RSS Feed

Lent 5 Judica 2018

Lent 5 2018 Judica

Hebrews 9:11-15

March 18, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

“…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” This is our text.

Read Hebrews 9:1-10 for greater context.

Our Epistle reading is one of the important Biblical texts for the theology and practice of worship in the Christian church. The author shows how the Divine Service of the Holy Word and Sacrament differs from the worship of the Israelites and worship in all other religions.  It centers our reliance on Jesus as our high priest before God in heaven and His gift of a clean conscience through His blood.  For an all other religions, worship has to do with attempted rites of self-purification and contact with the divine by acts of devotion. In the Divine Service, Christians receive a clean conscience from Jesus, so that we can serve the living God with a good conscience.

There is a truth that we are shaped by, whether we recognize it or not. God is holy, and you are not. Only those who have been cleansed of sin, who have a good conscience before God, can approach the living God safely and beneficially, for without a good conscience the Father’s face is clouded, His Word is misheard, and His gifts are abused. A guilty conscience regards God as either a parent who lets a child get away with anything, or an angry judge. A guilty conscience mishears God’s Law as an impossible demand for self-improvement or a critical message of condemnation; it mishears the Gospel as a license to sin or as a message of affirmation to do whatever it wants. It takes God’s gifts and turns them into self-entitlements for self-indulgence.

But the purpose of the Divine Service, the reason we come here again and again, is to deliver a clean conscience that enables God’s people to approach Him with confidence, not presuming and demanding anything other than what He has promised.  Our whole Sunday morning is shaped around this way that God deals with us.  The service begins with recalling our Baptism in the Invocation and then the rite of Confession and Absolution. We approach God knowing that our Baptismal identity gives us the right to call Him Father and to stand in His presence. We admit our sinfulness and that we deserve punishment. And we receive His grace through faith in Christ, a clean conscience for the sake of this Jesus who shed His blood for us that we may serve the living God. We sing His praise, we recall His actions in the past, we hear His Word rightly as Law and Gospel to enlighten and confirm, to condemn our sin and show us our Savior; we are led to eat Christ’s holy body and drink His cleansing blood for the forgiveness of our sins, for life and salivation and strength, equipping us to serve our Lord and our neighbor. This all comes from our High Priest, Jesus, who cleanses us with His blood, redeems us from death, delivers to us eternal life, and gives all good things from God.  

Even the shape of our church symbolizes the reality of all this. Where you all sit is called the nave, as in a ship, the holy ark of the Christian Church through which God separates, makes holy, sanctifies us from the multitude of unbelievers and serving the Lord at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope. We have this arch here, and the place up front is called the chancel, and the area right around the altar is called the sanctuary. The altar is combines the function of all the liturgical furniture in the Old Testament temple: it is the place for presentation of all offerings and prayers. It is God’s throne, the throne of grace, the place where God delivers to us the very body and blood of Christ. That is why we reverence the altar, why we kneel as we receive the Holy Sacrament.

Unlike the Temple though, there is no curtain here where the archway marks the difference. In the church, the holy way, the way from earth to heaven, is not blocked. When Jesus died upon the cross, the temple curtain was torn in two. Access to God, and God’s access to man, is not through the offerings of man, but only by and through the High Priest Jesus. He is the mediator, the only mediator, between God and man. He is the sacrifice for our sins, and by His blood we are cleansed, securing an eternal redemption. We have an aisle that provides the way of the congregation to enter the Most Holy. So those who have been washed by Baptism, declared justified by the Word of God, come to Christ’s table to be sprinkled with His Blood. Divine blood that cleanses people entirely from all inward and outward impurity and unholiness and ushers them into the presence of the Father, the heavenly Holy of Holies.

St. Paul catches this idea in his treatment of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The Lord’s Supper directs our faith to the cross and to His coming in glory. There we are cured of our sin. There Christian character is gained. There we meet the Lord, there the cross is lifted up and the benefits of Jesus’ death are given to those who partake of His body and His blood, there we are called and purified to serve.

Our High Priest has made us priests. The service of a priest is to sacrifice. Having our sins paid for by Christ, our sacrifice is now turned to the needs of others. As we proclaim the Lord’s death this morning, by our eating and drinking we also declare, Jesus died for us, His blood covers our sin and purifies our conscience, that we may be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. We celebrate with grateful hearts the miracle that the eternal God became man and died on the cross. In this feast of victory of our God, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we bow before the throne of the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God.

Midweek Lenten Service 4

Sacrificial Giving

Lent 2018

March 14, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Funeral Sermon for Jim Dalgetty

Funeral Sermon for Jim Dalgetty
March 12, 2018
Zion Lutheran Chu4rch + Nampa, ID

Lent 4 2018 Laetare

John 6:1-15

Lent 4 Laetare

March 11, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

“I don’t know what to do.”  That is never a fun thing to say, much less feel.  A sense of helplessness can quickly take a person down to despair and depression.  It is a hard thing to experience, and it is a hard thing to watch others experience.

Three weeks ago, during the 1st Sunday in Lent, we heard of Jesus out in the wilderness with devil. No food. No crowds of people. After 40 days, He was hungry, but resisted the temptation to turn stones into bread. The devil offered Him a way around the cross, a way to control over the kingdoms of the world without suffering, but He resisted.

This week, from John 6, we hear of Jesus out in the wilderness again. This time, He is not alone. The crowds had followed Him there, hungry for a miracle, for solutions to their problems, for ways around their own suffering and control over more of their lives.  And they don’t know what to do. It’s an impossible situation.  5,000 men, not counting women and children, so maybe somewhere around 10,000 people, had been listening to Jesus and now found themselves in the middle of nowhere, and now their immediate need is food. Jesus has created this crisis and He knew what He was going to do. He draws them out of town in order to teach them, to feed them, to reveal to them that He is the Son of God.

“Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He asks this of Philip, one of the first disciples.  Philip doesn’t quite get it yet. He quickly responds that there’s no way there would ever be enough money, not even to mention, no grocery store out in the middle of nowhere.  He doesn’t know what to do, and for all appearances they are stuck in an impossible situation.  And we know how Phillip feels, the anxiety, the fear, the despair, all for the same reason: we don’t consider the One who provides abundantly. We lament over our perceived lack, and too often complain that God isn’t doing anything that we want Him to do. We don’t know what to do.

And then the miracle happens. The crowd needs food. So Jesus multiplies the two fish and the five barley loaves, and they end up with more left overs than when they began. And so Jesus provides, just like He did when He changed water into wine, just like He did when He fed His people manna from heaven during the Exodus. Jesus does what He has been doing from the beginning, a miracle of creation and preservation of that creation, a miracle that scientism and evolution cannot begin to explain: that something came from nothing, abundance out of lack. Jesus who did not make bread for Himself, now makes it for the people. That’s who God is and how He acts out of sheer love for what He has created.

And now the crowds, brought of out of their despair and out of their need, rush to the opposite extreme.  They see and experience the abundance, and they lust after more. An endless supply from a Prophet, no less. In Jesus is the miracle cure to their hunger and to their need. It’s a promise of free healthcare without the need to work, food boxes without the need of stamps or accountability, a king after their own making. So the crowds try to grab Him and try to make Him the king who would feed them, that would earthly needs could met in the fashion that they want. For Jesus, this temptation was no greater than that of the devil the last time Jesus was in the wilderness.  But His time has not yet come.  And His rule does not look like that of this world, nor that of the devil, nor the lustful stomachs or hearts of a crowd.

They don’t get it. Not Philip, not the crowd. And Jesus goes away to pray by Himself. We don’t have the words that He prayed, but no doubt it was for His disciples, for the crowd, for the purpose in which the Creator had joined Himself to His creation. And maybe even for us, those who come afterward with the same basic problems, the same lust, the same greed, the same questions, the same despair, the same doubt. We don’t know what to do.

And then the miracle happens. He takes a child, like Amelia, splashes her with water, speaks to her the creative and sustaining Word of God, and He provides an abundance and life that is eternal. He takes her, He takes all the baptized through the wilderness of this life, haunted by demons, tormented by lusts, filled with despair and doubt, looking for a king hoping to get free stuff, and He establishes His kingdom of grace and mercy and abundance. His kingdom is not to set up a political order or an earthly nation. But He has come to give His life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, to give forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

This is not merely a miracle, then or now, demonstrating Jesus’ power and compassion, but it points us to the ongoing meal that He continues to provide for His people. He who supplied the bodily need of thousands in the wilderness offers us an abundance of food to sustain the new life that Christ has given. He gives us Himself through the Gospel, the good news that He gave His body and shed His blood for our redemption. He gives us Himself in His body and blood together with the bread and the wine. In the Lord’s Supper, we are fed with the bread of lift that forgives all our sins, grants us life and salvation, and strengthens us during our earthly pilgrimage.  It’s no accident that from very early in Christian history 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish has served as a symbol for the Lord’s Supper, for Jesus continues to feeds the crowds in a miraculous and life sustaining way.

When you don’t know what to do, cling to Jesus, and see that everything is done for you. Repent of your pride, of your selfish quest for control and power, of your despair and doubt. Feast on the true body and blood of our Lord in the Holy Sacrament that is the spiritual food for eternity to all who believe. Cling to Jesus, to His death and resurrection, and to life everlasting.

Lent 3 Oculi 2018

Jeremiah 26:1-15

Lent 3 Oculi

March 4, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Pious King Josiah had died. Johoahaz had ruled only three months, and now wicked Johaikim sat on the throne of King David. In the early years of his reign, the Lord commanded His prophet Jeremiah to go the temple court and preach to the Jews there. Jeremiah, the iron prophet, had one charge, and one charge only: to speak God’s Word to God’s people. The purpose was simply this: that the people of God would repent, that they would turn from their evil ways and not bring disaster upon themselves because of their evil deeds. Repenting from their evil, they might receive the blessing of God, that is, forgiveness of their sins, life, and salvation.

Now, one might hope that when the Law of God demands repentance from God’s people that they would actually repent.  Not so much in this case. For Jeremiah’s faithful proclamation, his arrested and tried for treason.  The people not only protest the Lord’s message, but also His messenger, and they cry for his blood. “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears” (Jeremiah 26:11).  

But it was not yet time for Jeremiah’s blessed death. When challenged, he does not back down or apologize or wiggle his way out of a serious, and potentially deadly, situation.  His defense is simply this, “The Lord sent me to prophesy…” His authority comes only from the Lord, as do His words.

As for Jeremiah, they may do with him as they please. He is ready to die. Yet to sentence him to death would be murder, and his blood would be would upon them. Would that all God’s pastors, all God’s people, act the same when they are faced with persecution.  Whether they stand firm in their faithfulness of not, there is One who shed innocent blood so the wayward and lost, the stumbling and stricken, the proud and the arrogant would repent of their sin and that sin might be forgiven. Jeremiah’s situation foreshadows the Christ. It will not in too many more weeks that we hear again words that ring out throughout all history, such as in Matthew 27:25, Pilate relents to the murderous crowd crying for Jesus to be crucified, the people answered Pilate, “His blood be on us and on our children.”  Innocent blood was shed, and by His blood we are healed. By His blood, the good, the right, the mending of soulds and lives takes place.

The Lord still sends His messengers with a word from the Lord, to proclaim not the opinions and works of man, but the work of Christ.  He places pastors in the pulpit and in the lives of His people with the same message of repentance and faith. Repent of your sinfulness, of your stubbornness against the Lord, of your treating God’s Word and His pastors as something placed in your lives to speak peace, even when there is no peace. And I get it, you think of yourself as not bad, at least not as bad as rebellious Judah. But you are no different. You have the same sinful heart, the same sinful pride, the same reluctance to hear and obey God’s Word, and your sin deserves the same disaster.

So people of God, repent. Mend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the Lord your God.  Jeremiah’s Hebrew word here translated “mend” is very difficult to put into English.  KJV translates it as amend, or to make amends.  There is no doubt that this is part of a Chirstian’s life of repentance and faith. The idea is to make something good. So we might say that somebody “made good” on a promise. If something goes wrong with a product or service we’ve purchased, we just want them to “make it right,” to put things right.

There are things we’ve done that cannot be undone. And much suffering in this life comes from the memory of things that cannot be put right. Our failure to act, to speak, often cannot be remedied. The moment has passed, we failed our neighbor, and now nothing can be done. Amends cannot truly be made, we have lost the power to make it good, make it right.

Perhaps even worse is living with the sins committed against you. Your father abused you. Your mother mistreated you. Your wife left you. You were taken advantage of sexually, or emotionally. Someone used you for a time to gain influence or money, then discarded you when a better opportunity came along. Someone made a promise and then didn’t even try to keep it. A kid laughed at you on the playground and it still hurts, decades later. You get accused of a horrible deed or having a wicked motivation, and it ruins your day or maybe your year.

 “Mend your ways and your deeds,” says the Lord, and we try. We maybe even succeed, a little. We get back to praying and reading the Bible. We try again to be nice, we renew our commitment to giving an offering from our firstfruits rather than our leftovers, we hold our tongue a little better, calm down a little before answering that email, avert our eyes from the forbidden image instead of worshiping what the LORD has withheld.

“Mend your ways and your deeds,” says the LORD, but we can’t mend them – not all the way. We can’t mend them to perfection, as the Lord says, “Be perfect.” We can’t mend them to holiness, as the Lord says, “Be holy.” We can’t mend them to the point of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving our enemies, praying for our slanderers, giving thanks to God when things are at their worst.

And we can’t mend the ways and deeds of others that have harmed us. We can’t mend the broken bones and broken hearts that we’ve suffered. We cannot repair the damage to our reputation, the failures of our upbringing, the problems of others. No, we cannot make amends, not all the way, not what’s needed.

This is why our Lord Jesus comes. The language of the Gospel gives a picture of our condition: we are imprisoned in the fortress of a strong man. A tyrant rules, the devil, and there is peace, but it is a peace that permits no freedom, not truth, no permanence. There is no escape from this strong man. He is fully armed with accusations about your sinfulness, guarding his own. But into that hell comes One stronger than the strong man. He overcomes the devil, He takes away the accusations, and takes broken people as His spoil so that He might mend the broken heart, the broken life, the broken world. He drives the demons away and brings the Kingdom of God.

Nowhere else is this more clearly exhibited than in your Baptism. Through that Baptism, Christ Himself says to the unclean spirit, “Depart! Make way for the Holy Spirit.” By that Baptism He removes the guilt of sin and fills the child of God with His Spirit, with His grace, with His love. Then He takes that child, still broken in body and soul but now in the hospital of the Church – He takes the broken human being and says, “Come, follow Me, follow Me to the cross, to the grave, to Easter” where all things are mended, are made good and right and true.  

That’s the journey we are on during Lent, in fact, during our whole Christian life. We follow Jesus, the mender of all things, the one who mends the ways and doings of sinful humanity. During this journey, we will seek to imitate Him by mending our own ways and doings. Walking in love, seeking forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. Forgiving those who have hurt us. Not having sexual immorality or impurity or covetousness or foolish talk or crude joking even be named among us. Doing what is proper as children of light, as saints, not sinners, though we struggle being both this side of glory.

Come now, you who are forgiven by Christ, come to His table to feast on His body and blood, for here He continues to mend you, and so mend also your ways and your deeds.


*Some of this sermon was adapted from a sermon by Pr. Christopher Esget,

Lent 2 Reminiscere 2018

Genesis 32:22-32

Lent 2 (Reminiscere)

Wrestling with God

February 25, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Midweek Lenten Sermon 3 2018

Confession of Sins and Absolution

Lent Midweek 2018

February 28, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Tonight we consider a third godly habit, that of Confession of sins and absolution.  From hearing the word to speaking the Word back to the Lord, this then shapes how we view things and how we act as Christians.

Responsive “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But... if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We know these words because we have heard them countless times, we have prayed them just as often, and that habit shapes us into doing them. It leads us to the realization of that the truth that we are sinful and unclean, we sin against God in thought word and deed by what we have done and by what we left undone. To confess our sins is to acknowledge before God the truth that He has spoken about us in His Word, our sins, and what our sins have deserved and demanded.

When we confess that we are by nature sinful, we are saying what the Word of God declares us to be true about our fallen human nature. We are sinful by nature.  But we must be careful here in what that means. While we are sinful by nature, our human nature is not itself sin. Christ did not assume sin when He became man. But He did assume a human nature. He redeemed and healed our human nature. At His return, He will glorify our nature by raising our bodies from the dead and making them incorruptible.

Think of it more in these terms. Sin is like a cancer that has spread throughout our human nature. Cancer isn’t the body, but it is a corruption in the body. In the same way, sin corrupts our nature. The sin infects us, but it is not us. This corruption is not something that results from us sinning, but rather the sin that shows up in our lives is caused by this cancer.  We sin because we are sinners.

Sin corrupts our nature and shows up in the various sins of our lives. And they all have one things in common: they all want God out of the picture. We want to be God. We want our will to be done.  This also helps to explain why bad things and evil happens in the world. How can someone shoot up a school? How can a person treat someone else less than human? How could the holocaust happen, or war, or abortion, or good people do bad things.

Normally, when talking about habits and disciples of the Christian life, the issues that are being dealt with are the sins and the good character traits.  While these things are fine in and of themselves, that’s not what we’re talking about here.  The bad habits are just the symptom, as the good habits are just the result.  The real issue is deeper, it is one of the corrupt human nature and the medicine of eternal life. That is how Luther can say in his Large Catechism that when one is urged to go to confession, he is simply urged to be a Christian.

In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, You are My disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Abiding in the Word of God makes you see the truth. The first part of the truth is the revelation of our sin. The Law accuses us of our sinfulness. And the second part of that truth is the revelation of our Savior. The Gospel shows us Jesus and what He has done for sinners.  That is all wrapped up in Confession and Absolution.

Confession is of the things that people who are not used to a liturgical service often wonder about.  There are only a few other instances where a group of people get together and begin with such a blunt reality check, and most of those, like addiction support groups, do it because of Christian influence.  Together, we own up to the truth about ourselves. We don’t always confess our individual sins, but we confess the deeper issue – our innate sinfulness.  It’s a harsh reality, but it’s not the last word. Because there is a deeper truth than the one that we speak about ourselves. It is the truth that God speaks to us about Himself and what He has done to the sinful corruption inside us. It is the absolution, the pronouncement that God justifies the sinner, declaring him or her to be righteous in His sight.

Confession, then, is asking for something that only God can give. It is not something we give ourselves. Absolution always comes to us from the outside, received as a gift. The pastor stands in the stead, in the place of, Christ and by His command to simply be His mouthpiece, the voice that declares God’s truth. The absolution is not partial, it is total. It is as sweeping and complete as the confession.  All sins owed up, all sins forgiven. Anchored in the universal atonement of our Savior, who by His blood shed upon the cross has won forgiveness for the entire world.  The absolution is one of the methods that the Lord delivers that forgiveness.  It’s not words that applied to a sin, but applied to sinners.

We take this habit of confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness into our homes and our lives. There’s no more personal place where this is lived out than with our families. Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, do not go to sleep at night when unresolved or unforgiven sin is between you.

We closed by going through the confession and absolution found in Compline LSB 254

Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.