Sunday after Christmas (Luke 2:25-40)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Sunday after Christmas + December 30, 2018

Luke 2:25-40

Forty days after Jesus’ birth, He was brought to the temple according to the Levitical Law. Also there at the temple is a man named Simeon. A righteous man, to whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until seeing the Lord’s Christ. And this day will be that day.

I suppose Simeon could’ve taken that promise and ran with it. He knows the Christ is coming to Israel. That’s what God promised through the prophets. Might be a great time to go see the world. Visit Rome, Visit the East. See how big God’s world really is. He had all the time in the world—as long as he refused to look for the Lord’s Christ.

Turns out, that line of thinking is prevalent today. Somehow, this world of ours started believing that we could avoid death. Any time the day of death threatens to show, all we have to do is hide our faces, close our eyes, and go to a happier place. If we just look elsewhere everything will turn out fine. If we look elsewhere, we’ll have all the time in the world to enjoy ourselves.

So we refuse to talk about death. We insist that funerals be a “celebration of life.” We demand that the dying aren’t told the truth of their condition, for their own good. We lie to our relatives because we don’t want them to worry or grieve with us.  And we pretend that moment of death never actually happens to anyone. Only the before and after. Here happy with us, or there, happy with Jesus. Nobody actually dies in the world’s eyes, because no one has seen it happen. It’s scary and unknown, and it’s out of our control.  Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is to never die.

This is one of the biggest reasons why the world hates Jesus. Because to see Jesus is to see death. You cannot look at Jesus, hanging there on that cross, and not talk about death. Maybe that’s part of the reason plain crosses without a corpus are so popular.  Then the cross can be a symbol of a tepid Christianity that strives only to make its adherents happy.  But, you cannot look at Jesus, with the nails in His hands and feet, and think it’s a celebration of life. You can’t look at Jesus, saying “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”[1] and hide the truth of death away. You can’t look at Jesus giving up His Spirit with a great shout, and pretend death doesn’t really happen.[2] You can’t look at Jesus and be ignorant about death any longer. So the world refuses to look for the Lord’s Christ.

But here stands Simeon. He hadn’t escaped. He hadn’t refused to look. Simeon came to temple, probably every day, hoping to see the sign of the consolation of Israel, like a kid who checks the front porch every day for an expected package. Yes it would also mean his imminent demise.  That was the price it cost to see the Lord’s Christ. And this, he saw Him with his own eyes in flesh and blood. He held Him in his own arms. There would be no way to avoid death now. No way to pretend it wasn’t at his door. Simeon only had moments left to live. And he knew it. And this is what he said.

Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the sight of every people. A light to reveal you to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.

Don’t misunderstand. Simeon wasn’t at peace with death. And don’t you be either. For God Himself is not at peace with death. And Jesus’ own death was anything but peaceful. The reason death and Jesus are so intertwined is because death is what Jesus came both to do and to destroy. Jesus dies. And that is the very center of the Christian faith. Jesus dies. And that is how our sins are forgiven. Jesus dies. And that is how He is with us always. Jesus dies. And that is what had to happen first before there could ever be a resurrection.

Simeon is not at peace with death. Simeon is at peace with God. For He held in his own arms, he saw with his own eyes in flesh and blood, God’s salvation from death for him. Because of this infant Jesus, all who die will live again. You will live again. That’s why we use this text at funerals. Because those words of Simeon are about the victory over death that Jesus won for us through His resurrection. That’s why we also use this text in the liturgy. After communion, after we have held Jesus in our hands, seen Him in flesh and blood, we too can say, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.

The world is afraid to look at death. Afraid that they might be taken next. Afraid that they might have to deal with the pain, the tears, the grief. So we’re asked only to remember the happy times. Only to bring up the good stories. Celebrate. Be happy. Anything to chase death away.

Therefore the world is afraid to look at a Jesus who dies. Refuses to look for the Lord’s Christ. Even though in that death, all the things they fear die with Him. Even though death comes for all, no matter how deep they hide their head in the sand. If all we remember of Jesus are the happy times. If all we bring up are the good stories. If all we do is celebrate. If all we look for is to be happy, then there is no Gospel. There is no good news. There is no need for Jesus. Because there is no need to conquer death.

We look to Jesus, even though to do so is to see death. Because we’re no longer afraid to look at death. Even our own. Because we have seen Jesus fight death head on and win.  And that victory, that resurrection is ours through Him. We have seen the salvation of our God with our own eyes. Therefore we depart now, and will depart then, in His peace, according to His Word, both after we see Him in His Body and Blood today given and shed for us, and when we pass from this life.  The sting of death has been removed by Jesus’ own death, and what remains for us is His resurrection…our resurrection which we anticipate on the Last Day.  Thanks be to God! Amen.

[1] Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22:1

[2] John 19:30, Matthew 15:37

The Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity A.D. 2018 (John 1:1-14)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

The Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity A.D. 2018

Text: John 1:1-14

The theory of evolution would have us believe that everything which exists is the product of natural forces—genetic mutation, chance, and death.  Before you have a visceral reaction against even the word “evolution,” take a minute to consider this naturalistic view of the world in light of what the Evangelist is saying here.

            This is an especially appropriate topic to consider on Christmas, because of our Savior’s birth into the human world.  There are many Christian fellowships that see no problem with the theory of evolution or even promote its cause.  May we be strengthened in our faith to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ!

            St. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things through Him were made, and of what exists, nothing was made apart from Him” (vv. 1-3).

            The human wisdom of evolution tells us, In the beginning was something that already existed.  We’re not sure where it came from, but we’re pretty sure that’s how things were 13,798,000,000 years ago.[1]  Then, that pre-existing matter exploded and set off the biggest exothermic reaction to ever happen.  So many billions of years later, you have the world as we know it.  “Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery that all started with a big bang.”[2]  This is quite a different story from St. John, claiming unprecedented insight 14 billion years after the fact.

            The problem isn’t the numbers, because Christian squabbles over how many thousands of years is just as trivial as evolutionists’ how many billions of years.  God doesn’t tell us, because it’s not important.  It comes down to Who was there when it happened.  Was it an impassionate, mindless glob of energy that governed itself by laws of physics?  Or was it a God Who is the originator of everything, and creates by His Word?

            Now, certainly it would be an impressive achievement for this God to create all that exists—the Milky Way, stars, galaxies; earth with its oceans, mountains, deserts, and clouds; immense varieties of land, sea, and flying animals.  All of this is remarkable, but what are we to be considering it?  How did we become self-aware, intelligent, adaptable, and able to communicate?  St. John continues, “In [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome it” (vv. 4-5).

            If everything were a result of natural forces, what is man?  An animal amid a great company of different species.  Man is certainly a noble animal, but who’s to define what is noble or valuable?  Man must be filled with hubris to think of himself as superior to any animal or plant or rock.  It’s all matter, and all of us came from the same atoms.

            On the other hand, if we believe St. John, we see that the same God who created all things out of nothing, also gave mankind a very special place among “all things that exist” (v. 3).  Everything that exists was made through the Word of God, but “in Him was life and the life was the light of men.”  What gives man his nobility and his value?  God does, the very Author of Life does.  And among all creatures that have the breath of life, He gave His Light to man.  Therefore, in the words of Genesis, man is created in the image and likeness of God[3]—thinking, self-conscious, emotional, relational, creative, and able to communicate.  Communicate with whom?  With God and with one another.  God created through the Word, expresses Himself by words, and reveals Himself to man through the Word.  God created language just for mankind.

            And God does more than simply communicate with man.  According to who He is, He relates with man.  This relationship with man is deeply damaged on man’s side: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”  Later, John will explain, “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”[4] The people God created to know him and know one another, used another of their God-created attributes—a will of their own—to refuse Him.  In so doing, they became so darkened, that even when God the Word came into the world in the flesh, man knew nothing of Him.

            Naturalism can account for none of the unique blessings and unique curses belonging to humanity.  According to evolution, death is a natural part of the system, a recycling of matter.  If man behaves like an animal, it’s because he is one.  The evils which we hate are taught to us and are simply our desire to propagate our own genes.[5]  But these theories offer no answer to pain, loss, grief, or pangs of conscience.  All they can do is point you toward death as an escape into oblivion.

            But St. John tells us of so much more for humanity.  We have more than a futile, animal existence.  And when we experience pain, loss, grief, and guilt, it is not simply up to us to bear that burden and think our ourselves out of it.  We are creatures of God, beloved by Him.  He never casts us off as refuse.  He shares His own likeness with us!  And where does He show that in more brilliant clarity than in the Incarnation?

The God who created heaven and earth, who personally formed each of us in our mother’s womb, bound Himself forever to His creation.  The Word became creature of this creation through the womb of the Virgin.  And now there is nothing that can wrench us from His hands.  In former times, God said, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”[6]  But when the Word became flesh, He moved in with us permanently.  The Word was made flesh, and He is now forever human, just as much as from “the beginning He was with God and was God.”

In the words of the Nicene Creed, for us men and for our salvation, He became man.  The Word became flesh to purify it—to purify us from all ungodliness, which shows itself in idolatry, rebellion, murder, sexual immorality, and greed.  The Incarnate Word purifies us by taking all these things into Himself.  He takes dying people of the flesh, and raises us up to be children of God, sharing in His life.

This is the universe we exist in—not a chaotic, heartless mass of energy and matter.  We exist in a creation that is tended and cared for by an Almighty Creator.  But even more than that, though we are corrupt and dying, our Creator also took it upon Himself to save us.  In the Word made flesh, we have a God who takes a dying humanity into Himself that through Him we may have life eternally.  Amen.

[1] Give or take 37 million years.

[2] Theme song to the TV show Big Bang Theory

[3] Genesis 1:-26-27

[4] John 3:19

[5] A rationale espoused by Richard Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” (Oxford, 1976)

[6] Isaiah 49:16

Fourth Sunday in Advent (Luke 1:39-56)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Fourth Sunday in Advent + December 23, 2018

Text: Luke 1:39-56



Part 1 – God used two unlikely mothers to bring His Kingdom to earth.

“Thy Kingdom Come,” He taught us to pray.  But no human being would have imagined that the coming of His Kingdom would look like this: The meeting of two women, both very unlikely mothers.  Elizabeth, who was barren and had grown old.  Mary, who was a virgin betrothed to a man but remained pure.  This is where God was at work to bring His kingdom and save us.

Save us from what?  Sin had come into the world through another mother, Eve, the mother of all the living.[1]  The serpent deceived her and she rejected God’s ways, and her husband with her.  Together, they brought forth a race of humanity enslaved to sin, destined to die.  Their actions empowered the devil to set up his kingdom over men.  But a Word from the Lord gave them hope: “The Seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head”[2]  The woman’s Seed would destroy the works of the devil.[3]

God who made this promise brings us to this meeting of unlikely mothers.  They are daughters of Eve, but both have conceived in supernatural ways.  Natural conception only perpetuated the curse—sin from fathers to their children.  But there are times when God has stepped in to intervene, where He disrupted this world order to bring about something new, a greater hope.  God steps in and breaks this earthly cycle of sin and death.  Elizabeth and Mary are the final two in a line of 7 wombs which the Lord visited. [4]  Elizabeth’s conception reminds us of Sarah’s, and the future promise made to Abraham: “In you and in your offspring shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18)  The fulfillment of that promise came in the virgin womb of Mary.  And how fitting it is that the final womb that God filled is of a virgin, so that which is conceived is called Holy and the Son of God![5]

Part 2 – God brought blessing by the fruit of Mary’s womb.

Now, when Mary came to Elizabeth, the latter makes an incredible statement: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”  Mary is truly blessed among women, because not only had the Lord done great things to her, but He in fact did great things within her!  That second part of the benediction stands out though, because it recalls several other times blessings were spoken:

In Psalm 67, the faithful sing, “May God be gracious to us and bless us…that you rway may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.”[6]  Through Aaron the priest, the Lord put His threefold blessing on Israel: “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.”[7]  Finally, David in Psalm 29, after ascribing glory and strength to the Lord, concludes by saying, “The Lord bless His people with peace.”[8]

So, when Elizabeth exclaims, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” it’s true.  Every divine blessing has one Source.  Yes, the Lord, but specifically this Lord in the flesh.  He is none other than the blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb.

In Psalm 127, Solomon says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (v. 3)  This cannot be more true than of the fruit of Mary’s womb.  Through Jesus, God gives an everlasting heritage in a family of faith.  Through the fruit of Mary’s womb, the richest reward is given to all who believe: peace with God, freedom from sin, and victory over death!

Part 3 – God’s ways are disregarded, just as the fruit of the Virgin’s womb was not highly esteemed.

How incredible that God blesses and saves through a mother!  But who thinks highly of pregnancy and motherhood?  It’s so mundane! Being a mother is such a burden and inconvenient! It’s messy and babies ruin your supposedly “perfect” figure!  Just look at the teenage mothers!  If only they had avoided this terrible consequence, they wouldn’t be held back from careers and “real” success by these chains of motherhood!  “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)

This isn’t the first time that people looked down their noses at God’s ways.   The Child who was born of Mary was also despised, just as people despise the way He came to share our flesh.  Who thinks highly of the Fruit of Mary womb?  Jesus is just a historic figure, a role model to emulate, an eccentric prophet.  But a Savior?  How can the Christ be born in a nowhere town, to a young mother of no fame?  “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:42)  Yes, this is how God’s Kingdom entered the world: through the birth canal of a woman.  This is how “He has shown strength with His arm”—not with mighty thunder but with the cries of labor. 

Part 4 – All who receive the One born of woman are in fact born from above.

The Apostle Paul magnifies the Son of God’s human birth saying, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[9]  Everyone who receives the Fruit of the Virgin’s womb, has actually themselves received a supernatural birth.  The Evangelist John writes, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”[10]

It took the intervention of God to break the cycle of sin and death in our natural birth.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, God’s Son was born.  Now that saving work of God has come to you.  Though you have human parents, you have been adopted by God the Father in heaven.  You have been “born from above” by water and the Holy Spirit.[11]  The blessings of God are yours because He has adopted you and given you His own Name.


Because of this, the song of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the song of all believers.  We are His servants in humble estate, the communion of saints is His Israel, and we are offspring of Abraham according to His great promises.  So, let’s together turn back to the Gospel reading in the bulletin and magnify our God and Father with the song of Mary:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

53 he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

55 as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.  Amen.

[1] Genesis 3:20

[2] Genesis 3:15, NKJV

[3] 1 Timothy 2:14-15, 1 John 3:8

[4] Empty wombs that God intervened in: Sarai (Gen. 11:30), Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), Rachel (Gen. 29:31), mother of Samson (Jdg. 13:2), Hannah (1 Sam. 1:2), Elizabeth (Lk. 1:7), Mary (Mt. 1:18)

[5] Luke 1:35

[6] Psalm 67:1, 2

[7] Numbers 6:24-26

[8] Psalm 29:11

[9] Galatians 4:4-5

[10] John 1:12-13

[11] John 3:5

Third Sunday in Advent (Matthew 11:2-6)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete) + December 16, 2018

Text: Matthew 11:2-6

God sends His messengers to point us to the true signs of Christ’s imminent kingdom.

For about the last 40 years, Americans have been very skeptical of what their government is doing.  This was epitomized in the 1974 Privacy Act after the Watergate scandal, which sought to make government dealings available to the public.  When it comes to man, sometimes force is necessary to get them to explain what they’re doing.

But not so with the Lord.  In Amos 3:7, He says: “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”  Some accuse God of being secretive or double-minded, of withholding information from humanity. But this is not true!  God created humanity for fellowship and oneness with Himself, and even since our parents sinned, God has been working tirelessly to reveal His will to us in spite of our deaf ears and blind eyes.

When it comes to His work of taking our sins away and restoring eternal fellowship with man, God does nothing without telling His will to men.  Whether they listen is another matter.

He told His people ahead of time what He was going to do.  From Malachi 3 and 4: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”  He sent that forerunner of the Christ in John the Baptist.

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  (Isaiah 40:1-5)

But to those who turn away from Him and hate His Word, the Bible will forever remain a closed book.  For them, this earlier Word through Isaiah is true: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”  That’s how it was with Herod, who locked John up in prison.  John had preached against him taking his living brother, Philip’s wife.  John was God’s messenger to Herod to repent of his evil ways for the Kingdom of Heaven had come.  But Herod and his new wife, Herodias, refused to listen.  Rather than continue to be made to feel guilty by John, he locked him up in prison. (Matt. 14:3)

God continues to send His messengers far and near, who make His will known.  This is what St. Paul teaches in the Epistle lesson: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”  These servants of God today are pastors, called by Christian congregations to preach the Word of the Lord and administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution.  Pastors take a sacred vow in the presence of God and the congregation to preach nothing more or less than Scripture says.  They also vow that they will bring that Word to bear in evangelical (Gospel-centered) spiritual care for God’s flock. This means they are to call those who are sinning to repentance and to pronounce the Lord’s forgiveness to all who repent.

Congregations, for their part also have a sacred duty to hear the Word of the Lord spoken by their called pastor.  They do not “hire” a pastor to simply put on a pleasant feel-good show on Sunday and feed them intriguing spiritual nuggets in Bible study.  Christians have this right to call a man of God so that He will be the Lord’s instrument to keep watch over their souls–rebuke them when they err, instruct them in true doctrine, guide them in living holy lives, and strengthen and keep them in the true faith (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 1 Peter 5:2-3).

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”

Now, John, the man of God, had a problem, because His preaching and wound him up in prison.  That led him to have some doubts if he had preached the right message.  If this is the Lamb of God come to take away the sin of the world and bring about God’s Kingdom, why am I rotting in this jail cell?  He’s not alone in his doubts.  Other men of God have doubts when their hearers rear up because of what they preach.

For my part, I’ve had my doubts in my call at this congregation.  When I came, several long-time members–people who had been part of calling me to shepherd this part of the Lord’s flock–bugged out of my spiritual care and the support of Bethlehem because they did not agree with the Scriptural doctrine of the Lutheran church.  But when 6 households up and leave, including several council members, in the first year of my arrival, it led me to have serious doubts.  Did I say something wrong?  Was I not whimsical enough in the way I taught the faith?  It was a very rough first year, and during VBS week of 2017, I was facing 6 of them tell me they were never coming back because I didn’t pick or let them sing their favorite ditties.  If even the forerunner to Christ had doubts, you can imagine how doubts must plague pastors today.

But Christ, my Lord has helped His servant see the truth, just as He did for John.

“Jesus answered [John’s disciples], ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.’”

Jesus could have given him a simple “yes,” but He chose to do more.  He points John to the signs of His Kingdom.  These were signs that could only mean that Jesus was the Christ, God Himself come down to usher in the new covenant.  The signs were external, visible (yet spiritual discerned) confirmation that John’s ministry was right where it needed to be–even if it meant being in a jail cell and soon execution.  John, in spite of what it looked like, was fulfilling his ministry.

Jesus’ way of pointing to spiritual signs continues to be true today, because the ongoing task of God’s messengers is to point to the signs of Christ’s imminent Kingdom.  The Christian faith is assaulted by intellectual attacks: our children are made to feel backwards and closed-minded by their teachers and peers for their moral convictions, we are worn down by voices who urge us to shake off what they call an unreasonable faith.  Some are forcefully attacked at gunpoint, with threats of death, and others have their reputation and livelihood destroyed.  The Church cries out, “Are you the One who is to come? Or are the secuarlists right?  Have we been lied to by the Bible and our pastors?”

Jesus is here to point you to the signs of His Kingdom.  It is not a kingdom like this world, with borders, and an army to fight reproaches.  Rather, you are blessed because you are poor in spirit and have believed the good news preached to you.  Your spiritual eyes and ears, which you know are plagued by sin, have been opened to see and hear Jesus in the Scriptures, see His Body and Blood in the Sacrament, hear His voice from heaven announcing that you have peace with God and have eternal salvation.  You, who were dead in your trespasses, God has made you alive with Christ, and you will most certainly be raised to life when He comes again.

Incidentally, the Lord Jesus has also given answer for Bethlehem.  He pointed me to (and continues to remind me) what signs prove that His kingdom has come among us: the Word of God is preached and taught in its truth and purity here, sinners are brought to repentance and believe the precious word of forgiveness that He has placed on His servant’s lips, adults and children are baptized and publicly confess this Scriptural faith, and every age from infants baptized to elderly laid to rest acknowledge that God has worked all of this.

May Jesus Christ, John the Baptist’s Lord and yours, fill you with joy and conviction that the Kingdom of Heaven is coming among us and will continue to come so long as His Gospel is preached.  For His holy Apostle Paul has said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.” (Rom. 1:16) Bessed is the one who is not offended by Him. Amen.

Advent 2 Midweek

Advent 2 Midweek “For unto us a Son is Given”: The Answer of Samuel

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The devil loved barrenness. In Genesis 3:15, after the devil had tempted Eve, and she and Adam fell into sin, the Lord said to the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed


; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The devil knew that one day a Seed of the woman would come and defeat him. So the devil was very glad whenever a woman could not conceive. He took it as an opportunity to gloat, as if there were a possibility that God’s promise wouldn’t be fulfilled.

Last week with Sarah, and next week with Elizabeth, we don’t hear the devil’s gloating. But this week we have Peninnah. Peninnah was the wife of Elkanah. Peninnah’s womb was fruitful; she has multiple sons and daughters. Elkanah also had a wife named Hannah, whom he loved, in spite of the fact she could bear him no children. The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb.

From time to time, Elkanah would go with his family to Shiloh where the tabernacle was set up, and it’s likely that he went for the appointed feasts. During these feasts, the Israelites offered peace offerings. The priests would burn certain parts of the animals on the altar, and the Lord gave a portion of the meat from the peace offerings to the priests. But most of the meat was given back to the one who brought the offering. And it was now holy meat to be eaten as a sacred meal from the Lord. The peace offerings were an Old Testament anticipation of the Lord’s Supper.

During these feasts, Elkanah gave portions to Peninnah and her sons and daughters. “But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Sam. 1:5).

It was during these feasts that Peninnah provoked Hannah and made her weep bitterly. Peninnah proved to be a rival, an adversary, tormenting Hannah because the Lord had closed her womb. Hannah wept, and refused to eat. No doubt Hannah felt the personal hardship of being barren. But as a faithful woman who trusted the Lord’s promises, she’s not just thinking of herself. She thought of the Seed of Promise who is to come for all people and end the gloating of God’s enemies.

Yet there’s Peninnah mocking: I have children and you don’t. Poor barren little Hannah! All she wants is a child, but she’s a fruitless tree, a dead end of descendants. Under these taunts are the taunts of Satan himself against all of God’s people: “You wait for the promised Savior, but he’s never coming.  Has He said He would never leave or forsake you?  Look at how things are?  You call this promised answered?  I’m the prince of this world, and no one can overthrow me. You’re destined to live under me in my kingdom, and serve me in everlasting unrighteousness, guilt, and cursing.”

Hannah weeps, and we weep with her. We feel our bodily malfunction—the parts that fail to function as God first created them, the lives cut short, our own waning strength.  We see the devil’s offspring everywhere in the form of those who hate Jesus.  This is what our eyes see and our ears hear, but we do not see our Lord fighting back. We cry out with David in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” We cry out with Moses in Psalm 90, “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” Like Hannah, we pour out our hearts before the Lord!

After everyone else had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose and prayed to the Lord in the bitterness of her soul. She prayed, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son” Literally what it says in Hebrew is “a seed of men.” Hannah asks for a seed, and it’s not a stretch to hear her praying for the Seed, the promised One, who as Hannah says, will “appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever” (1 Sam. 1:22).

It wasn’t the Lord’s will at that time to send the Promised Seed. Nevertheless, He gave Hannah a son in order to show that he does not make his promises in vain. “And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” (1 Sam. 1:20). The name Samuel in Hebrew means, “One who is heard by God” or “God heard.” Hannah named her son Samuel because he was an answer to prayer. God heard, and He sent a seed.

This was a great comfort to Hannah, not only because the Lord opened her womb, but because he confirmed His promise. Hannah’s comfort is our comfort because we have longed with her for the promised Seed. And we have even greater comfort than Hannah’s because we know that promise was fulfilled.

For centuries God’s people prayed in distress under the weight of sin and death, “Return, O Lord! How long?” For centuries the devilish Peninnah mocked God’s people. And then the fullness of time came (Gal. 4:4). The womb was Mary’s womb, and the child’s name Jesus, which means “the Lord saves,” (Matt. 1:21) because He would save His people from their sins. Jesus is the true Samuel. He is the one for whom Hannah and all the faithful prayed, and it is of Jesus that we say, “I have asked him from the Lord” and He has heard us.

Much to the chagrin of the devil, God’s promise proved true. Jesus came and fulfilled that ancient curse against the serpent. The devil opened wide his mouth to destroy Jesus with false accusation and bitter death. Yet it was on the cross that Jesus crushed the ancient serpent’s head with his heel.  After Satan, whose name means “accuser” spoke bitter, discouraging, and tempting lies to men, Jesus answered for them once for all!  Peninnah has been silenced forever, and in our ear, Jesus speaks peace: “Your sins are forgiven. The ruler of this world is cast out.  You shall not die, but you shall live. The children of the desolate one are more than her who is married.”[1] Take heart! God’s promised Seed has come in answer to your heartfelt cries!

We are a people at peace in the word of the Lord that He gives us.  But the voice that is no longer heard is the accusing voice of the devil.  Together with all of the blessings Jesus gives, He also gives us a holy and peaceful silence. Jesus makes the devil shut up.  In John 8, a woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus, and the Pharisees say, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  Jesus silences them by saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Finally, one by one they leave, and Jesus says, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11 She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”

In the same way, Jesus answers for and silences all of Satan’s accusation. When Jesus gave himself for us, he showed his promise to be true and the devil’s taunts to be lies. The devil may still rant, but because of what Jesus has done we can tell him, “Silence”  “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)  He must be quiet, and let you come to the house of God and eat the double portion of Christ’s sacrifice in peace. And then at the end, the devil will go down bound hand and foot to hell, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Matt. 9:2; John 12:31; Psalm 118:17; Isaiah 54:1

Second Sunday in Advent (Luke 21:25-36)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Second Sunday in Advent (Populus Zion) + December 9, 2018

Text: Luke 21:25-36

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

In these Last Days, Jesus gives us the signs to look for to know that His return is near.  And let’s check them off:

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places… they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:6-12)

All of these things are happening this very moment.  It’s not just in the minds of the aged; the world really is worse than it has ever been.  Criminals are more brazen and more grotesque.  Children can’t play in their front yard because of perverts and human traffickers.  Terrorists are willing to commit more heinous acts in the name of their idea of god, or just to get attention.  This isn’t only because fewer people are going to church.  There is an increasing wickedness on the rise in the world, and we are witnesses or (and sometimes participants in) it.

But it’s important that our response is guided by our Lord, not by nostalgia.  Jesus doesn’t tell us simply to wring our hands and lament the loss of the “good old days.”  No, He tells us: “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.”  Those two words are a warning to us about what might happen in the face of times like this.  Dissipation is the evaporation of faith, as if our faith in Christ were a cloud that is here one minute and blows away the next.  The other, drunkenness, describes our joining in with those around us in an “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”[1] attitude.  If things are getting rough, let’s just indulge in escapism and find distractions to take our minds off how bad things really are.

No, rather than follow the world in its downward spiral, Jesus tells us: “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  What sets us apart from the world as it’s going down the toilet is our faith.  Stay awake!  Don’t just go on autopilot with everyone around us, with a startled reaction that this world is beyond repair.  Don’t resign yourselves to the way things are and light a joint with the rest of the ignorant.  Instead, be at prayer that you would have the strength to escape these terrible conditions and faithless times.

These Last Days aren’t simply about weeding out the weak from the strong; they are a time for separating those who put their hope in the Lord and take Him at His Word and those who ultimately reject Him.  As things get worse in the world, the people of God look to Him for strength and deliverance.

The world, twisted and getting worse as it is, is a sign that we should be ever getting ready for His coming.  Free yourselves of the myth that God wouldn’t possibly let it get worse than we can handle.  This is the old saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  That might be how your tame, blue-eyed Jesus on the wall works, but it’s not how the true God does.  Here Jesus is not telling us to pray that none of these things would happen, but that we would have strength to escape them.

Jesus is our best example of God’s will for us, so consider how He faced His hour of trial: When He was on the Mount of Olives and facing His passion and death, He prayed to His Father, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  He knew full well that it was necessary for Him to endure the cross, or our salvation would be null and void.  But even still, He prayed.  And that’s what He commands His followers to do at times like this.

We are facing the end of the world, and whether or not we are witnesses to the last generation to be born on earth, Jesus commands us to pray, to continue meditating on His Word, and to endure these trials knowing that by them, God’s will is done.

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 18), Jesus tells the parable of a widow “to the effect that [we] ought always pray and not lose heart.”  The widow implores an unrighteous judge for justice, but the message of the parable is that we not lose faith in God, for “will He delay long over [his elect who cry to Him]?” (Luke 18:1-8).  But about the end of the world, He says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Our faith continues looking to God, even while the world is crashing down around us.  No matter whether times are prosperous or it’s the day before Jesus’ return, the faithful are still praying: “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”  Faith is what enables us to say Amen to that prayer, because it means that we trust God is actively bringing His good and gracious will to bear on earth as it is in heaven, and even as this world passes away, our Father in heaven has not changed or lost His hold on world history or our lives.  Why?  Because the bedrock of our salvation is God’s faithfulness—“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Himself up for us all, how will He not with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Our Lord calls us to continued meditation on His Word. David might have seemed like a dull fellow because He wrote Psalm 119, but in times of deepest distress is when we need God’s Word to guide us the most.  “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word…Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will keep it to the end…The Lord is my portion, I promise to keep your words” (Psalm 119:9, 33, 57).  That’s because meditation on the will of God is how we don’t get swept away with our own ideas or those of the unbelieving world.  Jesus calls each of us to remember how weak we are—“the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) If only we believed what that means, we would be blessed because we would humbly seek God’s will in His holy Word all the time, because that’s where the Spirit speaks to us!

Perhaps the most difficult part of these last days is that our God calls us to suffer.  From our Lord’s example, we learn there’s nothing wrong with praying to be spared the cup of suffering if there is another way.  Nevertheless, we children of God need to realize that sometimes His will is for us to suffer.  Consider the spiritual teaching of James: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) Who among us would choose trials?  Nevertheless, God sends them as means of refining and firming up our faith. He sends them with the reward of becoming steadfast in Christ, and steadfast in our faith.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:32

Advent 1 Midweek

Advent 1 Midweek “For unto us a Son is Given” : The Laughter of Isaac

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Joshua reminded the Israelites, “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods” (Joshua 24:24). This was back when Abraham was called Abram, before he knew the one true God. But the Lord said to Abram in Genesis 12, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Abram went as the Lord had told him. He was seventy-five years old, his wife Sarai was sixty-five years old, and this childless couple left father and fatherland simply on God’s Word and promise.

Sometime later, the Word of the Lord came to Abram in Genesis 15: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Abram understood that the Lord was talking about the offspring whom He had promised. But Abram said, “O Lord, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (who was the chief slave in his house). But to the aging Abram God replied, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” The Lord brought Abram outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be.” And then comes one of the most famous lines of the Old Testament: “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:1-6)  This is how God interacts with us: through faith.

Well, time passed. It had been twenty-four years since the Lord had first promised an offspring to Abram.  In that time, some things had gone well—his flocks and herds had grown so large that he had to separate from his nephew Lot, and Abram was able to rescue Lot when he got mixed up with the Sodomites.  But Sarai had gotten desperate for God’s promise to come true.  She ordered her servant Hagar to make offspring for her.  Although she may have had noble intentions, this did not come from God.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord again appeared to him and said, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham” – which means “father of many” – “for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations…. As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name” – which means “princess.” “I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

How did Abraham respond to this? “Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’” Sarah had the same response in the reading we heard a little bit ago. “Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’”

The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

The Lord made a great promise, and Abraham and Sarah both laughed. The Lord’s promises are supposed to bring laughter, but a certain kind of laughter. The Lord’s promises are intended to give a laughter of joy, to a merry heat that rests secure by faith. One translation of the ancient hymn, Phos Hilaron, is called “O Laughing Light”[1] because God’s promises evoke a free and joyful spirit in all who believe.  His promises are a cause for celebration! They take away fear of the days to come, and make for a light and cheerful spirit.

Yet sometimes even God’s chosen people respond to his promises not with a laughter of joy, but with a laughter of unbelief.  This is the laugher Jesus encountered when He went to Jairus’ house after his daughter had died, and He said, “The child is not dead but sleeping.” It says, “And they laughed at Him.” (Mark 5:39-40)  On a human level this doubt is understandable. For twenty-four years, Abraham had been hearing the same promise of an offspring, and as those years went on it seemed less and less likely—according to the rules of human procreation—that the promise would ever be fulfilled, at least not with Sarah. The way of women had ceased for Sarah, and they were both older than many people live in our days. Abraham believed the Word of the Lord; he trusted the promise. But when he heard that his ninety-year-old, barren wife would conceive the child, that promise flew in the face of everything he knew and experienced. And he laughed, not because the promise seemed joyful, but because the promise seemed unbelievable.

Jesus says to us, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Yet the world seems to be going from bad to worse. St. Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” And you laugh, because your sinful flesh seems the same as it’s ever been: the same desires, the same doubts, the same sinful acts. “Yes, I am coming quickly,” Jesus promises in Revelation 22. Two thousand years have passed, and false prophets say we should start interpreting these words allegorically.  We hear his promise, and instead of saying, “Amen,” we find it much easier to chuckle.

On a human level the doubt is understandable. But it’s not justifiable before God. The proper response to His promises is a laughter of joy and faith, not a laughter of doubt and unbelief. The Lord scolds us for faithless laughter, just as he scolded Sarah. And we fear the Lord with Sarah, knowing we deserve much worse than a scolding. With all of God’s people we pray, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

And the Lord does help our unbelief. He helps our unbelief by keeping His promises and giving us the Holy Spirit. The Lord visited Sarah just as he had said. She conceived and gave birth to a son. Abraham named his son Isaac, which in Hebrew means, “he laughs.” And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me.” Now Abraham and Sarah laugh with a godly laughter, the laughter of joy, because God has fulfilled His promise and confirmed His Word to all future generations, even to us.

The Lord has confirmed that He keeps His promise in an even greater way. When the fullness of time had come, the Lord came in flesh himself in fulfillment of his ancient and trustworthy promise to Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:15) Jesus is the greater offspring of Abraham, the true Isaac, son of promise. Jesus is like Isaac because he lives up to Isaac’s name: he laughs. He laughs at the devil and sin and death. He threw himself headlong into them, and though He suffered He treated them like a joke. And that laughter He gives to those who believe in Him, and we sing, “Their might a joke, a mere façade. God is with us and we with God. Our vict’ry cannot fail.” (“O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe” LSB 666:3)

Jesus, like Isaac, brings the laughter of joy to God’s people. His death on the cross reckons you blameless and holy before God. He rose from the dead so that you can laugh at death rather than fear it. Jesus has given you a joyful laughter by proving true to his promises, so that even if He seems slow in coming, you can rejoice, certain that everything He says holds true. He kept His promise and came in the manger. He will keep His promise and come again in glory. On that day, yet another of the Lord’s promises will be fulfilled: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21) Amen.

[1] It’s not a stretch to see “hilaron” is the root for “hilarious” and refers to this free spirit (2 Cor. 9:7 translates it cheerful)

First Sunday of Advent (Matthew 21:1-9)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

First Sunday of Advent + December 2, 2018

Text: Matthew 21:1-9

By coming into Jerusalem, Jesus sets a precedent.  On the one hand, He shows what kind of King He is going to be.  On the other, He shows what His subjects can expect.

Contrast this with what people were hoping Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem meant.  They were weary from diseases, left empty by death, harassed by demons and false shepherds, and they were children of Abraham living under foreign rule.  They longed for relief because God had promised them this land, He had promise them salvation.  But what most of them were hoping for was not what Jesus had come to bring.

But Jesus is no Caesar Augustus (reigned 27 BC—14 AD), here to establish the Pax Romana.  He does not come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword which will divide even members of the same family.[1]  If you’re looking for a king who will rule over a geographical location, look elsewhere, because He says, “My kingdom is not of this world.”[2]  But if you want rest, He is your King.  If you’re looking for rest from the enemies of guilt and death, this is the King you’ve been waiting for!

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

So often we think we know our needs so well, but God sees better than we do.  The people gathered that Palm Sunday didn’t need a rehash of the Kingdom under David.  While their was outward peace, there was turmoil and sin always waiting at the door.  God saw their need and ours that this was David’s Son who came, “not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  He rides into Jerusalem on a beast of burden, to serve a broken world full of sinners in their greatest need: One who can take away the sins of the world and lift the shroud of death that haunts all people.

This service He does in humility: A King mounted on a donkey, God dwelling in human weakness, a Man laying down His life to save.[3]  He served their greatest need in humility and weakness.  Who would have thought that Jesus could save by hanging on a cross?  They taunted Him as He hung there saying that He ought to save himself and the two criminals with him.[4]  But it was exactly under this weakness, this humble service, that He established His Kingdom.  He was crowned with thorns and anointed with a bloody death.  Because of such a coronation, God raised His righteous King from the dead to reign triumphant over His enemies.  He trampled Satan under His feet, overturned the curse of death, and removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.[5]

All this was Jesus’ first Advent.  His first coming was in weakness, but His Second coming will be with power.  Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  Every eye will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven, separating the righteous from the wicked.  The trouble was the people on Palm Sunday were a little ahead of schedule if they thought Jesus was already establishing His Kingdom in visible power.

But then where does that leave us?  We who follow Jesus are in the same place He was then.  We are found in weakness.  Though we are children of God, we lose our health or robbed of our property. We are slandered and taken advantage of.  Compared to other people who seem to transcend barriers of gender and human limitation, we are conscience bound as servants of our Creator.  It is not our share to have power, glory, and success now, but to endure disgrace, disappointment, and shame even while we live under our King, risen and ascended.

This life as a Christian is not much to look at.  You could try to sugar-coat it, call it victorious, but there comes a point where that notion sounds ridiculous.  Are you going to go to someone in the ICU and tell them they’re living the victorious life?  Of course not!  This life is nice at times, but death is always on the horizon.  The Christian life is lived by faith, not by sight.  Now is the time for people to be saved by God’s work, not one’s wise decision—“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”[6]  So, if a person believes in Jesus today, it’s not because he saw a powerful miracle or claimed he saw an angel, or was instantly healed of his disease.  A person comes to know Jesus by hearing His voice and believing what He says.

The next time Jesus comes, nobody is going to mistake His coming.  You won’t miss it because you were off Facebook that week, or cut the cord on your cable service.  This will be His Second Advent, where He comes with power. As a man of war, He will execute judgement upon His enemies, and gather His faithful into His courts to enjoy eternal peace, power, and rest from all enemies.

Where does that leave us?  Just as we now follow Him in weakness, we will be with Him in power.  St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” (1 Cor. 15:42-43)  The difference between our King’s first Advent and His second will turn everything around, because His Kingdom will be revealed in all its power and authority.  Justice will be done by the God who knows the hearts of all.  The proud and powerful will never again take advantage of the weak, and every lie will be clearly seen in the light of God’s truth.

So, today, we welcome our King who has come in weakness and gained for Himself a glorious Kingdom—one where even we belong because in it we find the very healing and hope we need.  But we also look forward to when we will “meet the Lord in the air”[7] and sing our Hosanna’s to our Christ who comes in glory.

And no better place do we see these two realities than in the Lord’s Supper.  Think about what we sing in the Sanctus: From Isaiah 6: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth (angel armies), the whole earth is full of His glory”—We praise our almighty and glorious King who is over all.  “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.”—we welcome our King who came in the weakness of flesh and blood.  And yet, the same Jesus, glorious almighty God and humble servant for our salvation, is who serves us at this altar.

Israel of God, this is the King whom you have—One who is humble and lowly, and yet also almighty and powerful to save from every evil of body and soul.  Though you can’t see heaven’s halberd in His hand, He has died for you and He fights for you so that you will live under Him in His Kingdom forever. Amen.

[1] Matthew 10:34-36

[2] John 18:36

[3] John 15:13

[4] Luke 23:35-39

[5] Psalm 103:12

[6] John 20:29

[7] 1 Thessalonians 4:17