Luke 5:1-11

In the darkness, they had toiled all the night. It didn’t matter how hard they worked, how rested they were, how strong, how well dressed, how prepared. They had brought their best, but in the darkness their nets were empty. There was no power or skill in these men that could force the fish into the nets— as anyone of you that has tried out fishing surely knows —especially if you were hungry. You can’t make the fish bite the hook…and no fish wants to bite the hook, get stuck in the net, get filleted, and cooked. Perhaps their spirits were crushed, they toiled and took nothing, they worked what they knew best, but they cleaned the nets with nothing to sell, nothing to eat, nothing to show for a long night at sea.

The enemies of God love the darkness. The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature wage war against the church and the church is rightly called the Church Militant. You confess the faith of the Church that is at war. They attack, they swarm, they surround, and they accuse. Our own sinful nature is an accomplice. The world is all around us. The devil is breathing his foul hot breathe upon our necks. The struggle is real. The darkness of sin cast upon the whole of creation. In the darkness, they attack, and in the darkness, we sin. Oh, the things we would have locked up in the depths of darkness so that no one will ever know. Our sin is a stench, it’s a terrible mark, a weight to bear. And it would drive us to an eternal death.

And then in the midst of our struggle and attack, a peculiar and frightening thing takes place. Here you are so desperate to hide what destroys you and God comes standing in front of you. In his mercy, God becomes a man to live with you, to die for you, and to rise again to life to resurrect you. But what does your sinful nature do with Almighty God that stands in your presence? It knows that sinners deserve the wrath of Almighty God. It knows that you are a sinner and that the God that stands in your presence should destroy, lay siege against you, and shower you with wrath. Almighty should terrify you.

At first, Peter is polite. The Lord taught with authority. Peter listened and looked on while he cleaned his nets. Jesus sits in his boat to keep the crowd at bay in order that he could be heard, for the people were pressing down upon him. “Put out a little from the land,” Jesus told Peter, and he taught from Peter’s boat. When he was finished he commanded that the nets be let down. The nets that were being mended and cleaned, Jesus ordered to be let down. They’d have to be mended again, cleaned a second time, and for what?? They took nothing after toiling all night, in the darkness. But Peter puts out to the deep and lets down his nets for a catch. “At your Word, I will let down the nets.”

He expects nothing. We expect nothing. Our reason and experience tells us what to expect. This rabbi knows nothing about fishing. We know about fishing. [Insert here our own expertise.] We toiled all the night and caught nothing. We’ll let down the nets to be nice. We toil all night and all day. We struggle and we sorrow. We weep and we hurt. For you and me, appearances are everything. All this pain, all this suffering, all this everything, and we have nothing to show for it. Friends and family see your life and know your work and your words and still don’t care about Jesus or their faith. What about your faith? Is it where you think it should be? Have you tried to work out your salvation and still have nothing? All for what? This Word on a page. This recitation of ancient script. A little bread and a little wine. It’s anticlimactic.

Just another man sitting in Peter’s boat. A teacher who thinks he knows something about fishing. And at Jesus’ word, Peter let down the nets, but unbeknownst to Peter, Jesus commanded the fish into his net. He commanded an abundant number of fish into his net. So many fish that the nets began to break. So many fish that the other boat needed to come and help. So many fish that both boats began to sink. Appearances had failed Peter and they fail you, too. This man is God. This man, Jesus, commands the creation with authority and power and he commands your heart and Peter’s heart and everything because he is God Almighty. And this terrified Peter.

Peter knew that sinners can’t stand in the presence of Almighty God and live. So he does the thing we are so good at. He writes his own absolution like the prodigal son (I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me one of your hired servants). “I am a sinner, depart from me!” “Woe is me!” Oh, no! You caught me, God. This is what I want you to do: just leave. Go away and depart and I’ll save a few minutes or days, maybe years. Depart for I can’t be here now.

Yet, Jesus will have nothing to do with your made up absolution. He refused to depart. To depart would mean that Peter would go to hell. In his terror, in our passion, and our present predicaments, we bid Jesus depart so we can live the life we have designed for ourselves. So that we can wallow in our sins, enjoy our passions, eat, drink, and be merry according to our design…all the while forgetting that we are part of Jesus’ design. He is the creator and now he is the redeemer.

Instead of departing, he says, “Do not be afraid!” It’s as if he said, “You won’t be destroyed. I come to save you, rescue you, love you, and keep you. I have come to fight for you.” It’s the same thing that Gabriel says to Mary, “Do not be afraid!” It’s the same thing Jesus says to the disciples when he walks on water, “Do not be afraid!” It’s the same thing that the angels say to the Marys at the Easter tomb, “Do not be afraid!” Our God becoming a man, the incarnation, is just this: Don’t be afraid. I have become one of you in order that I might save all of you.

And with that Jesus gives Peter a new place to toil. “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men!” Jesus’ words give comfort and peace. The absolution God gives has depth and seriousness. Now the disciples will toil in the day. They will preach the Word of Christ to the far ends of the earth. Men will be sent to speak. Their power will not be driving fish into nets or other great signs and wonders. Their power will be in Jesus’ Word of absolution. He will compel men into the nets of his Church. He will be the one that forgives and gives life. He is the one that will refuse to leave you. So appearances will fail the world, but this God Almighty comes here to dwell with sinners. Like unto Peter’s boat, he may not look like the God that created heaven and earth, but he is that God, the same God that became man and was crucified (taking the weight of our sin) for the salvation of the world, for you! This is the same God that rose again to newness of life to live with you, fight with you and for you. Yet, the war has been won. The victory belongs to Jesus and if the victory belongs to Jesus, then it belongs to you. You confess the faith of the Church that is at war, but you also confess the faith of the Church that has won that war: the Church triumphant.

Salvation and life are gifts from Christ! Stop your worry! Sometimes we gain nothing by our work, and that is okay. Jesus sends his Word to you. In that Word you gain everything. Rejoice with the angels. You’ve been caught in the net of the Church, compelled there by Christ’s command. Rejoice in the giving of heavenly gifts. The Lord’s mercy endures forever. That will shelter you in the storm and bring you home. The Lord compelled you here. He sustains you in his peace. The boat must sink, but every Christian is pulled from the water by the hand of Jesus. Harmony is Jesus given for sinners. Peace is Jesus given for you. Don’t be afraid.

Many are called

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. At last, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man. And the two shall become one flesh. Each wedding was an extravagant event. A suitable, perfect, wonderful helper was found for Adam, and likewise the perfect helpmeet for each husband [for you]: to show the world the love of Christ for his bride the Church. The day God gave Eve to her husband rocked the newly formed cosmos. He changed his creating pattern, got his fingers in the dirt, and even moved flesh and blood so that Adam would have a wife to die for. Every marriage is a mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and his Church. Your marriage, my marriage, Adam and Eve’s marriage, defined by a better, more perfect, most perfect union: Christ for his bride the Church.

But we have made it into a burden. Whether a mere annoyance to our calendar or a conflict that harbors hate and anger, we have degraded, misused, and discounted this gift, this extravagant and lavish gift. But this gift is a lens by which we see Jesus and his love. This gift is what defines who the church is…Your marriage does not define marriage. Likewise, the state or the opinions of men and women cannot and do not define what marriage is. No court or judge can define what was established at the cross of Jesus as some blanket civil union between the emotions of two people—regardless of who they are. Call it what they will, the facts remain. The marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church, is what defines marriage. Today we see into that wedding. Today we see that not only our own marriages are defined by Jesus’ marriage to the Church, but our faith—our Christian life—is defined by this Jesus by virtue of his death and resurrection, which is of course his marriage to the church.

[We have made Christianity into a burden. Jesus says, “If any man would follow me, let him deny himself, pickup his cross and follow me.” We must lose our life in order to find it because if we hold on to our life, our selfishness, if we try to make a name for ourselves, we will lose ourselves to the outer darkness. The world would have you believe that you have a unique identity by yourself, by virtue of yourself. But your baptism changed that. Your identity is not of yourself, but of Jesus. Your identity is of the Church, of absolution, of self-sacrifice, of denying yourself.]

The school children often ask what heaven will be like. Today, Jesus gives us an answer. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a King who gave a wedding feast for his Son. Not a wedding feast like your wedding or my wedding. This kind of wedding feast was not a short event, a day or evening alone event. A wedding feast was an event that required lodging, clothing, food, drink, entertainment. It was days long…it was extravagant. And the wedding feast prepared by this King would have just been over the top. When it’s all set and ready to go, the King sends out the servants to find those invited and escort them in. The Word goes out. This is the preaching of the Gospel. In the Garden, from above the waters of the Flood, from the mountains of Moriah, from the burning bush, the midst of the Red Sea, from Canaan, and Israel, Judah, Babylon, and Bethlehem. From Corinth, Rome, and Spain, India, and Asia…Africa, Europe, America…the four corners of the world. And even to the midst of New Mexico. From the mouths of apostles, evangelists, and pastors everywhere, the Word goes out.

But there are excuses. They pay no attention to this great gift, this extraordinary invitation. You didn’t have to pay for anything! The King wants his people in his presence and he’s stopped at no expense to take care of his guests. [It is a testament to his character, his very identity. This Father has given us our body and souls, our reason and senses, he gives us our eyes, ears, and all our members and still takes care of them, wife, land, animals, and all we have. Only out of his Fatherly divine goodness and mercy.] And instead of running to hop on the carriage—the people invited seize his servants, treat them shamefully, and kill them. Anger rules in our hearts. Selfish desires have us wrapped up so tight that we even think of the Gospel and the heavenly gifts as hostile to us. We think our own way and our own plans are just as good or better than the King’s. We are proud of our own dirt and our own sin and even the fig leaves we have tied together as our clothing.

This is not some text to shame us into coming to church on Sunday and to make you feel bad about missing church on a given week. No, this is a text to show us that we have forsaken God and his gifts.

But the King will not have an empty wedding hall. Compel them to come in. I will clothe them and feed them and they shall be my people. It isn’t some decision in your heart. You didn’t cause the others to forsake the invitation. You were just walking the main roads. The servants found you minding your own business. They invited you to something out of the world. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. It’s a wedding feast that has no end. The King will take care of you forever. There will be no need to fear anything. The Son of the King has married a wife. She is without spot or blemish. The King will attend to your every need. Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!

The stops on Sunday morning are tastes of the feast that has no end. When the Church worships, it is the Bride of Christ gathered together. The little pieces of the whole, the members of the Body together with the Head. You’ve heard it called a foretaste of the feast to come. You’ve never tasted anything like this. But there is the temptation to say you don’t need to taste. The devil, the world, or maybe your own heart will say you’re okay another week. Perhaps you’ve been used to making it. Maybe you have your own business, your own plan. For the King, he bids you come. He says, they are weak, my Son is strong. They need to eat. My Son leads them to the green pastures of his body and his blood. The Hall won’t be empty. He compels you. Come, eat! Come, drink!

And just as he did in the Garden so long ago, he still does. He walks in the midst of you. He looks as his guests. He brings his Word right up to you. Even here, he brings his Law and Gospel: to show you your sin and to give you your Savior (the BrideGroom). It was necessary that he clothe you. Like Adam and Eve, the fig leaves we have used to cover our shame—whatever you have conjured up to cover your sin and guilt, won’t do. He must kill the Lamb and use his righteousness to cover you. No one can gather in the presence of the King if the King doesn’t first clothe him. In the waters of baptism, he does just that. He wraps you in the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, too. Having been wrapped in Jesus’ clothing, the King delights in his Son and in you. He delights with you.

A suitable, perfect, wonderful bride was formed for Jesus. She was created as his hands were nailed to a tree. And so the man has left his Father and has been joined to his bride. She has been taken out of him. By virtue of the Water of Baptism and the Blood of the Sacrament she is joined to him—bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. They are no longer two, but one. He sustains her. He keeps her in safety. He feeds and nourishes her. He gives his everything to have her. Jesus dying on the cross is the definition of marriage. His resurrection is the bride’s life: your life. The day Jesus died on the cross, the cosmos was rocked to its very core. He created by dying. He sustained her by giving up himself to take her to himself. You are the Eve he died for and now he lives to give you forgiveness and life with him.

Come, for all things are now ready. The King has prepared the dinner, the Lamb has been slaughtered, and now he lives again. Come, all you who thirst and are hungry. Come to the waters and to the Lamb. Eat and Drink. Come to the wedding feast. Christ will transform you. You are his beloved.

Walk by the Spirit

There can only be two masters. One is good and the other is not. The entirety of the human experience is summed up in this: you are either born of the Spirit and walk by the Spirit or you are not and are caught up in transgression. The human heart is either aligned to a religion of Law or it is called to the religion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Either you are on your own, pleasing the flesh and the manifestations of your own heart… or you are redeemed and washed by the living God who is Jesus Christ.

One who sows by the Law will also receive the harvest of the Law’s demands. There can be no escaping the Law’s stern requirements and accusations. Do not depend upon the Law to save you, it is no respecter of persons, and you are incapable of meeting the demands it sets before you. It’s a sharp sword and will cut you open and leave you for dead.

However, the heart will convince you that you are actually fulfilling the law and you are pleasing your false gods…even as the world delights in providing you pleasures and sweet nothings. Your focus is upon yourself and your envy is for things…whether they belong to others or not. Instead of bearing burdens and loving the neighbor, there is deception, envy, and strife. But the day of harvest will demand instead of provide. He who sows by the flesh will reap by the flesh. The wages of sin can only be death.

But the one that sows to the Spirit will reap from the Spirit eternal life. It is the Lord Jesus who has paid for your sin. Cast your cares and your worries on Jesus. He is the true master that rescues and restores, he creates new and buys back from death to give life and salvation.

The world and our sinful flesh will grow weary of doing good. But the Spirit of God does not weary. You have been created for Good Works. There is much to be reaped as the burdens of the neighbor become your own. What does God do to your focus? He redirects it from within to your neighbor and to love that is given and shared.

One master sacrificed on the cross to give everything to you. He also is no respecter of persons. His blood covers all —even you and me. He did fulfill the law completely so that he could give you all of the Gospel. The life of a Christian is one of testing and discipline. We give and help and bear the burdens of those around us. We love because the Lord Jesus, our true master, became a servant and loved us so completely that he died and shed his blood. Shed blood as the payment for your sin and mine. The wages of sin are paid.

So put your worries and cares on him. He will care for you. What will we do? What will we drink? What will we eat? What will we wear? It is all prepared for you. It is all ready. Come, recline at table. Wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, eat his body, drink his blood, and live.

Galatians 5:25–6:10

Holy Cross of Jesus

There is no food and there is no water! The sinful nature speaks in lies and hyperbole. We grumble by nature, we tell everything in exaggerated terms. We don’t like the daily bread come down for us and we love to worry and be anxious. Yesterday’s Gospel in the one year lectionary told us that we can’t serve two masters and that sufficient is the day for its own trouble. But we won’t listen. The sound of our anxious grumbling has wafted up to the ears of God. Perhaps we meant it for our other master. The Israelites meant it for Moses, but God knew that they were really rebelling against him. It was his plan. His exodus. His daily bread that we don’t like.

What about you? What cares have you cast on your spouse, your neighbor, your children? What grumbling have you insisted on and what worry have you orchestrated trying to add one moment to your span of life?

The Living God hears your grumbling and he listens to the prayers you pray to your false gods. He is a jealous God and he will not let it be. There may not be fiery serpents coming for you, but there is fire for those who serve a different master.

Cast all your cares on Jesus. You need a intermediary. Apart from him, your grumbling only produces more pain and trouble. Apart from Jesus we will see and know only death. Indeed, apart from Jesus there is nothing but wrath, anger, and death. But the living God hears the prayers of his people. In the midst of our pain and darkness he gives hope, life, and salvation.

God gave the people a bronze serpent to look upon to live. He did not get rid of the snakes. There is an antidote, there is an answer in the midst of pain and sorrow, but it may not be that he will take away the pain and the sorrow. What he will give is Jesus and his cross. That he gives to you and me. He gives his only begotten Son that you would have love, mercy, and grace in the place of anger, wrath, and death.

Through the blood of Jesus lifted high for everyone to look at there is life. It is the cross alone that is our theology. We wish to see Jesus because our faith bids us look to the sacrificed for our transgression. We not only see him, but we taste and see that the Lord is good.

You have one master. You have one Lord. He is the crucified one. He is the Son of God. He is the one that speaks to the Father for you. There is no need for worry and there is no need for anxiety. Jesus comes for you. Jesus comes near you and gives you himself.

There is food and there is water and there is wine. Food has come down from heaven for you to eat and water that wells up to eternal life. What will we eat? The bread that is Christ’s body. What will we drink? The wine that is Christ’s blood. Listen to the Word of God. Eat his body. Drink his blood. See the one lifted up on the pole and live with him forever.

Numbers 21

The Cupboards Are Bare

At the city gates the widow of Zarephath stooped down low, gathering sticks, so that she could prepare her final meal. The God of life is found in the depravity of death. But the anxiety and worry of life will cloud our sight and we’ll miss the God who is standing in the middle of our troubles. The cupboard was bare, the flour was running out, and there was barely enough oil to do anything. Her anxiety about life, with many worries running through her brain, are interrupted from above. “Go fetch me a glass of water,” Elijah said, “and while your at it, grab me a small morsel of bread.” But I don’t even have enough for my son, the flour is running out, there is barely enough oil to do anything, and I’m preparing a meal of sticks. It seems as if death is reigning, worry is supreme, fear is everywhere.

The depravity of life had met this woman. Times were hard in Zaraphath. But, times were harder in this woman’s life. The weight of hunger, the disease of malnourishment, and the alienation of picking up sticks off the ground – had brought her beyond anxious. Her worry was her life, and her master was death.

Life is hard. Age gives aches and pains. We loose loved ones and the dinner table isn’t as full as it once was. Our minds are quickly distracted by worry and anxious thoughts. What will I wear? How will we feed our family? . . . How long will we have? What are you seeking? Even the wicked seek their own righteousness and love those that love them.

And how many masters do you have? You will love one and hate the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You either have one master or you have the other. It is impossible to serve them both. The widow’s master may be yours. One has many names and faces, as many, in fact, as you could possibly want. You can call him “God.” You can call him “Allah,” or “Buddha,” or “Scratch,” or simply make up a new name. He doesn’t mind. He’ll go by anything. He’s kind and tolerant…oh and patient. He’s never jealous and hardly ever gets upset. But he’s a liar…and a cheat. He’ll tell his followers they can have as many masters as they want. He’ll give you choices and let you indulge yourself. But it’s all so he can trap you…devour you and ruin you forever.

The other master is jealous and stubborn. He never bends and always demands. He won’t let you call him something else. He exposes the sensitivities of man. He calls you a sinner. He won’t let you have other masters. He is the God of truth. He is light of light. He has no empty promises and fading pleasures. He is life…but he is found in death. If you belong to him then you can follow no one else. But there is no need for anyone else. Jesus is life and comfort. He is help in every time of need. He is our rock and our fortress. And this Jesus still wants you.

Is your cupboard bare? Is your master anxiety, worry, and death? Who arrays the grass of the field? And who is it that makes the flowers grow and the sparrows fly? It is Jesus. Elijah answered the widow of Zaraphath with the truth of God’s word. As that woman made a small cake for Elijah, he gave that woman food from heaven. Jesus became her master there, even as he was her servant.

Standing in the midst of your trouble is Jesus.

Life will be hard. Times will be rough, and the cupboard may from time to time seem bare. To the human eye, the small morsel of bread on the altar may seem like the fixing of your last meal before you die. All the world seems like it is resting on your shoulders and your mind will seem like your master. Death will be your focus, and work will overwhelm you. But our God does not reign from heaven above—not yet, not now. His wisdom and power is only made known in Christ Jesus who reigns in the midst of his people. His reign and his work is here. Awesome and powerful and mighty only in Jesus. Without him and his righteousness, without Jesus, he has no mercy, no grace… we would not call him awesome, but awful.

What shall we eat? We shall eat the Body of Jesus, born of the Virgin, executed for crimes He did not commit, and raised again to glory by His Father given for you. What shall we drink? We shall drink the Blood of Jesus poured out outside the city gates for the remission of your sins. What shall we wear? We shall wear His righteousness, the wedding garment of joy that He provides by Grace.

You have a bread that will last forever. When the times are hard, and the morsels look small, know that God dwells here. His reign, his kingdom is here and everywhere his Word is preached and Holy Supper given…in a small voice and a morsel of bread, a sip of wine. He has conquered your hurts and sorrows. He has died so that you live. And so when you partake of his body. . . When the pastor places Jesus on your lips, you are partaking in your death. Life is found in the depravity of death. It is your death and it is Jesus’ death. It is a putting of his cross before you and in you…It is a death that frees you from Satan and eternal torment because it is the death of Jesus’ cross that stomped the head of the serpent and undid death and sin’s debt. It is your foundation and your life. It is your reward and your nourishment. On your knees, before that altar, your strength and your song are placed upon your lips and you are in fellowship with God.

Despite the temporary nature of the things God provides for us now, we know this: Jesus is coming back. Death has been defeated. He will not abandon us to the grave. For the meantime, it might get better and it might get worse. Lilies bloom, wilt, and die but new ones rise up behind them to bloom again. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Eat the Body of Jesus. Drink His Blood. Wear the clean garments of righteousness that He gives to you. All things pass away except this one thing: the Word of God. The Word made Flesh has paid your debt. You are forgiven, clean, and whole. And on the last day He shall call you forth from the grave. No one will stop Him.

Matthew 6

The Fullness of Time

In the fullness of time, the Law and Gospel… two doctrines, to convict and to make alive, to kill and to resurrect. It comes from outside of us (extra nos) as the Holy Spirit brings the Word of God to his people…to give light to our path and understanding to our darkness. Christ and his suffering – his death – are delivered to us…the broken and the lost. The blood from the Savior serves as medicine to the ones that lay helpless in death as the siege of the world and Satan continue.

The Law kills. The Law accuses. It shackles us, it points the finger, it cuts like a two-edge sword, it opens us up and reveals the raw sinner that cannot stand before the living God. It leaves us licking our wounds, left on the side of the road as we realize that we have done this to ourselves, to our families, to our neighbors. Left for prey… Brothers and sisters, we are not immune from its weight, we have failed to keep God’s law, his commands fall to our waysides, we have not let the light of his Word have its way with us, we have not let it direct our feet or our tongues…sin rules our lives.

The Kingdom of God is at hand! So near in fact that it is being unfolded before you and here in this place the Holy Spirit has brought you and continues to bring the Word of Life to you, to fill this room with the light only the Christ can give. The Holy Spirit convicts, he delivers Law and Gospel. He delivers Christ – right to you, the Crucified ONE…the one who kept the Law perfectly, your perfect and victorious Lord.

It is the God-man Jesus that is brought low in the Cross so that you will exalted. He is left to hunger in his wounds and upon the cross he satisfies all your needs. Nailed to the cross he floods you with baptismal mercy and in the name of the Holy Trinity, the water that came from his side gives you eternal life to always be showered by the Father’s love. It is Jesus that obeyed the wonderful statutes and longed for the commands of the Lord. It was Jesus that no sin ruled over yet all sin oppressed him to a bloody death. It is God that now commands that the Holy Spirit bring his Word to unfold the WORD of light to you and to give understanding to you. The Father’s face shines upon you his servants because Jesus has made you the Father’s children…Jesus unfolded his hands and stretched out his arms and you are forgiven, not left for prey to devour, but alive, absolved, and forgiven.

That’s our Jesus. He is our fortress and our mighty one. He is our rock and our safe place in every trouble. That will be the thread that runs through our study of Holy Scriptures this year. That is our sure confidence and strength in every time of trouble. We will stand upon this Rock, this Jesus, in every thanksgiving and sing the praises of the mighty one, the Savior of all mankind—the Savior of you.

Ash Wednesday

Fasting and bodily preparation are fine outward training. Of course, it isn’t commanded, but it trains us and points us to the giver of all good things. It is a personal thing for you and for God. It isn’t for the world to know about, for our friends to commiserate or rejoice over for brownie points or status or popularity. It isn’t something to boast over. Just do it for training, do it in secret, and you will be rewarded by the God who dwells in secret things. We can’t boast in things, in our works, in our world. Moths and rust will destroy these things. Boasting in our popularity or our ability to give up chocolate or soda or anything else will only separate us from the God who redeemed us from death and the devil.


What you did today is not fasting. You marked your heads with ashes because you are the people that will die. There are those who would ridicule you for marking your foreheads with ash while reading Jesus’ words: Do not disfigure your face… But Jesus is talking about fasting, and fasting for the sake of popularity, fasting in public. The imposition of Ashes is not fasting. It isn’t concerned with popularity, but with reminding you and me that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are the people of Adam’s curse. For by one man, sin entered into the world and that sin was given you in your conception. It is the same reminder that God gave to Adam in the garden and the same reminder that Saint Paul gives us when he says, “all have sinned and have fallen short of the kingdom of God.” Ashes are not the medium of fasting, but the sign of mourning and sadness. They are the mark of the mortal.

Don’t be fooled by a world that would convince you there is no need to mourn. The world is not interested in weeping. We are not of this world. We are the people of the Crucified one. And that means that we acknowledge that death is not how it was meant to be. It is not an escape, it is a punishment. Our sin has done this. Man has perverted what was God’s perfect gift of life and now we suffer and we die. We weep and we mourn. We grieve and know that this isn’t right. And to grieve is okay. Death isn’t the way it was meant to be. To suffer isn’t how we were created. We grieve and will continue to grieve because we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a savior. We are sinners that can’t save ourselves. We grieve because our loved ones aren’t supposed to be separated from us. But we grieve and we endure suffering because we have hope. Hope in the Christ who has conquered death and has suffered on our behalf.

You mourn with ash upon your forehead, but not just a dot or a swipe. We mourn with a cross on our forehead. Usually you don’t see it, but it’s there everyday. Usually it is forgotten and looked over. But today, we see it. We see what God has place upon your head. We see what infuriates the devil. Today, the Lord makes known again, what he showed the world at your baptism: you are a child of God. For in your baptism, Christ has clothed you in his righteousness. The death he died on the cross is your death and the life he lives is your life. So it is today that we remember our baptism. Today we remember and we see the cross of Christ. Jesus has died and rose again. He did it so that you would not be separated from him, but that you would have all things, even the treasures of heaven.

So a cross, to mark us as the mortals that have been wrapped in immortality: The immortal mortals. A cross on your forehead… put there when you were baptized, seen again today, declaring you the people of the cross… the ones that suffer with Jesus, for the ones that suffer with Jesus are the ones that live with him forever. Thus our lenten fast begins… in penitence and preparation, we set our eyes on Jesus and his cross. He sets his death before us again today and our eyes and our ears and our mouths behold his glory, the salvation of God has been given to us.

Stir up your power + Christmas Eve

The coming kingdom of David is at hand. “Come,” the Father said, “Come, it’s time to have compassion—a King to sit on my servant David’s throne forever, God, yet man, to free my people from their sins. To save them—stir up your power and go—have compassion and from sin and sorrow set everyone of them free.” And where did he go?

At once, to find you, to Royal David’s little city… from heaven above to earth below taking on the flesh of you and me, to suffer all things, to take that which he knew not—sin and sorrow—from you. And to save you, he gives you his life by dying your eternal death to bring to you salvation. He comes a baby born to die that you may live with him forever.

But why a king? What need have you for a savior? Why must God be with you?

Evil comes forth despite the good Law of God. Thus God sends a Savior because you have been left for dead, indeed dead in your trespasses, your reason, your will, your power, leaves you fighting for more of your own good pleasure—fighting against God’s judgment, DEAD, a living hell, no good remaining. A flesh that is a full and steady accomplice of your spirit…weak and teetering on hell’s steep cliff. Every good plan, every program—all pushed aside. And thus we wallow in lies told, promises forgotten, anger harbored, and love left undone.

And even then, we’d have Jesus be a king like we have a man be our president. Someone to do our bidding, always under a magnifying glass and prepared to boot him if he doesn’t deliver, waiting for his November. A Jesus like you’d have your holiday season…to be jolly and love everyone, giving no one coal, but things you like and want and covet, and when you’re done with him, push him back up the chimney or over the river and through a different wood until the next time. The religious establishment seconds your thoughts as they implored Jesus, “Make your disciples be quiet!” We don’t like the noise, the ruckus, the hoopla. It’s causing a scene, it’s not always convenient, it’s loud, and the rest of the world doesn’t like it.

Remember when they lined the streets with their cloaks and palm branches, and hailed him as their king? Have you lined his road in your life and then pulled it up again when you noticed he wasn’t the Jesus you thought you needed or wanted?

Repent. The coming kingdom of David is at hand. For God has seen your poor state before the world’s foundation. That’s right. Your state, your sin, your person—personality, heart, and soul… you! And thus he planned to free you, bless you, and save you.  Not from your plans, neighbors, and the things you want in this life, but to save you from sin and death and the devil. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in this one night, in this one child, in this baby born of Mary. GO! My Son, have compassion on the world. Bring to all salvation. From sin and sorrow set them free…from Satan’s cheap tricks, poisoned tongue, and tormenting lies, from your sinful flesh and the temptations of the world—GO! Be their king, their Savior! Slay bitter death, undo Satan, and steal the sting away from death and the grave.

That is exactly what he did. The Son obeyed his Father’s will and was born of Virgin mother. His power? stirred up…complete obedience to his Father’s will, God’s good pleasure to fulfill. Now this changes everything forever. God has flesh and blood, God who is now a man (the God-Man, the Son of Man, the Son of God) now leads the devil captive and came to be our brother. A servants form — just like you and me — he wore to lead away our enemies forever.

A king forever— what is his crown? Thorns. And his throne? A cross. A kingdom forever to make you his own, giving life to the dead, sight to the blind, hearing to the Deaf. He is your rock and your castle, never leaving you, never retreating up up and away, instead always remembering his promises and delivering his life into your midst, things of need, things of salvation, the very things for you.

The world isn’t going to like it. Satan will scowl, fierce as he will. You will even war with your own nature: the old Adam with the new. All kinds of people, places, things, demons, and the like will tell you to put this farce, this hoax, behind you…to grow up and get serious. But the Spirit of God at work in you will not be silenced by that which has been defeated. The faith that is alive in your hearts and in your lives cannot be dismantled by that which is judged and dismantled itself. Don’t listen to the lies of the devil, don’t be coerced by the sweet whispers of a world captivated by sin, don’t let your Old Adam have a word in edgewise. Instead, listen to the God-Man Jesus. Come to him and bring with you all your cares. You who are heaven laden, come! Be gathered to the manger of the newborn King. Rejoice in the death of death and the undoing of the grave. Stand at the feet of the cross of Jesus and be transformed into his image by his work and mercy and love.

And thus the great power of our Lord has been stirred and He has come to us. Like little John the Baptists still in our mother’s womb leaping for joy, our hearts for that very joy must leap and skip at this the Christmas greeting. Our lips cannot silence keep, our tongues with joyous words must sing. Glory to God in the highest heaven, who unto us his Son has given. The end of all time has come. The reign of sin and death has ended. The peace of heaven reigns in our hearts, in this world, and even to highest heaven…and God is born in Bethlehem, a Savior for all the world.

God has had compassion on you. The great power of the living God has been stirred and he has come. This shall be a sign unto you… you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, teaching the priests in the temple, announcing the year of the Lord’s favor to the crowds, feeding thousands, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, giving hearing to the deaf, crucified to a cross on Golgotha, raised from his tomb, present in the preaching of this Gospel, in the water of Baptism, and the bread and wine of his supper. The compassion of our God is found in this Jesus who has saved you from your sins and now dwells here with you.

Happy Christmas! Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace and good will among men!