Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Resurrection of Our Lord – Mark 16:1-8

What just happened? Women running from an open tomb after seeing a young man dressed in white telling them not to be alarmed. Jesus isn’t there. He is in Galilee. The women run away. They were afraid, trembling with astonishment. They couldn’t speak.

Why be so joyful over such a strange account of the greatest moment in human history? That’s the mystery before us today. Saint Mark’s account of the resurrection is a strange one, at least to us. You expect Jesus to be there, either in the tomb awaiting them or outside the tomb ready to show Himself. No Jesus. No corporeal Jesus anywhere. He’s gone.

That’s the point, isn’t it? Oh, sure, you could get suckered into thinking the disciples rolled away the stone, stole the body, found another grave no one will ever find, and then the last deception is as worse as the first, just like the religious authorities told Pontius Pilate in Matthew’s Passion account.

The point here, though, is that there is no Jesus in the tomb. He’s in Galilee, just as He said He would be. No more hiding His divine nature except in the occasional disappearing act or the occasional miraculous sign. Jesus comes and goes as He pleases, first to Galilee, then into a locked room, then on the beach by the lake with breakfast ready for His disciples.

What just happened? Death has been swallowed up by victory. Death has no grip on us. Jesus has destroyed death and the power of the devil forever. The angel guarding Eden with a flaming sword has disappeared. Access to the Tree of Life is no longer blocked. Jesus dies on the tree of life to pay for your sins. Jesus rests in the tomb as your Sabbath rest. Jesus bursts forth from the tomb as the forerunner of your bursting forth from the tomb on the Last Day.

Once you were children of wrath, in slavery to sin and preparing for eternal condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection makes His Father your heavenly Father. You receive everlasting life, the joy of heaven, with all spiritual and eternal possessions promised by our Father in heaven. No more wrath. No more judgment to condemnation. No more eternal chastisement. All the Father’s wrath goes on Jesus in His death. The benefits of Christ’s death are yours in believing Jesus has covered your sin in His blood. The curse of sin is gone. You are holy and righteous in the Father’s sight. You have the right to seek and receive help from Him in every need. In hearing His Word of reconciliation, the Holy Spirit with that preached Word is a testimony that you are connected to God and He is connected to you in your Baptism.

We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song. You receive the benefits of Christ’s victory over death in this house from my hands as from Jesus Himself. Every good work that you do to save yourself means nothing to our heavenly Father. Let your good works shine before your neighbor, so that they are able to see the joy of Jesus Christ at work among them.

Instead of trying to work for your eternity, receive eternity here and make it your own by hearing His joyful forgiveness in preaching and in the Lord’s Supper. From pulpit and altar flow the antidote for a wounded conscience. Day after day Satan works to sully your conscience by flinging your sins in your face, making you think that Jesus can’t possibly cover your sin and give you a happy conscience. That’s exactly what our Savior does. Every sin is covered, dead, and buried. Your conscience is happy because Christ fills you with His joy in His house. In the end, when death arrives, you fall asleep in Christ with the certain hope of a happy reunion in the life of the world to come. Jesus has made sure you have that happy reunion because He has passed from death into life for you.

Now that Christ has triumphed over death, now that your conscience is again clean and happy, you are able to open your lips and lives to rejoice in the resurrection. When you are saddled with unbelief and Satan’s siren calls of false security, flee to the Scriptures. Be cloaked in the joy that sets you free in the Living Word. Call on Christ with confidence. You have unfettered access to your heavenly Father Who is all ears to your requests. That is what Jesus means by seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Stay close to Jesus where He is found in preaching and the Sacraments. Rejoice in your baptism. Eat His Body. Drink His Blood. Sing hymns. Speak the Psalms. Tell Satan to take a hike, for he has nothing on you because of Jesus.

What just happened? The greatest HEY, WATCH THIS! moment ever. God has saved His people once again, this time not in an ark or passing through the Red Sea on dry ground or sparing Isaac from Abraham’s knife or by a fourth man in a fiery furnace or by lions who won’t eat Daniel. God has saved His people in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. He turns your wailing into dancing. He destroys death. He gives life. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He alone is your hope for eternity.

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An Apology for The Easter Vigil

I didn’t attend an Easter Vigil, let alone know what one was, until I was in college. My pastor at the time started the tradition on the night before Easter not long after he came to my home congregation. Once I saw it, and once he let me participate in it by taking some of the readings and liturgical parts, especially as I was discerning whether or not to be a pastor, I fell in love with the service. It has become a part of my life ever since. When the congregation I once served did not have a Vigil (I was hesitant to start one there as I wished to abide by their customs and traditions), I tried to attend one near where I served when I was able. When I came to Momence, I was happy to hear the Easter Vigil had been introduced here and was celebrated.

The Easter Vigil is a relative newcomer to Missouri Synod Lutheran customs. Much like the Roman Catholic or Anglican counterpart, the service has multiple parts. The kindling of the new fire calls to mind new beginnings, a new hope for Christ’s faithful. The Exsultet sets the tone for the evening: REJOICE! Twelve readings from Scripture showing how God delivers His people may be read. We choose a shorter option and use six of the twelve, always beginning with creation and ending with the three men in the fiery furnace. The Benedicite, Omnia Opera is sung, followed by a renewal of baptismal vows. Here is where baptisms and even confirmations can take place if there are any. My predecessor here did confirmation at the Easter Vigil; an appropriate place for it. Then comes the litany of the resurrection and the first thunderous proclamation of “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” as the faithful respond, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” The bells are rung for the first time since Maundy Thursday and the Gloria in Excelsis resounds in the church building. The collect and the reading of Mark’s account of the resurrection follow. A short sermon may then be preached. I use St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal homily every year. It’s short and to the point; a beautiful homily. Then comes the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Suddenly, everything becomes “normal”, so to speak, as the special liturgy of the day gives way to what is often heard among us in the Communion liturgy. The benediction is sung. We go home ready for the Feast of Feasts in the morning.

I understand why many pastors and/or congregations don’t celebrate the Vigil. I’ve heard the reasons. “No one will come.” “I need a day of rest before Easter.” “It’s too Catholic.” “That’s not our custom here.” “We’ve never done it before.” Why not give it a shot next year? If that’s not possible, why not attend a congregation that offers a Vigil? Some congregations do the Vigil differently than others. Whatever way a congregation does it, try to attend one sometime. It’s perhaps the most moving service of the church calendar. Once you’ve gone, it might become habit forming.

You’re welcome to Our Savior Lutheran Church in Momence, IL for our Vigil this Saturday at 6:00 P.M.

Good Friday – John 18:1-19:42

Based on a meditation on the crucifix by The Rev. Dr. Kenneth F. Korby.

We are heirs of a long and noble tradition among Christians of meditating on the crucifix. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the learned monk of the 12th century, wrote a series of poems for such meditation. Blessed Martin Luther invited people to use the crucifix or a picture of Jesus crucified as an aid for their meditation. Paul Gerhardt, the great Lutheran hymnist adapted some of Bernard’s stanzas for the Lenten hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”.

The point in meditation is neither to evoke pity for Jesus nor to strive in some physical and emotional way to “imitate” Jesus. Meditation is for nurturing the life of faith, training in the fear and love of God, turning to Him in the life of repentance. We learn to weep for ourselves, not for Jesus. We renew our clinging to Jesus for cleansing, sustenance, and preservation in the faith to our end.

Meditation is thinking with the heart and loving with the mind. It is to practice the discipline of listening to God tell us in His Word how He overcame His wrath by His mercy in the suffering and death of His beloved Son.

Meditation feeds awe and adoration. Perhaps you have seen a child, or you may have been that child, who sat with gaze fixed on father or mother; full of wonder at the strength or skill or presence of the father or mother. Or you might have seen, or been, the beloved who looked at the lover with eyes of wonder and delight, with fullness and contentment. Being in and seeing this presence satisfied the longing and increased the longing.

Such is the art of meditating on the crucifix. The cross on which our Lord hung for us is the hinge on which swings death and life. He is the wide-open door into the presence of the grace and glory of God, the Gate of Righteousness through which the righteous enter.

Let us consider our Lord’s death by meditating on the crucifix while recalling the words we sung in the hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”.

In Christ’s Head we have the thought of God toward us. Despite what we think, God’s thoughts are of good and not evil. Jesus did not think His rank and position with God were the things to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself and became of no reputation. He humbled Himself and became a servant. As a servant He thought to save our lives, not His own. He thought of our interests, not His. He aimed to please and serve His Father, doing the Father’s will for us.

The face is the face of our Lamb. His eyes and face, turned toward you, are God’s sure invitation to come to Him. Come back. Come back to life Himself. And in the final judgment, Whose face shall we see on the judgment seat? It is His face. The One Who sentences us is the One Who has bought us to be His own. He is the One Who has paid the price and is even now interceding for us. Turn frequently, then to that face in your meditation, and see there the glory of the knowledge of salvation from God to you.

The meditation turns to live in the exchange that Jesus made: He takes our sin; we receive His righteousness. You honor Him most when upon seeing the enormity of that burden, you let Him have it. You do not try to cling to the burden. The confession is this: “It is my sin you carried; the wrath that is rightfully mine, you absorbed. Have mercy on me, dear Jesus, the sinner. Do not spurn me.” Such clinging to Jesus the Shepherd is your safety. He is the guardian. From His lips and mouth come words of nurture and joy. The pity we seek and live on is not our own, generated for Him. The pity we feast on is the pity of God, the mercy of God toward us in Jesus.

The journey back to God is a long way. It is from the far country of death. Weariness and fatigue beset many Christians. In the course of that pilgrimage, the love of many grows cold. The imperishable love of Jesus for you – to the bitter end – is a flame at which you ignite ever anew the flame of love for Him. Such love for Him is not the attempt to achieve a certain “feelingful” emotion. Such love for Him is to look to Him, hold to Him, cling to Him, learn from Him, and walk with your feet shod in the Gospel of His peace. The journey back to God is a walk into the valley of death. The shadow of that valley accompanies us long before we arrive at the final moment.

Soul and body languish. Weariness not only besets us at times, but the presence of death, the shadow of the valley of death is death at the door. Whether the languishing comes in the form of the death of dreams, starvation of hopes, neglects of tending to the inward needs, vexations with work, troubles with children or parents or spouses, or the mere fatigue from a long sacrifice, the call to the Savior in His anguish is to conquer ours.

The last stanza of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” is a classic meditation for the hour of death. I commend it to you to learn by heart. It is said of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux that when he was dying, the monks stood around his bed praising him for the fine work he had done. He shushed them and told them to hold a crucifix before his eyes. In death, remind me of Your Passion, O Jesus, my Consolation! My eyes shall then be on you and on your cross. By faith my heart shall then enfold you.

Behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the world. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. By Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Maundy Thursday – John 13:1-15

There is palpable fear in the Upper Room. Jesus’ disciples, though having been told the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of His own people in order to suffer and die for the sins of the world, are mystified why the Master laid aside His outer garments. He took a towel, tied it around his waist, poured water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples’ feet and wipe them with the towel wrapped around His waist. Peter vocalizes what they are thinking. Lord, do you wash my feet?

We could look at this another way. The Savior Who comes among His people as One Who serves is doing what a servant does. This act does not befit the Son of God. Yet He does it. He washes His disciples’ feet because He loves them. John tells us so. He loved His own who were in the world. He loved them to the end. He is willing to do this for them to show them how much He loves them and, in turn, how much they should love others when they proclaim His death and resurrection to the ends of the earth.

How so like our Savior. How so unlike how we think our Savior should be. Why not a lecture on being nice to others? A rabbi is a teacher. Jesus should be teaching not so much with actions but with words. Yet actions speak louder than words. If you think this is something, watch what Jesus does after He washes His disciples’ feet.

Though John is the only evangelist who does not write Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, Saint Paul picks up the slack in tonight’s Epistle. He says that he received from the Lord what I also delivered to you. Another way of putting it is that Paul traditions what was traditioned to him. Even though he wasn’t there that night when our Lord was betrayed, he was taught the apostolic doctrine of eating and drinking the Lord’s true Body and true Blood as He bids us do in His own testament. Paul is, as it were, telling his hearers about the last will and testament of Jesus Christ.

The last will and testament of Jesus Christ are the words This is my body…this is my blood…do this as often as you do this in remembrance of me. Paul also adds as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. When we think of wills and testaments, we don’t often think of them as joyful documents. When they are read, we don’t often associate them with happy times. After all, we are still mourning the loss of a loved one. Perhaps it’s more relief that we feel than anything. Our loved one’s earthly possessions are distributed as he or she desired in a legal and binding document.

Jesus gives us more than relief in His last will and testament. He gives us forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. That’s love. That’s joy. Jesus meets us here with joy every time we eat His body and drink His blood. He loves us to the end. He’s willing to be a servant all the way from His birth to His death and even to His resurrection from the dead.

We’ve been taught since our youth the solemnity of the Lord’s Supper. That’s not a bad thing to teach. What happens at this altar and this rail is indeed a solemn thing. We take the distribution of the Supper very seriously. It is a Supper for sinners who are repentant. We seek a good conscience. Jesus gives us a good conscience in this concentrated Gospel. He puts the joy of forgiveness and life right in our mouth. You can’t get any closer to Christ this side of Paradise than His Body and His Blood in your mouth.

It’s awkward to eat and drink bread and wine that are shown for us to be Christ’s true Body and true Blood. It’s awkward to think our Savior would stoop so low to do this for us. After all, we’re sinners. Why should He serve us? We should be the ones serving Him. We have it the wrong way. Jesus serves sinners. That’s what He does. He takes care of our sin and death, giving us His life, His holiness, and His joy. He loved us to the end. He didn’t go to His death with drudgery. That’s why, yes, it is a solemn Sacrament.

It is also a joyful thing to eat and drink Christ’s Body and Blood. As we sang in the Chief Hymn: “No greater love than this to Thee could bind us/May this feast thereof remind us.” This feast is more than a mere reminder, though. This feast is the giving of Jesus’ last will and testament for you for the forgiveness of sins. Your baptism incorporates you into His life, death, and resurrection. You eat and drink His forgiveness, showing forth that Christ died for you, a sinner. Christ’s victory over death for you makes you a saint, a holy one. Christ gives holy things to His holy ones for their good because He loves you. He gives you a share of His joy tonight and every time you eat and drink the Sacrament.

The “Maundy” of Maundy Thursday is the mandate. Christ’s mandate is love. He loves you. As He loves you, so you love others in His love. You become His joybringers wherever He puts you in life. All that you do, even the most menial tasks, are bringing His joy to your neighbor.

The hour has come again for the Son of Man to be betrayed. Hey, watch this! Perfect love casts out fear. Jesus brings you joy in His suffering, for He loves you to the end.

Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm Sunday) – Matthew 26:1-27:66

This sermon is revised from an idea by The Rev. Ken Behnken. Soli Deo Gloria!

Though Judas’ kiss set events into motion, it was God’s saving plan that was being carried out. Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, places Himself into the hands of His enemies as the Suffering Servant on Whom the Lord would lay the iniquity of us all. Our Lord tells His disciples, no one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.

What Judas did looked innocent enough. Jesus, however, sees through it. He wanted Judas to reckon with what he was doing, regardless of the outcome. Even at that dramatic moment our Lord reached out to Judas with a call to repentance and faithfulness: Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Judas’ kiss is a kiss of pretended piety. Many confess Jesus as Lord yet believe and live as if they don’t know who Jesus is or what He has done for them. Even you give Christ a kiss of pretended piety. The same lips that confess Christ as conqueror of sin and death also claim any number of idols when Christ is not convenient due to friends, family, job, or other circumstances.

The kiss of pretended piety fools no one, especially Jesus. Our Lord says let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. The Light of Christ dwells among you by virtue of your baptism. The Word of reconciliation and new life in Christ is poured over you with water and our Lord’s mandate. The good work begun in you continues by His grace in believing Jesus has wetly robed you in His perfect righteousness. Robed in His righteousness, you, as it were, kiss others in opening your hands, heart, and life to show God’s love in Christ where God puts you to serve others.

Judas’ kiss is also a kiss of religiosity. The chief priests, scribes, and religious authorities expected Jesus to kowtow to their agenda. They demanded signs and wonders, but only to meet their expectations. Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, preached Good News to the poor, and raised the dead. Yet those Messianic signs and wonders performed to help others were not what the authorities expected. Jesus was a threat to them. Threats must be quashed before they become trouble.

You, like Judas, give Jesus a kiss of religiosity. Oh, yes, I’m a faithful follower of Christ. Oh, yes, when those church doors are open I am there. Oh, yes, I get involved more than anyone else. When those sentiments become more important than receiving the forgiveness of sins and rejoicing in the gifts Jesus gives His Church in preaching and the Sacraments, then the idol factory that is the human heart has pumped out another false god. Jesus reminds you the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Trust not in what you do for Jesus. Trust Jesus. Trust He has done everything necessary for you to live with Him for all eternity. From that simple trust in Christ flows every sort of good work that is intended not so much for the Lord, but for your neighbor, the “little Christ” in your life who sees the good that you do as God Himself providing good for them.

Judas’ kiss is also a kiss of indifference and apathy. Hey, at least Judas kissed Him. Isn’t that enough? Hey, Pastor, at least I get to church more than so-and-so who is here on the high holy days. Oh, Pastor, I have some really nice gospel music CDs that I bought a while back. That’s my church. All you people care about at that church is money and time. I don’t need to be seen with that bunch. Even pastors get caught up in apathy and indifference. Why bother doing the work for a sermon or a bible study when so few people will hear them? Maybe my gifts will be better utilized elsewhere.

All these rotten kisses paint an ugly picture of sin and death among Christ’s beloved sheep. Now is the time to see things as they are. Many Sundays we hear the familiar words, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Judas’ opportunity to repent and believe the Good News came and went. The authorities didn’t help as they told Judas to see to the matter himself. He did. He went and hanged himself.

There’s no need to hang yourself or even hang your head in shame. The worst of sinners have their sins covered in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Hear it again: Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Though Judas’ kiss set events into motion, it was God’s saving plan that was being carried out. Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, places Himself into the hands of His enemies as the Suffering Servant on Whom the Lord would lay the iniquity of us all. The kiss of death Judas plants on Jesus is, for us, the kiss of life, for Jesus gives life in His sacrifice for our sin and His resurrection from the dead.

Fifth Sunday in Lent – John 8:46-59

Jesus spends quite a bit of time in John chapter eight showing the Jews who questioned Him that there is no difference between the faith of Abraham and the faith of New Testament Christians. Yet Christ’s own people have no joy in believing the long promised Messiah Who stands before them is the One Whom Abraham trusted for His salvation.

Jesus says Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. Abraham saw it when the Lord God said to him I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The Lord God also said Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. Just after today’s Old Testament reading concludes God says to Abraham in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice. Saint Paul confirms these words in Romans chapter four: That is why [the promise] depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

How could the Jews disputing with Christ be so blind and deaf not to know the Scriptures or believe what they say concerning righteousness before God by faith in the Promise of the Savior? Jesus’ answer right before today’s Gospel reading begins makes it clear why. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

That’s harsh. It’s also the truth. Either you are with God in trusting His promise of salvation in Christ Jesus or you are against him and take your stand with Satan. There’s no middle ground. The middle ground, though, seems to be the safest place to stand. It’s a place to hedge your bet. What if Jesus is right? I can sprint to His side. What if all those promises made to Abraham are empty words? I can sprint away and find safety elsewhere.

Outside of Christ there is no safety. You can’t say you’re a child of Abraham simply because of your blood line or because of your nationality. Being a citizen of the United States of America doesn’t guarantee your place in heaven. Being German or Danish or Irish or Jewish means nothing if you don’t trust Jesus as your Savior from eternal death. Saint Paul makes it plain in Romans chapter nine: not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

All who cling to Christ as their hope for everlasting life are children of Abraham. This happy message creates joyful hearts and soothes troubled consciences. Think of the many Scripture verses that bring you comfort. Most, if not all, are pure good news that declares your sins covered in Jesus’ blood and Satan’s head stomped in our Savior’s resurrection.

Think of the many hymns we sing in church. Today’s Chief Hymn, for example, a hymn usually sung around Holy Week, brings us great comfort. “Fulfilled is all that David told in sure prophetic song of old, that God the nations’ king should be and reign in triumph from the tree. On whose hard arms, so widely flung, the weight of this world’s ransom hung, the price of humankind to pay and spoil the spoiler of the prey.”

The burden of every sin of every human being who has ever lived, or will live, goes on Jesus Christ, the innocent Lamb of God. That message is all over the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and psalms. That promise weaves through the history of the Israelites and later the tribe of Judah. Even in exile in Babylon God promises ransom not only from the Babylonians but from their sin. How can you not rejoice in the promises God makes in Scripture! How can you not feel sorry for those who seek to discredit Jesus by calling Him a Samaritan and possessed by a demon.

Jesus leaves them, and us, with a HEY WATCH THIS moment. As the young people say, He drops the microphone by telling them before Abraham was, I am. Behold the Son of God, Messiah Himself, telling His own people He is the God-Man long promised to them. Yet they picked up stones to throw at him. Jesus’ hour had not yet come to be handed into their hands. That time comes soon. For now, Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. We can only shake our heads at their impudence.

What about our own impudence? What about all the times we have shook our heads at what the Scriptures say about how God saves us? He doesn’t give us any opportunity to help him out. It’s so easy to distort the clear teaching of the Scriptures to make them say what we want it to say. What it says, however, is that the Scriptures cannot be broken. That is why the Church has seen fit to put this reading so close to Good Friday and Resurrection Day. You must hear how Jesus deals with those who will not hear what the Scriptures say about Him and what He comes to do for you.

You must hear the Living Word willingly lay down His life for your sake and pick it back up again so that you have life with Him. He doesn’t need your help. He doesn’t give you half credit or even leaves part of the job in your hands. He puts the Word of life in your ear and makes a stony heart into a heart of flesh. He works repentance. He declares your sin forgiven. You’re covered. You’re baptized. You cling to Jesus’ cross alone, for there all your debt is paid. You rejoice in the empty tomb, for there you see your future: your empty grave.

Abraham’s bosom isn’t a bad place to be. You’re there with Lazarus because of Jesus. The promise is for you, O child of Abraham. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

Third Sunday in Lent – Luke 11:14-28

Nobody likes to get their hind end kicked. The kind way to say it is “attitude adjustment”. It’s painful when it happens, but you’ll often appreciate it in the long run. A pastor once gave me an attitude adjustment privately after some unfortunate comments I made publicly. He reminded me it’s never good to act that way in front of people. The point was sharp, but the words were kind. I got my hiney kicked and good. It was a necessary attitude adjustment.

The Church carries on the attitude adjustment Jesus Christ begins. Only a fool would say that Jesus casts out demons by the prince of demons. Only a fool would demand a sign from heaven after seeing the sign of a demon being cast out. Jesus has the opportunity here to use, so to speak, the nuclear option and let them have it. He takes a different approach. He reminds them the kingdom of God has come upon you. The kingdom of God has come upon you, too, when Jesus continues to kick Satan’s hind end in His Church. This attitude adjustment is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.

What comfort we have in believing Jesus Christ has taken care of death forever in His death and in His resurrection! Yet so many despise it. People despise it in gross ways like speaking against the Christian faith every opportunity they have. People also despise it in fine ways like neglecting God’s gifts in ways that seem appropriate.

We think sometimes we’re not worthy of receiving the Lord’s Supper. Yet Jesus provides His Supper for the sake of penitent sinners crying for mercy. We also think it not wise to hear a sermon because the sermon hits too close to home or because the sermon doesn’t attack the pet sins of others. Yet there’s the sermon, the Word proclaimed in the ear that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.

An easy card to play is the control card. Perhaps it is best that the Church only preaches sermons to those who show some sort of sign that they believe Jesus is Lord. If there are any doubters among us, well, they need to leave until the sermon is over. In fact, let’s cast every doubter out of the congregation. If that was the case, then church pews would constantly be empty.

Another form of control is to be so afraid that God’s people will be profligate with the forgiveness won for them by the blood of Jesus that the Church needs to temper the Gospel. Christ died for you, but only if you voted for all anti-abortion candidates in the last election. Jesus loves only those who tithe. Stop cussing and Jesus will smile. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate helping around the house, and make sure others know you told your spouse, so that others will get in line and God will love them even more.

Follow the idol of control and you’ll see there’s another false god lurking behind it: fear. That’s what drives the foolish comments of those who bad mouth Jesus. They are afraid. Perhaps they wonder if Jesus will put them out of business. How quickly they forget that Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, not wipe it out. Their zeal for their fathers is misplaced zeal. They forget Jesus is the One Whom their fathers taught, waited for, and sung about for all these years.

The Son of God is in their midst and they are afraid. So are we. He comes with an attitude adjustment, but not one that brings embarrassment or humiliation. He comes to bring His people an attitude adjustment from death to life. He brings this attitude adjustment by kicking Satan’s hind end over and over again in His holy Church.

Jesus is not a Savior Who enacts control and fear in His Church. He sets His Church free by taking care of their greatest need: salvation. No longer do we wonder whether or not we will be good enough for our heavenly Father. In Christ, in His blood, and in His perfect righteousness we are more than good enough. We are perfect. We are holy. There are no strings attached. We have something, forgiveness and life, given freely to us at the cost of the blood of Jesus Christ. The shedding of the blood of bulls and goats foreshadows the shedding of the Lamb of God’s blood.

Satan can’t stand the blood of Jesus that covers you. That is why he works night and day to get you not to believe that you are covered in Christ’s blood. Who wants to be covered in blood? Do you want to look like you’re in some sort of gory horror movie? Eew! Blood! You look better when you’re not dressed in dripping crimson life fluid. So Satan lies to you. You look so good in the blood of Jesus. You look perfect. His blood and His baptismal water is the best-looking garment you can wear before our heavenly Father. Without it you’re nothing. You’re dead. Eternally dead. With it, you live. It is an attitude adjustment that does you good and never evil.

Satan doesn’t quit there. He brings seven other spirits more evil than itself. He wants an empty house, void of the promises of God, so he can dwell there in security. He wants a dull sword of the Spirit. He loves a dusty Bible. He can work with those who see the Christian faith as a side hustle.

Take seriously the words spoken by our Savior today: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it! What does it mean to keep the Word of God? The thrust of the verb “to keep” is to treasure it, to hold it sacred, gladly to hear and learn it. The way of control and fear is never to speak it unless you think someone is really worthy of hearing it. Another way is to speak it but make that Word not so much a gift but an obligation that must be earned or deserved. That is not the way of the Word of God.

The way of the Word is a giving way that gives regular hiney kickings to Satan. It is a way of vigilance in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving that extends from this church building into the world. It looks like you living in your baptismal grace, remembering friends, family, and even enemies in prayer. It looks like you taking courage in Christ, commending both good and evil to His care. It looks like you remaining connected to Him in hearing Gospel preaching, receiving forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper, singing sturdy hymns, and caring for your neighbor in his or her need.

HEY, WATCH THIS! Jesus kicks Satan’s hind end at Calvary and at the empty tomb. He still kicks Satan’s hind end today in the continuing work of His Church. He focuses our eyes upon Himself enthroned in the heavens; the One Who provides mercy by plucking our feet out of Satan’s net. Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You.

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