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Freedom in Christ

Sermon: “Freedom in Christ”

Lectionary Series C; The Third Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Epistle Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-25


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

How do you define freedom?

This week our nation will celebrate once again that we are a free country. Ever since 1776, we have been celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. With barbecues and fireworks, we will gather and rejoice in being the land of the free and the home of the brave. As we do so, we ought to take a moment to give thanks to God for those who so sacrificially gave their lives and their service to afford us the freedoms we do have in this country. Freedom is not free.

How do you define freedom?

When I left for college in Chicago all the way back in the last millennium (it was 1999), I am pretty sure my words could have echoed the line from Martin Luther King Junior’s famous speech where he said, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” Now in no way was that because I didn’t like my childhood. But as my parents said goodbye to me with tears in their eyes outside my dorm at Concordia River Forest (now Concordia Chicago), I was ready to be out on my own. In fact, I had been ready for quite some time. I often joked that I had had senioritis since I was a preschooler. And now that college was beginning, my days of freedom were now here.

How do you define freedom?

The dictionary defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

This definition seems appropriate when we consider that we often view freedom as a license to do whatever we want to do. No boundaries, no restrictions, no rules. Now I get to call the shots and do whatever I want to do. And though that may sound awesome, is this the definition of freedom that we want to live by? Or is there a different definition of freedom for us as Christians to consider?

How do you define freedom?

Our text says: For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:1, 13-14).

In love, Christ calls us out of slavery and into freedom in order that we may love our neighbor as ourselves. This call to freedom in Christ is vastly different than the dictionary definition of freedom. This call to freedom is one of love. Where the dictionary definition would mirror the college student’s craving to do whatever they want without restraint, as Christians, we are called to freedom that binds us to Christ and love for our neighbor.

It may sound odd that freedom is being bound to Christ and to the neighbor. In fact, that may not sound like freedom at all. But consider the alternative for a moment.

If we are not bound to Christ and serving our neighbor, then what are we bound to? We are bound to the desires of the flesh. What are these? Well, they are broken up into four categories: The first group is a list of sexual sins: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality. The second group is a list that is a direct violation of the First Commandment (You shall have no other gods): Idolatry and sorcery. The third group deals with personal relationships with others: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy. And the fourth group is indulgence in sensual pleasures: drunkenness and orgies.

The apostle Paul then offers a grave warning to those who do these things: “You will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This should be a wake up call to all of us, should we be steeped in any form of these sins which were just listed. Should we be enslaved to any of these sins, we need to repent.

And the word ‘enslave’ is intentional. To be caught up in any of these sins is like being chained on a leash like a slave where Satan is the one who is calling the shots. And the end result if we choose to follow the lusts of our flesh is to bind ourselves to the punishment of eternal damnation. “You will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

God is here speaking through the apostle Paul out of great love and concern for you and me and all people. To live a life of worldly freedom where we think we can do whatever we want without restraint has its consequences. We may think otherwise as we are indulging in whatever we want in this life with its endless buffet of sinfully, gluttonous choices, but it will only take us down in the end.

That is why God calls us to so much more. So much more than a life of guilt and regret and consciences that are weighed down by the sins we have committed. He calls us to freedom in Him. Freedom in Christ.

Freedom is being released from the slavery and bondage of sin and the penalty of death that goes with it. Freedom is having the leash that Satan has attached to us cut off. Freedom is no longer being burdened by sin and guilt and a burdened conscience.

This is the freedom Jesus gave to us as He bled and died our death on Calvary, when He said, “It is finished.” The sin, the guilt, and the death that went with it, is gone. Done for. We are free. Free from having to earn our salvation by works of the law. Free from having to pay the price of death because of our sins. Free to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Free to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are free.

He has called each us to this freedom in Himself in our baptism. In our baptism, Christ Jesus Himself, the Son of God, bound Himself to us. It was then and there that He gave us His Spirit willingly and freely, because He wanted to. Because He loves us. And from that point on, the Spirit of the Almighty God has been at work in and through us.

We are now conduits, channels of Christ’s love. As Jesus says in the book of John: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

God calls you and I to bear the fruit of Christ’s love. With Christ connected to us, we can’t help but be channels of His love toward others. It is the natural outpouring of one who is set free by Christ to love Him and serve others.

And what does that fruit look like? Well, as good as the strawberries, cherries, and watermelons of summer may be, these fruits of the Spirit are far better.

The fruits of the Spirit are broken up into three groups. The first group is of the inner life of one who is led by the Spirit: love, joy, and peace. The second group is the work of the Spirit’s dealing with others: patience, kindness, and goodness. And the third group is in regards to the attitude of one who has the Spirit of God at work in them: faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

But here comes the best part: against such things there is no law. There are no limits to how much fruit you produce when it comes to the fruits of the Spirit. No one ever said, “that was far too much patience or kindness you showed me.” And what’s more, there is no sin in doing them and no burden of a guilty conscience in doing them either. And why? Because these are the fruits of the Spirit of the living Christ who is alive and well within us.

This is the freedom in Christ that He has called us to by the Gospel and enlightened us with His gifts. He has called us to produce fruit. He has called us away from a selfish life of serving the flesh to a life of contrition and repentance. Because we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. The price of Christ’s life. After all, freedom is not free. And it certainly wasn’t for the Son of God who bought our freedom with His holy and precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.

So, as we live in the blood-bought freedom of Christ, let us crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. Let us drown the Old Adam so that a new man will daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. As baptized believers, let us live by the Spirit and let us also walk by the Spirit.

And that’s how we ought to view it. Our life of freedom in Christ is like going on a walk with our Lord who joins with us to carry us to the cross and through the empty tomb. And all along the way, He is right there with us, leading us, guiding us, supporting us, and strengthening us so that we may love Him and serve others.

What would life look like if it were shaped only by Christ’s love? Love does what it does, not because it has to, but because it wants to. That is why God sent His Son. He was free to do with us whatever He wanted. In love, He chose to serve us. In love, we have the privilege of serving others.

So, how do you define freedom?

As Christians, our freedom is defined by Christ who freely bought it for us and bound Himself to us for all eternity. This freedom in Christ is truly something to celebrate. Make no mistake about it, when the Son sets us free, we are free indeed. Free to use our God-given freedom to serve one another in Christ’s love. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Outstretched Arms of God

Sermon: “The Outstretched Arms of God”

Lectionary Series C; The Second Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 65:1-9


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices (Isaiah 65:1-9).

Have you ever longed for the return of someone you love to come back into your life? Have you ever ached from the inside out as you think about their absence? We see in our text that God knows exactly what that is like.

We live in a world of broken and shattered relationships. Wounds of the past permeate our minds in the present. We can’t seem to get over the fact that what once was is no more. One who was once here, no longer returns.

As we consider our sermon for today, the image I want you to keep in mind is the outstretched arms of God. Waiting arms. Longing arms. Loving arms. Arms desperately looking to embrace His beloved children. Our text says it this way, I spread out my hands all the day.

All the day. Just think about that for a moment. God’s hands are outstretched all day long. Waiting, longing, aching to wrap His people in a loving embrace.

But our text reveals the unfortunate reality that there is no one for him to embrace. Just before our reading for today, it says in Isaiah: There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you (Isaiah 64:7b). No one calls upon God’s name. No one. No one takes hold of God. No one.

Here God is, with arms outstretched, ready to be sought, ready to be found, literally calling out, “Here am I, Here am I”, and no one comes. No one comes to God. Instead, they are a rebellious people.

Isaiah describes their rebellion in graphic detail. They walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig’s flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you” (Isaiah 65:2b-5a).

Those who should be following the Almighty God have traded Him in for a life of pagan worship and rituals. Not only were they worshipping false gods, but they were steeped in trying to consult the dead. The things that God had declared unclean, they were delighting in. But worst of all, they were literally proud of their sinful rebellion against God. Their arrogance dripped from their lips as they said, “I am too holy for you.” Too holy for God?

That’s what is at the heart of rebellion. It is to think that we know better than God. Oh, how blind the sinner becomes when one thinks they know better than God. No longer is sin seen as sin. Instead sin is delighted in, and even declared as something that is good, even though God certainly says otherwise.

This leads us all to take a good, hard look at ourselves and see where we have gotten too comfortable with our sin. Perhaps we don’t even call sin a sin anymore. Perhaps we have even become proud of our sin. Maybe we brag about it to others. And in our bragging and boasting, what really becomes apparent is that we are no longer ashamed of our sin.

In Isaiah’s day, there was no shame of sin. How is today like his day? Do we have no shame, no embarrassment before God when we sin? Turning on the television, scanning through the internet, engaging in conversation, it would seem that we are a people much like those in Isaiah’s day. We have become proud of sin, almost arrogant. And to what end?

In the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they both chose to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. Immediately, when they heard God walking in the garden, they covered themselves and hid. They were ashamed of their sin. They were embarrassed. And because their sinful rebellion, there was a consequence. Death.

Death has been the result of sin ever since. Everyone here is going to die. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true. Where do you stand with the fact that one day you will die? Nearly every time we have a funeral, I bring up the fact that this (death) is what we will all have to face. So, if death were to come today, are you ready?

You see, in our text God’s arms are outstretched to a people that He loves dearly. There is nothing more that He wants than for them and us to repent of our rebellion and come to Him and be embraced by Him and live with Him forever. Perhaps those of you who have loved ones who have wandered from the faith can relate to God’s longings.

To see the ones you love drift off into a life of sin and death aches something awful. There is nothing you want more than to see that person with you as you join in fixing your eyes on Christ for all eternity. But as you know, for those who do not repent of their sins, they will not be there.

Oddly enough, we live in a world that has adopted universalism quite substantially. That is the notion that everyone is going to go to heaven. But that is just not the case. God may be a loving God, and He is, but He is also a just God. Listen to our text which says right after the people say they are too holy for God.

These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their bosom both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together, says the Lord; because they made offerings on the mountains and insulted me on the hills I will measure into their bosom payment for their deeds (Isaiah 65:5b-7).

God is serious about sin. He is calling every one of us here to repentance. He wants us all to regularly look at His commandments. He wants us to examine ourselves according to His Word, not ours. Our word does not usurp His. You see, He does not want any of us to become subject to His wrath and the fires of hell. That’s why He tells us the truth about sin. Sin kills.

He knows that more intimately than anyone. He sent His only beloved Son who stretched out His arms on the cross of Calvary. It was there that he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).

Here we behold the justice of the Almighty God as His Son is pierced for our transgressions and He unleashes His wrath against sin upon Him…not us. Here we see the love of God on full display as He beckons us to come to the cross where His Son’s arms were stretched out for our salvation. Waiting arms. Longing arms. Loving arms. Arms desperately looking to embrace His beloved children as He calls out “Here am I, here am I.”

I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, and I will tell you again: Jesus is the worst at playing Hide ‘n’ Go Seek. He does not hide from us. He tells us exactly where He is for us. He wants to be found. He is in His body given for you. He is in His blood shed for you. His arms are outstretched as He calls to you in His Word, His Word that is firmly fixed in the heavens. This is where He calls out to you, “Here am I, Here am I.”

God calls to us once again today to come to His cross, to repent, and be forgiven. Turn from your sinful rebellion and live…eternally. This is the amazing grace of God, as we just sang:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!”

Through our text today, God has opened our eyes to see that in our sinful rebellion, we are wretches who are in desperate need of a Savior. The good news we behold in the midst of such sinful depravity is that God has not forsaken us. We are not left to be condemned. Listen to what He says:

Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there (Isaiah 65:8-9).

You see, you are those good grapes left in the cluster. You who repent and follow Jesus in His Word will be saved. You are His chosen ones, baptized into His name. There is nothing He delights in more than hearing your confession, because there is nothing He delights in more than delivering His forgiveness to you. He loves you this much (stretch out arms).

So as God's grace has touched your life today; now that you are no longer lost but have been found, now that you are no longer blind but can see; since God has brought you through so many dangers, toils and snares; since His Word your hope secures; since His amazing grace will prevail in heaven's joy and peace - how will you respond to His open, aching, loving arms?

See here this day that God’s arms are outstretched for you, all day long. Waiting, longing, aching to wrap you in a loving embrace for all eternity. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Who Is Your Model Father

nullGrace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Beloved of Jesus Christ: Today is Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day.  This confluence occurs every 11 years.  Trying to speak of the Triune God is like trying to put your arms around a sky full of clouds, or like trying to empty the Great Lakes with a one-gallon bucket.  It is hopeless.  Wasted effort.  We neither have the intellect nor the background to absorb all the fine points about the Trinity. It was for this reason, that Martin Luther fixed our attention in the Catechism on the centrality of God’s sending His Only Begotten Son-taking our humanity to Himself, as the Son of Man, and experienced our entire life, conception to death, in our stead, and for our benefit, being the ultimate, final sacrifice for sins at great expense to God

John 8:58 “Jesus said to them, [the Jews who desired to kill Him,] ‘Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM, is our text.”  That the Jews did not understand Jesus’ preaching is evident in Chapters 6, 7, 8. There is a stark contrast in their dealing with The Father.  Their idea is fleshly, thus a defective model, for their model lacks spiritual understanding, wisdom and truth.  It is works rather than grace!

In Chapter 8 Jesus applies the commandments, exposes their lack of knowledge, their faith in their being descendants of Abraham, and their unbelief all at the expense of the promises of God.  Adultery, Light of the World, and Truth echo “Now some of you don’t believe.”  For Jesus said, revealing His crucifixion and their part in it, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM HE, you shall die in your sins. [8.23,24]   Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world.  “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” [3.16] God gifted His prize creation, His own Son, offered to the world for the forgiveness of their sins, overcoming death, and promising eternal life.

He tells them that He will be lifted up [like unto Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness] and with the result that some believed Him. [28]

He continues speaking the truth.  In order to be saved, we must have the knowledge of the way of salvation, and the truth.  One truth that everyone must live with and under is that the soul that sins shall die.  We shall all die. Death is a consequence of the Fall into Sin.  In that Fall, God sentenced Adam to labor in the earth, and Eve, labor in childbirth.  They received the promise of a seed, a descendant, who would crush the head of the serpent and who would be bruised by the serpent.  To this, our condition, Jesus teaches.

The truth: 31 “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”[32]  “They replied, we are Abraham’s offspring [seed], and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, “You shall become free?”  We cannot appeal to Luther or to our ancestors or to earthly wisdom to receive the truth.  Faith alone receives the truth in the Word.

Jesus continues, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” [34] The slave is not free, The Son is free, in fact, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  The Son remains in the family; the slave to sin, who is not free, does not remain in the house.  Jesus, ”The Son, has made us free, through His death and resurrection. You shall be free indeed.”[36] This is the message The Father wants us to both hear and believe as His disciples in our life of faith.

Jesus “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring [seed]; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” [37] The Jews do not hear this charge against them.  They say they are not sinners, yet they desire to kill Jesus ignoring the Father’s- You shall not murder.  We are to be careful that we, by our behaviors, do not attempt to kill Jesus.  We can do this when, as baptized children of God, we walk like the world and according to the flesh rather than as Christians, led by the Spirit who are keeping the commandments by faith in God’s grace. The Trinity is part of our daily life.

Jesus says: “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.” [40] This is the sin of sins for Jesus.  “You are doing the deeds of Your father.” [41] The Jews reply, “We are not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.”  Jesus has already told them that He does not judge, there is One who both is seeks and judges.  The hardness of their unbelief is clouding their thinking, preventing their believing.  Jesus convicts them: “But because I speak the truth, [the truth which will set you free,] you do not believe Me.”  Now, dearly beloved, Jesus is showing us through these encounters, the Father’s heart for His possession, the household of Israel. He wants to save them, He wants them to confess, Jesus as Lord, but they resist, rebel, refuse.  Jesus asks the important question: “Which one of you convicts Me, Jesus, of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 46   Jesus is God, Sinless!

Dearly beloved.  Jesus says to us: “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason, you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”[47]  We either hear the word with understanding or we have no part in God.   John has in mind, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the Light shines in the darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it.” [Jo 1:1-5] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 14.  “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” [18] This we are to confess and live.

The Jews, in unbelief, say to Jesus, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” [48] This is giving a false testimony, publiclyThey despise the Samaritans as corrupted seed. Jews avoided all demon possession [and possessed] as being the work of the devil.  As Jesus corrected them, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” [49]   Jesus honors His Father, and our Father in heaven. The Good News is when we dishonor Him, we have Jesus’ honoring Him accounted to us as baptized children of God. We are forgiven. It is an awesome thing to give Honor which is due the Creator of all things.  We have that honor through faith in Christ. We are to live as ones giving Honor to Christ. Pray, Praise, Give Thanks and call upon Him in all trouble.

Jesus does not seek glory.  Jesus said, “I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” Dearly beloved God is the One who seeks and judges.” [50] “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” [Heb 11.6] God is the One who seeks and judges the hearts of men. He is looking for faithful, obedient followers who stand in awe of Him and His creation; who stand in Awe of how wonderfully made we are; who stand in Awe of His love for us in Christ; who stand in awe of Him who treats us as adopted children, with full the benefits of sonship, and who forgives us all our sins.  He gives us the gifts of Christ’s perfect obedience and His fulfillment of the commandments, in our stead, that we might stand in reverent awe of God’s grace and mercy.

It is TO he who so lives, that Jesus says; “Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” He shall never be a spectator at death, for he will pass into eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.  Now this is truly good news.  Even though I die, yet shall I live, is the promise of Jesus’s resurrection to us.  Don’ t be like the Jews. No simple answer, ancestry or excuse. Let us rather confess our sins and receive the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. This is God’s desire for us and the Spirit’s work in us.

They heard Jesus glorifying Himself. “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing, it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, He is our God;” and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him and Keep His Word.” [54,55] This is the Father I want. This is the God I want.  This is the One I want to love, trust and obey the rest of my life.  It is He who is to receive all glory.  How about you? We cling to the Son who is known by the Father and who knows the Father, our Father.

This is the One whom I can count on, for He keeps His promises, especially, the most important, the Seed, The Christ, Jesus Christ, my Lord, and Savior who has revealed to Me the triune God, His blessings of the person and work of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of my soul, and yours.  We stand in Awe today, that God loves us in Christ and makes it possible for us in repentance that leads to forgiveness to receive grace and mercy and forgiveness and hope and joy, and all the blessings earned for us in Christ, yea even heaven.  I do know Him, and I keep His word.  This blessing I also desire for you!   Read 58

Once more the Jews resist the loving grace of Christ. Jews say: “Have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and he was glad.” [56]  The point of today. Jesus said; and says to us, now, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born [that is had existence, had being, as each of us has] I AM.”  I am God in the Flesh. Believe it, confess it, and thrive in it. Heaven depends upon it. I Am Lord and Savior, the Anointed One come to redeem Israel and you.  Praise and thank Him for dying and rising that we might have eternal life.   Live to the Triune God!   Amen

He Ascended Into Heaven

Sermon: “He Ascended Into Heaven”

Lectionary Series C; Seventh Sunday of Easter; The Ascension of Our Lord

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

This past Thursday was the Ascension of Our Lord. It is a day in the church year that is all too often overlooked. Yet, this should not be the case, especially considering that we confess in the Creed each week: “He Ascended Into Heaven”. The Ascension of Our Lord serves as a bridge between Easter and Pentecost. But it is far more than a bridge. It is the coronation of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Perhaps when we think of a coronation, what comes to mind is a high school coronation of a homecoming king and queen and their court. Though this is somewhat helpful, it pales in comparison to what the coronation of Christ was like.

As Americans, we probably struggle to grasp the significance of a coronation. We do not have a monarchy. We do not have a king or queen. The closest we have to a coronation is an inauguration. And though thousands attend the inauguration of our president, it seems to fail in the realm of the pomp and circumstance as a king or queen sits upon their throne and the crown is placed upon their head.

In fact, as I thought of a coronation, the only images that came to mind for me were from movies. I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the books, and I love the movies. There is a scene at the end of the final film. The great enemy Soron has been defeated. The people then gather in victory at Osgiliath, the great white city, and there in the upper outdoor court, everyone gathers from far and wide to behold the coronation of their king. King Aragorn stands before the people as the crown is placed upon his head. And as soon as the crown is placed upon his head, the people let out a shout of joy and victory. It is a beautiful image to consider in light of the Ascension of Our Lord. Perhaps you have others that come to mind.

The Ascension of Our Lord took place in Bethany on the Mount of Olives. The disciples were all gathered round, and then Jesus blessed them. And while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried upon into heaven. And then they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God.

It seems hard to fathom that they worshipped Him and rejoiced. It has been my experience in life that good-byes are hardly a time for rejoicing. Coming from a blended family growing up, I have had my fair share of good-byes. My older siblings would visit for a month in the summer. That was often the only time I would see them in the year. And every time I went to the airport, it would rip my heart out to say good-bye yet again. Good-byes are painful. To endure a good-bye is like having a piece of you torn away from your body. At least that is the way it feels to me. I hate good-byes.

Yet the disciples were rejoicing and worshipping when Jesus left and ascended into heaven. It would seem that such an occasion would leave them downtrodden. Here Jesus had journeyed with them these last three years. They had seen Him die and now rise back to life. Now He was leaving again. It would seem that they would feel abandoned, if anything else.

But this was no abandonment. This warranted no hard good-bye. The Ascension of Our Lord to be coroneted as King of the universe was a time of celebration. And it still is to this day. As I said before, the Ascension of Our Lord is more than just a bridge between Easter and Pentecost. It is a bridge between heaven and earth.

As Jesus departed from this earth to take His rightful spot at the right hand of God the Father, He did so for us. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3).

Jesus is up in heaven preparing a place just for us. Just think of the love and care, the attention to detail, the great lengths He is going to in order to make sure all is prepared for our arrival. He can’t wait to have us with Him for all eternity, so He is making sure that our entrance into His house will be far beyond what we could ever ask for or imagine.

But He knows there is more to the journey that remains for us. So, Scripture also says that Christ is the one who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34). From His throne, Jesus is praying for us, pleading for us, bringing our requests to God the Father Himself. And there is nothing more that the Father delights in hearing than the voice of His Son. So, let us call upon Jesus’ name. He is our advocate with the Father (1st John 2:1).

As our advocate then, He exercises His authority and power for our benefit. Through the means of grace, through Word and Sacraments, Christ the King protects us from the evil one. Through the means of grace, Christ the King prepares us for His final return giving us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Now to our human minds, it often doesn’t make sense how words and water, simple bread and wine can do all that. To our minds it would seem to make more sense if Jesus would have just stayed on earth. But His being on His throne in heaven in no way diminishes the impact He still has here on earth.

The Ascension of Our Lord is in no way a retreat into heaven, but it is instead an advance of Christ’s saving work here on earth. Not by our own reason or strength are we able to grasp this to be true. In fact, all too often we take God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament for granted, failing to prioritize it in our busy lives. Which is why, just like the disciples who stood looking into heaven, we need help to believe that the Ascension of Our Lord is no abandonment, but it is exactly what we need from our King.

It is as Jesus told His disciples, Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7).

This is why the disciples worshiped and rejoiced as they saw Jesus go up into heaven as He had opened their minds to the Scriptures. They knew He was not abandoning them. He was sending them the Helper, just as He promised. He was sending them out to be His witnesses, to proclaim the good news of great joy that would be for all people. And all along the way, He would be there to help them, support them, equip them, and strengthen them.

And the same is true for us as we are called to be His witnesses. With the same Spirit that was given to the disciples, so too are we sent and clothed with power from on high. In the Spirit given to us in our baptism, we are called upon to Share Hope and Teach Christ in the confidence of our King who sits upon His throne in heaven. Let’s constantly ask ourselves, who in our midst needs to hear this good news of great joy just like us? A family member, a friend, a co-worker?

We are called upon to give witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Though His throne on earth was a cross where He bore on His head a crown of thorns, He is now enthroned and exalted in the halls of heaven. The great divide that existed between humanity and God has been ended. When Jesus ascended and took His spot at the right hand of the Father, everything was now done. Sin, death, the devil, it was all done for. This is the message that is placed upon our lips as we join with those disciples in worshipping and rejoicing.

We have a God whose work of redemption for us is complete. We have a God who is ruling over the entire universe for us. We have a God who is preparing a place for us. We have a God who is interceding for us. And so let us rejoice in our God, our ascended King.

This is why we gather here today. Like those disciples who were continually in the temple blessing God, so it is with us. Because this is where our strength comes for serving as His witnesses. This is where His Word and Sacraments are. This is where Jesus is at, our ascended Lord and King.

We gather to worship at the feet of our King whose final reign is now at hand. And it won’t be long and we will soon see Him descend from heaven with a cry of command and the voice of an archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God. It won’t be long and we will always be with our Lord. Praise be to Christ our King! In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

These Words are Trustworthy & True

Sermon: “These Words are Trustworthy and True”

Lectionary Series C; Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Gospel Reading: Revelation 21:1-7


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hear again these words from our text: And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

My goal for this sermon today is that you as hearers would trust in the Word of God so that you may behold the beauty of the new heavens and the new earth that Christ has won for you for all eternity. (Pause)

Trust, can be a difficult thing. We live in a world that lacks trust.

I recall a time on a servant event where I was asked to come forward and participate in a trust fall. If you haven’t done a trust fall, it is where one person stands behind another person, then tells the person in front of them to fall back trusting that the person in back is going to catch them.

Well, during this trust fall, there was an added dimension. I was blindfolded. After being blindfolded, I noticed that the voice of the person who was supposed to catch me, was no longer near me. I could hear their voice in a different part of the room. So, when it came time for them to tell me to fall back, I responded, “No way!” While everyone was laughing, I kept insisting that I was not going to fall back. Well, little did I know that the person who was supposed to catch me had had someone else stand up behind me to catch me. It was just that I couldn’t see that with the blindfold on. No way was I going to trust enough to fall back.

We live in a world of broken trust. Promises have been made and shattered far too many times, sometimes even by those closest to us.

Trust can also be misplaced. We can place a great deal of trust in family, friends, spouses, and even ourselves. But in doing so, we are so often let down.

It’s no wonder that we are taught to fear, love, and ‘trust’ in God above all things. He alone is the only One who is truly trustworthy.

Then again, how often do we struggle to trust in God? How often in the difficulties of this life have we thought that God has somehow failed us? When we didn’t get the good grade on the test, when the diagnosis was less than favorable, when the relationship fell to pieces, when the loved one of ours dies. In so many instances, we can fall prey to the temptation to think that God is not trustworthy.

In my morning devotions as of late, I have been reading through the book of Joshua. Towards the end of the book, God’s people have entered into the Promised Land. Now it was time to divvy up the land among the tribes of Israel. What a joyous time this must have been as they had been set free from Egypt, their forty year wilderness wanderings were now over, and now they could enjoy the land God had promised to their forefathers long ago.

It’s the end of that Scripture passage that I wanted to share with you.   Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. (Listen carefully to these next words.) Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:43-45).

Not one word of the Lord had failed. All came to pass. His Words are Trustworthy and True. God’s promises come to fruition. Every one of them.

What is a constant struggle for us though, is that God does not promise good grades, favorable diagnoses, perfect relationships, or that we won’t have loved ones die. On the contrary, He tells us in His Word: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.

To our limited human minds, it often does not make sense to us that in this world we will have trouble. As Christians, there are times where we are falsely led to believe that our life as believers should be better than others. We are tempted to think that as believers we should be rewarded with health, wealth, and even be free from trouble. But that is just not the case.

Trouble in this world is a guarantee. We are sinners living a sinful world. We can expect this world to be in constant decay. It was true ever since the fall in the garden. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they guaranteed for themselves and for every generation after them, that there would be the presence of sin, its effects, and death itself. It’s what we call original sin, and we have been reeling from the impact of that first sin ever since.

That’s why it is so comforting that our text for today invites us to redirect our attention away from the sinfulness of this world to what is yet to come.

Listen again: Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).

Did you hear that? This earth is going to pass away. We will dwell with God. There will be no more tears or death or mourning or crying or pain any more. All that will pass away. The new heaven and the new earth are so grand that John doesn’t even tell us much of what ‘is’ there. Our words simply fall short. Instead, he tells us what is ‘not’ there. All the miserable realities of this world (tears, pain, death), all of it will be gone, and we who are the bride of Christ will dwell with God forever.

John gives us a glimpse into the future…a glimpse beyond the Last Day…a glimpse beyond the resurrection of the dead and into the life everlasting. It was a view into the future after Christ returns and claims us as His own. It’s an opportunity to see that everything God said He was going to do, He did. As it said in the book of Joshua, Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

What wonderful encouragement for us as we so often get down and discouraged as we wait for these words of John’s revelation to come to fruition. What comfort to know that God has not forgotten us and will not abandon us. He won’t abandon us when the end comes, and He doesn’t now either.

Consider those Israelites again, as they wandered in the wilderness. Consider how they rebelled and grumbled. (Ever rebelled or grumble in life?) Each time they did so, when they repented, God was there to forgive, restore, and supply. He gave them manna from heaven, water from a rock, even their sandals didn’t wear out through those forty years of wandering. He gave them all that was needed.

So it was for them, so it is for us. We don’t know the length of our days. We don’t know how long our wait will be for the words of this text to come to fulfillment. But what we do know is that our God who is faithful will provide all that is needed so that we may endure unto the Last Day when we will behold what John beheld with our own eyes.

Consider the verse from last week’s service, which also happens to be our theme verse at our school next year: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).

Goodness and mercy. God’s gifts are not just one and done. His gifts are constant. In His Word and Sacrament Christ Himself comes to us to strengthen and nourish us to endure unto eternal life. And every time we receive the Sacrament, we proclaim Christ’s death until He comes again. We proclaim that everything He said He was going to do, He did. God is faithful.

Just listen: And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son (Revelation 21:5-7).

It is a done! His Words are Trustworthy and True. Signed, sealed, delivered. Not with gold or silver, but with the holy and precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. Forgiveness is yours. Life and salvation is yours. Your Savior has died your death on the cross, and proclaimed that “It is done!” Done for are your sins. Done for is your death. And done for is the devil himself. It is done!

This is the beauty you are given to behold here in the season of Easter. Because nothing speaks of God’s faithfulness more than the cross and the empty tomb. He is risen, just as He said. So, living in that resurrection reality, fix your eyes on Christ in ‘His Word’ to set your sights on the future resurrection glory He has won for you.

God’s Word is the lamp to your feet and the light to your path. It is your two-edged sword that fights off the evil foe. It is your bread of life that will strengthen and sustain you for the journey ahead. It is the truth that will set you free. It is your Savior Himself who defeated death and the grave so the new heavens and new earth could be yours for all eternity. So trust Him, He is making all things new, all for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Listening to the Shepherd - Pastor Gless

Sermon: “Listening to the Shepherd”

Lectionary Series C; Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 10:22-30; Psalm 23


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

How good are you at listening? Scripture repeatedly says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” God speaks through His Word, and the expectation is that we will listen to Him.

How good are you at listening? Today is Mother’s Day. Today is a day we celebrate the gift of our moms. Thinking about our sermon theme for today, as well as the fact that it is Mother’s Day, how well do we do at listening to our moms? As a child, how many times did our mom have to tell us to do something before we did it? What would our moms say about our listening skills if we asked them? We may not want to know.

How good are you at listening? Husbands often get put into the category of selective listeners. Often for good reason. Selective listening is where one chooses to listen to the things that matter to them, where the rest is disregarded.

How good are you at listening? In pre-marital counseling, I will often teach a couple about reflective listening. This is different than active listening. Active listening is listening in an effort to actively provide a response once the other person is done speaking. Reflective listening is paying attention so closely that you are able to repeat back to the person what they said, and then ask, “Did I understand you correctly?” If the message was understood correctly, then you respond.

How good are you at listening? Most of us would probably be forced to confess that we are not the greatest at listening. We are either too busy, too distracted, or we simply don’t care enough to listen to the person talking to us. Either way, we fail at listening.

Why do we need to listen? Well, think of it this way. Before the world of the GPS, and if you didn’t have a map, you needed to listen to someone give you directions. If you didn’t listen well, what would happen? You would get lost. The same can be said of a student who doesn’t listen to their teacher or a worker who doesn’t listen to their boss. The student who doesn’t listen to instructions will not do their assignment correctly. The worker who doesn’t listen to their boss’s directions, will not complete the work project well. We could no doubt come up with several other applications for why listening is essential.

Our text provides just that. Listen again: At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock (John 10:22-26).

The Jews would not listen to Jesus. Even though the works of Jesus had pointed to the fact that He was Christ, they still wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t believe His Word. So, Jesus made clear to them that if they wouldn’t listen, they were not part of His flock.

This should serve as a warning to all of us. When Jesus speaks, we are called upon to listen. He is the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. We are called upon to follow Him. But to not do so runs the risk of grave consequences. If we choose not to follow Him we are choosing to not be a part of the Good Shepherd’s flock, and that leads to eternal damnation. That’s why I ask, how good are you at listening? Listening to Jesus in His word is essential to our salvation, as well as our safety along the way.

Just look at what happened to Jesus. Here he is walking in the temple during a time of celebration, and a pack of ravenous wolves came up to pounce on Him. The Jews had no desire to listen. They had every desire to devour. In fact, just after our text, if we were to read one verse further, they picked up stones to stone Him.

Just like it was for Jesus, so it will be for us. But such attacks may not be as obvious as the one Jesus faced. It might be more subtle. Remember, the evil one works through deception. He is prowling around seeking to devour us to drive us away from the Good Shepherd so he can cast us into despair and ultimately, eternal death.

That’s why it is so important for us to be in the Word. In the meaning of the third commandment (Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy), it says, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and ‘gladly’ ‘hear and learn’ it.” We listen to God’s Word ever so intently so we can be wise and discerning. There are so many messages thrown at us on a daily basis that it can be overwhelming to try and weed through them all to figure out what the truth is anymore.

Ask yourself: What are the voices that you listen to? Who is speaking to you? Are they leading you to Christ, or are they leading you away from Him? Are you able to discern between the voices to determine what is good, right, and salutary, and what are flat out lies? How often are you in the Word to listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice? (Pause)

At this time of year, I can’t help but think about all those youth who will be graduating. Graduation is such an awesome time of celebration. But it is also a time of great temptation. There is such a great temptation to abandon the regular rhythm of listening to God’s Word in worship. The independent life screams for freedom, and all too often that includes freedom ‘from’ having to go to church.

This is why it is so vital for parents to help their kids by making worship a regular priority during the formidable years of high school. Confirmation is not graduation. It is merely a stepping stone in the faith. The years of high school are essential years to listen to God’s Word to fine tune those listening ears so that when they get out into the real world, they are fortified against the attacks of the wolves. Then, when their child does go off to college, parents ought to help them get connected to a local Lutheran Church that helps them to remain faithful to the point of death and so receive the crown of eternal life (Just as they vowed in their confirmation).

And this is true for all of us. We all need to be intentional about prioritizing  our time to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. The devil is working so hard to pull people away from the Shepherd. And the sad reality here in America, is that he doesn’t have to work that hard. He does it through subtle voices calling us to things like a life of greed. He makes us think that we never have enough. Enough money, enough power, enough stuff.

Our pursuit of greener pastures tempts us to constantly trade in our time to listen to the Good Shepherd. How often would we rather listen to the voices that tell us to do what we want to do, than take the time to be with the One who makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters? (Pause)

Our Good Shepherd knows how slippery the slope is to fall away from Him completely. He knows just how crafty the devil and his pack of wolves are. He knows the dangers out there, and that’s why He calls upon His sheep to listen to Him.

Jesus said: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:27-30).

Fellow sheep, how good are you at listening? Through His Word, Jesus calls each of you by name. He knows that far too often you have wandered from Him. Maybe you are in that position now. Maybe you are stuck in a sin right now, and you just can’t figure out how to make your way back to the Shepherd.

And that’s what is so awesome about your Shepherd. When you are lost, He goes out looking for you. He leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the fold to search for His lost sheep. That’s how much He loves His sheep. That’s how much He loves you. And that’s why He has called you here today. To listen to His voice. To hear that call to repentance. To confess your sins. To be forgiven.

He who called you to the still waters of your baptism still calls you by name. You belong to Him. His grip on you is ever so tight. You are wrapped up in the hand of the Son, in the hand of the Father, because they are One. And they have a hold on you. So fear not! The wolves are no match for your shepherd. You are held in His righteous right hand.

Jesus listened to the voice of His Father and willingly stretched out His hands on the cross to save you. The same hand that was stretched out on Calvary to save you, holds you. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and He lays down His life for His sheep. And you are His sheep. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need not fear any evil, for your Good Shepherd is with you. His goodness and mercy follows you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in His house forever.

So, my fellow sheep, listen to your shepherd’s voice. For faith comes by hearing. Listen to His Word. He will not lead you astray. He will guide you, guard you, and protect you. He will keep you safe and secure until that day that you will behold with your own eyes: The Lamb in the midst of the throne who is your shepherd, who will guide you to springs of living water, and He will wipe every tear from your eyes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Welcomed into the

Sermon: “Welcomed into the Presence of the Resurrected Jesus”

Lectionary Series C; Third Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 21:1-14


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

My grandfather was fascinated with native Americans and nature. He loved to study native American culture, and he loved to explore God’s gift of nature all around him. He was also a very soft spoken man who rarely ever spoke much. But when he did, he would share with you pieces of wisdom that he had learned in his studies or on his walks in the field or the woods.

Unfortunately, as a young, active boy, I was rarely ever interested in hearing what my grandfather had to say. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to study Native Americans. I also couldn’t figure out why anyone would navigate nature as slowly as he did. The outdoors were for playing in, not meandering about with eyes of curiosity.

From my perspective as a young boy, time with my grandfather was really…well…boring. In my mind, grandpas and grandmas were supposed to be there for me to keep me entertained. My grandfather just didn’t do that for me. Instead, he kind of kept me bored.

If only I could go back in time and knock some sense into my younger self to help him see and appreciate what he was missing. To help him to realize that in those stories of Native Americans and walks throughout the woods and the fields were truly some of the best moments in my life. To be in the presence of someone who loved me enough to spend time with me and share his wisdom with me…there simply is not much that could be greater. As I share this, I must confess that I do so with a great deal of guilt and regret.

It is quite honestly the same way I approach this text for today. You see, in reading it through and studying it, I found myself to be…well…rather bored. There was nothing entertaining in it. There was nothing exciting. Nothing that gripped me and said, now that’s going to be a rocking’ awesome sermon, if ever there was one. It’s just rather bland, if you ask me. And bland is boring.

I share all of this with a great deal of guilt and regret. Far be it from me, a pastor, to tell you that God’s Word is boring. But, I am just being honest. Take into consideration where we have just been as of late in the Scriptures.

We have witnessed Jesus enter into the streets to shouts of “Hosanna”. We have listened to the plotting and scheming of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day as they sought to kill Jesus. We have beheld Jesus wash His disciples feet and give them the Lord’s Supper. We have gathered at the foot of the cross and listened to Jesus cry out “It is finished!” as He died our death. We have joined with Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and all those who witnessed the resurrection. We have heard Thomas as he would not believe, and then Jesus came and let him touch His hands and His side after He had been raised from the dead.

All of these have been exciting texts to preach on. Entertaining texts as well. Today, it is just not so. Today, we hear of the disciples going back to work. They got in their boat and they caught nothing. Then some guy they can’t recognize at first on the beach tells them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They do it, and they catch 153 fish.

Now to those that fish, that would be exciting. I don’t fish, so honestly, it doesn’t grab me that much. What’s more, I have heard of Jesus doing that before. I have heard him turn five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for five thousand men, plus women and children. I have heard of him do that again for four thousand men, plus women and children. So, quite honestly, this text seems to lack pizazz. I am left bored with a simple invitation from Jesus who is on the shore by the fire who says, “Come and have breakfast.”

You see, it just seems that with all of the pomp and circumstance that we have had as of late, that the readings would keep the momentum going. It would seem that after the resurrection from the grave, the excitement would just keep building from there. But that is not what happens. Instead we get invited to listen in on a meal on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And what’s more, there isn’t much said either. It’s really quite a bland conversation. And bland is boring.

We live in a day and age where the demand for the exciting and entertaining is at an all-time high. We expect to be amused at all times, and heaven forbid that we might have to sit somewhere and just pause for a moment with nothing to do. But that’s not how our minds operate in this digital age.

Now that everything is a mere click away, we expect that we will be entertained at all times. What’s more, not only do we expect it, we don’t know how to navigate life without it.

I once watched a YouTube video, (ironic, I know, as I talk about the demand to be entertained). In that video a group of girls were challenged to a media fast apart from their cellular devices and other forms of screen time. What do you think their response was, especially for the first few hours? They freaked out. They didn’t know what to do. And the constant mantra was, “I’m so bored.” But after adjusting for awhile, they started to find great enjoyment in time together, playing games, baking. Plus, they slept better. They found that they didn’t have to be entertained by their phones 24/7.

If we are not careful, our so-called need to be entertained would have us miss the remarkable reality present in this text. I must confess that I missed it the first time I read through it. Do you know what that remarkable reality is?

Jesus is there. The One who was nailed to a cross to suffer for the sins of the world…the One who cried out to His Father on our behalf…the One who breathed His last breath, died, and was buried. He is the One who is on the shore calling for His disciples to come have breakfast with Him. The One who was dead, is now alive.

Lord forgive us whenever we would be bored with such a reality. And yet that is one of the top criticisms of being in church. It’s too boring. Why should we come to church if we are not going to be entertained? It’s the same old stuff again and again. There’s nothing new. The pastor says the same things each week. I’ve heard all those Bible stories before. Wake me up when something new comes along. Better yet, don’t wake me up, I will just stay here and worship St. Mattress.

Our necessity for the exciting and entertaining has dulled our wits to the beautiful reality of the resurrection. Just because we have heard something before doesn’t mean that it has somehow lost its shock and awe. A dead person is alive. And not just a moment where the person might have been gone and their heart started beating again. No, Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb from Friday until Sunday. There was no life in Him at all. Then by God’s awesome power, He was raised back to life. This is not bland or boring news by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet, that is so often our response. It’s why churches continue to dwindle in attendance, Bible classes and Sunday School classes lack for students of the faith. Somehow, there are more exciting things to do, more entertaining things to do…than be welcomed into the presence of the resurrected Jesus.

After all, that is what takes place here. The same Jesus who met His disciples by the shore after being raised from the dead comes here to us today. He welcomes us to simply rest in His presence, to be still and know that He is God.

Being still is tough. Just ask that boy at the beginning of the sermon who sat there wiggling about as his grandfather tried to tell him stories of Native Americans and facts about nature. Most of us could probably relate when it comes to the Divine Service.

What goes through our mind when the service goes longer than an hour? What goes through our mind when the pastor challenges us to take an additional hour for Bible Class and Sunday School? What goes through our minds when the service goes long and the football game starts at noon?

Yet here we are, invited into the presence of the almighty God just like those disciples were on that beach. And how often, like I said I was when I first read this text would say, we are just bored. As I said, I say this with a great deal of regret and guilt. Because I can say it’s happened to me too.

The selfish desires of the flesh pull at us so hard. It’s just so difficult to truly just stop and appreciate all that Jesus has done for us. And that’s the beauty of this text. It invites us to take a moment of pause. A moment to ponder what it means to truly be in the peaceful presence of the resurrected Christ. To know that everything He said He was going to do, He did for us…because He loves us.

And what’s more, He is here today to serve us. He serves us Himself. Though we don’t deserve it in the least, though we have traded time with Him in for countless worldly things, He still welcomes us here…into His presence. It is here that He serves as our host. It is here that He says, “Take and eat, take and drink.” And so we do. And once again our sins are forgiven. Our salvation is secured. And we may be at peace…as we are welcomed into the presence of the resurrected Jesus. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.