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Midweek Lenten Service 2

Midweek Lent 2 2019

Isaiah 52:13–53:5; Luke 10:25–37

The Salutary Gift: Healing Medicine

March 20, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Lent 2 2019 Reminiscere - Romans 5:1-5

Lent 2 2019 Reminiscere

Romans 5:1-5

March 17, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

From our epistle reading for this morning, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Whenever you come across a sentence that begins with “therefore” you should always ask what it is there for.  The first four chapters of Romans spent a lot of time confessing the reality that all have sinned, that no one is righteous not even one, that everyone stands equally guilty before a holy and righteous God. No human will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 

It’s a bleak picture really.  We have no righteousness of our own, no goodness that deserves anything except the wrath of God revealed from heaven against ungodliness and unrighteousness. We cannot boast about ourselves, even in the least.  For no one can be justified, declared righteous, in the sight of God based on their own works. Yet, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteous.  Likewise, “[Faith] will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Therefore, after being declared righteous by God, this declaration, this justification we receive from, out of, due to faith in Christ brings us peace. This peace is not some kind of subjective feeling that is based on emotion.  Much more profoundly, it is the objective state of being at peace instead of being enemies.  It’s not the absence of war or conflict, like we normally use the word, but it is the presence of what is good.  Peace, then, is a good relationship we have toward or with God.  The first several chapters of Romans makes it abundantly clear that this does not come about in any way, shape or form from us to God but this is always and ever and only a relationship of peace with God based on His declaring us righteousness, which is always and ever and only through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even more, through Christ, we obtain and retain access by faith into this grace, into God’s undeserved kindness and favor.  We stand on this grace, not as a one time gift, but a daily reality, a daily foundation. By faith, we not only gain entry into grace, but also our present state of grace and our hope of sharing in the glory of God.  Faith alone is the beginning, middle, and end of everything (FC SD IV 34).

This leads to our rejoicing, but it’s actually quite a shame that many modern English translations use “rejoicing.”  It’s more than “rejoice”. The word here really means, “boast”. We boast in the hope of the glory of God.  This too is more than just a confident expectation of the future, but a present tense bragging.  Boasting in the Law or in our works certainly excluded.  But boasting in the things of God is proper and in fact a natural reaction to our peace with God. This is how St. Paul can also say in both of his letters to the Corinthian Christians referencing Jeremiah 9:23, “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31, 2 Cor 10:17).

And even more, we rejoice, we boast in our sufferings. It’s not that suffering is good. In fact it is bad and will be done away with at the resurrection.  But hope enables us to continue boasting even in the midst of sufferings.  Why? Because we have peace with God, both in the future and in the present!  

And this then leads to endurance, a patient endurance, to stay standing on the firm foundation of our hope in Christ in the middle of pressure and suffering that tries to knock us down. This then leads to character, to a tested character, an approved character. This is character that comes like the testing of metals refined by fire, a process of enduring something, enduring suffering with patience that promotes and validates the character of the one undergoing it – a character formed by Christ.

This isn’t a list of virtues we have to work on going through, one step at a time, but these are effects of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of God’s people. God leads us through suffering. He teaches patient endurance, He develops character, then we end up right back where we started, with hope.  There’s a progression here of maturing in the Christian faith, but not distinguishable stages of faith, since the end point is no different than the beginning. These words reassure us of God’s intention for His people when we are afflicted by any pressure or hardship or temptation: Patient endurance leading to approved character which then works its way right back to hope, and because this hope is in Christ, is as certain and sure as Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Whatever it is that you are going through, whatever temptations and hardships and trials and suffering, hope survives and thrives because God’s love has been poured into, and remains in, your hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love is not without a continuous effect. It continues to dwell within our hearts through the Holy Spirit and point you to Christ. The foundation that you are justified in the sight of God, declared righteous through faith in Christ, who ransomed you by His precious blood and raised on the third day. Because of this, you have peace with God, a peace that passes all understanding. Focused on Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection we know that suffering is not the whole story. God will use afflictions and for your good and to bless others. He will keep His promises and by faith, there Christ suffered for you, and when you must suffer, He leads you in faith, justified, in the hope of the peace you have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Much of this sermon is based off the exegetical insights and meaning of the Greek words used in the text.  See BDAG and Concordia Commentary: Romans 1-8 by Middendorf

Midweek Lenten Service

Lent Midweek 1

This Salutary Gift: The Bread of Life

March 13, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Lent 1 2019 Invocabit - Genesis 3:1-21

Lent 1 2019 Invocabit

Genesis 3:1-21

March 10, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

Our OT reading for this morning from Genesis 3:1–19 gives us the account of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin and the resulting curses pronounced upon them and the serpent. Though God had given them for food all the trees of the garden, including the tree of life, Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent preached that they would not die because God knew that when they ate they would be as God Himself. Indeed, they would be gods unto themselves. The result of their eating was death, just as the Lord had promised. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Is it any surprise then, that our Lord, after His baptism in the Jordan, is called into the wilderness? He fasted, and while he was fasting, a voice in the wilderness cried out, “If you are really the Son of God…” The temptation for Adam and Eve was to reject their calling as creatures and become as gods to themselves. The temptation for Christ was to reject His calling as the Son of God, submitting to the Father’s will, and take matters into His own hands. But our Lord does not bite the bait. He keeps the fast that Adam failed to keep.

For us men, and for our salvation, this new and better Adam said “no” to the devil’s temptations. Rather than eat the forbidden fruit of earthly power and glory, Christ ate ashes like bread and mingled His drink with weeping (cf. Psalm 102:9). He refused to satisfy Himself, to indulge His appetite, and denied Himself food and drink for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. He was content to live by the Word of His Father.

The devil tempts Him in three ways. 1st temptation is one of greed and caring of this life so that you neglect the Word of God. The devil attacks Christ with the worry of His body, His hunger, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”  This temptation is common among Christians, especially by those who have less than most. It is for this reason that St. Paul warns that the love of money is the root of all evil, for it is the fruit of unbelief.  Christ’s answer, “Man does not live by bread alone.”  God certainly gives daily bread even without our prayers, but our life is sustained by the Word of the God, not by the things of this world.

The 2nd is a spiritual temptation, about tempting God. What happens is that the devil teaches us to put God to the test.  He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tells Him to tempt God, to throw Himself down to see if the Father will really take care of Him.  It makes perfect sense that this temptation follows the first one very. When the devil finds a heart which trusts in God in lack or need, then he attacks on the others side.  When there is no lack, he tries to create the idea that is one.  Where there is no lack for the body, the devil goes after the soul. It’s like when you start to get bored with God, with coming to church, with reciting the creed or the Lord’s Prayer or the liturgy, when you think you know it all well enough and need no more instruction by the Word. This is a dangerous plague by which the devil deceives the hearts of many, but not the Word of God incarnate.

The 3rd temptation involves empty glory and the power of this world. The devil shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world and offers to give them if only Jesus would worship him.  How ridiculous this must seem to the creator of all things.  The nations already are His, as are you.  And He is yours. If Christ is with you, what else do you need?  Would you choose to give up glory, fame, power rather than the Word?  This is what happens with us: if we have nothing, then we doubt God, if we have much, they we become tired of it and want to have something else. It’s the idea that whatever God does for us is never right.  

Here Christ gains the victory and teaches us how to gain the victory. All this then is a mirror of bodily and spiritual temptation, with which the devil daily plagues and afflicts us, so that we are in a constant and unceasing fight with him. Church after church is under assault. And the temptation is always to make church less churchy.  No more hymns that link us to the past or teach deep truths to music.  No more liturgy that gives us God’s Word as our language of prayer and praise. No more Scripture readings that are too long regardless that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Enough is enough. Fight back.  Abide in the Word. Cling to Christ. Resist the temptation of the devil and the sinful world who seek to make you like them.  You are baptized into Christ and His victory.  By your side we have also the gracious presence of the Lord Christ to comfort us, and His holy angels, as the Lord says in John 14:30, “See, the prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing on me.”  The best shield and weapon against this is God’s Word and prayer. That is why this Sunday is called Invocavit, from Psalm 91:15, “He calls on me, and I will answer him.”

Jesus’ temptations are not just a duel with the devil or an example for us to follow.  Rather, the point is that all of Jesus’ temptations are salvific.  They are part of God’s plan of salvation.  By Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness and on the cross, He triumphed over the devil and won the forgiveness of sins for all people. The main purpose of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness was to redeem the history of Israel—and of all humanity—in the person of Jesus. And this, He did, to deliver us. As we pray in the great litany:

“Good Lord, deliver us. By the mystery of Your holy incarnation; by Your holy nativity; By Your baptism, fasting, and temptation; by Your agony and bloody sweat; by Your cross and passion; by Your precious death and burial; By Your glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:” Help us, good Lord.

Ash Wednesday 2019

Ash Wednesday 2019

Genesis 3:1-15; Joel 2:12-19

March 6, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This sermon is adapted from the CPH series, The Salutary Gift

Quinquagesima 2019 - Luke 18:31-43

Quinquagesima 2019

Luke 18:31-43

March 3, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

It was around the year 1050 BC and it was the end of the era of the judges in Israel.  The prophet Samuel was an old man by this time, his sons were corrupt, and the elders of Israel wanted a king. Not only did they want a king, but they demanded one to judge them like all the other pagan nations, who would go out before them and fight their battles. Samuel didn’t like this one little bit, and neither did God, for making this demand they rejected God from king over them. Samuel warned the people with God’s own words that this was a bad idea and that it would not go well with them. But they wouldn’t listen and doubled down on their rejection and hardness of heart. And so God gave them what they asked for.

For 20 years Saul reigned as king, and it was not good. Saul turned from following God and did not follow His commandments. And so when the time was right, God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse from Bethlehem to anoint someone new, for God had provided form Himself a king from among his sons. Jesse’s youngest son, a shepherd, ruddy in appearance, beautiful eyes and handsome. He wasn’t really considered to be much.  But God’s doesn’t care about the external appearance, rather he looks at the heart and seeks one who will not run after other gods.  David, whose son would be a greater king, was anointed by Samuel and the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him from that day forward.

Before Samuel’s time, the Lord’s spirit is not mentioned all that often before the time of the judges.  But now, the rush of the Spirit upon David indicates something important has happened.  The Spirit of the Lord abides with God’s chosen leader. This bestowal of the Spirit ought to make us remember Jesus’ anointing at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descending upon Him.  And on Pentecost the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples.  Unbelievers who repented and believed in Jesus were invited to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This sets the pattern for the church. Christian baptism is the divine anointing with the Spirit. In the Old Testament priests and kings were anointed, and now all are welcome to receive this anointing into the royal priesthood of all believers in Christ.

When a king of Israel is called the “anointed one” it is always God’s anointed one, not Israel’s.  The anointing, as is Baptism, is God’s choice, and God’s work, not man’s. When God chose Saul He gave the Israelites the king they had requested, their kind of king. In rejecting Saul, God also rejects Israel’s way of choosing. The choice of a new king was not because of the people’s demand, as it was for Saul, but now because of their need, according to God’s criteria – “a man after God’s own heart.” The people got the king they wanted in Saul.  Now, it was time for God to give them the king they needed.  Samuel’s focus is directed away from Saul’s ruined potential to what God will do through the branch of Jesse, David, a man after God’s own heart.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus explains to His disciples, for the third time, what it means that He is the Son of David, that He is the great David, the greater king.  But Jesus isn’t the kind of king that most of them want, but He is the King they need. He doesn't look the way a king should look, yet his heart is Divine. He heals, He preaches, He teaches, He gives life to the lifeless, and forgiveness to the sinner. And His kingship is expressed upon the cross. Crowned with thorns, He is be mocked, spit upon, shamefully treated, flogged and killed. This isn’t how kings were supposed to be treated. Through these things, He will fulfill what was written about Him by the prophets.

The disciples don’t get it. But the blind man does, for by faith, he sees clearly who Jesus is. When He hears that Jesus is coming, he cries out not once, but twice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:38).  By faith, he recognizes who this Jesus is: the Son of David. Jesus, David’s greater Son, brings health and salvation to him who believes. And what’s more, this man follows Jesus, glorifies God, and others who see it, give praise to God as well.

And so do we.  Jesus isn't the King you always want, but you are no longer blind to Him, and He certainly is the King that you need.  He doesn't bow to your will, He doesn't worship you, He doesn't thank you for gracing Him with your presence in church this morning. He rejects your prideful, self-importance and vanity as surely as He rejected Saul. This is how He judges, not like the nations of the world, but in righteousness and holiness, condemning your sinfulness and taking your sin and guilt upon Himself.  This is how He goes out before His people and fights your battles – by the cross.  And He is victorious, for you, over your sin and over your death.  Here is not just a man after God’s own heart, but in Jesus we see the heart of God Himself, on His way of sorrows but also to His resurrection glory, and now ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

Lent begins this week.  This is not the kingdom that the world wants, and even many a Christian. The ash on the forehead, the sign of the cross, fasting, and almsgiving, and heightened prayer. These things show a theology of the cross, a time centered upon Christ and Him crucified, the King crowned with thorns and pierced for our transgressions.  And we follow Him all the way, to rise with Him in the newness of life. But to follow Him requires much love for Him.  It means more than loving what He has done, but to follow Jesus with seeing eyes of faith, sure and certain hope of the resurrection, glorifying God along the way, living not for ourselves but for Him who died and was raised on the third day.

Sexagesima 2019 - Luke 8:4-15

Sexagesima 2019

Luke 8:4-15

February 24, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Jesus speaks to us in His parable, revealing to us what the reign of heaven is like, how things are in the world are.  You see, things weren’t going quite right in Israel; even Jesus’ family isn’t with Him.  How can people who saw Jesus face to face not believe in Him?  How can people hear that Jesus has died for them, to save them from their sins, and they just don’t care?  Why some and not others?  These are questions we’ve all had.  And this parable is Jesus’ answer.

The disciples, and the church as a whole, are to preach the Gospel of Christ to all the world.  As this happens, they would encounter these four kinds of ground, these four kinds of reactions to the Gospel. Some hearers will be like the hard, bare road, and the preaching yields nothing because the seed is not allowed to even begin growing. Some are like the rocky soil, and preaching will be heard at first, but the faith will quickly wither. Some are in the middle of thorns – the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world – which choke out the life generated by the Gospel. Some are the good soil, the preaching takes root and miraculous fruit results. The Sower sows in 4 places, and 3 out of those 4 produce no lasting results.  Most of where God’s Word falls simply doesn’t bear fruit.  But what does bear fruit, bears it in extraordinary ways.

We can’t help but ask, why are only some given ears to hear and understand Jesus’ parables? Why do some see but not see, hear but not understand? Why do only some bear fruit for the harvest?  The easy answer is that the differences have to do within people. Too often we hear, “Don’t be like the rocky ground, or let the thorns choke out your faith.”  But we don’t need to ask which ground is ours, for we may resemble all. There are no hearts that are good by nature.  We are all equally sinful and corrupt. The hearts that are good have been made that way the plowing of God’s grace, by His deepening of our shallow soil, by His persistent and consistent working in our lives.  The receptivity and the fertility of the ground is pure Gospel gift.  This parable isn’t about the ground, but it is about the seed, which is the Word of God.  Within the seed itself lies the promise and the power of life.  The only answer given is that the mystery is according to God’s good pleasure.   

While it could be easy to be discouraged by this parable, the main focus of Jesus’ parable is on the miraculously abundant growth and fruit.  By God’s grace in the promise of the seed to grow, the promise is that preaching the Word of God will be successful. No matter how grime, no matter how things may look at times, there will always be those who hear the Word of God in faith, who come to Baptism and feast on the body and blood Christ. These will be present at the heavenly feast and will bear abundant fruit.  The kingdom, though hidden at times, will always triumph. The Word of God that goes out from His mouth will not return empty.  

There’s a story I once heard about an Anglican missionary in an island off the south pacific.  He lived there for 23 years and never converted a person.  WWI was about to break out, he didn’t know if he would be able to leave ever again, and a ship was coming for him.  He had all his stuff on the boat, when the son of the chief’s wife came to him begging him to see his mother, who was on her death bed.  She never liked him and was often very mean towards him.  Reluctantly, he went to her side until she died, refusing to believe in Jesus even then.  When the missionary got back to the beach, the ship was gone.  A few months later, he was able to catch another ship back to England.

In 1943, U.S. marines landed on the island.  They were armed and ready for a fight because they believed that this was a listening post for the Japanese.  But when they got there, the whole island was out to greet them.  The chief, who was that boy who convinced the missionary to stay for his mother, said to the marines, “We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It shocked the marines, needless to say.

What had happened is that after the missionary left, the boy was so impressed with the devotion of the missionary, and his willingness to sacrifice all those years and what could have been his only chance to go home, the he picked up one of the many Bibles was left and began to read the Word for the first time.  Through this, he was converted and then brought Jesus to rest of his people.  One seed fell on good soil, and a whole island began to bear fruit.  The missionary never knew about this because he had died in 1934, and he now rests from his labors with all those who have heard and believed.

And this is extremely important, significant and practical for us here today.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for you has been sown within you and all around you.  Some you will not see the fruit.  The great Sower of the Word hasn’t forgotten you.  He hasn’t abandoned you.  He is still working here, tilling up repentance and providing living-giving water from the Spirit.  God has not lost control, even though some refuse to believe, some stop believing and their faith is choked out, and some have Satan snatch their faith away.  God is just as careless throwing the Word around by your lips as He has ever been.  The Word does accomplish what God intends it to do regardless of our own inadequacies, our own failures, our own times of fruitlessness.

There will be obstacles, make no mistake. When people reject the Word of God, it will not grow.  There is the danger of the sinful world and the devil, who stomps upon and snatches the seed of faith up before it can take root and grow.  The devil, temptations, trials and the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life are the chief barriers that keep the crowds who hear the Word from believing and becoming a miraculous yield. Hold fast to the Word you have heard and received. Bear fruit of faith with patience.

This is the reason for living in a community that regularly hears the Word of God and gathers around Jesus. Jesus is the exemplar of the good soil who withstood the temptations of the devil, overcame the temptations of the world, and shunned the temptations of the flesh. He is the one whose heart is honest and good. But He is far more than the model. He is the one who makes possible the response of faith and bearing of fruit. Those who bear fruit a hundredfold do so because Christ is in them and they are in Him. Those who hold fast to the Word in perseverance do so because He faithfully holds them in His hand and keeps them steadfast in the one true faith.

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