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Oh, to Have Been There

Sermon: “Oh, To Have Been There”

Lectionary Series C; Good Friday

Sunday, April 19, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 19:17-30


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

Each year as we mark this Friday we call Good, we sing the first three verses of the hymn, “Were you there?” We sing it as we hear of the rejection of Jesus, hear the hammering of the nails, and see the extinguishing of the candles. We sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? And with each verse we sing, it causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble. Tremble at the very thought of having been there.

What would it have been like to have been there? To have heard the shouts calling for His crucifixion. To have heard the final verdict. The innocent had been found guilty. The guilty Barabbas had been declared innocent. To have stood on the sides of those streets as the guards drove Him out of the city. To have seen them place that tree upon His whip-lashed back and force Him to carry it with the last ounces of strength He had in Him. Carry that cross to the Place appropriately called the Skull.

Oh, to have been there. To have stood on that mountain, the place where people were sent to die in the most horrific fashion. A place where death was put on display so that people could watch and tremble in fear at the thought of having to face the same fate. To have seen the nails, the hammer, and the tree. Instruments of a carpenter now altered into instruments of death to kill the carpenter’s Son.

Oh, to have been there. To have heard the sounds of the hammer hitting the nails as it rung in everyone’s ears. As it echoed throughout the land. To have seen His body hoisted about three feet above the ground. Just enough to ensure no relief for the one being crucified. To have watched the soldiers nail that plaque declaring Him the King of the Jews in three languages…a further insult of Pilate’s declaring that the Jews’ king had been crucified.

Oh, to have been there. To have heard the four soldiers divide his clothes into four equal shares. Then, to have heard them as they cast lots for Jesus’ seamless tunic acting as if this was like any other public crucifixion. No big deal. Oh, if they had only known that such a garment had touched the flesh of the Son of God.

Oh, to have been there. Imagine how it must have been for those who were there. Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary Magdalene, and John. Imagine the heart-wrenching anguish as they witnessed Jesus beg for His thirst to be quenched as His body began to shut down. Imagine the anger welling up within them as they listened to the insensitive guards cast lots for the clothes of the man they loved so dearly. How could they do such a thing? Then to see Him suffer so intensely and not be able to do anything about it…oh, how it must have torn them up on the inside.

Oh, to have been there. To think about being there causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble…as we come to terms with the fact that it was because of our sins that He had to die. As we ponder anew what the Son of God did do here on Good Friday, we are brought face to face once again with the reality that it is because of our sinful disobedience that Jesus had to hang there and die while facing the wrath of God against sin.

Oh, to have been there. To have seen Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted. To see Him dying on that tree. Even the mere thought of it sends an overwhelming wave of guilt rushing over us.

And rightfully so. We are the guilty ones. We are the sinners. We are the ones deserving of God’s wrath. Each wound He bore was because of our disobedience, because of our rebellion. Every nail that pierced Him was supposed to be ours. We should have carried our own cross. We should have been left there to die. It is we who should have been upon that cross extended…as we just sang: “I caused your grief and sighing, by evils multiplying, as countless as the sands. I caused the woes unnumbered, with which your soul is cumbered, Your sorrows raised by wicked hands.” Such a reality ‘should’ make us tremble.

Oh, to have been there. To have seen His eyes look ever so lovingly at His mother who had given birth to Him, cared for Him, nurtured Him, and now was forced to say goodbye to Him. To have heard those words of care and compassion as He was suffering so: “Woman, behold, your son!” Then to John, “Behold your mother.” To see a son honor his mother, love and cherish her in the last moments of life. It tears at our hearts to think of such a moment between a mother and her son.

Then to have heard Him say “I thirst” from His cracked lips as His tongue was cleaving to the roof of His mouth. The last drink that He had consumed had been in the upper room the night before. Then to have seen them stretch and raise that sour wine soaked hyssop branch to His lips, a branch of only about eighteen inches or so. We can only begin to imagine how much it must have stung…how much it must have burned on the way down His throat. Then again, its intent was to dull the pain from the nails having pierced the hands and the feet. Perhaps it did a little before the inevitable occurred. Little did those soldiers know, but they were being given a part in fulfilling the very words of Scripture that had been foretold long ago in the Psalms.

Oh to have been there. To have beheld His last words…the final words He would speak before He would bow His head and give up His Spirit into the hands of His Heavenly Father. To have heard Him cry out, “It is finished,” and felt the earth shake and the see the rocks split…even the thought of such a death makes us tremble.

Death is so hard to put into words. It is so final. It seems so unfair. And in this case it was. The innocent Son of God died a criminal’s death. Such is the justice of the Almighty God. He sends His Son to die in our place.

Oh, to have been there. To have seen His love poured out from that cross forgiving all of us who don’t know what we are doing. Loving us to the very end. Giving of Himself, not forcibly, but willingly, voluntarily. What He did on this night, He did with joy as He fulfilled the will of His Father. Here again tonight, we are invited to see that all reasons for our guilt have been removed as far as the east is from the west.

It may be hard to look at the cross yet again, but without a doubt that is where Jesus wanted to be…for you and for me. He wanted to die our death. It was His delight to do the unthinkable will of His Father and lay down His life for His friends. And you are I privileged to be His friends.

So, take a closer look at Him dying on that tree. Look into those wounds. See that in those wounds are our sins. Every last rebellious sin that we have committed is embedded into those wounds. See here 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 wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Oh, to have been there…and in many ways we were there. We were upon His heart and mind as Jesus bled and died our death on that cross. That blood that we see that He shed is poured out for us filling us with forgiveness, lavishing us with life, and saturating us with salvation.

To think of such unconditional love that poured out from Him causes us to tremble in heart-felt appreciation. We can’t help but be eternally thankful to our God for turning our fate around. To think that we should have died in condemnation, but now because of this perfect sacrifice of the Son of God, we are saved. No longer does the Father look at us in wrath. That wrath has been endured by none other than the Son of God. Now when the Father looks at us, He can’t help but get this image out of His mind. The image of His Son laying down His life on our behalf.

Oh, to have been there. To have heard Him say His last words, “It is finished” and responded with trembling tears of gratitude. How can we not be eternally thankful?

Even as we sit here two thousand years removed from this event in history, we are still invited to behold that it was this moment in time that changed the course for all humanity. When God the Father in His infinite wisdom sent His Son to die for His most prized creation, all of humanity. Then to think that even here and now, God includes us. He includes us in His plan of salvation.

Oh, to have been there. Tonight, we have once again been given the opportunity to ponder upon those that were there. And we are also given the opportunity to rejoice that through His Word, we have been invited as well. Invited to behold our Savior Jesus pour out His endless love as they nailed Him to the tree…for you and for me…causing us to tremble, tremble, tremble. 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.

Love to the End

Sermon: “Love to the End”

LSB Series C; Maundy Thursday

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Gospel Reading: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

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

The journey was near its end. The last thirty-three years or so of life had all come down to this. The hour that had not yet come in so many instances throughout His life was now here. The hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father. This is why He had been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. It all came down to this…having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

There He gathered with His disciples one last time for one last Passover meal. But unlike the other times they had gathered, this one was different. As the other Gospels proclaim, this Passover was filled with words that had never been spoken. Instituting a new covenant, a last will and testament was established. In, with, and under bread and wine was the body and blood of Jesus. There in that meal was the forgiveness of sins.

During supper…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus got down on the floor to do the unthinkable. He was their Teacher, their Master, and Lord. Foot washing was reserved for the lowest of slaves, usually a Gentile slave who worked in the household. Now it was apparent that Jesus and His disciples had not been afforded such service upon their entry into the upper room. So Jesus, in most unlikely fashion assumed the role of a slave.

We do not associate one who is called Teacher, Master, or Lord to assume the position of a slave. Think about those in high esteem throughout our land. Fortune 500 CEO’s, large company presidents, government officials. Rarely, if ever, do we hear stories of their assuming the role of someone of servant status. So it was in Scripture. We expect those with titles of high repute to be served by slaves and servants, not the other way around.

Yet, there is Jesus in humble estate, before His disciples. Dust, dirt, dung, you name it. Jesus carefully and lovingly scrubbed the sweat, stench, and soil off of His followers’ feet. It was an act of love that no doubt left most of the disciples dumbfounded.

Has anyone ever done something for you that you did not expect, or better yet, that you did not deserve? When I was in Kenya the first time, in the village of Duca Moja, I was awestruck by the hospitality. In both the evening and morning someone came to me and held a bucket of clean water before me and handed me a bar of soap so that I could wash my hands and my feet. They held the bucket of water while standing up as I washed while sitting down. Outside of the time when I was a young child when I was washed by my parents, I could not think of a time I had been treated that way.

When on one of the servant events with the youth to Wisconsin, during one of the evening activities, we gathered in groups in circles throughout the large room. One person in each circle of people was to volunteer. I raised my hand. Little did I know that I would soon be washing everyone else’s feet. It was something I also had done on another servant event with the youth in Idaho.

I can honestly say that washing the feet of others is a humble task. Feet are not the most appealing things. Quite frankly, I think they are rather gross. I think it’s why we wear socks and shoes.

The disciples, however, did not have socks or shoes. They wore sandals. Their feet must have been very filthy. Their feet must have been in great need of washing.

This is what Jesus does. But such washing goes beyond this break in the action of the Last Supper there in the upper room. It points to what was to come. The place Jesus told His disciples: Where I am going, you cannot come. Jesus humble act of washing His disciples’ feet was pointing them to Calvary.

A love that goes to the end doesn’t stop with one act of humble service. Jesus had loved them all the way up to this point, and He continued to show His unending love for them. He loved them as He prayed the High Priestly Prayer there in the Upper room on their behalf. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which you have given me, that they be one, even as we are one. He loved them even as He was arrested, as He protected ‘them’ from being arrested. He loved them all the way to the cross, and even to His very last breath.

It is as He would say later that night in the upper room: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

The very next day He would do just that. He would breathe his last loving breath for His disciples, for you and for me. In such love He would manifest His glory. He would allow Himself to be put on full display for all people. And there He would bleed and die. There He would show us what love really looks like. It isn’t about love and service of self. It’s all about love and service of others. It’s about putting the needs of others above our own.

Yet how many of us are absorbed with ourselves? How many of us only do something for someone else if there is something in it for us? How many of us when we are asked by a boss, parent, family member or friend for help of some kind are thinking in the back of our minds, “What’s in it for me? I better get something out of this.” Be it payment, applause, or accolade. We want the credit. We want the benefit. We want the reward. And if it isn’t there, then don’t come back asking for help again.

With Jesus, however, we see that He had nothing to gain by doing what He did. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. By wrapping a towel around His waist and assuming the position of a slave, He put His reputation on the line. But more than that, the love He displayed expected nothing in return. Notice He didn’t get done and ask the disciples to wash His feet. Yet, how sad is it that none of them offered either.

Like the disciples, we too have our limits on love. How often does our love fail? How often does our love end? Truth is, if we might have to do something that would risk our reputation or status in life, then we will most likely pass on the opportunity. Truth is, we make far too much out of what others think of us. And in doing so, we miss out on the beauty of serving others as Christ so served us.

This is why Jesus tells them: Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:12b-17).

Jesus wants His disciples and us to do what He did for each other. Not necessarily wash each other’s feet, but serve each other, and love each other. Put aside that reputation and love people to the end, with no limits whatsoever. Love them as He would display love the next day when He would humble himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.

And this is exactly what happened for many of the disciples. What He told them they would not understand until afterward, nearly all of them learned. Nearly every disciple would die a martyr’s death for the sake of sharing Jesus with others. The loved to the very end.

Jesus calls us to do the same. But like the disciples, He does not love us to the end with an empty love tank. No, He fills us to overflowing. The One who served His disciples by washing His disciples’ feet also washes you and me. He does so in our Baptism. And He does so here tonight.

The Master humbles Himself by wrapping Himself under bread and wine. Here He serves us His very body and blood. Here at His table He serves us His supper which washes us clean. Our conscience is cleansed of guilt, and He forgives us of all of our self-serving sins, for all of the times we put limits on our love for others, for all the times we haven’t loved to the end. Every last sin is gone, washed away forever.

The same blood Jesus shed on Calvary when that hour had finally come is what covers and cleanses us. We don’t need to fear what others think of us when we humbly serve as Christ served us. Our identity is not in what others may think or say about us. Because nothing separates us from His love, and we are not our own. We have been bought with the price of Christ’s holy and precious blood, and now we may glorify Him.

This is what we have been called upon by Christ to do…to sacrificially serve others. We put aside ourselves, our reputation, and our glory so that Christ may be glorified. We decrease so that He may increase. This is the love that is alive and well within us as we dine at the table of the Lord here tonight. It is a love that is never ending, steadfast and sure. It is the love of Jesus, the One who loves us to the very end. 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 Hour of Glory Has Come

What does glory look like? Is it being carried off the court after a last second shot was made? Is it being surrounded by those who cheer your name? Is it standing all alone on the top of a mountain that has been climbed? Is it receiving a standing ovation? Is it crossing the finish line? Is it walking out the door one last time when retirement finally comes? What does glory look like?

Here on Palm Sunday, it may look similar to what we think when it comes to glory. Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem in an atmosphere of glory and great excitement. It was the time of the Passover, and word had gotten out about the latest miracle Jesus had performed. He had raised Lazarus from the dead. Now he was coming into Jerusalem, and the crowds wanted to see if this was the man who would be the promised Messiah.

So, they took off their cloaks and laid them on the ground. They grabbed palm branches and waived them in the air. And all the while people were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” But such a moment of glory would not last.

As we gather here on Palm Sunday two thousand years removed from that first Palm Sunday, we know what took place next. The “Hosannas” faded away. The time would soon come when cries calling for His crucifixion would echo throughout the land.

Palm Sunday may be a joyous day, but it is a somber day of joy. Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The Hour of Glory has Come. The days of Lent are drawing to a close. The time is now at hand.

In the days coming, Jesus would have all His dignity and reputation stripped of Him. The authorities would try him, beat him, and whip him. The sole goal would be to shame Him and demoralize Him. Spit would drip from his face and blood would flow from His back.

The whip the soldiers would have used would have most likely have had pieces of bone or metal or glass embedded in the leather. The whole goal was so that the prisoners’ flesh would be ripped away with each crack of the whip. This would bruise or perhaps even expose the prisoner’s vital organs.

Such torture wasn’t done though. The prisoner then would be forced to carry their own cross out of the town to be put on display for people to see as they came in the city. It was a visual symbol not to mess with the local law.

Once they arrived, the soldiers would drive nails in between the bones below the wrist so that prisoner would remain secure on the cross. Normally, the prisoner would be on that cross for days before death would finally take hold. But not for Jesus. We know from Scripture that He died that same day, probably from all of the blood lost beforehand.

Why should we take time to process a few of the graphic details of a crucifixion? Because that is what the image of glory looks like. When Jesus said that the hour of glory had come, He did not mean that He was looking forward to accolades and applause. He was looking forward to His death. And His death was not pretty at all. But it was most certainly glorious.

It was as Isaiah foretold: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

This is what glory looks like. It’s not in applause, accolades, or atta-boys and atta-girls. Glory comes in sacrifice. Glory comes in suffering and death. The suffering and death of Jesus. He is the glorious One. We are not.

For those of us who are consumed with worldly glory, let this be a reality check. Because all of those trophies and accolades we strive after so hard will all fade away and be forgotten. The only lasting, eternal glory comes in Christ. The One who died for us.

Scripture tells us to “Fix our eyes upon Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” But we sinners only want to look at ourselves. “What’s in it for me?” “Look at me.”

Many of you know that I love the game of basketball. However, I really struggle to see what the game has become. At the professional level especially, there is so much focus on the individual. Though the line goes: “There is no “I” in “Team,” you would not know it if you watched the game. Fundamentals like passing and simple plays to work together for the sake of the team have been thrown aside for isolation ball, where the focus is on one player to get the spotlight. Unfortunately, this mentality has also trickled down into the lower levels as well. The concept of sacrifice and service is lost in a sea of self-glorification. And for what…a trophy that will collect dust somewhere and be forgotten.

That is why for our catechumens who will be going through the Rite of First Communion today, we need to ever keep before them, and before ourselves, what it truly means to live the life of a Christian. It has nothing to do with the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. It has everything to do with Jesus. I really appreciate the prayer: “Lord, may I decrease, so that you may increase.” But, that’s really hard to live out when we are so focused on ourselves and our own personal glory.

Our text tells us, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

So, what will it take to live these verses out? What will it take to truly follow Jesus? What do we tell our catechumens who are going through the Rite of First Communion today if we desire them to “remain faithful to the point of death and so receive the crown of life?”

As we consider the glory of Jesus here today, let’s be honest and admit that the life of a Christian is going to be tough. It’s marked with suffering and death. What’s more, the devil is going to prowl like a roaring lion seeking to devour each of us. With every ounce of his being, he is going to try and keep us away from where God is located. The last place the devil wants us is here in God’s house receiving what we truly need. He is going to do whatever it takes to convince us that our sins are either too big to be forgiven, or they are not that big of a deal. Either way, he is going to lie to try and separate us from Jesus.

And for that reason, what we need every day is to join with those Greeks from our text who said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” No matter how hard it may be to look at Him arrayed in all of His glory on that cross and be faced with the reality of our own selfish, sinfulness that put Him there, we need Him. We are dependent upon Him for survival.

That’s why we need His Holy Supper again and again and again. Constantly. Think of it this way (and many of you have probably heard me say this before): how long can we survive without food? If I asked the teenagers here, they might say, about 20 minutes. No matter how long we say, it is most certainly true that we need food to survive. And so it is that we need to body and blood of Christ if we are to survive unto eternal life.

So, here today, our catechumens will be receiving the body and blood of Jesus for the first time. And I know, the bread won’t taste like much at all and the wine may not taste all that good. But, is that really what matters? What matters is that Christ instituted this Sacrament by joining His Word to bread and wine to deliver to us the forgiveness of sins. Because He knows that’s what we need.

And the good news as we gather here today is that we don’t have to go searching for it. The Greeks in our text were looking for Jesus. That’s not the case with us. We know exactly where to find Him. As I have said before, Jesus is the worst at Hide-n-Seek. He is exactly where He says He would be. He is in His Word and Sacraments. This is where He is ‘for you’ in all of His glory. This is where He shares His glory with us by giving us Himself.

This is where we proclaim His death until He comes again. And what a glorious day that will be when that hour finally comes. Christ will descend. The trumpets will sound. The dead in Christ will be raised. We who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and we will always be with the Lord. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the ‘glory’ of God the Father. 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.

The Great Reversal - Pastor Gless

To what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want? Let me repeat that question. To what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want?

Today’s text gives us glimpse into what is most likely the Tuesday of Holy Week, before we begin the journey of Holy Week. And what we see is that the religious leaders were willing to go to any length necessary to get what they wanted. They wanted Jesus to be done for, at any cost. So, they set out to try and trip Jesus up so that they could do away with Him. Then, and only then, they thought the nation of Israel would be theirs again, and all the power to go with it.

Before their moment of so-called triumph though, Jesus called them out with a parable. It’s called: The parable of the wicked tenants.

Our text tells us that there was a man who planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants. The man is God. The vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders.

The man went away for a long time, but when harvest came, he sent a series of servants to receive his share of the produce, since he was the owner. These servants that were sent were the Old Testament prophets sent to Israel to proclaim a message of repentance. But instead of being received well by the tenants, they were all brutally abused. The first one they beat and sent away. The second one they beat, treated shamefully, and then sent him away. The third one they wounded and cast out.

The owner proceeded then to ask himself what he should do. He resolved to send his beloved son thinking they would respect him. But instead of respecting him, they saw it as an opportunity to seize the inheritance. The tenants concluded that since the son was being sent, this must mean that the owner had died. They thought the son was coming to collect his inheritance.

So, the tenants gathered together and devised a plan. A sick and sinister plan. A wicked plan. They surmised that if they would kill the son, the land would become ownerless. The tenants could then claim squatters’ rights and press for ownership. Then the vineyard would be theirs.

So, that is what they did. They threw the beloved son out of the vineyard and killed him. But the owner was not dead as they had presumed. So, in response to this heinous act, the owner decided that he would come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Pause)

When those listening to Jesus heard this parable come to its conclusion, they were not impressed at all. But Jesus still pressed forward citing a passage from Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

A stone can be stumbled over and a stone can crush. Either way, it is an image of judgment. And so is this parable. It is a message of judgment against the chief priests, scribes, and elders who constantly rejected Jesus and His authority by failing to see their need for repentance.

But instead of repenting when they were shown their sins yet again, their rejection of Jesus only boiled over. They sought to seize Him at that very moment because they knew this parable He had spoken was told against them. But knowing that the time wasn’t quite right with all the people still gathered around supporting him, they focused their attention on trying to set Him up. They gathered together and devised a plan. A sick and sinister plan. A wicked plan. They would send out spies who would pretend to be sincere, in hopes that they could catch him in something that he said, and then turn him over to the jurisdiction of the governor. (Pause)

To what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want? The religious leaders in Jerusalem revealed that they were willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to get what they wanted. Even Caiaphas, the chief priest, said: “If we let Jesus go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” So, they made clear that they were willing to kill to get what they wanted.

To what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want? The Bible makes clear that as human beings, our sins begin as a desire. And those wants and desires are born and bred from a sinful, selfish heart. So, to what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want? Will you sacrifice your moral convictions? Will you sell someone else out? Will you skip Sunday services? Will you hide something in hopes of not being caught? Will you cheat someone out of what is rightfully theirs? Will you bribe someone to get your own way?

To what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want? Recently, the news has been swamped with stories about celebrities who used their wealth to bribe their way to get what they wanted. And what they wanted was for their kids to be able to go to college at prestigious schools. So, be it that they used their position as past-donors, or that they promised to be future donors, either way, they were showing the extent they were willing to go to in order to get what they wanted…and it is going to cost them legally in the long run.

But it doesn’t stop with bribery. This week someone killed four people in Mandan, North Dakota. Why? I can only guess it was to try and get what they wanted. Why did someone kill a college student in South Carolina? It must have been to get what they wanted.

To what extent are you willing to go, to get what you want? Little did the religious leaders know, that what they wanted would be the very instrument that God would use to carry out His plan of salvation. This is how marvelous our God is. He takes what is evil, and reverses its very purpose and uses it for good. What was about to happen only three days later, was the most remarkable 180 degree turn that has ever taken place.

Just think about it. Next week, we are going to behold the intensification of Satan’s forces as he used the religious establishment to accomplish his goal. The religious leaders would continue to seek Jesus to put him to death. They would breathe down his very neck with every step that He would take. Then Satan would enter into Judas who would then offer to turn Jesus over. All to the delight of those religious leaders as they looked forward to taking Jesus down.

And that is what they did. Those same leaders would soon mock Him, beat Him, falsely accuse Him, drag him off to Pilate, call for the release of Barabbas over Him, and then lead the people in the chant calling for His crucifixion.

Just like the son in the parable of the wicked tenants who was thrown out of the vineyard and killed, so it was for Jesus. He was thrown out of Jerusalem carrying His own cross, nailed to it, and left for dead.

It is no wonder that Jesus wept over Jerusalem as Holy Week began. These were His people, His family, His church, and they all rejected Him.

For the Jews, their fate would come just as the parable foretold. In A.D. 70, Jerusalem would be destroyed, and not one stone would be left upon another. All that they had wanted, and were willing to do anything to get their hands on, would be left in a pile of rubble.

Indeed, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” But as the Psalm continues, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

What is such a sad story of rejection by the religious establishment two thousand years ago is what we cling to as the hope of our salvation. As we prepare to enter into Holy Week, we are once again brought face to face with the Greatest Reversal. God reversed a plan meant for evil and He made it good.

In fact the day it all came to its climax, is even called Good. Good Friday. It is good because the death of Jesus should have been our death. We should have been left there to breathe our last…to be left to face eternal condemnation. But we have a God whose goodness was manifested in the sending of His Son to die in our place…to reverse our fate away from eternal condemnation.

Jesus revealed that He was willing to do whatever it took to get what He wanted. Jesus didn’t kill, but with the greatest reversal, He laid down His life to get what He wanted…you. Jesus wanted nothing more than for you to be with Him for all eternity. So, He did what it took by dying your death.

As we prepare for Holy Week, we are given this text to ponder the severity of what it truly means to reject Jesus. And we are also given the opportunity to ponder the great extent Jesus went to in order to save us from our sinful, selfish wants and desires and the death that goes with it.

In the greatest reversal, He takes what is ours and places it upon Himself. And then what is His, becomes ours. His perfect life, His death, His resurrection. All of it. Because everything He did, He did for us. Because He wanted to. Because He loves us.

So, instead of condemnation, we get salvation. Instead of death, we get life. Instead of hell, we get heaven. Thanks be to God for His great reversal He won for us! Amen.

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

"The Father's Love" -Pastor Gless

Rejoice! That is the theme of this Sunday in this penitential season of Lent. It is important for us as we navigate this season confessing our sins that there is great reason to rejoice. We do not confess our sins with no hope of love and forgiveness. Rather, we confess our sins in the confidence that we will be forgiven and nothing separates us from God’s love.

The parable of the prodigal son shows us that we have great reason to rejoice in the Father’s love for us. In fact, the parable might be more appropriately called ‘the parable of the prodigal father’. Because even though the younger son went and lived a scandalous, reckless life for awhile, it is the father who is both scandalous and reckless in his love for both of his sons.

We begin with the younger son. Now here was a young man who obviously despised his family and most certainly his father. And the request that he was about to make was by no means random. It was planned. He had thought it through long and hard, and even though it was audacious by every stretch of the imagination, his disdain for life with his family usurped any such sensible reason.

Picture this: the young man walks into his father’s room and says, “Dad, I wish you were dead.” Oh, the text may say that he demanded his inheritance, but to receive an inheritance means what? The father must first die.

Though it may be hard to fathom speaking to our father in that way, if any of us have ever resented, begrudged, or even hated our parents, we can relate. Maybe it was because of jealousy because of favorable treatment they showed a sibling but not you. Maybe it was just because you didn’t like them telling you what to do.

At any rate, the remarkable response of the father to his son’s ridiculous request is that he didn’t hesitate to give it to him. His son just made the demand and the father gave it to him. No conditions whatsoever, he just gave it to him.

Now it should be noted that this would not have been a cash payout. This would have been a very public affair. From selling land, to bringing in grain and livestock to sell. It would have been a public disgrace to this family. Yet the father allowed it to happen.

And the younger son was in no way done disgracing his father’s family. He went and used his father’s wealth in reckless living. We don’t know what that included, but we can certainly imagine.

But that life of reckless living quickly changed when the money ran out. No doubt the entourage of so-called friends he had following him quickly vanished. And it was not long and he was alone. Alone and broke. Forced to turn to a life of filth, feeding pigs and longing to eat the food of those pigs as famine struck the land. Remember, Jesus is telling this story to a group of Jews, and Jews have nothing to do with pigs. So this would have been truly rock bottom in their eyes.

While staring longingly into that pig slop, the younger son remembered his father’s love. So he devised a plan. He would return home and he would admit his fault and take the form of a servant. He would work for his father.

But on the way back while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and immediately started running. Though the father may have looked foolish as he hiked up his robe and started sprinting, he didn’t care. He put all reputation aside to meet and greet his long, lost son. Hugs, kisses. And all the son could get out was a confession. The father didn’t even let him get out a word about being a servant. This was no servant. This was his son. His son that was now found, safe and sound.

This was a time to rejoice and celebrate. What we see here as the father put a ring on his finger, gave him a robe to wear and sandals for his feet, and killed the fattened calf is that the father’s love is beyond compare. It is downright reckless and scandalous. To think that this was the boy who wanted his father dead. To think that this was the boy who squandered his father’s property. To think of the shame this younger son had brought upon his family. But the father’s response was only to love and forgive, with no expectation whatsoever of having to earn that love and forgiveness.

What would such love look like in our workplaces, community, congregation, and families? What impact would there be to simply cast aside hard feelings and just love and forgive without conditions?

For so many of us, that just seems so impossible. We hold too much hatred and bear too much bitterness. We can’t even begin to think of rejoicing and living in a love like that.

And so we come to the older brother. In from a long day of hard work in the fields he came. Sweaty, dirty, here was a man who worked hard, and with a chip on his shoulder to boot. As the older brother, he was inclined to think he was entitled to favorable treatment. And that notion only grew when his brother ran off.

So when he came in and heard the celebration, he no doubt was instantly filled with bitterness wondering why a celebration was going on without him. But then, when he found out that the celebration was being thrown in his younger brother’s honor, that did it! No way was he going in to celebrate!

His fury raged at both his younger brother and his father. In no way did his younger brother deserve this treatment. He had disgraced their family. He was a loser. How could his father do such a thing? How could his father turn such a blind eye from all the shame that his younger brother had brought upon their family and throw such a party? His father had never even let him and his friends have a small party on their own. Now he was killing the fattened calf for this… fill in the blank.

Yet while the older brother stewed in his anger, his father came out and initiated the conversation. He went to him, and he made clear that what he wanted more than anything was for both his sons to be present at the party. But the older brother wasn’t having it. He didn’t even call the younger brother his brother. He said, “this son of yours.” We can just imagine the anger seething with each word the older brother spoke.

But the father didn’t take issue with such an insult to his family. Instead, he entreated him as his beloved child: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.”

And with that the parable ends. It leaves us to ponder what happened next. Did the older son go in and join the celebration? Did he storm off and go back to his work filled with bitterness? Did he tell his father off and demand his own inheritance and leave the family? We don’t know.

What we do know is that this parable cuts us all to the heart. For as much as we like to associate with the younger brother who is lost and then found, it is more likely that we are more fittingly paired with the older brother.

How many of us struggle to forgive? How many of us bear grudges in our hearts? How many of us think we are entitled to better treatment because like that older brother, we just think we are better people?

After all, this parable was spoken to a group of Pharisees and scribes as well as tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees and scribes couldn’t believe that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners. How could He associate with such filth? How could He associate with those who were like the younger brother who longed to eat from the slop fed to pigs?

Little did those Pharisees and scribes know, and so often, little do we know, that Jesus was sent by the Father to do just that. Though he had no sin, He became sin. He didn’t spend his time with the 'holier than thous'. He spent his time with sinners. The Father made clear that he wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty in the person of His Son.

Yet, how often do we not want to associate with someone because we think their sins are worse than ours? How often do we think we are better than others simply because we think we are in the position of judge? How often do we hold hatred in our hearts because we have the audacity to think that we are more deserving of salvation than someone else?

See in this beloved parable that the love of the Father is downright reckless and scandalous. Like the younger brother, He loves you in spite of the fact that you have squandered the gifts he has given to you again and again. He looks for you longingly when you have lost your way. And there is nothing sweeter to his ears than when you confess your sins. Because he just can’t wait to forgive you. He just can’t wait to lavish you in his love.

Like the older brother, He loves you in spite of your hardness of heart. Instead of waiting for you to come to Him, he goes to you even though it is the last thing you deserve. He gently shows you the error of your ways because more than anything He just wants to have you near Him. He wants to see your face smiling from ear to ear at the celebration that is to come. He wants to see your face light up when a sinner repents, and to join in rejoicing with him when someone comes to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

Because nothing is more grand for the Father than to have His children with Him for all eternity. That is why in love for you, He willingly, voluntarily, and lovingly sent His Son into this world of sin to die your death. In the most reckless and scandalous form of love ever, He sat back and watched His Son bleed for you, breathe His last for you, cry out for you. He did that because that is what it took to save you. His love for you never ceases. There is simply nothing He would not do for you. He gave His Son into death for you. So, see that cross before you and know that your heavenly Father loves you.

So no matter how big the sin may be in your mind, confess it. Confess your reckless and scandalous living, your hardness of heart and your bitterness, and be forgiven. Then eat and drink of the Father’s love for you given and shed in His Son’s body and blood. He gives it you here today so that you may live in His forgiveness and join in the celebration that you who were once dead are now alive. You who were once lost are now found. So, come and rejoice in the Father’s love 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.

Jesus Triumphs Over Temptation

What tempts you?

Are you tempted like Saul? Are you tempted to jealousy and fits of rage and anger? When Saul and David returned from victory in battle, David was praised for killing tens of thousands, while Saul was only praised for killing thousands. This was the tipping point of Saul’s jealous rage against David. Are you tempted like Saul?

Are you tempted like Cain? Are you tempted with anger that runs so deeply that you would plot and would even consider harming someone else? When God favored Abel’s sacrifice over his brother Cain’s because it was given as a first fruit, Cain responded in hatred and killed his brother Abel. Are you tempted like Cain?

What tempts you?

Are you tempted like the Israelites? Are you tempted to grumble and complain and not be content with what you have? As the Israelites were set free from 430 years of slavery, they quickly took their freedom for granted and grumbled against God and Moses for their lack of food options and water. Are you tempted like the Israelites?

Are you tempted like King David? Are you tempted to lust after someone who is not your spouse? Are you tempted to commit an affair, even an emotional one on-line? David looked and saw Bathsheba bathing. Instead of guarding his eyes, he lusted after her, and then he committed adultery with her. He even stole her to be his wife. Are you tempted like King David?

What tempts you?

Are you tempted like King Ahab? Are you tempted to look and see that the grass is greener elsewhere…be it the stuff your neighbor owns, the house your sibling has, the life your friends live? Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard. He coveted it intensely. Then with his wife Jezebel’s help of killing Naboth, Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard for himself. Are you tempted like Ahab?

Are you tempted like Adam and Eve? Are you tempted to try and be like God, or at least try to be the god of your own life because you think life would be better if you called the shots, if you were in control, because after all, you know what’s best for yourself? Adam and Eve bit into that fruit that Satan dangled in front of them because it falsely promised them likeness with the Almighty God. Are you tempted like Adam and Eve?

What tempts you?

What tempts you? Scripture says: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man (1st Corinthians 10:13). We are all tempted in countless ways. Page through Scripture as we have just done, and we see that when it comes to the temptations we face, there is nothing new under the sun.

Though temptations in and of themselves are not sin, temptations have a way of luring us in and getting us to sin. Like a worm on a hook, temptations promise what they can’t deliver. Like a fish that sees a tasty snack on a hook, only to be reeled in to their own demise and death. That’s the aim of temptation: sin and death.

The orchestrator of all such temptations is the father of all lies, the devil. “The old satanic foe, has sworn to work us woe. With craft and dreadful might, he arms himself to fight. On earth he has no equal.”

On our own, we are no match for the devil. Faced against the old satanic foe on our own, we will lose every time. Every time. “No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost rejected.” We are no match for the devil under any circumstances. To try and defeat him by our own merits will only lead to our defeat.

Our text for today reveals that even though we are no match for the devil’s temptations, Jesus triumphs over temptation. Though Scripture only reveals three of the temptations, knowing the very nature of Satan, we know that his attacks on Jesus were relentless. We know this from our own experience. As the Large Catechism states: “The devil never lets up or becomes weary; when one attack ceases, new ones always arise.”

And so it was with Satan’s temptations of Jesus in our text for today. After having gone without food in the wilderness for forty days, Satan goes on the attack against Jesus’ grumbling belly. If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

Here Satan tried to get Jesus to comfort Himself with His divine powers. He tried to get Him to use those powers for instant satisfaction and gratification.

No doubt we would have fallen instantly. We have become addicted to this instant gratification lifestyle that we are now accustomed to living. Everything is a click away. There is no sense of restraint. No sense of self-control. We simply want to have it our way…and right away.

But Jesus wasn’t having it. He not only thwarted the temptation of Satan, but by telling him that man doesn’t live by bread alone, He directed Satan’s attention to where ultimate satisfaction is delivered…the Word of God…the two-edged sword Jesus used to thrust into his enemy with each temptation that was thrown at him.

But as we know all too well from life, the devil was not done. He had more to throw at Jesus. Just like he always has more to throw at us. And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only will you serve.’”

Here the father of all lies was at his finest. Not only is he a liar, but his very temptation of Jesus is delivered on the basis of a lie. He doesn’t have the authority over all the kingdoms of the world. Sure, he has his reign right now, but all that will end in the twinkling of an eye when Jesus returns. Yet, that didn’t stop Satan from lying to Jesus nonetheless.

But where Jesus won the battle, we would have no doubt fallen. To think of having all that power and dominion in this world would have been far too tantalizing to pass up. We are a power-hungry people…at work…at home…everywhere. We love to be in charge. We love to be in control.

Jesus, however, knew full well who was in control, no matter how Satan tried to twist the truth. He knew Satan’s reign is limited. He knew Satan is on a leash. But where so many dogs like to try and take control of their owners while on a walk, so it is with Satan. He kept at it.

And Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed until an opportune time.”

Here we see the alarming reality that Satan knows Scripture. Not only does he know it, but he knows how to manipulate it and abuse it for his own purposes.

But where Jesus came out on top, we no doubt would have fallen yet again…simply because we have chosen not to prioritize consuming the regular diet of God’s Word in our lives. We need to read God’s Word, learn it, mark it, and inwardly digest it…because we do not live by bread alone. The strength and nourishment we need to stand up to Satan is none other than the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. We need Jesus. Knowing His Word and learning it by heart will help us to be armed and protected against the flaming arrows of the enemy.

This is why teaching God’s Word is so essential after being baptized. Though baptism saves, if it is not nurtured by the Word of God, it will die. That’s because, just as it was for Jesus, so it is with us. As soon as we are baptized, Satan goes on the attack to do anything to try and tempt us and drive a wedge of separation between us and God.

So, where do we turn? What do we do when we are tempted by Satan to sin? We turn to the One who triumphs over temptation. Scripture tells us to “Call upon name of the Lord. Call upon Him in the day of trouble; He will deliver you.” Make no mistake about it…when we are being tempted, we are in trouble. We are on a slippery slope with no hope of escape on our own. And the devil knows that. The devil knows we are no match for him.

But the devil is a defeated enemy. He is no match for the Son of God. So, no matter what the temptation is, we always have hope. Scripture says: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows it to his very core. He felt its intensity there in the wilderness, and he undoubtedly felt it pressing in as he approached the cross. He had every chance to give in to Satan’s temptations and turn away from the cross. But, as Scripture tells us, He set his face toward Jerusalem…The very place Satan took him to and set him on the pinnacle and told him to throw himself down. Little did Satan know, but that is exactly what Jesus was going to do.

Jesus willingly and voluntarily allowed for His life to thrown down upon the cross. He let them drive nails into his hands and feet. And at any moment, Jesus could have called down legions of angels to save him, but he didn’t. He didn’t fall to temptation. No, He endured everything Satan threw at him so that He could shed his holy and innocent blood for us and our salvation.

You see, had Jesus fallen to even one temptation, the blood He had to shed for us would have not forgiven and saved us. It would have not been for our benefit, and He would have been no help to us. But as Scripture tells us: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

Jesus is our help us because His foot is firmly planted on the head of the Satanic serpent. Jesus triumphs over temptation because Jesus has already triumphed over the Tempter by way of the cross and the empty tomb. “But now a champion comes to fight, whom God Himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is He, Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son adored. He holds the field victorious.”

So, what tempts you to fall into sin? Whatever it is, turn to the Triumphant One, Jesus Christ, and take comfort in these words of Scripture: God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1st Corinthians 10:13).

So let us close in prayer that we may not enter into temptation (Luke 22:40). “Almighty and everlasting God, through Your Son You have promised us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that in our daily need, and especially in all time of temptation, we may seek Your help and, by a true and lively faith in Your Word, obtain all that You have promised; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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

A God Who Hungers - Ash Wednesday

Throughout the season of Lent, during these midweek services, we will be taking a deeper look at the humanity of Jesus. Specifically, we will look at it from the context of Pontius Pilate’s line: “Behold the Man”. As Jesus was put on display before the crowd, it was made known to all that Jesus was in fact, human. But as we know, Christ has two natures: He is both God and man. His divinity is what comforts us in knowing that He carries authority over the powers of sin, death, and the devil, and that He exercises that authority on our behalf and for our benefit. His humanity comforts us in that we know that we have a God who does not remain distant. Rather, He humbles Himself by entering into our sin-stricken life to experience all the things we do, from temptation, to pain, to hardship, and ultimately death. It is this reality of Christ’s humanity which will be the focus of our attention over the next six weeks as we “behold the man” Jesus Christ.

          Tonight we focus on a God who hungers. It goes without saying, that hunger is a powerful force in our world. Our stomachs rumble and grumble as we think about, smell, or see any of our favorite cravings. Be it Minnesota hotdish, Chicago style pizza, Tex Mex, Kansas City BBQ, New Orleans Cajun or Creole, and so on. It seems like no matter where we are from or where are at any moment, our palettes can be pleased by the plethora of food options that are out there. But due to so many options and accessibility, rarely have any of us ever truly experienced what it means to hunger.

          I am reminded of being in Kenya talking to a man by the name of Chepkoni. Chep, as he is called, cares for the livestock and the gardens at the Lutheran School of Theology just outside of Nairobi, Kenya. While Chep and I were talking, he leaned down and picked up a rather large beetle out of a pile of cow dung. He then proceeded to tell me that back in the mid 1980’s when the drought was at its worst, this is what the people would eat to curb their hunger. Now that’s hunger. To eat a beetle picked up from a cow pie.

          As this season of the church year begins each year, we hear of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Immediately after Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan, the Spirit casts Him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In that reading, we hear that Jesus had been without food for forty days. Then comes one of the most, if not ‘the’ most obvious (‘Duh!’) statements in all of Scripture. The text says that after forty days without food…he was hungry. Such a statement seems unnecessary to make. However, it is yet another piece of evidence that points to the fact that God had become fully man.

          Behold the man who hungers. Behold the man, who just like you and me, would get hungry. Behold the man who had taste buds on His tongue, an esophagus, stomach, intestines, and the whole works to process the food that he took in. Behold the man who no doubt enjoyed special dishes that his mother Mary would make for him. Behold the man who probably had his own fair share of food cravings and likes. Behold the man who was fully and completely human just like us. Behold the man, who was in no way immune to hunger.

          Because He was familiar with hunger, He was known for having compassion on those who also hungered. In compassion, He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He had compassion on a group of 5,000 men, plus women and children when they were far away from a place for food and were obviously hungry. With five loaves of bread and two fish, he fed them all, with leftovers to spare. Then again, he with a few loaves and fish, He fed a group of 4,000 men, plus women and children. All because He had compassion, and He knew what it was like to hunger.

          Yet, here in our text, the God who hungers references fasting, assuming that His hearers are practicing fasting. And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18).

          It is probably safe to say that ‘fasting’ is a foreign concept to us. Outside of a doctor saying we need to fast before blood work or surgery, we don’t get its purpose. If you are like me, you can’t go 20 minutes without thinking about food, let alone 12 hours without actually eating any.

          I just had my annual physical. And before going, I had to fast the night before. Believe it or not, I had to have Emily remind me that I was fasting on more than one occasion, and I had to stop myself at least a couple of times so I didn’t accidentally grab a late night snack…a favorite bad habit of mine.

          Fasting, from our perspective, does not make sense. However, as Luther tells us in the Catechism portion on the Lord’s Supper: “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.” He goes on to say: “It teaches us to say no to things we crave and to say no to temptation. It teaches us to discipline ourselves. It also gives us time for prayer, self-examination, and time in the Word.”

          Both Jesus and Luther present fasting not as a command, but as a beneficial spiritual discipline. It is not because it makes one better than anyone else. It is not a good work that will somehow earn greater favor before God. But, what it does is discipline the body from over indulgence and gluttony to focus oneself on repentance and prayer. With each rumble and grumble of the stomach, the one who fasts can be reminded to turn to God in repentance and prayer recognizing that it is God alone who truly delivers satisfaction.


But this topic of fasting is difficult for us because we are a people that so often lacks any self-control. We have everything at our fingertips, while living a life with little restraints. So there is nothing to keep us from indulging, and often over-indulging. We are often downright gluttonous when it comes to our food consumption. But it doesn’t stop with food. We spend more money than we have. We binge watch countless shows then claim we don’t have enough time for faith and family. We have more stuff than we will ever need.

Such over indulgence, food or otherwise, needs to be confessed. We are sinners, living in a sin-filled world, and more often than not it just doesn’t seem to bother us. We seem satisfied with continuing to live a life gorging in gluttonous fashion on all that this world has to offer. But the truth of the matter is, none of it will truly ever satisfy us. To buy into this world’s cravings is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. It can’t be done.

The only thing that will truly ever satisfy is the One who brings satisfaction. The One who endures the wrath of God in our stead. The One who lays His life down for us. The One who suffers, bleeds, and dies our death. The One who hungers for our righteousness.

You see, hunger is that great reminder that we humans are in need. We can’t survive without food. But food for the stomach only satisfies so long. We need more to survive. We need a daily diet of repentance and forgiveness for all the times our diet was about self-consumption. We need a daily diet of God's Word, inwardly digesting it like our life depended upon it…because it does. And here at Zion we are privileged to be fed with a weekly diet of Christ’s body and blood that brings the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. These gifts meet our greatest need and truly bring us satisfaction.

Though fasting may be foreign to most of us, to fast from God’s gifts of repentance, Word and Sacrament would be detrimental to both our body and soul. The daily bread our God provides in His House is essential to our eternal survival. It is as we hear at the end of communion: “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and protect you in both body and soul to life everlasting.” Here is where God is located for us to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins. Here is where the food of His body and blood is located that will last until eternal life.

Behold the man who hungers for you. Behold the man whose stomach aches for your righteousness. Behold the man whose greatest craving is for you to be with Him for all eternity. Behold the man who satisfies your hunger for righteousness. Behold the man, Jesus Christ. 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.