find where the answer is: “yes.”

So the Lord gives strength to the messengers. First, he does this by reminding us that the Lord is doing more than we can see. And second, the Lord reminds us of times he has keep his promises in the past.

And with all of this, both as ones who hear the message and as ones who share the message, instead of being afraid, we, like the Hebrews here can take our stand. For the Lord gives strength through his message. And the Lord gives strength to his messengers. Amen.

Caring is Surprising (Epiphany 4)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Caring is Surprising (Epiphany 4)

Caring Is Surprising

Caring is acting. From little on up, we are taught that if we care about someone, we don’t just say that we care, we show we care. The problem is that, as you grow up, you realize that sometimes, despite how much you care, you aren’t able to help. You can go with your friend or family member to the hospital to be there for them. But when the doctor comes out and says the name of the condition that your friend has, you cannot take that condition away. There have been times when I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the health condition that the person had, let alone cure it. Caring is acting. But what if you can’t act, what do you do? That is the context we find ourselves in in Matthew 8: 1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”” (Matthew 8:1–4 NIV11-GKE)

Here in these words we see one surprising event after another. First, we find a leper who kneels at Jesus’ feet. This might not seem like a huge, masive event. After all, when people had diseases not just some, but many people found themselves at Jesus’ feet, asking, begging for help. But what was different here? This man at Jesus’ feet had leprosy. He wasn’t allowed to be there at Jesus’ feet. If anyone had a contagious skin disease he was supposed to be outside the camp, shouting distance away from Jesus, not at his feet.

And if that’s surprising, what happens next is even more so. Jesus heals the man. But before he does so, what does he do? He reaches out and touches the man. That was an action people did not take. The man was contagious. And on top of that, it was forbidden according to the Old Testament law for anyone to reach out and touch a leper. And yet Jesus did so.

That brings us to the important question: why? Why did Jesus reach out and touch the man? Notice the words that man used. The man said, “if you are willing”.1 And he said, “If you are able.”2  Jesus was both. He was willing to care for this man. But even more amazing he was able. He was able to do for this man what no one else could. Yes, he could heal the man of his leprosy. But there’s even more going on here than that. He could reach out and touch him without breaking the law and catching a disease. He could show that he cared for him as a human being when others were not able to—even if they wanted to. How long? How long was it that this man went without his family members hugging him or even putting their hand on his shoulder? How many people could he look at from a distance enjoying their lives putting their hands on each other, showing how much they cared for each other. But he could not.

And so, the caring we see here in these words is surprising. It is so very surprising that Jesus cared enough to reach out and touch this man before he healed him. And these words serve as a powerful reminder to us that there will be times in our lives when we are not able to take action. We are not able to care for others in the way we would like. We cannot solve their problems or take away their pains. And this too shows us our sins, doesn’t it? For there are times we want to be the big problem solvers that we cannot be. A person comes to us seeking a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen, but we dive in, trying to solve problems that we cannot. Or, we make the opposite mistake. Since we cannot do anything to help, we do nothing. We do not even pray to Jesus on behalf of others when we know that Jesus can help. I was stranded in New Orleans a few days ago. They had rare, record-breaking freezing temperatures. And I was riding to the airport with and UBER driver. And he gave me the full story. Their politicians are corrupt. Their infrastructure is old and failing. So when this freeze came, the only thing they could do is shut down the entire area. That is a problem I cannot solve. That was a problem he could not solve. And it’s so easy to react to that by saying to yourself: “I’m glad I don’t live in New Orleans.” But instead, I could have prayed to my Savior Jesus. He is the only one who could actually do anything for them. But, I have to admit, I forgot to.

Our sin is either to try to solve problems we cannot, or to forget to pray to the one who is actually able to help. And that’s why these words are so wondrous to hear this morning. For Jesus doesn’t just care about bodies, he also cares about souls. He doesn’t just care about bodily health, he also cares about spiritual salvation. He cares for us too. And he forgives our sins because he is the only one who cannot be corrupted by sin.

Caring is surprising. It is surprising how Jesus is able to care for us. But these words travel on to show us another way that caring is surprising: 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.” (Matthew 8:5–13 NIV11-GKE)

It is surprising how Jesus is able to care for us. But in these words here we see that it is surprising to Jesus for him to see how much we care for him. In Caparnaum a centurion asks for Jesus. A centurion is a Roman commander who is charge of anywhere from 300 – 3000 soldiers. He asks that Jesus would heal his child.3 Jesus begins to follow. But then the centurion stops him. He tells Jesus that he is a man of authority. He tells a guy to go, and he goes. He tells another guy to ‘get over here’, and he obeys. If he can say the word and give the command and it gets done, how much more can Jesus give the command and drive away what is harming the man’s servant.

And Jesus is surprised.4 And so, in the previous section, we are the ones who are surprised. For Jesus is able to help when we cannot. But here Jesus is the one who is surprised. He is surprised at a man who had such a strong faith that he took Jesus at his word and trusted in him.

And the same happens today. Every time without signs in the sky or leadings in our hearts we simply trust in the power and promises in God’s word, Jesus is surprised and overjoyed. Every time we repent of our sins and trust that just as Jesus cleansed the leprosy from that man, so also in our baptisms he cleanses us from our sins, Jesus is surprised. Every time we take Jesus at his word that along with bread and wine, he is there in his body and bread in the Lord’s Supper to forgive our sins, he is surprised. Every time we pray to him when tragedies strike others because we know this is beyond our control, he is surprised. Every time we trust in him when hardships and trials flood into our own lives, he is surprised. In all these he is surprised and overjoyed. For he is the one who gave us faith in him. And he is the one who preserves that faith in us. And yet, every time we take him at his word and trust in him, in a surprising way he is surprised and overjoyed.

So, my dear friends in Christ, with all this in mind, pray. Pray to Jesus for when you cannot, he is able to and he wants to help. And also continue to trust in him. For he will keep his promises and he is surprised and overjoyed when we do so.

Caring is surprising. It is surprising how Jesus is able to care for us. And it is surprising to Jesus how we are able to show our care for him by trusting in him. Amen.

1 “ⲕⲉ̄ⲉⲁⲛⲑⲉⲗⲏⲥ” (Matthew 8:2 GNT-VAT)

2 “ⲇⲩⲛⲁⲥⲁⲓ” (Matthew 8:2 GNT-VAT)

3 “ⲡⲁⲓⲥⲙⲟⲩ” (Matthew 8:6 GNT-VAT)

4 “ⲉⲑⲁⲩⲙⲁⲥⲉⲛ” (Matthew 8:10 GNT-VAT)

Jesus Saves The Best (Epiphany 3)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Jesus Saves The Best (Epiphany 3)

Jesus Saves The Best

There are times when you give your best. I don’t follow football. But I managed to watch that last play from the game on Sunday. And I can’t say this for every football game. But I admit that I wish I had watched all of that game. But above all, what impressed me most about watching it was seeing two teams giving their absolute best. And on that day, one team won and another didn’t. But both came to that field to give their best. And all of this I mention because there are times in our lives when we have to give our best. But what about Jesus? Jesus too gives his best. But what does that look like? In John 2, we see what the best that Jesus has to give looks like: 1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”” (John 2:1–5 NIV11-GKE)

Here in John chapter 2, we learn that it’s the third day. It’s the third day since John the Baptizer baptized Jesus in the Jordan river. And as we spoke about last week, Jesus was baptized to go out and take action. He was supposed to give sight to the blind, heal those with diseases and even raise the dead. All of this was promised and pictured in the Old Testament. So Jesus is baptized and what happens? Nothing. Nothing amazing, nothing miraculous happens. So then, a couple of days pass and Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding. Now, in those days weddings were a little different than today. On the first day the couple would be married and begin their married life together. But the wedding banquet would last for entire week. With that in mind we can begin to see the problem and even panic if they ran out of wine and other provisions. And so Mary, the mother of Jesus mentions this problem to Jesus.

Now, we’re going to come back to these words in a little bit. But first we need to pause for a little while and speak about what these words do not mention. Here in these words we find one man and one woman getting married. Here we find a good, wondrous and beautiful picture of what marriage should look like: one man, one woman, for life. But what’s the problem with this picture? The problem is that even though Jesus was there at the beginning to make Adam and Eve for each other, nevertheless each of them and both of them fell into sin and destroyed their faith in God as well as their marriage with each other. And ever since that day the path to marriage is not easy and persevering in marriage is not easy either. And there are so many traps and pitfalls we can fall into. From the moment that boys and girls stop thinking that the other gender is weird and instead find them wondrous in their own way and are attracted to them—from that moment, they have about ten years to wait till they get married (at least!). And if you think about it, that’s ten years to get derailed. That’s ten years to follow sermons the world around them preaches to them that either marriage is stupid or pretending to be married is good enough. And then if they manage to make it to marriage they soon realize that persevering in marriage is not so easy too. The bride and groom realize that they have married a sinner. And sinners can destroy. And then, if they manage to make it all the way to their later, elder years, then there are new temptations to face in those years. It’s not easy to stay married when you spend all your time caring for someone seems to need more than you can give. It’s not easy to stay married when dementia descends and your beloved spouse of so many decades doesn’t remember you, or worse, is even scared of you.

It’s not easy. The path to marriage is not easy. And persevering in marriage is not easy either. And the temptation we face is to conclude that marriage is easy. It’s easy to attain and easy to maintain. And that’s why these words here are so important for us to see. For this example here is an exception. The bible is filled with adulterers and divorcers. It’s filled with people who pretended to be married when they weren’t and destroyed their marriages when they were. But look, my dear friends, at the amazing love and forgiveness that Jesus shows here. For Jesus doesn’t just forgive the times we break the 6th commandment. He does so much more. He saves his best for massive problems. And I’ve been a pastor long enough to see this. If you want to see how Jesus uses his best, just look at the power of his word. Look at the young adult who has the confidence to listen to the promises of Jesus and continually pray for a faithful spouse despite all the false promises in the world around them. Look at the newly-wed person who gets married in just enough time to see their parents get divorced. And yet, with faith mixed with fear, they trust in Jesus’ promise to bless their promises they made on their wedding day. If you want to see Jesus saving his best for massive problems, look at the elderly couple when their spouse’s body or mind fails, and they love that person just as much after 60 years as 6 months. All of this is what Jesus does over and above what he does to forgive us. He doesn’t only forgive, he also gives us faith to cling to his promises.

Jesus saves the best for massive problems. But he also saves his best for another area of our lives. We read: 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:6–11 NIV11-GKE)

What was Jesus’ first miracle? Was it healing a blind person? Was it driving out a demon? Was it raising a person from death? No, it was turning water into so much wine. The worst that would have happened if he didn’t perform that miracle is that they would have been embarrassed. But time would travel on. And years later the embarrassment might turn into a good story to tell. It was such a small problem that would eventually pass. But this preaches and proves to us a very important truth. Yes, Jesus saves his best for massive problems. But he also saves his best for minúte problems. One of the temptations we face is to conclude that Jesus has bigger issues and bigger problems than the ones we face. It’s as if he deals with the big problems, but we’re supposed to deal with the little problems in our lives. And so, if we give into this we stop praying because, after all, we shouldn’t bother Jesus. And if we don’t want to bother Jesus, then most definitely we shouldn’t bother him with several prayers about the same, small concern in our lives. And what these words preach and prove to us is that just the opposite is true. Jesus saves his best not just for the massive problems. He also saves his best for the minúte problems too.

So, my dear friends in Christ, in your prayers take all your massive problems to Jesus your Savior: all the weight of your past, all the pressure of the future—take them all those massive concerns to him in prayer. For he saves his best for the massive problems. Oh, but don’t forget about the small problems too. The small test you have to take; the short car ride you have to make; the lost keys you cannot find—all these and more, take to your Savior in prayer. For Jesus saves the best for you. He saves his best for the massive problems and also for the minúte problems too. Amen.

The Father Is Interested In Us Growing (Epiphany 2)

Jesus in the Temple
Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
The Father Is Interested In Us Growing (Epiphany 2)

The Father Is Interested In Us Growing

Some lessons are shocking. Years and years ago, we went on vacation to New York. We were getting onto the Subway. And, like any of you know, if you have children, if you have Children, you also have so many other things to carry with you. And so, you have to picture me throwing one thing after another into the subway car before the door closed. And you also have to picture our little girl there on outside the subway car—all by herself. So, I worked hard and got all the stuff into the car. And the door began to close. But there was our little girl outside. And I rushed to put my foot in the door, but I was way too far away. And I knew it. Thankfully, there was a dad who saw my problem. And he put his foot in the door ahead of me. And all of us ended up on the subway car together. Some lessons are shocking. But the lesson I learned wasn’t nearly as shocking as the lesson Mary and Joseph learned: 41 Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. 43 After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.” (Luke 2:41–45 CSB17)

Josephs and Mary and their entire family went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. And they thought that after the Passover was over, they were all going back home. But when all of the rest of them left and went home, Luke here tells us that Jesus remained. And what follows is fear, terror and shock. Joseph and Mary get about a day’s journey away from Jerusalem and they ask around and realize that Jesus isn’t there. What a grievous and horrible sin to commit. It was their God-given role to watch over the Christ-child. And they forgot him. So they travel back to Jerusalem. And they search for him for three days! Can you imagine how frustrated and fearful they were? With that in mind we can begin to understand what happens in the words that follow: 46 After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46–47 CSB17)

Three days later they find him. And where do they find him? They find him in the temple. And what is he doing? He is listening to the teachers of teachers and professors of professors. And even more than that he is asking them one pointed question after another. Finally then, they make their way up to the front of the group and they ask their son the question they needed to ask: “When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”” (Luke 2:48 CSB17)

There you are as parents. You are full of fear. You are full of frustration. You need answers as to why your son didn’t obey you. And the answer Jesus gives is amazing. We read: 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked them. “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them.” (Luke 2:49–50 CSB17)

He tells them that he absolutely had to be where he was.1 And there’s a translation issue here. And you’ll see this in the footnote in any decent english version. In these words Jesus says that he needed to be in his Father’s……..2 And context has to fill in the proper word. Is it his Father’s rooms? His Father’s work? His Father’s interests? The best answer is probably all of these. This is Jesus’ way of letting his parent’s know that he wasn’t the one in the wrong. They were. He had to remain there in Jerusalem because Jesus’ interests were the Father’s interests.

And just what exactly was their Father in heaven interested in? He was interested in them growing by asking. Notice the huge contrast we see in these words. Mary and Joseph were convinced that what was most important was that they rush back home and get back to work. But Jesus deliberately stays in Jerusalem to teach them that, no, that was not correct. What was absolutely necessary is that he grow by asking. And Jesus had to be there in that temple asking questions for one simple reason: Because we fail so miserably at it. Our Father wants us to ask questions. But it is so easy to not do this. It is so easy to rush out of church after our service is done and not stay to ask questions in our bible study class. It is so easy to sit down at home and read our bibles so that we can check that off of our mental list of things to do instead of reading in such a way that we ask questions. He wants us to listen to sermons like Jesus did: like one who was asking questions in his soul and mind all the time he was hearing the sermons. That’s what our Father wants—that’s what he is interested in. But that’s exactly and precisely what we fail at. And that’s why it was so absolutely necessary that Jesus not go home—why he would stay and ask questions. We needed a Savior who would ask questions when we, in our sin, do not want to. We needed a Savior who would ask questions of God’s holy word when we didn’t have the energy to. We need a Savior to ask questions of God’s word when we didn’t even know what to ask. And in this boy of twelve years old that’s exactly what we find.

The Father is interested in us growing through asking. But our Father is interested in much more. We read: 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” (Luke 2:51–52 CSB17)

The Father is interested in us growing through asking. But he is also interested in us growing through obeying. The other huge area that we find a temptation to sin is that our Father in heaven asks us to station ourselves under other people in our lives—not because they are better than we are, but this is what he is interested in. This is his plan for us. So parishioners obey pastors, wives obey husbands, children obey parents, students obey teachers, and workers obey bosses. The problem is that there are times we don’t want to do this. And this is understandable when the person over us asks us to sin. Indeed, we must obey God rather than men. But most of the time, we get angry with them simply because we want to do what we want, not what they want.

And for this sin too, we need a Savior. We need someone who will not just ask in our place, but also obey in our place. We find that Savior in this twelve year old boy. Jesus was not the one who messed that week. His parents were. Jesus was the one knew what his Father was interested in. Jesus was the one who made his Father’s interests his own need. And we see that here so beautifully in these words. For not only did he ask when we do not, he also obeyed when we so often do not. He humbled himself and went down the mountain and back to Nazareth. And he did this not because his parents were equal to or better than he was. He did this because this is what his Father was interested in.

And so, what the Father was interested in, Jesus was to—perfectly and obediently in our place, so that our failings would be replaced by his faithfulness. And with that amazing fact, the Holy Spirit encourages and gives us a new person to grow in the very areas we fail in. And so, my dear forgiven friends in Christ, ask. When you hear God’s word read, ask. When you read it at home, ask questions. When you come to bible study class, ask questions in your own heart, if not even out loud. And I will do my best to answer those questions. And not just ask. Also obey those whom God has put in your life to lead you. For both of these are what your Father in heaven is interested in. And as you struggle to do these your Father in heaven promises to bless you. Amen.

1 “ⲇⲉⲓⲉⲓⲛⲁⲓⲙⲉ” (Luke 2:49 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲉⲛⲧⲟⲓⲥⲧⲟⲩⲡⲣ̅ⲥⲙⲟⲩ” (Luke 2:49 GNT-ALEX)

Why Was Jesus Baptized? (Epiphany 1)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Pastor Steve Bauer
Why Was Jesus Baptized? (Epiphany 1)

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Wax on—wax off. Years ago, when I was a child, we watched this movie called, “The Karate Kid.” And in the movie there’s a teenage young man. And he is learning Karate from a neighbor who is an expert in Karate. The only problem is that it doesn’t really look like he’s learning Karate at all. For days, if not weeks, all the elderly man has him do is wax his deck and fence by hand. Finally, the teenager can’t take it anymore. And he says that he came to learn Karate, not to be a slave. Then the teacher shows him that the same movements involved in waxing the deck are the ones used in blocking in Karate. Life is like that, isn’t it? There are times we are told to carry out a task. But even as we are doing it, we wonder why we are doing it at all. That’s how our words start out this morning in Matthew’s gospel. In Matthew 3, we read: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.” (Matthew 3:13–15 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus came down from Galilee to the River Jordan to John to be baptized. And that, right there, is the problem. Jesus asks John to baptize him. But John, in response, tells Jesus how strange and unfitting it is for John to baptize Jesus. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That’s what John’s baptism delivered to the person who was being baptized: forgiveness for their sins. The huge, massive problem here that John points out is that Jesus has no sins to be forgiven. Why does Jesus need to be baptized?

Notice the answer that Jesus gives: To fulfill all righteousness. There were perfect pronouncements and promises given in the Old Testament. In fact, there were thousands of them. And it was the Messiah’s job to both know of them all and to keep them. And one of these pronouncements and promises is that Messiah would be anointed with the Holy Spirit. In these words we see how different Jesus’ baptism was to our very own. If you were told that you had to keep 1000 promises, how many would you be able to keep? How many would you even be able to remember? One of the great sadnesses we face as humans is that there have been good and proper promises we have made, but then have broken. In these words we see how different Jesus’ baptism was than our very own. For Jesus was baptized so that he could fill all righteousness. And this is good news for us. For in our baptisms then all these pronouncements and promises that Jesus kept are then given to us, so that when the Father looks at us, he doesn’t not see our broken and forgotten promises. Instead he sees his Son’s fulfillment of them.

So, why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. But there’s another reason he was baptized. We read: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” (Matthew 3:16 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus was also baptized to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Part of the work the Holy Spirit does is to lead people to live out a godly life. And we see what that looks like in Jesus’ life. Right after this we see Jesus going out and with such constant zeal and determination he opposes Satan. In this way the baptism that Jesus receives and the one we receive are the same. Both of them give to us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit we have the ability to wrestle and struggle against sin. And so, what was impossible for us to do before we were Christians, we now have the ability to carry out and get done.

But in this too we find a real temptation to sin. There is this temptation we face to pretend that in certain areas of our lives we are unable to wrestle against sin and do what is right. And even worse, when we are urged to wrestle and struggle against our sins and do what is right, we then move onto the next stage where we stubbornly lash out against those who urge us to do what is right. And in every congregation I’ve served in I’ve seen this. And so I say, “Please stop cursing, gossipping, and being hostile with people,” and the person says in response: “Pastor, I am not able to do that—and stop asking me to do that.” I say to my members, “Set aside time to pray, read your bibles, come to bible class,” and the person says, “I cannot do that—and stop asking me to do that.”

When we give into those sins, notice what we’re doing. We are pretending that one of the most amazing gifts the Holy Spirit gives to us in our baptisms didn’t exist. And so, for those times we have pretended that we weren’t able to do what was right, we repent of those sins too. And when we repent of those sins, these final words that Jesus speaks to us are so filled with comfort, strength and joy: “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:17 NIV11-GKE)

Everything Jesus did perfectly pleased his Father. And my friends in Christ, that is good news to us. For Jesus wins the Father’s approval for us in our place. His perfection replaces our stubbornness. His perfection replaces all the times we made promises and couldn’t keep them or didn’t even want to keep them. And where does baptism fit into all of this? Through baptism Jesus delivers this forgiveness to us. So that now, our Father does not see all the times we stubbornly clung to sin or the times we made and then broke our promises. Instead, he sees his Son’s perfection—perfection showed and offered up in our place. But do remember there is one final gift given to us in baptism. In baptism we have the ability to live out a godly life. We have the ability to oppose Satan and his seducing lies. We have the ability to see what is good and right and carry it out.

In all of this then we find an answer to the question: why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness because we could not. And he was baptized to be filled with the Holy Spirit, just as we are in our baptisms. Amen.