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Easter 7 2020

Easter 7 2020 Exaudi

1 Peter 4:7-14

May 24, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

The Church began her long wait.  The disciples would all die before Christ’s promise return is fulfilled. Generation after generation would arise in the Church, and still the beloved of the Lord wait. We wait because we know that He who has kept every other promise will keep this one too.  In the meantime, we live as a community of faith in what is not fully seen, but what we know without a shadow of a doubt to be true. Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of God, filling all things and waiting for the Father to proclaim the moment of Jesus’ appearing. 

As Christians, we live in expectation of Christ’s return.  This last Thursday was Ascension Day, and after Jesus’ ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. The visible presence of Christ has withdrawn into His invisible presence in the Word and Sacraments. We join the Church throughout the ages in the long wait for Jesus’ final appearing, as we confess in Creed, “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”  All the while comforted by His constant nearness. 

And so, St. Peter reminds and encourages us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers.”  In other words, be ready.  Pay attention. Clear headed. Prayerful. But above all, while you wait, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. The Christian life is an apprenticeship in the love of God and the love of neighbor. 

To be able to love, to truly know love and to love, is to know God.   For God is love, and if God is not known, then neither is real love.  People take f Bible verses out of context all the time, to meet agendas on what they think love should feel like and look like.  But you cannot have love if you don’t have the love of Christ.

“Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him, to expect aid from Him, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey Him in times of suffering.  We also begin to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements… God is not loved until we receive mercy through faith. Not until then does He become someone we can love. (Ap V 4, 8).

“Thus, before all else, Christ came so that people might learn how much God loves them, and might learn this so that they might catch fire with love for Him who first loved them, and so they also love their neighbor as He commanded and showed by His example—He who made Himself their neighbor by loving them.” (Augustine, quoted in William Harmless, Augustine and the Catechumenate, 441).

As people loved by Christ, we should always be prepared to meet Him, either by His return or our death, whichever comes first. And that preparation shows in our reception of Christ’s love and in outwardly by loving others.  This is how love covers a multitude of sins.  Of itself, our love has no power to forgive.  But the love of Christ in us does.  In Christ, we love others and freely forgive them.

We are called to live the new life He has given us as stewards of His gifts.  To use our tongues and service for the good of others to the glory of Christ.  And do we ever have the opportunity to do just this.  In these times, one of the biggest issues for people is that they are feeling lonely and unloved.  Stay at home orders, isolation, working from home, social distancing.  (Which really is physical distancing).  These things isolate us from one another, and while technology certainly is a marvel, it is no substitute to intrapersonal connections. But we are not separated from Christ. Even though He has ascended, He has not left His people alone. 

People are also feeling unloved.  Unloved in that so many have been made to feel “unessential”, separated, not worth much. And yet, God loves the unlovable. He visits the lonely. He covers the multitude of sins by loving the world to the point of sending His Son to die that you may live. Through our words and actions of recipients of God’s love in Christ, we bring Christ to a world that is dead in sin so that some might come alive in Christ, even as we have been made alive.  


Easter 6 2020

Easter 6 Rogate 2020

John 16:23-33

May 17, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

In this world’s wilderness the heat of tribulations and all sorts of troubles come upon us. There is never a lack, and no one needs to go looking for difficulties in life.  But when we find ourselves in need of heavenly blessings, then the best way for us is, that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so that those who looked upon it were saved, we might look upon Christ, so that we may believe in Him and have eternal life.  We are to look up to Him who was lifted up; that is we are to cling to Christ with a believing heart so that we are able through prayer to knock on the gates of heaven. Then relief from the venomous bite of sin shall be given, and all kinds of comfort for the soul and heavenly blessings. 

However, if such a prayer is to be well pleasing to God, then it has to occur by faith and without doubting. For God was not pleased with the Israelites when they complain and doubt God’s care during the Exodus. Because of their complaints and misbelief, God sent fiery serpents among them who bit the people so that many people of Israel died.  We are to avoid such misbelief and complaints, and instead look up to Christ, who is lifted up so that all who look upon Him in faith may live.  We should knock with prayer not one or two times, but often and frequent, by faith and without doubting.

I want to speak a little bit about this prayer by Christians as introduced in the Gospel reading and show how it is to take place. First, that prayer is required of all true Christians. Whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ must not only hear the Word, but do the Word, pray the Word, act upon the Word. Prayer is necessary for a Christian. It is the sacred duty of the baptized child of God. While we are neither worthy of things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we must daily ask God to take away our sins. Since we all have a need for receiving good gifts from God, it is truly good, right, and salutary that we seek them from Him with devoted prayer.

But what does it actually mean to pray, and what does Christ require of us? In the Gospel reading, Christ wants to strengthen the faith of His disciples and to grant them His peace by teaching them about true prayer to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.  To pray does not mean to move our lips, but it is an exercise of faith, to lift up hearts to the Lord. It doesn’t start with the tongue, but from a heart cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  In the Old Testament, if a sacrifice was to please God, it had to be ignited by fire, a fire that fell from heaven.  So too, if the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and the sacrificial offering of our lips are to rise before him as incense, the lifting up our hands as the evening sacrifice, (Psalm 141:2) our heart has to be ignited by the heavenly fire of the Holy Spirit as the blood of Christ is applied through the Word and Sacraments.

We pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, enabled by Him to approach the Father on the merits of Christ. Now again in the OT, if a person wanted to pray, they turned and faced the Temple in Jerusalem, for it was there that the altar of God was placed, where sacrifices were made, and where God has promised to meet His people for their good.  This was pointing forward to the spiritual sacrifice of our prayer that is placed upon the atonement altar of the New Testament, that is, upon Christ Himself.  We don’t face a location, but we face a person, again, we look up Christ as He is risen for all to see and believe.  We are to turn our hearts and minds away from all earthly distractions, and lift them up to God the Lord in true, godly devotion and praise.

And so Jesus instructs us that we are call upon the Father with all boldness and confidence as dear children.  Our identity as God’s children rest upon our baptismal grace.  And so we pray in Jesus’ name, for that is the only name given by which we can be saved. Just as no one can please God except through Christ alone, so also no prayer can be acceptable to God unless it takes place in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to base our prayer upon the merits and the intercessions of Son of God. This is why Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you.” And then again, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” 

Our prayers should take place with true humility and total reliance on God. In them we are to submit all our desires to God’s will and leave everything up to Him. Christ teaches us in this Gospel account that God will provide what is best for us, even if He does not answer our prayers in the way we want.  We must follow the decision of the Spirit and not the flesh

Don’t grow tired of prayer, but endure in hearing the Word of God and responding with your praise and thanksgiving and intercessions.  Holy desire increases during hardship and temptations, as we have experienced during these past couple of months.   So begin everything with prayer. End everything with prayer. In the morning, we should ask God to reign over us all day with His Spirit and protect us with His angels. In the evening, we should ask Him to pardon our sins which we loaded upon ourselves throughout the day.  This is why Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers are such jewels, because they ask for this very thing. But above all, the Lord’s Prayer is the model for Christian prayer because it is the prayer that Jesus’ teaches us to pray and covers all that we need for this body and life. 

This sermon is based off of Johann Gerhard’s sermon for the 5th Sunday after Easter, Postilla, 402ff.

Easter 5 2020

Easter 5 2020 Cantate

John 16:5-15

May 10, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This morning in our Gospel reading we take a step backward from last week’s reading in John 16.  Here in this section of John, we hear Jesus’ words promising the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the role of the Spirit in the lives of God’s people.  The disciples have journeyed and stayed with Jesus up to this point.  They will soon abandon Him during the most severe trial of His passion. But they will soon be gathered, forgiven, strengthened, and commissioned after the resurrection. Christ will preserve them after Pentecost and their reception of the Holy Spirit enables them to proclaim the gospel and face trials similar to the ones that Jesus Himself faced. 

Jesus forgives their unfaithfulness, and His own perfect obedience and faithfulness to the Father will be imputed, given, to them through faith. In light of this grace that forgives, restores, and strengthens, the Spirit will of truth will guide God’s people according to God’s Word, glorifying Jesus, but also that the Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. 

You stand convicted by the Holy Spirit today.  You already confessed at the beginning of the Service today the truth of this, from 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  You, who are truly sinners, don’t want to be considered sinners. You feel sin as a burden. You want to do better and even though it accuses and condemns you, you love God’s Law. You see in it what is truly good and beautiful and true.   And what you are led to see by the Holy Spirit is also righteousness, not your own, but the perfect righteousness of Jesus.  “But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

A Christian, you must believe in two things at the same time. You must believe the law which accuses you and calls you “sinner.” You must also believe and trust in the gospel which comforts you and calls you “saint” on account of Christ.

The devil will try to tell you that the sins which you commit every day will cause God to stop loving you, and therefore you are not a saint. The devil is a liar and he is the master of half-truths. He will tell you that the Holy Spirit does not dwell where there are habitual sins and you have got them. He will tell you that the Bible teaches that Christians progress and grow in their sanctification and you are growing in sins, getting worse.  Yes, you are a sinner, you sin daily and in many and various ways, this is most certainly true.   But the love of God toward you is stronger than the sinfulness that clings to you. Although you are sinners, God is your Father who has made His Son, the Lord Jesus, your Brother, that you might live in His Spirit. 

Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”

The Holy Spirit gives away the Kingdom to sinners. He glorifies the Son in the crucifixion, where He is lifted up before the world. There upon the cross, Jesus has earned the forgiveness of your sins, He has earned your sainthood, He has earned you a place in His eternal kingdom.  And then He sends His Spirit to you to deliver what belongs to Jesus and declare it to you. 

Sinner and saint. That is what you are on this side of eternal glory. As a sinner, the Holy Spirit convicts your misbelief and sin.  As a saint, sin does not rule over you any longer and the Holy Spirit has called you out of your sinful life to the life of Christ.  If you fall into sin, you will rise again by grace. You live by God’s grace, and grace alone.  By grace, in His Word and Sacrament, you receive God’s mercy. Without the Holy Spirit you can’t do this. But through the Word and by the means of the blessed waters of your Baptism, the Holy Spirit delivers Jesus, so that you might live in Him. 

Easter 4 2020

Easter 4 2020 Jubilate

Lamentations 3:22-33

Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

May 3, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

First Sunday back after the COVID Quarantine

The year was 586 BC.  Jerusalem had just been destroyed.  The temple flattened. God’s people displaced and evil Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar reigning over them.  Israel had wandered away from God and turned their hearts and lives away from Him. God had turned His back on them as they had turned their back on Him.  Their sin resulted in horrible disaster and suffering.  The consequences of sin had left people slaughtered and the remaining people exiled to Babylon. 

The first two chapters of Lamentations are Jeremiah’s lament over such destruction. Jeremiah had been sent by God to tell His people to repent, to turn their hearts and ways back to Him, but they refused.  The whole book of Laminations shows the consequence of ignoring the confession of sins and daily repentance, of the arrogance and pride that leads to great sorrow.   You can hear the sorrow from Jeremiah, even though the wicked were getting what they deserved, there is no joy in the death of sinners, nor the exile of God’s people. And so Jeremiah calls out to God, “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down with me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases… (Lam 3:19-22a). 

There was another time, about 600 years later when the temple was destroyed as well.  This time, God’s people had not only rejected the prophets that He had sent, but God own Son.  As people shouted out to crucify the Christ, in order to save the sinner, God turned His back on His Son, so that Jesus would call out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  This left the disciples with great sorrow, much like Jeremiah during the Babylonian exile.  The hope they had placed in the Savior had been pierced with nails and buried in the tomb. And Jesus had told them they would be sorrowful.  But He also told them that it would only be for a little while and that He Himself would turn their sorrow into joy. 

And it was! The temple was rebuilt, the temple of Christ, the dwelling place of God with man in God who became man.  For in three days Christ was raised from the dead.  The temple of Jesus body was not subject to decay nor death, but bore the sins of the whole world so that we would be reconciled to God.  The sorrow over Jesus’ death was turned in joy in light of the resurrection. 

And so it is with us.  We walk in sorrow over the events and situations of our day. We have feelings of being exiled: from meeting in church, of grandparents seeing grandchildren, life regulated to our homes, and the fear or limited freedoms.  Has God been punishing us today?  I don’t know Though the Lord casts men aside, that’s not the intention of His heart, for “though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men”  (Lam 3:32-33). We are gathered back together by the grace of God to receive His compassion and His steadfast love.  His desire is that we be in fellowship with Him and one another. 

When disaster hits, Christians turn in repentance and faith to the ever-present Christ. “God stands hidden among the sufferings which would separate us from Him like a wall, indeed, like a wall of a fortress. And yet He looks upon me and does not forsake me. He stands there and is ready to help in grace, and through the window of dim faith He permits Himself to be seen” (Luther AE 44:28). But joy comes with the risen Christ. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.”

Trials, whether sent by God or allowed by Him are for a wholesome purpose and should be borne with patient submission. To wait on the Lord. So Jeremiah proclaims, “Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him, let him put his mouth in the dust – there may yet be hope; let him give his check to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. ” (Lam 3:28-30). For Jeremiah, there is no excuse for sin, nor any denial of wrong, but pointing us to God’s great compassion in the midst of our own unfaithfulness and wavering, in our trials and hardships. 

Reflect on repentance, without complaint over what God has sent or allowed. Where do you need to repent? What idols have you set up that God is tearing down? In what, and who, do you put your trust and hope and expectation?  Don’t mourn over the suffering that comes upon your, but rather over your sins. And rejoice in Christ. No matter how bad things get, no matter what this week or month or year brings, hope in the Lord because He loves you in Christ and never abandons His people. 

This is a joy that became that their to such a degree that one one could ever deprive them of it, least of all the world.  With Christ, life here is bearing the cross after Him, but beyond is unending joy. The Christian is a believe in the world, but not of it.  We are to be aware of this little while that we walk on earth as we travel to our eternal home.  This may be out of harmony with the rest of the world, we may be falsely accused as foolish or uncaring just for meeting together today, but we shall always act good toward others. Subject even to the human institutions, established by God, for the Lord’s sake, trusting and believing in His steadfast love.

Palm Sunday 2020 - John 12:12-19

Palm Sunday 2020 Palmarum

John 12:12-19

April 5, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Growing up Palm Sunday was one of my favorite Sundays, and it still is.  I love the songs, the idea of palm branches, and the joy that we have.  Holy week is what main focus of the entire year.  When I was in college during the end of my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to study in Northern Spain for a term.  I was there in the spring, and Holy Week was simply amazing.  Starting on Palm Sunday and then every day until Easter, there were processions, basically large Christian parades celebrating the week.  In a sense they were reenacting the Biblical account of that week.  Every day the parade was different.  It started out on a happy note, and then gradually got darker as we neared Good Friday. I knew what was going to happen on Good Friday, yet it’s one of those things that you still almost expect a better ending every time you go through it.

But today, today is different. Yes, today is a day of joy as we sing “hosanna” along with people all over the world in celebration of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. But it’s also different in that this is happening in people’s homes more often than and around the churches.  Our expectations of this week and our Easter celebration have been completely uprooted.  It is strange, the but the way of the cross is accompanied by the unusual and unique as God Himself rides into Jerusalem. 

The Gospel of John tells us that the crowd which had gathered to see Him, had heard how Jesus had brought Lazarus back from the dead.  People were following Jesus around and you can bet they were wondering what sort of sign and miracle He might do next.  Many people had believed in Him because He raised Lazarus from the dead.  There was a lot of anticipation, and a lot of expectations about who Jesus was and who He would be.

There were many different ideas about the Messiah and who he would be, even from the disciples, but suffering and dying really wasn’t a popular one.  Some thought he would be a political ruler, some a purely spiritual ruler, and some really didn’t think too much about a Messiah, or a Savior at all.  But we see in the Gospel of John that Jesus riding into Jerusalem was an expectation.  In fact, it was more than that.  All the way back in the Old Testament, hundreds of years before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Zechariah prophesied to God’s people saying, “Fear not, O Daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”  Most Gentile kings would ride into town on a horse. A horse is a powerful animal, used in war, it lets the rider sit high above everyone else.  But a donkey really was only used as a pack animal, an animal of service to people.  A servant Messiah was coming to town, a Messiah of many expectations.  This is how King David would ride into his city, Jerusalem.  And here we have Jesus doing the very same thing as that Old Testament king.  What a sight that must have been that day, especially knowing what we know now. 

We have expectations of Jesus too, don’t we, just like those who were there?  We have read God’s message to us, just like those 2000 years ago.  When Jesus comes, we expect to see miracles.  We expect Him to forgive our sins when we repent.  We expect Jesus to be with us.  We expect Him to hear our prayers.  We expect these things because God has already promised all of them to us.  We didn’t just come up with them out of thin air.  We know He is faithful and just and that He keeps His promises, even though we sometimes don’t keep ours to Him.

But Jesus doesn’t always do what we expect Him to. How often do we wish Jesus could do what we want Him to do in our lives.  We see on TV, hear in school, and all over the place how people think Jesus should act.  Some say, “God couldn’t have created the world in 6 days, so you must believe, if there is a God, he used millions of years in evolution.”  Others say, “Jesus couldn’t have said some mean things in the Bible or talked about Hell because He is too nice for that.”  Others say, “I can’t believe in a God when I look around the world and see famine, disease, and war.”  And some expect that by being a Christian, by following God’s commands that our life is going to be easy because God will bless us with more stuff and more happiness.  Too often, people out there, and yes, sometimes even us, try to remake God in our image, to make Him act the way we want Him to instead of how He has said He would.  We get ourselves into trouble when we start putting expectations upon Jesus that He hasn’t put on Himself already.

Jesus didn’t do what was expected when He came into Jerusalem.  Sure, He did signs and wonders that week in Jerusalem for the people, but the week didn’t end the way His disciples expected.  They had been told what would happen, Jesus Himself had told them more than once that he must suffer and die.  And yet the Gospel of John tells us, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.” They had forgotten what Jesus kept telling them was going to happen later that week on a cross.  They were so caught up in the parade of palm branches and singing, in the emotions of the day.  Too much going on in their lives.  Too much hustle and bustle, and they didn’t like the idea of thinking that their teacher would have to die, that one of them would betray Him, that they might be faced with death themselves by being connected.

The Pharisees, who were already looking for ways to kill Him, even noticed this fickle and temporary excitement and said, “Look, the world has gone after Him.” How ironic that less than a week later, those same crowds, those same disciples save one, would completely abandon Him.  Alone. Tired.  Beaten.  Where you should have been, not Him. 

So I ask you this question – do you want the real Jesus?  We wave palm branches today in joy of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem just like the people back then and as people have when celebrating this day for the last 2000 years.  How universally we are tempted to have our own glory, to wave the biggest palm branch, to have the biggest and most meaningful church service.  But Jesus calls us to cross-like glory.  We can look at the people then and see how fickle and temporary their faith is during Holy Week, how fleeting their expectations, wherein they closed their hearts and minds to the true cost of the Gospel – death.  Jesus gives us the unexpected.  He gives us His suffering.  He gives us His death on a cross.  He gives us His resurrected life. 

That’s what you can expect from Jesus this week, and indeed, every day as you wait expectantly for the foundation of our Christian hope in the resurrection on Easter.

Lent 5 2020 Judica - Hebrews 9:11-15

Lent 5 2020 Judica

Hebrews 9:11-15

March 29, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

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

Today is the beginning of Passiontide, a mini season within Lent wherein we have a special period in commemoration of our Lord’s Passion and death. It’s our final preparation for Easter. Throughout the season of Lent we are led to repent over our sins, but we are never left without the joyous assurance of our acceptance by God for the sake of Christ.  The enormity and seriousness of our sin is held before us in light of Jesus’ suffering and death.  There is a calming joy in our redemption even when we focus upon the great sacrifice of our Lord. 

It’s our Lord’s will that we are reminded of Him and His love for us.  It is the cross we need to remember. From the arms of the Cross comes the power to transform and direct us. There we are cured of sin. There the Christian character is acquired. We must meet our Lord on Golgotha if we are to know Him. 

What we find at Golgotha is not for the squeamish. Christ's bloody death is at the heart of all we believe. The Old Testament is full of bloody sacrifices. The blood of the ram sacrificed in place of Isaac. The blood of the Passover Lamb that marked the doors of the Israelites. The blood of the Covenant splashed upon the altar and the people. The blood of the bull as a sin offering. The blood of the goat sprinkled on the horns of the altar. When Solomon built the temple, he offered up 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. That's a lot of blood. Why? Because the life of a creature is in the blood. And blood shed must be paid for by blood shed. Sin must be met by sacrifice. Apart from the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).

In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is presented to us as both the Sacrifice and the Sacrificer, the High Priest.  Hebrews tells us that Jesus enters once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of His own blood” (Hebrews 9:12). Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and He does this for the explicit purpose of shedding blood.  The blood of the animals sanctified, made holy, for the purification of the flesh, but it was subject to death. Once shed, the life in the blood dies. But the blood of Jesus, the blood of the Lamb of God, subjects death to Himself.  He dies but does not stay dead.  His blood runs free and living through His veins even now as He is seated at the right hand of the Father on His heavenly throne.  

By His blood we are cleansed from our sins. By his blood, sin is paid for, we have atonement with God.  He purifies the conscience, a conscience spoiled by sin and ruined to dead works. His blood poured out upon the cross, shed for you, to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. The very blood of Christ, shed on the cross, we now drink from the chalice. The very blood of Christ we receive, and it cleanses us from all sin, making it possible for sinful flesh to be in the presence of a holy and righteous God. Death itself retreats in the presence of the blood of Life, as Jesus promises in John 6:54-56, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.”  Again He says in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” 

Now that Divine blood is more than mere sentiment or abstraction, for we drink it in. And in doing so we drink in the life of Christ, even as we are cleansed and receive all the atoning benefits of our Lord's death.  One of the greatest tragedies of this current situation is the temporary loss of the reception of the blood of Jesus in the Sacrament.  May these days created in Christians everywhere an urge and desire to receive the Sacrament as often as possible and yearn for the days soon to come when we can gather around the altar once more.  Until then, you are not separated from Christ, nor from the benefits of His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. For by faith, all the benefits of the cross are yours. You are still forgiven because of the blood of the Lamb. Yes, with good reason, we glory in Christ's bloody sacrifice; in the Passion and Cross and the Resurrection.

This Divine blood now purifies us to serve the living God and people enlivened through faith.  The High Priest has made you priests. If you truly believe God’s word that through Christ you are made into a royal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9), you should think more about what the priesthood means. The vocation of the priest is to sacrifice, it is a bloody ordeal.  As priests of the Lord present yourselves, soul and body, as a living sacrifice to God. But it is not your blood you need to sacrifice, nor your good works to cover up your sins. The blood of Christ has been shed.  You are already a bloody people, sprinkled and cleansed in Holy Baptism, fed and nourished by the Sacrament, set apart to serve in our vocations as parent, child, sibling, citizen, teacher, student, friend, neighbor.

Having your sins paid for by Christ, your sacrifice is now turned to the needs of others. It ought to be your joy and privilege to serve the living God in your vocation and in service of your neighbor in these unprecedented times.  As fear of sickness and death surrounds you, live and trust in the provision of the Lord, who shed His blood that you may have life eternal. In the name of our crucified and living T Christ. Amen. 

Some of this is based off thoughts by Dr. Peter Scaer

Lent 4 2020 Laetare - John 6:1-15

Lent 4 2020 Laetare

John 6:1-15

March 22, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

John 6:1–15    1After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.


This Lenten season has become a time of unexpected fasts.  Some of these fasts have been self-imposed – not going out as much as we normally would, refraining from being in larger crowds, going without certain foods or supplies because we do not want to the hassle of the stores or whatever else. 

Some of these fasts, however, are out of our control.  Activities are being cancelled left and right. Stores, schools, church activities, restaurants, and more. While some might fast for a while, at least when it is self-denial, we often know the end date, or intend to make a lifelong change on purpose.  When it is out of our control there is fear, sadness, despair over what has been given up. 

Fasting does serve a purpose, and there is a reason why Christians have long held this practice, especially during the season of Lent. It’s not to kick start a diet, or give up some overindulgence for a time, but there is spiritual side of it all. In the times of denial of certain things, we look outside of ourselves and our efforts to the One who gives every good and perfect gift from above.

It is the case that we find ourselves following Jesus to hear His teaching and yet wondering all the while how we are going to eat, how we are going to be provided for, and what tomorrow might bring. Where are we really going?  In John 6, crowds have been following Jesus because they had seen the signs He was doing on the sick.  The Passover was at hand. This was the greatest holiday, the greatest festival of the entire year.  Like so many of us today when we celebrate holidays, it was also a time of great feasting. But how were they going to do that in their situation. They were too far out, not enough stores, not enough money, not enough food for the people. And what they do have seems too little.

What are you hungry for? Hungry to get out of your house? Hungry for the daily routine that seems to have been left behind? Almost everyone will experience these sorts of hunger and inconvenience because of recent events and the events to come. For some, it will be much more than an inconvenience. Hardships will come to many. Fasts from jobs, income, food, healthcare, and the list may go on. As Christians, we want to help others but say the Lord, “Where are we going to get the money for this? There isn’t enough for each of them to get a little.” Jesus does not let empty shelves prevent Him from feeding His people, nor overwhelming crowds, nor fear or uncertainty.  We sing in one of our Communion hymns. “You satisfy the hungry heart, with gift of finest wheat. Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat” (LSB 641). With the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus reveals Himself to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the bread of life who gives Himself for the life of the world.

As Jesus used the gifts of the five loaves and two fish to provide for others, and used people to distribute this to others, so He continues to work through meager beginnings and efforts of people here and now.  We are to love another as Christ has loved us. We are to serve one another as we have been served. We are to It is important to remember that Jesus is Lord over the government as well as over His Church.  all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Christ, and He wields it through authorities He establishes on earth, as sinful, corrupt, or broken as it may be in its worst.  St. Paul reminds us that that authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing [to be a servant for your good and to punish evil] (Romans 13:1-7). God’s will will be done, according to His Word and promise. 

So not be afraid. You already have victory in Christ.  Jesus continues to feed His people by means of His Word, and this is the food of eternal life.  He draws His people to Himself, and indeed uses times of hardship and struggle to do so. I pray it is that way for you now.  Lent, Holy Week, Eater, are celebrated everyday through our life in Christ. This doesn’t only happen in the church services, but in the lives of the people of God when they remember and believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The full forgiveness of our sins, the grace of God, eternal life are all given to you freely and received by faith in Him. Jesus is the bread of life by whom we have life eternal. In His T holy name. Amen.