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Easter 5 2022 - John 16:5-15

Easter 5 2022

John 16:5-15

May 15, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone that you love?  Many people try to avoid this altogether, rather skipping the awkward moments or avoiding the sadness of loss by pretending it never happens.  Yet, none of that really works. The absence of the loved one is felt. Next week we will honor the high school seniors in our congregation and some will be saying goodbye to the parents, to their siblings, to their friends as they head off to college or trade school or whatever or wherever it may be. While there is excitement in times like these, anxiousness for new adventures and direction in life, it is a bitter sweet moment saying goodbye, especially for the one who is staying behind. 

Our Gospel reading takes place during Holy Week, and what the disciples are hearing is Jesus preparing His disciples for the time when He will say goodbye.  Now, Jesus is talking about His ascension into heaven and the sending of His Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which is why we are reading this passage in the time after Easter and before we celebrate His Ascension and Pentecost. 

Jesus is telling them this stuff because His disciples are full of sorrow at the very thought of goodbye. And how could they not be. Their teacher, their Lord, who they had travelled with for three years, learned from, seen miracles performed, and placed their entire hope in the coming kingdom are listening to Him proclaim His suffering and death, and that they too would face such a future.  And what’s more, He tells them that it is for their own good that He departs.  What could be good about Jesus leaving them?  

Christ knew His disciples would be upset at His suffering and death and He wanted to reassure them of His victory that comes by these means.  There would be nothing worse when hearing of a goodbye that the One leaving was going to have to go through hard times, would suffer, even die.  More that once when Jesus tells them of His suffering and death, He gets the response, “Surely not Lord.  Or not if I have anything to do about it.  Or we’ll follow you and never leave you, never have to say goodbye.” But Jesus had to do this, had to go the cross and to the grave, as only the Son of God could do, in order to be raised from the dead and enter into His glory and deliver of the kingdom of God to all believers. 

And so He prepares them for His departure, His exodus to the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension.  And yet, it wouldn’t be easy for the disciples. The Spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive disciples of Christ. So Jesus sends His Spirit of truth to guide His disciples into all truth. The word here for guide, comes from the word for “the way, or a journey.” The Spirit is like a travel guide then, leading God’s people in the way of Christ and to the destination of the resurrection and eternal life.  There are two ways, one of life and one of death and there is a great difference between these ways.  The way of life is only through faith in Christ and the way of death is that of unbelief.

Christ promises His Holy Spirit to His apostles, and He will convict the world of this truth through them.  He will be a Spirit that will endure until the Lord Christ comes again with a punishment of the godless, but a vindication of the faithful. He sends His Holy Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith (Creed, Third Article Explanation).  

This is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit doesn’t speak on His own authority, but He takes the Word of Christ and declares it to you. The Spirit does not speak on His own.  He speaks on behalf of the Father and the Son and testifies about Jesus, who binds the work of the Spirit to His Word. The Spirit does not give a new revelation, a new interpretation, a new way of doing things, but proclaims the Word of the Lord that endures forever, placing that Word into the mouth of Jesus’ apostles to confess to the world. He leads believers into a clearer understanding of God’s truth in Christ as we go along the way.  He does this by convicting, teaching, and comforting. He takes what belongs to Jesus and delivers it to you in Law and Gospel, in the water and the Word, in the body and blood. It is good that Jesus departs, as bittersweet as it might seem to the disciples, for in doing so He places His Word and His authority in the apostolic ministry guided by the Holy Spirit.  And so the Father sends the Spirit of the Son to His people to take them from the kingdom of the devil and into the kingdom of God.  

But Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, that we too enter into the kingdom through tribulation and death. When God sends us a cross to bear, when the world beats down on us, when the sadness of goodbyes hit you hard, Jesus teaches us that we are not to hope for the good old days, for the health, wealth, and happiness of this worldly life, but to yearn all the more for eternity, for the joyful reunion of those who have departed in the faith, for God’s vindication of His people against His enemies. Sin, death, and the devil are already defeated. 

That means, that you as a Christian have no need to fear suffering for the kingdom, nor offending the world, nor death itself, for Christ has overcome these things.  Death is evil, it is an enemy, it is not part of life.  Death is the result of sin – the sin of the world and your sin.  But death is defeated, for Christ is risen and hell is in ruins. Christ is risen and the demons are fallen.  Christ is risen and the angels rejoice.  Christ is risen and the tombs will be emptied for the Christ is the firstfruits of those raised from the dead. Christ takes the evil of your death and turns it into a blessed entry to God’s eternal kingdom. It’s no wonder how St. Paul can say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Would that we believe and act as if we believed like that!  You, as a Christian, as one redeemed by Christ, are now in a win-win situation, and goodbyes to love ones in the faith are never for long as we await the resurrection.


Easter 4 2022 - Isaiah 40:25-31

Easter 4 2022 Jubilate

Isaiah 40:25-31

May 8, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Every once in a while, I get on some kind of fitness kick. I tell myself that I’m going to eat better. I’m going to exercise more and harder, I’m going to shrink this spare tire around my waist.  Because I want abs like Jesus.  I’m serious.  I want to look like Jesus.  Have you ever seen a picture of Him without His shirt on, usually a picture of Him hanging on the cross?  Jesus has a six pack. I want abs like Jesus.

The problem is, no matter how strong we are, there’s a limit to human power.  Our bodies eventually break down.  Our physical, mental, emotional strength we rely on eventually will fail all of us. Inevitably, people grow older and get spare tires around their waist.  But not the Son of God.  He is tire-less. Look to Jesus on the cross, for it is there that He is working out for your salvation to make you truly fit for life.  It was there on the cross while Jesus hung dying that our God appears to be weakened, weakened to the point of death, yet it was at this very time when God’s strength shown through the darkness of that Good Friday leading to the light of Easter morning.  It is this strength; a strength even over death that He offers His people with our human frailties and weaknesses.

We need this, because the people of God tire out.  The Old Testament reading for this morning, people were tired.  They had rebelled against God and been exiled in Babylon because of it.  They had no home, no sense of purpose or direction, no drive, no will power left.  They had gotten spiritually fat and lazy, out of shape, apathetic, gorging themselves on the spiritual junk food of idols and false gods, and they were worn out. They had wrestled and struggled against God, against His will for their lives, and it had left them exhausted.  Now, they were a people who suffered in exile and God was taking His sweet time doing something for them, while the other gods of Babylon seem to be active and working in the lives of other people.  God recalls their questioning of this to Him, where the people say, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God” (Isaiah 40:27b).

It’s that age old question of the suffering of God’s people.  Why are God’s people living in a foreign land?  Why are Christian churches declining in our country and the nones, those who claim “none” as their religious view, increase?  Why do some who are raised in the Christian faith, baptized, catechized, communionized, walk away from Christ? Why can’t our school get a new headmaster?  Why am I disappointed with my boss, my co-worker, my pastor? Why do I keep arguing with my family and friends for no good reason?  Why do loved ones who are ready to depart this life and be with their God still suffering with pain and anguish?  Why is the economy failing?  Why is there war? Why is there death?  I’m tired, Lord.

In our tiredness, our sinfulness can only come up with two human reasons for God’s perceived (on our part) slowness of action: either God does not want to act or He is unable to act.  To this, Isaiah says, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?”  Over and over, the LORD tells the captives not to be afraid, not to rely on themselves or others to get real rest or whipped into shape,, but to trust Him to do something previously unheard-of: restore a people from exile (41:10, 14; 43:1-7; 44:1-5, etc.).  Far from having given up on His people because of their sins, He intends to use their lives as evidence of His grace and mercy.  

And haven’t YOU heard?  God already has acted!  He has sent Jesus into the world to die because you experience toil and trouble, sin and death.  God actually came down to suffer in your place.  He hasn’t come to whip you into shape, but to be whipped for you, to take your unhealthy habit of sin upon Himself, to strengthen His weary, worn out, tired and suffering people. 

Isaiah tells us, “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  This “Waiting on the Lord” implies two things: complete dependence upon God and a willingness to allow Him to decide the terms.  To wait on Him we are helpless until He acts.  It is to admit we have no other help, either in ourselves or other people.  To wait on God is not just to mark the time, it is live in the confident expectation of His action on our behalf. This is the opposite of self-help.  It’s total reliance on God through faith. It means giving up your own frantic efforts to save yourselves, to wallow in sorrow that quickly becomes self-pity, and turn expectantly to God in a sure and certain hope that He is able to renew your worn out strength.  

At the same time, waiting on Him declares our confidence that He has acted in Christ and Christ now acts on our behalf.  The Christian life is not easy.  You have to the stomach for it, the strength, the fortitude, the endurance, and this is not of yourselves, but it is a gift of God. It is only Christ who will make you fit for life. They say, no pain no gain. Your gain comes from Jesus’ pain, from Jesus’ work, from Jesus’ strength.  Jesus’ strength He now offers to you, free of change, no gimmicks, no trial subscriptions, just given by grace to be received by faith. Verse 29 says, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.”  

God’s fitness plan for you, the way in which He delivers His strength, His peace during your weariness, encouragement, peace, joy in the midst of sorrow includes a steady diet of the Word and Sacrament; spiritual exercises of worship, devotion, prayer, faith toward God and service toward your neighbor; shedding the excess weight and burden of sin. For Christ has forgiven you and taken that dead weight, those last few pounds, the weariness of body and soul upon Himself.  

This is what it means to have abs like Jesus: His strength renews your spirit, renews your bodies, and renews your life to everlasting life through faith in the Holy One, the LORD our God, and our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Easter 3 2022 Misericordias Domini - John 10

Easter 3 2022 Misericordias Domini

John 10:11-16

May 1, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


What do you think of when you think of a shepherd? We often see the nice, warm shepherd looking Jesus who cuddles the sheep. Maybe we have the picture in our mind of Jesus with the little lamb slung over His shoulders carrying them around.  And so He does. But is this really the full picture we have here in our Gospel reading?  Is this really how Jesus is describing Himself to the Pharisees who are questioning Jesus’ teaching and His actions?  Let’s take a closer look.

When we consider Jesus’ words in John 10 and look at what He says He does, it becomes a little more clear.  Five times Jesus mentions that He lays down His life for His sheep.  Twice He mentions He takes it up.  And twice He mentions knowing His sheep and His sheep knowing His voice.  And once He mentions bringing in sheep from another fold.  There you have it. This is not just a description of what it means that Jesus is a Shepherd, but also what it means that Jesus is good.  It’s not just that Jesus is competent, or good at His job, but also that He is describing His intimate relationship with His followers and the love that moved Him to lay down His life. A shepherd who is truly “good.”

CS Lewis’ quote in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is quite appropriate.  The children have stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia and are hearing the details about Aslan, who represents Jesus, for the first time: “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..." Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” 

Jesus, is not safe. He is the very Son of God, the King and the Judge over the world.  He does not tolerate nor condone sin, of any kind or of any degree.  His judgement will come upon the earth and woe to those to whom it comes. This is something that we often overlook, or downplay. Our God, our Savior, is not safe in the least.  He speaks a condemning word of the Law to each of us here today. We are sinners. We are not good. Our sin drove Jesus to the cross as surely as the sin of the High Priest, the Sadducees and all others involved with Jesus’ crucifixion.

But do not fear, for Jesus is good. Not just in a moral sense, but in the sense that He does what a shepherd is supposed to do. He does not run away when trouble comes. He does not flee because wolves are on the prowl.  No, He cares for those who belong to Him.  He loves deeply. He is the shepherd who gives His life up, who sacrifices Himself for His sheep. St. Peter writes, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.  He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:22-23).  

In this way, the voice of our Good Shepherd calls, gathers, and enlightens the whole Christian Church and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith and declares the sheep of His flock to be good as He is good.  We literally got to witness this today in the Baptism of Sophie, who is a beloved little lamb laid in the lap of the Lord, who is known by her Good Shepherd and who knows and follows Him now by faith, and who listens to His voice.

This, then, is a basic definition of the Church: sheep who are known by and who listen to the voice of Good Shepherd, believe in Him, and is ruled by Him through the Holy Spirit.  We must be good sheep, made good by the atoning death and resurrection of the Good Shepherd, and grateful followers of Christ. The devil is constantly sowing his seeds among the true flock with the help of false teachers and false saints. Sheep do not attempt to fight the wolf. Nothing you can do, no matter how good it is, can help you stand against the wolf. We can’t outwit him and we can’t out fight him. He’s been around a lot longer than us. The only thing we can do as sheep is to run away and hide behind our Shepherd because that is His purpose and mission.  Apart from the Good Shepherd there is no deliverance or help. 

When you are attacked by your sin, by the world, and by the devil, if you try to stand and fight alone you will be devoured. Rather, run to Jesus, to His voice calling for you, to His Word guiding you.  Insist on only eating in the Lord’s pastures. That is to say, don’t go chasing off after the world, trying to get what others have. The grass is not greener on the other side.  Live only by His Word and by His Sacraments. It gives us life and directs our path. It teaches us the right way to go to find good living and to stay living!  When you are faced with a moral decision at work, or at school, hide in Jesus’ Word. There He gives you direction for your life, forgiveness for your sins, protection against the wolves.  When you feel like the world is overwhelming you, the pressure is on, the stress is about to break you, hide behind Jesus, for He leads His people to good pastures. Do not conform to the ways of the world, do not be a sheep that follows the voice of the hireling or the howls of the wolf, but one that only listens to the voice of Jesus. 

Living in the wild of this world, facing wolves and dangers untold, is hard. But it is even more difficult when Christ Himself from His Church and acts as if He’s forgotten it. He leaves it oppressed under the cross, subjected to the cruelty of the world, while the enemies of Christ and His Church gloat and rail against it. It is at these times that we are driven by the wolves of the world, abandoned by the hirelings looking only to their selfish needs, to recognize our own sin, our own failures, our own need for the Shepherd. Whatever you have not kept, He has kept. Whatever you have sinned, He has paid for with His blood. Whenever you wander off and find yourself alone, He goes in search of you to bring you back into His flock and rescue you from the wolf of hell.

Christ does not let the sheep be slain by the wolf, but He stands against him, gathers us to Himself, and protects us against the devilish hound even when we don’t feel it, don’t see it, don’t understand it.  For the Word and promise of the Good Shepherd declares, “I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father…” There is no question here. The true knowledge of Christ is that He knows us and we are known to Him. There is a way of knowing Him with the very fibers of our being, it is the intimate union of our soul with Him. This bond with Christ is brought about by Holy Communion. Here, we make the matter of knowing Him in the most intimate and enduring bond. Through the Sacrament, more than in any other way, are we should feel and know that we are sheep of His pasture. For the life that the Good Shepherd that He laid down, He has taken up again, and He lives and reigns and shepherds His sheep throughout eternity.

Easter 2 2022

Easter 2 2022 Quasimodo Geniti

John 20:19-31

April 24, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! 

The last week a federal judge struck down the mandate requiring masks for public transport.  As a result, some airlines have stopped requiring masks on their flights.  For some, this seems to be a welcome relief. For others, anxiety and worry, even fear over the spread of disease, over breathing in what someone else might have breathed out.  

One of the gravest sins that could be committed over the last two years was to breathe on a person.  Some said you have to stay 6 feet away so their breath doesn’t get to you, so you don’t catch what someone else might have.  Like it or not, agree with it or not, this has actually changed the way that people interact with one another. It has changed the way businesses function, the way schools conduct learning, the way even that churches and God’s people worship.

But in a sense, we have always been changed by another breathing on us. We read in Genesis 2 that the creation of man took place in this way: that God took some dirt from the ground, that He blew into his nose the breath of life, that is the Spirit of life, and the man became a living creature, an enfleshed soul.  That God gave Adam what God Himself had, the contagion of God’s spirit and life.  With this, we learn that God created man not just for this life, but for eternal life. For by the this breathing into Adam, God the Creator made Adam in His own image.

And yet, this image of God was lost in man through the fall into sin, a novel infection was breathed in by Adam and Eve as the serpent slithered close and breathed out the lie, the twisting of God’s Word. And the infection was born, sin, which now spread like a genetic disease from Adam onward, a disease that leads to only one end – death.  

So we hear in our Old Testament reading this morning of Pastor Ezekiel, looking out at the whole house of Israel, diseased, lifeless, a valley of dry bones.  “Can these bones live?”  The answer really is obvious – dead means dead – but Pastor Ezekiel answers wisely, “O Lord GOD, You know.”  And He does know. And so He commands Pastor Ezekiel to speak the Word of God over these bones, and as bone comes together, sinews and skin enfleshing that in which there was no life, there is no breath. And so God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, to get up close and personal and breathe on these slain, and the breath came into them and they lived and stood of their feet, and exceedingly great army.

God breathed life into Adam, bringing life where there was previously formlessness and a void.  Ezekiel prophesied breathe into dead bones, enfleshed once more, to bring life to what was once dead.  He who was dead and raised on the third day breathed upon His disciples that they might be infected with what He has – His Spirit and His life that overcomes death. This isn’t just any breathe either, this is the breath of life that spoke creation into being, that brought life to Adam, that spread across a valley of dry bones to raise them up, that bespeaks the righteousness of God. “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any it is withheld.’”

Jesus gives His disciples the grace, the command and the authority to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.  With these words we believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself (SC “Office of the Keys”).

And now He sends His Church out to announce this good news, and even more so, to deliver it through the means that He has established. So you ask, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone.”  “It is true that there is no human power or ability or merit or worthiness to forgive any sins, even if someone were as holy as all the apostles and all the angels in heaven… However, here we must have the true distinction… between what people do from their own initiative and on their own unworthiness and that which Christ commands us to do in His name and which He produces through His power… But if the absolution is to be true and powerful, then it must come from this command of Christ, so that it says: ‘I absolve you from your sins not in my name or in some saint’s name, or for the sake of some human merit, but in the name of Christ and by the authority of His command, who has commanded me to tell you that your sins are forgiven.  So it is not I but He Himself (through my mouth) who forgives your sins, and you are obliged to accept that and believe it firmly, not as the word of man, but as if you had heard it from the Lord Christ’s own mouth.’” (LW 77, pp. 135-136)

This breath of Jesus drives the disciples back into the world. Eventually, the they ventured out of the locked upper room. But they were forever changed by breathing in what Jesus breathed out. They went out into the world and spread something far more deadly than a disease, far more deadly than the threat of the Jews or the Romans. They spread the Good News of the death of death itself.  Breathed upon by Christ to receive the Spirit, Jesus commands and enables and sends them out to proclaim and to forgive the sins of any who repent, and to withhold forgiveness from any who do not repent.  This is not done in an arbitrary way, nor based on their opinions or feelings that day. They were to exercise this Office of the Keys based upon Christ’s work, upon His command, upon repentance over sin, and faith in the risen Jesus.   

It’s still not polite to go around breathing into people’s faces.  So don’t do that. But breathe out the word of God, breathe out His forgiveness, breathe out His peace to calm fears of this world. Husband and wife, do this daily, Parents, model this to your children. You who are infected with sin, come to your Pastor for Confession. This is why God has sent you a pastor in the first place, to breathe out to you the Gospel. Jesus’ wounds are the only remedy; His passion, death, and resurrection are your only defense against evil, against sin, against the power of the devil, against death itself. And He sends His sends you to breathe out onto others the same Word of God, to deliver the same Spirit by speaking of the only medicine, the only cure, to the disease of sin, the only solution to death – the forgiveness of sins, the peace of God that comes with the risen Jesus, His Spirit and the eternal life that only Jesus brings. 

Palm Sunday 2022

Palm Sunday 2022 Palmarum

Zechariah 9:9-12

April 10, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Palm Sunday is a day that many of us enjoy.  I remember as a boy always loving this day, in fact, it was one of my favorites with the pomp and circumstance.  It is always fun to begin church with a procession holding palm fronds while we sing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.”  Here, as in many churches, the children join in the procession, as we enter in the most important week of the year for our faith.  

Every year, God’s people came from far and near to celebrate the Passover, to retell the great victory and deliverance God had granted His people as He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt and in that hopeful expectation of the promised Messiah, especially as many felt enslaved to the Romans. The crowds had gathering singing and praising and welcoming Jesus as king, as the Messiah quoting Psalm 118 and being reminded of Zechariah’s prophecy from God about the Messiah.  And yet, I think they would have been disappointed.  I don’t think they would have been impressed with the first Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, certainly not by the end of the end of the week.

The prophet Zechariah worked around 520 B.C.  In 587 B.C. the Babylonians had conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and taken the people of Judah into exile.  God’s people lived in exile in Babylon until the Persians conquered them.  Then in 538 B.C., the Persian King Cyrus issued a decree that the Judahites could return home and rebuild the temple.

In the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we hear how it goes with those exiles newly returned.  In the second year of their return, the people laid the foundation for a new temple.  The older people who remembered Solomon’s temple that had been destroyed wept because this new temple could not compare with the one they had lost.  The foundation was laid, but the rebuilding project lingered on for some twenty years.  Outside interference from enemies slowed the work, but the biggest problem is that the people were just not as dedicated to the project as they needed to be. It’s not hard to understand why the people were discouraged.  They had returned from exile to a devastated city that had no walls.  Judah was no longer a nation, but instead a small province in the massive Persian empire.

And so God sent Zechariah, as well as his contemporary, Haggai, to urge and encourage the people in their faithfulness and dedication to God.  Zechariah encouraged the people with the news that God was going to act decisively.  Just before our text, Zechariah proclaimed the word of the Lord in judgment against the nations, the enemies of Israel and of God Himself.  And then in our text he says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9-10). 

            It is clear that God is talking about the Messiah – the descendant of King David.  The promised one is going to come and will be better than anyone can imagine.  God will free the prisoners, restore double to those who have lost, grant peace that will encompass all nations.  And the Messiah will reign. This was a vision of the future that gave the people hope.  And the people went on to finish the temple in 516 B.C.

            A little over 500 years later, the events that we heard about this morning took place.  Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  Both Matthew and John tell us that this happened in fulfillment of Zechariah’s words.  But would the people of Zechariah’s day would have been satisfied with this?  This isn’t exactly the glorious king that most would have imagined. Yes, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  And what is more you just heard in the Passion according to St. Matthew how this “triumphant” visit to Jerusalem turned out.  Jesus enters Jerusalem on Sunday.  By Friday afternoon he is hanging on a cross after being mocked and tortured. War had not ended and peace had not come. God’s people were not free.  They were under the yoke of the Romans, constantly battling against them that would end up with Jerusalem and the temple being destroyed again.  Like it was when they were carted off to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness to God, this time God’s wrath would come upon them because of their rejection of the One who comes in the name of the Lord. 

            No, I don’t think of Zechariah’s time would have been satisfied with how God had kept His word.  And the truth is that often we aren’t either.  God says again and again in his Word that He loves and cares for you, and yet suffering still comes.  God promises healing, but family members and friends get sick and die.  God promises peace, yet war and conflict exist among the nations, and even within our families God promises provision, and yet so many times we feel want and need.  God promises hope, yet we often feel hopeless.  We cry “Hosanna!” save us now, yet here we are.

We experience evil and injustice and Jesus doesn’t always live up to our expectations and standards.  It causes us to doubt God.  It causes us to question God.  It causes us to accuse God of being false, or evil, or a liar.  If God really were all loving and all powerful then none of these bad things would happen.

And what is God’s answer?  “Fear not, daughter of Zion, behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”  The answer is Jesus, which is not the Messiah that many expected, but the One that we all need. Jesus comes as the king to be enthroned on the cross. He hangs on the cross with the sign posted over His head that says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  Jesus comes as the Messiah who will die to swallow up death forever.  Jesus comes as Messiah to end the war between God and man by taking God’s wrath and divine punishment over your unfaithfulness upon Himself. Your sins are forgiven. Your salvation won. Your eternal life secured. 

While we enter Holy Week and remember again the great sacrifice of the Son of God who shed His blood of His covenant for you, we do not end here.  Jesus lives, and reigns on high, seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence, He will come to judge the living and dead. The risen and ascended Lord has promised that he will come again.  He will do so in power and glory and might, not in humility. He will come in a way so that every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

When He does, He will bring all of the things that Zechariah describes, and there will be no disappointment at that time.  Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, that is God in the Flesh, whether there had been saving faith or not.  He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem.  He will cut off the battle bow and speak peace to the nations. The risen Lord will rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth, in a new creation, the new heavens and new earth where the righteousness of God in Jesus the Messiah remains forever.

This week, return to your stronghold, oh daughter of Zion, return to Jesus, the promised Messiah.  Let us believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection and the assurance of our forgiveness.  Let us trust in God’s love no matter what is happening.  Let us rest in God’s peace in the reign of Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. 



Some of this sermon is based off a sermon by Pr. Mark Surburg

Lent 5 2022 Judica - John 8:42-59

Lent 5 2022 Judica

John 8:42-59

April 3, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Today in the Church year is called Judica Sunday. These next two weeks mark a clearly defined period in Lent, our third step in preparation in commemoration of our Lord’s Passion and to celebrate the paschal feast at Easter. 

This confrontation reaches a climax today when the Jews seek to stone Jesus for claiming to be the preexistent Son of God and that His Word is the word of life. While the Jews think Jesus as blasphemous, for us, it is highest comfort and proof to know that Christ is the true and eternal Son of God.  This is the basis for His Word being able to save everyone who believes.  Because He is true and eternal God, the God of the living and not of the dead, He is able to give eternal life to all who believe in this Word and keep it.

The Jews couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying, much less believe or bear to hear His Word.  They couldn’t understand Jesus’ teaching because they lacked spiritual discernment. And spiritual discernment only comes through the work of the Holy Spirit.  St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that those who do not have the Spirit cannot understand spiritual things.  Jesus says, “whoever is of God hears the words of God. They reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus goes on with an even more damning indictment, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44).  The physical ancestor might have been Abraham but their spiritual one is the devil.  What counts is not genetics, nor ethnicity, nor language, but faith in the Word of God, the Very Word that the Jews have rejected.  St. Paul wrote the Romans, “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are accounted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8). 

The Word says that those who are children of Abraham by birth yet not by faith are not children of God, but children of the devil, and in league with the devil, knowingly or not.  Now, this has some pretty serious implications.  First, this means the children of God are born of the Word and the Spirit, not of the flesh.  It doesn’t matter if you were born a Jew, or a cradle Lutheran.  Not everyone is a child of God, but only those who believe in the promise of God fulfilled in Jesus.  In other words, it is by faith alone.

This was incredibly offensive to the Jews.  The truth is offensive, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.  To the Jews, this is blasphemy, the worst of the worst thing that could be said.  Still today, opposition to Jesus, to His Word, to His Church is born from the father of lies, from the devil.  He attacks the truth.  When the truth is attacked, it is an attack on Christ and on His Church.  An assault against the Church is an assault against Christ which is a devilish assault against God Himself.  

That is why it actually is a big deal when people reject the Word. The Jews complaint comes in the idea that death will not come to those who hold onto this Word of Christ. And so Jesus says, “Because I tell you the truth you do not believe Me” (John 8:45).   It is not a lack of understanding, but a lack of faith in the truth of the Word. And they misbelieve about death, and therefore about life. Abraham and the prophets are dead, and they want Jesus to be the same. They have plans to kill Jesus and put an end to His Word.  Who does this Jesus think He is anyway, greater than Abraham?  They fail to believe that Jesus is the Lord of life, that He Himself is the God of the living, and that He has specifically come to defeat death and its cause-sin-upon the cross, that He is the Great I AM who was before Abraham, who was the object of Abraham’s faith, the one who is the Truth.

The Word of truth is that God is the eternal Creator who created not by evolution, but by His Word; that He made male and female, only two sexes, which are not interchangeable; that sexuality is designed for marriage of one man and one woman in one flesh union, and that the marriage bed ought to be kept pure; that the family is foundational relationship, not the government; that one is saved only through faith in Jesus’ cross and resurrection not by good works or good intentions or good ancestors; that the Bible is God’s Word, which cannot be revised, reformed, reinterpreted, rejected. 

It is because this Jesus is the eternal Son of God that His Word and not the word of others that makes alive.  He was before Abraham because is the One true God.  “God could not send Christ out into the world in any other way.  He had to put Him into the Word, and thus spread and present Him to everyone.  Otherwise Christ would only be for Himself and remain unknown to us. Then He would have died for Himself alone. But because the Word presents Christ to us, it presents Him to us as the one who has overcome death, sin, and the devil. For that reason, whoever grasps and holds onto [the Word] grasps and holds onto Christ—and through the Word is set free from death eternally.”[1]

This is what Jesus means when He says that anyone who keeps His word will never see death.  This is not the kind of keeping as in obeying the 10 commandments, but keep in the sense of holding onto, keeping in possession the Word of Christ in the heart by faith. 

Christ means that whoever clings to His Word, will in the midst of death, still have the life of Christ.  For He is the God of the living, not of the dead.  In our Lord’s death, He took on the true death of hell that should be ours.  On the cross, the enemies of God were truly destroyed, the devil’s plan backfired, and death and sin overcome. Through His death, you who hold onto Christ’s Word are now free from the death of hell, free from the fear, free to believe.  For as your death is His, so His life is yours.  For Jesus says, “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” (John 11:25-26). Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  

[1] LW 76, 411.

Lent 4 2022 Laetaare - John 6:1-15

Lent 4 2022 Laetare

John 6:1-15

March 27, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


It’s always seemed a little ironic to me that we hear about Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000 during Lent. During a time of year when many people fast and refrain from eating certain foods, or meals altogether, we hear about people getting their fill of bread and fish.  But then again, maybe it’s not so ironic.  The crowds had been following Jesus, as are we.  They were hungry, and in their time of need Jesus performs and amazing miracle to feed them, and so He does for us.  In fact, the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle, apart from the Resurrection of Jesus, that appears in all four Gospel accounts.  It’s more than Christ showing His power, but signs pointing to Christ with the goal of faith. 

Jesus goes over the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Now, this was no accident.  He brings the disciples to a place for rest and teaching.  But He also leads the crowds following Him out into the wilderness.  John makes the unique note of when this took place.  The Passover was at hand.  If you remember, the Passover was instituted during the last of the 10 plagues during Israel’s enslavement in Egypt.  As the angel of death was to come upon all the land and the firstborn of everyone and every animal would die, the people of God were to kill a lamb, a spotless lamb, smear the blood upon the lentil and doorposts of their homes, and the angel would pass over their house.  They were then to eat the lamb as part of the Passover meal, after which they were to be led into the wilderness by Moses for the Exodus. 

So now here is Jesus, the One whom John the Baptist declared to be the lamb of God, leading His disciples and great crowd out into the wilderness with no place to go for food.  This was no accident, and Jesus knew what He was doing. And Jesus poses the question to Phillip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  Jesus knew that there were no fast food places out there in the middle of nowhere, and He knew that the disciples would have to turn to Him to a solution for an impossible situation. 

This account should remind us of the way that God fed His people in the wilderness of the Exodus with manna. We heard about this in our Old Testament reading in Exodus 16.  Israel had just been led out into the desert by Moses and they complain to Moses that he had led everyone out there just to die with hunger. They had no where to go, nowhere to buy bread anymore, nor get their fill of meat.  So God tells Moses that He is going to rain down bread from heaven in the morning and in the evening provide meat to eat.  He even gives them leftovers on the sixth day so that they don’t have to pick any up off the ground on the Sabbath. 

Now, later on in John 6, when the crowds found Jesus as He had walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee to the other side, and they want more from Him, Jesus tells them, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”  When questioned about this, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

What Jesus is getting at is simply this: God is the giver of all things, He is the provider of all food, and gives daily bread to everyone even without our prayers, even to all evil people.  And so, of course, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread…”, praying in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

But also learn that man does not live by bread alone, but from every Word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3; Matt 4:4). And what is that Word of God the proceeds from the Father – nothing else but the Son, the Word made flesh. He who supplied the bodily needs of the 5,000 in the wilderness offers us an abundance of food to feed us unto eternal life. We eat of this bread of life when we put out trust in Him and His death and resurrection, and thus receive by faith all that the Gospel gives.  To feast on Christ by faith, that as He is the true bread that comes from heaven, our very souls and eternal life are fed by believing in Him, and it is only when feeding on Christ that our souls are truly fed.

St. Augustine once quipped, “There is a God shaped vacuum in every man that only Christ can fill.   The “God-shaped hole” is the innate hunger of the human heart for something outside itself, something transcendent.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 refers to God’s placing of "eternity in man’s heart." God made humanity for His eternal purpose, and only God can fulfill our hunger for eternity. 

The problem, though, is that humanity attempts to fill it with things other than God. Our sinful nature seeks to put a square peg in a cross-shaped hole. Sadly, too many spend their lives looking for something other than God to fill their longing for meaning—business, family, sports, whatever it may be.  Maybe worst of all, people gorge ourselves on spiritual junk food, thinking that being a Christian is about health, wealth, and happiness, and then complaining when experiencing the wilderness of this fallen world, that the bread from heaven isn’t enough, doesn’t always leave a pleasant taste in the mouth, isn’t prepared exactly the way we want. It’s a complaint that God is holding back, that we had it better off as slaves to our sinful passions, leading us in our lives only to suffering and death. There is no doubt that many people looking to fill their bellies and their hearts things other than God achieve a measure of “happiness” for a time. But it doesn’t last because it doesn’t meet the hunger of the soul. 

This miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 teaches us that Christ and Christ alone has power to satisfy, not just the body, but the human heart, the deepest longings of your soul.  Only our Lord can satisfy our human nature, and nothing else can do this – not the world, sin, pleasure, perversion, money, learning, exercise, or food. 


The Sacrament of Holy Baptism in which we are made, like Isaac, children of the promise of God, descendants of the Jerusalem above, Mt. Zion.  God and the Sacrament of the Altar by which the children of God are fed.