freedom’s a funny thing

Jesus rode into Jerusalem Palm Sunday. He sat on the donkey. No one came to lay down palms. The crowds were social distancing. The disciples wore masks, and 3 had to stay home to meet city ordinances. It doesn’t quite work.

Self quarantine, even with the best of intentions, leaves us feeling hollow as the crowds gather to meet the Lord who enters into the city to cries of “Hosannah!” We’ve been away for too long already. It’s tiring. It’s harder to sing hymns at a screen. You still should, but it feels weird. It’s harder to listen to a sermon when social media is a click away. At least during regular church, I can see who’s gotten bored of listening to me. The longer this goes on the more the frustration builds.

But what’s it say about us that we literally covet the freedom of the crowd who would cry ‘crucify!’ in a week? At least they got to sing together before they rose up together to cry for the murder of our Lord. As the frustration builds, so does the temptation to think our problems would go away if we could just be near each other again. We’re wrong.

Freedom’s a funny thing. Everybody wants it. We treat it like the greatest of treasures, a sacred thing, an inalienable right. But we can’t actually describe it. Ask someone about freedom and they’ll skip right over it every time to tell you about what they really want. Freedom only means being able to leave the house again. Let me sit in a pew again. Let me see my friends and family. We describe it in a way that always goes hand in hand with control. Of wanting for nothing.

The thing is, Jesus is God almighty. Presumably, He has control. God should lack nothing. He’s free, but He can do nothing but ride into Jerusalem on a donkey to die. At the same time, the people want freedom so badly they’ll trade the cloaks off their own backs and throw palm branches for kings to get it. They shout Hosanna, save us. But anger, fear, and pride will grab hold of them so tight they’ll yell ‘Crucify!’ in a week. Same crowd. They have what we covet, the freedom to meet, but as it turns out, that doesn’t cure their disease. Sin still flows out from the heart. It still breaks stuff. They have the same problems we have. Bottled deep inside their hearts are the idols they bow to in the name of freedom. Each has a nice label on it. Covetousness. Lust. Hate.

I keep all the same idols bottled on the shelf in my heart. They make us stupid. We end up choosing things that don’t make sense. We bow to those idols in the hope of finding peace, but only end up hurting because of sin. Not just each other. We hurt ourselves. In all of it, no matter how much control we have, or how happy we feel, peace just seems to elude us. We aren’t as free as we like to think.

So our Lord rides free into Jerusalem to die for those worn down and exhausted by sin. He preaches to the sinners, not just about the ridiculousness of our bottled up idols, but of hope. He fulfills the promises of the prophets. He sustains the weary with a word. He preaches of life that death cannot destroy, of freedom not rooted in control, of hope not steeped in idolatry. He preaches Himself, then He answers the cry of the crowds. Both of them. Hosannah. Save us. Crucify. He gives His back to those who strike. He bears our disgrace. He carries your sin. He helps, and in doing so, He shows us what real peace is.

He submits to arrest. He sacrifices control. He stands before pilate under all the pressure in the world. He’s the only one at peace. The Pharisees are in a rage. The disciples are terrified. The crowds cry in anger. Pilate’s hands are tied. And Jesus is glorified. Through short quiet cadence He answers Pilate. Through gritted teeth He promises thieves life. Through agonizing pain he cries it is finished.

But even in the midst of His trial and His pain and His death He talks like He’s free. He could come down from the cross anytime, but He doesn’t. He can’t, but He’s still at peace. He dies for you that you might have a measure of the same. He dies for you and me and all the world that the prayer of a lost and sinful people would finally be answered. Hosanna. Save us. From all evil. From all tyranny. From what we do to ourselves and each other in the name of freedom. It is finished. Your sins are forgiven you. Death is destroyed. You are free.

Freedom is a funny thing. It doesn’t look like running far enough from the things that scare us or even steamrolling over them. It doesn’t even always look like control, but it always looks like peace. Freedom is the chance to hold your head high in the face of every enemy because the God who loves you so much He would yield His freedom to grant you your own will save you from whatever you face. Set your face like flint. The Jesus who saves sinners is your help today.

That’s where real peace is. Because now, it isn’t ours to build through control. It isn’t ours to measure by having every desire met. There’s peace in that because now we don’t have to figure out how to get happier when we don’t feel fulfilled anymore. We don’t have to be afraid of every enemy that threatens to take what’s ours. We don’t have to covet control. We have a comfort in the face of evil, torment, and sin. We have the victory over death. We have a God who promises that He will defend us, save us, and grant us peace.

Today we stand apart, yet still together. We are united by the God who frees us from sin and death. We are united with the crowds who cried Hosannah. We are united by the cross. Their cross. My cross. Jesus’ cross for you.

freedom’s a funny thing

Who sinned and caused the corona virus?

John 9:2: And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The disciples find a man born blind. He didn’t lose his sight in a “hey ya’ll, watch this” mistake. He wasn’t attacked. He was born than way, and just because he was born that way, doesn’t make life any easier. It doesn’t make it ok. They ask a reasonable question. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This isn’t right. This isn’t good. Whose fault is it? There has to be someone to blame. 

If this man, born blind, is at fault, he sinned in the womb. It’s possible. He was a person in there. And a sinner. Still, it seems easier to blame the parents. We always do. We miscarried. Twice. In my anguish and guilt I wondered if it was my fault. Both times. Lisa did too. What could we have done differently? Where is the fault? When kids stray from the faith, when they suffer, when they are wounded or handicapped, when they hurt, every parent asks. Is this my fault? 

These are dark roads to go down. Sometimes you can find fault. The 10 commandments paint a picture of how things are supposed to be. All of us fall short of this standard. Sin breaks stuff. Sometimes that’s my fault. Sometimes it’s yours. But sometimes, as hard as we look, we can’t find someone to blame. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Who sinned and caused the corona virus?” Why is God punishing us? Which one of you did this? The internet told me someone either ate a bat or an armadillo-looking thing I can’t pronounce, but I don’t know. 

The thing is, sometimes the sin that breaks stuff is just so ground into the dust that there’s no way to figure out who to blame short of Adam. He brought sin into the world. He passed it through DNA to the blind man and his parents, to you and me, to our children and their children’s children. Adam was dust, and to dust he did return. He ground his sin into the very dust of the earth. Now we’re dust too. If you want to assign blame for misery, there’s no shortage of it. But there’s no help there either. 

So when the disciples ask Jesus who to blame, He doesn’t answer the way they want. He answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus wants more for us than wandering around in darkness finding blame to sling on each other like mud. There’s no help in that pit. There’s no comfort. There’s nothing but darkness, dust, and death. There’s wisdom here. The law shows us our sin. Sometimes we can learn from that and aim for better, but when we can’t find a commandment being broken, stop. If you can’t find a place to learn, leave. Don’t play in that pit. You only get covered in the same darkness. 

Which one of you caused the corona virus? I don’t know, just wash your hands and don’t be gross. Also, stop making idols out of hand sanitizer. That breaks the first commandment. Stop coveting your neighbor’s toilet paper. Stop hoarding at others expense. That breaks the 7th commandment and the 9th. But when it comes to the fault that goes deeper, see what our Lord does. 

He points to Himself. He doesn’t explain this man’s blindness in a way that makes us feel better about it. There is no feeling better about it. Even knowing who to blame doesn’t fix anything. He points to Himself, and in doing so He addresses the real problem the disciples have. They called him Rabbi. Teacher. That’s what folks call Jesus in the bible when they want to make clear they don’t think He’s the God He claims to be. 

The word rabbi looks away from who Jesus is, so of course they can’t find God in this man’s blindness. They’re blind themselves. So our Lord opens their eyes first. This is so that the works of God might be displayed in Him. Pay attention. Where is God visible in all this? Not in the diagnosis of the problem. Not even in the ideal of a great light, perfect day. In the dark blindness of sin. We finally see God at work where things are darkest. There we find mercy. 

God isn’t visible in the diagnosis. Diagnosis is a law word. The 10 commandments diagnose the problem. They just can’t fix it. The law applied to creation only points out what’s wrong. God is there to be what’s right. 

God isn’t visible in the ideal of a great light, perfect day. On those days we forget Him altogether. The light of the world isn’t visible in the day, but only in the dark. You can hardly see a candle shine on a perfect sunshiny day, but in the darkness of night, you can see it very far away. 

Where was God actually visible in this? They wanted a teacher to explain away what’s wrong and learned nothing. Rather, Jesus heals the man and shows where God really makes Himself known. In the darkness, working mercy. It’s ugly, but God reveals Himself in the darkness, in the spit and the mud. In the suffering and death. On the cross. 

Christianity is a tough sell in a world this dark until you find God in the darkness too. A loving God is a hard concept in the face of suffering until you find Him suffering for you on the cross. Look into the dark for Jesus, not blame, and all of the sudden the whole thing changes. 

Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud, then rubs it in the mans eyes and tells him to go wash. He’s healed. In the darkness, the Daystar shines. He who died for us rose again, putting and end to death. He who conquered death brings dust back to life all over again. He resurrects Adam, through darkness to light, through death to life. He does the same to you. He brings light to darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The light is visible wherever Jesus is, and night cannot endure there. So we gather around His word. His promise. His light. Even now, when we can’t gather, we hear Him, and as dark as it seems, we find our Lord. Healing. Forgiving. Bringing light through mud and spit, through death and resurrection. Remember, you’re washed too. Already baptized. United with Him in dust, in mud, in death, but also in life. Instead of worrying about fault, focus on the promise. You are healed.

Who sinned and caused the corona virus?

everyone’s uncomfortable

John 4:5-26

The first time I preached this text I focused on this lady’s sin. It’s a prooftext Jesus doesn’t seem to be on board with living together without being married. Some folks got uncomfortable. It’s safer to preach against the sins that we only see outside our walls. But whether or not you see that stuff, statistics don’t just go away by announcing that we’re a conservative congregation. Some of you have had abortions. Some of you struggle with same sex attraction. I’m afraid to ask about your browser history. It isn’t just society that needs Jesus. It’s us.

So the second time I preached this text, I tried to find Jesus comforting the sinner. But I couldn’t quite shake the feeling he was heckling her the whole time. Every response she has is biting. She comes to see He has power, but never really finds mercy for her sins, and nobody got any water to drink. Not even Jesus, who asked for it. That time, I was the uncomfortable one. So I did what any decent pastor would do. I avoided it altogether and preached from the Old Testament. Moses is tired of the people complaining and fighting. So the Lord tells him to hit a rock with a stick to shut them up. There is a rock, from whose side comes living water, struck to put an end to the sinful rebellion of God’s people, and that rock was Christ. He was struck. He was beaten. He was crucified and pierced for you, and from His side comes water. The Lord was among His sinners to save them.

This is the third time, and I think it’s a gift to look at a text more often. I think, more than anyone, the most uncomfortable person in the room, more than any of us, is that woman at the well. Each time she recoils and rebuffs and retorts she really only shows how much she doesn’t want to be there. Give me a drink. And she can only respond with the words she must have been told so many times before. She’s not Jewish enough. She’s Samaritan. The Jews wouldn’t deal with her and she knew it. She’s a second class citizen.

But it’s not about that. Jesus isn’t berating her. He’s pointing to something bigger. There’s living water here. It’s free. It’s for her. But she’s still so beat down she can’t see it. Knock it off. You’re insane, there’s no bucket. There’s no rope. As great as you think you are, you’re no Jacob. Stop teasing me. This well comes from our father Jacob. I have a right to call on God too. Because she’s heard too many times that she can’t. Nobody told her more than what was wrong with looking for God on a mountain He never promised to be on. The difference between the jews and the samaritans was that the jews went to the temple to worship. They heard the promise of where God would be. In the spilling of the blood on the altar. They never told her she could come too. She just knows that the God she cried to on the mountain hasn’t answered her prayers for peace. And based on how she’s treated by the ones who go to temple, the God they pray to in there doesn’t seem too interested in her either.

Don’t you see why she’s so uncomfortable? She has to work herself up every time she goes out in public. She hears what she is whenever she goes out. She’s not jewish enough. Not married enough. She would rather not go out to that well anymore. How can I not come back here anymore? She actually confesses it. Give me the water so I don’t have to go out in public anymore. I don’t want to have to come here anymore. I don’t want to be what they stare at. I don’t want to be what they talk about. I don’t want to be the object lesson to nice little boys and girls anymore. Because the actual sin is the one thing she’s the least willing to talk about. You get explanations with every response until the last. “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Not the first 5. This guy, who you built a home with, whose husband is he? That’s the real question.

Jesus asked for water and never got any. He asked after her husband and never got an answer either. Jesus asks after everything she needs and never gets it. She can’t give it. Sin is still sin. It break stuff. Salvation did come from the temple of the jews, but Jesus is there to do more than correct her about her church going habits. He’s there to give. He doesn’t wait until she feels appropriately sorry. Her biting answers toward Jesus say plenty about how she really saw herself. He just starts promising living water to bitter sinners. He’s so blunt that the rest of us get as uncomfortable as the woman does. There’s no condition. Just ask. It’s here. It’s free. We’d like to imagine it’s because Jesus isn’t being as polite as we imagine, but really it’s deeper. The whole conversation points out a truth we’d rather not see.

Nobody’s saved by measuring their shortcomings, whether they be the ones acceptable by the public or not. We’re saved by Jesus, the rock. We’re saved by the living water that comes from His side. He shows up. He dies. He saves. And it’s for you too. There are no conditions. It’s here. It’s free.

For the sins you hide away, for the statistics you’ve become on purpose or on accident, for your guilt, for you, peace. Jesus died for you. Your sins are forgiven you. The abortions are forgiven. The attractions you struggle with are forgiven. Your browser history is forgiven. You are forgiven. You are holy. You are baptized. You have the living water promised. You are nothing less that what happened to you at this font. Clean. Forgiven. Alive. Free. To worship in Spirit and truth is to know the Father seeks such people as us. That He sends His Son to redeem us. His Spirit to wash us in the font. It’s to know that peace isn’t someday, it’s here. It’s now. It’s yours, because the one we speak of is Jesus.

everyone’s uncomfortable

the devil’s favorite word

Mathew 4:1-11

We like to imagine the devil has more power than he does when it comes to temptation. He’s a fallen angel. A great dragon. A lion who prowls around seeking to devour. Fierce, sure. But you, Christian, wear the armor of God. he may be a lion but he has no teeth to you. he’s not all powerful. he’s not all knowing. The devil didn’t make you do anything.

satan is nothing more than a student of character. he watches. He’s been doing it a while. Since Adam and Eve. he never could read thoughts, but he pays attention. he knows us. he knows what questions to ask. he knows just where to poke.

You know where too. Where that guilt piles up. The frustration. The fear. This is where the knife goes. Then it’s really just about leverage. Leverage isn’t about power. You can lift a lot with very little if you know where to pull. he’s so used to it working that you can watch him overplay his hand. Jesus stands in the wild lands. The devil goes out to confront him with only tricks he knows.

First, he comes in weakness. Jesus hungers. 40 days. No food. “If you really are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Temptation: measure God’s love by your satisfaction. If you really are so important, you shouldn’t want for anything. The enemy leans on our weaknesses as proof there’s no God, or worse, a God who won’t help us. But the Lord answers. Man cannot live by bread alone. God’s love means more than stuff or earthly pleasures.

So the devil comes in strength. Jesus’ faith. If You really know your bible you know you can throw yourself down from here. The psalm says He will command His angels concerning you and they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against the stone. You trust more than anyone. He tempts us to trust in what’s strongest about ourselves. He gives self esteem. Confidence. Then twists it in on itself until it gets too big to fail. But sooner or later, humanity always falls. Watch him work. He takes strong faith and tries to corrupt it. He twists trust in God into trust in faith, but faith in faith has saved no one. Jesus answers. You shall not put the Lord to the test. Not just don’t poke the bear. Recognize it’s God who saves, and not Your ability to impress Him. Don’t bet on that. Don’t test God that way.

So finally satan comes in fear, but really that’s what all of these get rolled into. There’s a lot you don’t know, and too much of what you do is bad news. If you just bow, you can control it all. I’ll give you every kingdom. You can have whatever you want. Fear is really what the weakness and the strength all gets rolled into. We want control, so satan tempts us into looking to our own will instead of trusting God’s.

It was fear that didn’t want to starve or hurt in weakness. It was fear that thought it was the one who should be in control in strength, as if we were smarter than God. Mostly because the dark unknown is even scarier than the weakness we know. And even if we don’t know what to do with control, we want it. Because we’re afraid we can’t trust anyone who’d hold it over us. So when it comes to God, it’s fear that prays my will be done, not yours.

It’s no different here than when satan would mock Jesus through the Pharisees as He dies for them. If you really are the Son of God, come down from there. I know who talks like that. Who meets Jesus in the wild lands and leads every temptation that way. satan overplays his hand. he teaches us his favorite word.

If. I figured it would be profane, but it’s the one he keeps falling back on. If you are the Son of God, make the stones bread. If you are the son of God, throw yourself down and trust in God. I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world If you bow to me.

We still we echo it. When it comes to temptation we love to say the devil’s favorite word. If only we weren’t so overwhelmed. If only we weren’t around those bad influences. We could deal with temptation just like Jesus If only we knew the right bible verse like Jesus always seems to. Then we’d be able to resist.

If is the devil’s word because there’s no certainty to it at all. The devil wants only doubt. You can watch TV if you clean your room. You can get a raise if you meet your goals. You can fix your marriage if you stop being a sinner. If. It’s a word of law, not gospel. Because the word if is on you.

Let’s test it. You broke the 10 commandments this week. Did you not know them? You knew the right verse. You just leaned harder on the “if” than anything after it. We deal with temptation wrong. You will not beat temptation with the devil’s own words. You only play further into it. Because You knew. You knew when you did it. Temptation isn’t ignorant. Temptation is knowing it’s wrong and doing it anyway. That’s what makes temptation so vile. It has to excuse what it already knows. So it tries to measure not just right and wrong, but God Himself by something different. Every time. Every way. It all comes down to this. Dress it up for the dance, but it’s the same old lie of the same old enemy. If God were really loving I wouldn’t hurt. If it feels good, a loving God wouldn’t call it wrong. It cant matter that much.

Would you really say “My God wouldn’t say this or do that?” You’ve made up your mind before you ever asked Him and checked the book. And sometimes even after. Quoting the bible wrong is worse than not quoting it. Instead of looking for a cross to answer your sin, the enemy would twist the scriptures around. he points away from Jesus, where there is certainty, towards yourself, where if rules the day. Then we do what comes natural. We try to justify our sins. Find enough works to answer our fears, or at least prove others are worse than us. We try to live by the law.

See it for what it is in the devil who does just that as he twists scripture to our Lord.

Quoting scripture wrong is worse than not quoting it at all because All the while would dare to call itself godly even as it flees from God. In all of it we pave a road away from the cross, where Jesus died for you. It wasn’t just a reminder to feel guilty. It isn’t just the proof that thing you excused and justified was so bad God had to die. It’s more. It’s that God wanted to save you from that thing. It’s that God loves you so much He was willing to bear all the things we run from in temptation. Just for you.

For every time you grabbed hold of satan’s favorite word to excuse your sins, slander your Lord, or build your self up because you were scared, God loved you. It looked like something. A cross. There, your sins are forgiven. All of them. Every time you fell to temptation, God met it with that cross. Your sins are forgiven you.

This Cross Jesus bore for you was a will expressed through all of history, not determined by the desires of the moment. It’s what all of scriptures move us toward. All of scriptures moves us to the cross where Jesus died for sinners. For you who struggle and fall to temptation. So that you would have hope.

Answering temptation isn’t a measurement of how many bible verses you know. It is a measurement of how many are true. Jesus falling back on the word is not a challenge to memorize more scripture than the devil. You’ll fail. It’s to recognize that there are wills outside of your own. satan’s will for you is bad. God’s will for you is good. This mess you’re in? It’s not all by chance. But this mess you’re in? There’s hope inside it. See how Jesus confronts the devil. He falls on His Father’s will. Remember why Jesus is in the wilderness starving. It is God’s will. Remember why He stands toe to toe with the devil and won’t budge an inch. Remember why He was offered every pleasure and chose the cross. It was all For you. To save you

Now stop feeling bad about it. Because that’s the devil steering us away from God’s will too. It was God’s will to die to save you sinners. Rejoice that He loves you that much and nothing you’ve done or failed to do can change that. When the devil confronts us and twists the scriptures, measure it against what You see in the will of God. He died and rose To save you. He gives you grace in word and sacrament. He has mercy. God’s will that puts Him in the desert is not happiness, not power, not miracles. It’s salvation for sinners. Salvation for you. To undo the curse of Adam and make straight the twisted paths that we pave and conquer the enemy who works against God’s will.

If you’re not a sinner, there’s no salvation for you. If you’re not willing to call sin sin, there’s no cross for you. If you’re not able to see Jesus die for sinners in the scriptures you’re hearing, you’re looking in the wrong place. Look here. It did something. Not only are you forgiven. You’re victorious. The devil lost. His temptations are something different to you now. Not only are you holy enough to cast aside your old excuses. You’re holy enough not to need them anymore. Why excuse what God forgives? Now, resist.

Wanna out muscle the devil? You don’t have the strength. or the leverage. But you do have the Lord. You do have His word. A place to hear it. to grow in it. To receive the forgiveness it proclaims and enacts. Resist here. Pray the litany. Hear the word. Receive the supper. This is where the leverage is. outside of you. outside of your will. wholly in God’s.

Because God is stronger. His will is gonna get done no matter what. His will is your salvation. Live.

the devil’s favorite word

Christianity is an identity, not a challenge

Matthew 5:13-20

You, Christian, are the salt of the earth. This mattered more before refrigerators. It’s not just you give the world it’s flavor, and too much of you is bad for everyone’s heart. You are the preservative. Jesus says you are what keeps everything from rotting and falling apart. You, Christian, are the light of the world. You stand between the world and the dark. That’s a tall order. It’s terrifying. Especially as our numbers appear to shrink, as our world appears to rot, and dark and latter days hem us in. It feels like we’re losing. It feels like everything’s falling apart. And somewhere down the line the hope of the church stopped being about sharing Jesus with sinners and turned into just surviving another generation. Concern stopped being that the world doesn’t have enough peace and started being that we don’t have enough officers or money or power. We’re not just afraid for our institution. We’re afraid for our retirement. Our relationships. Our health. We’re afraid we don’t have enough of whatever it takes to make things ok. If the salt has lost its saltiness, it’s no good for anything. Trample it underfoot. It’s called despair. It’s not good for anything.

Jesus only seems to want to twist the knife. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The thing is, they were probably better at this stuff than us. The pharisees weren’t villains who twisted fancy mustaches. They were men who thought family mattered. They stood for morality and the good of their people. They supported their church. They were the upright people you’d expect to see standing against the darkness of the day. They were the ones building something that would last another generation. That isn’t enough. Their temple was torn down. Not one stone stood upon the other. Everything they fought for wasn’t enough, not for this world, and not for the next. If you have to do better, they didn’t do enough. They were trampled underfoot, but where does that leave us?

So much of our struggle, our fear, our despair, is rooted in the fact that we go looking in the scriptures for a challenge rather than an identity. What can I do to achieve something worthwhile? Succeed where others failed? Build something that moth and rust can’t destroy? What can I do to show I’m the salt and the light that will make this place better and make me stand out from those who make it worse?

This is not about you. Christianity is not about you. It’s about Jesus for you. Christianity is not a challenge. It’s an identity. The light of the world is Jesus. That light dwelt in darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. The light became the light of men. Now the light is you. Not because of what you did. Not because of what you built. Not because of what you stood for. Because Christ and His righteousness are yours. Now. For real.

He is the light set on the hill. The light that came into the darkness that crept in every time we sinned and failed, every time we tried our best and it wasn’t enough, and every time we contributed to the destruction by our own sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. The light came into our darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. The light was set on the hill of Calvary. The light set on the hill is the cross. Jesus died there for sinners. The afraid sinners. The despairing sinners. The sinners who couldn’t do enough and the ones who made things worse. He died for me. He died for you. He died for pharisees. He died for all. Your sins are forgiven you. Darkness lost. The world was preserved. Rot comes undone as He rose from the grave. Death is destroyed. Dark is vanquished. Light shines from Christ.

That shines through Christians to the world. They see our good works. More than just the outward works of the Pharisees. More than the ability to build or the power to enforce morality. More than the outward works, who Christ is for us shows the world the inward work of love. Mercy. Forgiveness. Peace. This isn’t a challenge. It’s an identity. You are love, because you were first loved. This is not a quantity of works, but a quality of character. You are not the sum of your sins weighed against the sum of your works. You are not what you’ve broken or failed to do. You are what Jesus made you. Salt. Light. Holiness. Loved.

This identity lets you face the fullness of the law without fear. You don’t need to downplay it or excuse it. You don’t need to justify yourself by abolishing the parts that would make you look like a sinner. Your sins are forgiven. You are in Christ. The law can’t hurt you. When the Son of God calls you holy and forgiven, the law can’t give you an identity. You don’t need to excuse the law or hide the law or relax the law. Jesus fulfills it for you. The more you relax the law to flee from what it would call you, the more you try to not need Jesus.

If we can fulfill the law perfectly, it’s not that hard. To relax the law is to point away from Jesus. To see the law fulfilled and not relaxed one iota is to see Jesus. To teach the law fully is to teach Jesus. To call on you to actually strive to do the same is to hope in Jesus. Be not afraid of your failure. Be not afraid of your sin. Christ has fulfilled the law. Christ has won your forgiveness. Christ has given you an identity, not a challenge. This is just who you are now. Baptized. Holy. Loved. Light.

Christianity is an identity, not a challenge

John 1:29-42 Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world

John 1:29-42 “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

More often than not, it feels like Christians gather around an idea. We’re the Lutheran kind of Christian. We believe in justification by grace alone through faith apart from works. We believe in baptizing babies. We don’t believe in accepting Jesus into your heart, open communion, or getting rebaptized. We should do this. We shouldn’t do that.

Statements of fact can be completely true, but still don’t seem to help when your family disagrees, or when your church has a reputation in town you’re not proud of. And when you yourself don’t live up to your beliefs, if this is just a house of ideas, it’s gonna make this place seem bitter and empty of anything worthwhile.

This isn’t about being less honest about what we believe, or even less strict. John was about as straightforward as they came, and many were offended by the truths he told. He called folks nice little pet names like “hypocrites” and “brood of vipers”. He warned of fiery hell for unbelief. He preached about God.

But John was not sent out into the wilderness to relay a series of ideas. He was sent to to give Jesus to sinners. He baptized for the forgiveness of sins. So when Jesus shows up, even while John’s hand is still dripping with water from the river, he stops what he’s doing. John would have prevented him. “I need to be baptized by you, not the other way around.” It’s his cousin. Their moms hung out. But it was so unlike what John expected that even he has to admit “I myself did not know him” like this. Baptized with a booming voice from heaven and a Holy Spirit filled bird. Jesus is not just a man. He is not just a set of teachings. John points a finger and explains it. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Christians don’t gather around an idea, but the lamb. Jesus showing up is the whole point. This is why we’re here. We need something from Him. The picture painted is ugly. The bible’s not big on plot twists. The lamb isn’t there for you to pet it. A lamb in the bible is like seeing a promiscuous teen in an old scary movie. It’s like seeing a guy in a red shirt in an away mission. It’s like hearing “hey ya’ll watch this” at a party. It’s like seeing me do anything athletic. The details might change a bit, but know gonna end bloody.

Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Son of God is not here to be a set of teachings or ideals or morals. He’s here to bleed. That’s how we’re saved. It’s a fact of nature that we try really hard to avoid, but still see a sense of it in the country that people hide from in the city. Something has to die for you to live. God did that. A lamb wasn’t just an animal, it was an almighty act made to work peace between sinners and God. God made this animal to die, so that we might live.

Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. See Jesus, the Passover lamb, blood protecting us from death. The lamb, killed to make skins to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. The lamb provided to save Abraham’s son from death and fire. The Lamb, sacrificed on the day of atonement to make sure there was blood on the altar to make every sinner in the camp of Israel righteous. THIS lamb, Jesus, not made, but God almighty taken flesh, slain before the foundation of the world, here, for you, and for all the world. He is the fullness of every promise, and the God every lamb hinted at. The Spirit remains on Him. He is at work to do the work of God. Bleed. It has to be this way.

Christianity has to be more than a set of ideas. It has to be more than a group of people who get together and talk about their faith. All the ideas in the world only point to the fact that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. That word sin tells us something is wrong. It’s a diagnoses. We do evil. Think evil. We will away God’s truths because they’re uncomfortable. We try to leverage that into hurting each other. We try to leverage each other into helping ourselves. We sin. It’s a mess. It’s death. Christianity isn’t a mental exercise or discipline to outthink evil or rise above the world that will never be as good as you. The wages of sin is death. If you’re still gonna die, you haven’t escaped. Nobody will be saved by having faith in their faith. This is not about you. This is not about your reason or heart or strength or trust. This is about Jesus. John points. Trust in Jesus, not in how much you’re able to trust Jesus.

Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The whole world. All the sin of all the sinners is gathered up, heaped on Jesus, and he takes it away to calvary. He bleeds there. Dies there. For you. For me. For your family. For your enemies. For all. Jesus died for sinners so that you can find more than just a place that shares your ideals, but shelter in your day of trouble, forgiveness for every time you’ve fallen short of God’s law, and hope to escape every threat John makes for those who don’t believe. The axe is laid at the root of the cross, the tree, where God bore the sins of the world. It will not be chopped down. It bore the fruit of eternal life. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Your sins are forgiven you. You will rise too.

Christianity is Jesus for sinners. Lutheranism is Jesus for sinners. It’s worth defending the truths we teach. It’s worth recognizing that truth that powerful changes things. This isn’t about being right. Truth powerful enough to rip you out of your grave is powerful enough to help with what’s wrong. This isn’t a house of ideas. A house of God. The altar still has blood on it to save you, so we sing John’s song each week.

O Christ thou lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace. We sing because Jesus is here. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Behold the body and blood of Jesus in with and under bread and wine. It’s true, but more, it’s help. It’s forgiveness. It’s shelter. It’s life. We stop what we’re doing. This matters. The truth is made flesh here for you. For everything that’s wrong. It’s more than a statement of belief. It’s Jesus here to save you. It’s the cross made here and now and for you. It’s doctrine actualized and delivered for you. We call it communion, but it means God is here to help and forgive and save. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The peace of the Lord be with you always. This is not a house of ideas. It’s where God shows up to save. It stands for those who know things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be, but who can’t fix it. It stands to bring Jesus to you. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus for sinners. Jesus for the world. Jesus for you.

John 1:29-42 Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world

you are what was done for you.

You are what you do. Worse. You are what you’ve done. If the room’s ever gone quiet when you walked in, you get it. If you have a past everyone talks about, or even one nobody talks about, you understand. If you’ve ever lost sleep wondering what people think or wishing to go back in time, you know. You are what you do. Sometimes that’s not a good thing. Because folks don’t forget. And the hope that we can be the hero enough times to make people remember that instead of the mistake, the incident, the sin…well..what do you like to talk about more?

God gave us the 8th commandment. You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor. We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt our neighbors reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. Except churches tend to gossip so much that it’s harder to be a sinner here than anywhere else. In the house God built to forgive sins.

Because deep down it’s what we’d expect from God no matter how often we’re told He loves everyone. It’s so much of what we teach our kids. Jesus loves you, so behave. Some write them songs about it. O be careful little hands what you do, O be careful little hands what you do, There’s a Father up above, And He’s looking down in love, So, be careful little hands what you do. Watch where you go because Jesus loves you. Watch what you see and say and hear.

It’s so much of what we reinforce to our adults. Jesus loves everyone, but did you hear? It doesn’t sound like a God who won’t break bruised reeds or quench faintly burning wicks. It sounds like God’s really only concerned with making sure you’re called by what you do if you sin. I guess that’s a God who brings justice, but not one who takes you by the hand and keeps you, not one who gives help to prisoners in darkness.

And so you see how people treat this place. The house God built to forgive sinners becomes the place where the good little eyes and ears gather, who don’t have soiled hands and feet, who always do what they’re supposed to. The place to be avoided if you actually need love or help, or God forbid, forgiveness. Whoever wrote that evil little song didn’t know God. For all we identify each other based on what we do, we seem to expect something different from God.

God is what He does. Today, He gets baptized. Jesus goes out to the Jordan with sinners and tax collectors. He goes out to something that forgives sins and wades down into waters soiled by unclean hands and feet, to be spoken to by prophet who’s not careful what he says. The sky is ripped open, and unclean eyes see a dove and unclean ears hear a voice, and we see exactly who God is.

Jesus gets baptized. It’s the beginning of a ministry where He fulfills all righteousness. He becomes like us. He who knew no sin becomes sin for us. He takes upon himself everything we hate about ourselves and each other. He carries our sin to the cross and He dies. On the cross His all righteousness becomes yours. Sin is atoned for. Death is destroyed. He rises. All of it was for you.

You’re baptized too. Your baptism is into Him. You are baptized into His righteousness. He takes on Your sin and bears the wrath of God for it. You take on His holiness. You put on Christ in that font. God knows you based on this. All of your sins were placed on Christ, everything you’ve ever done that you wish didn’t define you, everything worthy of punishment, everything that makes you feel ashamed, it was paid for by Him. Your identity is baptized.

This is beloved child, with whom I am well pleased. God says that to you now. Your baptism is into this moment, this declaration, this promise. Your identity is not what you have done, or didn’t do. It’s this. You’re baptized. You are baptized where they stare at you, and baptized where they talk about you. Every accusation leveled against you gets taken from you and placed upon Christ who bore it willingly. All that’s left is holy, righteous, child of God. That’s who you are. Christ took all the sin. It’s finished. You are holy and worthy of love. The Father is well pleased with you.

And it will make no sense to anyone on the outside. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose to love what is low and despised in the world. God chose to love you. So powerful is his love that it brings to nothing everything that they would call you. Now you are not what you have done. The only thing left to call you is what God’s done for you. You are baptized. You are baptized in the church, where God in His mercy continues to pour out true love, forgiveness, peace. That’s why we have this building. It’s not for the good to get better and look down on the rest. It’s for the sinners to get more mercy. So He pours it out over and over again, that the sinners and the despised can turn in here to listen to remember who they really are.

We are the baptized. Jesus is the source of our life. He is our boast, our identity, our everything will be in the Lord. Our God got baptized for us.

you are what was done for you.

Weep, but don’t despair

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

On December 28, the church remembers the slaughter of the innocents. Herod’s fear drove him to murder every male toddler in his kingdom. It makes the word genocide even harder to utter. Especially after the Christmas manger, the scene feels too horrid to even imagine. It seems like a small comfort that Joseph escaped with Mary and the Christ-child as Herod’s soldiers went from house to house to murder those left behind. It’s a small comfort today in the face of the same slaughter of children, the same loss, the same pain.

Prophesies were fulfilled and angels spoke to Joseph in a dream. Rachel still weeps for her children. I’ve seen her tears stream down more faces than I want to think about. There’s no Christmas carol that asks why Jesus would allow Himself to be born helpless in the face of so many people who needed His help. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. Around Him, Herod was slaughtering infants while looking for Him. And He made Himself too little to stop it. Today, the slaughter continues. It’s framed under the word choice, but even in the most scientific of explanations, organic life becomes…dead. God still seems every bit as far away from the tragedy of it all.

You can tell people God is everywhere, but it doesn’t make them feel better, because if God is everywhere, why did this happen? It’s no wonder the scriptures say Rachel refuses to be comforted. This Rachel recalled by the prophet died in childbirth. Things weren’t ok. It wasn’t about perspective, it wasn’t that she had a bad outlook on life and just needed to smile more and think positive. Things weren’t OK. With her dying breath, she named her child Ben-oni, son of my sorrow, son of my strength. After she died, her husband called him Benjamin, son of my right hand.

You’re allowed to be frustrated. Remember Rachel who who weeps at the sight of the destruction wrought on this world and cannot be comforted. You’re allowed to mourn. Remember Rachel who died during childbirth. As far as God seems in all of it, know He weeps too. He shared in the tears that poured down her face. But He would not be far from the tragedy of it all. He spoke through her last breath, and through her husband’s name. By a dying woman’s last breath, He showed what He would be to a people who need Him.

He would be called Son of my sorrow. The helpless God took flesh to do more than prevent suffering. He would suffer for us. He did not flee to Egypt to escape pain, but take each necessary step to Jerusalem to bear the suffering of all the world as He hung on the cross to help the helpless. He died for the martyrs and murders alike. He ransomed the captives and the captors. He took the place of the monsters and bled so that massacres would be avenged. He dove into death to pull the children back into life even as He burst from the tomb 3 days later.

He would be called Son of my strength. Not just Son of my emotional stability. Not just Son of my cheery outlook. The Lord God is our strength and our help. In these days, Rachel weeps, and cannot be comforted, for her children are no more, but this is not too great a thing for Christ to fix. The Lord answered weeping Rachel and said “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.” Christ is risen from the dead. He’ll just have to make those who Rachel weeps for rise too, that we would all be brought back from the land of the enemy. Because Jesus is the true Son of the Father’s right hand. There He sits in power, ruling a messy world. The world’s still messy, but we find hope, even when we don’t like what it looks like. We don’t measure the world. We measure the cross and the empty tomb.

Christ permits the church to be afflicted, and even calls it blessing. We share in His sufferings, and find that His true glory is revealed in suffering. His glory looks like Him suffering on the cross for sinners. His glory looks like forgiveness and mercy for a sinful people who deserve to be erased. His rule from the right Hand of the Father is one that even works among sin and brokenness. We who suffer entrust our souls to a Creator who is faithful. Who does good, even amongst evil and for evil people. Who baptizes Christians into death and into life again. Into victory that is called ‘victory’, even before we see it in this world.

It makes Christianity look like a failure. It’s looked that way from the beginning of it, when our infant God had to run from a tyrant, yet here we still are, the ones who Christ has saved. That means that our identity isn’t victim. Christianity isn’t just pity me. Look how bad things are. Christianity is look what Lord has done for us. Look at the comfort God gives. Find Him where He has promised to work among the rubble of a broken world to carry forward those redeemed. Find Him in His body and blood on your altar at church. Find Him in your neighbor through vocation, working to help. We can weep at the slaughter, but we do not despair. Our Christ shared in our sufferings, that we will share in His glory.

Weep, but don’t despair

you have to admit how it looks

Matthew 1:20–23: But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew tells the grownups the Christmas story. That Luke business comes next week for the actual holiday. It’s the family friendly version. The angel will visit Mary and she’ll sing a hymn. The shepherds will look peaceful. More angels. More hymns.

Today we get the mess. It’s more my style. The birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. Mary was engaged to Joseph, but she got pregnant. From the Holy Spirit. From hearing the Word. She’s totally still a virgin. And Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. That means he didn’t believe her. Which is probably not unfair. You have to admit how it looks.

Remember that, grownups, when the world doesn’t understand the reason for the season. Nobody was converted by Christmas decorations. Ever. Not even just the secular side. Look at the nativity and tell me someone could look at it and proclaim “Hey, look, that baby is fully God and fully man, Son of the Father, born of the virgin. He’s going to die on the cross and rise from the dead to forgive us our sins.” You have to admit how it looks.

It’s a truth that bears repeating. You’re not going to figure this out on your own. It has to be revealed. So an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and explained it. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

So Joseph woke from sleep and did as the angel commanded. And you have to admit how it looked. To all of Nazareth, Mary looked unfaithful. And a little crazy, because she stuck to the story. Yet she is blessed among women, because she is the mother of God. Joseph looked like an old fool, yet he believed where so many didn’t. The more they believe, the worse they look. It follows them. Watch how many times only the enemies of Christ refer to him as Joseph’s son. It’s a jibe. You have to admit how it looks.

Especially to the Pharisees who look so amazing all the time. Who always behave in public. Who have perfect families. But the Pharisees weren’t perfect. They were just good at hiding what was wrong. They were good at excusing it. Blaming others. Anything but confessing what’s wrong to be sin and hoping God would be merciful to sinners, which is sort of the whole point of the religion. The believing Mary and Joseph looked like sinners and fools. The unbelieving Pharisees looked righteous. Remember that, grownups, when you want to measure Christianity by what you see in each other.

It’s a great temptation. How much good do you do? How proper does your family look? How much praise can you muster? We love to measure how things look. But how did Mary look, even to Joseph? How does Jesus look hanging on the cross where He saved the world that couldn’t save itself? The Lord wasn’t kidding when He said the world will hate you. He meant it when He said this is foolishness to the wise. You’re not going to figure this out on your own. It has to be revealed. Christianity is never measured in you, your works, your feelings. It’s measured in what God says about you. What God does for you. It’s measured in His name. Jesus. He will save His people from their sins. Immanuel. God with us.

He became the same. To dwell in creation, alongside us, in sin and misery. God almighty became an infant. Jesus is actually God. The Son of God made flesh. Fully God. Fully man. God in a box. He knows what He looks like. The more faithful He is, the more the crowds turn on Him. They love Jesus the healer. But they flee from the Jesus who says unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood they have no life with Him. And so it is today. We love the Jesus who tells us to get along and not worry about the little things. Even though we’re terrible at both. We love the Jesus who doesn’t need to bear the cross. But we can’t even agree on where to put a manger. No matter how we present ourselves in public, things aren’t going as well as you pretend.

So this is your Jesus. Listen. The thing is, if Jesus didn’t need to die for what you want to come true, you’re probably thinking of the wrong guy. It’s ok. Nobody figures it out on their own. It’s always been revealed. Because faith comes by hearing, not looking. Look at the cross. It doesn’t look like much. No wonder the world mocks us. Yet the God man Jesus, born of Mary, would not come down from there. He who was worthy of all honor and praise bore mockery and abuse, suffering and death for you. He came to assume your weakness, and carry your sins. The ones others belittle you for. The ones you hide so well. The ones that prove you don’t measure up. The ones that make you look like a bad Christian. The ones it’s easier to hide or excuse. He saves you from your sins. All of them. He bears our humiliations, our sins, our weaknesses. He bears what others whisper. Jesus died only for the sinners. For me. For you. It’s finished. You are measured by that cross.

It gives a new identity. Mary is blessed among women. Even the mother of God. You are holy and worthy of love. You are baptized, and even now wear robes of righteousness. You’re not going to figure it out. It has to be revealed. But it is. This is who you are now. A child of God. He said so at that font. Nothing you do can change that. Nothing you do can improve that. Nothing needs improving though. Jesus is enough. He has saved you from your sins. Amen.

you have to admit how it looks

stay awoke.

Matthew 24:36-44

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

It’s hard not to hear the gospel text and think ominous thoughts. There’s an end. Stay awake. Don’t get caught sleeping. The thieves are coming. Some will be taken. Some will be left. And let’s just namedrop the flood that destroyed creation but for a boat too. And all of it is out of your control. You don’t even get to know when. Stay awake.

Except we just decorated for Christmas and the fear feels artificial like a bad scary movie. The words of our Lord could be taglines. Stay awake. It’s the wrong season, but the Son of Man will show up at an hour nobody expects. Like bear attacks. They come when you least expect them.

Sorry. It’s hard to take it seriously for so many reasons. Not the least of which is that the threats ring hollow during the most wonderful time of the year. So maybe we’ll poke fun at the baptists down the street who wonder about the two women and invented the rapture to compel people to behave to avoid being left behind like some bad fiction. Two women will be working in the field. Which are you? Stay woke.

Mostly though, we’ve got other stuff on our minds, like in the days of Noah. Folks were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. Really, it’s nothing new. We’ve got the holidays on our mind. We’d rather think about baby Jesus than end-of-the-world-judging-Jesus. We’re thrilled to see cute baby Him laid in a manger, kids dressed up in costumes acting out plays, cookies, carols, and presents. I love Christmas. But if I’m willing to procrastinate on stuff I know how to do with clear deadlines, preparing for something someday without clear instructions how…let’s just sing let it snow for a northerner instead. We’re too focused on the world to face the Lord on the last day.

The thing is, when we won’t consider the end because we think it detracts from the holidays, it changes how we see Christmas too. We grumble when Christ took flesh, not so we could fight over discounted TVs when the ones we have at home work fine or tell everyone on the internet to stop posting about politics we disagree with, but to call us all sinners, then bleed for us.

But we did it last year too. The crowds gather outside of the mall annually. Each election cycle brings more of the same. Facebook reminds us of passive aggressive posts and bitter complaints that fixed nothing. We’ll do it again time around too. Worse, we like it this way. Even though we know this is an ugly world, for some reason the idea that we shouldn’t be eager to be a part of it is just appalling. We’re so uncomfortable with an end we don’t know we’d rather have the same song and dance of the misery today. See how ridiculous sin is. I’ll complain that the world is too material, but if you tell me to use all the money I’ll spend on junk people don’t need on feeding homeless, I’ll scoff. That’s for other people to do. I’m too busy ripping electronics out of the hands of senior citizens in the name of giving. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

If you’re willing to be honest about sin, about how cold it really gets in sinners hearts that would rather stand alone and freeze than see the warmth of forgiving an enemy, because for some reason we actually prefer the bitter grudges. Be honest about how measuring who’s awake by our behavior looks. It says something when we study black Friday flyers like God wishes we’d study the scriptures because you’ll be there at 5 for some blue rays, but to be here at 9:30 for bible study is nuts.

So God fires a Divine bullet straight through all of it and calls it Advent. It means God shows up. God actually and physically and truly comes to His people. He takes on human flesh, born of a virgin. He will come again on the last day to judge the living and the dead. And He shows up here too in His word and sacrament. Advent means God will not sit idly in heaven while creation looks like this. But Advent begins with the end. With the recognition that heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word will not.

That gives meaning to Christmas traditions we lean into. It shapes why we care that God would be here in body and blood for you. Whenever God shows up, it’s a recognition that some things are eternal and some things…just aren’t. From the darkness we chase away with Christmas lights to the holiday gatherings that bring so much stress. From the pains of death and the families broken by the sinners not with us or the saints who left too soon. We won’t last down here for long. Nobody stays awake forever.

Advent is a reckoning, but it’s a breath of fresh air. There is an end. Who honestly cares? This is not a scary movie and Jesus isn’t the bad guy. He’s the savior of a world that doesn’t pay attention. Of a people too sinful and sleepy. Of you.

Remember the days of Noah. Actually remember. Then begin with the end. The rainbow. The promise. The days will be as those before the flood. We eat. We drink. We marry. We live. But we know who we are. There will be two women at the mill. One will be taken and the other left, but we’re already in the ark. We’re the baptized.

That’s what this place is. The church is the ark where the faithful are kept safe until the end. The baptized find shelter here. Salvation here. The last day comes when nobody expects it, but we’re ready. We will be found holy because Advent reminds us what God’s all about when He shows up.

When God shows up, it’s about the cross. He enters creation to carry the cross to forgive you for all of it. Every bit of covetousness, disregard for your neighbor, and grudge buried deep. So when He comes again in Glory He can find something more than the mess we make. The end comes not as a threat, but a hope. A promise. An understanding that whenever God shows up it’s to give mercy to sinners. Even the ones who’d want nothing to do with Him. Nothing you can do can change that. He will end the disputes and wars and sins and deaths so absolutely that swords will be turned into plowshares. The Light of the Lord is coming soon.

And even here and now, there is light for you in a dark world of changes and spins. Here is one straight line. God comes to you. The Lord enters your space to save. The end will come when nobody expects it, but the Lord shows up here on a schedule for you. He Advents in body and blood for you to eat and drink. He makes Himself present in the ark to keep you safe. Remember where you are in dark and latter days. You’re already in the ark. Remember the rainbow. The promise. The end will come, but on that great day You’ll receive life that does not sleep the sleep of death.

stay awoke.