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Advent Is Here - Pastor Gless 12/2

Advent is here. Contrary to popular belief of every retail store and website, Christmas is not here. Advent is here. For Christians in the Church, this is not a time for consumerism and consumption. This is a time for hope-filled anticipation. Advent is here.

Advent is derived from the Latin word which means ‘to come’. In English, it is a noun which means ‘the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.’ For us as Christians, Advent directs us to the coming of Christ on Christmas as well as the coming of Christ on the Last Day.

Advent is the first season in the Church year. We look around and see that the colors of the church year have changed to blue. Blue symbolizes anticipation and hope in our coming King. We also see that the Advent wreath is before us. Each Sunday during Advent an additional candle is lit, marking the passing of time until Christmas. As the candles are lit each week, our anticipation mounts as we look forward to Jesus’ coming. On Christmas we light the Christ candle in the middle as we give thanks for His coming on the first Christmas and look forward to His final coming.

During the season of Advent, our congregation, along with many other congregations, has special midweek services to heighten our awareness and anticipation for the celebration of Christ’s coming in the flesh.

Please join us for all of the Advent worship services as we look to the King who first came to us in Mary’s womb and who will come again with power and might. During this time we pray that His return to bring us safely into His kingdom will be soon and very soon! Yes, Advent is here.

Advent is here, and the text for our sermon is much like we heard last Sunday. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:25-28).

To our ears, this sounds horrific. It sounds as if the world is completely and totally out of control. It sounds like chaos on a cosmic level where even the very heavenly bodies in the heavens will be shaken. It gives every indication that we should enter into panic mode and sound the alarm.

It would seem that we should join with Chicken Little, who, when struck on the head by an acorn, went and declared that the sky was falling. He told it to Henny Penny, he told it to Ducky Lucky, and he told it to Foxey Loxey before their end finally came as the fox’s lunch.

Yes, it would seem that now is the time to raise the flag of surrender and panic because it looks as if we don’t stand a chance. Though the sky may not be falling, we look around and ask, “What is the world coming to?” There are hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, flooding and droughts. But where the world may declare that we join with Chicken Little in saying that the sky is falling, we Christians have been given to know better.

Advent is here, and our redemption is near. From the very lips of the Son of God Himself, He has made known to us that all of these natural disasters were expected to take place. He knew they would happen because He is in control, and He graciously shared it with us. That way we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no need to panic. Our redemption is near.

Redemption means to ‘buy back’. The whole point of Jesus’ coming to this earth was to buy us back from death and into life. He did that by coming to this earth as one of us. He became human to save humans. He laid down His life, His perfect life. He endured an innocent suffering and death by shedding His own precious blood to purchase us back from the grip of death and the devil so that we may be secure in the hands of our Savior…the same hands that were stretched out on Calvary to save us.

All of these catastrophic realities around us in our world today are the comforting reminder that He draws near to us once again. So, take comfort, for the time of His return is ever so close. We need not look at such events with fear and trepidation. We expect them to come, so we straighten up in preparing for His arrival.

Think of it this way, when the Commander and Chief of the United States comes on the scene around any military personnel, they do not sit or slouch. They immediately stand up straight and salute. Such an act makes a clear indication of respect and readiness.

So as Advent is now here, the question is, are we ready? Are we ready for the coming of our King? The world would tell us that such readiness comes in packages, boxes, and bags. And by recent retail sale figures, that would seem to be what is true. It is estimated that Black Friday topped a record of over 23 billion dollars in sales. The four day weekend (because Black Friday now starts on Thursday), topped 60 billion dollars in sales. Cyber Monday produced another estimated 8 billion dollars in sales. That’s 68 billion dollars that Americans spent in five days.

To give some perspective on that figure, there are nearly 140 countries in the world that have individual Gross Domestic Products lower than 68 billion dollars. And Americans spent that amount in five days! What’s more, is that for many Americans, the only way to make such purchases is to assume debt. The average American will add over one thousand dollars of credit card debt at the time of these holidays alone. One thousand dollars more debt, added to a national average of $6,375 in credit card debt. And because of that, America can now say that it has topped over 1 trillion dollars in credit card debt.

So, perhaps this is where Chicken Little’s declaration that “the sky is falling” would be more appropriate. Because if we allow greed and covetousness to consume us, we run the risk of not being ready when Jesus does return. Which is exactly why Jesus warns us: But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth (Luke 21:34-35).

In love and care for us, Jesus doesn’t want us to get swept away by the cares of this world. If we get are to get caught up in the sinful consumption of the things of this world, then how will we ever recognize the signs of the time? If we spend more time on our phones, computers, or stores looking for more stuff than we do in the Word of God, then how will we ever recognize what this time of year is really meant to be?

Advent is here. The kingdom of God is near. This is a time of excitement. Just like we are excited to gather with family and friends to arrive at Christmas, this is a time of even greater excitement than that as our King is coming. But where other gatherings demand cooking and cleaning, shopping until there is dropping, Jesus invites us to slow down, to be still and know that He is God and we are not, to pause and to pray.

And so we pray as He has taught us, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come…“Thy Kingdom Come”. The catechism tells us that when we pray this petition, we are praying that “our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

This means that as we gather here today the kingdom of God has come to us. For we have been given the Spirit as His Word has been proclaimed here today forgiving us of all of our sins of greed and coveting. Where we are so often consumed with what we want, He comes to us to fulfill all of our needs. Our God has come from heaven to earth to be present with us here and now. And His presence is far greater and grander than any presents we may give or receive.

So instead of focusing on getting more and more stuff for the garage, let us turn our attention to the coming of the King who graciously comes to us even today. He comes into our ears through His Word which never passes away, and He comes into our mouths through His body and blood. He comes into our lives to redeem our dead bodies back to life.

That is what the season is all about. Advent is here. Our redemption is near. The kingdom of God is near. The signs are all around us. But there is no need to panic. Rather this is a time to straighten up and raise our heads in excitement. This is a time to take comfort in the fact that our King Jesus comes for the sole purpose of saving us. For that is why He came the first time on Christmas, and that is why He will come again when the Last Day comes. So, come Lord Jesus, and come quickly. Amen.

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

Cry For Mercy- Thanksgiving 2018

“Unclean! Unclean!” That was a leper’s cry of warning as it was prescribed in the book of Leviticus. The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46).

Outcasts. Forced to live on the outskirts of town. Cut off from their family, their friends, and most significantly, they were cut off from the worshiping community. Forced to live in exile. There was too much risk that they might infect others. They might make others ceremonially unclean. So, no one wanted to be near them. And if anyone did get too close, this was the warning cry they would hear: “Unclean! Unclean!”

This should have been the cry that Jesus heard as He made His way to Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. As Jesus passed along, ten lepers let it be known that this was no ordinary passerby.

On the way to Jerusalem he [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:11-13).

It is the cry of a beggar. That is what these lepers had been reduced to in their unclean, disease-ridden bodies. Perhaps they had been successful business people before, living the so-called, good life. But now, all of that had been stripped away by the affliction of leprosy.

Leprosy is a disease that starts as spots on the skin leading to numbness in the hands and feet. Muscles start to become paralyzed causing the fingers to curl. The blinking reflex of the eye deteriorates leading to potential blindness. What is most horrific though is that the bacteria attacks nerve endings and destroys the body’s ability to feel pain.

Without feeling pain, people injure themselves and the injuries can become infected, resulting in tissue loss. Fingers and toes become shortened and deformed as the cartilage is absorbed into the body. Repeated injury and infection of numb areas in the fingers or toes can cause the bones to shorten. The tissues around them shrink, making them short. ( All because the victim of this disease cannot feel pain.

The inability to feel pain reminds me of something that Tony Dungy, former NFL player, coach, and analyst once wrote in one of his books: His son Jordan has a very rare neurological condition (2-3 cases in the U.S.) called congenital insensitivity to pain. Jordan is missing the conductors that allow the nerve signals to go from his body to his brain. This is absolutely necessary, especially for kids to find out the difference between what's good and what's harmful. For example, Jordan loves cookies. But because he doesn’t know the difference, when his mom is not looking, he will go right into the oven, reach in, take the rack out, take the pan out, burn his hands, eat the cookie that's too hot, burn his tongue and never feel it. And he doesn't know that that's bad for him. When they go to the park, he likes the slide. But to him, it's just as much fun jumping off from the top as it is sliding down it, leading to more injury and pain.

What the Dungys’ have learned from doctors is that pain actually helps the body heal. When someone gets an injury, their brain senses there is pain there, and it sends the right healing agents naturally to that spot because it senses something is wrong. Without that sensation of feeling something is wrong, their son Jordan’s body doesn't send those healing agents and, consequently, he's got cuts from months ago that haven't healed yet.

What the Dungys’ experienced with their son’s inability to feel pain in many ways carries a similarity to the lepers whose nerve endings were failing, robbing them of the ability to feel pain.

So, if they couldn’t feel pain, then why did the lepers cry out? Why cry out if there is no physical pain to tell you to do so? It’s because so many pains in life go beyond skin-deep. Though their skin was infected and their body was deformed, the pain that caused them to cry out for mercy ran much deeper than a fleshly disease. It was a pain that strikes us all at one time or another. The pain of exclusion.

Families exclude, co-workers exclude, kids on the play-ground exclude. We exclude others. And every single form of exclusion hurts. It is painful. From the inside, out. It starts as a pit in the stomach, wells up into a tightness in the chest, and with every ounce of effort trying to push it back down, eventually it is just too much, and all there is left to do is cry out. Sometimes it is accompanied by tears. Other times, it is in fits of rage and anger. But no matter the form, it is indeed a cry. A cry that begs to belong once again.

Ever been there? The popular group avoids you. Co-workers whisper in their corners. So called friends fail to invite you. Family keeps you out of the loop, avoids spending time with you, or maybe doesn’t include you at all. No matter the form, it hurts. Exclusion cuts deep to the heart. Which also begs the question: Who do we exclude in life?

It’s no wonder the lepers who stood at a distance lifted up their voices. They wanted more than just a healing. They wanted to be included again…in their families, in their neighborhoods, in their congregation. From that and so much more, they had been cut off. But then along comes a passerby who could help.

Though He was on His way to Jerusalem, He was not too busy to stop to help these people out in their time of need. How often are we simply too busy to help out those in need? How often do we think that the problems of others are just ‘not my problem.’ Not so with Jesus. Not only does He answer their cry by showing them mercy, but Jesus also is mercy, in the flesh.

He is the walking, talking, breathing, Son of God who came to this earth for the sole reason of making sure that we didn’t get what we deserved. Every last one of us deserves to die. We deserve to be excluded as outcasts, thrown out of heaven into the fires of hell for all eternity. That is what the wage demanded for our sins.

But Jesus came to pay that wage with His innocent suffering and death, with His own precious blood shed on the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem. That’s why Jesus was headed to Jerusalem. To be cast out of the city to Golgotha to die your death and mine. Yet, along the way, He didn’t steer clear of these lepers, no He had mercy upon them.

He sent them to follow the law established in Leviticus to go and show themselves to the priest, to offer sacrifice for their healing. And that is just what happened along the way…they were healed. But the remarkable thing is that only one of them returned to give thanks to the One who is the once for all sacrifice.

In fact, its’ more than remarkable. It’s ironic. Because the one who ‘didn’t’ belong is the only one who turned back, praising God, and fell on his face at Jesus feet. He was a Samaritan. A foreigner. An outcast. Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate. They were enemies. Yet, here was this Samaritan who had at one point stood at a distance was now at the very feet of the Son of God praising Him with a loud voice. His cry of mercy had been traded in for cries of praise.

That’s why we are here today, isn’t it? We are here to offer our shouts of praise and ‘thanksgiving’ to God for healing us, for relieving our pain, for including us back into His family.

We come here contaminated from the inside out, filled with the sins that we have committed and those committed against us. And there is nothing we can do about it. And we have no doubt tried. We have tried to cover up our sins. We have tried to push them down inside hoping they will not well up again. But it’s no use. We are helpless. No matter how hard we try, we are stand condemned, excluded, outcasts forced to cry out from a distance to the almighty God.

It is the cry of a beggar. The cry of a sinner. The cry of one who pleads that they don’t get what they do deserve. It is the cry for mercy. We know it well. It is the Kyrie. “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”

My fellow leper-laden sinners, I have good news for you. Our Savior has heard our cry. We are excluded no longer. We may have to endure exclusion in this world, but this is a place that God Himself welcomes us with open arms. This is where our leprous sins are healed. This is where our uncleanness is made clean.  

It is here in His house that He heals us from the inside out. In the Eucharist, the meal which means to ‘give thanks’, He responds to our cries for mercy and restores us back into His family. By His body and blood given and shed for us, we are cleansed…washed in the blood of Jesus.

If ever there was a man who knew the pain of exclusion, it was Jesus. Rejected by family, friends, the church, the government…He was even rejected by God Himself as He hung on the cross and cried out to His Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

But as He received no reply to His cry, that will never happen to any of us. The separation has been ended. For now when we cry to Him for mercy, He hears us. He answers us. He feed us, sends us, and He keeps welcoming us back for more. May we share His mercy by welcoming others that we may have excluded that they too may be comforted by the love of Jesus.

So as we depart back to our homes to continue our Thanksgiving celebrations, let us return thanks for all of the blessings He has given to us. For here today, we have been reminded that our God feels our pain and has given us mercy, cleansing, a healing touch , a place in His family, and the faith that recognizes that He is the giver of all those gifts. What a great day that was back then for the lepers, and what a great day it is for us here today to be cleansed by our God and to return thanks! “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” Amen.

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

Getting Ready For The Day

How do you get ready for the day? What is the routine for you? My routine consists of hearing the alarm and then pressing the snooze. Grudgingly I get up, use the restroom, put in my contacts, do my devotions, perhaps work in some exercise depending upon the day, shower, get dressed, fix the spikes in my hair, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and attempt to assist with the craziness of getting the kids ready for the day. That’s getting ready for the day in a nutshell for me. How about for you?

          The writer to the Hebrews takes what we typically understand to be Judgment Day or the Last Day and simply calls it The Day. In those days, The Day was so familiar, so central to their teaching, that when The Day was referenced, people knew what it meant. It shaped their lives and their behaviors. So, how are we ‘Getting Ready for The Day?’

          As The Day draws near, we are directed to draw near to God. This is what we just heard in the confession of our sins. “Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.”

We get ready for The Day by repenting, by confessing our sins, admitting that we are poor, miserable sinners who have offended God and justly deserve both temporal and eternal punishment. This is our daily routine that we follow as we get ready for The Day. And we do so in ‘full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.’

As baptized believers, day in and day out, we die and rise with Christ. We admit we are wrong (not easy to do), we apologize, we beg for forgiveness, and we ask for help to change our sinful ways.

          Then, in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, the pastor delivers to us the forgiveness of sins. Because “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (Divine Service I).

          So is repentance a part of our daily routine as we get ready for The Day? Is it a priority in the ever busying schedule? Do we take time to examine our thoughts, words, and deeds according to the Ten Commandments, or is that only a Sunday thing? Have we so compartmentalized our lives that we only draw near to God in repentance because it is in the bulletin telling us to do so?

          Because the truth is that God so loves us that He desires to sprinkle our hearts clean and wash our bodies of the filth of sin each and every day. Daily, as we get ready for the day, He delights in our hearing of His words of forgiveness. He wants to shower each of us with His love constantly, which is why He directs inwardly digest His Word as if our life depended upon it. Because it does! He knows full well that the journey is long, and He is here to help us so that we may be faithful to the point of death and so receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

          Which brings us to another way we are directed to get ready for The Day. The text tells us to ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’

          In our baptism, our parents, sponsors, and the congregation spoke on our behalf regarding the faith into which we were baptized. They were not speaking for us, but rather in testimony of the faith that was being given to us on that very day through water and the Word.

          Years after that blessed day of our baptism, we were invited to stand up before the congregation just as many of our confirmands recently did so a few weeks ago on Reformation Sunday. There before the congregation, they publicly affirmed the faith that was given to them in their baptism. In fact one of the questions even asked: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” To which the Confirmands reply: “I do, by the grace of God.”

          The point was and is that Confirmation is not graduation. It is not the end of the line for the life of faith. It is merely a stepping stone in the life of faith as a baptized believer. Many of us sit here in public testimony to that fact. It was years ago that we publicly confessed our faith at our Confirmation, and yet, here we are by the grace of God still confessing the one, true faith given to us at Baptism. Thanks be to God for that!

           However, would any of us ever say that it was easy? Is the life of faith easy? No doubt, all of us could provide a laundry list of examples where we have been tempted to wander from our faith or abandon it altogether. Perhaps some of us here are in that very moment now as the devil is waging war on our very souls.

          So, it’s no wonder that the writer to the Hebrews instructs us to get ready for the Day by saying that we are to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. Because the fact of the matter is that as sinners, we do waver. We do wander. We do get lost, and in those moments we need to be found.

          But thanks be to God, He who promised is faithful. Our God is not a distant God, but rather One who sends His Son to enter into the valley of the shadow of death. And where we might have a hard time holding fast to the confession, He has no problem holding on to us. He is holding us now in the palm of His righteous right hand, and He will not let us go. Those hands that He holds us in were stretched out on Calvary on our behalf, pierced for our very transgressions, so that we may be saved. He is, and always will be faithful.

          He faithfully died for us. He faithfully rose from the grave for us. And He will be faithful to His promise to return when The Day finally arrives. Though we don’t know when that day will be, we can trust that He will be faithful to send His Son back to earth to take us to be with Him.

          I can’t tell you what joy that brings me as a pastor to be given the privilege to proclaim that very truth at funerals here in our congregation. To look into the eyes of those who grieve and mourn, and tell them that for all those who died believing in Jesus, there is a reunion yet to come in the presence of the Son of God. The Day is coming when we will see Him descending from the clouds, the dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are alive will meet with those who have been raised, and we will always be with the Lord. What a day, The Day will be!

          Until The Day arrives though, the writer to the Hebrews continues in saying that we are to ‘stir one another up to love and good works’. As we look at the trend of our day where regular worship attendance is being redefined, now more than ever, we need to be stirring one another up to love and good works. No longer is the Sabbath Day being kept holy. There are other priorities in peoples’ lives. Where Sunday used to be sacred to most companies and organizations, it is now hard to find anyone who still thinks it is a day to be held in the highest regard.

          That’s why now, more than ever, we need to reassess what is most important in life. When I ask the question when I am teaching, “Is there ever a point that we don’t need the forgiveness of sins offered in God’s Word and Sacrament,” everyone responds with “No!” Yet, so often that does not seem true when it comes to weekly routines. Here’s the thing though, if we behave like the world on Sundays, how will the world ever know that Sunday is the day to keep holy? How will they ever know that the reason we prioritize gathering on Sunday is because that is The Day our Savior rose from the dead, and that is the only hope we have for salvation?

          So, it’s no wonder that the writer to the Hebrews tells us to ‘not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as we see The Day drawing near.’

          People of God, we need each other. God brings us into a community of faith so that we may be encouraged to know week in week out that we don’t go it alone. The journey is long and it is tough, but thanks be to God that as He guides us, we have others who are on the same journey. As we look to our left and right in the pews, we see our family. In some cases they are family by blood. In fact, in all cases, we are family by blood. Each of us has been sprinkled by the blood of Jesus cleansing our sins. Each of us has been nourished by the blood of Jesus giving us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Truth is, we are family. God the Father is our heavenly Father, and Jesus is our brother from another mother, but we got the same Father.

          And what a joy it is to be welcomed here into the house of God, to draw near to Him together in the full assurance of faith, confident that as we hear His Word and receive His Sacrament, we are being readied for The Day. And I think I join with all of us in saying, “I can’t wait for The Day to finally be here.” So, “come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly!” And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

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

A Teachable Moment on Faith


People watching. While dating in college, Emily and I did a lot of people watching in downtown Chicago. It never disappointed. There was the travelling Casino man who rode on the “L” (the elevated train). He had three bottle caps and a small bean. He would move them around and get people to bet $20 to guess which cap it was under. When they won, he would get them double down, and they would always lose. I was glad I never participated. Then there were the street evangelists who would blare their threatening lines that the end of the world was coming, trying to scare people into repentance. There were street entertainers of all kinds, from jugglers to musicians. My favorite was a group of boys who were percussionists that played on five gallon pales. They were amazing. Then there were the silver people. They were people who painted themselves completely in silver paint and stand as statues. Occasionally they would move in a rather robotic fashion and then resume the position of a statue like character. There truly never was a dull moment in downtown Chicago when it came to people watching.

Our text says that Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people (Mark 12:41a). Jesus watched the people. He watched the people putting money into the offering box. Imagine if we had our ushers do that, or the elders, or perhaps the pastor watch each person as they put in money into the offering plate. Just imagine.

The truth is, at the suggestion of the previous MN South District President, the Council was directed to watch attendance and giving trends during this vacancy. Thus far, it’s been noticed that while attendance is slightly up, giving is slightly down. The reason for watching such a trend is that their experience, the District believes that it is vital for congregations to maintain attendance and giving integrity throughout a vacancy in preparation for when the vacancy concludes.

Now such watching of giving to the church was quite a bit different in Jesus’ day. In His day, there were thirteen receptacles located around the temple courtyard. And it was not uncommon for people to watch others give their tithe. You see, in those days, the command was that a ten percent tithe was to be given to the Lord. But because this was a public affair, many of the wealthy would give even more in hopes of drawing attention to themselves and their giving. That is exactly what Jesus witnessed. The text says that Jesus saw many rich people put in large sums (Mark 12:41b).



But then the focus of this people watching session made a dramatic shift to the most unexpected person. A poor widow. Where no one else would have focused in on her, Jesus makes her the focal point of this teachable moment for the disciples and for us. A teachable moment on more than just giving, but rather a teachable moment on faith.

And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny (Mark 12:42). Here the wealthy are lined up putting in large sums of money. Others are no doubt impressed by the sound those large sums make as they enter into one of those thirteen receptacles. We might guess that the disciples were impressed too.

But not Jesus. No, Jesus hones in on a widow who gives two small copper coins. No doubt when they landed in one of those receptacles, no one even heard the little plinking sounds they made. No one really cared about those two small copper coins.

Those two copper coins were known as lepta. They were the smallest form of currency. If one were to work a day’s wage and make a denarius, they would be making sixty-four lepta. So, what this widow gave as an offering was 1/32 of a day’s wage. That means that this amount would be what the average worker makes in fifteen minutes of work, to give us some perspective. To anyone else there, this offering was completely without significance. Except for Jesus.

And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).

The disciples must have been quite flabbergasted to hear such a line from Jesus. How could this woman’s offering be more than what others were giving? She only gave two lepta. That’s nothing. Or almost nothing. But Jesus counters such a thought in saying that what might be deemed as nothing by most, is everything to him.

As I said, this is a teachable moment on more than just giving. It is a teachable moment on faith. This woman was a widow, which meant that her husband had died, and in those days that meant that her source of income and support was no longer present with her to provide for her. She did not know where her next meal would come from or if it would come. All we know from the text is that everything she had, she gave.

What’s more is that we don’t know what happens afterwards. In the words of Paul Harvey, we don’t know “the rest of the story.” We don’t know if the disciples and Jesus cared for her. We don’t know if family or friends took her into their homes. We don’t know if she may have died within the next few days from starvation. Though we want to think that Jesus and the disciples did not abandon her in her time of need, the truth of the matter is that we don’t know. And for good reason.

Just like this woman didn’t know her future when she gave to the Lord, nor do we. There is not-a-one of us here who knows what the future holds. We don’t know if we will have enough money for food tomorrow. We don’t know if our job will be there for us to go to anymore. We don’t know if the number of our days will be ended. We simply don’t know what the future holds.

For many of us, that causes us a great deal of unrest and anxiety. We worry, and how often, more than naught, is our worrying about finances. We fixate on finances, and all the while forget about the fulfillment of God’s promises. We allow anxiety to overwhelm us to the point that giving to the Lord might be diminished to an afterthought. First fruits might get lost in the shuffle to the point that if we give, it might only be from our leftovers.

You see, this is where the freedom of percentage giving comes in. Where the Old Testament commanded a ten percent tithe, the New Testament leads us to give a percentage of our income. Though it does not specify a specific percentage, we are encouraged to give of our first fruits giving thanks for all that the Lord has done for us. That means if we make a thousand dollars one week or a hundred dollars the next, the amount of giving may change, but the percentage does not. This is freeing. Because, let’s be real. Some of us don’t know how much we will make in a year, or a month, or even in a week. But when we give thanks based upon a percentage gift to the Lord, it removes the fear of trying to maintain a specific dollar amount when the circumstances of life may become more trying.

The amazing thing about this story is that Jesus, who knows and sees all things, says that she put in everything she had, all she had to live on. God doesn’t look at the amount she gave. He looks at the heart. Where others were giving that they may be seen by others, she gave so that God might be seen and glorified, and the needs of others might be met. All the while she had faith that God would provide for her needs of body and soul, no matter what happened the next day. She truly feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things thanks to the faith that had been given to her.

Such faith is given to us as well. In the water and Word of Holy Baptism, we were given the faith to believe in Jesus as our Savior. But with that gift of faith, God doesn’t promise us that when we give to the Lord, we will be blessed with health or wealth. He doesn’t promise us that we will be millionaires or that we will get a raise or always have the job we desire. Truth is, we don’t know what the future holds in this life.

What we do know is that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). We have been given to know and believe that among all the uncertainties of life, there is one thing that is always certain as baptized believers in Jesus. Salvation is secure. It is guaranteed. It has been secured and guaranteed by the One who gave everything He had, all He to live on.

As the song goes: “He gave His life, what more could He give? Oh how He loves you…oh how he loves me. Oh how He loves you and me.” In love for you and me Jesus secured for us salvation in heaven with Him. He made sure that when that last day arrives and we see Him descend from the clouds, that will not be a day that we will face with fear.

That is what is so remarkable about the faith of this woman who gave the two small copper coins. Her faith wasn’t in her next meal or her next place to stay. She wasn’t storing up treasures on earth only to see them rust and decay. Her treasures were in heaven, right where they ought to belong. Her faith was in her God who loved her so much that He sent His Son. It’s no wonder Jesus sat and watched her God-given faith in action.

          To think that she displayed such faith and Jesus hadn’t even died on the cross yet, is quite amazing. To think that He was sitting right there and only three chapters later in the book of Mark He would be bleeding and dying for her salvation. We don’t know, but perhaps she lived and was even able to witness His crucifixion and resurrection. We don’t know.

          What we do know is that we live on the other side of Christ’s sacrificial death. We are privileged to gather here and look back and see that the promise that was made for us and all humanity has been fulfilled. We gather here celebrating that the resurrection of the dead is a reality. And we gather here to give thanks to God for the faith He has given us so that we may believe that when He comes again our salvation is a guarantee. Thanks be to God! Amen.

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

The Eternal Gospel


In ancient Greece warfare was a more common and royal occurrence than we see it today. Kings and rulers sent their generals and troops off to battle and then awaited the news of how it went. When the battle was won, a well-groomed and finely dressed messenger was sent back with a specific message.

As he entered the city, the messenger’s appearance would tell he brought good news. His face would be clean and shinning, his spear would be decked with laurel and other green shrubbery, likewise his head would be crowned in greenery.

He would be swinging a branch of palms as he went through the city, which would excitedly rouse all the inhabitants, and make his arrival at the palace all the more grand and exiting. When he finally reached the king or emperor, the messenger would raise his right hand in greeting and call out with a loud voice “euangelion!”— “good news!” It was the customary and technical term of war used for the good news of victory in battle.

 “Euangelion,” this word fills the pages of the (Greek) New Testament. We see it in English as the word “gospel.” The book of Mark starts by saying, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Jesus Himself begins his ministry saying, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The Apostle Paul, in one of my favorite verses of all Scripture (which is also my confirmation verse) says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe” (Rom. 1:16).

In other words, at the core of the New Testament is the Gospel, and that most certainly is “good news.” This is quite fitting, of course, because the New Testament is all about the Good News of victory of over sin and death through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, for a time in the history of the Church this good news was buried in demands to earn your salvation or even to buy your way to heaven. But the Reformation started by Martin Luther when he nailed those 95 Theses to the church door, brought the unequivocal goodness of the Good News back into the life of the Holy Christian Church and her people.

That’s why on this Sunday we mark the day that began the great Reformation, even as the children of this church publicly confess their faith in the rite of confirmation, all while together we rejoice in the Good News of the Gospel with mutual celebration!  

Reformation, confirmation, and celebration all because of the Good News of the Gospel. It’s the very Gospel spoken of in the reading from the book of Revelation.

In fact, the book of Revelation captures the Apostle John’s vivid visions of a victorious battle, an uses the word “euangelion” along with all the ancient imagery associated with it. This is especially so in the reading for today.

But in this case, the messenger is an angel who is triumphantly going not just to the inhabitants of one city, but to the inhabitants of the whole world: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev. 14:6)

            An eternal gospel. That means never ending Good News. In a world full of the never-ending cycle of bad news—be it from FOX news, CNN, MSNBC, or the feed from your preferred social media platform—we crave and need some eternal good news.   

Putting it bluntly, we live in a land of unhappy and unhealthy people. All we need do is look around and listen to all the bad news coming from the vitriol and cruelty of another election cycle. In fact, Ben Sasse, the Senator from Nebraska just released a fascinating book that diagnosis the sorry condition of Americans. It’s titled, Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal.

Them. You know “them.” They are the ones who don’t think like you, talk like you, look like you, or vote like you. Them. Though Jesus shed His blood for them, “them” are your enemies. If ever there was evidence of the corrupt and sinful heart, American political seasons are it. Sasse’s analysis of the vitriol and disdain for fellow human beings, especially in public discourse, is rather frightening. Yet, he brings a rather telling diagnosis of why. 

He says we hate each other because we are lonely. Interestingly, he observes that the ties that used to bind previous generations to family, friends, neighborhoods and communities are no longer in place, so America is suffering from a “loneliness epidemic.”     

Perhaps you know what that is like. A broken marriage, a broken family, or a broken promise brings the heaviness and isolation of loneliness. No friends at school, no friends at work, or no friends who understand, leave you haunted by the antagonizing whispers of loneliness. Or perhaps it’s the long days of work, the long nights alone, or the long stretches of eating by yourself that leave you hurting, unhappy, and unhealthy. 

            In fact, Senator Sasse says the greatest health crisis in America, “is not cancer, not obesity, and not heart disease—it’s loneliness.” Putting it into some stark terms for us, he says, “Persistent loneliness reduces [the] average longevity [of life] by more than twice as much as heavy drinking and more than three times as much as obesity.”(p.23)

The result, Sasse notes, is an attempt to treat persistent loneliness by creating “tribes” of “us” vs. “them” in order to create an artificial sense of identity and belonging. Secure within a preferred tribe, people lash out, hurl personal insults, and, as was all over the bad news cycle this week (if it is to be believed), mail pipe bombs and white powder to the opposition, instead of engaging in reasoned dialogue and seeing the humanity of another person.

Loneliness is sinister. The Devil can tempt you and me with any number of sins by it. Loneliness is painful. The fact is, loneliness can eat you alive. Aloneness can swallow every last once of hope that you have to spare. It feasts upon any happiness that you have left, leaving behind an empty carcass, full of despair and memories that you can’t seem to hold onto anymore.

Loneliness takes your heart into its claws and it squeezes. It makes you angry, it makes you sad, it makes you near despair, and it makes you desperate for relief—desperate for good news.

Now hear this. I have good news for you. There is an angel of heaven flying overhead with an eternal Gospel to proclaim. No amount of bad news can thwart the goodness of this Good News. No intensity of isolation can keep this Gospel away from you. This Good News is eternal. It cannot be stopped. It will carry on. Pastors proclaim it. Parents speak it. Confirmands confess it. And you believe it!

The eternal Gospel is that Jesus Christ brings hope to you today, tomorrow, next week, next year, and even next century. The eternal nature of the Gospel is that is does not, cannot, and will not ever stop bringing you Good News. In fact, it will never cease filling you from head to toe with the faith, hope, and love of Christ Jesus. With Him, there is no fake news or false news, there is no artificial identity or empty sense of belonging. He loves you unconditionally, irreversibly, and unmistakably.    

Baptized into His life, Jesus brings compassion and understanding to your hurts; He brings life and light to your weary soul. With Jesus there is solace, there is safety, and there is satisfaction to be had in a very present God who comes directly to you under bread and wine. Here you not only taste and see the Lord is good, but here He is present with you, and then sends you to be present with others.

You see, Jesus came to root out every lonely corner and seek out every isolated soul. Jesus came to thwart every ounce of hatred and overcome every divided people. He came that you might not be left alone in your sin or ever doubt your identity. He calls you to repentance and then wraps you in His eternal acceptance.   

Jesus Christ has promised never to leave you and never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You are not alone! Christ Jesus makes Himself present for you today, physically and sacramentally. His body and His blood given for you. This is the Gospel. This is Good News. It is for you!

You see, with Jesus, you have an ever-present Lord who not only understands your hurt, but has endured the very soul searching, gut wrenching, and heart-breaking devastation of lonely suffering.

He knows the pains you bear, the emptiness you feel, the anger you harbor, and the longing you have. He knows the battles you face, the sins you suffer, the offenses you commit, and the wars that are waged against your soul by the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature; and He will not leave you to suffer alone.

He comes to your aid. He sends His Spirit to your side, and His Word to your mind. He calls you to live by faith, to trust in Him, even as the battle for your soul rages on.

In fact, into this battle the Heavenly Father sends a great warrior from Heaven to fight for you. He brings not sword or shield, nor puts on armor. Rather He puts on flesh.

God sent His Son into your skin, to walk around in your misery, in your hurt, and in your suffering; to endure your temptation, to fight against the devil, and to do battle with death itself on your behalf.   

Yes, He knows your plight, and He came to deliver you from the eternal consequences of it. On the cross of Calvary our Lord went into battle and endured the utter agony of rejection. He knows what it is to be hated. He knows what it is to be one of “them.”

Still he battled on. He dripped with the blood of aloneness, casting His soul into the deepest, darkest depths of loneliness imaginable. Crying out for His Father, He was answered with nothing but deafening silence. Jesus endured the depths of utter and complete aloneness because He was the only one who could pay the price for your sins and endure the terrifying loneliness of Hell so that you would never have to.

Jesus Christ went into the depths of loneliness, stood upon the brink of despair, and lay dead sealed in a tomb, so that three days later, having paid for sin, stomped on Satan, and destroyed death, He could walk out of that tomb, raise His hand and call out for all to hear, “Good news! The victory is won.” That is the goodness of the Gospel.

Be you infant or adult, confirmand or congressman, black or white, republican or democrat, citizen or sinner, the good news of the eternal Gospel is for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.    


The Impossible Made Possible


The Gospel Reading last week placed before us a man who was blind. Though he could see just fine physically, he was blind spiritually. His sinful, self-righteousness made it impossible for him to see his need for Jesus as his Savior. So with great love and care, Jesus exposed this man’s idolatry of his wealth and possessions. Unfortunately, when this man’s sins were exposed, he walked away from Jesus. It is as this man walked away from Jesus that our text picks up for today.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23).

Where last week exposed the very fact that there is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life, this week’s text exposes that money and possessions won’t get us there either.

Today’s text is hardly a popular one, because it talks about money. There are many who feel that the church should never talk about money, and yet Jesus Himself brings it up on countless occasions. He is well aware that it is our money and the use of that money that often exposes where our false gods are located.

It is interesting to note that when it comes to money, hardly any of us would consider ourselves as rich. We always seem to be comparing ourselves to others, so we often see ourselves as the ‘have nots’ instead of the ‘haves’.

Interestingly enough, in Kenya, where the unemployment rate is 40%, an average day’s wage for a laborer is five dollars. Five dollars per day. Imagine living on that! Kind of makes it difficult to stop for that cup of coffee at Fivebucks…I mean Starbucks.

Then, while we were in Duca Moja in Kenya, a town miles from nowhere, the family we visited was on an eleven month payment plan to be able to afford a couple of solar lightbulbs in their tin hut. Eleven months, to pay off two bulbs. Needless to say, by many of the world’s standards, we are all quite wealthy.

But the issue here before us is not about how much money we have, but the role money plays in our lives. For the disciples, they couldn’t believe that Jesus said it would be difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.

And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:24-26).

For the disciples, wealth and possessions were signs of blessing from God. In their minds, if you had money and stuff, then your eternal inheritance was secured.

This notion the disciples bought into is still alive and well today. It is called the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel advances the idea that if one believes in God, then God will bless them richly. These rich blessings often focus on promotions, positions, health, wealth, possessions, you name it. Televangelists of all kinds push this lie trying to get rich themselves.

And don’t get me wrong, it is not that the money and the possessions we have aren’t blessings from the Lord. They are. But what function do they serve in our lives?

We need to ask ourselves, what has become too important in our lives? What has become our god? What has caused us to crowd God out of being our first love? Are we willing to admit it? Are we willing to repent of the error of our ways? Are we willing to confess that we have feared, loved, and trusted in something other than God?

All too often, the unfortunate reality is that the devil uses our wealth and possessions to drive us away from God. Money and possessions give us a false-sense of power and control, as well as a false sense of security. We are often inclined to think that because we have money and stuff, we are doing alright, and we don’t need Christ.

Our Old Testament Reading exposed the slippery slope in saying: He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

The risk with wealth and possessions is that we are rarely if ever satisfied with what we have. We fail to understand what it means to be content with what we have. Consumed with comparing ourselves to others, we constantly want more and more, bigger and better. It is a bottomless pit that the devil takes full advantage of, especially in our American culture.

John D. Rockefeller was at one point the world’s richest man and first ever American billionaire. Considering he was a billionaire in the early 1900’s, he is still considered as the richest person in modern history. When a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.” (Pause)

Isn’t this our American mentality that we have bought into when it comes to wealth and possessions? So, it’s no wonder that Jesus likens us to camels that can’t make it through the eye of a needle. When we think that the wealth and possessions we have in life are what provide us security, we are left with an impossible task. None of that will get us salvation in heaven.

You have heard the line, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Well, the truth is that “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.” No amount of money or possessions is going to be able to get our way into heaven. Though millions of dollars have been spent trying to reverse the reality of death through nanotechnology, cryogenic freezing, and other technologies, the common denominator for us all is that we will die.

How did the line go from Benjamin Franklin? “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Death is a given for us all, and for all of us, it is impossible for us to overcome.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

The Son of God came from heaven to earth and humbled Himself by being born in a stable and placed in a manger. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

Not with gold or silver, but with His holy and precious blood, Jesus died the death that should have been ours. He did the unthinkable, to accomplish the impossible. With His death, He destroyed death once and for all. And three days after lying in that tomb, He won for us the victory that never should have been ours. But so it is with our God. “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Thanks to Jesus, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of the sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1st Corinthians 15:54-57).

This is where we find our identity in life. Not in the money we make or the possessions we have. As Scripture says: Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, so that we by His poverty might become rich (2nd Corinthians 8:9). Our identity is secured in the victory won for us by none other than Jesus Christ.

Through water and the Word of Holy Baptism, Jesus generously joined Himself to us to pull us up from drowning in those baptismal waters so that we may have eternal life. There Jesus pulled us camels through the eye of the needle. The impossible was made possible, because all things are possible with God.

Now our salvation is secure, and so is our identity. We don’t have to strive after ‘a little bit more’ as Rockefeller said. We don’t have to try and keep up with the Jones’, whoever that may be in our lives. We belong to Christ. We are not our own, we were bought with a price (1st Corinthians 6:19).

As those who belong to Christ, we are called to follow Him to the cross and the empty tomb…To bear our own cross and sacrifice everything…To endure persecution and divisions…To be His disciples…and to be His stewards.

As baptized believers, we recognize that everything we have comes from God. From those gifts, we joyfully and gladly give back to God so that the work of His kingdom may continue to be spread.

My Dad taught me how to tithe when I earned my very first dollar. He instructed me that the first ten cents of that dollar went to God, then fifty cents to savings, and forty cents to spend. It is a lesson that has stuck with me all my life, for which I am forever thankful.

It is a lesson that this world thinks is absolutely crazy. The rest of the world will never understand why we would willingly give money to the work of the church expecting nothing in return. They think we have lost our minds. They think we are nuts. In a sermon I heard from a Pastor Beyer at the Seminary, he shared that NUTS is an acronym for Never Underestimate the work of The Spirit. So, we are, in fact, NUTS.

So be it. Because our identity is not based upon what the world says. Our identity is based upon who God called us to be. We are children of the Heavenly Father, named and claimed by Jesus Christ Himself. The very One who made the impossible, possible for us.

Let us pray: Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have called us to be Your children and heirs of Your gracious promises in Christ Jesus. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may forsake all covetous desires and the inordinate love of riches. Deliver us from the pursuit of passing things that we may seek the kingdom of Your Son and trust in His righteousness and so find blessedness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

See the Savior


Recently I watched a video of the procedure known as Lasik eye surgery. In this surgery, a laser is used to create a thin circular flap in the exterior tissue of the cornea. That flap is then folded back to give access to the underlying cornea. A highly specialized laser is then used to reshape the cornea so that it more accurately focuses light on the retina for improved vision. I sat in awe as I watched the patient’s sight improve almost instantly because of this procedure.

I bring this up because today we are going to talk about sight. Specifically, spiritual sight. What we are invited to see today is that with greater precision that Lasik surgery, Jesus Himself provides the vision necessary so that we may see Him as our Savior.

Today’s text reveals to us a man who is blind. Oh, he can see physically just fine. But as far as spiritual sight goes, he is completely and totally blind.

The text says, And as Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Here was a man on a mission, searching for an honest answer. We might wonder how many others he had asked this question as he desperately sought the assurance of knowing that his salvation would be secure. Unlike the Pharisees, he was not trying to trick or trap Jesus. No, this man legitimately saw Jesus as the One who could finally help him. He was even willing to kneel before Jesus, to take a position of humility before Him, in hopes of finally getting his answer.

It is an answer that we have so often seek after as well as we ask the same question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In a survey taken in the early 1990’s, it was revealed that three out of four Lutherans said that they were trying to attain the ultimate gift of heaven and eternal life by “living good lives,” “obeying the commandments,” or “being good Christians.”

What this statistic clearly shows us is that we Lutherans are not immune to the same blindness that this man had who knelt at Jesus’ feet. It is the blindness of self-righteousness. Like this man must have concluded, we tell ourselves the lie that we are good people. And we further that lie when we compare ourselves to others; then we see ourselves as better people. A daily diet of this behavior puffs up pride which only keeps us from clearly seeing the truth before us.

The truth is that pride, more often than not, is a mask of insecurity. Though this man kneeling before Jesus pridefully declares that he has kept all the commandments from his youth (which we will examine more later), he still is insecure about his salvation. 

The same can so often be said of us. We put on errs before others that we have life all together, but the truth is, that actually, deep down, we are really an insecure people. We bury our past and all the hurts hoping that if we push them down hard enough and long enough that eventually they will go away. We fret wondering if we have done enough to right all of the wrongs we have done. But on the outside no one would ever know. We put on the smiling face and tell everyone we are ‘just fine’ so that no one really knows what is actually going on within us.

But below the surface of that facial façade, we are battered and bruised by the reality of this sin-filled, fallen world. All too often we bear the burdens of being betrayed by those that said they would love and care for us. Inside, we are left with one question: What do I have to do? What do I have to do to make things right? All too often when we ask this question, we begin to view life as if it were a ladder of achievement or a set of steps in hopes of gaining security in our lives.

And it doesn’t take long for us to look at God’s commandments in a similar way. We begin to see the commandments as a checklist of sorts. If only I do this, then I will finally be in favor with God. If only I accomplish that, I will finally be able to make up for what I did back then. Because after all, we all have sins that haunt us and plague us, right? Things that we have done or failed to do, and the devil knows just how to press the right buttons to shake the security of our salvation.

So what do we naturally turn to? We turn inward toward ourselves. What must I do to inherit eternal life? What do I need to do to make this right? Isn’t that what we ask in a relationship that might be on the rocks. “Just tell me…what do I have to do to make this right, to save this friendship, to heal this family, to fix this marriage?” It doesn’t take much for us to ask the same question before God as well.

It just goes to show that we think much more highly of ourselves than we ought to when come before God. We actually have the audacity to think that we could do something to achieve eternal life, just like this man who knelt before Jesus. We actually think that we are somehow capable of being ‘good’ before God. (Pause)

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother (Mark 10:18-19).

When we first examine these verses, it appears that Jesus is telling this man that eternal life is, in fact, a ladder or a set of stairs to climb. It looks like he is saying, do all these things and you are good to go. But that is far from what Jesus is doing here.

With laser like precision, Jesus is exposing this man’s false sense of security. With the care of a surgeon, he is unveiling this man’s sinful pride and arrogance. He is leading this blind man to see just who the Savior is.

And he said to Jesus, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth. And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:20-22).

Here was a man who had found his security in life. Unfortunately for him as he walked away disheartened and sorrowful, his security was not in the Savior. For this man, his security was in his wealth.

But that’s the thing, when we fail to see Jesus as the Savior, we become insecure when it comes to salvation. And rightfully so. But what happens is that we are inclined then to misplace our security. Maybe it is in our money or our possessions. Maybe it is in our job title or the position we hold in life. Maybe it is in the affirmation and affection of a person, a parent, a spouse, or even a child. Maybe it is in ourselves and our accomplishments.

Here’s the thing though: The security of salvation comes only in the One who is Good, only in the One who saves. And today the Savior who is the only One who is good places before us the commandments of God to show us that we are sinners. He removes our spiritual blindness so that we may all see we are sinners who fall short of the glory of God. He helps us to see that we will never find security in what we do before God or anyone else. An inheritance is not earned. An inheritance is a gift. A gift given by none other than the One who opens our spiritual eyes. His name is Jesus. He is our Savior.

It was our Savior Jesus who was the One who came and followed the law to perfection. He did that because we were not able. He did that because just like He looked at that man and loved him, so He loves us. In love for us, He went to the cross to bear our burdens and our sins, to die our death so that we would have an eternal inheritance. With eyes of love, He looked upon all of humankind from that cross and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

All too often we live out the lie thinking we can do all that is needed to be perfect. But, Jesus knew full well that there was nothing we could do to earn eternal life. He knew we couldn’t complete the to-do list of the commandments. He saw us in our battered and bruised state in this world. And like so many of us have had to endure, He was betrayed by one His own so that we would not have to do anything to secure our salvation. He did it for us. It’s finished. It’s done.

Let that sink in for a moment. For all of us who constantly find ourselves burdened by the weight of our sins and those committed against us, take a deep breath and take this in:

As Jesus breathed His last, you may breathe a sigh of relief. The separation is ended. Your salvation is secure. The work is done. You don’t have to work your way to Jesus. He came to you.

And He comes to you once again today. Through His Word and His Holy Supper. He is here for you. To forgive you. To strengthen you. To sustain you. Be at peace, and see your Savior before you.

It is just as we will soon sing after receiving the Savior’s body and blood in the Nunc Dimittis:

(8am) Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.

(10:30am) Lord, bid Your servant go in peace, Your word is now fulfilled. These eyes have seen salvation’s dawn, This child so long foretold. This is the Savior of the world.

Your Savior comes to you and He calls you to follow Him. He will lead you through this valley of the shadow of death, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. So, take a deep breath. You have nothing to fear. Your salvation is secure. See your Savior is here, and He is looking in love upon you. Amen.

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