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United Through Baptism

Sermon: "United Through Baptism"

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Introduction:

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who loved you with his life. Amen.

I’d like to begin this morning by thanking you all for the opportunity to be here today. To stand in this pulpit and share God’s word for you. I have admired many men who have stood here before me. My Uncle Peter (Pastor Meier), Pastors Woodford, Gless, and now also Mussell. I am humbled to be numbered with them and the many others who have stood here and proclaimed God’s word to you. I thank you, my brothers and sisters, in Christ, my family, my church. Now before I get too emotional, I want to talk with you about family this morning, more specifically, being a part of God’s family.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I loved getting new stuff...I still love getting new stuff! It’s always exciting to get a new book or toy that is yours. It’s special, it's not your parents or your siblings or anyone else’s, it’s yours. You care about it, you don’t want other people to play with it, let alone touch it, in fear that they might break it or mess it up. Because that thing is so special to you, you might even put your name on it. Even as an adult you put your name on things that are important to you. Maybe your business, the title to your house or car. You even pass your name down to your children. We put our names on those things that we care about, that are important to us.

I. God has made us his children:

In baptism we receive a new name. Baptism is a beautiful thing. Infants, children, teens, and adults are brought before God. They are washed in water. The words of God are spoken. In an instant, we go from being spiritual orphans lost in our sin-filled ways to being adopted by the creator of the universe. We become children of God. Stop. Think about that for just a moment. (Take a literal pause for about 5 seconds) The creator of the universe. The one who created the land and sea, the earth, the planets, the stars, and galaxies, none of those things bear his name…but you do, He comes to you and calls you by name. (Insert names of people sitting in the congregation, 5 or so). He calls you; he marks you with HIS name. In the name of the FATHER, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You are baptized and made a child of God. How cool is that? To have God’s own name placed on you. He says, “You are mine.” He claims us as his own children.

Let’s think for a moment about what it is like to be a child. Now this will be easier for some of you than it is for others. Consider what it is like to be an infant. You are unable to do much of anything for yourself. You need help to be fed and cared for. You long to be loved, held close, and comforted. You love to laugh, cry, and keep others awake at night. You can’t provide anything for your parents, your parents are the ones who provide everything for YOU. We are like spiritual infants. But having been baptized, we have become children of the creator of the universe. There is nothing that we can offer him that he does not already possess. We need to be fed and cared for. We need to be loved, held close, and comforted. We love to laugh and cry, and we stay awake at night uncertain, upset, and scared, wondering if we’ll be taken care of and if our Father even exists or if he can hear us. We have nothing to offer our father, our father provides everything for us, even when we’re not sure that he exists or if he can hear us. But let me assure you. He exists, and he can hear you, and he has, does, and will continue to take care of you. You are his child. He cares for you so much that he has placed his very own name on you, adopting you as his very own son, as his very own daughter.

II. We are united to God – thereby we are united to other Christians

I want you now to pause for a moment and think about your family. Consider your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Maybe you have a very large family. Maybe it is smaller. Think about the people who you consider to be a part of your family whether you are related by blood or not. Families are wonderful blessings. Families share meals and conversations. Families share stories and histories. Families support one another. But families are not all that clean-cut. If I asked the question, “Who here has the perfect family?” I don’t believe any hands would go up. Our families are messy. Our families have disagreements and differences, even divisions. Different people with different ways of thinking and operating, working together or at least trying to…maybe. Regardless of the messiness, disagreements, differences, and yes even the divisions, there is unity in family, whether it be blood, a last name, or many shared memories. There is unity.

In our baptisms, God unifies us with himself. In our baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who gives us faith. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells in you, in me. God dwells with us, in us! With all Christians. God enters into us and bring us new life as we are brought into his family. And because God now dwells in us we are not only united with God but with all the other Christians because God dwells with us all.

Now I want you to think for a moment about Zion. We are a family. We are the church. We are the only church in Mayer. Here at Zion, we share meals and conversations. We have stories and a shared history. We support each other. But like any other family, we are also not clean cut. We are messy. We have disagreements, differences, and yes, even divisions. We are different people with different ways of thinking and operating, and we think that we know what is best. Despite all of that. We have the same mission, sharing hope, teaching Christ. We are unified around this mission.

Now we are not just unified here at Zion. By the grace of God, through our Baptism, He unites us to the larger church. We are united with the churches here in Carver County, Minnesota, the United States. And no it does not stop there. From Mexico to Myanmar, from Canada to China, and every country in between, we are joined together with all Christians. Despite our disagreements, differences, and divisions, whether it be race, gender, social class, or even political party. We are united in Christ. How beautiful that God can take a messed up, broken, and sin-filled people scattered all around the world and unite us together through Jesus! Because God has brought us into unity with himself, we are united with all Christians around the world. We are united to the generations that have come before us and the generations that will come after us. We serve the same Lord and God here and now. We have the same Father. We have the same mission. Go, make disciples. Make disciples of all nations. Make disciples of all races, genders, social classes, and political parties. And baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is a command for all of us. This is how God chooses to grow his family. Through us. His family!

III. We enjoy the promises of God - adoption, family, unity, etc.

On December 10, 1995, I was baptized right here, at this very font and brought into God’s family. Many of you here today we also baptized right here, at this very font. Others of you were baptized elsewhere in baptistries, rivers, lakes or a different font. The place doesn’t matter. What matters is that when you were baptized you received God’s promises for you, given through the water and his word. YOU were baptized in the name of the Triune God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You, me, WE became a part of God’s family in that moment, he adopted us as HIS children, he became our Father.

Now that we are all God’s children, we have the gift of His Spirit who dwells in us. By the spirit we receive faith. We receive gifts that we have been equipped with to witness about our father and what he has done for us. Gifts of compassion, love, and grace and many others that we use every day through teaching, mowing lawns, printing bulletins, playing music, cooking a meal, and so much more! The things that we do everyday and how we care for others. We all have been brought into a family far bigger than ourselves, a family that extends through all generations. And if you haven’t been baptized. Well then, I have some great news for you! God is inviting you to come and receive, to become a part of his family, to receive his promises for you. Where he places his name on you.

Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, his death and resurrection, we have new life. We were baptized into his death and his resurrection. When we were baptized, that old sinful nature, the spiritual orphan that we were was drowned and died. The words of God were spoken to us and bring us and we were raised back to life because of Jesus. And now we are sons and daughters united together with the gift of the Holy Spirit, to go and proclaim this good news to the world. To baptize and make disciples.

Through our baptism, Jesus is not only our Savior but our brother also. And when our Father looks at us (and our broken messy families), he sees his Son, Jesus. And because of Jesus, we now have the privilege to come before our Heavenly Father, just as children come before their earthly father. We can approach him with any question, and he will answer. Now just like an earthly father, he may not give us the answer we want to hear. When we make mistakes, we will be corrected and even have consequences. But despite our shortcomings, we will always be loved and cared for. His love is perfect. We have all been brought into the family of God through baptism. When we cry out, “Abba, Father" the Spirit cries out with us and our Father hears us. He has adopted us into His family. We are sons and daughters of the creator of the universe. Through him, despite the brokenness of the world, we are one in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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

 

 

The Helper

Sermon: “The Helper”

LSB Series C; The Day of Pentecost

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Gospel Reading: John 14:23-31

 

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

Today is the Day of Pentecost. As we heard in the Scripture Reading from the book of Acts, today is that day that we celebrate when God fulfilled His promise to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to the disciples and those gathered with them after Jesus ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.

The Holy Spirit came in the form of tongues of fire, and instantly those present were able to speak in other languages. Unlike the story of the Tower of Babel that we heard read earlier from the book of Genesis, where various languages only caused confusion, this event provided clarity. For those gathered from many tribes and nations were instantly able to hear of the mighty works of God spoken in their native tongue.

We are benefactors of that very day two thousand years ago. The diaspora, or dispersion of the Gospel has made it all the way to the United States, and we now have in our hands the Word of God in our own native tongue. We should never take such a gift for granted. Unlike many nations still to this day, we have the opportunity to pick up God’s love letter to us and read it from cover to cover.

How is that going for you? Have you read God’s Word cover to cover? If so, how many times? In our Connected in Christ Discipleship Challenge, we are just about to finish the Old Testament and begin the New Testament. Why not join us? 

There is not-a-one of us here that could ever attest to the fact that we know-it-all about God. If anything, the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. And the more we realize that we don’t know, the more realize we need help to understand it all.

That is the promise that Jesus made in the upper room with His disciples in our Gospel Reading for today from the book of John. He promised to send The Helper.

Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26). (Pause)

Let’s take a moment and talk about Help, in general. 

How are you at receiving help? Do you view it as a good thing? Do you see it as a chance to give someone else the opportunity to use their gifts in service of their neighbor (in this case, you)?

OR…

Do you view it as a sign of weakness and frailty? Are you more apt to do things on your own for fear of admitting weakness? Or maybe you think you can do it better, so why bother asking for help? Or maybe you are worried about your reputation and how it might impact you if someone else messes up what you asked them to help with?

Receiving help is not something we do easily. Most of us cringe at the very thought of asking for help. We have a can do, must do, always do, mentality. We don’t want to bother anyone else or burden them. We don’t want to put them out. And then, what happens if their help really isn’t helpful at all and actually makes things harder for you or worse for you in the long run?

For quite some time now, our family has been watching “Little House on the Prairie.” It is our Friday evening family routine, that is often coupled with pizza for supper.

In that show, there is deep sense of community that is almost foreign to our world today. Whenever the Ingalls’ family is in need, the community rallies around them. Likewise, whenever someone else is in need, the Ingalls’ family quickly pitches in.

What’s more, within the Ingalls’ family, at a very young age, everyone in the family is expected to help by doing their part. Everyone pitches in with chores inside and outside. Everyone helps. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Would we not agree that in some sense both help in the community and help in the family has in many ways been lost?

What about in a congregation? The general rule is that 80% of the work in a congregation is done by 20% of the people. The same can be said about giving tithes and offerings as well. 80% of the giving comes from 20% of the people. 

In our congregation, 66% of the congregation attended in 2021. 43% of the congregation gave an offering during the year of 2021. Of that 43% who gave, 19% of givers gave 80% of the giving for the year. 

With numbers like that, we might say that our congregation needs a little ‘help’ when it comes to giving of our time, talents, and treasures. One would guess that we all need a little help to understand that giving to the Lord is not because He needs anything from us. It is understanding in faith that everything you have comes from God. It isn’t yours. It’s His. He just blesses you to manage it. 

How are you doing at managing your resources? Are you more focused on yourself and your wants, or are you more focused on God and His desire for you to love Him above all else and to love your neighbor?

One way to assess this in regards to giving is to take a look at how you do a budget. For years our congregation offered Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. In that class, one of the lessons everyone learns is how to budget. Do you take time to do a budget? And when you do a budget, what is at the top? Is giving to the Lord at the top? If it is, that is your greatest priority. If it isn’t, then something else has found its way into your life to be of greater importance. 

Giving to the Lord is a matter of trust…trust in Him to provide…trust in Him to care for all of your needs. Do you trust God? Likely all of us need some help in that regard as well. 

Help is something we all need. The disciples were no different. There they were in the upper room, and Jesus had been telling them that He was going to be leaving. He was going to be going the way of the cross and He was going to be dying and rising for them and the entire world. 

At this point, they didn’t fully understand what He was talking about. They didn’t understand why He was saying what He was saying. So, Jesus promised that God would send help...and not just any help, but The Helper. 

The Holy Spirit is the gift they received on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the One we receive on the day of our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is the One who enables us to believe in Jesus as our Savior from sin, death, and the devil. Without the Spirit, we couldn’t believe in Jesus, or anything in His Word. 

It is as we learn in the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

Ever wonder how you got here today? It wasn’t just the car that you drove in. It was because the Holy Spirit is at work in you to bring you to where Jesus is located. This is where God’s Word and Sacraments are located “for you.”

As He fills you up with His gifts of Word and Sacrament, He sends you out in perfect peace. It is as Jesus said to His disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).

Though you might be one who is resistant to help from others, or arrogance may get the best of you…perhaps you are one who doesn’t prioritize giving to the Lord from your time, talents, and treasures. Perhaps you know you need to change, and you just don’t know how. 

The Holy Spirit has brought you here today to confess your sins, confess your pride and selfishness and lack of trust…confess all of your sins in the confidence that Christ will forgive you. You are forgiven. You are now at peace with God. No separation exists between you and your Heavenly Father. And not only does He remove your sins as far as the east is from the west, the Holy Spirit guides you in your faith, to lead you in the way that you should go…to change your sinful ways.

That’s the good news of Pentecost. God knew we needed help. He promised it would come. And He delivered. Just like He always does. So, as we live in the help of the Spirit, keep confessing your sins, receiving forgiveness, and following 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.

Prove It!

Sermon: “Prove It!”

Lectionary Series C; Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31

 

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

The proof is in the pudding. Likely you have heard that line, but do you know where the line came from?

National Public Radio once reported that “the proof is in the pudding” is a new twist on a very old proverb. The original version was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” And what it meant was that you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.

But it should also be noted that the word ‘pudding’ itself has changed. In Britain, pudding meant more than a sweet dessert. Back then, pudding referred to a kind of sausage, filling the intestines of some animal with minced meat and other things - something you probably want to try out carefully since that kind of food could be rather treacherous.

So, over the years, the original proverb has evolved. The original was the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It was shortened to the proof of the pudding, and then here in America, it morphed again to the proof is in the pudding. Apparently, the proof of the listening is in the correcting.

Proof. We might find the origin of “the proof is in the pudding” to be rather grotesque and graphic when we consider the kind of food it originally related to. But, that all being said, the proof that Thomas demanded was also rather grotesque and graphic.

Thomas demanded that he not only see the marks of the nails, but he also demanded to literally place his finger ‘into’ the mark of the nails, and place his hand ‘into’ his side…otherwise he would not believe. 

Thomas wanted Jesus to prove it. Prove His resurrection. He didn’t just demand visual proof. He also demanded physical proof. He wanted to know beyond all shadow of a doubt that there was ‘proof in the proverbial pudding,’ that Jesus had indeed been physically raised from the dead…that this was not just some spiritual reality…that it was completely and totally a legit bodily resurrection of the dead.

What audacity! What arrogance! Who does he think that he is, to deny the claims of his fellow disciples, to not trust their testimony? 

This is where Thomas gets his nickname: Doubting Thomas. His demand for proof sets him apart as supposedly the only one in that room who didn’t believe. But is even that the truth? 

The truth of the matter is that Thomas wasn’t there the first time Jesus came into that room with the doors locked. We don’t know where he was at the time, and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the others had been given proof of the resurrection. They had seen Jesus with their own eyes. Likely they had touched Him as well, since Jesus had invited them to do so in the account in the book of Luke. Thomas didn’t get any of that. 

Have you ever said, “Prove it!”? Have you ever demanded proof, be it visual and/or physical? Have you ever heard someone share news with you, and think it is too good to be true? Have you ever doubted the testimony of someone else?

What about with the testimony of God’s Word? Ever doubted what was written in those sixty-six books of the Bible? How about God’s love and care for you? Ever doubted that to be true? Ever demanded proof, because you were a bit unsure, a bit uncertain?

Thomas gets quite a bad rap time and again, but are we unlike him? Or could each of our nicknames be preceded by the word “Doubting?”

Whether it is Satan burdening us into thinking that our sins aren’t forgiven, or perhaps it is our own weakness of faith, or maybe it just seems like the whole world is crashing down all around us. Whatever it is, it is natural to have our doubts. It is natural to demand proof that God’s love and care for us in the darkness of this world is true.

But just because it is natural, does not mean it should be a pattern for us to follow. A steady diet of doubt and demands would only lead to despair and denial of all that is true.

If Thomas would have touched Jesus and then said, “No, I need more proof. I still can’t believe it,” then, likely it would have led to his own loss of faith. And that is why God directs us again and again to His Word.

His Word is the proof that we need. No, it is not physical evidence like we may crave at times, but the Word is proof nonetheless. It is the testimony of those that were present at that time. All Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is literally the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. And there within those pages is a love story that is written just for you. It is written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).

The pages of Scripture literally are drenched with God’s love and care for you. And there within those pages here today, God provides you something additional that you can cling to in your times filled with doubts and demands. He gives you the testimony of the physical proof of the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

You see, what we are given today is an added dimension that was likely never thought possible by the other disciples who had already seen Jesus. As Jesus came into the room that second time a week later, and Thomas was there with them, He delivered on Thomas’ demands. It was not because He had to, but because Jesus wanted to. He gave Thomas, the other disciples, and us, the proof that the Prince of Peace was alive and well in physical form.

Everything Jesus said would happen had come to fruition. His very flesh, which Thomas was now touching was the very evidence, the proof of God’s love for him and God’s love for you. He doesn’t go back on His Word. He delivers. He always has, and He always will. And now, it could not be denied. He had done what was thought impossible. He had done the unthinkable. Jesus was alive! The celebration of Easter continued on as Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!”

That is our proclamation as well…Not because we have seen the Lord with our own eyes or felt the inside of those nail marks or where the spear entered his side. No, we proclaim that proof of the peace that passes all understanding in a different way.

When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we ‘proclaim’ the Lord’s death until He comes again. Into our very mouths, under bread and wine, is the very body and blood of the resurrected Jesus. 

Easter is all about what is real…our Savior's forgiveness, peace, hope, joy, and eternal life. God gives us the same assurance He gave to Thomas, for “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  

So, bring your doubts, bring your demands, and place them before His altar. Take and eat. Take and drink. This is physical proof of God’s love and care you, from this day until the Last Day. And with the resurrected Jesus in you, when that day comes, you will not be held in the grave, because He could not be held in the grave. (Pause)

Interestingly enough, tradition holds that the one once known as “Doubting Thomas” took the Gospel of Christ to the subcontinent of India. He was later martyred and buried there after witnessing to the Indian people. Though there is no way to actually verify this, it is interesting to note that today there exists a group of Christians known as St. Thomas Christians in southwestern India. They trace their roots to having been evangelized by the disciple Thomas. Whether true or not, tradition would hold that the one who demanded such audacious proof eventually went on to proclaim the proof of the resurrection of Jesus, and there are still believers in that proof to this day.

We come to this day as benefactors of such a testimony that has spread throughout the entire world. But more so, we come here today as benefactors of the One who delivered the proof…the One who walked through a wall to meet those disciples in their fear and doubt…the One who walked from Jerusalem to Calvary bearing our cross…the One who died our death for our forgiveness…the One who walked out of His own tomb alive and well…the One who loves and cares for you beyond measure…beyond all doubt. 

There is not-a-one of us here who has not had our doubts and demanded proof like Doubting Thomas. There is also not-a-one of us here who can believe in Jesus and His resurrection on our own. The good news is that, despite our doubts and demands, God graciously gives us the faith to believe what we can’t on our own.

At your baptism, there, in the water and the Word, God gave the physical proof of His love for you, as He gave you the faith to believe that all He has said and done is most certainly true.

As it says in the meaning of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

It is in that faith, that you and I join with Thomas in confessing the truth of the resurrected Christ in saying: “My Lord and my God!” It is in that faith, that you and I join with Thomas in boldly proclaiming this truth to others. It is in that faith, that you and I share hope and teach Christ so that all may know without a doubt the resurrection proof we proclaim this day: “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” 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.

Easter Festival Sermon

Sermon: “The Place of the Resurrection”

Lectionary Series C; Easter Festival Service

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:1-12

 

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

The Place of the Resurrection. It was a garden…not far from the place of His crucifixion. It was possibly an orchard, perhaps with trees that would bear apples, peaches, mangoes, plums, or any assortment of fruit which is grown in that region of the world. More than likely though, it served as a vineyard to produce grapes. Needless to say, it was a place where one would expect things to grow and flourish.

That is exactly what happens to both the faith of those who believe and what happened to the church. The life of the church, our life of faith, and all the fruits of faith grow and flourish from the resurrection.

There among that garden, there was a hollowed out cleft in a rock. In front of that rock, there was a hewn channel in the ground so that a disk-shaped stone could be rolled to seal the tomb’s entrance. 

The stone was several feet in diameter, and it was thick enough to keep out any curious animals. It would have taken several men to move it because of its weight.

We are told about two of those men. Joseph of Arimathea was the first we hear about. He was a member of Council, known as the Sanhedrin. These were seventy lay elders, which included the chief priest and the scribes. They functioned as the legal experts in Judaism. Joseph of Arimathea was secretly a follower of Jesus as he was looking for the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus was the second man we hear about who was involved in the burial of Jesus. He was the one who had come to Jesus by night and had struggled to understand how a man could be born again when he was old, only to have Jesus share with him about baptism, and that ever famous Gospel in a nutshell… “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

          Joseph, in great courage went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate granted him this request. So, together, with 75 pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus had brought, together they wrapped his body in a linen shroud that Joseph had bought. 

          Gently and carefully, they laid Jesus’ body on the burial bench in the tomb owned by Joseph that he had cut out himself. 

          Inside the tomb, there would have been a square pit, surrounded by stone benches. To one side, one of those benches would have served as the burial bench for the deceased to be laid upon. The other benches would have been for mourners to come and sit as they grieved the death of their loved ones. Behind those benches where mourners would sit would be open compartments known as kokhs. This would be where the remains of other loved ones would be placed once the decay of the corpse had taken place. In the case of Jesus’ tomb, those compartments would have been empty, as we are told that it was an unused tomb.

          Since Friday before 6pm, this had been the place of Jesus’ burial. Likely all around in the garden were footprints, perhaps the remains of a fire, maybe even weapons…all left behind by the soldiers the Jewish religious leaders had placed as a guard to ensure that the body of Jesus would not be stolen.

          This was the Place of the Resurrection. What was normally a very somber place, a place where mourners would gather to pay their respects to the deceased, was now anything but normal.

          The women who had seen where the body of Jesus had been lain had completely expected to find it just as they had left it that Friday evening. For within their hands, they carried spices that they had prepared to ensure that the body of the deceased would not smell as it entered into decay. They expected to find a dead body. Who knows what their plan was to do with the stone?

          But it didn’t matter. That stone that would have taken several men to move… had now been rolled away from the tomb. The place where Jesus’ body had been lain now was completely open. 

          It didn’t make sense. How was this even possible? This is not how they had left things the night before. The night before, everything was just as it should have been. The body was inside. The tomb was shut.

          Yes, the Place of the Resurrection was a place of Confusion. The women saw that the tomb was now open, and so they went in. Ducking inside, they looked and could not fathom what they saw. There…was…no…body.

          Instantly their minds must have rushed to the worst conclusion. We have only to speculate. But recognizing their perplexity (as our text tells us), they had only one conclusion to make: His body must have been stolen. Anything else would have been outside the realm of reality. Sure, they believed in the resurrection on the Last Day, but anything more would have been completely and utterly out of bounds.

          So, as they stood there disheartened and in disbelief, they were met with two unsuspecting visitors…men in dazzling apparel. Where had they come from? How could this be? Were their eyes playing tricks on them? The confusion must have only become compounded.

          But confusion was instantly met with clarity. Yes, the Place of the Resurrection is a place of Clarity. With their heads bowed to the ground as they were filled with fear, they were met with a question that has become the cornerstone of Christ’s resurrection for centuries: Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

          What? What did they just say? Was it possible? Had the impossible really happened? Had the One they had placed their hope in for all this time done the unthinkable?

          The men in dazzling white continued to provide clarity on the entire situation, almost pealing back the veil that was over their confused eyes. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.

          The text goes on to say right after the men in dazzling white stop speaking: And they remembered his words… It is almost like you can see them saying, “Ahhhh…yes, we remember. Now it is all starting to make sense. Everything He told us would happen to Himself has come to be. Everything that was ever prophesied about Him has come to fulfillment.”

          News such as this could hardly be contained. After all, people don’t rise from the dead on a daily basis. This good news of great joy just had to be shared. With no confusion now hindering them, and clarity of the entire situation burning within them, they just had to go and tell others about this.

          Yes, the Place of the Resurrection had now become a place of Confession. As the women remembered his words, they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and all the rest.

          Just think what that must have been like. No doubt they must have interrupted each other several times as each of them were trying to recall all of the details of their most recent exciting find. The disciples probably had to stop them several times and say, “Please, one at a time. We know you’re excited, but what did you say? Jesus isn’t there?”

          That’s right, here in the Place of the Resurrection, and even in our text today, there is one thing missing, one very important piece. Jesus is not in the text. 

          For those of us longing for Jesus here on this Easter morning, this may come across as a bit Confusing. After all, isn’t that why we are here…to receive Jesus? Now you are telling me that He is nowhere to be found.

          Yes, that is what this text is telling you. It is inviting you to do what the women did by that tomb…to have that ah-hah moment of Clarity. The words of those men in dazzling white are for you and me too. He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you…

Have you ever been somewhere or seen something that just caused you to stand there with your mouth wide open because it was so overwhelming? The Place of the Resurrection ‘is’ that place…and not because of the place itself, but because of the message the angels proclaimed there…and the fulfillment of God’s promises they told those women to remember.

Remember how he told you. Jesus does come today. He comes to you in His Word. Remember how He told you that He would not abandon you here in this place. Remember how He told you that He would come and save you. Remember how He came as a babe born in Bethlehem and took on your flesh. Remember how when He was tempted as you are, yet without sin. Remember how He suffered, how He bled, how He died. Remember all of that. He did that for you. Remember how He said that would not be the end of the story, that the ‘rest of the story’ was still yet to come. Well now it is here, and it all took place here at the Place of the Resurrection.

          This place where bodies are peacefully laid to rest has become the launching pad for all the hope we have in this life. This place has become the location where resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting are now reality. This place has become the location where death couldn’t hold Him and the grave couldn’t keep Him. This place has become the location where your death and mine is swallowed up in victory, because He is not here, He has risen. (Pause)

          But as wonderful as this is for us, we are told that there were those that didn’t at first believe. When the women confessed to what they had seen and heard, those listening didn’t believe what they were saying…all except one. We are told that Peter went…actually He ran, looked in, saw the linen cloths and marveled at what had happened.

          Today, here at the Place of the Resurrection, you are invited to join those women and Peter and marvel. Marvel at an empty tomb, and see that things are just as they should be, just as He told you. Jesus is alive!

          If you come here in any way doubting Jesus’ love for you, wondering if your sins could ever be forgiven, wondering if there is any hope moving forward, look no further. See what they saw. “He is not here, He has risen.”

          From the cross to the empty tomb, this was all part of the journey Jesus took to go and prepare a place for you. From heaven to earth, from life to death…and then back again…He did it all for you. 

          But like those who didn’t believe when the women told them the good news of great joy, we are mindful of the many who still live in Confusion, who still lack Clarity and a Confession of the crucified and risen Christ. 

Now is our time, as we gather here at the Place of the Resurrection, to Share Hope and Teach Christ with a Confused world. We share what we have been given to share so that they may see with Clarity what we see and Confess here on this day and every day to come until He comes again: “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” “He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” Amen.

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

(We join in singing our verse of response of Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds…Please Rise.)

Good Friday Sermon

Sermon: “The Place of a Skull”

LSB Series C; Good Friday

Friday, April 15, 2022

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. 

The Place of a Skull. In Aramaic, we know it as Golgotha. In Greek, it was simply Kranion, where we get our word for Cranium. In Latin, it is translated as Calvary.

This was a place of death. A place where the most heinous of criminals would be sent to die in the most awful way. It was a place where those passing by would clearly see what would happen to them if they chose to forego following the law of the land. 

If only the blood could cry out from the soil in that somber place, since this was most likely not the first crucifixion that had taken place in this location. What stories would it have to tell of the agony that had been endured there? How many had died there? We do not know. 

The Place of a Skull was not much a mountain at all. It was more of a small, yet rocky rise to a plateau of sorts just outside the Damascus Gate on the north side of the city of Jerusalem. When you looked at this so-called mountain from the right angle, there in the stone, you could see how this place had gotten its name.

The Place of a Skull. Facial features of two eyes, a nose, and perhaps a mouth seemingly hewn out of the stone face by natural erosion. Indeed, this place was befitting its name. For there in that rock face was the image of a skull.

A Skull. All that remains as the head of a corpse finds its way into decay. As the flesh deteriorates and the dryness of death sets in. Yes, this place had been given its name for a reason.

A reason that Jesus became all too familiar with that first Good Friday. Immediately after Pontius Pilate’s conviction, having washed his hands of Jesus, He was sent to die. Carrying His own cross. Whether it was only the horizontal cross beam known as the patibulum or the entire cross, we do not know. And though it was only six hundred yards from the place of Jesus’ conviction to His crucifixion, with how much blood Jesus had lost, the journey was far too much for Him to continue on.

It is the journey that is now known as the Via Dolorosa, or translated, the Journey of Pain. It was indeed that. Having been struck by soldiers, scourged across His back, a crown of thorns forced upon His brow, and now to have to carry the cross, the pain must have been nearly too much to handle.

The cross beam alone was approximately 80 pounds. The entire cross would have nearly reached 300 pounds. Either way, knowing how much He had already endured, those 600 yards must have seemed liked 600 miles. It was indeed a journey of pain only to reach the Place of death…the Place of a Skull.

Once there, soldiers would have secured His body on the cross. Some crosses had a seat of sorts on them. Where this may have seemed to be an act of mercy, giving the victim something to rest their body on, it would actually lengthen the time of suffering before death. 

Once the body was placed on the cross, nails would be strategically driven into the flesh to ensure that the victim would not bleed out. This was again to lengthen the time of suffering. So, the feet would likely have been angled to the side and the nail driven in that way, instead of through the front facing portion of the feet.

The Place of a Skull was a place where there was suffering and death, and everyone knew it. People passing by were given a clear spectacle of the severity of Roman rule and what it meant to stand up to the nation that controlled them.

Though we like to think that Jesus was crucified on the top of Golgotha, it is more likely that He was killed in front of it, along the road. If looking on toward the cross, the image of the skull would have been in the background. 

By being close to the road, everyone who was walking by would have easily been able to read the inscription above Jesus’ head.

The inscription was yet another way for Pilate to put the Jews in their place. It was common for the charge of the criminal to be posted above them. Likely the two other criminals crucified to Jesus’ left and right also had similar inscriptions.

However, Jesus had a most uncommon inscription, derived from the mind of Pilate himself. If the Jewish leaders wanted him to kill a king who was a rival of Caesar, then he would kill a king. So the inscription stated: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It was written in three languages, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, to ensure that as many would see it, would be able to read it. What Pilate had written, he had written.

There from the Place of a Skull, in the other accounts of Jesus death, we are told that those passing by hurled insults at Him. What did they say? We don’t know. But we all certainly know that the line “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is an all out lie. Like salt on the wounds that lie open for all to see, those insults stung. Those words hurt.

Likely only a couple of feet off of the ground, a hyssop branch was raised to Jesus’ mouth to unsatisfactorily quench His thirst before His life drew to a close. It would be near the end of His time at The Place of a Skull. The end of time that all of humanity had long awaited, and yet completely rejected. As Jesus hung there, rejected by all, for all to see, He uttered the words that echoed throughout the land and in our lives even today. “It is finished.”

There on The Place of a Skull, Jesus gave His life for you and for me. There with His very life, He did what He had come to do. Ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, He had promised that this would happen…that this would be the result because of our sin. 

It’s because of our sin, that He endured that 600 yard walk of shame. It is because of our sin, that He carried that cross…our cross. It is because of our sin that He was nailed to that cross. It is because of our sin that He endured the insults and the shame. It is because of our sin that He breathed His last. It is because of our sin that He died. It is because of our sin. 

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 (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Because of what Jesus did on The Place of a Skull, we are now at peace with God. He did so willingly, lovingly, and voluntarily. And in doing what He did, there at the Place of a Skull, He crushed the skull of the serpent Satan once and for all. Just as had been foretold in the Garden of Eden, so it had now come to fruition. Sin, death, and the devil himself had been defeated.

We gather on this night to recall what took place at that most holy place. Though we were not there, we can take comfort in that what happened those two thousand years ago happened for us. 

Our God saw us in our state of sin, doomed only to death and damnation, and in love, He sent His Son. For God so loved the world that He gave…He gave His only Son. 

See His cross before you this night. Rejoice and give thanks to Your God for all that He endured there at The Place of a Skull.

For there at the Place of a Skull, Jesus secured a place for you in the halls of heaven. It is just as Jesus said earlier in John: 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).

From the ‘Place’ of a Skull to securing your ‘place’ at His side for all eternity. That is what Your Savior has done here on this night that we call Good. With His holy and precious blood shed on Golgotha…on Kranion…on Calvary…He has won forgiveness, life, and salvation…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.

You Are Not Alone

Sermon: “You Are Not Alone”

LSB Series C; First Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Gospel Reading: Luke 4:1-13

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

You are not alone. That was the theme of the conference that Pastor Andrew and I just recently attended. This conference is known as Best Practices, and it all takes place at a large church and school known as Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix, Arizona. 

While there, it was easy for us to know that we were “not alone” as there were over 100 presenters, over 100 exhibitors of various ministries, over 400 volunteers to put the conference on, and over 2,000 church workers and lay leaders from all over the country in attendance.

The three day conference was indeed a source of encouragement and fulfillment as Pastor Andrew and I were given the chance to learn and grow in our pastoral field and grow in relationship with others in attendance. On behalf of both of us, we would like to thank the congregation for your support of us as pastors to have opportunities like this to continue to learn so that we might better serve you as pastors. Thank you! (Pause)

You are not alone. That is the theme of this sermon for today as we consider Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. You are not alone. That is the theme as we consider the nature of being tempted in general. You are not alone. That is the theme as we consider who fights with us and for us against the old evil foe. You are not alone.

Let’s begin with the temptation of Jesus.

There Jesus was. He had just been baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. The heavens had been torn open. The Holy Spirit had descended on him in bodily form, like a dove. The Father’s voice from heaven had declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Spirit then led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan for forty days. Forty days with no food, no less. Many of us can’t imagine life without food for forty minutes (at least I can’t). Jesus went forty days, all the while being tempted head-on by Satan.

The text records for us three of those temptations.

The first temptation: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

The second temptation: After showing Jesus all the kingdoms of this world, Satan said, “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.”

The third temptation: After taking Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself 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 foot against a stone.’”

In rapid fire succession, Satan showed that he is both relentless and he is fearless. He showed no regard for Jesus’ identity as he called it into question. He had no problem lying as he promised Jesus the kingdoms of the world which were not his to give. He had no problem piece-mealing the Word of God for his own pathetic purposes. 

There are simply no limits to his deception, not even with Jesus. So, it is no wonder that Devil means: The Accuser, the Slanderer, the Adversary. Like a prowling lion, he seeks to devour anyone who stands in his way. And that includes Jesus.

Hungry though he may have been, Jesus did not buckle to the barrage He endured from the wicked one. Like a seasoned general in the armed forces, His combat tactics were a force that wouldn’t be reckoned with. Relying on His identity as the Son of God in the flesh and the Word of God who became flesh, He stood up to the old satanic foe who has sworn to work us woe, and just like He did in the Garden of Eden, Jesus showed him who was boss.

No matter how hard Satan tried to defeat Jesus, he was simply no match for the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

“It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

“It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Like a bout in the boxing ring, one…two…three, Satan was down for the count…until another opportune time…until he would face a beat down for the ages. (Pause)

But where does that leave us? We are here having endured yet another week of worldly assaults from the old satanic foe. We are bruised, battered, scarred, and scraped. We have each been tempted in a myriad of ways.

We are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We are tempted to think of ourselves less than we ought. We are tempted to click on a site that we know we should not. We are tempted to say that word or that name we know we should not. We are tempted give up going to church like we know we should. We are tempted to give up going to church from our first fruits like we know we should. We are tempted in many and various ways, and it never, ever stops.

Now to be clear, being tempted is not sinning. But as we come into the House of the Lord today, we have nothing to be proud about. We have only to admit that we have fallen to temptation, that we have failed in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Unlike Jesus, we have not been successful through the onslaught of temptation. 

Like a fish attracted to a lure with a hook, we have taken the proverbial bait; hook, line, and sinker; more often than we would like to admit. And it is always easier for us to fall to temptation when we are alone, when no one is looking. Isn’t that the truth? Yes it is. Yes, ever since our baptism, what has become apparent is that there is only one thing we are really good at…and that’s sinning. (Pause)

Today’s text delivers good news to those who struggle with temptation, fall to temptation, and find themselves steeped in sin. You are not alone.

You are not alone as you wander in this wilderness of temptation and sin. See here today that Jesus does not hesitate to engage the old evil foe on your behalf. He enters into your wilderness wanderings with His very own body and blood.

Where the temptation is too much for you to handle, He wins the war with you and for you.

Scripture tells us: “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)…And… “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

See here today that you are not alone when you are being tempted. The same Jesus who went into the wilderness to take Satan on, head on, is the same Jesus who is your help in time of need. He does not abandon you to endure the attack on your own. 

Think of it this way. Imagine you are playing on a playground when all of a sudden the school bully comes up and starts to pick a fight with you. You know you don’t stand a chance, but there is no way of escape in sight. When all of a sudden, Muhammed Ali, taps your shoulder and says, “I got this.” The school bully looks at their new opponent, starts crying, sucks his thumb, runs away, and starts crying for his mommy.

Now far be it for me to place your hope or mine in Muhammed Ali, but I hope you see the point. When you face temptation on your own, you don’t stand a chance on your own. And that’s the point of this text. You and I need help when we are being tempted.

You and I can’t save ourselves. You and I can’t stand up to the old evil foe. You and I are no match for Satan. Jesus, the Christus Victor, as He is known, is the only One who can and does defeat sin, death, and the devil once and for all.

And that is what He did. Our text today serves as a foretaste of the feast to come. In a matter of weeks, the darkness of defeat will fill the land on the Friday that we call good. But it was by His death, that He conquered death. There He was all alone, forsaken by His own Father. And yet, it was by His death, that the devil was taken down once and for all. “It…Is…Finished.” One…two…three. He is down for the count.

And now, because of His victory on Mount Calvary, you can call upon His name, pray, praise, and give Him thanks…because He is your help in every time of need. No matter the temptation, you are not alone. 

And just look around you. You are surrounded by fellow saints, brothers and sisters in Christ who are here to encourage you as the war wages on. No one here is without sin. No one here is immune to temptation. So, everyone here can be a source of strength and support as we face the old evil foe.

And all the while, the Christus Victor is here with you. So, don’t be afraid. Call upon His name. Pray as He has taught you, with great boldness and confidence: “Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.” You…Are…Not…Alone. 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 Skins God Provided Adam and Eve”

Sermon: “The Skins God Provided Adam and Eve”

LSB Series C; Lenten Midweek Series: “Sacrificial Death”

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 3

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

Sacrificial Death. That is the theme of our midweek Lenten series this year. Over the course of the next six Wednesdays, you will hear of six sacrificial deaths that point to the death of Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice.

Death is all around us. It is everywhere. It envelops us. We look in the newspaper or turn on a local radio station. We read and we hear of obituaries, the latest people who have gone the way of death. We turn on the television, and countless segments are on various forms of death: accidents, sickness, murder. We drive down the road only to pass by a cemetery. Death is all around us. It is everywhere. It envelops us.

Consider the ashes upon your foreheads tonight. Ashes were used by the people of the Old Testament when it was a time of mourning. Death had reared its ugly head, and so people would put on sackcloth and ashes and mourn the day of death. The sign of the cross on your forehead is an instrument of death. The sign itself reminds us that we have died with Christ and so we will also live with Christ. But first, there must be a death. A death to Christ on Calvary. Then, a death to the Old Adam of sin within us. The Old Adam must be drowned. And not just once, but daily. Yes, death is all around us. It is everywhere. It envelops us.

That was the case for Adam and Eve. They had disobeyed God’s command. They had disregarded His love and care of them in exchange for a piece of fruit promising them what they could not have: to be like God. We hear the echo of the serpent’s words in our own ears every day. “Did God really say that? Did He really say that?” The deceiver is constantly at work…Prowling like a roaring lion…Casting his doubt…trying to drive people into despair…All with the ultimate goal of death and faith’s destruction. 

It only took one bite. One bite and a world filled with the light of perfection was cast into the darkness of destruction. It was only one bite, but that is all it took. We know that too. We know it well. Only one sin separates us from God. That is what sin does. It separates us. 

Adam and Eve felt that separation as the shame filled their hearts and minds. Instantly, their focus went from all of God’s beauty around them to looking down. Looking down in shame. Looking down and beholding what they hadn’t before. They were naked. Naked and ashamed.

Like all of us when we sin, our first inclination is not to confess. Our first step is not to admit that we are wrong, repent, and then go and sin no more. No, our first inclination is to hide. Cover up the sin, and then hope to God no one notices. Hope to God that we can get away with it, and then everything will be alright…or so we think.

That is what Adam and Eve thought as they hurriedly wove fig leaves together. Frantically they tried to figure out what they would do, what they would say if they were questioned for their actions. With no good resolve in order, they stayed hidden. Hidden in their sin.

Hiding in sin is a dangerous place to be. Isolation is where the devil does his dirtiest work. It is where he convinces us that there is no hope, no chance of any sort of peace ever again. It is where he gets us to despair and longingly look to him as if he could ever provide us what we need. But he can’t.

Instantly, that is what Adam and Eve found out as their consciences weighed heavy as they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the cool of the day. As they heard Him call out, no doubt their hearts raced, their hands grew clammy as they clung to each other instead of reaching for their Lord.

After a blame game for the ages, where Adam pointed at Eve, and Eve pointed at the serpent, it became ever so apparent what had happened. Sin had entered the world. And with one sin came death. A word that was no doubt foreign to Adam and Eve as they heard it. They had never been exposed to death. And now they were being told, that was their penalty. And not just for them. In what we now know as original sin, it was the penalty for all generations to come. (Pause)

The penalty that would be theirs to bear. It would be ours as well. But they, and we, would not be left without hope. God had a plan, a perfect plan. He would send from the offspring of Eve a descendant who would crush the head of the serpent once and for all. And He would come and He would sacrifice Himself in a death for all ages. 

This was the promise that Adam and Eve and their descendants would cling to as they journeyed away from Eden. Eve quickly found out that she would have pain in childbirth. Adam found out that there would be pain and hardship as he worked the land. But they would not be left without protection from the Lord.

God would clothe them. Whether it was an animal that had died instantly after the fall, or God killed the animal, we don’t know. All we know is that there was a shedding of blood and they were covered in animal skin.

Now the scorching heat of the sun would be staved off by the clothes provided by God. The thorns and thistles that Adam would find as he tilled the land would not pierce him near as much. God had given him exactly what he needed as he navigated the land.

And for as much as these skins would serve as their provision and protection, they would also serve as a reminder. As one commentary put it: “By this clothing, God imparted to the feeling of shame the visible sign of an awakened conscience, and to the consequent necessity for a covering to the bodily nakedness, the higher work of a suitable discipline for the sinner” (Keil and Delitzsch, p. 66). 

In essence, these clothes from God would serve as a reminder that they had indeed sinned. They had separated themselves from God. So every time they looked down and they saw God’s provision of skins for them, they could see their need for repentance, and their need for a Savior.

Death was all around for them. It was everywhere now. It literally enveloped them as they beheld the skins given to them by God. 

But, for as much as these skins were a reminder of their sin, they also served as a reminder of their forgiveness. As Psalmist writes: Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is ‘covered’ (Psalm 32:1).

These skins given to them by God would remind them of being covered in His forgiveness…in His righteousness, and these skins would help them look forward to the One who would come in their skin…in their flesh and blood.

As we gather here on Ash Wednesday, we spend the next several weeks focusing our attention on the One who covered Himself in human skin for us. Humble, meek, and, mild, He came as a babe born in Bethlehem. Yet it was not long and that skin that covered Him was being torn away by the metal fragments and bone shards in the whips of the Roman soldiers. It would not be long and His skin would be pierced for the sins of the entire world. 

What Adam and Eve looked forward to as they looked down and saw the skins that God had given them is exactly what we look back to here in yet another season of Lent.

This is a time where we once again behold that death is all around us. It is everywhere. It envelops us. And like Adam and Eve found, there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. Like those skins that Adam and Eve wore, it is God who provides for us as well.

He provides for us the clothing we need to survive unto eternal life. In baptism, He clothes us with a robe of Christ’s righteousness. In the water and the Word, we are redeemed by Christ the crucified. And in that moment, He takes us from mourning in ashes to looking forward to dining at His table forever.

For that is what we also do here on this night. We who are surrounded by death, literally enveloped by it, are given a foretaste of the feast to come. With our skin covered in His blood and clothed in His righteousness, we see before us that He has provided everything that we need. His body broken for you. His blood shed for you. 

For just as God provided for Adam and Eve, so He has provided for you and for me. Though death may envelop us as we live in this world of sin, we look forward to the return of Christ Who swallowed up death in victory for us…once and for all. 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.

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