Easter – "I Will Sing To The Lord – For He Has Triumphed Gloriously" – Exodus 15:1


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Note: The first minute of this recording is blank.

hqdefaultThe message for this Easter day is based on the first verse of Exodus, the 15th chapter, which we have already sung twice – once in the Introit and again in the Gradual – “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

From the other side of the Red Sea, Moses leads the people of God in a rousing halleluiah chorus. This is Israel’s Easter celebration in advance of the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead. God’s incredible rescue of His people from their slavery in Egypt and His a
amazing deliverance from certain death at hands of wicked Pharaoh and his army stirs up Moses say, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously, for the horse and the rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Today, the one, holy, Christian church SINGS the victory song – for CHRIST IS RISEN! (He is risen indeed. Alleluia!) He has triumphed gloriously.

Today, our 40 day fast comes to an end and we “SING WITH ALL THE PEOPLE OF GOD, AND JOIN IN THE HYMN OF ALL CREATION.” “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!”

Singing “with ALL the people of God” means ALL the people of God – those who were before us and those are with us even now, and those who will come after us. It means that we sing this victory song together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven – ALL TOGETHER, “with one voice,” singing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.

In his revelation of heaven, St. John sees and hears all of heaven singing. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power… for You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…” (Rev. 4:11; 5:9)

John doesn’t identify any of the singers in this heavenly choir. But we know who they are. Continue reading

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Good Friday – "Crucified For You" – Mark 15:21-41


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I. Jesus Led Out Of The City, Carrying His Own Cross
A. Isaac Carries Wood Himself
In the 22nd chapter of Genesis, we read that when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only, beloved son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah, as an offering for sin, Abraham collected the wood for the fire and made Isaac carry it himself.

That Isaac would be made to carry the wood for his own sacrifice was God’s way of showing us how Jesus, whom Isaac foreshadows, would also carry the wood for His sacrifice Himself. And not only does Jesus look a lot like Isaac as He carries His cross, but the divine drama is actually carried out in the same location. Mt. Moriah is the place where the Temple was later built in Jerusalem. Just as Isaac had carried his sacrificial wood up Mt. Moriah, now Jesus carries His sacrificial wood down Mt. Moriah to the place called Golgotha.

B. Jesus Carries the Kingdom
This is most certainly more than coincidence. If nothing else, here we see plainly that the whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was loudly acclaimed to be the King, as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, carrying His kingdom on his shoulders. “For unto us a child is born and the government shall be upon his shoulders…” (Is.9:6).

Now, we see our King carrying on His shoulders the heavy price He will pay to purchase citizens for His Kingdom – a Kingdom that He will rule, not by power or might, but in weakness and humiliation and shame. This King rules His kingdom with mercy and forgiveness for all who will be ruled by Him.

Consider the burden our King carries here. Certainly the weight of the beam was heavy, even more so since He had not slept in two days, nor been given anything to eat or drink in that time, and that he had been beaten without mercy.

But consider especially that weight even greater than the heavy beam. Consider the weight of the sins of the whole world that He is bearing on His shoulders. Continue reading

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Maundy Thursday – "Take, Eat. Take, Drink" – Mark 14:22-25


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I. Jesus Offered Wine Mixed With Poison
A. The Poison Jesus Refuses

In the 69th Psalm, we hear David’s desperate prayer to the Lord at a time when he is in deep trouble. “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.” (vs.1-2).

And then with his ‘parched throat,’ he presents his case to the Lord. “You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.” (vs.19-20).

In fact, rather than ‘sympathy’ or ‘comfort,’ what David received from his fellow man, was poison. “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst, they gave me sour wine to drink.” (vs.21).

As the trial Jesus Christ, before Pilate and the Jews, comes to its end and the verdict is settled, the “Son of David” is stripped of the robe that the palace guards had put on him, and they put his own clothes back on him. (Matthew 27:31). Now, as was the custom for crucifixions, the guards lead Jesus in a procession through the city, then outside the city walls, to the place of execution known as Golgatha. Continue reading

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Palm Sunday – "Homage to the King" – Zechariah 9:9 – 3/25/18


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The Magi came from the east in search of a king. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” they asked. They knocking on the door of the royal palace, because where else would you look for a king? But He wasn’t there.

The star in the sky that they had followed from the East said to them, “this way. Follow me.” And they did until they came to a house in a village called Bethlehem where a man named Joseph and his wife named Mary and their baby named Jesus were staying. And when they saw the LITTE CHILD, they knew they had found “he who has been born king of the Jews,” which is a real stretch, if you ask me. But it was their ‘eureka’ moment and “They opened their treasures, and offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:2, 9-12).

The gold would come in handy for when Joseph would take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt for security reasons. Do you remember how, when Israel made their great escape OUT of Egypt, that before they left, the Egyptians loaded them up with all their gold and silver jewelry as their way of paying homage.

Now, the New Israel, which is located in this virgin-born child, is loaded up with gold from foreigners as He goes back into Egypt. It was their way of paying homage to a king.

But what’s with the frankincense and myrrh? Incense and spices like these were only used for one thing – to cover up stink. Frankincense and myrrh were particularly used to pack around a dead body to cover the stink of decomposing flesh. Continue reading

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Lent 5 – "Vindicated" – Psalm 43:1 – 3/18/18


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downloadToday, we come to the fifth Sunday in the season of Lent – which, if you like things neatly counted out and ordered is a fine thing to call it – but it’s not nearly as interesting as “Judica Sunday,” which the church has called this week for a whole lot longer. “Judica” is from the Latin, “iudicare” which means, ‘to judge.’ The ‘name’ for this Sunday is taken from the first verse of the Introit appointed for 5th Sunday in Lent – Psalm 43:1 – “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” (Ps.43:1)

“Vindication” is ‘judgement’ of a particular kind. “Vindication” is that ‘judgement’ that proves that you were right and not wrong, innocent and not guilty of the charges filed against you.

‘Vindication’ is the ‘judgement’ that clears your name that had been smeared. ‘Vindication’ is ‘judgment’ that is in your favor. It’s the ‘acquittal’ of the crime you were charged with. ‘Vindication’ is GOOD NEWS.

The opposite of “vindication” is “condemnation.” “Condemnation” is the ‘judgement’ that declares that you are indeed guilty of the charges that have been brought against you.

If you are on trial before a judge in a civil court, you hope and pray that the judge declares ‘good news’ and ‘vindicates’ you of whatever it is that you’re charged with. You hope and pray that your lawyer is able to present your case and convince the jury that you’re are ‘not guilty’ of the charges filed against you.

And as we ALL well know, these kinds of ‘trials’ take place in many settings other than civil courtrooms. They happen on the playground, and in the classroom, and at the office, and in the neighborhood – and even, maybe most frequently – right in our own homes.

Accusations are made, and with that, a trial begins. Evidence is gathered and presented. Some of it is gossip, some opinion, some is just malicious rumor. But it’s all presented as though it were fact. Sometimes the internet and the media are employed to persuade the jury. And men and women, boys and girls, children, husbands and wives, are ‘judged,’ and reputations are threatened, and friendships are questioned, and families are broken – long before the trial is over. And the accused cry, “vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” (Ps.43:1) Continue reading

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Lent 4 – "The Serpent on the Pole" – Numbers 21:4-9 / John 3:14-21


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Esteban_March_-_Moses_and_the_Brazen_Serpent_-_Google_Art_ProjectAnyone who has had to live out of a suitcase for more than a couple of days knows how fast it gets old. Traveling is exciting, but after a while, you’d gladly trade the nice hotels and restaurant food for your own bed and a home cooked meal. Nothing beats home sweet home.

Likewise, no one enjoys moving. Moving is one of the most stressful things in life, second only to divorce. But imagine that you’ve sold the house, packed the truck and set out for your new home. And a month later, you’re still driving around looking for it. And two months later you’re still on the road and you don’t know if you’re getting any closer to where you’re headed. And in fact, some of the scenery is starting to look a bit familiar.

And ever since you’ve been on the road, you’ve eaten at all of the McDonalds and Burger Kings along the way and you swear you’d rather starve than eat another Big Mac or Whopper. And TWO YEARS LATER, you’re still on the road, still living out of the same suitcase and still eating burgers and fries, burgers and fries, burgers and fries.

When we get to Numbers 21, Israel has been on the road, moving to their new home, FOR 38 YEARS. They moved out of their old place in Egypt because things got really bad there. They’re headed to a new home – a place that the DIVINE REALATOR described in ‘gastronomic terms’ – “a land flowing with milk and honey.”

But 38 YEARS later, they’re still moving. And every day, they’re eating the same manna and quail, manna and quail, manna and quail. They’ve made it every way you can make it – Quaildogs, quailburers, quail nuggets. Manna bagels, manna muffins, manna bread.

We read, “From Mount Hor they set out by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom.” We can’t appreciate the situation until we appreciate the significance of the geographical details that Moses just gave us. Continue reading

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Lent 3 – Jesus Cleans The Temple – John 2 / Exodus 20


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“The Passover of the Jews was at hand and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple, he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.”

domestic_cleaningproducts-575x382When Jesus went to the Temple, John says, He ‘found’ it to be a real mess.

I’m not sure this is totally fair, but what if, when you came to church this morning to fed and nourished on God’s Word and Sacrament, you ‘found’ that to get from the parking lot to the front door you had to go through a maze of merchants selling all kinds of stuff. And then, once inside the doors, you had to literally walk sideways for all of the vendor displays, and that long line of folks crowding in on the Starbucks coffee station – ‘make that a tall, non-fat, latte with caramel drizzle, please.’ And then when you finally come through the doors to find a seat, you discover that half the pews in the sanctuary had been removed to make room for the LWML ‘left-overs from the craft fair blowout sale.’ All while a boom box was playing praise hymns to give it all a feeling of spirituality.

Anyway, that’s the way I picture what Jesus ‘found’ when He went to the Temple, just before Passover.

And I know that some might say that all this is sounds pretty cool, and a sign that there’s a lot going on, and this church is really alive. But if you come here to confess your sinfulness to God, and hear the Absolution from the pastor as from Christ Himself; if you come here because you’re Jesus’ little lamb, hungry to be fed with His holy food; if you come here because you’re lost and frightened and in need of the comfort which only His voice can give; – then an ‘emporium’ is not what you want.

I think it’s important to understand here that when John writes that when Jesus went to the Temple, “He found” all this stuff going on in the Temple, it wasn’t as though He was surprised or shocked – as if He didn’t know. HE KNEW. And that’s why He went to the Temple.

Jesus doesn’t look for what is in good order or wait until we exercise proper worship before He is willing to enter and be present. He knows the deplorable condition of His Father’s house, and He enters it to make it clean.

He doesn’t wait for the sinners and the tax collectors to clean up their wretched life before He eats with them. He eats with them and in the eating, He makes them clean. Continue reading

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Lent 2 – "What Profits A Man?" – Mark 8:31-38


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“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?”

profit-and-loss-763x362A small businessman who emigrated to the U.S. from another country, kept his accounts payable in a cigar box, his accounts receivable on a spindle, and his cash in the cash register. His son, who had just graduated from a business college said, "Pop, I don't see how you can run your business this way." "How do you know what your profits are?" "Son", he replied, "when I got off the boat, I had only 36 cents and the pants I was wearing. Today your sister is an art teacher, your brother is a doctor, and you’re an accountant. I have a car, a house, and a good business. Everything is paid for. "Just add it all up, subtract 36 cents and the pants, and there's your profit."

If it were only that simple.

Jesus asked His disciples, “who do people say that I am?” And they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets. But then He asked the zillion dollar question. “Who do you say I am?” And Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

But it quickly becomes obvious that Jesus counts profit and loss differently than we do. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

Peter’s a savvy businessman and feels the need to instruct Jesus. Actually, he “rebukes Him.” The word in the Greek is, “epitimao.” The root of “epitimao” is “timay” which is a word that comes from the world of finance. “Timay” is the value or the price that is set for something. “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the “timay” the price of him on whom a “timay” a price had been set…” (Mat.27:9)

To ‘REBUKE’ is to publicly declare that the price that’s been set is TOO HIGH. When Peter “rebuked Jesus” he wants to ‘devalue’ the price that Jesus has set for being THE CHRIST. He tells Jesus that the cost is just too high.

In the Old Testament, the Prophets have to REBUKE the people of God, telling them that they’ve set the wrong price on the false gods. They’ve over-valued them. The prophet’s REBUKE tells them that their idols are actually worthless.

In the gospels, Jesus REBUKES the demons and the wind and waves that have overestimated their power against Him.
On several occasions, Jesus REBUKES His disciples.
• When they want to call fire down from heaven to fry the Samaritans He REBUKED THEM.
• When they try to forbid parents from bringing their little children to Him for a blessing, He REBUKED THEM.
• The thief crucified next to Jesus REBUKED his fellow thief crucified on the other side for UNDERVALUING Jesus. “Don’t you fear God?” he asks.

But our gospel today, which is also reported by Matthew and Luke, is the only time in the NEW TESTAMENT where anyone ever REBUKES Jesus. What Peter does here is unprecedented in the Scriptures – but quite common among us really.

Jesus hears the devil’s voice coming out of Peter’s mouth just as it spoke through the serpent in the Garden of Eden. And this second Adam did what the first Adam failed to do. “Turning and seeing his disciples, he REBUKED Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan. You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’”

Peter has ‘overvalued’ the “things of man” and drastically ‘undervalued’ the “things of God.”

The “things of God” are not priced the way the “things of man” are. “Having in mind the things of man” we weigh something ‘worth’ or ‘value’ and that determines how much we’re willing to pay for it. And if we later discover that it’s really not worth what we paid, we REBUKE the merchant who overcharged us, or we REBUKE ourselves for being so stupid.

But “having in mind the things of God,” we’re struck by the fact that this is not how things work at all.
• God sees what is utterly worthless and He pays the highest price for it – and then delights in calling it ‘HIS.’
• God sees what is rotten and corrupt and useless – and He “spends all that He has in order to acquire it.”
• God sees the poor and the widow and the homeless and blind and the diseased and the outcast and the lowly – whom this world declares to be ‘worthless,’ but that He declares, “they are precious in my sight.”
• God sees ‘enemies’ who want to kill Him – AND DO – and sheds His blood for them and reconciles them, and says, “you are my friends.”
• God sees that which is dead, and what is more worthless that that which is dead – and He pays the price to ransom them even from the grave. Continue reading

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Lent 1 – "God Tested Abraham" – Genesis 22:1-18


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“After these things, God tested Abraham.”

testI suspect that we can get no further with this reading until we deal with this whole business of God testing Abraham. What is this all about and what is God up to with Abraham?

The tempting answer is, ‘God wants to see what Abraham’s made of. How faithful is he REALLY?’ Because that’s what we would do.

Like when a teacher wants to know how much his students have learned from all he’s taught them he ‘tests them.’ How else is he / she to know what they know?

We’re all very familiar with testing and being tested. Nations test other nations to see how they’ll respond. Employers test their employees to see how much they can produce. Parents test their children to see responsible they are. Children test their parents to see if they can trust them. Spouses test their spouses to see if ‘you really love me.’ We all ‘test’ others and we are all tested and we know the pressure of being tested and always having to prove ourselves to someone else.

But none of that FITS when we hear that “God tested Abraham.” This is God. And God knows Abraham better than Abraham knows himself. There is nothing in Abraham that is hidden from God or that God needs to discover about him.

God is not ‘testing’ Abraham to see if He can ‘trust’ him or to determine if he has the right stuff for the job that God wants him to do. Continue reading

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Transfiguration – "The Glory of God in the Face of Christ" – Mark 9:2-9


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“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them…”

jesuslg1Three summers ago, Deb and I took a vacation out west and split a week between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming. Both parks are spectacular, each their own way. Of the two, my favorite was the Grand Tetons.

Only later did I learn that, at one time, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod owned a sizeable piece of property right in the middle of the present park. It gave to property to the National Park Service for free – something that, from what I hear, some old-time Lutherans in the Wyoming District have not forgotten or forgiven the Synod for doing.

The Episcopalians have always been much shrewder about these kinds of things than we Lutherans. They were given a piece of property in the Park on which to build a chapel which is there to this day. The “Chapel of the Transfiguration” was built to serve the employees of the local dude ranches in Moose, Wyoming. We visited it when we were there. It’s a rustic log cabin construction has a bell tower and wooden benches that seats about 60 people.

The main attraction of the “Chapel of the Transfiguration” is the large window behind the altar which provides parishioners with a full view of the Grand Tetons and is meant to inspire a visual object lesson of the glory that the disciples saw when they saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain.

No one is quite sure which mountain the Transfiguration took place on. One suggestion is Mount Hermon which rises to an altitude of 9000 feet above sea level. If that is true, it would mean that Jesus led the three up a mountain comparable to one of the Grand Tetons, which is quite the hike.

A more likely prospect is Mount Tabor, just south of the Sea of Galilee. The summit of Mt. Tabor is only 1000 feet in elevation which doesn’t sound like much of a mountain unless that area of the region of Galilee were like Nebraska or Iowa which would make it a sizeable mountain indeed. Continue reading

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