But For Us Fights The Valiant One (Lent 1)


But For Us Fights The Valiant One

There is a need for justice. When someone cuts you off in traffic; When someone bullies you on the playground; and most of all, when the name of our Lord God is dragged into the mud—for all of these times that hurts our souls and cause us pain, there needs to be justice. This morning we hear about justice. And we hear about what Godly people do about justice. In 1 Samuel 17, we read, 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” (1 Samuel 17:4–11 NIV11-GKE)

The context in these words is war. In ancient battle they would gather all their troops against each other. Often there would be a valley in the middle. And on the high ground on one side and on the high ground on the other the troops would assemble. And there they would stay since each side did not want to fight up hill. What you need in these circumstances is someone to pick a fight. In these words you meet that man. His name is Goliath. The man is almost 10 feet tall. He is a champion among champions. He was the one who, day after day, started to pick a fight. And when he stood up in the middle of the valley, the Israelites on the other side would tremble. What they needed was a valiant one. They needed a valiant soldier to stand up to this 10 foot tall enemy. And, as we follow these words, we soon meet one. His name is David. He goes out to visit his brothers at the battle line. And one by one, he invites the soldiers to go out against the Philistine and fight him. And one by one, they decline. Finally David is brought before king Saul. And so, we read the words which follow: 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:32–40, 45–49 NIV11-GKE)

Finally then, justice is served. Everyone that day was looking for a warrior, a champion, who would be valiant for them. And finally on that day they found one. David became for them what everyone deep down wanted to be, but could not. These words make us want to pray to be David. They make us want to stand up to all the Goliaths in our own lives—the times people cut us off, bully us, and even insult our Lord God.

What if, my friends, I told you that there is more going on in these words? I mention this because, for years I would go to Sunday School as a child and the conclusion I reached was this: David trusted in the Lord, therefore you, little Stevie, go out and trust the Lord too. But my dear friends, David isn’t the valiant one in these words. The Lord was the Valiant One. And if we go back and read these words a little closer we see this. David talks to Saul and he says the Lord delivered him from the jaws and paws of bears and lions. And when he stands up against the Philistine what he says sounds like no movie that I’ve ever watched. Instead of talking about how amazing he was, he talks about the Lord—how he goes against this Philistine in the name of the Lord. And before it began, it was over.

As we look back at these words, it’s hard not to see our own sin and weakness. For there are so many areas in our lives where Jesus is the one who has to stand for us, in our place. And instead of trusting him, we trust in ourselves. We cannot convert ourselves to faith. We cannot take away our own sin. We cannot change our thoughts, words, and attitudes. We cannot change anything in our lives—at least for good. All this is in the hands of Jesus. Jesus is the real and true Valiant One.

And in our gospel for this morning we see such and amazing example of this don’t we? Again and again and again, Satan is hurling one lie, one trap, one deception after another at Jesus. But Jesus neither gets too hot nor too cold. Jesus never says too little nor too much. He perfectly quotes God’s word and perfectly applies God’s word.

And all of this is such good news for us. For all the times we thought we had to have the perfect word or response—and failed. For all the times we thought we could get through this world by raw power or pretty persuasion. For all the times we thought we were the ones who needed to be in control; For all the times we tried to be the Valiant one, Jesus is the Valiant one in our place. He is the one who fights for us.

So my dear friends in Christ, when you read these familiar words of David and Goliath, they are not written for perfect people who never mess up. They are written for us; for all the times we have not let Jesus be our Valiant One in our place. When you go home tonight, go home content. Go home content knowing that because Jesus is the Valiant One, when God looks at you he does not see the times you should have stood up and didn’t. He does not see the times you pushed your Savior out of the way to take control, only to mess it up. God sees his sinless Son in your place. For for us fights the Valiant One. Amen.

Who Is The Dreamer? (Epiphany 7)


Who Is The Dreamer?

Joseph’s dreams were different. Each of us have dreams. But how many of us can say that our dreams carry the wonder and weight of God’s will? We can joke sometimes, pretending that our dreams are God’s will. But we know it’s not true. We might say, “My dear wife, I had the dream last night that I had a brand new BMW motorcycle. I think we both know what this means, don’t we? It’s God’s will for me to have one.’” We can laugh at this and joke about it because we know our dreams are nothing more than dreams. But Josheph’s dreams were different. Joseph’s dreams carried all the weight and wonder of God’s will. God gave to Joseph this amazing gift to have dreams that were far more than dreams.

And so, from early on, Joseph was the dreamer. And those in his family knew it. His brothers hated him not because his dreams were just dreams, but instead because there was more to his dreams. And deep down inside they knew it. And they hated him for it. His brothers hated him for it. And deep down, his father feared him for it.

His dreams carried the weight and wonder of God’s will. And as a result, he was The Dreamer. And very soon he learned a powerful lesson. His dreams brought him disaster. His brothers hated him so very much that they sold him off into slavery, wanting to put him to death, but not wanting to get their hands dirty. That’s what happens when your dreams carry the weight and wonder of God’s will.

But his dreams didn’t just bring disaster for himself. His dreams brought disaster for others too. Joseph is in Pharaoh’s prison. And there he meets two men. He meets the cupbearer and the head-baker of Pharaoh. He tells these men the meaning of their dreams. He tells the cupbearer that the meaning of his dream is that Pharaoh would “lift up his head.”1 and he would serve Pharaoh again. Then the baker says, “ooh, it’s my turn,” expecting some good news. Instead, Joseph tells the baker that Pharaoh would lift the bakers head up too—yes, indeed, he would lift his head up off his body when he is beheaded. And what shocks us is that there is no hesitation at all when Joseph says this.

This drives us to ask the question, why. There was no hesitation when Joseph spoke of his dreams because in the months and years in the cold darkness of prison a powerful truth: His brothers accused him of being the “great dreamer.”2 But really, truly, Joseph realized that he wasn’t the dreamer at all. God was the dreamer. God had a dream for Joseph. God’s dream was to give Joseph this great amazing gift of sharing his own dreams and then to have him use that gift. But instead of using the gift, Joseph abused that gift. The selfish teenager had a dream or two and went around telling everyone he could that all of them would bow down to him. How selfish and childish he was! But God had more dreams for Joseph. His dream was to bring Joseph to forgiveness. In that cold prison Joseph had time to see his sinful abuse of his gift. And he had time to see that he was forgiven for that sin. God brought him to forgiveness. And with that then he was able to forgive his hateful, murdering brothers. We see that in these words. We read: 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:3–5 NIV11-GKE)

My dear friends in Christ, where’s the pain and punishment? Oh my dear friends in Christ, if this were a movie there would be a long section where Joseph gets back and gets even with his evil brothers. And then there would be a long speech about how they got what was coming to them. But look here at these words. There is not even a hint of revenge and retribution. How can that be? God had long before this brought Joseph to forgiveness for abusing his own gifts. And as a result, long ago Joseph had forgiven his brothers. God brought Joseph to forgiveness. But there’s even more in these words: 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, Lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me Lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ 12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.” 14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.” (Genesis 45:6–15 NIV11-GKE)

God brings Joseph to forgiveness. Then he brings him through forgiveness. And on the other side is thankful service. Joseph zealously and faithfully uses his gift of dreams to serve his God and save his brothers.

There is so much more we could say this morning about what is going on here in these words. But, for this morning and for this time, let’s pause and apply these words to us in our lives. Who is the real dreamer? It wasn’t Joseph. It was his God. And the same is true for us. God is the real dreamer in your life. And just as he had dreams for Joseph, he has dreams for you. And it follows the same path for you as it did for Joseph. He gives you gifts, and sadly, instead of using those gifts, you abuse those gifts—and so do I. A little boy and his sister grow up together. And like it is with so many families, they get into fights. But the boy grows bigger and stronger. And when they are fighting he pushes her and hurts her. Then that there is that fear-filled moment when he realizes that that he used the gift of strength as an abuse of strength. A little girl grows older and she realizes that she guide a conversation and even gain friends by telling jokes. Then, without thinking about it, she makes fun of her friend, and from then on she loses that friend. God gave her a gift. And she abused that gift.

But then after that, what is God’s dream and desire? He brings us to forgiveness. That descendent of Joseph was born in Bethlehem. Jesus grew up and became strong in all of our gifts. But instead of abusing those gifts, he used them perfectly in our place. And then the gift of his own life he gave up to pay for our sins on Good Friday. God brings us to that forgiveness and convinces us that that forgiveness is ours.

But he goes even farther. He doesn’t just bring us to forgiveness. He also brings us through forgiveness to service. With joy in our hearts at knowing that the times I have abused the gifts given to me are forgiven, we then pick up those gifts and use them. We use them just as Joseph did, with zeal and joy.

That, my dear friends in Christ, is why God is the dreamer. For he doesn’t just dream. His dreams carry all the weight and wonder of his own will. What he dreams he is able to get done. So this morning go home in peace. Go home in peace knowing that we might dream. But God is the real dreamer. And his dream for each of us is to bring us to forgiveness and then bring us through forgiveness to service. Amen.

1 ”יִשָּׂ֤א“ (Genesis 40:13 BHS-T)

2 ”בַּ֛עַל הַחֲלֹמ֥וֹת“ (Genesis 37:19 BHS-T)

Jesus Speaks An Unnatural Truth (Epiphany 6)


Jesus Speaks An Unnatural Truth

Sometimes the truth is unnatural. And there are truths in our lives like that, aren’t there? Take, for example skiing. If you’re looking down a steep slope, common sense and gravity would teach you that you need to stand up straight, or else you’ll fall down the mountain. But when you’re skiing, the opposite is true. When you’re skiing down that mountainside your balance and focus is down the hill. And if your balance and focus is not down the mountain, then you’ll fall. It’s the truth. But at first, is seems unnatural to us. And the same is true in our every day life. Jesus speaks to us the truth. But often it is an unnatural truth. We have an amazing example of this in Luke 6: 17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:17–21 NIV11-GKE)

Look at what we see here in these words. This is what life looks like after the fall into sin. People are poor. People pine away for food. People are sad. People are diseased. And all of those are effects of the fall into sin. And if we ask the question, “how does Jesus speak to us,” notice the first answer: Jesus comforts the afflicted. But how he does this is amazing. For he speaks to us truths that seem unnatural to us. When it comes to pain, hunger, sadness, and disease, one of the conclusions that we can so very easily reach is that, if Jesus loves us, he will give us joy instead of pain. But here, in these words, notice how he speaks. Jesus promises to give us joy amidst pain, not joy instead of pain. Our life right here and right now is not ‘your best life now.’ Instead, it’s your best life in heaven. What hope these words give to us. When we are sad or sick, diseased or despairing, we know that Jesus is in control and the same Savior who saved us from our sins will also preserve our lives.

Jesus comforts the afflicted with an un-natural truth. He gives us the promise of joy amidst pain instead of joy instead of pain. But he also gives us another promise. As soon as Jesus creates faith in our hearts, we yearn to speak the truth of what God’s word says. But what happens when we do this is that we speak the truth in love, and then the world around us shuts us down and condemns us. They make fun of us, insult us, and get angry at us. And we make the common sense conclusion that what we are doing is wrong. Instead of sharing our joy, we shut it in and keep it secret. But then Jesus comforts us with this amazing unnatural truth. We might conclude that it’s better to say nothing than to say something and be persecuted. But what does Jesus say? We read: ““Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:23 NIV11-GKE)

What an unnatural way to speak. Rejoice? Leap for joy? Look at the pictures that Jesus uses. Look at that phrase, “leap for joy.” I’ve married a sizable number of couples over the years. And I remember years ago a wedding I had. And the bride had invited her sister to be a bridesmaid. And the sister whom she had not seen in a long time showed up. And the proper bride with proper decorum lost all of that. She leaped for joy and ran out and gave her sister a huge hug. That’s the word that Jesus uses her. But notice how unnatural the context. When we speak the truth in love and are persecuted, they we leap in joy. Why is it that we are able to do this? For that’s the same way they treated the Godly prophets in the past. Ahah! There’s the joy. When we face persecutions because of our faith we recognize and realize that there’s nothing new under the sun. We stand in a long line of people who were persecuted because of the truth.

So my friends, when you say that you believe in the Triune God and are persecuted, then rejoice. When you say that you believe that all of God’s word is true and are persecuted, then laugh. When you say that God created us as male and female and are despised, then be content. When you say that baptism saves and are made fun of, then jump for joy. For they treated the prophets the same way.

Jesus speaks an unnatural truth. He comforts us with the unnatural promises of joy amidst pain and joy amidst persecution. But, as these words continue, Jesus speaks in an entirely different way. We read: 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24–26 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus speaks an unnatural truth. First, he comforts the afflicted. But second, he afflicts the comfortable. A good friend of mine has a dog. And when the snow came down in the winter night, what did the dog want to do? More than anything, the dog wanted to go out and play in the back yard in the snow. So my friend let the dog out. And after about 5 minutes there was the dog, staring in the patio door window. So he let the dog in. And then, as soon as the dog is inside, what does the dog want to do? The dog wants to go back outside into the darkness. Isn’t the same true with us. Jesus frees us from pain and persecution, and what do we do? We forget about him. Jesus frees from our sin. And what do we conclude? We conclude that he freed us for our sins. And Jesus shares with un an unnatural truth. He afflicts the comfortable. If you think that your full belly and full bank account gives you the right to forget Jesus and reading, learning, studying and growing in God’s word, then you can have your joy here on earth, but not hereafter in heaven.

So, my dear friends in Christ, what do we do with all this? First, we confess our sins. We confess the times we wanted to find joy instead of pain, instead of how Jesus says our life here is going to be: joy amidst pain. We confess the times we wanted to be let into the light and then, just as soon as we were brought into the light, we ran out into the darkness. And our Savior Jesus is faithful and forgiving. He forgives us and watches over us. He shares with us this unnatural truth: He gives us joy amidst pain. And he gives us joy amidst persecution. Amen.

Whom Shall I Send? (Epiphany 5)


Whom Shall I Send?

Power is impressive. One of the privileges of working in the garden is that, after dad was done tilling the soil, we got to go out and play in the dirt. We got to take out our Tonka trucks. One day, instead of toy dump trucks, we saw real ones. They were paving the road in front of our house. So what do you do when that happens and there’s nothing else to do? You go out and watch. I just sat there for many minutes watching the big machines at work. But then, there was the back-hoe. I remember seeing it dig a trench. And that huge arm swung out and around. And even though it was a safe distance away, for the first time, I could imagine what that machine could do if it swung out to me. Power is impressive. But when you begin to see that that power can be used against you, it becomes terrifying. In our gospel this morning Peter came in contact with true power as Jesus performed a miracle and it was terrifying. This morning in our first lesson we see much the same pattern. In Isaiah 6, we read: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1 NIV11-GKE)

All of God’s word deserves our attention. But there are some that deserve our imagination. Here in these words Isaiah sees the Lord. The real and true God that we worship—the same God that we all have wanted to see with our own eyes—that is the God that revealed himself to Isaiah in this amazing imagery. Isaiah saw heaven itself and God seated there in heaven. But then what happens? “Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” (Isaiah 6:2 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah sees angels. And these unique kind of angels, called Seraphim, were flying around the throne with two of their wings. But what were doing with the others? With two pairs of wings they covered their faces. And with two others they covered their feet. There’s a visual sermon there. Even though these angels are powerful and without any sin, nevertheless, when it comes to the Triune God, there are facets of their God they are not allowed to see and there are places they are not allowed to go. And as Isaiah sees this he begins to put the pieces together. If holy sinless angels cannot see some facets of God and if there are places they cannot go, then what about me? And as this thought is swirling around in his mind, he sees and hears what happens next: 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:3–4 NIV11-GKE)

The angels continued to sing this triple song of praise to the Triune God. And as they sang, the temple began to come apart. It’s important if a wall shakes and shatters. But when a load-bearing wall begins to fall apart, it begins to be scary. Bit by bit, moment by moment, Isaiah begins to stack all these details up and they add up to a very scary and fearful conclusion. There are facets of God that even angels cannot see. There are places that even angels cannot go. If they are holy and cannot go there, then what about a guy like me who is not holy? And God’s power is truly powerful. He could destroy anything he wants to. And that drove Isaiah’s mind and heart into a very specific direction. We read: ““Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah shouts out that he is a man of unclean lips.1(Isaiah 6:5 BHS-T)}} Here there’s so much that needs more time and attention in explaining. When Isaiah says, “unclean,” he does not mean “a little dirty.” Today we’d use words like viral, infectious, contagious. Notice how he speaks. He says that his people have infected him with their sins and he has infected them with his own sins. And my dear friends in Christ, what do you do with infectious diseases? First, you have to quarantine them. Second, you need to eradicate them. That’s why Isaiah says, “I am ruined.”2 (Isaiah 6:5 BHS-T)}} That is Isaiah saying, “I am as good as dead; I am as destroyed.” Because the God that his holy three-times-over cannot be in contact with infectious sin.

Now, my dear friends in Christ, before we look back at Isaiah and make fun of him concluding that he was over-reacting and being melodramatic, realize that he saw every detail clearly. And where he was is where we need to be this morning. Years ago I met a young woman who was terrified of being married. She was terrified because she knew that along with marriage usually comes children. And there was the terror of having a child and not knowing what to do with the child. But there was more to it than that. She was terrified that her son or daughter would catch her sins. She knew herself well. And she knew that if she had a child she would teach that child her own sins. Whether actively or passively, directly or indirectly, she would teach her child how to sin. She saw how infectious and contagious sin actually was. She saw clearly what Isaiah saw here. And what she saw and what Isaiah saw, we too need to see this morning. We need to shout out with Isaiah, “Woe to me! I have infectious words that flow from contaminated lips.” But what happens next? 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”” (Isaiah 6:6–7 NIV11-GKE)

What do you do with contagion and contamination? First, you quarantine it. Second, you burn it away. And usually that means burning the person along with the contagion. That imagery of burning is precisely and exactly what the Lord uses for Isaiah’s benefit. One of these powerful angels goes to the fire and takes one of these burning coals. And the same infectious, contagious lips that deserve to be destroyed are now burned and cleansed. In a miraculous way, instead of destroying both the person and the contagion, just the contagion of sin is taken away.

And my dear friends, what happened to Isaiah has happened to you. You deserved to be thrown into hell forever where both your body and your sin would burn forever. For what has come out of your lips has infected others. And you have allowed what others have said to infest your heart. But instead Jesus suffered the punishment and torments of hell in your place. But that salvation didn’t just stay there on Good Friday on the cross. No, instead, God came to you with his word, delivering that forgiveness to you, so that just the sin is removed and atoned for. And after that you are left standing. These words end in a very beautiful way: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV11-GKE)

The Triune God burns away Isaiah’s sin. And then what happens? The persons within the Trinity speak to each other. There is this great and glad task they have. They want someone to go out and share this forgiveness with others. To begin with Isaiah would have shouted, “do not ever send me!” Now he says, “send me, send me!” He does this for one simple reason: those who are forgiven are glad to share that forgiveness with others.

Let’s travel back in a sermon a little. What would you say to the young woman who was terrified to have children because she was terrified of handing those sins down to her children? You would tell her what the Lord told Isaiah: Your sins are forgiven. Your contagious words are burned away and you are left still standing, forgiven. You would tell her that there is no person better qualified to raise children than her. But that worthiness does not come from her. It comes from pointing her children again and again to the cross where salvation was won and to the word where that forgiveness is delivered to us. You’d tell her that every day her child will see you, a mom, who is full of contagious and infectious sins, who takes those sins to Jesus. There can be no better parent than that.

So we too, can and should start out by saying, “Don’t dare send me.’” Because our sins are infectious and contagious. But, let us end this morning by speaking just as Isaiah did: “Send me, send me!”

1 ”טְמֵֽא־שְׂפָתַ֙יִם֙“

2 ”נִדְמֵ֗יתִי“

The Lord Sends Us To Speak (Epiphany 4)

Holy Spirit

The Lord Sends Us To Speak

It’s your turn to speak. When I was a child we had “show and tell” in school. Just like you would expect, we would take something that was very important to us and precious to school. Then, one by one, each of us would show what we liked. Then we would tell our classmates what we liked. And the teacher would says those words, “It’s your turn to speak.’” And when the teacher said those words, there was nothing holding us back. But then what happened? We got a little older and, sadly, we realized that not everyone likes the same toys we like. And they aren’t afraid to let us know. For us as Christians, our Lord has invited us to show and tell this great gift, this great treasure of God’s word with those in our lives. But we soon learn the powerful lesson that that invitation is easier said than done. There is nothing new under the sun. In God’s word this morning we see that it was the same in Jeremiah’s time. In Jeremiah 1, we read: 4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”” (Jeremiah 1:4–5 NIV11-GKE)

In these words the Lord approaches Jeremiah and gives him an amazing invitation. He invites him to speak God’s word. But even more than that, he invites him to speak God’s word as a full-time work and calling as a prophet. But, instead of the pure joy we might expect, we find a different reaction in Jeremiah: ““Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”” (Jeremiah 1:6 NIV11-GKE)

Jeremiah responds to this joyous invitation with an objection. He says that he is too young.1(Jeremiah 1:6 BHS-T)}} It’s easy to look at Jeremiah and say, “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you see the great calling the Lord is offering you?” But my friends in Christ, there’s a little more that you need to learn. Jeremiah would be sent to share God’s word with God’s people. The problem was that some of God’s people hated God’s word and the messengers who shared God’s word. Later on in this book Jeremiah is thrown into a muddy cistern with slimy walls so that they get rid of him and put him to death.2(Jeremiah 38:6 BHS-T)}} The sort of opposition we face today is not the same. But yet we still throw up objections for not speaking God’s word, don’t we? Who will listen to me? I am too young. Who will listen to me? I am too old. Who will listen to me? I don’t know enough of God’s word. Or, if you’re in my shoes: Who will listen to me? I know too much. How many times have I had to answer the question, “why do bad things happen to good people? Will my answer come across as something more than memorized, treating the person as a person? And, if given more time, we could come up with even more objections, couldn’t we? But what does the Lord do with these excuses? We read: “But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:7 NIV11-GKE)

Notice how there were no excuses for Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a teenager when he was sent to be a prophet. Yet the Lord still sent him. And today the Lord has sent us too, as a congregation, and also individually, as Christians to speak God’s word. Your situation is a little different than Jeremiah’s. He was sent officially as a prophet of God. Your situation is more personal and private. You and Jeremiah each have different calls. But both you and Jeremiah have the same invitation to speak and share God’s word. So the Lord speaks law to Jeremiah, letting him know that his excuses don’t hold any weight. And he does the same with us. But then where does the Lord go? We read: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord sends Jeremiah out to speak with real promises. And what are these real promises? He gives Jeremiah a real promise of real protection. Now, step back and think about this a moment. Our promises of protection are always conditional and temporary. For there are elements of this world that are out of our control. But this is not the case with our Lord. He can protect us from harm. And whatever harm he does allow to come to us, he allows to come into our lives for our good. So the Lord gives him a real promise of real protection. But the Lord has even more promises to give: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 NIV11-GKE)

After a real promise of real protection, the Lord gives Jeremiah a real promise of his real presence. The Lord reaches out and physically and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. It would have been enough to say, “you have my word.” But the Lord goes the extra step. He reaches out and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. Why does he do this? He does this because Jeremiah is flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair. And aren’t we the same? Aren’t we flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair? So the Lord reaches out to us with his own body and blood, along with that bread and wine, and touches us too. He forgives our sins. He covers up and atones for our excuses and objections. He covers up all our objections to speaking God’s word with all the perfect examples of Jesus going out and reaching out so that he could tirelessly speak the gospel. So the Lord sends us out to speak. He sends us out to speak with real promises: Real protection and Real presence. But he sends us out with one more gift. We read: “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”” (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV11-GKE)

How sad it is that we face the temptation to be not just afraid of people, but also of God’s word itself. The Lord sends us out to speak with power. There is power in God’s word. Our role is not to apologize for it or protect it. Our role is to speak it. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous revivalist preacher once said that you don’t need to treat the gospel like it’s a pet in a cage, as if you need to protect it. No, instead, the gospel is like a lion. It can defend itself just fine. You just let it out of the cage.3 And yet, what do we do? We apologize for the gospel and guard it. When our friend at work our child riding with us in the car asks us a theological question, what do we say. We say, “I think…” We say, “I feel that…” Instead, let us say what the bible says. Let us say, “God’s word says.’” The lion needs no defender. The Holy Spirit needs no nanny. Such power the Holy Spirit gives his word. God’s word alone can create life. God’s word alone can create faith. God’s word alone can deliver forgiveness. God’s word alone can strengthen our faith and give us freedom from our fears of other people and fear of God’s word itself.

So my friends in Christ, the Lord sends you out to speak. Do just that. But speak with the entire context and encouragement found here in these words. Speak God’s word with God’s promises of real protection and real presence. Speak God’s word with all the power contained in it. And after that, leave all the results in God’s lap. Amen.

1 ”כִּי־נַ֖עַר אָנֹֽכִי“

2 ”יְשַׁלְּח֥וּ אֶֽת־יִרְמְיָ֖הוּ בַּחֲבָלִ֑ים וּבַבּ֤וֹר“

3 Spurgeon said this at the British and Foreign Bible Society meeting, 5 May 1875.

That’s not what I ordered (Epiphany 3)


That’s not what I ordered

This is not what I ordered. Years ago, I went to a restaurant. And there was table next to mine. And at that table one by one, the waiter took each person’s order. Minutes passed by and the food came. And the waiter put in front of one of the women at that table a big steak. And as soon as she saw it, those were the words she spoke: “You need to take this back. That’s not what I ordered.” There is this frustrating offense each of us goes through when we order and ask for one thing, but get another. That’s what we have in front of us this morning. In Luke’s gospel, we read these words: 16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”” (Luke 4:16–21 CSB17)

Here, in these words, Jesus shares with the people of own town and his own people good news. About 800 years before this the prophet Isaiah was writing to the Jewish people. The Jewish people had rebelled against the Lord so powerfully and persistently that he allowed the Babylonians to come down, conquer them, and then lead them away as captive slaves. But the Lord had good news for them. First, their captivity under the Babylonians would one day come to an end. But, second, there was even better news. The captivity they had to death would be conquered. The spiritual darkness inside of them would be forgiven. And they would be brought into the light. Their slavery to sin would not exist anymore because they would be set free. That is what Jesus said to them. And it was a good message. But what he said right after that was even more good news. Jesus doesn’t just tell them that the Lord would free them. Jesus also tells them when. Right then, in their hearing, these words are fulfilled. There can be no greater or more joyous message than what Jesus shared with them. But what happened next was definitely not what Jesus ordered. We read: “They were all testifying against him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”” (Luke 4:22 CSB17)

Jesus shares this amazing message of forgiveness with them. And we would expect “amens” and invitations to preach some more to flow from their lips. Instead, they begin to testify against Jesus.1. Instead, they were shocked at his words of grace.2 These precious words of undeserved love towards them that Jesus was sharing with them—that’s what they were offended at. They were offended at Jesus’ words of gracious love towards them because in their own hearts they had concluded that they had no need for God’s grace or mercy. Jesus didn’t order this. Jesus did not ask for or plan for them to reject such amazing good news. But, in what follows, we can be sure that they did not order what Jesus spoke next: 23 Then he said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’” 24 He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”” (Luke 4:23–27 CSB17)

What Jesus says here in these words are some of the harshest words that Jesus ever spoke. But, my dear friends in Christ, he spoke them in love. And, as we begin to look at them, what amazes us is how Jesus lets us know what we would not have learned if we read these parts of the Old Testament by themselves. There were many widows in Elijah’s day in Israel. But the Lord did not send Elijah to perform a miracle for any of those widows. Instead, he sent Elijah to the Gentile widow. And there were many people with leprosy in Israel in Elisha’s day. But the Lord did not send Elisha there. Instead, he sent him to the enemy of the Israelites, to Naaman the Syrian. Why did the Lord do this? Why did he send Elijah and Elisha outside of Israel to perform miracles. The answer is this: in order to appreciate the good news, you first need to see that it is good news. And in our final words for this section, we ask the question: How did the fellow members of Jesus’ church receive his message? 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:28–30 CSB17)

They excommunicated Jesus. Then they tried to execute Jesus. Now, for us here this morning, what do we do with all of this? Here in these words your Savior invites you Embrace what Jesus orders for you so that this good message has meaning. Jesus came to his own congregation in his day preaching such amazing good news, asking, ordering, expecting that they would embrace this message with joy. Instead, he got the opposite. We too face the same temptation. When we hear these words of forgiveness there should be joy in our hearts, but instead we face this real temptation to say, “I didn’t order this.’” We have this real temptation towards apathy. Apathy is where you should feel something—either good or bad. But instead, you feel nothing. Or, instead of apathy, you feel antipathy. Antipathy is intense and immense hatred. What does this look like? It looks like this: A pastor prepares a solid sermon, exposing sin and expressing God’s love for them in Christ. And the person says, “yeah, that just didn’t speak to me.’” It’s looks like this: Making the melody of the hymn more important than the content of the hymn. It’s when Jesus becomes our mentor instead of our Messiah, our cheerleader instead of our life-bringer.

And so, out of love for us, just has he had love for those in his own congregation, he exposes our apathy and antipathy. And we say, “I didn’t order this.’” But what follows is even more amazing. After he has prepared our hearts, he takes us back to the good news. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts. And our new person inside of us says, “I didn’t order that gospel message.’” Just as the gentile widow and Naaman the Syrian could not have every said, “I ordered and asked for salvation,” we too can say the same. The widow told Elijah that he could eat with her one last meal before they all died. And then they had many months of mini-miracles with food that did not run out. Naaman was looking for a cure to the disease in his body—that’s what he ordered. But instead, he received a miracle for both his body and his soul. He found the true God, the Lord. And the Lord does the same for us. None of us asked Jesus to be our Savior. None of us were able to save ourselves. None of us ordered this. But what we did not order, Jesus gave us. Jesus gave us a new heart to appreciate this good news. Then he shows us that he is our Savior.

And so, my friends in Christ. None of us can say, “I ordered this.” But let us all praise God for it. Let us praise and thank him for this good news that he gives to us. And let us praise him that he prepares us for this good news. Amen.

1 “Ⲕⲁⲓⲡⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥⲉⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲩⲛⲁⲩⲧⲱ” (Luke 4:22 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲉⲑⲁⲩⲙⲁⲍⲟⲛⲉⲡⲓⲧⲟⲓⲥⲗⲟⲅⲟⲓⲥⲧⲏⲥⲭⲁⲣⲓⲧⲟⲥ” (Luke 4:22 GNT-ALEX)

The Light Shines Out (Epiphany)


The Light Shines Out

We saw his star. What would cause and drive these learnéd men to travel hundreds of miles to find the toddler Jesus? There answer is simple: “We saw his star.” But what they say teaches us a very important fact. Our good and gracious Triune God is not afraid to surprise and shock us. He is not afraid to capture our hearts and challenge our minds. The wisemen saw the start and it drove them into God’s word. And then, out of pure joy, it drove them to act. In the words we look at this morning we see the same pattern. Through the apostle Paul, Jesus was capturing the imagination of his people and challenging their minds. In Acts 13, we read: 26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “ ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” (Acts 13:26, 35–37 NIV11-GKE)

In the words we are reading here in the book of Acts, Paul is a guest preacher in a congregation where there are Jewish people and Gentiles. And by God’s Holy Spirit he says something that should have captured their imagination and challenged their minds. He gives to them this dilemma: People thought that King David was the “Holy One.” But how can he be the Holy One if God’s word promised that the Holy One would live on and not see decay? They knew that David had both died and was buried. But yet, in front of them, for centuries was this shocking oddity—like a star in the sky that does not move. The Holy One would not see decay.

The Lord did this to capture their imagination and challenge their minds. But instead, it had the opposite effect. Some of the Jewish people ignored the words because they had no use for them. But there were godly, believing, faithful believers who failed simply because they ran out of energy. There are lots of words in the bible. And it takes real work to read them, ponder them, and process through them. And after a long work day or week, there was little energy left.

Is the same true for us? All throughout God’s word there are these parts of God’s word that capture our imagination and challenge our minds—like a bright light shining in the sky that doesn’t move. And, if we are honest, we have to confess, that, when it comes to reading and studying the bible, there have been times we had a lack of interest. But, more often than that, would it be better to say that what we face is a lack of energy? Years ago, I remember a guy who was became a leader in my church. He worked long hours during the day and he took an instruction class to join our church at night. And every time we met it was the same pattern: about a half an hour into the class, he’d begin to nod off. So, he’d get up and walk from one side of the room to the other to stay awake. As Jesus says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Mark 14:38 NIV11-GKE)

My friends in Christ, the solution to our weakness is not ignoring it. instead, it’s confessing it. It’s hearing words like Paul is just about to say to these people and cherishing them. Paul told them: 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38–39 NIV11-GKE)

How many sins have we been set free from? Jesus is the Holy One who died and yet never saw decay. He rose from the dead. So what Paul says is true for you: every one of our sins is forgiven—even the ones we commit when we lack the energy to study God’s word to find the light that is there in it. We are forgiven. We are justified, declared, “not guilty.”

But with that forgiveness also comes energy and zeal. The wisemen didn’t travel all that way to Israel and Paul didn’t travel all that way to Psidian Antioch on their own. No, they are just as weak, frail, and drained of energy as we are. The Holy Spirit gave them strength to study God’s word and find light, true light there in those words. And he does the same for you. So, in your life, what will that growth in God’s word look like? Will it be getting up earlier in the morning and pouring yourself some coffee and reading the bible in the morning? Will it be getting an audio bible and putting it on your phone so that you can listen during your daily commute? And when you find those parts that capture your heart and challenge your mind, will you email me or meet me at a coffee shop so that together we can an answer to these challenges? Will you set aside the time to walk through our bible study in Mark? So set aside time to plan our your year. But my dear friends, do so remembering why you did so to begin with. We study God’s word not out of a motivation of crushing guilt. No, instead, we study God’s word because there we find parts that capture our imagination and challenge our minds.

And so, as we read in these words. The light shines out. It shines out so that we would study it. But there’s more in these words: 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:46–48 NIV11-GKE)

The light shines out so that we would study it. But the light also shines out so that we would share it. Where is the time? Where is the energy? No doubt, that was a question Old Testament believers asked. And we too ask the same question. And if it was true when it came to studying God’s word, it was even more true when it came to sharing God’s word. As a congregation, God has called on us to reach out and stretch out with this gracious gospel of Jesus, the Light of the World. But it’s so easy to run out of steam and run out of energy. And the result then is that, instead of sharing the gospel, we sit on it. And when we ponder this fact it fills us with panic and sadness. But my friends listen to what the Lord says to us from our Old Testament reading: ““It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”” (Isaiah 49:6 NIV11-GKE)

We run out of energy and say, “ok, that’s enough” when it is not enough. But look what our Father says to Jesus. He tells Jesus that it’s not enough to shine out to the Jewish people. Instead, Jesus had to shine out to us, Gentiles. How amazing and precious it is for us that where we, with tired hands and hearts, say, “it is enough”, our Father said, “not enough.” And he sent Jesus into this world to take on our humanity. He sent Jesus to die for us. He sent Jesus to rise for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to create faith in us and preserve us. All this is the work that our Triune God did for us.

And where that leaves us this morning is with another truth that captures our hearts and challenges our minds. Jesus can do so much with so little. Think of what the Lord did with our own church. Someone else put in work, trying to establish a ministry in a prison down in Shakopee. And now I get to go down and share this light of Christ with them. Think of our Jesus Cares ministry. I and a few others in our church put in some work, and the Lord, purely out of his undeserved love towards us, blessed that work. And now, every month we have the privilege of sharing this gospel light with a group of people outside of our church. But, my dear friends there is more we can do. I’m quickly running out of time in my sermon and there’s so much more to say. But, in the days that follow, I’m asking you to remember two truths: First, remember your motivation. As a church we share the gospel out of thanks and appreciation that God chose us and forgave us. Second, pray for our church, that what we have so little energy to do, God will nevertheless accomplish through us. Amen.

Where Does The Law Lead? (Christmas 1)

Jesus in the temple

Where Does The Law Lead?

Where is this going? Years ago there was a child who was taking piano lessons. The teacher had the child begin by learning scales and memorizing key signatures. And the child was patient for a little while. But then, finally when the work of practicing was actually work, the child told the teacher, “where is this going?” The teacher had the child scoot aside on the bench and then played a beautiful, breathtaking piece the child had never heard before. The child then knew where this was going. And he threw himself at the work in front of him. This morning we look at two of the ten commandments. But we do so with a goal. We ask, “where does the law lead?” And God’s word will answer that question. In Exodus 20, we read: 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–11 NIV11-GKE)

In the words we are reading here Moses is with his people at Mt. Sinai. And there, through Moses, the Lord is giving the law to his people. And, as we are taught in catechism class when we are young, the first and foremost task that is getting done when we look at the ten commandments is that these commandments show us our sin. But my dear friends in Christ, that’s only where we begin with these commandments. They lead to an entirely different place.

So, at the foot of Mt. Sinai the Lord‘s people heard these words, that they should find rest in God’s word. But instead, in their hearts what they found was resistance to God’s word in their hearts. For, to them, the sermons that Moses preached hurt their feelings. And they didn’t like that. The bible study classes he taught were too long to them. But has anything changed? Every faithful preacher of God’s word has to deal with people who get angry when Jesus exposes their sin. And even before he gets in the pulpit, he has to deal with his own sin, Jesus poking and prodding his conscience because of his sin. And every faithful teacher deals with people who make time for food for their bodies, but no for food for their souls. There are herds of people who come into church, but hoards of people who rush out of church, not staying to learn and grow in God’s word. We, all of us, are the same as they were. God commands us to find rest in his word, but instead we find resistance in our own hearts.

When we see our sin, our hearts turn to Jesus. And this morning is an amazing example of how Jesus was different than we are. Where does the law lead? In us, the answer is often resistance. But for Jesus the answer was perfect wonder. What you have to picture when you read these words in our gospel for today is the boy Jesus at 12 years old who is amazed, enthralled, and fascinated at God’s word. And his wonder at God’s word is perfect. In fact, it’s so perfect that, when he starts sharing God’s word with the teachers and professors of the day, they are caught up in Jesus’ excitement and wonder at the word.

Where does the Law lead? It leads to perfect wonder—but not yours. The law leads us to see Jesus’ perfect wonder at the word in our place. The Law leads us to see our gracious, forgiving heavenly Father looking down at us and seeing not our sin of resistance, but instead his son’s perfect wonder in our place. That wonder that Jesus had forgives our sins of resistance. But it does more than that. It leads us to have the same awe and wonder as Jesus had. In the Large Catechism Luther says this:

when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devotion, and it constantly creates clean hearts and minds. For this Word is not idle or dead, but effective and living. Even if no other benefit or need drove us to the Word, yet everyone should be motivated by the realization that through the Word the devil is cast out and put to flight.1

The law starts out showing us our sin. But it leads us to Jesus, who has had perfect wonder at God’s word in our place. But he also, by his Holy Spirit gives us that same perfect awe and wonder. For we have this promise that God’s word delivers forgiveness, drives out fear, and destroys Satan’s work. The law leads to perfect wonder. But leads also to another place. We read: ““Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 NIV11-GKE)

In these words God was commanding his people to respect their parents for one important reason: God put them there in a position over them. And with this then, God establishes all authority figures. But instead of respecting them, they rebelled against them. At the end of his life, Moses has to call them stubborn and stiff-necked. For they despised his authority, and through that taught their children to despise all authority.

We too have to confess that we are guilty of this sin. We have not shown our parents respect as we should have. When we are young, either because they embarrass us or we think we know more than they do, we rebel against them. When they are old we ignore them because, yes, once again they are telling that story we have heard them say a hundred times. And all of that is the opposite of respect.

So the law starts by showing us our sin of rebellion. But where does it lead? It leads once again to this boy Jesus in the temple. If there’s ever been a time when you’ve been embarrassed at your parent’s weaknesses and failings or thought you knew more than they did, just look at Jesus. Jesus was perfect and omniscient. And yet, at the close of the gospel for this morning, we hear that Jesus stops teaching the teachers. He humbles himself and obeys his parents and goes home. Look at the pleasing work Jesus did for you. He obeyed his Father in heaven. And that work pleased our Father. He obeyed his parents here below. And that work pleased them. Jesus fulfilled this commandment for us, so that when our Father in heaven looks at us, he does not see our embarrassment at or our rebellion against our parents. Instead, he sees the pleasing work our Savior offered up in our place.

But Jesus doesn’t stop at that. Through his word, the Holy Spirit changes our heart so that that where there was rebellion, there is the desire to follow and worship and please our Father in heaven. And here in the fourth commandment is a beautiful way in which we can get that done. For it is not just work. It is pleasing work. God looks down when we respect our parents by listening to them and obeying them and he is filled with joy, wonder, and awe. For one of the best ways we worship God is by obeying the people sets up to do his work on his behalf. Again, we do this not to appease God’s wrath. Jesus appeased God’s wrath by with his pleasing work in our place. No, we do this purely out of thanks.

And so, musical scales and musical keys lead to the making of a musician. But where does the law lead? It leads to perfect wonder at the treasures there in God’s word. It leads to pleasing work—that I can work by respecting my parents and my Father in heaven is so very pleased with that work. Amen.

1 Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Accordance electronic ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 400.