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18 Apr. 2014 - Matt. 27:45-50 - Good Friday

The King Rejected

Good Friday, 18 April 2014.  

Rev. Bruce Skelton, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado ☩ www.hclchr.org


nullA man was out walking on a mountain trail late one evening and he stumbled and fell off a cliff. On the way down, he fell into a tree protruding from the rock face and managed to grab a branch, and there he was, suspended in mid air with only the branch he believed preserving him from certain death.

He proceeded to cry out for help and after a while a friend of his who came out to look for him saw his predicament, but he noticed that there was a rock ledge about five feet below his dangling friend’s feet and that he would be fine if he just let go of the branch.

“Help! Help! Is there anyone up there?” cried the guy clinging to the tree.

His friend responded in a deep voice, “Yes.”

The man looked up but, couldn’t see anyone, and said, “Who is it?”

The friend replied, “This is God.”

The man hesitated for a moment then asked, “Can you help me?”

“Yes,” the God-like voice replied; “Let go of the branch and you’ll be okay.”

The man was silent for a minute, and then he called out, “Is there anyone else up there?”

One can easily imagine that same question on the lips of the Israelites in Egypt. Even though God considered them His “firstborn son” as he says in Exodus 4:22, it often must have seemed to them that that they were no more privileged than orphans. They had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years and they were living under a cruel tyrant who was doing his best to make their lives a living hell. So there they were living in that strange land of Egypt, where people did strange things like worshipping nature or the environment—otherwise known as the sun-god, Re. And the Egyptians also worshipped their political leader—otherwise known as Pharaoh, the King of Egypt. It was his strange and evil mind that came up with a dastardly “final solution” to the Israelite problem in his land, which was to drown all their baby boys.

Yet, in spite of how it may have seemed, the children of Israel were not forsaken. They were not orphans; they were God’s special and beloved children. Although they would often turn their backs on Him, the Lord would never forsake them. So he would send them a boy. A boy would be born to them who wouldn’t go under. His name was Moses, whose name means, “drawn out of water.” The water was supposed to be a tomb for him, but God made it a womb from which He would draw out for Israel a deliverer, a savior, who would take it to that hellish Pharaoh and his gods with ten plagues.

Plagues such as the ninth one, when God spread that pitch-black darkness over Egypt for three days. It was a darkness that could be felt in one’s bones. A darkness that immobilized them so completely that no one even got out of their beds for three days. But in the midst of that hellish darkness, God’s firstborn son, Israel, had light.

Or a plague such as the tenth and final one, where every firstborn in the land of Egypt was marked to die—even Pharaoh’s son, the Prince, whom they also worshiped. But God did not forsake His firstborn, Israel. He told them to lift up a hyssop branch filled with lamb’s blood and paint their doorposts. God would look at the blood and pass over that house, sparing the first born of the Israelites. Out of the darkness of that night came the loudest cry that’s ever been heard as Pharaoh and the Egyptians were forsaken by their false gods. Meanwhile, God gave His firstborn freedom from their slavery and put them on the road to the promised land.

But those Israelites aren’t the only ones in Holy Writ to be given such an exalted and privileged title as God’s “firstborn.” We bear that exalted title as well. In fact, on this holy night the Holy Spirit has gathered you here together to be—as it says in Hebrews, God’s “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (12:23).

To our shame, we, too, have been unfaithful firstborns. We, too, have turned our backs on the Lord and His Word. We, too, have not trusted in His promised care and lived as though we are orphans in this world. And time and again, we, too, have forsaken Him for substitute gods. Perhaps we don’t crassly worship the sun like the Egyptians did, but we live as though a flush bank account would be the sunshine of our lives. Perhaps we don’t bow down to our political leaders like the Egyptians did, but we do bow down to whoever or whatever we think will bring us popularity and “success.” Joshua’s threat to firstborn Israel is a threat for us as well: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good” (Joshua 24:20). Beloved we need to hear that threat and by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, repent or turn away from our sin which would destroy us and surely as the plagues ravaged those ancient Egyptians.

But then, let us consider tonight’s reading from the Passion according to St. Matthew, and rejoice. For the Spirit has gathered us here this night to hear not only how God follows through on His threats, but his gracious promises as well. At the cross on calvary we see the plagues being replayed. There’s the ninth one again. But this time it’s not three days of darkness in Egypt, but three hours of darkness throughout the whole world. This time there was no special area of light anywhere, but the darkness was total and complete.

And then there’s the tenth one. But this time it wouldn’t be a wicked king’s firstborn son who would die. It would be God’s innocent, faithful firstborn Son, Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of Lords, given to bear all of mankind’s sin and opposition to God and be struck down in our place. This time would have no blood-marked door to spare God’s firstborn, for Jesus came to be the perfect Passover lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he would be the blood-marked door that would eternally save unfaithful firstborns like us.

This time there would be no loud cry of sorrow from Egyptian lips, but a loud cry of victory, as God’s faithful firstborn, Jesus, suffers the hopelessness and darkness of hell in man’s place, completes salvation, and yields up His Spirit, the same Spirit one that brings sinners freedom and escape from God’s just anger.

With the words: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” we hear how God follows through on His threat. His firstborn Son is damned and forsaken, so that sinners like us might be saved and embraced by God’s love and mercy.  In Psalm 89 it is written “I will make Him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth,” but for that to happen God’s king not only had to be lifted high on a cross, He had to be lifted out of the three-day darkness of His grave in the resurrection and ascend into heaven where he would be enthroned at God’s right hand, so that we might live and reign with Him forever.

There He is, the “firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” as St. John writes in his book of Revelation. The one who rules for the sake of His harassed and suffering assembly called the Church. Unlike Israel, and us, Jesus was and is, the faithful firstborn. Note how He dies in perfect control. He dies voluntarily, for His desire is to do the will of His Father.

And what an example He is for our faith. We hear Him cry, “My God, My God,” even though there is no earthly evidence that God hears or is interested. But in the midst of his horrific anguish and suffering, He doesn’t turn His back on His Father; He still addresses God with the personal, “My.” This is the same faith that has been given to us in our Baptism, whereby God names us “My child” and the reason why God looks upon us with favor.

In order to save His firstborn Israel, a deliverer was “drawn out of water.” But on this Good Friday, we see how God delivered the world. God was pleased for our sake to immerse His firstborn Son into the sea of our sin and death, that we might be drawn out of the baptismal font, forgiven and alive with God’s Spirit, which continues to perfectly vivify us and all who would beleive.

To save Israel in Egypt, a hyssop branch had to be daubed in blood and lifted up to mark the doors. But on this Good Friday, we see a hyssop branch (Matthew calls it a “reed”) with sour wine being lifted to the lips of, Jesus, the One whose blood marks us as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and opens the doors of heaven to us. As I contemplated this, I couldn’t help but remember a story I read a number of years ago and that I would like to share with you this evening.

On February 16, 1989 the lives of George and Vera Bajenksi of Ontario, Canada were changed forever. It was a very normal Thursday morning. The phone rang at 9:15 a.m. There was an accident involving their son Ben. As they approached the intersection near the high school, they could see the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance units. Vera noticed a photographer and followed the direction of his camera lens to the largest pool of blood she had ever seen. All she could say was, "George, Ben went home--home to be with his Heavenly Father!"

Her first reaction was to jump out of the car, somehow collect the blood and put it back into her son. "That blood, for me, at that moment, became the most precious thing in the world because it was life. It was life-giving blood and it belonged in my son, my only son, the one I loved so much." The road was dirty and the blood just didn't belong there.

George noticed that cars were driving right through the intersection--right through the pool of blood. His heart was smitten. He wanted to cover the blood with his coat and cry, "You will not drive over the blood of my son!" Then Vera understood for the first time in her life, one of God's greatest truths...why blood? Because it was the strongest language God could have used. It was the most precious thing He could give--the highest price He could pay. Through God's amazing love we were redeemed with the precious blood of His Son.

And that, of course, is what this day, Good Friday is all about.

Pharaoh’s “final solution” to kill all the Israelite baby boys was no “solution” at all. It was pure evil. But on this Good Friday, we are again reminded of God’s “final solution” to end the reign of evil, that is of sin, death, and the devil through the death of His only begotten Son our Crucified King, Jesus. May God grant we ever believe it. In Jesus Name. Amen.


 

17 Apr. 2014 - Mat 26:17-30 - Maundy Thursday

The King's Feast 

Maundy Thursday, 17 April 2014.  

Rev. Bruce Skelton, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado ☩ www.hclchr.org


nullGod is the Great Storyteller. He simply loves to tell stories, and one of His favorites is the account of the Passover. And not only does God love to tell this story, but he loves His people to hear it. In fact, if you take a close look at the Passover meal what you will notice that it is a storytelling session. The youngest child present is to ask, “What makes this night different from all other nights?” And then comes the story, a story so good that no child ever says, “Get to the good part,” because it is all good.

There is the part about the bread. God’s people had to eat unleavened bread, because they didn’t have time to wait around for it to rise. There is the part about the dish with bitter herbs, reminding them of God’s delivering them from the bitterness and misery of being slaves in Egypt. There is the part about them eating it in haste, with their belts tightened and sandals on their feet and a staff in their hand, because they had to be ready to follow their Shepherd Moses.

But it gets even better. There is the part about selecting the lamb. They were not to eat it raw or boil it; they were to eat it roasted with no leftovers. But the best part is what they did with the lamb’s blood. They took hyssop branches and painted the blood on their doorposts, so that the angel of death would Passover them and save their firstborns from death. The Lambs blood was God’s mark upon them that would save them. 

But it get’s even better they would hear about what happened to the bad guy in the story, the evil king, the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh. The enemy of God’s people who hardened his heart and opposed God. He was the one who made life miserable for God’s people by enslaving them and making them drown their baby boys, and using them for His own glory.

And then comes the really good part, where God fought for His oppressed people and struck down the firstborn of that evil king and all the Egyptians, while the Israelites made their getaway. “I’ll catch them; I’ll pursue them; I’ll overtake them,” that evil king thought. But he was going down.

God blew open a path in the midst of the sea for His people and they went through on dry ground. But God brought back the water and drowned the evil king and His army in the depths of the sea, thus saving God’s people. All that was left was for them to do was to sing praies to their God and dance, for He had given them complete and total victory.

But as good as that story is, it was not the end, it was only a prequel of a better story yet to come. The story we read a portion of in our Gospel reading for tonight.  You see, there were even bigger enemies for God to fight, one was more cruel, more hateful, and more evil than Pharaoh could ever be, whose name is Satan, and there was death, the final enemy of man, and of course sin which continues to plague all mankind.

And so, in the fullness of time, the Great Storyteller took on flesh, and on this holy night begins to bring the meal and the story of Passover to its fulfillment. If you thought the first Passover was the night of nights, this night is even better. This night, Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday night the Holy Spirit has gathered us to hear what Jesus did to ensure a happy ending to our story as well. For on this Passover, He was going to go forth to fight for sinners like us.

Jesus celebrates the Passover with the Twelve and he is in complete control of the situation. He is not caught by surprise. Fittingly, tonight’s account even began with a question: “Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” The great Storyteller, of course came not only to speak but also to accomplish something. He was not making it up as He went along. He knew exactly what was going to happen. He had already arranged for the Upper Room to be ready and, as He said, it was His time.

Like the old story, the bitter herbs were there; Judas dipped his hand in. We know the unleavened bread was there, and the cup of blessing was there. The lamb was there, but where was the bad guy? Where’s the evil king who’s going to be brought down?

Certainly if anyone deserved to be struck down in this account, it’s Judas, that greedy, hardened betrayer, that tool of the devil, but Jesus loved him and even warns him, but he also spoke tenderly to him, calling him “friend.” If God struck Judas down He should certainly strike us down too. Haven’t we, too, been money hungry? Haven’t we too let greed have dominion in our hearts? Let us consider how our own deceit, our own lies, our own calloused hearts, our own betrayed confidences have offended God. God would be perfectly justified in going after us and demanding our blood.

But now we get to the really good part. God doesn’t go after sinners like Judas or you or me. In a plot twist that no one could ever have never thought up, God the Father instead chooses to execute His justice upon His own Son, the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, Jesus. He goes after Him because it is His blood and His blood alone that can make full payment for our sin. Jesus is not only the good guy, He’s the perfect guy. He was nothing like evil Pharaoh. His heart was never calloused against God’s Word. He loved the Father’s will and cherished it. But the Father’s will was to save sinners through the sheding of His holy blood.

In his book Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.

"Would you give your blood to your sister Mary?" the doctor asked.  Johnny hesitated and his lower lip trembled a little, then he finally smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister." Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room--Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, Johnny’s voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?'

It was only then that the doctor realized why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he'd agreed to donate his blood. Johnny had thought that he was giving all his blood to his sister which meant giving up his own life. In a brief moment, he'd made the decision to sacrifice his own life in order to save his sister. The doctor then quickly explained to the boy that he didn’t need all of his blood, just some of it, and that he would not die.

Now, when you stop and think about it, each of us has a condition more serious than Mary's and it required Jesus not to just give some of His blood, but all of it. So for our sake, God the Father imputed our sin and the sin of everyone who has ever lived or ever will live unto Jesus. He plunged Him into the sea of His wrath, for our sake. He required the blood of His innocent Son to blot our sin, so that we might be spared and so that the story of our lives would have a happy ending.

Oh, what great comfort we can take in Jesus’ story, because that was His being the Lord’s anointed, God’s chosen King, is all about. That is why He came into the world. That after instituting the royal feast of His Holy Supper, He might shed His blood that causes eternal death to pass over us.

Jesus is not in any way a cruel king, like Pharaoh. He’s the King of love which is why He left that final Passover with his friends to offer His body to be broken and His blood to be spilled, so that we could be saved. The words from His lips were never deceitful, never self-serving, but always in the best interest of sinners. Yet those lips are the ones that would drink from the cup of God’s wrath so that our lips might sip the cup of blessing, the blood of the covenant, and eat the bread of Life, which gives us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Now that’s a great story. There’s a happy ending that no human being could have ever thought up. The power of death passes over us, because it didn’t pass over Jesus. God’s firstborn was struck down so that we would be spared. Now eternal death passes over us because the gift of Baptism has marked us with His blood. Damnation passes over us because Jesus is our Crucified King, whose body and blood with the bread and wine, makes holy communion a royal feast of feasts.

What makes this night different from all other nights? This is a night that we not only get to hear the wonderful story of how Jesus instituted a new and better Passover, but we also get to participate in it. As St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “ for the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” So come, you blessed ones and receive the the feast prepared for you, by your good and gracious King, Jesus. To Him be all power glory, hnor and might, now and forever. Amen.


 

13 Apr. 2014 - Phil. 2:5-11

Palm Sunday and the Passion of our Lord

Lenten Season: Palm Sunday, 13 April 2014.  

Rev. Bruce Skelton, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado ☩ www.hclchr.org


Palm SundayPalm Sunday in the Christian calendar is the occasion that sets the stage for Holy Week and, most especially, for the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. World-famed Passion plays in Europe, particularly Oberammergau in Germany, and similar productions in this country are helpful in their portrayal of our Lord's Passion and in their devotion to keep alive the message of God's love revealed in Christ's redemption of mankind. Each year the drama of Holy Week and Easter is unexcelled as it provides a panoramic view of the mystery of Good Friday and the triumph of Easter.

The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as one of the first events of Holy Week, reported in today's Gospel, is not without its dramatic overtones. Although misinterpreted by the populace of that day as an opportunity to merely hail Jesus an earthly king, its deeper meaning is woven into the fabric of the whole of Christ's saving work. St. Paul in this Epistle lesson for Palm Sunday gives meaning and substance to what we witness in the events of Holy Week. This portion of his Epistle to the Philippians (which is our text) gives his audience of Greek Christians, as well as us, an opportunity to perceive the real message of Palm Sunday and the Passion of our Lord.

Paul does this, first, by casting Jesus in the role of the obedient and suffering Servant of the Lord and, second, in the role of the exalted Lord of heaven and earth. Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

The inspired apostle in this text pictures Christ as God in His preexistent state from eternity assuming the role of an obedient and suffering Servant. He leaves His royal throne in heaven and is clothed with the garb of our humanity in order to suffer and die on a cross. In a way he was like Peter the Great of Russia, who at one time during his rule, laid aside his royal garments and traveled to Holland to learn the art of shipbuilding for his people. He acted like any other workman in the ship yards. He dressed in workman's clothes so that his identity would not be known as he learned the trade and labored as a commoner for the eventual benefit of his people. He willingly assumed the most menial tasks to preserve his anonymity, and to know the full measure of laborious toil. Although this is a poor illustration of Christ Jesus assuming the role of an obedient, suffering Servant, it gives us a measure of insight into His humility.

He laid aside his glory, yet He continued to possess all the attributes of His divine nature. He did not simulate divinity, but thoroughly possessed it. He was not some actor playing a role, he was fully God as we confess in the Nicene Creed: “God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all thing were made…” Yet, even though he was on the same level with God He did not flaunt His divinity or make a show of it in order to gain favor or make an impression. He did not advertise His deity and put it on display for curious admirers. Above all, He did not exploit His role in order to capitalize on His ministry for self-gain.

Indeed, the burden of His ministry and His redemptive work was that "He made himself nothing” or as some translations put it, “He emptied Himself" of His power and glory, that is to say, He renounced them for the most part and voluntarily divested Himself of their unbounded and continual use. Although He assumed a servant's role, His assuming human flesh, that is His incarnation, was not necessarily demeaning in and of itself, rather His likeness in human flesh meant that He took upon himself the ordinary miseries of sinfallen people. He willingly suffered pain, and endured hardship and poverty. He knew hunger and thirst. He wept, and grieved and died, all without any sin of His own. He had the form of God in His divine nature and the form of a servant according to His human nature. He was God and man at the same time.

In His role as a suffering Servant Jesus assumed the ultimate stage in becoming obedient unto death, as St. Paul says in v.8 of the text. "And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." In His mercy Jesus was willing to take upon himself the most serious ill of all—death, the sum total of all of the evil of sin. Even though he was totally sinless, completely without guilt, He willingly died the death of a criminal. The worst death imaginable, death on a cross, which was considered to be an especially cursed way to die in that culture. The pomp and pageantry that was shown to honor Jesus on Palm Sunday with the waving of palm branches and shouting of hosannas contrasts sharply with His rejection and death a few days later. On Good Friday He did not suffer as a great hero, receiving admiration and support. There was no halo of earthly glory surrounding His death, He was regarded as suffering without honor, and His death was that of a despised and rejected criminal.

He had to die that way you see, because that was the only way that our sins could be taken away. In order to be just God had to punish sin and as the Scriptures say, “The wages of sin is death.” So a death had to be died. And the good news for us is that Jesus took the punishment that was supposed to be ours and He died the death we should have died, so that we could be saved through faith in Him.  And so we are, so we are. So what do we do now?

"Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus," Paul says in verse 5 of the text. He writes this to the Philippians in urging upon them and also upon us also a humble concern for others. In a real sense this is the calling or vocation of every Christian.

The mind of Christ in seen in His obedient role as the suffering Servant of the Lord . Here Paul portrays the highest pattern of self-forgetfulness. A personal regard for the best interests of others was the chief characteristic of our Lord's ministry and mission. In short, we are called to love others as ourselves and the second table of the Law prescribes. This mind of Christ must shape our personal posture as Christians. Christ laid aside His glory and assumed a servant's role. What other role is there for us as the church or as it is sometimes called in the Bible, the body of Christ? From the words preceding our text Paul urges the Philippians and us to do just that, vss. 1-4:

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves."

There, beloved, is the challenge that lies before us and we shall discover this more meaningfully when we look at the next scene in the drama of Holy Week in which Paul casts Jesus as our Exalted Lord. The solemn yet triumphant commemoration ofJesus' victorious entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday might be characterized as dramatic foreshadowing. Paul reflects this in the use of the connective "therefore," in v. 9, as he writes to the Philippians: "Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Here Paul portrays Jesus in the role of the exalted Lord of heaven and earth. His advancement to the full use and possession of His divine honor and glory is declared and affirmed. The so-called "bit" players dramatizing, for the most part, their rejection of the suffering Servant at the foot of the cross have dispersed and disappeared since Good Friday. The supporting cast of those who do acclaim His lordship now covers every realm in heaven and on earth and under the earth. The inevitable recognition of His status is proclaimed by all. At the mention of His name every knee bows its allegiance. Every tongue confesses that Christ is Lord. All inhabitants of the far-flung corners of heaven and earth feel the greatness of His power and majesty. Angels and the whole company of heaven sing their hosannas. Saints above and below sound forth in songs of victory and in paeons of praise and thanksgiving. Even Satan and his legions acknowledge their defeat. Even unbelievers so vehement in their confession of unbelief shake their fists and thereby admit that Jesus Christ is no insignificant personality to reckon with. In the end every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, willingly or unwillingly!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is Lord! That simple statement, by the way, was the earliest creed of the first Christians. Disciples of our Lord, like Thomas, cried out: "My Lord and my God!" Today yet it is also the most recent and up-to-date statement of faith. After all of these centuries Christ has never been dethroned. It will also be the last acknowledged confession of faith that the world will make, when finally, in its complete collapse and from the ashes of its judgment, it acknowledges what it always denied before—Jesus Christ is Lord! This simple four-word statement is the chart and compass of every Christian's life. It is this simple statement of faith, which lies lodged in this text, describing our Lord's humiliation and His exaltation—"Jesus Christ is Lord!" From the morning of creation to the day of consummation of all things Jesus Christ is Lord! When He intersected human history and appeared in servant form, He was born in swaddling clothes at Bethlehem. He was raised in Nazareth. He gathered several dubious characters to be His disciples. He kept strange company with the lowest of the lowest and finally brought upon His head the wrath of the establishment. Thus He died at the age of 33. And from there we operate by faith.

It is faith that asserts that Jesus Christ is God, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Faith affirms that "for us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven, incarnate of the Virgin Mary." Faith affirms the purpose of His coming—to identify with us, to be our Brother, to assume our burden, and to incur the wrath of God's righteousness against our sin and for our ransom. Faith asserts that He is God who came in human form as a servant, in meekness and humility, not waving banners to exploit or commercialize the glory He possessed. Sneering unbelief, of course, asks: "And who is this guy?" as Jesus this Palm Sunday rides a donkey in majesty, and faith replies that Jesus Christ is Lord! The skeptic blasts, "You gotta be kidding!" and faith replies, "You better believe it!" for, if it cannot be said in faith now, it will be said regret at the judgment, "Jesus Christ is Lord!"

So, on this Palm Sunday, in a way we are drawing aside the curtain on the center stage of all human history. It is not some isolated little scene or act in the human drama of sin and death. Christ's suffering and death are not some sideshow for curious spectators. It is not like a ancient Greek tragedy enacted for its moralistic focus on the tragedy of human existence. It is not a modern melodramatic farce portraying the futility and hopelessness of human life. It is the true-to-life dramatic portrayal of every human being, with bit players and supporting cast, up-staged by Jesus Christ Himself, the Author and Finisher of our faith. When the curtain finally closes on the whole stage of human history, the grand finale of the eternal Easter will commence and linger forever and ever.

Paul lets it be known that this sweeping statement of Christ's exalted status is no starry-eyed and elusive hope of the Christian's faith. The mind of humility in Christ is a pattern for the Christian's earthly life. But there is also a sense in which Jesus is our example even in His exaltation. His redemptive work is a confirmation that we shall "be like Him and see Him as He is" and share in His glory. "Where I am, there shall also My servant be," says Jesus.  In eternal glory we also shall be a part of that great company of angels, archangels, and saints in heaven, bowing the knee and with our own tongues confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, even as we now suffer here as He did in his state of humiliation.

That is why we, along with most of Christendom, hold palm branches in our hands this morning.  The vision of St. John’s revelation comes to our mind's eye:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!' And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.'

And so shall it be in Jesus Name. Amen.


 

9 Apr. 2014 - Matt. 27: 35-44

The King on the Cross

Lenten Season, Wednesday, 9 April 2014.  

Rev. Bruce Skelton, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado ☩ www.hclchr.org


nullBefore digging in to tonight’s gospel and our King on the cross it is helpful to look back at Israel’s first king, a man by the name of Saul. The account of his selection and cornation is related in 1 Samuel chapters 9 and 10. In 9:2 it says:

 There was not a man among Israel more handsome than he. He was a head taller than any of the others.

Besides being tall and handsome we are told that he was also very strong and came from a wealthy family. Apparently you could tell just by looking at the guy that he was a king. The people of Isreal rejoiced when Saul was selected and at first he was a good and faithful king, but as is the case with most if not all earthly kings, his power went to his head and rather than serving God and God’s people Isreal as he had been chosen to do he began to serve only his own interests. 

Saul’s story follows in the way of another king, the world’s first king, Adam. And like Adam, he turned away from God and His Word, therefore God anointed a new king, a man after God’s own heart, the young shepherd David.

But Saul persecuted and reviled the Lord’s newly anointed. He was so jealous of David’s popularity among the people that it sent him into a murderous rage. The mere presence of David so filled Saul’s head with envy that he chased him with his army around the countryside like a mad man. His anger even caused him to try to pin David to the wall with a spear, but David evaded him. In the end, Saul’s exalted kingly head was cut off by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa in disgrace.

Now consider the scene of Jesus, the Greater David, as He is crucified and reviled on Golgotha. What hatred is hurled at the Lord’s Anointed. He is despised by the envious chief priests, scribes, and elders who don’t like His popularity one bit and rail at Him to prove His kingship. The cruel Roman guards beat, torture and mock God’s chosen people’s King crowning him with thorns. The passersby wag their heads at Him and revile Him. Even the two robbers who were being crucified with him initially direct their insults at Jesus’ head until one of them later repents.  The whole scene leaves us outraged as we behold the shameful treatment of the man whom we know to be the King of heaven and earth.

But as we consider this scene tonight we must also consider our guilt against the Lord’s Anointed. Haven’t we, too, wagged our heads and stood in judgment of the Lord. Have there not been times when we too have cried out in anger and hatred against Him, judging Him to be “unfair” to us? Consider how often we have turned from the Lord’s Word and demanded that He prove Himself to us?  Have there not been occasions when our bitterness drove us to insist that we deserved better, even though we are as guilty before God as any robber? Let us again consider tonight our many resentful and angry thoughts toward Jesus, and consider the judgment that should come down on our heads.

But then consider the bloodied, beaten, and forsaken king on the cross and be glad. Consider the thoughts that were going on inside His sacred head and be exceedingly glad, for His thoughts were not about getting revenge, or getting even, or pushing back the scorn onto the heads of sinners. No, His thoughts toward His enemies were not ones of hatred and disgust. Instead, what was going on in the head of our crucifed king was love, incomprehensible love, toward those who persecuted him and us and everyone else. He was and doing what was necessary to bear our sin and save us.

The sign above his head read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” And that’s good because we would have never identified Him as God’s Anointed. If fact nobody would have looked at Jesus back then and said, “Now there’s the head of a king.” And yet if you read the Scriptures you know that that is precisely the way God works.

He does his greatest work and selects his greatest leaders from the lowly and downtrodden. He picks second born, momma’s boy, Jacob, over first-born, burly, Esau. He picks Joseph enlaved and forgotten in Egypt, over his older stonger brothers. He picks Moses, not when he was a young, strong, strapping prince of Egypt at the height of his physical and intellectual powers, no, he picks him when he is an 80 year-old-hasbeen, a murderer turned shepherd. Then the Lord speaks to him out of the burning bush.

But the best example of God doing this in our Old Testament lesson this evening, where after the great, handsome, powerful king Saul failed, God sends His prophet Samuel to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons. What transpires is quite humorous, Samuel and Jesse are operating on what they can see, while God’s choice was David who was so insignificant he wasn’t even there. He was the one no one expected and perhaps no one even wanted.   

And the same could very well be said of Jesus, he’s the King no one wanted and no one thought they needed. Yet, He came to save us. He was not handsome like Saul, and had no beauty that we should desire Him as Isaiah wrote in the 53rd chapter of his book:

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejectedby men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Jesus set aside His kingly might to voluntarily die in weakness and disgrace. He was rich, yet for sinners’ sake He became poor, so that we through His poverty might become rich. Placed on the throne of the cross, He was unrecognizable as a king, but was the perfect man to do the job of taking our sins away so that the Father might recognize us forever as the King’s friends and heirs.

Notice that the mouth on Jesus’ sacred head is silent as He bears the persecution, the insults, and the rage. That head lifted up high on a cross now hangs down and is bloody, but it’s a beautiful head to sinners, who know that He bears the wrath as man’s substitute.  We can take great comfort in all that is happening in the scene. For our Crucified King is all about crowning us with glory and honor, so that means He must wear our anger at Him like a crown of thorns.

Jesus, our King, was all about lifting that burden of guilt from our shoulders, so He shouldered it all to the cross and destroyed it so that we might be exalted as innocent and holy sons and daughters of God. Those ears on His head heard all the insults and all the bitterness, so that our ears might rejoice as we  hear the Word of Absolution.

Our King, the Lord’s Anointed,  was persecuted, reviled, rejected, and killed, but also raised again to anoint us in Holy Baptism and adorn us with the regal garments of his holiness and innocence. Our King, the Lord’s Anointed was willing to be hunted and chased all over Israel, that we might be embraced by the Father’s love. Saul may have launched his spear at David and missed, but divine love would not allow Jesus to evade the soldier’s spear, for the King on the cross was dead. But from that dead king on the cross comes a gusher of life-giving water that fills the baptismal font and washes away all sin. And from that dead King on the cross also comes the life-giving blood that fills the chalice along with the wine that we drink, cleansing us from all sin and lifting up our heads in triumph.

He sank to the lowest place, yes, even to death on a cross, so that God could exhalt him to the highest place as St. Paul wrote in our epistle:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So what can we do, but give all thanks and praise and glory and honor to Him, our unlikely, unwanted crucified king, Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.


 

6 Apr. 2014 - Rom 8:1-11

Two Minds

Lenten Season: Sunday, 6 April 2014.  

Rev. Bruce Skelton, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado ☩ www.hclchr.org


nullEvery once in a while a Christian from outside Lutheranism will ask me why we Lutherans do not give altar calls or have a place in our worship where we people can come forward to indicate that they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Due to the influence of Billy Graham and other popular evangelists, there are many who think that if you don’t give an altar call, you have not properly preached the gospel.

Well, the short answer to that question is that there is no example of such a thing in the Bible and no command to do so. Jesus and the Apostles certainly preached the gospel, yet while they often called on people to repent and believe in Christ (as I also do), there is no indication that they ever invited them to raise their hands or get out of their seats and come forward. That method of evangelism came into vogue in the early 19th century and was later popularized by Charles Finney. Iain Murray chronicled this in his book Revival and Revivalism where he wrote the following regarding altar calls:

“Nobody, at first, claimed to regard it as a means of conversion. But very soon, and inevitably, answering the call to the altar came to be confused with being converted.”

Murray goes on to show the damaging effects of “revivalism,” the evangelistic method that emphasizes some external action that the sinner can do to be saved.  The root problem with this teaching and the reason why we do not have altar calls in the Lutheran church is the biblical understanding of the spiritual condition of unbelievers and the nature of true conversion, which St. Paul thoroughly addresses in our text this morning, particularly in verses5-8.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

What the apostle is doing here is setting up a dichotomy, which is defined in the Merriam Webster’s dictionary as:  “A division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities.” The two mutually exclusive and contradictory groups Paul points to are those whose minds are on the things of the flesh and those whose minds are on things of the spirit.  For this morning’s message I would like to take a longer look at these two minds.

To have “a mind on the things of of the flesh” means to live under the domination of the flesh and to obey its dictates. Another way of saying it is that such people are “in the flesh” or they live in the sphere of the flesh. While such people may believe in a god or gods and even be outwardly very religious or pious, inwardly they are ultimately selfish and live only to please themselves or as one commentator defines it, “the life of the ‘I’ for itself.”

Paul also points out that the mind set on the flesh is spiritually dead and headed toward eternal death.  To be spiritually dead means to be separated from God and the eternal life that only He can give. In Ephesians 2 Paul write that we  “all were dead in our trespasses and sins” before God graciously imparted new life to us through faith in Jesus Christ.

If that were not bad enough, Paul also writes that the mind of the flesh is hostile toward God.

John Gill nails it in his Exposition of the Bible  where he writes:

“These words contain a reason why the issue of carnal mindedness is death; because the carnal mind, the wisdom of the flesh, is not only an enemy, but enmity itself against God: against his being; it reasons against it; it wishes he was not; it forms unworthy notions of him; thinks him such an one as itself; and endeavours to bury him in forgetfulness, and erase out of its mind all memorials of him: it is at enmity against his perfections; either denying his omniscience; or arraigning his justice and faithfulness; or despising his goodness, and abusing his grace and mercy… This enmity is universal, it is in all men in unregeneracy, either direct or indirect, hidden or more open; it is undeserved; it is natural and deeply rooted in the mind, and irreconcilable without the power and grace of God. It shows itself in an estrangedness from God; in holding friendship with the world, in harbouring the professed enemies of God, in living under the government of sin and Satan; in hating what God loves, and in loving what God hates; in omitting what God commands, and committing what he forbids; it manifests itself in their language, and throughout the whole of their conversations.”

The Apostle Paul also does not just say that those who are in the flesh do not submit to God’s law. He goes a step further by saying that they are not even able to do so, adding  in verse 8, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Cannot is a word of inability. It goes back to the matter of a sinner’s fallen nature in Adam, which is incapable of obeying God or pleasing Him. Suffice it to say that Paul consistently teaches complete human inability to respond to God apart from the work of God the Holy Spirit. 

It is important to point out, however, that this doctrine didn’t begin with St. Paul. Jesus also clearly taught taught that no one can come to Him unless the Father grants it and draws him, as he did in his famous “Bread of Life” sermon in John 6 which says:

Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me… And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

He also pointedly asked the skeptical Jews in John 8: “Why do you not understand what I am saying?” He then answers His own question, “It is because you cannot hear My word.”  They could obviously hear what He was saying to them, but they lacked the spiritual ability to hear it and believe it.

Well, enough about the mind that is on the flesh. Now let us look at the mind that is on the Spirit.  As usual Martin Luther hits the ball out of the park in His explanation of the third article of the Apostles Creed found on page 323 in our hymnals:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way He call, gathers enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all beleivers. On the last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all beleivers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

What a clear and concise statement of what the work of the Holy Spirit is. He calls us by the Gospel and delivers us into faith in Jesus. None of us here today would believe in Him were it not for the wonderful, miraculous work of God the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament.  This is same Spirit with which Jesus was anointed with at His baptism, beyond all measure, which is why we call him the Christ or the Messiah, which means the anointed one.  So if we want to see the perfect mind of the Spirit, then you need look no further than Jesus Christ.

It was he who willingly and gladly shouldered the cross and took the punishment for our sins upon himself, so that we would be counted and holy in God’s sight and justified by grace through faith in Him.  And that is the beautiful gospel the same lovely truth that St. Paul boldly proclaims at the beginning of our text:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

As hard as that is to comprehend, it is true. The law which condemned us and declared us all guilty and sentenced us to death because we all had minds focused on the flesh, has now been taken away by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Now there is no condemnation, for us at all. Jesus did it all perfectly for us.  He lived the perfect life for us. He died the perfect sacrificial death for us. He perfectly rose again from the dead for us. He perfectly acscended into heaven for us, where He now perfectly intercedeces at God the Father’s right hand for us.  He did it all and we would not know or believe any of this were it not for the wonderful life-giving, life-saving work of God the Holy Spirit who operates through the means of grace, that is through God’s Holy Word and Sacraments. 

The good news is that we now have been given a new mind and spirit which frees us and empowers to love and live lives filled with mercy and compassion toward others, not because we have to, not out of fear of being punished by God, but because we want to, because of what our loving Savior has done for us. And that is what it means to live by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the of Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, who gives to us a new nature that joyfully seeks to do God’s will. We now have a different mind, a mind completely opposite of the mind of the flesh, because our hearts have been changed by the grace and mercy of God.

Now this is where we have to be careful, because even though we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, this does that mean will we always do the right thing. While we are still in these bodies of  flesh, the mind of the flesh or the Old Adam, as we Lutherans call him, is always trying to sneek in the back door. But whenever we do sin we know that God will forgive us and pick us up and dust us off and by his Spirit empower us to continue to fight the good fight of faith, knowing the whole time that it is not we who do it, but God who did it.  It is not our decision or our answering of an altar call that saves us, but rather Jesus answering the call to the call to die on the altar of the cross that saves us and all who believe.  May God the Holy Spirit ever empower our hearts and minds to believe it. In Jesus Name. Amen. 


 

2 Apr. 2014 - Mat 27:27-31

The King Mocked

Lenten Season: Wednesday, 2 April 2014.  

Rev. Bruce Skelton, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado ☩ www.hclchr.org


The King MockedWith great cunning the Philistines had finally captured their formidable enemy, the Israelite judge named Samson, and they took out all their frustrations on their once seemingly invincible foe. They shaved off his hair. They gouged out his eyes. They bound him with bronze shackles.  And they tossed him in prison where he was put to the hard labor of grinding wheat, pushing a large millstone around and around in a circle.  But as if the maiming and torture weren’t cruel enough, they decided to add insult to injury by humiliating him publically. So as the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer sacrifice to their false god, Dagon, they brought out their defeated enemy to make a public spectacle of him and his God. 3,000 of them looked on from the rooftop as they brought out the blinded hero to mock and laugh at for their entertainment.  

But God is not mocked. And neither is the One He chooses and anoints to rescue His people. So He saw to it that Samson was conveniently placed between the two pillars of the building that just happened to hold the place up and that Samson had the strength to push with his right hand on one pillar and his left hand on the other pillar and bring the whole building down upon the unsuspecting Philistines heads. Of course, Samson died too, but in his death he won his greatest victory of all.

It was several years later a young, red-haired Israelite shepherd boy brought food to his brothers who were serving in Israel’s army which was fighting against the Philistines.  He watched as a giant warrior named Goliath strode out from the lines of the enemy into the valley that lay between the two armies and mocked the Israelites and their God.  Incensed that no one dared take up the challenge of the disdainful enemy soldier, David went down into a valley to face the giant armed with only his shepherd’s staff, a pouch containing five smooth stones and a sling in his hand. As the young lad approached the fierce well-armed warrior, Goliath thought it was a joke. He laughed at the faithful young man and made sport of him. He mocked David in front of the two armies looking on: “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” He roared.

But God is not mocked and neither is the one He chooses and anoints to rescue His people. The joke was actually on Goliath and the Philistines. For God gave David courage, faith, and expert aim. And all David needed was one smooth well-slung stone to prove that that his God could do the impossible. And the little red-haired shepherd boy left the valley that day carrying Goliath’s head as a trophy.

God is not mocked. And neither is the One He chooses and anoints to rescue the world. So we might ask what’s going on in our Gospel reading this evening with the mockery of Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Messiah, the King who was sent from heaven to rescue the world? He is made a laughingstock, a public spectacle. The cruel Roman soldiers are making sport of Him as they strip Him, crown Him with thorns, and place a mock scepter in His hand. They get a good belly laugh as they kneel before Him in mock homage and make fun of Him, insult Him, spit upon Him, and strike Him on the head.

But we know that God is not mocked, so where is the part in this scene where Jesus, God’s Anointed, has had enough and uses the divine strength in His right hand and left hand to get revenge? Where is the part where Jesus shows His enemies who they are messing with and does a Chuck Norris on them shutting their mocking mouths for good? Where’s the payback we wonder, but this scene doesn’t end the way we want it to. No, St. Matthew simply records, “they put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him” (27:31).

Jesus who is fully God is mocked and does nothing. He puts up no fight at all. Not once does He flash His divine power. He doesn’t even rebuke or insult those who mock Him. God is mocked and nothing happens and we are left deflated.

Yet, even though we are disappointed and this text flies in the face of our sense of justice and our sense of right and wrong, it is still good news for us. Why? Because Jesus had to bear all that disrespect, blasphemy and mockery in order to rescue lost sinners like us. Imagine for a moment if God used his divine power to punish and get revenge upon everyone who mocked Him and His Anointed.

Where would that leave us? Now, some of you might be thinking that you would never do such a thing as that, you would never think of  mocking God, but when was the last time you rolled your eyes at or and scoffed at the demands of God’s Law? Let’s start with the first commandment: “You shall have no other Gods.” And Luther explains it this way, “We should fear love, and trust in God above all things.” How do we measure up against that?  Do we do that all the time? Or, if you don’t like that, how about your prayer life?  Do you pray to the Lord as though He were your bellboy and not the King of heaven and earth?  Have we not all at some point taken God’s blessings for granted?

The sad fact of the matter is that we all have taken our sins way too lightly. We have all treated them it they were merely a few inconsequential mistakes instead of what they truly are, which is outright rebellion against God, contempt for His law and mockery of his Lordship over us. If God were to truly give us what we all deserved, we would all get what we think those Roman soldiers should have gotten. We would all be instantly killed and our souls would be sent to hell forever.

And yet the Lord does not do that.  No instead he does with us just as he did with those cruel Roman soldiers, he bears it all willingly and silently. So what is most obvious in this scene described for us by St. Matthew is the incredible love God has for sinners like us. Amazingly, God in the person of Jesus is mocked, yet He is willing to be mocked in order to save us. He absorbs into His holy flesh all the mockery and all the disrespect and all the sin that humanity can dish out, and He takes it to the cross to destroy it and to wipe it out of God’s sight forever.

And then He leaves it in the grave as He rises from the dead three days later, not to get payback or revenge or to mock humanity, but to proclaim peace and reconciliation with God our heavenly Father. He was willing to be mocked and to be led to the cross to destroy sin and spare us from the devil’s eternal mockery.

What a scene it is at the beginning of this Gospel, St. Matthew’s Gospel, when Gentile Wise Men surrounded the baby Jesus and fell down and worshiped Him as the King of the Jews. But what an even greater scene is found here in Matthew’s passion, as Jesus is surrounded by Gentile soldiers who kneel before Him in mock homage saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” But He receives the greeting with no retribution, for He came into the world just for that purpose: to find His glory in being our mocked and crucified King.

And so He is, Jesus, our blessed saving King, who was willing to be crowned with thorns, to atone for all our sin, yes, even all our mockery of God so that one day we may be crowned with heavenly glory and honor. Our blessed King, who allowed himself to be dressed up in a scarlet robe, that we might be baptized and adorned with royal garb that covers all our scarlet sins. Our blessed King, who was pleased to hold a mock scepter in His hand and to be mocked, so that we might receive his body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion to receive God’s forgiveness, life, and salvation, and a Kingdom without end.

Yes, Jesus, the Greater Samson, stretched out His right hand and His left hand at the cross so that through His death our enemy Satan and his power over us would be destroyed.  Jesus, the Greater David, fought not with five smooth stones, but with five jagged wounds on his head, hands and feet to crush the devil’s head and to give us a share in His eternal victory.

And all of this serves to put our suffering and our being mocked for being Christians in the proper perspective as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews points out as he points to the sufferings the Old Testament saints:

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Beloved, what can we do but rejoice even when we are mocked and reviled because of the name of Jesus Christ, who was and is God in the flesh, and who for us was mercilessly mocked, so that we might reside in God’s everlasting kingdom, where St. John tell us that we will all one day sing:

“Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing... “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

You see all the mocking and the mockers will be no more, as every tongue in heaven and on earth and under the ear confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father. May that day come quickly, in Jesus name.  Amen


 

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