Washed Clean

It is indeed right and salutary
that we should at all times and in all places
give thanks and praise to you,
oh God,
righteous King and Creator.
We are a sinful people; lost, corrupt and seekers of our own glory.
We have gone astray and sought after other gods.
We are deserving of Your wrath-filled judgment.
But You, oh God, are a merciful God.
You are holy and just
and so You sent Jesus to redeem our sin-filled selves.
He washed us clean with his blood;
taking our sins upon himself
and thus gave us entry into the Wedding Feast.
And so we worship You;
joining with Church on earth and the hosts of heaven
in singing Your unending praise.

Hosanna!

The following is the opening paragraph to Sunday’s Palm Sunday sermon. A little sermon teaser for you 🙂

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [John 12:13]

“Save us now”, is the cry of the day. Hosanna! Blessed be Jesus, the Son of God. Blessed be Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Blessed be his name forever and ever. Amen. For Jesus comes at the will of our Holy God and Father. Jesus comes as King and Redeemer. Jesus comes to set his people free. Jesus comes to save…NOW. Hosanna! Jesus came to save miserable wretches and sinners such as you and me. He came to free those who can not free themselves. Jesus came as Messiah, not to give us our “best life now”, but to give us our best life later. Now, we live in hope; being at peace with God. Blessed be Jesus, the Son of God. Blessed be his name forever and ever…

The rest of the sermon (audio only) will be posted on my congregation’s website later.

Have a blessed Holy Week.

Reprise/Revised: A Prayer Before Preaching

I have never done this before but I am re-posting a post. The following is a prayer I wrote on September 20, 2015. It is a post that I can tell people still visit, so I decided to read it again. And you know something, I needed this prayer.

You see, in the span of two weeks I get to preach 5 sermons: Midweek Lenten worship, funeral, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Easter. Five very different settings but with one very important purpose: The Gospel. And as a pastor and preacher, this is a task I take very seriously (as all preachers should). I don’t want to take any moment for granted. For to handle the Word of God flippantly is a dangerous thing. A messenger would never mess with a king’s message and so why would anyone take a lackadaisical approach to the Word of God; a message from our King. Too many pastors/preachers have tinkered with the King’s message and have deceived many. What a horrible thing to do. May I be found faithful with the King’s message.

And so, I pray this prayer — again — as I have four more sermons in this stretch of preaching. What an amazing opportunity to deliver my King’s message. Oh God, my King, hear my prayer…

To approach Your holy Word faithfully,
oh God and King,
is to do so with fear and trembling;
not only because it is Your holy Word,
but it convicts us of sin
through the awesome power of the Holy Spirit.
Your Word kills and gives life through Jesus Christ.
It convicts and redeems.
It’s alive.
It’s does something.

And so may I approach Your Word with great expectation;
leaning on Your promises
and joyfully basking in Your faithfulness.
May I toss off all that would hinder my hearing of Your Word;
fixing my eyes on You.
May I receive this Word with all joy,

handle it with care,
and proclaim Your glory.
May I embrace its transformative power
that gives courage in a fear-filled world.

Oh God and King
All glory, honor, worship and praise
be onto You,
through Christ Jesus my Lord,
Amen.

Holy Thursday ~ Maundy Thursday

[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

[12] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14 ESV)

“Maundy” comes from the Latin word that means “commandment”. And the text we traditionally look at is John 13:34-35 but John 15 12-14 is a great followup and explanation of what this love looks like. So I offer these reflection points as you enter this Triduum, “The Three Days” (Maundy Thursday – Easter Vigil) and look forward to Easter:

(1) Jesus FREELY laid down his life for you. He wasn’t forced.

(2) Jesus calls you friend, not servant, since he has made know to you what the Father has made known to him.

(3) Laying down your life may not mean a physical death for someone but rather humbly serving one another (Washing their feet; see John 13:1-20)

(4) Laying down your life for someone should never feel coerced; if it does then you’re really not laying your life down for them.

(5) If you believe that Jesus laid his life down for you then laying your life down for someone else will be a joy.

(6) If the truly value the Life you have through faith in Jesus, then laying your life down in this life is not a loss but rather a gain.

(7) And as I have written about before, if you truly love Jesus, then following the commandment to love one another is done joyfully and not begrudgingly.

Reflect on these points.
Read these texts over and over.
Give thanks to God that Jesus gave his life for you.
And then go out and joyfully give your life for someone else.

Praise be to God!

Holy God, thank you for Jesus and I praise you that he laid his life down for me, a sinner, that I may have Life eternal. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Tuesday ~ Fiery furnaces

[16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. [17] If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. [18] But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faced with a difficult situation; bow before a false god or be thrown into the fiery furnace. But no matter what they did, they faced a death…

…with one key difference:
One of the deaths would actually be Life.

What these three faithful men exhibited was an Easter faith. In the face of worldly pressure they did not give in. They did not bow under pressure (pun intended). They did not fear the king despite the rage he was showing. For Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they feared God and trusted God. Nebuchadnezzar’s god was not going to save them in the end; but their God (and ours) would.

This is Easter faith.
Is that your faith?

As we reflect on this Holy Tuesday; looking forward to Manudy Thursday and Good Friday, let us think about this Easter faith. It’s a faith given to us by God through the Holy Spirit; a faith that defies worldly death; and a faith that gives hope. You may never be threatened with a fiery furnace as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were, but you will face a “fiery furnace” of some type in this world. Your faith will be threatened. You will be told to abandon your faith in order to embrace a new world order. You will be told to compromise your faith in the name of equality. You will be tempted to look away from your faith in order to avoid punishment or persecution.

You will stare down an angry Nebuchadnezzar and be forced to make a decision: His fiery furnace or God’s.

Remember your Easter faith and what Jesus did to secure said faith. Hold tight to the hope of the resurrection and let the fiery furnaces of this world heat up; knowing that God will make sure that not a hair on your head is singed.

God of Life, grant us strength as we face the fiery furnaces of this world that we may stand strong in order to bring You glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Bring On Holy Week

It’s Holy Week, so watch out and give the pastor some space.

I almost feel like that is what people are thinking around me. True, Holy Week is busy:
~ Five worship services to get ready for
~ First Communion students to prepare
~ Three sermons to write

And on top of that I have two children under two and a working wife.
And on top of that I have my regular weekly responsibilities.
And on top of that the potential for pastoral care emergencies.

So with everything going on in my life I sometimes feel that people are looking at me with pity or relief that they don’t have my schedule or hesitation on whether to call or ask me anything.

The fact of the matter is, YES I am busy this week, but NO, not too busy for ministry and people and the Gospel and whatever else is contained in the fine print of my letter of call. Holy Week can cause more grey hair to make an appearance on my head but according to Proverbs that is just a “crown of glory” (Proverbs 16:31) so I’ll take it.

The other thing about Holy Week for me is that it definitely brings me closer to God as I am carefully studying scripture and planning worship services in order to help people express their worship of God,

(as I do every week, but it just feels more intense this week; if that makes sense)

and it is a holy calling and a holy task that I take very seriously

(not better than anyone else, just different).

But the other thing about Holy Week for me, and especially Easter, is that I generally see people in worship that normally don’t attend worship. And so I have a “captive audience” to slap up across the head with the Gospel. And so I am extra aware as I want to see that gospel slap leave a mark on those CEOs (Christmas Easter Only).

Lot’s going on; lot’s of activity and a lot of opportunities. So don’t shy away from the pastor. Please don’t give me space. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of me. Don’t pity me because this week is busy. What I do ask is that you pray for me and for all pastors and church leaders as we prepare this week.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we prepare messages and worship.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we still have families to care for.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we still have temples (bodies) to care for.
~ Pray for faithfulness as we still have souls to nurture (namely our own).

Holy Week is an awesome and incredible week and I look forward to it every year and saddened when it is done. But I am eternally grateful that the message of Easter is something I get to preach week in and week out, but even more than that, the message of Easter is my hope and your hope all year long.

So come, Holy Spirit, and bring on Holy Week and anything that goes with it. And by the grace of God I will be ready 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Holy Monday ~ Victory Is Coming

And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
[Mark 11:7-10]

Yesterday was Palm Sunday; the beginning of Holy Week; as Jesus rode victorious into Jerusalem. But as you begin this holiest of weeks I invite you to ponder this triumphal entry.

Think about it…

…Jesus rode into the city as a king returning from battle, but in this case, Jesus was claiming victory before the actual battle.  The cross (Good Friday) is still a few days away and his resurrection a couple days after that, but yet, Jesus is claiming victory now and giving hope to a hopeless people.

For you, here in 2015, the cross has happened; death has been defeated; and the victory definitely has been won and given to you through faith in Jesus. But now we wait. We wait for Jesus to return with a trumpet blast to bring us home. And as Jesus knew the outcome of the battle before it was fought; through faith we too can know the outcome of our battle in this life. For you see, we still battle Satan, sin and death. We still battle sorrow, pain and sadness. We still battle temptation.

But…

…through faith in Jesus you can know the final victory that is to come. Through faith in Jesus you can know that forgiveness will be declared when you confess your sins. Through faith in Jesus you can know that death will not be the end. That right there is hope in a chaotic and scary world.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV)

Your glory in Jesus Christ is coming; so ride into and through this life, claiming the victory Jesus claimed for you through his death and resurrection; all the while, submitting to Jesus as Lord and King. You will still ride through dark valleys, but because of Jesus and faith in him, you can rest assured that green pastures and still waters are waiting for you (Psalm 23).

Isn’t it comforting to know victory is coming before and during the battle?
Praise be to God!

Awesome God, Jesus won the victory over Satan, sin and death through the cross. May that victory give strength and hope to us in this world as we look forward to and long for the day that we rejoice and worship You forever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—