let not your hearts be troubled

Jesus speaks to troubled hearts. “Stop that. Let your hearts not be troubled.” It didn’t work. It’s not just you. The disciples are still anxious too. Remember where they are. Jesus isn’t talking to them on a sunny day in a scenic field. This is the great speech right before Gethsemane. Jesus is going to be arrested. Crucified. Murdered. It’s called the last supper. That’s at least a little ominous.

Sorry. It’s what we do when we can’t just believe away our troubled hearts. We hide behind jokes and memes. We hide behind anger. We hide behind vice. All of it’s easier to feel than the pain.

Troubled hearts. It’s almost a kind way of talking about the anxiety and fear and shame and guilt and worry that eat away at us bite by bite. When your heart is troubled, it hurts and it doesn’t just go away. Even Jesus can’t get you to just knock it off. And it’s easier to hide from pain behind sarcasm or anger or vice. It gives us the chance to pretend we don’t hurt.

“Believe in God; believe also in me.” We know it’s supposed to help, but honestly it doesn’t. We believe, Lord, but everything’s still pretty messed up down here. And that contrast has lead us to do some pretty weird stuff with religion. We start to connect belief with the lack of troubled hearts instead of hearing that hope is medicine for troubled hearts. We start to measure how much we believe by how troubled we feel instead of recognizing that Jesus is talking to a group of disciples who are freaking out and sinning. Religion can’t be measured by your troubled heart. Religion is for your troubled heart.

That matters because if I’m being honest the only time my heart isn’t troubled is when it doesn’t have reason to be. Lord, I’ll stop worrying when You stop giving me a reason to worry. If believing means not hurting, the only ones who really believe are the ones who have no problems of the world, no sins of the flesh, and no devil to harass them. In other words, if belief and inner peace are the same thing, the only people who believe are the ones who need nothing from God because they already have it.

It leaves us talking about Christianity in the future tense, not the present. Everything might be awful, but there will be a big house for you one day though. It’s supposed to help. It doesn’t. Because I need help now, not someday. Thomas gives words to the disciples’ anxiety. Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? I want to go to there. But I don’t think I can get from here to there anymore than I can make my troubled heart go away. The best we can do is fake it, just like we do behind the jokes and the anger and the vice. In other words, the more we keep Jesus in heaven away from our troubled hearts, the more we fall into doubt and sin, the things that threaten the very salvation He promises.

In all of it, our troubled hearts miss the point. This isn’t about what or how or when or where. It’s about who. This isn’t about what’s wrong or how to fix it or when it’s going to get better or the where Thomas begs for. It’s about who. Who is your God? Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We usually stop here, the rest gets confusing. It isn’t just a diatribe on the doctrine of the trinity. It’s Jesus pointing disciples with troubled hearts to the truth about God we’d otherwise miss. Our hearts are troubled because we try to measure God in power, not mercy. When we measure God in His power to give us what we want so our hearts won’t be troubled. We miss why He’s there in the first place.

He’s there to be merciful to sinners with troubled hearts. He’s there to bear our sin and worry and vice upon the cross. No one goes to the Father expect through me. But Jesus is not a generic coloring page of a God left for you to fill in the lines. He is not the God of politic or self improvement. He is not the God of fixing all your problems so you won’t need Him anymore. God reveals Himself in action. God shows us who He is by what He does. And Jesus came into the world not to exercise power but mercy. He came to die for sinners that we would live. To say “no one goes to the Father expect through me” is to say No one goes to the Father expect through the cross. We get to the Father only through death and resurrection. Not having no sins and no problems, but having a God that forgives our sins and works mercy and life even in the face of everything that has our hearts so troubled in the first place.

Jesus is the way to the Father. The cross and the empty tomb unite us with God. You are baptized. Not someday. Today. Now. Christ is risen! “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” How can we know the way? How can we fix our hearts? It’s not about you. It’s about to Jesus for you . Look to the empty tomb. rejoice. It’s already done. Not someday. Now.

See the love of the Father who draws you to His side. See the God who works through crosses, not sunny fields. See the God who is glorified in mercy, not just power. See the God who promises you will do works you could never do on your own. You will even rise from death. Let not your hearts be troubled. That doesn’t mean shut off worry. That doesn’t mean God will fix all your problems and that’s proof He loves you. That means even your problems and your sins cannot divorce you from the love of the Father. Your sins are forgiven you and your problems won’t keep you in the tomb. On the last day you will rise in your body free from all of them. Free from the pains of the world. Free from death and all it’s ugly symptoms. Free from the devil. Free to live. Until then, when your hearts are troubled, stop looking to what or how or when or where. It’s about who. Remember who your God is. Not someday. Today. He is the Jesus who conquered death for you. He is the way and the truth and the life, and He is the way and the truth and the life for you.

let not your hearts be troubled

Measure the sheepfold by the shepherd, not the thieves

John 10:1-10

It’s really easy to create a religion. Really, we’ve been doing it since the fall. The Norse gods promised to keep us safe from ice giants. So far so good. Muhammad claimed to take the moon from the sky, put it between his legs, then put it back into the sky so quickly nobody could see it done. He’s right. I missed it. An atheist told me this whole creation is a cosmic accident, never mind the odds of it happening are so slim that you need to imagine an infinite number of parallel universes to make the idea that this was chance seem like even a possibility. Clearly if there was such a thing as God, He’d be at our beck and call to do parlor tricks whenever we demanded it. That He doesn’t do what we tell Him is obviously proof He’s not real. Just like when my puppy won’t come when I call him, he ceases to exist. That’s how things work…sure.

I’m not advocating for these beliefs. I’m just saying by all accounts the circular reasoning stands. It’s really easy to make a religion that makes sense. The measurement of the faith is always something I’m in control of. It’s easier to trust the things you’re in charge of. The standard for my religion is what I say it is. The gods I invent clearly want to do things my way. Everyone else is wrong, and you can tell by the lack of ice giants.

The problem arises because all of your religions disagree with each other. They don’t just have different standards. They contradict. They can’t all be right if they disagree. And if you’re going all in on one of them, how do you know which one to choose?

It doesn’t help our cause that when folks look around the sheepfold, it’s a lot easier to find the robbers than the Lord. Jesus says “the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy.” That part I see. That part we can’t miss. The death. The destruction. The evil that doesn’t just persist in a world of chance where storms and plagues come and go. There’s the evils men do to each other. Sometimes even in the name of religion.

Christianity promises life and peace. It’s real honest about how things are supposed to be. How we’re supposed to behave. It’s a tougher sell when everything promised so clearly doesn’t match up with what we see, and the people who claim to represent it fail to live up to the law’s demands. At least I don’t see any ice giants. It’s dark in the fold, and when all you want to look at is the thieves, it gets darker. That might be why God tells us to look to something else.

Our Lord never contends the robbers being present. He warns us about them. Expect them. They’re actually a sign you’re in the right place. That He won’t chase them out is the cause of all kinds of frustration, but He promises something even more peculiar. He promises that God speaks, even to the sheep.

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

You have a God who actually speaks. You don’t have to wonder. His will is not hidden. It’s spoken. It’s something you can recognize. It’s the scriptures. They teach you the voice of the shepherd, and that leaves every other religion exposed for what it is. There are only two real religions in this world. There are only two voices. One says do these things, and you will be rewarded. Call it karma, a cosmic scale, or Odin’s reward. It’s the law. It paints a wonderful picture of how things are supposed to be. It does nothing to get us there. Because I may not see ice giants, but I still see death, and even if you blame it on men not appeasing the gods, it does nothing to help.

So our God speaks words of the other religion. The sheep hear the voice of our Shepherd. We hear Jesus. He preaches the gospel. The bible is not about us. It’s about Jesus for us. The whole of this speech is about Jesus. He is the shepherd. He is the door. He is the one who cares for the sheep. He leads us through the only door to salvation. He leads us from the cross to the empty tomb. And He does so by going there first.

Jesus doesn’t stand back from what’s wrong. He doesn’t demand we earn His favor to fix it. He doesn’t promise a perfect world. He promises the cross. He promises to come to the sheep. To rescue them. To carry the lost and bind up the wounded. He comes to make the dead live. He comes to bear the cross, not for the righteous, but for sinners. He came to die for you and for me. He came to be the lightning rod for everything wrong so we could finally stop pretending things were fine, blaming each other for what’s wrong, and desperately trying to fix it without success. We cast each sin and evil upon the cross where God bears them to the bitter end for us. And we hear the voice of the shepherd. It is finished. Your sins are forgiven you. Death is destroyed. And Jesus is risen from the grave.

There are plenty of thieves in the sheepfold, but the shepherd isn’t gone. Look to where He promised to be. Everyone has trouble with the Christian church because it seems like it’s easier to find the robbers than the Lord. But what if Jesus wants them there too? He dies between two of them. He dies to forgive them. The measurement of the church is not the presence of the robbers but the voice of the shepherd. He speaks from the cross, hung between sinners. Your sins are forgiven you. Christianity isn’t being better than the world. Christianity isn’t building a perfect sheepfold. It’s the Shepherd who sacrifices Himself for robbers and sheep alike. It’s the voice that death can’t silence.

Understand what the resurrection means. It is an apologetic of hope. Stand firm against the evils of the sheepfold and call them what they are. Evil that Jesus died for. Evil that raged as hard as it could and still failed to keep Jesus dead. The apologetic of Christianity is the resurrection, not wealth or success, not the sheep but the shepherd. This is a religion carried forward on the backs of martyrs not afraid to die because they saw someone prove it’s not so permanent. They died alone and afraid. They saw what the robbers and thieves could do. And they sang hymns about the shepherd while they died at the hands of the thieves. And even here, Jesus lead them through the door. From the cross to the empty tomb. He rose. They live. And that’s beautiful. And it’s something that we can still hear today. The shepherd still speaks. He sends his undershepherds. He promises them something strange enough we should be used to it by now. If you speak beautiful things, you would be as My mouth. Preach the gospel. Speak of Jesus, the door to the sheep. There will still be others. Robbers. Don’t hear them. They speak of not Jesus. But we’ll sing hymns to them no matter what, because the beauty of the sheepfold is the love and the life that’s found in it, even for sinners. Even for you.

Measure the sheepfold by the shepherd, not the thieves

Can it put Jesus back in the tomb?

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

Somewhere down the line we changed what Easter was. We never meant to, and it happened with the best of intentions, as all foolish things usually do. We wanted to build Easter up. This day matters more than any other. Paul says it’s our everything. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is in vain. If Jesus didn’t rise, we need a new religion. So we wanted to point out how important it was.

We put extra flowers here. We decorate the church. We all actually showed up for once. We even dressed up. Even the people who swore they could love Jesus just fine without ever being in His house put on their best and came to hear the good news. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia! Let’s hide eggs and make kids find them. Don’t ask questions. There’s candy in there. None of it makes the holiday, but it shows we think it’s important.

The problem comes in when all of that stuff becomes the measurement of the thing it all points to. If there are no lilies, can it really be Easter? If you don’t get to sing I know that my redeemer lives? If you can’t echo the refrain, He is risen, indeed. Alleluia? If the sanctuary is empty? If you’re wearing sweatpants and watching from your phone and everything feels wrong, is it actually Easter? We act like the things that point to Jesus rising from the dead can put Him back in the tomb if they’re taken from us by someone eating an undercooked bat.

We try to laugh it away, but the feeling lingers. The things that point to Jesus are good. When they’re missing, that’s bad. When you feel alone, that’s scary. When the world’s a scary place full of too much about today I don’t like and too much about tomorrow I don’t know, that’s paralyzing. Even when you secretly feel relieved you don’t have to put on your best, most uncomfortable, clothes and spend time with family you don’t get along with and pretend everything’s amazing when you’d rather just dig a deeper hole to hide in under the guise of self-quarantine and you’re actually more afraid of having to go back to normal than you are of the corona virus because you’d rather wear a mask made out of an old t-shirt than the one made out of a fake smile, you’re allowed to acknowledge you have problems that eggs with chocolate in them can’t fix.

But if any or all of these things are true, you’re also allowed to hear the real story of Easter. Two women go out to the tomb of their greatest hope. He was murdered in front of them, but they have to anoint his body. They’re alone. They’re afraid. They’re lost. They don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. They’d rather stay in hiding, but they have an obligation. They have to anoint the body of Jesus, even though they never even thought about how they’d move that big stone. There are no Sunday bests, crowds to sing, or eggs. But there’s no dead Jesus either.

An angel of the Lord descends from heaven, rolls back the stone, and makes a case for shorter sermons everywhere. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

Do not be afraid. Christ was crucified and He is risen. This is Easter. Every year, with or without the trappings. This is Easter. Every Sunday, with or without the extras. This is Easter. Every day, with or without the grocery list of everything wrong. Easter and the words our risen Lord echo as angelic sermons cry out, Do not be afraid. But even if you are, it’s still Easter, because Christ is still risen.

We do the whole thing backward. Easter isn’t a chance to check off a list of extra nice things to prove He’s risen. It’s a chance to grab the list of everything wrong, hold it up to the tomb, and ask a real simple question. Can anything that’s wrong today put Jesus back in the tomb? If Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is in vain. But if He is still risen, then the only vain thing left is fear.

So take the corona virus, the fear of tomorrow, the secret sins and insecurities, and the building anxiety and hold them up with all your sins against that empty tomb where Angels preached to terrified women and dare to ask, “can any of these things change the world so profoundly that they build a time machine, travel back 2000 years, and put Jesus back in the tomb?” Because if they can’t, everything’s going to be ok.

This is the Easter joy. This is the thing all the extras point to. Death itself has been destroyed. The seal of the tomb was rolled away by the angels who watch over you today. You will see your Lord again. He is here. He is for you. To bring forgiveness so real you can bathe in it in the waters of your baptism. Touch it. Taste it. Eat and drink it in body and blood. Come alone and afraid today and receive it. If you’re not ready to face the world yet, that’s fine. Hear it and know it. None of this can put Jesus back in the tomb. The risen Jesus heals, forgives, strengthens, and renews. He delivers the peace He promises in word and sacrament. He brings them through time and space just for you, so when everything feels wrong, when you feel scared and ashamed, when everything’s falling apart, we can lay it all out there and ask a simple question. Can any of this put Christ back in the tomb? Do not be afraid, because none of it can. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Can it put Jesus back in the tomb?

Communion is a gift

Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Peter actually tries to stop it. It’s super uncomfortable for everyone. Still is. It’s uncomfortable to try to avoid doing it because Jesus flat out says we should. It’s even more uncomfortable if I actually get a bowl and do it. That might be the thing it has most in common with what tonight is all about. The thing Christianity argues about so often. Communion.

It’s super uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable if we try to avoid the plain and clear words of scripture. They’re right there. But it’s even worse when we actually do what they say. This is actually the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and drink. Like…really. Jesus’ blood. Same blood that flowed down from His hands and side on the cross. For you. Drink it. Seriously. We have to admit that’s offputting. When the funny looking pastor in funny clothes holds it up and says “the peace of the Lord be with you always” he’s showing you where peace comes from. It’s not in the air. It’s not in each other. It’s in the bread that is His body.

These words “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” show us that in this sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. If you eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood your sins will be forgiven and you will have life and salvation. Not symbolically. The cardboard-tasting thing called bread and bottom shelf wine are the most precious gifts in all of creation. Eat and drink them and you’ll have everything God has to give you. It’s so hard to believe that the Holy Spirit has to do it for you.

Whether you believe it or not, though, is means is. When God speaks, stuff happens. ‘Let there be light.’ Good. ‘This is my body.’ Very good. God is actually here in church. The same God who demands holiness. So people have gotten hurt communing wrong. God doesn’t deal well with unclean. Anyone who does not believe this is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe. So we only give it to people who will benefit from it. That’s never a “no”, but sometimes it’s a “not yet”.

It still leads people to recoil. This can’t be the way it works. It’s ridiculous. It’s mean. I have a better idea. Do we really even need this? You shall never wash my feet, Lord. So we make excuses. Because the only way to fight about communion more than trying to get around what it says is to actually do it and watch everything explode. I really get Peter’s concerns. Sometimes the whole thing feels like more of a burden than a gift. We become Judas’ guilt and John’s jealousy and Peter’s Ego. the darkest things in us take over. We insist we can fix it by avoiding the problem.

But Communion is not an excuse. It’s not a burden. It’s not something we need to reason away or struggle to justify. It’s an answer. A gift. A hope given for us to cling to in the darkest of days for the worst parts of us. When we make it an excuse, a rational, we lose sight of that. Above all else, we miss the whole point. This is for sinners. This is for you, full of jealousy, guilt, shame, rage, and sin. We don’t get fixed by ignoring reality, cramming in a room for a meal and pretending everything is OK when it isn’t. We’re saved by the God who washes feet. This is what He does. Owns our humiliation, carries our shame, our guilt, and our sin. He serves us. He bears the cross for you. This is God. He is the hope and the life. This God is the forgiveness that binds and heals. He washes Judas’ guilt, John’s jealousy, and Peter’s ego. He joins them together in forgiveness. They’re bound together in this. They are the body of Christ. It’s not about who is greatest, but who eats and drinks.

Peter suddenly gets it. Lord, don’t just wash my feet. Get my hands too, and my head! He wants more. I rolled my eyes until self-quarantine. We’re so quick to take shots at Peter that we overlook the fact that Jesus doesn’t. Jesus literally called him satan when Peter asked Him not to go to the cross. When Peter just asks for more grace, the Lord doesn’t rebuke him, but simply reminds him of an identity. A promise. You’re washed, already. You’re baptized. No. You don’t get more of what you want tonight.

Peter wants more grace than what’s needed, but why’s that so bad? Why’s it so bad to feel bummed about not being able to actually be in church to take communion on the night Jesus institutes it? Of course you’re baptized. Of course you’re washed already. You’re still allowed to feel like something’s missing. You’re still allowed to want more. Faith in Jesus goes to Jesus. To actually believe He’s in that chalice bearing promises like forgiveness, life, and salvation and then not drink is a gut punch. It’s still not no, but even being told “not yet” is a struggle. We can call it what it is. A fast. A chance to reflect on what’s missing. It will do one of two things. To those who see the supper as a law, and thus a burden, not having communion is either a relief or a hurdle to overcome by our own clever works.  To those who see it as a gift of the gospel, the time away from the supper only sharpens our hunger for it.  Skip lunch and dinner always tastes good.

Recognize that fasts end. Peter got more than his hands and head washed. He ate and drank. Recognize that same promise is for you. The answer still isn’t no. Just not yet. The fast will end. And when it does, you will eat and drink too. Recognize He is truly present FOR YOU. Not just generically everywhere. But here. For you. To answer. To forgive. To save. You will get to commune again unless our Lord comes first. And when you do, it actually does something. That’s the difference between foot washing and communion.

Footwashing is a symbol. It brings to light everything ugly. Communion forgives it. It is a meal that answers every bit of baggage we drag in here, every argument, pain, burden, guilt, & sin. It becomes source of our unity, bond of our church. Chance to see each other how God sees us. We can see each other receiving grace. This is the call to wash each other’s feet. This isn’t just about showing outward humility. It’s a call to see your neighbor as someone Jesus died for. Fed and made holy. Someone loved and worth loving. That’s why He serves you, not just by washing your feet, but cleansing your soul and feeding you with His body and blood. We have a place with Him. He is about to carve it out of wood from a cross and rock from a tomb. He is about to open the gates with Holy Blood.

Today, we wait, but we are washed even now. We have His life even now. Today we wait for the heavens to come, but tonight, it’s so much ours we can almost taste it, and soon we will.

Communion is a gift

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