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Trinity 18 2021 - LWML Sunday

Trinity 18 -LWML Sunday- 2021

1 Peter 1:22: “Love One Another Earnestly from a Pure Heart”

Modified from a sermon by Dr. Dale A. Meyer

October 3, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This morning in the Divine Service we remember the LWML. “LWML” stands for the “Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.” As the word “missionary” in their name suggests, they sponsor mission efforts reaching around the world. They do that with their mites, small offerings that together help more and more people learn the Good News about Jesus. For this LWML Sunday, I’d like us to think about 1 Peter 1:22, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can picture today’s sermon by looking at the logo for LWML Sunday, “Our Hearts in HIS Hand.” 

Think about a heart in a hand. Literally, think about holding a real heart in your hand. That’s what a transplant surgeon does. He takes out the diseased heart with his hand and puts in a new heart. That’s what God has done to you and me. Do you see the cross and the drop of water in the logo? You know what the cross represents, Jesus dying for the forgiveness of our sins. And what does the drop of water represent? I’m sure you know: Baptism. Baptism gives you a new heart, a pure heart with all the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. Long ago God had promised in the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you,” (Ezekiel 36:26). He has kept His promise. Unlike a physical transplant that lasts some years, the new heart God gives you through Baptism will live forever. 

Because of our fallen sinful nature, we all come into this world with a heat disease.  I have within my heart thoughts and feelings, ideas, and urges that are sinful. We all have things deep down in your heart that would shame you if others knew? My heart by nature is not pure and neither is yours. We are born with original sin, inherited from the sinners before us, all the way back to Adam and Eve, and we daily commit actual sins. Sooner or later, what’s deep down is going to be known. “No creature is hidden from his [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). This sin in us, original sin and the actual sins we commit daily, this is the Old Adam who continues in us, even in us who are forgiven. 

This is the wonderful mystery of Baptism. Baptism brings us the forgiveness of Jesus Christ here-and-now and gives us grace to live new and holy lives here-and-now. St. Paul says, “We were buried … with him [Christ] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). St. Peter describes it as a new birth. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Mysteriously, Baptism is your daily death and new birth. When a surgeon transplants a human heart, new physical life comes to a fatally ill patient. Now God has given you a new heart, a pure heart, newness of life… and with the life God gives, you have love, His love.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Two remarks are necessary here. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth” sounds like you have made yourself pure by keeping the commandments. That’s not what Peter means. Peter is simply talking about faith and the good works that follow from new birth in Christ, who had made and keeps you holy. Our new heart, our new birth, makes us “children of the heavenly Father” who want to live holy lives for His sake. Being pure before God is not our doing, it’s all grace, a washing clean and declaration that your sin is all washed away. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  Martin Luther once wrote on this topic and described it this way:

Then what is a pure heart? What is meant by a “pure heart” is this: one that is watching and pondering what God says and replacing its ideas with the Word of God. This alone is pure before God, yes, purity itself, which purifies everything that it includes and touches. Therefore, though a common laborer, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, still he may sit at home and think: “My God has made me a man. He has given me my house, wife, and child and has commanded me to love them and to support them with my work.” Note that he is pondering the Word of God in his heart … If he attains the highest purity so that he also takes hold of the Gospel and believes in Christ — without this, that purity is impossible — then he is pure completely, inwardly in his heart toward God and outwardly toward everything under him on earth. [i]

Second, we are to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Together with one another, God gives us His Word, His Word of new birth, of life and love in Christ. Together we receive this transforming Word as we hear it, spoken and sung, and as we receive it physically in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There are various reasons we come to church, but more than anything else, we come because this is where Jesus promises to meet sinners. This is what’s unique about our coming together. It’s here that God comes through His Means of Grace to share His love with us. 

Jesus is not content to hold only us in His hand. He reaches His hand out to others. When a leper met Jesus and begged to be healed, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (Mark 1:41). When Jairus’s daughter died, Jesus took her “by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’” and she had new life (Mark 5:41). When Peter tried to walk to Jesus on the water, he got scared and began to sink. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him (Matthew 14:31). And he took them [the little children] in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mark 10:16). Today He reaches out His hand through you and me to people who don’t yet know His life and love, to people who still have spiritually diseased hearts and desperately need the new heart Jesus gives. 

In your bulletin, you’ll find the LWML pledge. It’s printed right after the sermon. Please look at it now. The pledge reminds us why we come to church and why our hearts are in His hand to reach out to others. Our motivation is this: “In fervent gratitude for the Savior’s dying love and His blood-bought gift of redemption.” And since He has put our hearts in His hand, let’s  take His outgoing love to all people. 

[i] Luther, M. (1999, c1956). Vol. 21: Luther’s works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (21:33). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

St. Michael and All Angels 2021

St. Michael and All Angels 2021

Luke 10:17-20

Opening Sermon for DMin Project

September 29, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Let us pray. Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

The seventy-two had been sent out in Jesus’ name, two by two, in the midst of wolves.  They were to go house by house declaring “Peace be to this house!” Jesus told them, “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.   But if not, it will return to you.”  They were to heal the sick and declare that the kingdom of God has come near (Luke 10:1-12).  Now we hear in our Gospel reading for today how they returned with joy, for as they do what Christ has commanded and sent them to do, even the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name! 

Think about that for a moment.  Even the demons were subject to them.  But not just to them and because of them, but in Jesus’ name because that is where the authority comes from.   It comes from Jesus, the One who sends the disciples out to go into the homes of God’s people and proclaim, “Peace be to this house!” And when that happens, even demons hear the name of Christ and tremble.  In the very preaching of the Gospel, the kingdom of God is becoming a present reality and the kingdom of Satan defeated. The kingdom of God invades the devil’s domain as Christ Himself snatches people out of the jaws of hell!  This is exactly what still happens here and now when the Word of God is proclaimed in the name of Jesus.

Tonight, we pause to think about this whole invisible world that the Bible reveals is going on around us.  Tonight, on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, we give thanks to God for His angels who wield the word of God on our behalf. And we are reminded who the real enemy is. St. Paul says in Ephesians 6, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Behind the Church’s earthly opponents stand demonic forces.  But also alongside God’s church on earth stands the angelic host of heaven.

We are encouraged by the presence and protection of St. Michael and the holy angels, by the authority of Christ, they are sent by God Himself to guard and keep us in body and soul. These heavenly servants of God preserve His human messengers on earth, the ministers of “the blood of the Lamb,” against all the power of the enemy.

Consider our reading from the book of Revelation.  This is the fall of Satan of which Jesus speaks (Luke 10:18).  War breaks out in heaven.  Michael and his angels fight with Satan, and against other angels who followed this dragon.  And what are the weapons of this war in the heavens?  They are words.  Satan and his demons fight by using words of deception, lies, and untruths. It’s the same tactic that the devil used against Adam and Eve. It’s the same tactic that the devil used against Jesus in the wilderness.  It’s the same tactic that the devil uses against you.  St. Michael fights in similar manner, using words, but not just any words, but speaking the words of Truth. 

But Michael doesn’t just happen to speak what is true against the lies of the devil. He speaks the Truth who is the very Word, the Lamb of God, who shed His blood upon the cross and is raised from the dead never to die again.  “And they [Michael and his angels] conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). Remember, angels literally means a messenger. The angels serve God by being His messengers. Angels speak God’s words.  They don’t act of themselves.  That’s what we see in Revelation as words fly back and forth in that war between good and evil, between demonic and angelic forces, between lies and the truth, between Satan and the angel Michael.  Words are their weapons of war. By this Word, St. Michael and the angels overcome the lies and the misleading words of the Devil. This Truth that Michael speaks is united to the One who is the Truth, Jesus Christ.  And it’s that Truth—joined to the One who is the Truth—that undoes the lies of the father of lies.  Upon the cross, as the devil screams in delight at the death of the Son of God, the heavens and all who dwell in them rejoice! For the blood of the Lamb conquers all sin, overthrows death, and crushes the head of Satan.

While the devil continues to rage, he continues in his lies even until today, it will not last forever. Satan and his wicked angels have been thrown out of heaven and have come down to earth “in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12). Make no mistake, he is still dangerous. As a Christian, the devil takes special interest in you.  The devil is stubborn, and prideful, and will not go down without a fight. You are surrounded by him and the other angels who followed his path of rebellion.  But the devil and his angels aren’t just thrown out of heaven, they are thrown out of God’s Church. Because God’s Church is where heaven comes down to earth. For in the preaching of the Gospel, the kingdom of heaven comes down and invades this land that the devil desires have as his own. The kingdom of heaven comes to you.  God’s peace has come to your house by His divine blessing.

Peace be to this house! For you are beloved of God. The war is won in Christ, yet the battle for your eternal soul rages. The devil and his angels, the evil of the world, and your sinful flesh are conquered only by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God. These are the weapons of war.  When you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ at the Lord’s Table, Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil is delivered to you.  When you hear the Word of Christ, read the Bible, sing the hymns, pray God’s Word, you engage the enemies of Christ as people whose names are written in heaven. Hidden in this Word is the power of God Himself.  It is Word of God empowered by His Spirit, believed and spoken in faith.  It is this Word that created the heavens and the earth and all that dwell in them, including the angels. It is this Word, as the Psalmist declares that commands His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11). It is this Word that declares you righteous and holy and justified in God’s sight for the sake of Jesus Christ, and an heir of God’s eternal kingdom. It is this Word that drives back the devil from your lives, whose accusations of sin can no longer stick. 

“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!’” (Martin Luther) So rejoice, O people of God, for your names are written in heaven by the very word of God.  God’s peace to be to your house in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Trinity 17 2021 - Ephesians 4:1-6

Trinity 17 2021

Ephesians 4:1-6

September 26, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


At the beginning of our Epistle for today, Paul urges us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  So I have a question for you this morning, “How is that working out for you?”

There’s no doubt that over the last year and a half this been tested.  COVID, politics, mandates, being labelled essential or non-essential, virtue signaling, virtue shaming, not to mention all the other issues that were already going on in our lives, have all put us to test in our Christian walk and doing so with the characteristics listed here. Which by the way, are all qualities of Christ Himself, which He works in the believer for the sake of unity. 

And that’s where St. Paul is going here.  Paul focuses on the major theme of the entire letter to the Ephesians, which is our unity in Christ. Seven times (note the completeness of the number seven), Paul writes of our oneness in 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  As Christians, we are one in Christ, brought into the unity of the Church through baptism, and kept there through God’s Word and the Sacrament of the Altar.

The fancy name for this is the una sancta.  This Latin phrase comes from what we confess in the Creed, that we believe in the one, holy, Christian and apostolic church.  Broadly speaking, there is only One Church, one spiritual body of believers in Christ, whose one and only head is Christ.  This One Church is to be found where the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.  These things are the marks of the true Church – Word and Sacrament – because it is through these means that the Holy works faith and unity with Christ.

Even so, there are divisions in the church. Differences of denominations, of language or culture.  Divisions within congregations even.  Divisions are the work of the devil and our own sinful pride.  It was sin that turned man against woman until they could not even look at each other without guilt and shame.  It was sin that built distrust between people and between the Lord and all He had made.  It was sin spoiled love with fear and self-interest.  It was sin that broke the world and left us as competitors and enemies. 

Our old Adam desires to do his own thing, strengthened by the individualistic American culture in which we live.  Our old Adam desires to redefine God’s Word, to pick and choose what to believe in or not believe, to be enslaved by what feels good at the time or what may please man.  We want to do it on our own, by ourselves.  We cannot sacrifice our unity in Christ for the sake of uniformity to the world. Where that leads is not to unity, but to isolation, loneliness, division.

To restore unity with God and to build anew the unity between people took nothing less than the incarnation of our Lord and the sacrifice of His very life on the cross to restore what sin had stolen. Earlier in Ephesians, in chapter 2, Paul speaks about the oneness we have in Christ. “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace and might reconcile us both in God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:14-16). We can only have unity with each other if we have been united with Christ through faith. One Lord – a confession that Jesus is Yahweh, that He truly God. One faith – not the act of believing, but that which is believed, true doctrine. One baptism – baptism as new birth cannot be repeated, and there is only one Baptism into which all Christians are baptized and joined together as Christ joins Himself to His people by the means of the water and the Word. 

The true unity of the church centers around the agreement of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:19, “… there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Divisions, though sad, make clear who is following Christ and His Word and who is not.  A Christian should avoid false teachers, false teaching, and false churches so that we are not tossed to and for by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 

What is at stake here for us is not the true unity of the Church, but our continued connection to it.  Twentieth century theologian Herman Sasse once commented, “No one can split the body of Christ. But what can happen is that we cease to be members of this body, that we defect from the Una Sancta by the grave sins of schism and heresy.”[1]  We should always seek to be and remain part of the Una Sancta, the One Holy Church, by sincere faith in Christ and faithful to that visible gathering of God’s saints where the Gospel is purely taught and Sacraments are rightly administered.  The basis for what goes on over there (Luther Hall, or even outside the church) is what goes on in here.  (Exemplified by “Communion” with God and one another). It really does matter which denomination you belong to, and it really does matter which congregation you attend, and it really does matter what you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth and your actions.   

 The unity of the Church is at the same time a gift that is given by God in Christ and a task in which we are to work toward maintaining in the Spirit. We are to maintain, to hold fast, to keep, to treasure that which has been given to us. Christ makes us one, Christ provides the gifts to maintain the oneness, and all Christians are to seek it as our goal. It is not of human making, it is the work of Christ. Nor is it of human preserving, it is the Spirit’s gift.  Nor can it be destroyed by human neglect or hostility, it has Christ as its cornerstone.  The true unity of the Church is always a perfect, holy thing, because it is of God. Through faith in Chirst alone, and by His grace alone, so are you. 

[1] Quoted in Concordia Commentary: Ephesians by Thomas Winger, CPH 2015, p 485.

Trinity 16 2021 - Luke 7:11-17

Trinity 16 2021

Luke 7:11-17

September 19, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


The woman’s situation was desperate. She was a widow, and now her son had died. Her future was uncertain.  No husband and now no son. And so, understandably, she wept. We don’t know why or how he died.  We do know that this grieving woman and her only son were surrounded by a crowd as he was being carried out of town to be buried when they came across another crowd. This crowd was gathered around another only son, the only Son of God, who would later die Himself and be carried outside of town to be buried. 

As these two crowds converge, the Lord Jesus sees this grieving mother and has compassion on her. There is no mention of anyone’s faith here. The grieving and widowed mother doesn’t run to Jesus for help. Neither the disciples nor the crowds ask Jesus to do something. The dead boy does not ask for healing, because, well, he’s dead. This is important. Jesus acts not because He is asked, but because of His compassion. And so He tells her to stop weeping.  It’s not that He was rebuking her for shedding her tears for her dead son, but that there was no more need for crying. For death would not hold her only son. He was confessing a greater reality, one beyond what the eyes could see during any funeral procession.

We are given a picture here of how death has come into the world by sin and infects everyone.  The way in which death snatched away this man is the way that death has worked since the beginning up unto today and will continue to do so until the end of the world. Our current culture, which is fleeting, seeks to alleviate suffering with one hand through economics or politics while promoting a culture of death in abortion, euthanasia, suicide with the other. No fountain of youth, no diet, no surgery, no vaccine can protect against the power of death.  The poison of death came to Adam by sin, and through him it has been handed down to all creation, our very bodies have become bodies of death. Every day of your life is a day closer to your death. 

In and of itself, there is nothing good about death. We should not romanticize it nor treat it as if it doesn’t matter. We were not meant to die. If it were not for sin we would not die.  Death is the wages of sin and the enemy of God. But make no mistake, it is a defeated enemy. Through Christ’s victory, death has no more sting. Through Christ’s victory, the cause of weeping is done away with. Through Christ, a great prophet has arisen among us. Through Christ, God has visited His people. 

And so Jesus touches the funeral bier. Normally, this would have made a person ceremonially unclean. Yet instead of being defiled, Jesus cleans and heals. The power of cleanliness and life is in Him. Jesus speaks, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Just as he told the widow to stop her weeping, He told the boy to stop being dead, to get up. The boy had to rise so that Jesus could lie down in his place.

 And isn’t that just the way that Jesus works. Jesus dies so that you may live.  Jesus speaks, and the dead rise. In Luke’s Gospel this is all very important. Raising of the dead is the only prophetic miracle that Jesus had not yet performed. The raising of the dead is the miracle which demonstrates Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic hope and that with Him the kingdom of God has come. Jesus is greater than Elijah who restored the life of a widow’s son in our Old Testament reading.

And the result is faith. Those who witnessed this miracle glorified God through Jesus. The crowds recognize and confess, “A great prophet has arisen among us,” the crowd says.  “Arisen,” which comes from the same word that Jesus used to call the dead man to life. And which is the same word used to describe Jesus’ journey through death to life.  This boy’s resurrection foreshadows two others in the Gospel of Luke: first, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and more importantly, Jesus’ own resurrection. They believe and confess, “God has visited His people.” There He is, God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us, doing what only God can do.

By this miracle, Jesus is teaching them, and us, who He is.  If Jesus is only a teacher and miracle worker, then He has come to lessen human suffering. This is the Jesus that the world wants: the social justice warrior, the anti-establishment revolutionary, the radical rabbi. 

But we who have heard and have believed the Word of God, understand that Jesus must also suffer rejection, and even death. We know what kind of prophet this Jesus truly is: a teacher, a miracle worker, and the One who will suffer on behalf of the world and die upon the cross. We know of Easter, that death cannot keep the only Son of God. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:9, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again: death no longer has dominion over Him.”  He pulled Christ out from the closed and sealed grave in an instant. As Christ spoke to this dead man and commanded Him to rise, so too will we be commanded to rise from our graves. We know that God will do for us Christians what He has done for Christ.

This is the very source of our hope: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” As death has come by one man, the first Adam, so resurrection will come by one man, the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  “I say to you, arise!” Jesus’ voice will call you from death to eternal life on that day of resurrection, with your own body as St. Paul proclaimed to the Philippian Christians, that our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, “will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). 

This miracle gives special comfort to all who mourn and weep because of sin. The dead are not beyond the voice of Christ. It doesn’t matter how long death has held a person, nor the age or time of death, for all will hear His voice. He will call His people not just into His presence, but in the presence of one another. He will restore the dead to the living, and the living to the dead. He will wipe away all tears in the final consummation of compassion. Christ’s love, as taught in the Epistle, is far more abundant that all we ask or think, and the power at work within us gives life in the midst of death as we await the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

Trinity 15 2021 - Matthew 6:24-34

Trinity 15 2021

Introit: Psalm 86:(4, 6, 15a, 16; antiphon: 1a, 2b, 3); Matthew 6:24-34

September 12, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


This last Tuesday, Sept 7, was the 81st anniversary of the beginning of the German blitz over London in 1940. In expectation of this, a year earlier in 1939, the English government produced a motivational poster in an attempt to raise morale.  It read “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  Even though about 2.5 million of these were made, they were rarely posted in public and largely forgotten until rediscovered in a bookstore in the year 2000. Reminiscent of its original creation, a year after its rediscovery, the catch phrase took on new meaning as disaster struck again, not by falling bombs but by falling planes.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the incredible disaster and attacks by evil resulting in thousands of deaths. This was a defining moment for a generation, something that has shaped our culture, for good and bad, from that time forward.  Even our church body, the LCMS, was affected by these events, and response afterward. Forty-three Lutheran school children lost a parent in the attack.  Dozens of congregants’ lives were lost.  Ron Bucca, the FDNY Fire Marshal for zip code 10010—the World Trade Center—was memorialized at Concordia College, Bronxville, which sadly had to just close its doors this past spring. A former pastor of our congregation, Pastor Steve Lee, was even at ground zero right after this took place ministering to the first responders. 

When such evil happens in the world, especially when it hits close to home and the way that people live, we are often left with a panic, with uncertainty, with fear.  It is natural to go back and forth between shock, sadness, and anger both over the evil acts of sinful men and concern of what it means for the future. Keep calm and carry on has become a sort of mantra to deal with evil and worry in our post 9/11 world. 

But Christianity has a deeper meaning and greater understanding and a message that actually changes hearts and minds and has eternal consequences.  In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus clearly tells us that we ought not be anxious about our life.  Jesus isn’t just trying to motivate you to will yourself into a worry-free life, or to burry feelings or anxieties.  If you’ve ever had a panic attack or been so overwhelmed with stress, you know you can’t just will yourself to calm down.  This kind of calm isn’t to ignore problems as they arise, nor avoid confrontation.  Sin is always present; the devil is always crouching at the door ready to pounce. CS Lewis once wrote, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” This is the peace and calm of which Jesus speaks comes only from the peace of God that passes all understanding.  A gladdening of the soul in the knowledge and faith that God takes care of his people no matter the circumstance, no matter the evil, no matter the tragedy, no matter the fear. It is a matter of faith, and such a faith comes from and is strengthened by Jesus’ Himself. 

And so the Psalmist declares, in the words from our Introit from Psalm 86, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, turn to me and be gracious to me; give Your strength to Your servant, and save the son of Your maidservant” (Psalm 18:16). This Psalm is a sure and certain prayer God hears the prayers of His people.  That He will answer in mercy and grace, that He will turn toward His people and give strength to them in time of need. For He has given His strength to Jesus, the son of the maidservant.  It is along these lines that we see our Lord’s deliberate identification with the poor and needy.  Sold and purchased for a price (30 pieces of silver), Jesus is unjustly condemned by those who decided that He must die that go to extreme measures to insure this terror. Found guilty by a rigged jury, condemned by an intimidated judge, our Lord makes Himself one with all those who suffer evil, even death, by those willing and powerful enough to inflict it. 

But it is also important to remember that the humility of Christ is more than a mere social or economic condition or the result of a clash of cultures.  In His assumption of human flesh, He did not consider His equality with God a thing to be grasped as He emptied Himself and assumed the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-10). This He did in order to save you, to wage the war on the terror of sin for you and to win!

In Jesus’ darkest hour, when it looked as if evil will triumph over goodness, death over the very author of life, He already knows the outcome of this fight, “For this is the reason the Father loves me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).

In the realization of evil, of tragedy, of loss, of being scared over what the future might hold, we see Christ, who though He committed no sin and did no evil, evil was done upon Him.  We see Christ crying out to God to hear His prayer as He hung upon the cross.  We see Christ risen defeating the enemy of sin and death and the devil. We see Christ as the answer to our prayers, the one who saves His servants.  We see Christ, who carries on… for us.  For God’s answer to evil is the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Let’s face it, we are burdened with worries and anxieties each and every day that we can’t overcome.  We are worried and wearied by the battles throughout the week, the month, the years.  Which is why we come to here, to place our burdens on Christ, who carries on to the cross us so that we may carry on in faith. When the world says to carry on, it is fully in the realm of the Law.  Keep plowing on, pull yourself up from your bootstraps, suck it up and get past it. But the reality is, we can’t. There’s worry over terrorist attack may have waned over the last 20 years, but now there’s renewed concern over Afghanistan.  There’s worry over the direction that our culture is taking. There’s worry over disease, masks, and vaccines.  There’s worry over personal liberty and public health. 

The Christian church made it through the crucifixion of our Lord.  We made it through persecution and the fall of empires.  We made it through terrorism.  We made it through polio, and we’ll make it through COVID and whatever else the devil and evil men will throw. Carried on by the grace of God, not with panic or fear or suspicious looking sideways at others when they cough, hatred in against your neighbor because they did or didn’t get vaccinated. St. Paul urges, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another… as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 5:26, 6:10) Rather than feeling overwhelmed by those things that confront us, keep your attention focused upon the Lord, for He alone is God.  Because of His steadfast love, He will not neglect those who belong to Him. 

St. Paul states, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Do not grow weary or doing good, carry on by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, for in due season we will reap what God has sown for us in Christ, that is to say, eternal life. Seek first the kingdom of God, and walk by the Spirit. 

There is no sin or evil, no terrorist of the body or soul, who can separate you from God’s love in His servant, Jesus Christ.  While the twin towers fell, the twin pillars of the Word of God remain – Law and Gospel. The Word of the Lord endures forever because Christ is risen. The war on the terror of your conscience before God and the raging sinful world is won in Christ! 

Trinity 14 2021 - Luke 17:11-19

Trinity 14 2021

Luke 17:11-19

September 5, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Did you notice that in our Gospel reading today that everyone is on the move?  Jesus is passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  He is on His way to Jerusalem, but taking the long, windy way around.  We know where He is going – to His death on the cross.  God is on the move.

And then there’s the lepers, standing at a distance. They are stuck.  Sir Isaac Newton described what is called the First Law of Motion that an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an external force.  They can’t move themselves out of their situation unless acted upon by something that has power over them. 

But they had heard about Jesus.  And so they cry out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Notice what this is not and what this is.  Their cry is not for cleansing but for mercy.  The lepers are all slaves of their condition. They have no freedom. Their way is hampered at every turn. In order to be free they must be cleansed. They must be rid of the disease that stands in their way, that blocks their way to God. But that disease is simply a symptom of a greater problem. That disease only highlights the necessity not just of cleansing but of faith. The basis for the cleansing is the atonement.  It is cleanliness that comes only by the washing with the blood of Christ where Jesus shows God’s ultimate mercy by cleanings all creation from the leprosy of sin. 

Jesus then puts them into motion.  Jesus commands them to go and show themselves to the priests.  Once stuck in the muck of sin (the leprous yuck), now they are moved by Jesus’ Words. Jesus’ purpose of sending them to the priests is to fulfill the Old Testament laws, but also something more. Jesus wants the cleansed men to go to the place of sacrifice and offer themselves as a living testimony of the healing that Jesus brings.  They go by faith, having confidence that they will be healed.

The great irony, of course, is that only one of the ten turns back to Jesus.  All ten were cleansed, they were all set free from leprosy. But only one was saved from the effects of sin, only one had faith to return to give glory to God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is, only one worshiped God in Spirit and in truth. This is salvation, which leads to worship, by a Samaritan no less. The Samaritan’s worship is a confession of his faith.  He returns to Jesus, giving glory to God, he fell, giving thanks to Jesus.  In fact, this is the only place where “giving thanks” is directed toward to Jesus.  This giving thanks, this eucharist, is an allusion to the Church’s ongoing Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Altar.  Part of the way that you give thanks to God is by falling on your knees before the altar to receive the healing and cleansing of Jesus’ body and blood. 

Now the healed Samaritan is moved into motion.  When Jesus tells the Samaritan leper to rise and go his way, He isn’t merely telling him he should get on his way and catch up with the other nine, nor is He telling him that since he’s now better, he can arise and go do whatever his little heart desires.  It’s such a poor English translation to say, “Rise and go your way.” But we like it. We like it because deep-down we like to believe that Jesus is perfectly fine with us going our own way and doing our own thing.  This is NOT what Jesus is saying here!  “Rise and paroumai.  Rise and journey.” By using this very specific word, Jesus is calling this man to rise and take a pilgrimage, not just going anywhere, but with Him on His purposeful journey to His cross.  He’s calling him to bear witness to Him as Jesus the heavenly High Priest presents Himself to His God and Father as the all-atoning sacrifice for all sin for all time.  Jesus is calling this man to journey in saving faith in all his comings and goings throughout the remainder of his life. 

“Rise and journey, your faith has made you well.”  True enough, but better yet, “your faith has saved you.” You see, this healing comes not because of the Samaritan’s faith in and of itself, but who he has faith in, the One to whom he had given thanks.  “Faith is that which freely obtains God’s mercy because of God’s Word” (Ap V 31-32).  And this healing is more than physical, but it is salvation, it is deliverance from the leprosy of sin and death that will even move the dead out of their graves on the day of the resurrection, the day of final and complete healing. “Rise and journey!”

Until that time, Jesus is still on the move, still healing, still moving us out of our sinful stupor onto the pilgrimage road toward enteral life.  Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares in your baptism. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares each time you eat His body and drink His blood. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares in His holy absolution as He heals you from the leprosy of your sin.

But take note: Jesus never promises the Samaritan a cross-less, pain-free, worry-free journey.  He promises him salvation.  This is so important for us to remember.  The Christian journey in this fallen and sinful world is a journey full of danger, despair, fear, suffering and sorrow.  It’s a journey that involves bearing crosses.  No one should be surprised or shocked by this.  No one should be caught off-guard.  It is the valley of the shadow of death through which you walk.  But He promises to be your shield.  He promises to guide you, lead you, protect you, and feed you all along the way. 

God is on the move in Jesus.  He comes to you today leading you back to Himself and out into the world.  Get up and get going, to the Eucharist at the altar, out into the world, and back again to Jesus.  Rise and journey, your faith in Jesus makes you well and saves you.

The Matyrdom of St. John the Baptist 2021

The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist 2021

Mark 6:14-29

August 29, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Today we commemorate the death of the greatest man born of woman.  Standing with one foot in the Old and one in the New, John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament and first of the New Testament martyrs.  From his mother’s womb to his camel’s hair clothing and diet of locusts and honey to the time he baptized Jesus and heard the Father’s voice and saw the Spirit descend, John proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He knew that he must decrease and Jesus must increase (John 3:30), since he was the one who was to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Now, John had only been preaching publicly for about a year and half before he was jailed for speaking against the King.  It was while he was in prison that Jesus said of him, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  Sitting in prison, John knew it wouldn’t end well for him, and in needing the reassurance of faith, Jesus sent him the comfort, “God and tell John… the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). In other words, the Kingdom of God had arrived in Jesus.

It was this good news of repentance and faith, the resurrection, and the casting out of demons and the healing of many by the apostles sent out and commissioned by Jesus that Herod had heard.  He had heard more and more about this Jesus, it brought to mind how he had executed John.  Maybe his fear and guilt over John’s death caused his suspicion that the Baptizer had returned from the dead.  Regardless, when Herod hears more about Jesus, we get this sort of flashback as he remembers what he did to John.

John had spoken up against the sin of Herod, over his adultery and lust. The plane fact of the matter is that John is martyred because he says that adultery is wrong, that Herod should stop fooling around with his brother’s wife. Herod divorced his first wife to marry Herodias, even though this was unlawful according to the Levitical law, and Herodias had divorced her husband, Phillip.  To make it even more scandalous, Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great.  This Herod mentioned here is Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, and the half-brother of Phillip.  In other words, both of Herodias’ husbands were also her uncles. And if that wasn’t enough, the daughter of Herodias “pleases” Herod and others with her dancing. There are certainly some sexual undertones here.  This is all gross, inappropriate to say the least, and there isn’t a decent person in the room.

And Herodias takes advantage of this to ask for John the Baptist’s head.  During the feast she wants to gorge her sinfulness, with the head of John served up to them on a platter. Now Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.  He kept John safe, imprisoned more like an interesting pet, but his conscience caved to his sinful pride. He worried more about keeping his word to Herodias’ daughter that doing the righteous and holy thing and he had John beheaded.

When news reached John’s disciples, they came and took the body away and buried it, not treating it as a piece of trash to burned and scattered around, but in faithful hope of the coming resurrection of the dead.  Then they went to Jesus.  Which is exactly what John taught them to do: Go to Jesus.

That’s what his death teaches us today. All martyrs testify and direct us to Jesus.  We may tell stories of great heroes and tragic ends to inspire us to certain virtues and a way of life, but that isn’t the ultimate point.  This isn’t about John’s courage or character.  This is about John’s faith, or rather, who John had faith in.  John’s own expectation and belief that Jesus is the Messiah gave him the courage of his convictions because he had the Holy Spirit, and he knew Jesus, and he held on the certainty of the resurrection and being delivered through death and into life.  

Would it be for us as well.  That’s what we prayed for today.  Look at the Collect of the Day for today.  It begins, “Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death.”  It’s an adoration of God for sending John to point us to Jesus.  Then it continues, “Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins.”  It’s very Sacramental, isn’t it, and connects with the Epistle from Romans 6.  A recognition that in your Baptism you are already united to Jesus’ death and resurrection which then leads you to repentance over sin and faith in Jesus.

Then, “patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death.”  How appropriate for so much of our current situations.  How can we not think of the Church in Afghanistan experiencing this very thing.  is saying, “we will gather and likely die” and give witness to the hope we have in Jesus, many in the church in America say, we will gather, “unless there’s a football game on, or a birthday, or it’s a nice day, or my friends are doing something else, or church might go too long.” While we argue over mask and vaccine mandates, they are faced with probable death. 

If this hits a little too close to home, give it some thought. Rather than defensively blowing it off, think about the reasons you give or justifications you make for skipping church. We've all missed church before. Sometimes with good reasons. Sometimes with less than good reasons. Examine your heart and then, rather than attempting to justify yourself, repent! Repent and receive the forgiveness Jesus won for you on the cross. Receive the forgiveness proclaimed to you in the words of absolution and that Christ gives to you in His very Body and Blood.  As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). 

Join your voices and hope with those whose faith soon turns to sight and look to Jesus.  With the Christians in Afghanistan and scattered throughout the world, even with the heavenly saints, who we heard crying out in our First Reading today, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Given a white robe, which is the righteousness of Christ washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and told to rest a while until the time of Christ has come. By the grace of Christ, you join the ranks of those heavenly saints, awaiting the final and complete deliverance out of the great tribulation. You who are “in Christ” live the life of Christ—a life of suffering, but also of victory.  St. Peter writes in his first letter, “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Amen.