Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Saturday ~ Limbo

I feel like I am in limbo today.

The past two days we traveled through the cross of Jesus and now today ~ Nothing. Jesus has been crucified and buried, but tomorrow, though, is the joyous celebration of his resurrection. But I’m still in today ~ so nothing, at least for now.

And so I am here in my office reflecting on the cross, my sin and Jesus’ willingly going to the cross for me. And as I reflect on this I am polishing off TWO Easter sermons.

That’s right, I am just crazy enough to do that 🙂

This is something I have never done before. You see, I have two Easter services here at Salem Lutheran Church and one out at Belmont Lutheran Church. Every year I have written one Easter sermon and preached it three times. But there are a couple “problems” that I have never addressed before:

(1) Some people that come to the Sonrise worship service at Salem will come back for the Festival worship service later (I lead the Sonrise service at Belmont in between). And so those people hear the sermon twice, not necessarily bad since I need to hear something more than once to really get it, but I have heard comments.

(2) The crowd at each service is generally different (with a few the same). And so with a different crowd, a different message is needed; a different focus, if I am going to be contextual.

And so I felt the Spirit move stronger than ever, this year, to write TWO sermons. Besides, there shouldn’t be a problem, since I have plenty of material 🙂

Praise be to God!

And so this “nothing” day is turning into something. I am reflecting on the cross and preaching to myself an Easter message in two ways (but yet the same) as I get ready to lead God’s people in worship tomorrow.

What a day
Nothing to something ~ yup, that sounds like God

Holy Saturday, a day of limbo, but also a day of great expectation and hope as we know what is coming, and I am not talking about tomorrow.

God bless you as you wait expectantly for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus, with your glorious Kingdom and praise be to God!

Living God, what a roller coaster ride this week, and now we wait for the glorious return of our Lord Jesus. Bless our waiting, Oh God, and may we feel the passion to share this Good News every single day. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

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 -|—

Hosanna!

image

Mighty God, as Jesus rode victorious into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday; ride victorious into our hearts today through the hearing of Your Word.

Create in us humble hearts to receive Jesus as King.
Create in us humble hearts to confess our sins and receive forgiveness.
Create in us humble hearts to submit to the Lordship of Jesus.

And through shouts of ,”Hosanna!”, may we see our salvation through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. What a glorious day, oh God. So receive our worship and send Your Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

May this Palm Sunday be a blessing to you as you shout “Hosanna!” to King of kings and the Lord of lords. And then as you enter Holy Week, may the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday lead you to a deeper understanding of the love and compassion and mercy of our King.

All praise to God the Father through Jesus Christ our King.

The Pastor -|—