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Easter 5 2019 - Isaiah 12:1-6

Easter 5 Cantate

Isaiah 12:1-6

A Song of Trust

May 19, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

I’ve heard it, maybe you have too. Why don’t you liturgical Lutherans sing praise songs or have a praise service.  My response is usually something along the lines of, “We do. We praise God every single time we gather together. We sing praises over and over again. We sing all the time.  Song is the natural expression of the spirit that is free, and no one is so free as when they are dependent upon Christ as salvation. We literally sang a song title “Hymn of Praise: This is the Feast.” Our opening and closing hymn, “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice and Sing” is all about praise.  There are hundreds of Biblical hymns of praise, especially in the Psalms.  Our introit today from Psalm 98, “Sing to the Lord a new song… make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth, break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Ps 98:1a, 4). And so we sing the praises to God, we sing the Christian faith, we sing the truth of Scripture, and we sing our salvation in Christ alone.

And then there is our Hymn of the Day, “The Lord God is My Strength and My Song” which is part of the Service of Prayer and Preaching that we often use in our school chapel, is a praise song. Isaiah 12, the text of our consideration this morning, describes the joy of deliverance, but it’s not merely a description, it is a praise song of God’s people who are delivered.

And in fact, that is why we sing.  The source of our praise is that God’s anger has been removed and that He has now become a source of comfort and support.  Since God’s anger is based on a just cause because of our sin, the comfort of God comes only after sin has been punished. Since our sin is an offense against the Creator and even the creation itself, it cannot be dismissed.  Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness for sin. 

And so we give thanks to God, we sing our alleluias, we praise Him for turning His righteous anger away from us because our sin, and comforting us with the Gospel. “Behold, God is my salvation” expresses this truth that there is no salvation apart from God. It is not merely that He saves, but that He is salvation. To know Him is to know deliverance, and not to know Him is to face His wrath over your sin. That is why Isaiah, and all the prophets, are so persistent in warning against seeking deliverance and help in the might of this world.  Liberation from sin, from the sorrow of this world, from hardship and pain and suffering, is found in God alone or not all.

God alone is our only strength and our song, and He has become our salvation.  He has won the victory, and He alone is worthy of praise. “God comes to save us.  Just as the people of old had been saved from the slavery of sin and death through the death and resurrection of the Son of God Jesus Christ… He brings salvation to us as a gift. He doesn’t require from us to redeem our own sins, but grants forgiveness to repentant sinners at every liturgy.  And it is only in Him that a soul of a sinner who is thirsty for forgiveness and reconciliation with God may find rest.” (Vsevolod Lytkin, Sermon on Cantate Sunday. Quoted in TLSB, pp. 1112.)

This is what Isaiah has been appealing for. Whenever Israel focuses primarily upon her own needs, she is in difficulty, for supplying those needs becomes the ultimate goal.  God, then, becomes a means to end: appeal to Him so He will bless you, give Him enough praise and He will give you back whatever you want. This is just the false gospel of health, wealth, and happiness.  And it is a recipe for spiritual disaster. 

Praise and thanksgiving are essential to a healthy spiritual life, not because God needs them from you, but because you need to give them. It is the only way to refocus your attention upon God Himself and how much you receive from Him as your loving Father, and thus stop attempting to use Him as our idol to grant whatever you wish. The song of the Christian is not about the Christian, it’s the song of Christ, of the Living Water drawn from His well of salvation.

“And you will say in that day, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.’” (Isaiah 12:4-5).  The restoration of God’s people leads His people to commit themselves to Him, but also to want all those to know who He is.  The world must know of this.  The world must hear the song of the Church, the Song who is the Word of God in the flesh, the One in whom salvation is found because He is our salvation.  May the Lord give us strength the sing this song of salvation in Christ to the nations, to give a confession of what He accomplishes in Christ.

So sing, shout and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. For God in Christ not only saves us, but He dwells with us, He is still Immanuel, still the Holy One.  The meaning of God’s self-revelation, that He, the Holy One of Israel, might dwell among His creation. The phrase “Holy One of Israel” only occurs 29 times in the Bible.  26 of those occur in Isaiah. Denotes God’s character, one that is radically different than any other idol.  He is upright and clean, pure and true. His otherness from His creation grants us hope. Where humanity is fickle and perverse, He is faithful and true.  His greatness is our midst is not some theoretical thing, but it is the presence of the risen Christ, the Word of God made flesh, the One who is salvation, who dwells among us.

The Lord’s service calls forth our service – in sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him and in loving service to one another.  Having been called, gathered, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, we receive His gifts with thankfulness and praise. With psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we joyfully confess all that God has done for us, declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Our song joins with the song of every saint from every age, the new song of Christ’s holy people…” (LSB viii)

Easter 4 2019 - 1 Peter 2:11-20

Audio PlayerEaster 4 2019 Jubilate

1 Peter 2:11-20

Life on the Road

May 12, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This Sunday bears the name, “Jubilate” Rejoice!  This Easter season is one full of joy, joy in the midst of sorrow and suffering, of tragedy and evil, of the ordinary and mundane things of this life.  As Christians, our comfort is that this life is for just a little while, but afterward “you will see Me.” Seeing Christ, in His very presence, face to face on the day of resurrection is the certain hope of every Christian.  With Christ, life here and now is bearing the cross after Him, and unending joy of the resurrection awaits!

That is why St. Peter calls us in the Epistle “sojourners and exiles.” Pilgrims on the road to the heavenly Jerusalem rejoicing in the presence of the risen Christ among us in Word and Sacrament. Here, in this life, we live as resident aliens, in the world but not of the world.  We are citizens of two kingdoms: the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God.  But this one here is only temporary.  We are live a life of detachment from much of the worldly things and desires.  We are to be aware that we walk here on earth only a little while, that we are on this journey to the eternal joy of our homeland, that we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14).  There, with Christ, is our allegiance, our loyalty, our patriotism, and our joy.  And this may very well put us out of harmony with the world.

Many things are allowable here. Some things are indifferent.  But some things are not.  In particular we are to abstain from the passions of the flesh, for these wage war against our soul.  In Scripture, passion is a typically a negative thing, as it is here for St. Peter.  It is the desires and actions of the sinful flesh, to base desires, to what comes natural to one who is bound under to the law and enslaved to sin. In a sense, it is the opposite of self-control.

In today’s society, these seems very strange. Whereas self-control used to be considered a virtue in society, now it is practically a vice.  We hear all the time that a person should do what makes them feel good, to be true to themselves, to follow one’s heart.  That’s baloney.  That’s not freedom, that enslavement.  To live as one who is free, to live as one redeemed by Christ in the life shaped by the cross is not entertain the passions of the flesh but to maintain a good conduct that is in line with the will of God.

How do you keep your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, among the world?  What does this look like?  I’ve got to tell you, this is also one of the best things about having the ministry of our school. We have the opportunity to equip the children of our community and teach them what it means to love what is good, to defend what it true.  We do this in our youth catechesis. Parents do this with their children at home as they model the Christian faith.

Peter goes directly to the 4th Commandment in light of this: to honor your father and your mother.  As Christians, we should fear and love God so that we not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. You want to stand out in society, to not go along with the crowd, be a Christian. You want to be counter cultural, you use your freedom not to promote evil, to living as servants of God: you honor those in authority;  you defend the unborn, the widowed and the orphaned; you honor the marriage bed by keeping it pure; dress modestly; you refrain from vulgar language and deceit; you speak the truth with love and honor everyone; go to church on Sunday and treat the gathering of God’s people around His word and sacrament as the most important in life; love the brotherhood of believers; fear God.

But Christianity works not by rebellion against the culture, but by revelation.  Christ comes not to rebel against the nations of the world, but to reveal that He is the Son of God in the flesh.  That all of Scripture, and even creation itself, testifies concerning Christ. Likewise, the Church is not called to rebel against the world, but to be a light to reveal Christ to the nations and the glory of His people Israel, the Israel of faith in Christ. Your deeds that demonstrate faith in Christ provide a powerful witness to the world.  As Christians, it is your calling, it is your duty, to conduct yourselves honorably before the world.  You are to live here, foreigners as you are, in a way that the world shall see and glorify God on the day of His visitation. 

Fellow pilgrims, rejoice! Shout for joy to God, sing the glory of His name.  For He has redeemed you by the blood of Christ.  Your sins are forgiven.  In Holy Baptism, God the Father has made you a member of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and an heir of the heavenly Kingdom. Through the body and blood of Christ, the bread of pilgrims, our Lord He gives power to the faint, and increases strength to him who has no might. It is the sustenance on the way, through this world to our eternal home.  As God’s people ate the Passover meal in Egypt, ready to travel out of slavery and into the freedom of the Gospel as a member of the one holy Christian and apostolic Church, where together we might hear His word and receive His gifts and proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  We too feast on the Word and Sacrament, ready to attend to our eternal home, remembering Christ’s promise to His people, “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia.

Easter 3 2019 - 1 Peter 2:21-25

Easter 3 2019 Misericordias Domini

Good Shepherd Sunday

1 Peter 2:21-25

May 5, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia! Today, we focus on one of the most familiar, one of the most clear, one of the comforting images in all of Scripture, that of Jesus as our Good Shepherd.   In doing so, we just keep celebrating Easter!  Because the father of sin had shut the sheep up in hell, giving them to death to feed on, (Cyril of Alexandria), Christ our Good Shepherd breaks the jaws of the grave and opens up life to all believers, delivering people from death and the devil.  He leads through the valley of the shadow and death and into the green pastures of our eternal home.

Christ alone could bear the cross, and He bore it alone.  The Good Shepherd did not send after the sheep, He went after them, in His body on the tree.  His goodness and mercy pursues those lost and lonely, those who are prone to wandering away from the flock of the Church.  For as St. Peter says in our Epistle, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Because Christ is the first-fruits of those to be raised, our future and hope are as certain as His resurrection and His life.

 Jesus’ dying was far more than your pardon. He came not only that your sins would be forgiven, but also that you might die to sin and live to righteousness.  You are healed by His wounds, not just healed from your own wounds, but healed to provide a wholeness, a restoration for eternal life.  He came not just that your wandering be overlooked but that you should cease to wander; not only to bring us back to the fold, but as your Shepherd to keep you in His love and care.

And this is very important, that Jesus leads and that we follow.  There’s an old story, I’m not sure if it’s true, about a pastor who was leading a group of Christians around Palestine.  (In a church leadership book called “They Smell like Sheep,” Dr. Lynn Anderson tells a story when he visited Palestine several years ago.)  Their tour guide was explaining the lifestyle of the people in Israel and the warm hearted portrayal of the ancient shepherd-sheep relationship – how the shepherd feeds and cares for them.  He pointed out that shepherds don’t drive the sheep, but leads them because they hear his voice and follow.  Then the tour guide talked about how he had once given this same speech when he realized no one was listening to him anymore, but staring outside.  As he looked outside, he saw a guy chasing a flock of sheep.  He was throwing rocks, whacking them with sticks, and having the sheep dog herd them from behind.  The tour guide was furious because he was being contradicted, so he jumped out the bus, ran over to the man and started chewing him out for not shepherding according to his story.  The guy was really confused, but then blurted out, “Hey man, you’ve got me all wrong.  I’m not a shepherd, I’m the butcher!” [1]

The point is this: Where Christ leads, Christ precedes.  There is nowhere that we can go that Christ has not already been, through sorrow and suffering, through joy and happiness, through death and resurrection.  Both sacrifice and example meet in the character of the Good shepherd, who not only laid down His life for the sheep but goes before them that they should follow His steps.

Jesus’ words as the Good Shepherd illustrate the newness of life into which we have entered with Christ. Shepherds lead their sheep.  Sheep follow their shepherd. That’s what St. Peter is talking about, that Jesus serves as an example. You are to trust and believe in Christ, but also to follow Him, follow His example of love, of selflessness, of confidence in the judgment of God. Walk where He goes, follow where He leads.  While you may not always know where you are, you do know where you are going.  Imitate what He has done. Love what He has loved. And finding in you the mercy and grace of the Good Shepherd, serve others as He has served. He did not lose His eternal riches in poverty, nor glory in lowliness, nor immortality in death.  Though mocked, He did not respond in kind or with threats, but He entrusted Himself to His Father.  He did not lie or deceive.  He entrusted Himself to God the Father. He did not sin. Jesus’ death was for you.

Peter calls us to do what God’s Word teaches.  So you also, follow in His footsteps. You are to be good sheep, grateful followers of the Good Shepherd.  It is an honor to be part of His flock under His care.  Trust and believe in Christ; follow Him, follow His example of love, of selflessness, of confidence in the judgment of God.

You are to bear the cross, if God wills, just as His Son did for us. This is how you live in the unfairness of the world.  For to this you have been called, to do good even in the midst of suffering and even if it caused suffering.  You are to be patient not only when suffering justly, but also when suffering wrongly. You must be ready to suffer for doing right. If God gives you a cross to carry, then He also promises to be there for you. He cares for you in the midst of suffering as a Shepherd cares for His sheep, with peace and love and comfort. As the victor over the grave, Jesus knows and is known by His own.

The Good Shepherd leads through suffering, but there is also a fellowship which the Easter victory brings home to every believing heart.  The love of Christ constrains us to a risen life of love, of love toward our Shepherd and toward our other sheep. You must lend our efforts to the care of souls. So when you look around and notice that someone isn’t here on a Sunday, or has missed a month, give them a call.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it.  In the same way, if you see someone who is wandering from God’s way into sin, don’t wait for them to come to you to ask permission, because that isn’t going to happen, but go to them, call them to repentance if necessary, with the goal of that they are returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls. Let them know they are cared about, that they are known by the Good Shepherd. For Christ is our Good Shepherd, and we shall not want, for “Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good please to give you the kingdom.”

 

[1] Anderson, Dr. Lynn. They Smell Like Sheep. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing Company, 1997.

Easter 2 2019

Easter 2 2019 (Quasimodo Geniti)

John 20:19-31

April 28, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Blessing of Quilts and ZLS children sing

Easter 2019 "Feast of Victory"

Easter Sunday 2019

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Acts 10:34–43; Colossians 3:1–4; Mark 16:1-8

April 21, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Easter Vigil/Sunrise 2019 "Paschal Food"

Easter Vigil/Sunrise 2019

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Exodus 12:1–14

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Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Good Friday 2019

Good Friday 2019

Sacrificial Banquet

Isaiah 52:13–53:12: Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9; John 18:1–19:42

April 19, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

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