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                 A Sower Went Out to Sow

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 12, 2020


Prayer of Preparation
        Heavenly Father, your Word of Truth is at work as it is sown into our hearts. Allow us to be the rich and productive soil that allows your word to be planted, sprout, grow and bear productive fruit for the kingdom. Thank you for this gift of faith which is centered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Opening Hymn: Father, We Thank Thee (LSB 652)

1     Father, we thank Thee who hast planted, Thy holy name within our hearts.       
       Knowledge and faith and life immortal, Jesus, Thy Son, to us imparts. 
       Thou, Lord, didst make all for Thy pleasure, Didst give us food for all our days,
       Giving in Christ the Bread eternal; Thine is the pow’r, be Thine the praise.

2     Watch o’er Thy Church, O Lord, in mercy, Save it from evil, guard it still, 
       Perfect it in Thy love, unite it, Cleansed and conformed unto Thy will. 
       As grain, once scattered on the hillsides, Was in this broken bread made one, 
       So from all lands Thy Church be gathered, Into Thy kingdom by Thy Son.


Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made in remembrance of your Baptism)
        In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We Confess our Sins
        If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

        Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

We Celebrate God’s Forgiveness
        Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives our sins. In his resurrection he proved himself victorious over sin, death, and the power of Satan. We have assurance that our sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Introit: Psalm 103:15–19; antiphon: v. 8
       The LORD is merciful and gracious, 
          slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
       As for man, his days are like grass; 
          he flourishes like a flower of the field; 
       for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, 
          and its place knows it no more.
       But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear
       him,
          and his righteousness to children’s children, 
       to those who keep his covenant 
          and remember to do his commandments. 
          slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
       The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, 
          and his kingdom rules over all. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 
          as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

       The LORD is merciful and gracious, 
          slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Prayer of the Day
        Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55:10–13
       10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven 
          and do not return there but water the earth, 
       making it bring forth and sprout, 
          giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
       11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
          it shall not return to me empty, 
       but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
          and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 
       12 “For you shall go out in joy 
          and be led forth in peace; 
       the mountains and the hills before you 
          shall break forth into singing, 
          and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 
       13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; 
          instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; 
       and it shall make a name for the LORD, 
          an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

New Testament Reading: Romans 8:12–17
       12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
       1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear. . . .
       18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Sermon Hymn: Almighty God, Your Word is Cast (LSB 577)

1     Almighty God, Your Word is cast, Like seed into the ground; 
       Now let the dew of heav’n descend, And righteous fruits abound.

2     Let not the sly satanic foe, This holy seed remove, 
       But give it root in ev’ry heart, To bring forth fruits of love.

3     Let not the world’s deceitful cares, The rising plant destroy, 
       But let it yield a hundredfold, The fruits of peace and joy.

4     So when the precious seed is sown, Life-giving grace bestow 
       That all whose souls the truth receive, Its saving pow’r may know.



Sermon
        My wife was raised in the great state of Iowa. I also had the pleasure of living there when I was in ministry in a place called Webster City. Krista, our oldest child, was born there.

        Iowa, as you know, is mostly farmland. One thing that always amazed me about Iowa was the soil, the dirt! It was the richest looking soil I have ever seen. I have never seen soil like this any other place I have lived. It puts our sandy, rocky soil of the Northwest to shame. I don’t even think the cultivated topsoil we use in gardens or on our lawns is as rich as the natural soil in Iowa. I guess it’s like the phrase in the movie, Field of Dreams (which, by the way, was filmed in Iowa). The famous saying was “If you build it, they will come.” When it comes to Iowa soil, the saying is, “If you plant it, it will grow!”

        Our Bible Reading today is about seed and soil. It’s one of the more commonly known parables. We call it the “Parable of the Sower.” The great thing about the parable is the fact that Jesus both told it and explained it. Not all of the parables shared by Jesus come complete with an explanation. But this one does! Jesus gives a description of the seed and the four places the seed fell. There are four places, or four types of soil.

        First of all, we need to understand what the seed represents. The seed is the Word of God. Seed is a great image for God’s Word. We know that God’s Word brings life. There is life in the seed; there is life in God’s Word. The seed that brings life grows, blooms, and bears fruit. A plant needs to grow and mature is found in its seed. Everything a Christian needs to grow and mature is found in the Bible. If nourished, the seed will grow. If nourished, the Christian will grow.

        The Word of God has power to give life because it is the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God. We believe in the “inspiration of Scripture.” The Holy Spirit carried or inspired the writers to write down what God wanted to communicate to his world. One Bible verse that is often memorized in Confirmation class is: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

        The Word of God includes two great doctrines: The Law and the Gospel. The Law brings order out of chaos—we have seen the effect of this recently in Seattle, as well as other places in the country. The primary purpose of the Law, however, is to act as a “mirror.” The Law shows us our sinfulness. Finally, the Law can be used by the Christian to guide his/her daily life.

        However, the Law doesn’t have the power to change anything. God’s Law can’t save! It can only condemn! The miracle of change, the miracle of spiritual birth, the miracle of growth, the miracle of producing the motivation to lead a productive Christian life comes from the Gospel.

        The Gospel is the whole story of the love of God in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is centered in the fact that God sent his only Son to satisfy the wrath of God. God’s Law demands justice. We don’t have the ability to provide that justice, so God himself provided it! Instead of placing his wrath on you and the punishment you deserve, he placed it on Jesus. Jesus became your substitute, your stand-in, your pinch-hitter.

        So, instead of killing you and sending you to hell for your sin, God put Jesus in your place. As true man, he suffered a terrible death–crucifixion on a cross. As true God, he had the ability to beat death, to rise again. In his death and resurrection, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath. God’s demand for justice has been paid in full. Jesus made payment for your sins, once and for all.

        The Gospel is the part of the seed that has the power. Power to take root. Power to grow. Power to push its way up. Power to sprout. Power to bear leaves. Power to grow and produce fruit. What a good image this seed is for us. God’s Word is the seed and it is mighty stuff!

        But, let’s turn our attention from the seed, and address the four types of soil. Jesus explained the four places the seed fell and that for which they stood.

       The first place where the seed–the Word of God fell–was where? On the path. When it fell there, what happened? The birds came and ate it. Jesus tells us that the path represents those that don’t understand God or his love. They don’t understand because Satan is right there, ready to rob them of any chance of a growing faith. Satan is like the birds in the parable. When the Word of God comes, Satan is right there—ready to snatch it up; to take it away. This refers those who never get a chance to understand the grace of God in Christ Jesus because it has been snatched away.

       The second place where the seed fell was where? It fell among the rocky places. And seed does grow in rocky soil. It did in this parable. The seed took root, but its root was shallow. There were too many rocks in the way. Then the sun came out. The plants were scorched by the sun. They withered and died because there was no root. Jesus tells us that the rocky soil is the person who hears the Word of God and receives it with joy. But like the rocky ground, this faith has no root. When trouble or persecution comes–and it does come–the person with this type of rocky soil falls away. The plant that attempting to grow from the seed, and the Christian life it is trying to produce, withers.

       The third place where the seed fell was where? The seed fell among the thorns. The plants took root. They grew and they existed in and among the weeds. But the weeds, choked them out. The plants never reached maturity. Jesus tells us this type of soil is the person who has faith, but never reaches maturity in Christ. The worries of life and lure of wealth destroy the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. You know how that is possible! It is putting things of this world before God. It is breaking the very First Commandment.

       The fourth place where the seed fell was where? It fell on good soil. You know, like the Iowa soil—rich and full of nutrients, full of life! “If you plant it, it will grow.” And grow it did! The plants in the parable grew and produced a crop that was 100, 60, 30 times that which was sown. Jesus tells us this type of soil is good soil. It represents those who hear the Word of God and understand it. The Holy Spirit is allowed to work. Faith grows. It produces a rich harvest for the kingdom of God. It self-multiplies, blessed by God. Wonderful things happen.

       But, why are there four different places or four different types of soil in this parable? Why not just two? A place where the seed grows and a place where it doesn’t. Is Jesus trying to tell us something about ourselves and his Church? I think so.

       First of all, I believe that Jesus is saying there is more than one type of person in his kingdom. His kingdom is more than just “good soil.” It is very comfortable to believe all of us in the Church are “good soil.” We want to believe that everyone in the Church is producing a crop of faith that is 100, 60, 30 times what God has sown. To claim this, however, would put us in denial. If you were to examine your own life, you would see there are times that you don’t produce the spiritual crop you are called to produce. (I know that this is the case in my own life.)

       There are times, like the seed along the path, that Satan comes and takes a part of your faith away. There are times, like the seed on the rocky ground, when your faith seems to have no root or depth. Trouble or persecution comes into your life and you feel “faith-challenged.” There are times, like the seed among the thorns, that the worries of life and the lure of wealth challenge you. And there are times, when God is greatly at work in your life. You can see his blessing on you and others when you share Christ and his love.

       Every Church is full of different types of spiritual soil. Just look at the obvious. Satan is at work in God’s Church to snatch away faith. You have experienced persecution because of your belief in God. The worries of life and the lure of wealth have plagued you. Let’s be real about this! Maybe Jesus isn’t saying that the Kingdom of God is made up of only one kind of people, but people who are like the four types of soil.

       There is a great implication for us in this church. If the people of God have diverse spiritual needs–similar to these four types of soil–then we need to recognize that we can’t minister to our members and this community if we fool ourselves in believing that only the good soil will be part of our Church. Our ministry within and without the body of Christ must be multidimensional. We need to expand our ministry to reach those who are soil on the path, soil among the rocks, soil among the thorns, and that is rich and productive. We must realize that there will be diverse people in our midst in the way we conduct business, in the way we do things, and in the way we do ministry.

       How are we to minister to those who are like the soil on the path? We need evangelism and outreach. How are we to minister to those who are like the soil among the rocks? We need to ground them firmly in the Word of God. How are we to minister to those who are like the soil among the thorns? We are to challenge them to have Christ-minded priorities. How are we to minister to those who are like the good soil and multiply and bear a crop that is 100, 60, 30 times that which was planted? We need them to join us in active ministry, reaching out to others with us.

       You may find a personal challenge when you look at the parable in this light. This is where we need to get down and get dirty (pardon the pun!). Christ and the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. You have the seed of faith, given in the waters of baptism, established through the Word of God.

       And now comes the personal application . . . What type of soil do you find yourself in? Are you along the path? Are you among the rocks? Are you among the weeds? Are you among the good soil? Are you satisfied with where you are in relationship to your faith and in your relationship to God? God provides the seed, but he gives each and everyone of you the opportunity to work on your soil.

       Or do you find yourself occasionally moving between the different types of soil? Are you more on fire for God now than before? Or do you remember a time when you felt closer to him than you do right now?

       We believe, teach, and profess that it is Jesus alone who saves us sinners. We call that Justification. But every redeemed child of God is given the opportunity to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become more Christ-like and bear spiritual fruit. We call that Sanctification– becoming holy!

       Do you need to plow your soil that is found on the path and allow the Word of God to be truly planted down deep? Do you need to remove the rocks that are in your life and in your walk with God? Do you need to weed the garden of your life and remove the weeds that are choking your faith? Do you need to challenge yourself to bloom and produce a crop in the rich soil of being receptive to God?

       Maybe this parable is a lot more about us than we want to admit. Maybe, just maybe, God is challenging you today to take a serious look at your life; to take a serious look at your relationship with him and others. Maybe this is a time to take a serious look at what he wills for you. Seeds are planted to produce a crop. This crop can produce 100, 60, 30 times what was sown. The Word of God is given for a purpose—to bear fruit!

       The challenge is before you on two levels. As the Church, we are challenged to minister to people, regardless of what soil they find themselves in. As individual Christians, we are challenged to work toward that soil which will help produce a spiritual crop that is, 100, 60, 30 times that which was sown. The answer to these challenges is in the seed itself. The very Word of God which proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus.

       The power for faith to be planted and grow is in the seed—the very Word of God. May the Lord so enable it to grow and produce fruit in every Christian life. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed
     I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth.
 
     And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
          who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
          born of the virgin Mary,
          suffered under Pontius Pilate,
          was crucified, died and was buried.
          He descended into hell.
          The third day He rose again from the dead.
          He ascended into heaven
          and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
          From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
     I believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the holy Christian Church,
               the communion of saints,
          the forgiveness of sins,
          the resurrection of the body,
          and the life everlasting. Amen.


Prayers of God’s People
       Almighty God, hear the prayers of Your people, grant to us all things needful and beneficial, and keep from us all things harmful.

       Holy Lord, mighty God, You are the strength of the hills and the hope of the ends of the earth. Give to our hearts Your perfect peace, that we may not be anxious nor live in fear but rest all our hopes, dreams and desires upon Your merciful goodness. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy Lord, mighty God, You send forth water upon the earth, that it may bring forth abundant fruit and feed our bodies with all that we need. Help us to be wise and faithful in the use of the rich bounty of the earth, that the poor may be supplied and that we never fail to give thanks to You for all You have given us for this body and life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy Lord, mighty God, Your Word will not return to You empty but will accomplish Your purpose in sending it. By Your Holy Spirit, make our hearts good soil for Your Word to be planted, that we may give evidence of a sturdy faith and show forth in our lives the good works You have called us to do. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy Lord, mighty God, Your Spirit accompanies the witness of Your people who speak Your Word before the world. Grant success to the missionary and mission planter and to every pastor and church worker, that those who hear may believe and those who believe may bear the good fruit of faith in their lives. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy God, mighty Lord, You have given power to the nations and those who govern to act for the good of Your people. Bless our president, the Congress, our governor and all those elected and appointed to lead us, that justice may prevail and Your people may be free to live at peace with all people. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy God, mighty Lord, You know how weak and frail we are. Give to those afflicted in mind, body or soul the fullness of Your healing grace, that according to Your will they may be restored to health. Hear us for all those suffering or recovering from the pandemic’s ravages, for those who have requested our prayers, and for those we name in our hearts. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy God, mighty Lord, You have granted us great riches and gifts. Keep our hearts from being overburdened by the things of this mortal life, whether in time of plenty or in time of want. Deliver us from persecution and sustain us from all tribulation, that our hearts may ever be fixed upon the true treasure of Your grace. Accept the tithes and offerings we bring as part of our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all Your goodness. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Holy God, mighty Lord, Your Word endures forever. Keep us from being tossed about by every wind of change and chance, and help us to endure upon the firm foundation of Your Word and Sacraments. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In Him, with Him and through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is Yours, almighty Father, both now and forevermore. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Benediction
       May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
              and the love of God,
                     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
                            be with us all. Amen.

Sending Hymn: Almighty Father, Bless the Word (LSB 923)

1     Almighty Father, bless the Word, Which through Your grace we now have heard.
       Oh, may the precious seed take root, spring up, and bear abundant fruit!

2     We praise You for the means of grace, As homeward now our steps we trace.
       Grant, Lord, that we who worshiped here, May all at last in heav’n appear.

2     Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below;
       Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
.


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

 Come to Me, Receive My Rest, Take My Yoke

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 5, 2020


Prayer of Preparation
       
Gracious God, we admit that we are often tired, worn down, and worn out. We seek rest. We seek relaxation. We would rather have things easy with little stress. Yet, when we look at the world around us, we recognize that we cant avoid conflict as our world is full of it. In the midst of this, you promise to give us rest. Allow us to recognize that rest and receive it again today. In Jesus name, Amen.

Opening Hymn: Come unto Me, Ye Weary (LSB 684)

1     “Come unto Me, ye weary, And I will give you rest.” 
       O blessèd voice of Jesus, Which comes to hearts oppressed! 
       It tells of benediction, Of pardon, grace, and peace, 
       Of joy that hath no ending, Of love that cannot cease.

2     “Come unto Me, ye wand’rers, And I will give you light.” 
       O loving voice of Jesus, Which comes to cheer the night! 
       Our hearts were filled with sadness, And we had lost our way; 
       But Thou hast brought us gladness, And songs at break of day.

3     “Come unto Me, ye fainting, And I will give you life.” 
       O cheering voice of Jesus, Which comes to aid our strife! 
       The foe is stern and eager, The fight is fierce and long; 
       But Thou hast made us mighty, And stronger than the strong.

4     “And whosoever cometh, I will not cast him out.” 
       O patient love of Jesus, Which drives away our doubt, 
       Which, though we be unworthy, Of love so great and free, 
       Invites us very sinners, To come, dear Lord, to Thee!


Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made in remembrance of your Baptism.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

We Confess Our Sins
       If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

       Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

We Celebrate God’s Forgiveness
       Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. Because the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Introit: Psalm 91:2, 9–10; antiphon: v. 1
       He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
          will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 
       I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, 
          my God, in whom I trust.” 
       Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— 
          the Most High, who is my refuge— 
       no evil shall be allowed to befall you, 
          no plague come near your tent. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit;
       as it was in the beginning,
          is now, and will be forever. Amen.
       He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
          will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Prayer of the Day
       Gracious God, our heavenly Father, Your mercy attends us all our days. Be our strength and support amid the wearisome changes of this world, and at life’s end grant us Your promised rest and the full joys of Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Zechariah 9:9–12
       9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! 
          Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! 
       behold, your king is coming to you; 
          righteous and having salvation is he, 
       humble and mounted on a donkey, 
          on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 
       10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim 
          and the war horse from Jerusalem; 
       and the battle bow shall be cut off, 
          and he shall speak peace to the nations; 
       his rule shall be from sea to sea, 
          and from the River to the ends of the earth. 
       11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, 
          I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 
       12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; 
          today I declare that I will restore to you double.

New Testament Reading: Romans 7:14–25a
       14 We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:25–30 
       25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Sermon Hymn: Father welcomes (LSB 605)

       Refrain:   Father welcomes all His children, To His fam’ly through His Son. 
                        Father giving His salvation, Life forever has been won.

1     Little children, come to Me, For My kingdom is of these. 
       Life and love I have to give, Mercy for your sin. Refrain

2     In the water, in the Word, In His promise, be assured: 
       Those who are baptized and believe, Shall be born again. Refrain

3     Let us daily die to sin; Let us daily rise with Him, 
       Walk in the love of Christ our Lord, Live in the peace of God. Refrain



Sermon

       This weekend we celebrate Independence Day. It is our national celebration of freedom from the old and the formation of a new entity which lead to the formation of the United States of America and our country as we know it today.

       Locally, we see the fireworks stands on many corners. We hear fireworks at night. We look forward to the firework displays at local parks, which unfortunately will not happen this year because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

       Our celebrations, however, are minor compared to the annual 4th of July celebration in St Louis, Missouri, known as the “Veiled Prophet Fair.” While at Seminary in the 1980s, more than a million people would gather downtown for several days on the St. Louis Arch Grounds/ The fireworks were spectacular.

       In 2004, I celebrated Independence Day by myself in Iraq. I climbed a plane bunker with my trumpet and played the Star-Spangled Banner, only to have the base sirens go off as an incoming rocket had been fired at us.

       We cherish the thought of independence in our society and culture. It appeals to our human nature as well. We want to be free to do what we personally desire to do. This can get confusing as we promote specific personal rights that are often prohibited in other countries, to include the right of protest. Protest is to be peaceful under our understanding of freedom. Unfortunately, we have experienced that freedom without responsibility can lead to anarchy.

       We may think that we are totally free, but our readings today remind us that we are very much a dependent people. We are dependent on work. We are dependent upon our family. We are dependent upon one another. In fact, we realize that we truly can’t operate by ourselves in a vacuum. Unfortunately, in our dependence, we can very easily succumb to the burdens that are put upon us. Rather than celebrating freedom, we often find ourselves burdened.

       We have burdens and we need help. There are physical burdens as our bodies do get injured and we hurt. We have emotional burdens when we realize that we have broken relationships that we cannot seem to fix. We have spiritual burdens when we face the sin that we find within ourselves. Perhaps it is this latter burden which challenges us the most. We want to do what is right and proper, but the sin that is within us seems to reign.

       Saint Paul understood this challenge and addressed it in our New Testament Reading today. He wrote this to the Christians in Rome:

       “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . . when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Romans 7:14-25, select verses)

       Paul had burdens and knew the battle of sin and grace that took place within him. We can relate. We know the battle of sin and grace that takes place within us. Amid this, Jesus comes to us with some good news. He says in our Gospel Reading:

       “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28)

       This is good news for those of us who are tired. Tired and worn out with the challenges of life, to include dealing with a pandemic and societal discord. We know we are to have weekly a “Sabbath Rest” where we joint together with one another and with God in worship. We come away renewed knowing that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. We long for the time when we can celebrate that rest together. Until then, we encourage one another via the internet and in our individual and family worship.

       But then, Jesus tells us to not only place our burdens before God, but to take on different type of burden. He says, “Take my yoke upon you.” (Matthew 11:29) This does not seem to be very fair . . . Jesus calls us to lay our burdens down and then to take on a totally new and different burden—his “yoke.” We are to take on the “yoke of Christ.”

       So, what exactly is a “yoke” and what does it mean in our Gospel reading? Some see it as the yoke of the Law of God. Some see it as the yoke of the Commandments. Some see it as the yoke of the kingdom of God. There are many interpretations. But, if we are to understand the yoke in our text, we need to see it in the context of our reading.

       The stole that a pastor wears around his neck during worship is reflective of that yoke. It shows that he is the one who has been set apart to be yoked with Christ, as one to preach his word and proclaim the forgiveness of sins which comes to us through the cross and the empty tomb.

       Jesus gives us some important information about his yoke. Note what he says:

       “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

       My yoke is “easy” can also be translated “well-fitting.” Take my yoke for it is well-fitting. It is interesting to note that some scholars believe that Jesus’ family, as carpenters, may have made animal yokes.

       Barclay, in his commentary on Matthew, gives us this reflection: What Jesus is saying is: “The life I give you is not a burden to gall you; your task is made to measure to fit you.” Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and abilities exactly.

       The Peoples Commentary on Matthew also gives us this reflection: The yoke Jesus asks us to take upon ourselves might be defined as the whole Christian life and hope. Once we have assumed that yoke, God’s commandments are no longer a heavy burden that weighs us down and destroys us. Instead they are expressions of God’s will in which we delight, for we look for ways to express our thanks to God for the blessings of his grace.

       Taking up this yoke will give us rest for our souls. The yoke that Jesus gives us is easy / well-fitting and light. This seems to be almost to be a riddle.

       Perhaps we should stop to remember that taking on a yoke means being yoked to someone or something. Yokes often come in pairs. When we are yoked to Jesus Christ, he pulls the load with us. When we are yoked as the people of God, we pull together in the kingdom of God, working as his Church on earth.

       Reading up on draft horses and how they work together reveals some interesting things about yokes. Evidently three different things can happen when draft horses are yoked together. First, the load being pulled can be too heavy for the team to pull and they cannot move. But Jesus says, “My yoke is light.”

       Secondly, the team of horses may not pull together in unison. When this happens the combined strength of the animals is less than one pulling by itself. The lack of coordination prohibits the load from being pulled.

       Finally, the team of horses may be united, working together and properly yoked. When this happens, the work looks easy. The work will not be a burden. This is worth noting when we are yoked with Christ and one another.

       But there is also a reality of draft horses of which we need to be aware. No two draft horses have the same strength. Each are different. The farmer knows this and knows how to yoke two horses of unequal strength in such a way that the load is easily pulled. The famer uses a device known as an “Evener” or an “Equalizer” on the front of the wagon to be pulled. This device allows the farmer to shift the center of pull so that the horses will work in unison.

       The reality of our Christian faith is that we are yoked to one another through Jesus Christ. This is not a matter of independence or dependence, but a matter of interdependence. We need to realize that it is not a matter of every Christian pulling the same weight evenly. God has intentionally made each of us differently. God has given each Christian different gifts, talents, abilities, or levels of spiritual interest.

       You see, it is improper to say our Christian Team is “only as strong as its weakest member.” Each member of the body of Christ is different. We cannot expect every Christian to have the same gifts or resources, but rather we are called to understand that God intentionally gifts the members of the body of Christ—his Church—differently. It is not a matter of every Christian pulling the same weight—God has not equipped us that way, nor does he expect us to be. Each of us are uniquely gifted and talented to work within the kingdom of God.

       Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that God gives spiritual gifts to be used within the body of Christ—the church. Not everyone has the same gift. In fact, he highlights the differences which God give to his Church using “body language.” Not all the parts of your physical body are the same. He wrote:

       For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)

       Isn’t it wonderful to realize that God does not expect every Christian to be the same, to have the same gifts or to do the same thing! We are given the freedom to be ourselves and who God made us to be.

       Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that there are different roles within the body of Christ, as well. Not all are the same. He says: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

       Whatever gifts, talents, or abilities that you hold, you are called to use them for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, the Church.

       Are each of us also to produce at the same level of service in the Church? Note the Parable of the Sower and the Seed found in the Matthew (13:1-9; 18-23) and Mark (4:1-9; 13-20). Those seeds that were planted in good soil produced heads of grain that were 30, 60, 100-fold. They did not bear evenly amongst themselves. Seeds in good soil, do produce, regardless of the yield. Likewise, we are called to “bear such fruit.”

       I once knew of a man’s ministry group which called themselves the “30, 60, 100 Club.” They were dedicated to work together to the common good of the Christian community in which they lived and served. They recognized that they would produce at different levels of service to their God and their community and sought to encourage one another to do so.

       Yoked together, we are to meet others at their level of spiritual interest and ability and invite them to yoke with us in mission and ministry of making disciples—sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins, that we receive through his death and resurrection. To carry the burden, which is light, is to love others in word and action.

       You see, Jesus is the “Evener.” Jesus is the “Equalizer.” The fact that each of us is different and at different places in our spiritual life is not a burden. The fact that each of us have different gifts, talents, and abilities, is not a burden. The fact that each of us does not produce evenly for the kingdom of God is not a burden. It is something that we carry in love. Jesus is the “Evener” or “Equalizer” that allows us to work together for this kingdom.

       There is an old story which tells how a man came upon a little boy carrying a still smaller boy, who was lame, upon his back. “That’s a heavy burden,” said the man.
“That’s no burden . . .” came the answer, “. . .that’s my brother.”

       The burden which carried in love is always light. We willingly take on burdens for who we love, whether they be our spouses or our children. We take on burdens for our family. So much more should we take on burdens to benefit those whom we desire to see part of God’s family. We do so willingly, in love, to expand our Christian family.

       To be yoked and united to Christ also means to remember the yoke which Jesus bore. The yoke carried by him to Golgotha was the cross. The yoke that he carried was that which upon he was nailed. The yoke upon which he was nailed where he bore the sin of the world. The yoke of the cross upon which he hung satisfied God’s wrath and made you right with God.

       This weekend, as we celebrate freedom, we remember in our humanity that we are slaves to our burdens and our sins. Only Jesus Christ can bring true freedom. We are indeed dependent upon God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins. We are indeed interdependent as we are yoked together in the Kingdom of God as brothers and sisters in Christ. We work together, each bringing our own level of strength into the Church, seeking to share the Gospel and make disciples.

       “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

       May God so empower us to come to him, take up the yoke which is easy, light and well fitted, to share the gifts, talents and abilities he has given to each of us, to build the kingdom of God. In Jesus name, Amen.

Nicene Creed
              I believe in one God,
          the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth
                  and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
        the only-begotten Son of God,
        begotten of His Father before all worlds,
        God of God, Light of Light,
        very God of very God,
        begotten, not made,
        being of one substance with the Father,
        by whom all things were made;
        who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
        and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
        and was made man;
        and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
        He suffered and was buried.
        And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
                and ascended into heaven
        and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
        whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
        the Lord and giver of life,
        who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
        who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
        who spoke by the prophets.
        And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
        I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
        and I look for the resurrection of the dead
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The Prayers of God’s People
       Merciful Lord, hear the prayers of Your people and grant to us grace sufficient for our needs and all those for whom we pray.

       Our God and King, as once Your people received You in joy, open our hearts to rejoice in Your coming so that we may meet You in Your Word to encounter your forgiveness of our sins and in order that our faith may be strengthened. Help us to bless and extol Your name before the nations and to declare Your salvation to the generations to come, proclaiming that You are merciful and gracious and abounding in steadfast love. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Our merciful God and Lord, You are good to all Your creation. Continue to bless Your Church and to provide for her faithful pastors who will preach and teach Your Word and church workers who will serve us in Your name. Make bold our witness before the nations, and help us to act in love toward our neighbors. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Our Creator and Lord, from You all things come and to You are all things directed. Provide for our nation faithful leaders who will hear and heed Your law, protect and defend the citizens, preserve the precious gift of liberty, and inspire us to use our freedom honorably. Make us mindful of the heritage our forebears have given to this land, and guide us to be faithful in our stewardship of all the resources You have provided. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Our wise and giving God, You are the God of truth and in You is no falsehood or deception. Help us to delight in Your Law, to love what is good and true and right, and to seek after these things. Help us to wage war against the old Adam within us, restore us when we stray from Your Word, and forgive us when we give into the devil’s temptations. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Our compassionate Lord, we do not suffer alone the pain and afflictions of this life, but we live them out within Your grace and are sustained by Your mercy. Hear us on behalf of the sick, those who suffer, the grieving and those to whom death is near. According to Your will, deliver them from their afflictions and give to all Your strength, patience and hope, that they may endure to eternal life. Show compassion, and drive all pestilence from our land, especially the pandemic we endure. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Our gentle God and Lord, You have invited us to come to You with the heavy burdens of this life, that we may find rest and peace in Your mercy. Grant relief to those who struggle, supply to those in need, hope to those who fear, and peace to those who are anxious, that we may be delivered from all adversity and brought to everlasting life, where we shall join the saints of old in Your presence forevermore. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       All these things, blessed Lord, we pray You to grant us according to Your merciful goodness and for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Benediction
       The Lord bless us and keep us.
              The Lord make His face shine on us and be gracious to us.
                     The Lord looks upon us with favor and gives us his peace. Amen.

Sending Hymn: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (LSB 699)

1     I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest; 
       Lay down, thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon My breast.” 
       I came to Jesus as I was, So weary, worn, and sad; 
       I found in Him a resting place, And He has made me glad.

2     I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give 
       The living water; thirsty one, Stoop down and drink and live.” 
       I came to Jesus, and I drank, Of that life-giving stream; 
       My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him.

3     I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s light. 
       Look unto Me; thy morn shall rise, And all thy day be bright.” 
       I looked to Jesus, and I found, In Him my star, my sun; 
       And in that light of life I’ll walk, Till trav’ling days are done.



Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                    How to Find Your Life

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2020


Prayer of Preparation: 
      
Gracious God, as we travel through life we don't always have a clear understanding where we are heading. Allow us to trust you and what you have in store for each of us as well as taking comfort in knowing that you are with us wherever we go. We thank you that the death and resurrection of Jesus will bring us to the final destination of heaven and eternal life. Thank you for this assurance in Jesus name, Amen.

Opening Hymn: Come, Follow Me, The Savior Spake (LW 688)

1     “Come, follow Me,” the Savior spake, “All in My way abiding; 
       Deny yourselves, the world forsake, Obey My call and guiding. 
       O bear the cross, whate’er betide, Take My example for your guide.

2     “I am the light, I light the way, A godly life displaying; 
       I bid you walk as in the day; I keep your feet from straying. 
       I am the way, and well I show, How you must sojourn here below.

3     “My heart abounds in lowliness, My soul with love is glowing; 
       And gracious words My lips express, With meekness overflowing. 
       My heart, My mind, My strength, My all, To God I yield, on Him I call.

4     “I teach you how to shun and flee, What harms your soul’s salvation, 
       Your heart from ev’ry guile to free, From sin and its temptation. 
       I am the refuge of the soul, And lead you to your heav’nly goal.”

5     Then let us follow Christ, our Lord, And take the cross appointed 
       And, firmly clinging to His Word, In suff’ring be undaunted. 
       For those who bear the battle’s strain, he crown of heav’nly life obtain.


Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made in remembrance of your Baptism.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We Confess our Sins to God
       If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

       Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

We Celebrate God’s Forgiveness
       Almighty God in His mercy has given us His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. This assurance is given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The cross and empty tomb guarantees that are we are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

INTROIT: Psalm 89:15–18; antiphon: v. 1
       I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;* 
          with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. 
       Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, 
          who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face, 
       who exult in your name all the day 
          and in your righteousness are exalted. 
       For you are the glory of their strength; 
          by your favor our horn is exalted. 
       For our shield belongs to the LORD, 
          our king to the Holy One of Israel. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit;
       as it was in the beginning,
          is now, and will be forever. Amen.

        I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; 
          with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

Prayer of the Day
       Almighty God, by the working of Your Holy Spirit, grant that we may gladly hear Your Word proclaimed among us and follow its directing; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 28:5–9
       5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD, 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles. 7 Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

New Testament Reading: Romans 7:1-13
       1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
       4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
       7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
       13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:34-42
       34 [Jesus said:] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
       40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Sermon Hymn: Let Us ever Walk with Jesus (LSB 685)

1     Let us ever walk with Jesus, Follow His example pure, 
       Through a world that would deceive us, And to sin our spirits lure. 
       Onward in His footsteps treading, 
           Pilgrims here, our home above, Full of faith and hope and love, 
       Let us do the Father’s bidding. 
           Faithful Lord, with me abide; I shall follow where You guide.

2     Let us suffer here with Jesus, And with patience bear our cross. 
       Joy will follow all our sadness; Where He is, there is no loss. 
       Though today we sow no laughter, 
           We shall reap celestial joy; All discomforts that annoy 
       Shall give way to mirth hereafter. 
           Jesus, here I share Your woe; Help me there Your joy to know.


3     Let us gladly die with Jesus. Since by death He conquered death, 
       He will free us from destruction, Give to us immortal breath. 
       Let us mortify all passion
           That would lead us into sin; And the grave that shuts us in 
       Shall but prove the gate to heaven. 
           Jesus, here with You I die, There to live with You on high.
  
4     Let us also live with Jesus. He has risen from the dead 
       That to life we may awaken. Jesus, You are now our head. 
       We are Your own living members; 
           Where You live, there we shall be, In Your presence constantly, 
       Living there with You forever. 
           Jesus, let me faithful be, Life eternal grant to me.



Sermon
       Having spent my Father’s Day last Sunday with my wife, my son and his wife, and my youngest daughter and her boyfriend, I was able—or should I say, I was allowed—to get away with telling a few “Dad Jokes.” You know Dad Jokes to be “groaners.” They are often riddles that are a “play on words.”

       Why did the Clydesdale give the pony a glass of water? He was a little horse.

       Did you hear about the guy who invented Lifesavers? They say he made a mint.

Why do we traditionally sing “Amen” instead of “Awomen” at the end of songs in Church? Because they are hymns, not hers.

       Life is full of riddles. They are not limited to “Dad jokes.” Some are found in nature. Some are found in science. Some are found within people. Life is full of riddles and clever minds like to tell them and solve them.

       When we read today’s Gospel reading, we have to stop and consider whether Jesus is actually sharing a riddle. He says:

       Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)

       Wowsa! What type of a “riddle” is this? Isn’t the Christian life to be one of comfort and security? Why would one even consider following Jesus if this is what will happen to his disciples?

       Jesus is clear that there will be conflict in this journey called life. It will bring conflict in our relationships with others—even those within our own families. Not everyone will appreciate our desire to be a Christian and follow Jesus Christ. Not everyone will understand the grace of God that we have experienced through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our life journey as a Christian can and will bring conflict.

       Perhaps we are seeing this more today than any other point in each of our personal histories. The Judeo-Christian influence that was so prevalent in our society and culture is not as strong as it once was. Christianity used to be in the mainstream of American culture. If you bear the name of Christian, you are now in the minority. Those of us that hold to be Christians are “counterculture.”

       The Christian faith has been watered down in most mainline denominations in the United States. Christianity in America used to uphold a high view of the Bible. Scripture was seen as the “Word of God.” This is no longer true in the larger traditional denominations. At best, it is believed that the Bible “contains the word of God.”

       There is a significant difference between the word “is” versus the word “contains.” If the Bible IS the Word of God, it is placed in a position of authority amongst those who hold it. If the Bible CONTAINS the Word of God, then there are two Bibles in one—that which is the Word of God and that which is not. In this case, the priority of theology is to discover which is the Word of God and that which is not. Thus, you can establish situational ethics and can come up with all kinds of accepted positions contrary to the Word of God.

       When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, he did so with the question, “Did God really say?” Satan is still asking this question today through those who question whether the Bible IS the Word of God.

       Since our denominational and personal conviction within our Church Body—the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod—is that the Bible IS the Word of God, we will find ourselves in a position of conflict with those who maintain that the Bible merely CONTAINS the Word of God. There will be conflict in our society and culture. There may even be conflict within our own families when we are accused of being “narrow minded” and “old fashioned.”

       Following Jesus can come with price—rejection by others, even those we love the most.
       Examining your own life and your personal history will reveal many other riddles as well. You didn’t likely see them as riddles at the time. They were hidden as problems and challenges. You most likely didn’t see the answers to them at the time either. Later, God provided the answers for you, and you were extremely thankful that God saw you through each and every particular riddle.

       Life is a journey full of riddles. We all search for answers. The riddles that come our way surface at different points of time in each of our lives. The riddles often come in the form of questions: What do I want to do when I grow up? Whom shall I marry? What job shall I pursue? What will I do in retirement?

       Life can also be depicted as a search for personal meaning. What is my purpose? We are encouraged to establish life goals and then find the road to get there. The road to get there is the answer to the riddle. But, it isn’t always that simple.

       Not knowing where to search for meaning in life, folks go after all kinds of things. Perhaps you have faced these challenges as well. These pursuits include things like: popularity; athletic ability; mental ability—brains; building a home, amassing wealth; establishing and excelling in a given vocation; family, Church and God. Unfortunately, you can pursue each of these things and never solve the riddle of life because you don’t understand Jesus Christ and what he has done for you.

       If our life actually is a “journey full of riddles,” we need to stop to consider what type of journey each of us is on? Are you on “hot pursuit” of something in your life? Are you so wrapped up in the pursuit that you miss God’s love for you and your calling to be a Christian in relationship with Jesus Christ?

       The truth is, God already made a journey to determine who you are and what you are to be. He made it in Jesus Christ. God entered our world more than 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus. This Jesus, Son of God, was both God and man—the mystery of the incarnation. During this journey, Jesus taught about the kingdom of God. Jesus showed the kingdom of God in action by healing the sick and performing miracles.

       This journey took Jesus to the cross—to die a death in your place. Your journey was taking you to death and eternity in hell. Jesus intervened and took the journey in your place and on your behalf. He died for you and satisfied God’s wrath destined for you because of your sin.

       Because of where he journeyed on your behalf, you have everything that Jesus acquired on that journey. We know that the journey did not end in death on the cross, but continued on into the resurrection. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead, showing himself victorious over sin, death, and Satan.

       Jesus has given you an identity in the midst of his journey through the cross to the empty tomb. You are his child, sealed with him in your baptism. He has given you a life and a purpose. Because of this you need not search after something that is already there.

       There are words of comfort and encouragement in our reading this morning as well. Jesus said:

       “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

       Those who receive us as followers of Jesus, also receive Jesus and God the Father. This Jesus who is at work in you in your faith—in word, attitude, and action—will always point others to the God who loves and redeemed you through the cross and the empty tomb. This helps us to focus on pursuing our identity not through the things of this world, but in Jesus Christ and what God has made us to be—his children!

       You can get wrapped up in the things of the world—especially during this time of a pandemic and civil unrest. These things can be heart breaking and challenging—and perhaps some of them should be. We know a loving God that accepts the sinner and redeems the sinner. We know this because we acknowledge our own sin before God . . . and when we do, we receive the forgiveness of sins that only he can bring through Jesus.

       So, today we remember. We remember and realize that God has given each of us a life purpose, a focus, and an identity. The purpose is to be “light” and “salt” in a fallen world. The focus is to be on making disciples as we go about our daily lives. The identity is that we are Christians—children of God through Jesus Christ.

       There are two paths set before us in the journey of life. One will take us on the search for meaning outside of God. The other is living out the journey that God has set before you through the cross and empty tomb. You may believe that you are in complete control of your journey, but you are not. It may take you to places that you thought you would never go—to include conflict with those whom you love the most, as indicated in our reading today.

       Wherever God is leading you, he promises that Jesus will go with you. In that journey, God will grant you forgiveness of your sins and even peace in the midst of the conflict that will come. Even in the midst of unexpected challenges and conflicting values with society and culture and those around us, Jesus is with us—loving us and leading us. In this we take comfort.

       Finally, although we don’t know the route we will be taking in the journey of life and the riddles we may face in this lifetime, we do know our final destination. Jesus makes it very clear in Scripture that he has gone before us into heaven to prepare a place for us in his kingdom. We know, in faith, that we have the gift of eternal life and that is our final destination.

       That’s Good News for us! We may not know where our journey will take us, but we trust Jesus, knowing that he will go with us as he has promised. This is our guarantee from a loving God who ave his all for us.

       In Jesus name, Amen.

Nicene Creed
              I believe in one God,
          the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth
                  and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
        the only-begotten Son of God,
        begotten of His Father before all worlds,
        God of God, Light of Light,
        very God of very God,
        begotten, not made,
        being of one substance with the Father,
        by whom all things were made;
        who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
        and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
        and was made man;
        and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
        He suffered and was buried.
        And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
                and ascended into heaven
        and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
        whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
        the Lord and giver of life,
        who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
        who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
        who spoke by the prophets.
        And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
        I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
        and I look for the resurrection of the dead
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The Prayers of God’s People
       We draw near to the Lord’s throne of grace and pray as He has commanded us, trusting in the Lord to hear our prayers and answer our petitions according to His mercy.

       O most merciful God, Lord of heaven and earth, we pray You to so rule and govern Your Church and all her pastors and ministers that she may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word, defended against all adversity, and protected from all adversaries, that thereby faith may be strengthened and love increased in us.

       Grant health, wisdom and integrity to all in authority over us, especially to the president of the United States, the governor of this state, the Congress, all legislative bodies, and all judges and magistrates. Endow them with Your Spirit and with respect for Your Word, that they would serve Your good pleasure for the maintenance of righteousness and the punishment of wickedness so that we all may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty. According to Your gracious will, turn the hearts of our enemies and make them to walk with us in humility and peace.

       Grant to those in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death or any other adversity the healthful Spirit of Your grace for healing, strength, comfort and relief. Bless especially those who suffer for the sake of Your name and Your Word. Hear us on behalf of those we name in our hearts. Give them courage to stand firm in their afflictions and patience until the day of Your deliverance.

       Preserve us from pestilence and every evil. Give to us favorable weather and cause the fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season and offer You praise and thanksgiving for all Your goodness to us. Lend Your blessing to all honorable vocations and honest industry, that we may serve where our skills and abilities may be of good use. Bless the arts and music, that we may please You and be encouraged by all that is good, right, true and beautiful.

       Give to all husbands and wives grace to live together in love and faithfulness. Bless the homes and families of Your people, that they may be places where Your name is honored and love is nurtured. Give Your special grace to the widowed, the orphan, all mothers with child, the aged and the infirm, that we may grant them comfort, aid and protection.

       All these things for which You would have us ask of You, we pray You to grant to us for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom we are bold to call You Father and in whose name we pray, trusting in Your mercy and confident that You will give answer to our prayers; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Benediction
       The Lord bless us and keep us.
              The Lord make His face shine on us and be gracious to us.
                     The Lord looks upon us with favor and gives us his peace. Amen.

Sending Hymn: Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain (LSB 865)

1     Lord, help us ever to retain, The Catechism’s doctrine plain 
           As Luther taught the Word of truth, In simple style to tender youth.

2     Help us Your holy Law to learn, To mourn our sin and from it turn 
           In faith to You and to Your Son, And Holy Spirit, Three in One.

3     Hear us, dear Father, when we pray, For needed help from day to day 
           That as Your children we may live, Whom You baptized and so received.

4     Lord, when we fall or go astray, Absolve and lift us up, we pray; 
           And through the Sacrament increase, Our faith till we depart in peace.


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                  Your Hairs are Numbered!

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020

Prayer of Preparation
       Gracious God, remind us this day of the intimate relationship of love you have with each of us as your children. Help us to take comfort in that love, as you know us so well that you even know the number of hairs on our heads. We need not fear what life will bring us because we know nothing can take us away from your love. In Jesus name, Amen.

Opening Hymn: Consider how the Birds Above (LSB 736)

1     Consider how the birds above, Feed day by day with carefree ease— 
       Does God not keep them in His love? Are we not worth much more than these?

2     The lilies grow, they do not toil; How fair is their fragility— 
       If God clothes these, which quickly spoil, Will He not clothe both you and me?

3     Set not your heart on food or drink, Nor be weighed down by worldly care; 
      
About such things the godless think, Yet never thank the Lord in prayer.

4     Be on your guard against all greed, For life is more than what we own. 
       Our Father knows our ev’ry need, Before our needs to us are known.

5     Be not afraid to suffer loss, Of all the things for which you pray, 
       For He who faced for you the cross, Will give you strength to live each day.

6     Seek first God’s reign, His boundless grace, His holy name in all you do: 
       Christ first and last in ev’ry place; All else will then be given you.


Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made in remembrance of your Baptism.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We Confess Our Sins
       We, God’s beloved, draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.

       Our help is in the name of the Lord,
              who made heaven and earth.
       I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,
              and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

       O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

We Remember God’s Grace and Forgiveness
       The grace of God is with us all. Our sins are removed because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Introit Ps. 56:3–4, 10–11; antiphon: Ps. 56:13
       For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling,
           that I may walk before God in the light of life.
       When I am afraid,
           I put my trust in you.
       In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
           What can flesh do to me?
       In God, whose word I praise,
           in the LORD, whose word I praise,
       in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
           What can man do to me?
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son
           and to the Holy Spirit;
       as it was in the beginning,
           is now, and will be forever. Amen.
       For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling,
           that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Prayer of the Day
       O God, because Your abiding presence always goes with us, keep us aware of Your daily mercies that we may live secure and content in Your eternal love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 20:7–13
       7 O LORD, you have deceived me,
              and I was deceived;
       you are stronger than I,
              and you have prevailed.
       I have become a laughingstock all the day;
              everyone mocks me.
       8 For whenever I speak, I cry out,
              I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
       For the word of the LORD has become for me
              a reproach and derision all day long.
       9 If I say, “I will not mention him,
              or speak any more in his name,”
       there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
              shut up in my bones,
       and I am weary with holding it in,
              and I cannot.
       10 For I hear many whispering.
              Terror is on every side!
       “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
              say all my close friends,
       watching for my fall.
              “Perhaps he will be deceived;
       then we can overcome him
              and take our revenge on him.”
       11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior;
              therefore my persecutors will stumble;
              they will not overcome me.
       They will be greatly shamed,
              for they will not succeed.
       Their eternal dishonor
              will never be forgotten.
       12 O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous,
              who sees the heart and the mind,
       let me see your vengeance upon them,
              for to you have I committed my cause.
       13 Sing to the LORD;
              praise the LORD!
       For he has delivered the life of the needy
              from the hand of evildoers.

New Testament Reading: Romans 6:12–23
       12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
       15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
       20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:5a, 21–33
       5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, . . .
       21 “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
       24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Sermon Hymn: O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe (LSB 666)

1     O little flock, fear not the foe
       Who madly seeks your overthrow;
           Dread not his rage and pow’r.
       And though your courage sometimes faints,
       His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints
           Lasts but a little hour.

2     Be of good cheer; your cause belongs
       To Him who can avenge your wrongs;
           Leave it to Him, our Lord.
       Though hidden yet from mortal eyes,
       His Gideon shall for you arise,
           Uphold you and His Word.

3     As true as God’s own Word is true,
       Not earth nor hell’s satanic crew
           Against us shall prevail.
       Their might? A joke, a mere facade!
       God is with us and we with God—
           Our vict’ry cannot fail.

4    Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
      Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
           Fight for us once again!
      So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
      A mighty chorus to Thy praise
              Forevermore. Amen.

Sermon
       In our text this morning, we are told that God knows the number of hairs on each of our heads. For each of us, that number varies. And when you ever clean your hairbrush, comb, or sink drain, you know where a lot of your hair seems to end up. For many of us, the number of hairs that you once had on your head, may not be the same number that you currently have, with little prospect of having more in the future.

       I don’t know if it is physically possible to count the number of hairs on your head, let alone get a rough estimate. The fact that God knows, is very revealing and somewhat incomprehensible. It tells us something about God, his knowledge of us, and his relationship to us. And if God has that type of knowledge about what is on the outside, such as hair, then there can be no doubt that he really knows what’s on the inside. He knows your actions, your attitudes, your dreams, and your desires. He has a very intimate knowledge of who you are and what you are.

       I remember once taking my family many years ago to Northwest Trek. I enjoy this park. The animals that are featured are native to our Pacific Northwest. Part of visiting the park was taking the tram tour. This gave us the opportunity to see the various species of animals in the grasslands, the woods, and in the swamp. During that visit, I remember noticing something that I did not note before on prior visits. The tour guide spoke about how the animals lived together for protection and care of their young. She spoke how there were various roles in each herd, flock, or family. God gave these animals a natural instinct to group together and survive together.

       All creatures of God seem to have a natural instinct to gather together for the purposes of procreation and survival. This includes humanity. We really are dependent upon each other, even if we don’t readily admit it. We are primarily social creatures. We group ourselves into cities and towns. Even those of us who claim to be independent and want to be away from the sprawl of the city, have to admit that it would be difficult to survive without the support and services offered by other people. Even those areas of our country where cities and towns are not large, extended family and others provide an important role in life. We are a people of community and social need.

       Actually, the need to be a communal people and to have intimacy with others is God-ordained. It is more than just basic instinct in each of us that desires to live in relationship to others. When God created Adam, he recognized that something was missing in his life. Moses records this in the book of Genesis, the second chapter:

       Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:18-20)

       God recognized that Adam was created to be a social creature. None of the animals would complete him. So God did something about it. Moses continues:

       So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
              “This at last is bone of my bones 
       and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman, 
       because she was taken out of Man.”
              Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
(Genesis 2:21-24)

       And so, God gave us the gift of families. The intimacy between a husband and wife is described as being “one flesh.” Sin has unfortunately affected our relationships with God and with those we love—including those closest to us. This can bring distance in the closest of relationships. I have to admit that after 34 years of marriage that my wife, in part, is sometimes still a mystery to me. I can only imagine what she would say about me.

       The closest intimacy that one can share, however, is not with one’s spouse, but with God himself. The love expressed by God to you is one that far surpasses the intimacy found in marriage. In fact, God’s relationship to you, the Church, is the ultimate relationship and an example for marriage. Paul in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians wrote this:

       Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32)

       God’s intimacy with Adam and Eve is recorded in the Bible. The book of Genesis tells us that God readily came to Adam in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve were in complete fellowship with God. They knew the intimacy they shared with their creator. Only sin destroyed this intimate relationship.

       Sin destroyed humanity’s intimate relationship with God. God’s relationship with his creation, however, continued on. God continued to love his creation. God continued to love those he created. God continues to love you.

       So, God knows you. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows your personality. He knows the good things you have done. He knows how you love your family. He knows your faith. He knows your desire to reach out into your community. He knows your desire to witness to his love. He knows you completely—inside, as well as outside.

       But God’s knowledge of you and the intimacy he has with you is a “double-edged sword.” He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows the good you have done. But he also knows the sin in your life. God, in his intimate knowledge of you, is fully aware of what you have done wrong or what you have failed to do which is right.

       Each of us has done things that we do not want others to know, let along God. Each of us has our own “secrete sins.” That God knows about these things can be frightening. We know that God demands us to be perfect. He is fully aware of how we fall short of his will, his love, and his desire for our lives. God’s intimate knowledge of each of us means that he knows us for who we really are–sinful human beings that are more apt to disappoint God, than to please him.

       God knows you, like no other person knows you—even your spouse, family or friends. He knows you better than you know yourself. This fact is both comforting and frightening. It is comforting in that you have a loving God who wants to know you. It is frightening in that he also knows your sinfulness and the sins you have committed. There is no escaping the knowledge of God. One of the attributes that we ascribe to him is the fact that he is “all-knowing.”

       You would be dismayed and lost without purpose if God’s relationship to you were based upon your intentions and actions. There is no possible way to please God through your personal actions apart from him. There is no way that you could do enough good to outweigh the sin in your life. This is a reality we all must face. Fortunately, God does not base his relationship to you on your performance or your ability to perform good works.

       God bases his relationship to you on his Son, Jesus Christ. God looks at you “cross-eyed!”—through the eyes of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is there that God took and continues to take your sin and place it upon Jesus. It is there that God’s wrath for your sin was satisfied. It is there that your intimate God can wipe away those personal, secrete sins, as well as those big ones that occasionally seem to be part of your life.

       Through the cross of Jesus Christ, you can be confident that you need not fear God’s intimate knowledge of you. You can be assured that you have a loving, forgiving, gracious God. A God who is calling you to share that love with others. You have a God who still desires for you to do what’s right, but also a loving and gracious God who forgives the penitent sinner.

       Knowing that you have a loving God who intimately knows you is reaffirmed in our Bible reading this morning. God’s value of you far exceeds your wildest dreams. Jesus made a simple comparison of your value in the words of this text:

       Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

       If God so cares for the simple sparrow, he certainly cares for you. The people of God are worth more than many sparrows. They are inexpensive birds, yet precious to God. How much more precious are you in your intimate relationship with God, re-established through Jesus Christ.

       God now claims you as his very own because of Jesus. God acknowledges the relationship he has with you. In the concluding words of our Gospel reading today, Jesus states:

       So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 4:32-33)

       Those who have received Jesus, his death and resurrection through faith are acknowledged by God. This is a wonderful thing. It brings us assurance of a life in Christ.

       Let’s not forget also the words in our text, “. . . have no fear.” You need not fear—you are in a re-established intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Your loving God, who forgives all your sins through Jesus, knows you—even the number of hairs you have on your head. But not only does God know you, he loves you. He forgives you. He brings you new life.

       You are valuable and have been redeemed. Rejoice in the value God has placed on your life. You are his. Amen.

We Profess our Faith:
The Apostles’ Creed

     I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth.
 
     And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
          who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
          born of the virgin Mary,
          suffered under Pontius Pilate,
          was crucified, died and was buried.
          He descended into hell.
          The third day He rose again from the dead.
          He ascended into heaven
          and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
          From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
     I believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the holy Christian Church,
               the communion of saints,
          the forgiveness of sins,
          the resurrection of the body,
          and the life everlasting. Amen.


We Bring Our Prayers to God
       O merciful Father, hear Your people as they pray in the name of Jesus on behalf of all manner and conditions of people.

       Faithful God, when we are fearful of our enemies and weary of the struggle, You have been our shield and our strength. Grant to us the full measure of Your grace to sustain us against all who are against us, and help us to endure the trials and temptations of this mortal life and be faithful unto death. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, with Your favor upon us, we pray You to help us in our fight against temptation and sin. Help us to live holy and righteous lives by the power of Your Spirit, and keep us from surrendering ourselves to the slavery from which Christ has set us free. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, we remember those who serve us in Jesus’ name. Bless the leaders of our Synod, all pastors and teachers, and all church workers, that they may be faithful in their calling and honor Christ with an obedient life. Raise up those who will follow in their steps and serve Your Kingdom in the years to come. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, give healing and strength to the sick and all afflicted in body or mind, and grant to those who struggle the gift of peace of mind and heart. Hear us especially for those who suffer in the current pandemic, as well as those whom we name in our hearts now. Restore our nation and the world in health and livelihood, and preserve us from pestilence and fear. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, bring peace to our troubled cities that justice may abound and be administered fairly and accordingly. Bless all those who serve in roles that bring order to our society and grant them wisdom in the execution of their duties. Subdue racial unrest in peaceful ways that all may acknowledge that we are your children, regardless of race or national origin and that your saving grace through the cross and empty tomb is for all. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, we thank you this day for faithful fathers—both those who brought us to life as well as those who bring us to faith in you. We thank you for the faithful witness of such men that show us your love and guide us in life. Bless all fathers this day, as well as fathers to come, that they may be a reflection of your love and grace. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, give courage to those near life’s end and comfort those who mourn. As we recall the saints who trusted in You in life and who died in Christ, encourage us by the witness of Your grace and their faith, so that when Christ comes in His glory we may be found faithful and delivered with them into the glory of Your eternal presence. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Faithful God, sanctify us as Your people and make us bold to confess You on earth. When this earthly life is ended and we stand before You on high, grant us to hear the Savior’s acknowledgment that we are His and He is ours forever. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       All these things, Father, and everything else for which we need, we pray You to grant us for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who died and rose and lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Benediction
       Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

              The Lord blesses us and keeps us,
                     The Lord makes His face shine on us and is gracious to us.
                            The Lord look upon us with favor and gives us His peace. Amen

Sending Hymn: Have no Fear, Little Flock (LSB 735)

1     Have no fear, little flock; Have no fear, little flock, 
           For the Father has chosen To give you the Kingdom; 
       Have no fear, little flock!

2     Have good cheer, little flock; Have good cheer, little flock, 
           For the Father will keep you In His love forever; 
       Have good cheer, little flock!

3     Praise the Lord high above; Praise the Lord high above,
           For He stoops down to heal you, Uplift and restore you; 
       Praise the Lord high above!

4     Thankful hearts raise to God; Thankful hearts raise to God, 
           For He stays close beside you, In all things works with you; 
       Thankful hearts raise to God!


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                 Christ Died for the Ungodly

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020


Prayer of Preparation
       Lord God, our world is in turmoil. We face a pandemic. We face unrest in our nation over police brutality. We see protests and riots. It is easy to believe our world is falling apart. We are anxious. We want it to end. Help us to remember that you are still the God in control. Allow your will to be done and allow us to be part of it to bring healing to our communities. Bless this time of worship and contemplation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

     Note: Clicking on the box around each hymn title will take you to an internet music link.

Opening Hymn: All Mankind Fell in Adams’s Fall (LSB 562)

1     All mankind fell in Adam’s fall; One common sin infects us all. 
       From one to all the curse descends, And over all God’s wrath impends.

2     Through all our pow’rs corruption creeps, And us in dreadful bondage keeps; 
       In guilt we draw our infant breath, And reap its fruits of woe and death.

3     From hearts depraved, to evil prone, Flow thoughts and deeds of sin alone; 
       God’s image lost, the darkened soul, Seeks not nor finds its heav’nly goal.

4     But Christ, the second Adam, came, To bear our sin and woe and shame, 
       To be our life, our light, our way, Our only hope, our only stay.

5     As by one man all mankind fell, And, born in sin, was doomed to hell, 
       So by one Man, who took our place, We all were justified by grace.

6     We thank You, Christ; new life is ours, New light, new hope, new strength, new
       pow’rs. 
       This grace our ev’ry way attend, Until we reach our journey’s end.


Invocation
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We Confess Our Sin
       If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

       Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

We Receive God’s Grace and Forgiveness
      Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. We receive this knowing our sin—that which we have done and that which we have failed to do—has been forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Introit: Psalm 67:4–7; antiphon: v. 3
      Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
            let all the peoples praise you! 
      Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, 
            for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. 
      Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
            let all the peoples praise you! 
      The earth has yielded its increase; 
            God, our God, shall bless us. 
      God shall bless us; 
            let all the ends of the earth fear him! 
      Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 
            as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
 
      Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
            let all the peoples praise you!

Prayer of the Day 
       Almighty, eternal God, in the Word of Your apostles and prophets You have proclaimed to us Your saving will. Grant us faith to believe Your promises that we may receive eternal salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 19:2–8
       2 [The people of Israel] set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
       7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Epistle Reading: Romans 5:6–15
       6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
       12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
       15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35—10:20
       35 Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
       1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
       5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
       16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Sermon Hymn: God Loved the World so that He Gave (LSB 571)

1     God loved the world so that He gave, His only Son the lost to save, 
       That all who would in Him believe, Should everlasting life receive.

2     Christ Jesus is the ground of faith, Who was made flesh and suffered death; 
       All then who trust in Him alone, Are built on this chief cornerstone.

3     God would not have the sinner die; His Son with saving grace is nigh; 
       His Spirit in the Word declares, How we in Christ are heaven’s heirs.

4     Be of good cheer, for God’s own Son, Forgives all sins which you have done; 
       And, justified by Jesus’ blood, Your Baptism grants the highest good.

5     If you are sick, if death is near, This truth your troubled heart can cheer: 
       Christ Jesus saves your soul from death; That is the firmest ground of faith.

6     Glory to God the Father, Son, And Holy Spirit, Three in One! 
       To You, O blessèd Trinity, Be praise now and eternally!



Sermon
       A lot is going on in our nation and in our community. On one hand, we are dealing with an international pandemic and its effects on us as people, our families, our communities, and our economy. On the other hand, we are dealing with inappropriate police behavior and the reaction to it throughout our major cities, to include our beloved Seattle.

       Everyone seems to have an opinion. Everyone seems to have a perspective. Conspiracy theories abound regarding both the pandemic and the civil unrest that we have seen, if not experienced. It is very difficult to sort through it all and determine what is true and what is not. Every attempt to do so seems to just uncover more differing opinions as to what is going on, what is being done, and who is behind it.

       Polarization is taking place. Most opinions seem to be on the extreme. Fingers are being pointed. Accusations are being made. Division seems to abound. It is easy to question whether those involved are working toward resolution or are set in creating division.

       Emotions are running high. We hear words like, “The pandemic is a violation of our personal rights.” “Police departments should be defunded because they all are racist.” “Black Lives Matter.” “White Privilege.” “Blue Lives Matter.” “All Lives Matter.” “Our President is a . . . (you can fill in the blank). The Democratic party is . . . (you can fill in the blank). “We need to scrap it all and start over.”

       There can be no doubt that we are experiencing the unexpected—whether it be the pandemic, improper police procedure that leads to death, or peaceful demonstrations that have been thwarted because of civil unrest and clashing with others. None of us were expecting any of this in the year 2020.

       We want things to be better. We want people to be united in our country. We want to have an opportunity to share our Christian faith in a way that makes a difference, as we know that we have been called to be “salt” and “light” in the world in which we live. Jesus said,

       “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:13-14)

       If there is anything worth noting, it should be the realization that we who bear the name of “Christian” are countercultural. Christian thought and practice are no longer part of the mainstream of America. It is easy to fool ourselves that is not the case—especially if we make no friends or have no association with others outside of our Christian circles. It is easy to live in a safe and protected world which we created. It is much more difficult to live in the world that truly exists and make a difference—to be “salt” and “light.”

       Jesus knew this difficulty that we would face. He knew that his children—those of us who have faith in God and have received the forgiveness of sins because of the death and resurrection of Jesus—would live in our world, in and with tension. If we believe that Jesus intended for us to be “comfortable” in this earthly life, then we miss the point of our calling as Christian people to be “salt” and “light.” More than ever, our churches are becoming “outposts” than the “fortresses” that we have attempted to make them to be.

       If we are to be “salt” and “light,” what is our flavoring to be? I think today’s reading from Romans provides the substance to whom and what we are to be as this flavoring. St Paul wrote:

       “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, [how] much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, [how] much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-11)

       The reconciliation that we have with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus—and the forgiveness of sins it brings to each of us—is the substance of our flavoring to the world.

       We want to live in a society free of strife; free of the pandemic; free of racial discord; free of brutality; free of discomfort; free. We want a “reconciled” society and culture where there is no tension. We want everyone to get along. We want “heaven on earth.” But before we point the finger at someone who does not hold our perspective or pass judgment on them and others, isn’t this what they want as well? Isn’t this what all of us want our utopia—the United States—to be? Isn’t this the concept that our nation was built upon, even though there have been chapters of American history that have fallen very short of those ideals?

       In 1987, musician Belinda Carlisle published a song entitled Heaven is a Place on Earth. The thought behind it was that a meaningful loving relationship between a man and a woman would create “heaven on earth.” The words of the chorus went like this:

       “Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Ooh, heaven is a place on earth. They say in heaven love comes first. We’ll make heaven a place on earth. Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.”

       It might be easy to dismiss this song as an overly romantic interpretation of love. It does show the expectation of a supposed loving relationship---“If we truly love each other, we will create ‘heaven on earth.’” This thought might very well be utopian, but it shows a basic inner desire that all of us have—regardless of who we may be or where we stand in regards to faith, politics, or current events. We want things to be good in life, if not better than the way that they have been. We want a society free of sickness and racism, as well as one in which all people get along for the common good of all.

       If you think about it, history is full of attempts at creating utopia—the perfect society in which to live. Even those at the time of Jesus wrestled with the thought that the Messiah would come to create the perfect society and that Jesus, himself, would usher it in. We do know from Scripture, that one day Christ will return and establish his kingdom on earth, but what we have currently is not it. Until then, what type of track record does world history have in creating the perfect utopian society? Not all that great . . .

       This, however, does not relieve us of our responsibility to be “salt” and “light.” The latter portion of that verse from Matthew’s Gospel on salt and light (mentioned above) ends with these words:

       “. . . A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

       You see, even though we will never have “heaven on earth,” we Christians are called to be an influence on others. Contrary to what some may say, I personally don’t believe there is such a thing as a “Christian Nation.” I do believe there are nations that are made up of Christians which influence the society and culture of that nation. The Christian life and witness will make a difference to others in our society and culture.

       Our Christian witness, our ability to be “salt” and “light” begins on the local level in our own communities as we seek to be the incarnational presence of Christ in the midst of apparent chaos. The chaos may be societal chaos, community chaos, or family chaos. It doesn’t matter at what level of culture or chaos, we are called to provide the “light that shines before others.” This begins with the personal relationships we develop with those around us—even within our own neighborhoods.

       For me, this means to be the best neighbor possible to those who live around me. For me it means reaching out to my new Hispanic neighbor to build a relationship. I helped him with a few yard projects—even hobbling around on an injured knee. We shared a cold drink and a good conversation. I am proud to call him friend and am happy he calls me “Amigo.”

       It means reaching out to my neighbor on the other side who is an African-American Vietnam Veteran, 100% disabled because of agent orange. We share the brotherhood of past military life. He is not always able to cut his grass and when those times come, I mow his grass for him. My wife and I attempt to keep an eye out for him and his wife and do things that help them out.

       I define neither of my neighbors by their particular ethnic background—it doesn’t matter to me the color of their skin or what their native language may be. They are part of my fellow human family that need to know Jesus. The street on which I live is the platform that God has given me to be “salt” and “light.” This is where I want to be the incarnation of Jesus. This is where I want to get out of the way and let Jesus come through. Am I perfect at doing so? Absolutely not, but I don’t give up trying to do the right things.

       Never believe the lie that you are different from others. Do not believe the lie that you can divide people by skin color, ethnic background, or languages spoken. You and I are just like those who live around us—even those who are protesting in Seattle and the looters and rioters who are thwarting the message of justice and equality. This is very clear in today’s New Testament reading as well. Paul wrote:

       Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

       But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, [how] much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
(Romans 5:12-15)

       Two things are here worth noting. First of all, sin came into the world through one man—Adam—and spread to all. As a result, ALL have sinned. We share one thing with all of humanity—sin. This means that you have something in common with the police officer who committed the injustice. You have something in common with the people who are upset over what happened. You have something in common with the protestors. You have something in common with the looters and rioters. You and I and all people that live, have ever lived, and ever will live, have something we all share. We stand condemned before God in our humanity. Never say to your self that you can’t share your faith in word, attitude and action with THAT PERSON, because you have nothing in common. You know they need a Savior, if you are honest with yourself in admitting that you need a Savior.

       Secondly, Paul in the later part of our Romans passage emphasizes that which we Christians have received in faith . . . the grace of God, the free gift by the grace of that one man—Jesus Christ. This gift is not for you alone. Paul emphasizes that the free gift of the grace of God is “abounded for many.” This includes all of those previously mentioned that we falsely believe are “different” than us. Jesus’ death and resurrection is for them as well. The forgiveness of sins that you experience as a Christian is also for those who do not yet know Jesus.

       If I understand the origin of the word “Christian” correctly, it means that the one who bears that name is a “little Christ.” We are the incarnational presence of Jesus through our words, our attitudes, and our actions. This is not always easy and can be a challenge for us—especially when we are tempted to see others as “different” than us. When we look at others this way, we come before God in repentance, asking him to open our hearts and minds to care for and witness to those whom he has put before us.

       We may not be able to change our world, our nation, or our communities, but we can make a difference in the lives of those around us who need Christ. We can do so one at a time.

       Lord, we pray that in the sea of life you give us sturdy ships and not safe harbors. Make us bold to sail, even in rough seas, bringing the cargo of the message of your redeeming love to those who so desperately need it. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed
     I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth.
 
     And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
          who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
          born of the virgin Mary,
          suffered under Pontius Pilate,
          was crucified, died and was buried.
          He descended into hell.
          The third day He rose again from the dead.
          He ascended into heaven
          and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
          From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
     I believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the holy Christian Church,
               the communion of saints,
          the forgiveness of sins,
          the resurrection of the body,
          and the life everlasting. Amen.


Prayers of God’s People
      For the Church and her witness of hope to the world, that in every city, village and home across the globe the voice of the Lord may be heard by the faithful preaching of the Gospel, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For those who labor in the fields of the Lord today and for the Lord to raise up laborers for His harvest fields, that their work may be blessed and they may be protected and defended against the enemies of the Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For ourselves and our Christian witness, that we may be “salt” and “light” sharing Your mercy and grace through our words, attitudes and actions with those You set before us that are outside of the Christian faith; that we may be bold witnesses, looking for the opportunities that You have provided, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For all who live under the flag of our nation, for those who govern in this country, and for the causes of peace and justice, that we may all be given grace and freedom to serve the Lord honorably and in accord with His Word, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For those in leadership positions that perpetuate unnecessary harm on others, that they may be convicted of their action, come to repentance and find Your mercy and grace and change their behaviors under the cross of Christ; that all within our country may be treated equally and fairly under the law, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For healing in our country that rightful protests may be heard and that those who instigate violence and destruction may be brought to justice; for those who are called upon to provide that justice that they may do so wisely and with integrity that peace may prevail in our cities, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For the poor and hungry, the homeless and unemployed, and the oppressed, that the Lord would grant them mercy, and that we may help to relieve their suffering and want, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

      For the sick, that the Lord would grant them healing; for the wounded in spirit, that the Lord would make them whole; and for the grieving, that the Lord would comfort them, especially all affected by the ongoing pandemic and its effects, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

     For the dying, that they may have peace at the last; and for our grateful remembrance of all those who have died in Christ, that in the fullness of time the Lord may bring us with them into His everlasting presence where sin and death will trouble us no more, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy. 

     O blessed Lord, through Moses You called a people to Yourself and from them You delivered up Your own Son to be our Savior. By His sufferings and death, He has redeemed us sinners from our sins, and by His resurrection He has released us from the fear of death. Help us to live as Your own people, doing the good works for which we were created, and praying with confidence the petitions and supplications of our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Benediction 
    The Lord blesses us and keeps us. 
        The Lord makes His face shine upon us and is gracious to us. 
            The Lord looks upon us with favor and gives us His peace. Amen 

Sending Hymn: Forth in the Peace of Christ We Go (LSB 920) 

1     Forth in the peace of Christ we go;
           Christ to the world with joy we bring;
       Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips,
           Christ in our hearts, the world’s true king.

2     King of our hearts, Christ makes us kings;
           Kingship with Him His servants gain;
       With Christ the Servant-Lord of all,
           Christ’s world we serve to share Christ’s reign.

3     Priests of the world, Christ sends us forth
           This world of time to consecrate,
       This world of sin by grace to heal,
           Christ’s world in Christ to re-create.

4     Christ’s are our lips, His Word we speak;
           Prophets are we whose deeds proclaim
       Christ’s truth in love that we may be
           Christ in the world, to spread Christ’s name.

5     We are the Church; Christ bids us show
           That in His Church all nations find
       Their hearth and home where Christ restores
           True peace, true love to all mankind.



 Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                          Trinity Sunday

June 7, 2020

Prayer of Preparation

       Holy God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we confess that your essence is beyond our human understanding. Give us the faith to believe you are whom Scripture claims you to be. You are Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier—three persons in one God. Enable us to hold fast to who you are and how you have revealed your self to us and our world. Thank you for this day of celebration of Who you are. In your name I pray, Amen.

Opening Hymn: Glory Be to God the Father (LSB 506)

1     Glory be to God the Father, Glory be to God the Son, 
       Glory be to God the Spirit: Great Jehovah, Three in One! 
              Glory, glory, While eternal ages run!

2     Glory be to Him who loved us, Washed us from each spot and stain; 
       Glory be to Him who bought us, Made us kings with Him to reign! 
              Glory, glory, To the Lamb that once was slain!

3     Glory to the King of angels, Glory to the Church’s King, 
       Glory to the King of nations; Heav’n and earth, your praises bring! 
              Glory, glory, To the King of glory sing!

4     Glory, blessing, praise eternal! Thus the choir of angels sings; 
       Honor, riches, pow’r, dominion! Thus its praise creation brings. 
              Glory, glory, glory to the King of kings!

Invocation
(The sign of the cross may be made in remembrance of your Baptism.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We Confess our Sin
       If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

       Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

We Remember God’s Forgiveness
       In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, 
       and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To us who believe in Jesus Christ, He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on us His Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are forgiven in Christ! Amen.

Introit: Psalm 16:8–11; antiphon: Liturgical Text
       Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. 
              Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us. 
       I have set the LORD always before me; 
              because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 
       Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; 
              my flesh also dwells secure. 
       For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, 
              or let your holy one see corruption. 
       You make known to me the path of life; 
              in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures               
              forevermore. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 
              as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
 
       Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. 
              Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.

Prayer of the Day
       Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a
       1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
       3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
       6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
       9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
       11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
       14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
       20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
       24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
       26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

       27 So God created man in his own image, 
       in the image of God he created him; 
       male and female he created them.

       28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
       1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

       4 These are the generations 
       of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

New Testament Reading: Acts 2:14a, 22-36
       14 Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, . . .
       22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

       “‘I saw the Lord always before me,        
       for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 
       26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; 
       my flesh also will dwell in hope. 
       27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, 
       or let your Holy One see corruption. 
       28 You have made known to me the paths of life; 
       you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

       29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

       “‘The Lord said to my Lord, 
       Sit at my right hand, 
          35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

       36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Gospel Reading: Matthew 28:16-20
       16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Sermon Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy (LSB 507)

1      Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
              Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; 
       Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty! 
              God in three persons, blessèd Trinity!

2     Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee, 
              Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; 
       Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee, 
              Which wert and art and evermore shalt be.

3     Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee, 
              Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see, 
       Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, 
              Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

4     Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
              All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea. 
       Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty! 
              God in three persons, blessèd Trinity!



Sermon
       Today is Trinity Sunday. Of all things, you are going to read about the doctrine of the Trinity! You can almost feel the air go out of the room. You can ruin a perfectly good worship service by talking about something like the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is surely one of the toughest Christian Doctrines to understand. The British preacher Colin Morris once said, “Any preacher with good sense will call in sick on Trinity Sunday!”

       The doctrine of the Trinity is essential in orthodox Christianity. We know of the Trinity because we address him each week in worship. Our invocation begins, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Not names, but “name.” There can be little doubt that some Christians would rather dismiss the mystery of the Holy Trinity as simply, ‘a truth which is above reason, but revealed by God.’

       There is an old story about an aging Jew crossing the street in front of a Roman Catholic Church who is knocked down by a hit and run driver. As he is dying, the priest from the church comes out to comfort him. In a good orthodox fashion, the priest asks, “Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?” The old man looks up at the priest and says, “Here I lay dying, and all you can do is ask me riddles?”

       More than fifteen hundred years ago, according to legend, St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from the ground and used the three leaves and single stem to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. I have seen children’s lessons that use an egg—shell, yoke and white—to explain the Trinity. I have seen a 3-way light bulb used as well. In the Church you often see a triangle or items in the form of three that represent the Trinity. In the ancient Church, Gregorian Chant was preferred to be performed in what we call ¾ time, or as they called it, “perfect time.” Unfortunately, nothing can really explain fully the doctrine and essence of the Trinity.

       There has been a lot of confusion and controversy about the Trinity, especially in the early centuries. Rather than accept the mystery by faith, there were those who attempted to logically explain the mystery rationally. This led to all kinds of strange heresies. These were addressed in the fifth century in what we call the Athanasian Creed. This creed, which we will read today, is one of the three ancient creeds of the Christian Church. Because of its complexity and length, it is usually only read during Trinity Sunday.

       Reflections of the Trinity are found throughout Scripture. In our Old Testament Reading today, we have the account of the creation. It is interesting to note that God refers to himself in the plural in the Hebrew. “Let us make . . .” God says. The Trinity is found in the baptism of Jesus where he is present and the voice of God from heaven resounds while the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. And very clearly, our Gospel reading this morning reveals that Christian baptism is to be performed in the name of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

       Although we can’t fully comprehend the Trinity, the essence of God is revealed in the work of the Three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This essence of God is love and each Person of the Trinity manifests God’s love in action. This is where we begin to understand the importance of God’s love for us and why the Trinity is important for our personal lives. This Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in a love relationship with one another and with us, as his creation.

       So what impact then, you may ask does the Trinity have on me, today, here at home as I read this sermon, even in the midst of a pandemic that affects us daily?

       If you were to ask me to apply God to you today in a concrete fashion, I am sunk. I can’t do it. God is concrete. He is unchangeable. The essence of who He is, however, can best be understood in regard to how he manifests himself in the Persons of the Trinity.

       1. To the Father, we ascribe the work of Creation. This is seen in our Old Testament Reading, as well as in the first article of each of the Three Creeds. In the Apostles’ Creed, we simply say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

       Martin Luther explained this in his Small Catechism when he discusses the Apostles’ Creed:

       What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.
       He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
       He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.
       All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this, it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
       This is most certainly true.

       Do you see the connection to you? All that you are, all that you have, is a gift from God—even in the midst of the challenges of this pandemic. Even in the midst of civil discord and strife he is still present and at work. It is not only outward, it is inward for he has given you your body and soul and all your physical members. God’s doesn’t make junk and you have the gift of life given to you by him.

       Not only that, he provides you with everything you need to sustain this body and life. We hold on to that in faith in the midst of the pandemic and the challenges that have faced us and our nation this past week. He defends you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil. Why, because of his fatherly love for you! This is especially cool to think about this day as a different kind of “Fathers’ Day.” You have a Heavenly Father who gives you all good things.

       How do we respond to God’s love for us? I like Luther’s words, “. . . it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

       2. To the Son—Jesus Christ—we ascribe the work of Redemption. God has redeemed you from sin, death, and the power of Satan through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I love this portion of the Apostles’ Creed because it is the “meat and potatoes” of our Christian faith. This is the essence of what we believe about Jesus as our personal Savior.

       And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

       Now look at the beautiful explanation that Luther provides:

       What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord,
       who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death,
       that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,
       just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
       This is most certainly true.

       We believe that Jesus is true God and true man. That’s our Christology! But look what he did for YOU! He redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature. Lost and condemned because of sin. You know about sin. Even when everyone around you believes that you are the greatest person, greatest son or daughter, greatest boyfriend or girlfriend, the greatest grandparent or grandchild, or even the greatest boss or employee . . . you know that you are sinful. You do wrong and you fail to do right. That is a problem for ALL of us!

       The cross and the empty tomb bring hope to our world. Will you hang on to that hope, that reality of the forgiveness of sins in all that you encounter this week during this pandemic? When you find yourself challenged mentally, physically, socially, or whatever way you can be challenged, will you remember the Christ that is within you and that has purchased and won you from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil?

       You can, because this grace bestowed on you by God does not depend on your successes, but on what Jesus has done for you . . . not with gold or silver, but by his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death.

       And the result? God had redeemed you . . . literally “purchased you back” through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now you are his own and live under him in his kingdom. You have the opportunity to serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

And that is your hope. That is what you can hang your hat on. That is what you can count on. God’s love for you in Jesus Christ will be present when things get tough this week and you are wondering or questioning what will happen to you in the face of the current pandemic.

       3. To the Holy Spirit, we ascribe the work of sanctification. The “Third Person” of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the “sanctifier.” He is the one who makes you ‘holy,’ blameless in the sight of God. Wherever the Word of God is at work, the Holy Spirit is at work proclaiming to you that your sins are forgiven.

       I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

       Before his Ascension into heaven, Jesus told his disciples that he was going there to prepare a place for them and for all who believe in him. He told them not to be dismayed, for he would send a “Comforter.” On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out in a miraculous way—a way we don’t understand—upon the people of God. We are God’s Pentecost People.

       It is the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word—the Bible, and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion that brings you to faith and strengthens that faith. He is at his work in your life. Some erroneously believe it is a personal choice to make a decision for God. I believe it is the opposite— God calling you to faith through the Holy Spirit. Luther in his explanation this this part of the Apostles’ Creed wrote this:

       What does this mean? 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 calls, 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 believers.
       On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
       This is most certainly true.

       The mysterious Holy Spirit. His work never seems to point to himself, but always to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We’re not always sure how he works, but we do know that he works through the Word of God and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to change hearts and minds and grow faith. You can draw strength and comfort that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in your life.

       “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ expect by the Holy Spirit,” the Bible tells us. If you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit IS at work in your life. He has called you by the Gospel and proclaims that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. He keeps you in the one true faith.

       This can be a comfort for you today, this week, whatever comes, whatever situation you find yourself in.

       You see, we know that there is a Doctrine of the Trinity. We confess that it is mysterious and beyond reason. In spite of this, we understand the love of God for us through how God manifests himself in the working of the Three Persons. This is a mystery, something you are called to acknowledge by faith, yet something that you can draw strength from this day and everyday—regardless of what may come.

       May God so give us the eyes of faith to see that we have a loving God in Three Persons, the Blessed Trinity. Amen.

Athanasian Creed (Historically since the sixth century, this historic Creed is used to proclaim our understanding of God on Trinity Sunday. It was written to combat misunderstandings of the Trinity and the Person of God.)

       Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith.
       Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.
       And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
       For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.
       But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
       Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit: the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal.
       And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal,
just as there are not three Uncreated or three Infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.
       In the same way, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty;
and yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
       So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God;
and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.
       So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord;
and yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.
       Just as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so also are we prohibited by the catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords.
       The Father is not made nor created nor begotten by anyone.
       The Son is neither made nor created, but begotten of the Father alone.
       The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.
       Thus, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
       And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another;
but the whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal, so that in all things, as has been stated above, the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is to be worshiped.
       Therefore, whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.
       But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
       Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.
       He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity.
       Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ: one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God;
one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
       For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ,
who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead,
ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds.
       And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.
       This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.

Prayers of God’s People
       O blessed and holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, hear the prayers of Your people and grant to us all things according to Your Word and promise.

       In the beginning, Father, Your Word spoke all things into being and from nothing You made all that is. Help us to see the imprint of Your love in the goodness of creation and to exercise responsible care of all that You have entrusted to us. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Throughout the ages, Father, Your Spirit filled the sin-stained world with hope and called us to repentance and faith. Help us to hear the voice of Your Word and to respond with faith, confessing You without fear before all manner of people and in every corner of the earth. As You planned long before the world began, deliver us in Christ, that we may be Your own and live according to Your commands all our days. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In this day and in this time, Father, raise up for Your Church godly men to serve her as pastors and faithful teachers and church workers to make known Your saving Gospel. Raise up faithful servants who will heed Your call and serve to the best of their ability wherever You place them. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In Baptism, You joined us to our Savior’s death and resurrection, Father. Guide us, that we may live out faithfully the new lives born of water and the Spirit, serving You with all our bodies, minds, souls and strength. In the face of disease and death, make us bold to expect that we will be united with Him in a resurrection like His. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In government and law, Father, You work to establish and preserve order, protecting the weak and fostering godly virtue. Bless our president; our governor; and all who make, administer and judge our laws. Deliver the world from the threats of pandemic and tyranny, and preserve the nations in peace. Bless all who defend us in the armed forces, aid us in emergency and medical fields, and inform us with news. Hinder those who oppress any peoples with mistruth, violence or fear. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In moments of racial tension, Father, enable us to see one another as fellow brothers and sisters in our humanity and worthy of your love and our love. Extend our mission field to share the Gospel with all people, even those who are unlike ourselves. Thwart injustice and allow our Christian witness to influence our communities and our nation for the good of all and for the benefit of daily living for all people. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In our society and culture, Father, you provide your law to first and foremost to bring order our of chaos so that we all may live a good and peaceful lives. You know the struggles with lawlessness that we face throughout our land. Allow those who are called to bring order to do so in such ways that preserves human dignity and to do so with integrity with true service to those whom they represent. Bless all who are in leadership roles within law enforcement with the Wisdom of Solomon as they discern proper action. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In the face of violence, unnecessarily looting, destruction and death, Father, remind us that you are still God in the midst of all that happens. Thwart the plans of evil persons set on bringing destruction and division in our land. Comfort those who have experienced loss in the midst of the chaos that has come upon them. Allow all who suffer to have open hearts to receive the love that you have for them. Open the doors to allow Christians to share our love with those who are hurting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In the hour of trial and in the moment of trouble, You are there, Father. Hear us as we cry to You for the sake of the sick, the troubled in mind, the wounded in heart and those who grieve. Deliver them from affliction as You will, and sustain them in hope with a patient heart and strength for the day. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In the company of the saints, Father, You have shown us that You will not abandon Your people but will keep them to everlasting life. Receive our thanks for those who have gone before us with the sign of faith and now rest from their labors, and bring us at last to dwell with them in Your presence forevermore. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       In this time of worship, Father, You serve us with gifts of Your grace so that forgiven we might know the gift of a clear conscience and redeemed we might honor You with all we think, say and do. Accept the sacrifice of our praise and the tithes and offerings we bring. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       All these things and whatever else You know we need, we pray You to grant us, Father, for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, through whom, with whom and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory are Yours, almighty Father, both now and forevermore. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Benediction
       The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless
              and preserve us. Amen.

Closing Hymn: Almighty Father, Bless the Word (LSB 923)

1      Almighty Father, bless the Word
        Which through Your grace we now have heard. 
        Oh, may the precious seed take root, 
        Spring up, and bear abundant fruit!

2      We praise You for the means of grace 
        As homeward now our steps we trace. 
        Grant, Lord, that we who worshiped here 
        May all at last in heav’n appear.

3      Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; 
        Praise Him, all creatures here below; 
        Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host: 
        Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.



Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                      Filled with the Spirit

                                    A Celebration of Pentecost

May 31, 2020 

Prayer of Preparation

       Gracious God, before our Lord Jesus left earth, he promised that he would send his Holy Spirit to be poured out upon his people. Today we celebrate with joy the fulfillment of that promise in our celebration of Pentecost. We claim the presence of the Holy Spirit in our own lives as you have proclaimed that “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” Enable your Spirit to be alive in our words, our attitudes and our actions to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Amen

Opening Hymn: Holy Spirit, Light Devine (LSB 496)

1     Holy Spirit, light divine, Shine upon this heart of mine; 
       Chase the shades of night away, Turn the darkness into day.

2     Let me see my Savior’s face, Let me all His beauties trace; 
       Show those glorious truths to me, Which are only known to Thee.

3     Holy Spirit, pow’r divine, Cleanse this guilty heart of mine; 
       In Thy mercy pity me, From sin’s bondage set me free.

4     Holy Spirit, joy divine, Cheer this saddened heart of mine; 
       Yield a sacred, settled peace, Let it grow and still increase.

5     Holy Spirit, all divine, Dwell within this heart of mine; 
       Cast down ev’ry idol throne, Reign supreme, and reign alone.

Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We Confess our Sin
       As the beloved of God, we draw near to God with a true heart and confess our sins unto Him, beseeching God, our Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.

       Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
       I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and You forgave the iniquity of
       my sin.

       O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

Celebration of God’s Forgiveness
       God is gracious and merciful to me because his Son, Jesus Christ—my Lord, went to the cross for me. He suffered and died, paying the for the price of my sin and satisfying the wrath of God on my behalf. His righteousness has become my righteousness. I now receive God’s grace and remember once again that my sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Introit Psalm 104:24, 27–28, 30;e
       Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, 
              and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia. 
       O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; 
              the earth is full of your creatures. 
       These all look to you, 
              to give them their food in due season. 
       When you give it to them, they gather it up; 
              when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 
       When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, 
              and you renew the face of the ground. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
              as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
 
       Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, 
              and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia.

Prayer of the Day
       O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Numbers 11:24–30
       24 Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
       26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

New Testament Reading: Acts 2:1–21
       1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
       5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
       14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
                     17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, 
              that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, 
                     and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
              and your young men shall see visions, 
                     and your old men shall dream dreams; 
              18 even on my male servants and female servants 
                     in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 
              19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above 
                     and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 
              20 the sun shall be turned to darkness 
                     and the moon to blood, 
                            before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 
              21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord
                   shall be saved.’”

Gospel Reading: John 7:37–39
       37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Sermon Hymn: Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest (LSB 498)

1     Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, And make our hearts Your place of rest; 
       Come with Your grace and heav’nly aid, And fill the hearts which You have made.

2     To You, the Counselor, we cry, To You, the gift of God Most High; 
       The fount of life, the fire of love, The soul’s anointing from above.

3     In You, with graces sevenfold, We God’s almighty hand behold 
       While You with tongues of fire proclaim, To all the world His holy name.

4     Your light to ev’ry thought impart, And shed Your love in ev’ry heart; 
       The weakness of our mortal state, With deathless might invigorate.

5     Drive far away our wily foe, And Your abiding peace bestow; 
       With You as our protecting guide, No evil can with us abide.

6     Teach us to know the Father, Son, And You, from both, as Three in One 
       That we Your name may ever bless, And in our lives the truth confess.

7     Praise we the Father and the Son, And Holy Spirit, with them One, 
       And may the Son on us bestow, The gifts that from the Spirit flow!


Sermon

       Today, we celebrate Pentecost. It always comes 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

       If we were to reread the ascension story in the New Testament, we would remember that Jesus gave a command to his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait. Something was going to happen there. They didn’t know exactly what to expect. Perhaps some of them were tempted to go elsewhere and get on with their lives. After all, who likes to sit around and wait? (Not many of us in the midst of a pandemic!) What they were waiting for was the promise of the Holy Spirit.

       The Holy Spirit seems to be always shrouded in a bit of mystery. His main objective is not to point to himself, but to point to Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. It is the Holy Spirit that creates, sustains, and strengthens our faith in what Jesus has done for us through the cross and the empty tomb. He always works through means—primarily the Word of God—as his instrument to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus. This instrument can be the direct reading of Scripture, the proclamation of God’s Word at worship, Bible Studies, CDs, television programs, etc. It can even be reading a sermon and worshipping privately at home. Whatever it may be, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are always connected. In the words of the Bible, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.”

       There are those who confuse the persons of the Trinity. I once worked with a Chaplain who always began his worship services with a unique Invocation. He would say, “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, whose name is ‘Jesus.’” I found this very odd. The Holy Spirit is not Jesus and Jesus is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person of the Trinity, yet united with the Father and the Son. But the discussion of the Trinity is next week.

       Before we look closer at our Bible reading this morning, I want to pause for a moment and address this festival known as Pentecost. This will help us to put the story of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in context. The festival fell annually on the fiftieth day after the end of the Passover celebration. If you remember, Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified at the time of the Jewish Passover.

       Pentecost is mentioned in the Old Testaments as the “Feast of Weeks” and the “Feast of Ingathering.” Moses wrote in Exodus 34: “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end.” (Exodus 34:22)

       Moses provides us guidance on how Pentecost was to be celebrated: “On the day of the firstfruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, but offer a burnt offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD: two bulls from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old; also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for each bull, two tenths for one ram, a tenth for each of the seven lambs; with one male goat, to make atonement for you. Besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall offer them and their drink offering. See that they are without blemish.” (Numbers 28:26-31)

       At the time of year between Passover and Pentecost, the wheat harvest was coming in. The Feast of Ingathering (Pentecost) was like our Thanksgiving Day celebration in the United States.

       It is at Pentecost that the Holy Spirit first filled believers in a new and powerful way. It is after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the Gospel is proclaimed and spread throughout the then-known world. By the Spirit’s power, all are made aware of the Gospel’s saving power.

       There was nothing particularly different about how that day started. The sun came up. The birds sang. People rose from their sleep. And yet, it was a special day, a feast day—the day of Pentecost. Why shouldn’t the disciples celebrate the Feast of Pentecost? It would break the monotony of waiting.

       So, the followers of Jesus did what any extended family would do. They did what you would do on any holiday or an anniversary celebration—they gathered together. Special food had most likely been prepared. Perhaps they even rented their local community center, ensuring that there would be enough room. It would be the type of gathering that we all know and love—family, friends, food, and fellowship.

       And then, the surprising thing happened. The sonic boom! The sound came like a rush of a mighty wind. A mighty wind filled the house in which they were staying. And then, that X-Files episode: A tongue of fire appeared on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It was one of those experiences that is difficult to put into words.

       When you hear this story, you imagine in your mind what happened. The disciples of Jesus together, meeting in a house. The mighty wind comes. Tongues of fire appear. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit.

       Something new and exciting was happening. The same way the very breath of God brought life into dust of the ground and became man, the Spirit entered those present on that day of Pentecost. The presence of the Holy Spirit was present in a new and exciting way.

       And then, that miracle. More X-Files! The ability to speak new languages. The Holy Spirit gave each of them the ability to speak other known languages. See the surprised look on each of their faces as they begin to speak. They are amazed. They are bewildered! And the crowds gather outside.

       Those outside had also heard the sonic boom from heaven. See the citizens of Jerusalem standing before the disciples. See among them the pilgrims gathered from the then-known world. See the disciples speaking to them in each of their native languages—not one, not two, but at least a dozen. Hear them proclaim the wonders of God. Hear them speak boldly, these Galileans, of the mighty works of God.

       Those in Jerusalem were not expecting anything unusual to happen at this annual Feast. They did not know that this would become a life-changing event. Hearing these voices, hearing these languages, they were amazed and perplexed. Looking at each other, they asked that age-old question: “What does this mean?”

       But, there in the crowd, the scoffers. You know what they said. You can hear them in your minds. “I don’t believe this!” ‘Give me a break.” “What a bunch of blowhards.” “Another bunch of TV evangelists. Time to turn the channel!”

       They did what all scoffers would do, what all doubters would do. They made fun of the disciples. If you don’t understand what is going on, make fun of it. “Hey, buddy, you been drinking? Too much Bud Light?”

       The Holy Spirit, working through Peter, could not pass up the opportunity to address the crowd. This was an open door, a window of opportunity. Peter and the other disciples stood up. He raised his voice above the crowd to gain their attention. Those who were there gathered around Peter as he cleared his voice. A hush rippled through the sea of people. Like the prairie dog that extends his head from his hole, the people stretched their necks, leaning an ear toward Peter.

       Silence. Anticipation. On the edge of their seats. What would he say? What would be his explanation? But, what do you say to a group of scoffers? What do you say to those who are making fun of you? What do you say to a doubter?

       We have encountered scoffers and doubters before. On a day of early darkness when the Lord of Glory hung suspended between heaven and earth. The day when Jesus’ beaten and broken body hung on the cross. See the people stand before him. See the scoffers, mocking, making fun of the Lord of Glory. Hear the jests, the jeers, the cruel words, and insults. “If he is the Christ . . .” Above all of this, from the cross, hear the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

       Sure, there are always scoffers among unbelievers. You would expect this, right? We wouldn’t find a scoffer among a follower of Jesus, would we?

On the evening of Easter day, the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples. He said, “Peace be with you.” They were overjoyed. Unfortunately, one of the disciples was missing. His name was Thomas. He had left for a short time and by the time he had returned, Jesus was already gone. “We have seen the Lord!” the excited disciples said to Thomas. “He is risen.”

       “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where his nails were, and put my hand into his side,” replied Thomas, “I will not believe.”

       There were doubters even within Jesus’ own community of faith. But, that was then and this is now. We know better today, don’t we!?

       We are scoffers and the mockers. It is part of our fallen nature. We question and doubt anything that is new or different. We have trouble accepting that which we don’t understand. It might be a new product. It might be new math! It may be that new family member. It might be this current pandemic and the challenges that are coming with it. It might even be the grace of God that really can forgive you for the sin you think is beyond forgiveness.

       If we are such scoffers and mockers, then the words that Peter proclaimed on that Day of Pentecost for the mockers and scoffers of his time, are for us too.

       So what happened? Peter stood before the quieted crowd. Loudly, in a voice that all could hear, he proclaimed these words: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.

  16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
  17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
      and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
         and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
  18 even on my male servants and female servants 
       in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
  19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
     and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
  20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
     before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
  21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be 
  saved.’ (Acts 2:15-21)


       The scoffers and mockers, as is the usual case with scoffers and mockers, had the answer right under their noses. It was from the Scriptures, the prophet Joel. The ability to speak these languages, and the declaration of the wonders of God, was the result of the promised Holy Spirit. A new age had dawned for the people of God. Something now would be different.

       The Holy Spirit would be poured out to all. Men and women, sons and daughters, young and old—ALL will proclaim the wonders of God in Jesus Christ. No longer would proclamation be the sole responsibility of the prophets. It is now a gift of all the people of God, regardless of age, race, nationality or any other man-made division that exists among us.

       Just as Peter and the disciples proclaimed Christ to these people, the Holy Spirit will be at work in the life of every Christian—in you—to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And that message will be a proclamation of the risen Christ—a proclamation that also sees the future hope on that last day, when everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

       You see, this gift of the Holy Spirit is given to you as well. For some of you, it first came in your Baptism. For others of you, it came through the proclamation of the Word of God when you heard that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake—when the death and resurrection of Jesus became your own. It is affirmed not only through his Word now as it is proclaimed, but in the Holy Supper in which you receive God’s forgiveness through his body and blood in the form of bread and wine.

       We have the Holy Spirit and we have a mission as our reading proclaims:

              “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, 
          that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
          and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .”


       We pray: Lord God, allow us to be a “Pentecost People” that recognizes your Holy Spirit at work within us to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus in word and action with those who do not know you. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed—What We Believe
     I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth.
 
     And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
          who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
          born of the virgin Mary,
          suffered under Pontius Pilate,
          was crucified, died and was buried.
          He descended into hell.
          The third day He rose again from the dead.
          He ascended into heaven
          and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
          From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
     I believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the holy Christian Church,
               the communion of saints,
          the forgiveness of sins,
          the resurrection of the body,
          and the life everlasting. Amen.


The Prayers of God’s People
       Almighty God, You have blessed us in love with the Savior to whom the nations cry and in whom is forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Grant to us Your Holy Spirit, the Comforter whom You have promised, that we and all who call upon His name shall be saved. Help us to treasure in our hearts Your mercy and to give ourselves fully to Your service. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You delivered Your Word through Moses and the prophets and fulfilled Your Word in Christ. He was planted in death for our sins and raised for our justification, and in Him shall all the nations of the earth be united. Give us pastors who will preach this Word faithfully and church workers who are devoted to Your service. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You have promised the thirsty will drink and from the empty will flow forth rivers of living water. Help us to show forth in holy lives the fruits of the Spirt and to live with love toward our neighbor. Give us a servant’s heart that doesn’t seek our own way but walks on the path of eternal life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You have promised to make one people from the many. Take from us all pride, prejudice and hate, that we may not hinder the cause of the Gospel by our shame but give welcome to all people in the name of Christ. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You have ordered all things in heaven and on earth. Bless Donald, our president; Jay, our governor; the Congress of the United States; and all elected and appointed civil servants, that the rule of law may protect the weak, preserve life from conception to its natural end, and peace may reign for the benefit of all. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, have mercy and spare us. Put an end to the pandemic, and restore the communities of the world to their common life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You have given our nation the gift and heritage of freedom. It came at the cost of many lives on battlefields far and near. Receive our thanks for their sacrifice, and give us the courage to preserve liberty in our own time and use it honorably. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You breath hope into the weary and renew Your Church by Your grace. Bless newly planted congregations that they may endure, guide established congregations that they may not lose heart, and build up our Synod that our zeal for Your Kingdom may not flag but flourish and prosper according to Your will. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, You carry the burdens of our lives in Your hands. Deliver from illness and suffering all who cry to You for release. Hear us on behalf of the sick, the dying and those who mourn. Answer Your people, O Lord, and deliver them from their infirmities and their grief by Your grace. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, Your Word endures forever. Give us grace so that we may be united in doctrine and in the fellowship of Your table, confessing Christ boldly and living together in faith and love until our Lord returns in His glory to bring all things to their appointed completion when we will dwell in His house forever. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       Almighty God, hear Your people for the sake of Him who loved us even to death and who lives to call to Himself all who will be saved. You know what we need and those things we should ask in Your name. Grant them to us for the sake of our crucified, risen and ascended Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen


We Conclude with God’s Blessing (The sign of the cross may be made)
      Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

      The Lord blesses us and keeps us
            The Lord makes His face to shine on us and is gracious to us.
                  The Lord looks upon us with favor and gives us His peace. Amen.

Sending Hymn: Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord (LSB 497)

1     Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord, With all Your graces now outpoured 
              On each believer’s mind and heart; Your fervent love to them impart. 
       Lord, by the brightness of Your light, In holy faith Your Church unite;
              From ev’ry land and ev’ry tongue, This to Your praise, O Lord, our God, be sung: 
                     Alleluia, alleluia!

2     Come, holy Light, guide divine, Now cause the Word of life to shine. 
              Teach us to know our God aright, And call Him Father with delight. 
       From ev’ry error keep us free; Let none but Christ our master be 
              That we in living faith abide, In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide. 
                     Alleluia, alleluia!

3     Come, holy Fire, comfort true, Grant us the will Your work to do 
              And in Your service to abide; Let trials turn us not aside. 
       Lord, by Your pow’r prepare each heart, And to our weakness strength impart 
              That bravely here we may contend, Through life and death to You, our Lord,
       ascend. 
                     Alleluia, alleluia!


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

            Seated at the Right Hand of God

                       A Celebration of the Ascension of Jesus

May 24, 2020

Prayer of Preparation
       Dearest Jesus, forty days after your resurrection from the dead, you ascended into Heaven. You took your place at the honored place of the right hand of God and prepare a place for us and all believers. Remind us this day the importance of your ascension and what it means for each of us. In your precious name we pray, Amen.

Invocation
       In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Confession of Our Sin
       Almighty God, when we look at our lives, we see the reality of who we are according to your holy will. We fall short. We have sinned against you and those around us in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We have sinned by doing that which is wrong, if not evil in your sight. We have sinned by failing to do what is right. For all of this, we confess this day that we are unworthy of your love and deserve your judgement and wrath.

Celebrating God’s Forgiveness
       Gracious God, you have revealed your mercy and forgiveness to us through your Son, Jesus Christ. In his suffering and death, acting in our place, he satisfied your wrath that we deserve. His resurrection from the dead proves to us all that he has power over sin, death, and the power of Satan. Having received Jesus Christ through faith, I celebrate that my sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening Hymn: On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build (LSB 492)

1     On Christ’s ascension I now build
              The hope of my ascension;
       This hope alone has always stilled
              All doubt and apprehension;
       For where the Head is, there as well
              I know His members are to dwell
       When Christ will come and call them.

2     Since Christ returned to claim His throne,
              Great gifts for me obtaining,
       My heart will rest in Him alone,
              No other rest remaining;
       For where my treasure went before,
       There all my thoughts will ever soar
              To still their deepest yearning.

3     O grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
              Recalling Your ascension,
       That I may serve You faithfully
              In thanks for my redemption;
       And then, when all my days will cease,
       Let me depart in joy and peace
              In answer to my pleading.

Introit: Psalm 110:1, 4–5; antiphon: Psalm 47:5
       God has gone up with a shout, 
              the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. 
       The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, 
              until I make your enemies your footstool.” 
       The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 
              “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 
       The Lord is at your right hand; 
              he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
              as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
 
       God has gone up with a shout, 
              the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

Prayer of the Day
       Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 1:1–11 (ESV)
       1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
       4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
       6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Verse (Romans 6:9; Matthew 28:20b)
       Alleluia. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. Alleluia. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Alleluia.

New Testament Reading: Ephesians 1:15–23 (ESV)
       15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gradual (adapt. from Matthew 28:7; Hebrews 2:7; Psalm 8:6)
       Christ has risen from the dead. 
              [God the Father] has crowned him with glory and honor, 
       He has given him dominion over the works of his hands; 
              he has put all things under his feet.

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:44–53
       44 Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
       50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Sermon Hymn: A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing (LSB 493)

1     A hymn of glory let us sing! New hymns throughout the world shall ring:
              Alleluia, alleluia!
       Christ, by a road before untrod, Ascends unto the throne of God.
              Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

2     The holy apostolic band, Upon the Mount of Olives stand.
              Alleluia, alleluia!
       And with His faithful foll’wers see, Their Lord ascend in majesty.
              Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

3     To them the shining angels cry, “Why stand and gaze upon the sky?”
              Alleluia, alleluia!
       “This is the Savior,” thus they say; “This is His glorious triumph day!”
              Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

4     “You see Him now, ascending high, Up to the portals of the sky.”
              Alleluia, alleluia!
       “Hereafter Jesus you shall see, Returning in great majesty.”
              Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

5     Be now our joy on earth, O Lord, And be our future great reward.
              Alleluia, alleluia!
       Then, throned with You forever, we—Shall praise Your name eternally.
              Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

6     O risen Christ, ascended Lord, All praise to You let earth accord:
              Alleluia, alleluia!
       You are, while endless ages run, With Father and with Spirit one.
              Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Sermon
       Those of us that have children or grandchildren probably know about a children’s character named, “Waldo.” Waldo is a little man with beady eyes who always wears a stocking cap and a long scarf. The cap and scarf are part of Waldo’s appearance signature. He always looks the same. Waldo appears in a series of books entitled “Where’s Waldo?”

       Waldo books are fun to page through! There is no narrative or story in Waldo books. Waldo books contain nothing but pictures. Each page of a Waldo book contains a specific scene. It can be a city, a park, a zoo, a fair, a picnic—just about any setting you can imagine. Each page is unique in the fact that it contains many, many intriguing little details. The page is very, very busy and full of wonderful things to look at. In the midst of the page, the viewer is asked the question, “Where’s Waldo?” The viewer is forced to methodically search the page with his or her eyes until Waldo is found. Waldo books are a lot of fun.

       In the midst of the pages of our lives, we also find many busy scenes. We know how our personal pages are full of activities, concerns, and demands. It can be full of challenges that deal with this pandemic we are experiencing and the effects of it in our community and in our lives. It’s very much like looking at one of those pages in a “Where’s Waldo” book. It is easy to become engrossed or consumed with all of the little things that appear on our pages. In the midst of these challenges and the new demands, we can find ourselves asking the question, “Where’s Jesus?” He can easily become lost in the midst of everything that exists on our personal pages.

       Where’s Jesus? Where’s Jesus when you are stuck at home and can’t go to church? Where’s Jesus when businesses are closed down? Where’s Jesus when you can’t get together with family and loved ones? Where’s Jesus when the future seems uncertain? We’ve got to admit that it's easy to lose the sight of Jesus. In the midst of everything that is put upon us or that we put upon ourselves, Where’s Jesus?

       It’s one thing to deal with normal living—at least that which we experienced a few months back. Those normal demands were challenging in themselves. Now we are dealing with the exceptional things that are not within our control. There can also be extra health concerns, such as an unexpected surgical procedure, an unexpected blockage, or something that needs to be fixed or replaced, a prolonged illness—the list of health concerns goes on and on. In the midst of all of this, Where’s Jesus?

       And then there’s the hurt and pain that come from broken relationships—whether they be long term or short term. The tension that existed between you and your spouse or children this past week. The argument that you had with a coworker or your boss or your neighbor. The best friend who acted in no way as “best” let alone “friend.” The ache that you find in your heart because things aren’t the way that they should be between you and someone else? In the midst of this, Where’s Jesus?

       And let’s not forget about the completely unexpected. For me it was getting kicked in the knee by a horse, resulting in my quadricep tendon severing from my knee. Oh, the excruciating pain! For others it’s the sudden car accident, being laid off because of the pandemic, the sudden tragic death of a family member, the seemingly unfair act of another, or being in a situation where your personal values are challenged and all that you deem important. In the midst of all of the unexpected, frustrating life experiences, Where’s Jesus?

       Today, we are taking time aside to celebrate Ascension. The Ascension of Jesus is recorded for us in the first eleven verses of the book of Acts, as read in our first lesson this morning. Luke, with the precision of a physician, goes to great detail to show the resurrected and living Lord Jesus Christ.

       Luke, the author of the book of Acts writes that Jesus . . . presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3) There is no doubt among those that are with Jesus that day that he is alive and has risen from the dead.

       Luke proceeds to tell us about the Ascension. Those who were with Jesus that day . . . as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

       Where’s Jesus? According to this reading, as well as our New Testament reading, Jesus has ascended, and he is sitting at the “right hand of God.” There is great comfort for us this morning in knowing “Where’s Jesus.” There is great comfort in knowing that we have a resurrected and ascended Lord.

       There is great comfort in the ascension of Jesus because it reveals where he has been. There would be no ascension without Jesus first coming down into your world. There is no exaltation without a humiliation. In the fullness of time, Jesus entered into your world for a purpose. Born as the Son of God, born to the virgin Mary, born in the stable of Bethlehem.

       We know that Jesus came for a purpose—to be your Savior and the Savior of the world. He humbled himself. In his humility, he suffered a painful horrible death for you. He took your sin upon himself and now you are free. Free from the judgmental wrath of God. Free, because Jesus paid the price for your sin, in order that you may be the children of God.

       There also would be no ascension without a resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead, ensuring that all things were accomplished and complete for you. You are forgiven, the wrath of God has been satisfied.

       There is great comfort in the ascension of Jesus because it reveals where Jesus is in the heavenly realms. He is “seated at the right hand of God.” This phrase appears not only in our New Testament reading and other Scripture passages, but in the central statement of the Christian faith—the Apostle’s Creed. We say, . . . he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. The right hand is the place of honor. In the military a subordinate always walks to the left, one step behind, a superior. The right hand position is one of significance. It is both the position of honor and authority.

       Martin Luther reminded us in his Small Catechism about God the Father in the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father which art in heaven . . . Luther stated that the fact that God, our Father, was in heaven giving us comfort in knowing that he has the power and authority to accomplish all that we ask for in his name. If God the Father can do this, how much more is Jesus—the second person of the Trinity—honored, as he sits at the right hand of the Father.
       
       There is great comfort in the ascension of Jesus because it reveals that he has gone there for a purpose. Jesus didn’t simply ascend to leave your world. He went there also for a purpose for you. John, the disciple and Gospel writer records the words of Jesus, . . . In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)

       There is great joy in knowing that Jesus has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you and all believers. A place that was purchased by the shedding of his own blood at the cross of Calvary. Jesus ascended into heaven in order that you, too, may ascend to the glorious bliss of eternity with Jesus. Without his ascension, this would not be so. He has prepared a place for you.

       There is great comfort in the ascension of Jesus it reveals that he has not left us alone. Ten days after his ascension, on the Feast of Pentecost, a miracle took place. The promised Holy Spirit was unleashed upon the world. Jesus states in our text this morning that his disciples will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a new and exciting way. The same new and exciting way that he has come to you in your baptism. The ascension of Jesus guaranteed the sending of the Holy Spirit to work in, through, and among the people of God. Because of his ascension, Jesus guaranteed the presence of the Holy Spirit working in your life.

       There is great comfort in the ascension of Jesus because it reveals that he will return. There can be no doubt of what will happen. The angels at the ascension of Jesus revealed to the disciples, . . . This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Jesus will return on the final, glorious day, the day of judgment. The day of both condemnation and commendation. The day when he will condemn those who have refused to believe in him and his resurrection. But also a day when he will say to all true believers in Christ, . . . Well done, good and faithful servant. This will be the day that he returns to take all believers home to the place that he has prepared.

       Where is Jesus? He is seated at the right hand of God. He is there because he has satisfied the wrath of God through his death and resurrection. He is there to prepare a place for you. He is there in order that you may receive the Holy Spirit. He is there to return and bring all believers to himself in heaven. Let us not forget the significance of the Ascension.

       We live in crazy, mixed-up, active—and sometimes overbearing “Waldo Worlds.” It’s easy to ask “Where’s Jesus” in the midst of this pandemic. It is easy to lose sight of where he is—ascended and seated at the right hand of God as the resurrected and living Christ. It is he who comes to us in our “Waldo Worlds” and reminds us of his presence, his mercy, and his grace.

       Where’s Jesus? He is seated at the right hand of God. He is also here today working in and among his children. May you always find him as he is always there for you with open arms—forgiving, loving, caring. Our ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayers of God’s People
       God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Ascended Lord, hear the prayers of Your people and grant our supplication.

       That the Lord may grant us all things in Christ so we may be sustained in trial, strengthened in weakness and delivered from trouble, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That the Church of Christ may flourish and the good news of Christ crucified, risen and ascended would be proclaimed to all the ends of the earth, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That the Lord may richly supply us with faithful pastors who will preach Your Word in season and out; and that we may hear, believe and live out this Gospel, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That the nations of the earth may seek peace; and that the leaders of our country may pursue justice, righteousness and peace, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That the pandemic may come to an end, and that livelihood and common life may resume, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That all who are afflicted may be strengthened in illness and comforted in adversity, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

That the faithful may not fret what we do not know but rejoice in Christ, our Savior, and live in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That the Lord may grant us joyful hearts and peace at the last, knowing that neither death nor life, nor any powers, can separate us from the love of God in Christ, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That we may be as generous in our tithes and offerings as the Lord is in giving us His gifts, and that we may support the poor and those in need, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That we may know the Lord’s presence in the means of His grace, hearing His Word, receiving His absolution and feasting at His table with faith and joy in our hearts, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       That we may remember the saints of old, who contended for the Lord in their own day; and that we may join them at last in the marriage feast of the Lamb without end, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

All these things and whatever else we need, we ask You to grant us for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen


Benediction
       The peace of God, which passes all understanding,
              keeps our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,
                     and of God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
       and the blessing of God Almighty,
              the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
                     will remain with us always. Amen.

Sending Hymn: See, the Lord Ascends in Triumph (LSB 494)

1     See, the Lord ascends in triumph; 
              Conqu’ring King in royal state, 
       Riding on the clouds, His chariot, 
              To His heav’nly palace gate. 
       Hark! The choirs of angel voices 
              Joyful alleluias sing, 
       And the portals high are lifted 
              To receive their heav’nly King.

2     Who is this that comes in glory 
              With the trump of jubilee? 
       Lord of battles, God of armies, 
              He has gained the victory. 
       He who on the cross did suffer, 
              He who from the grave arose, 
       He has vanquished sin and Satan; 
              He by death has crushed His foes.

3     While He lifts His hands in blessing, 
              He is parted from His friends; 
       While their eager eyes behold Him, 
              He upon the clouds ascends. 
       He who walked with God and pleased Him, 
              Preaching truth and doom to come, 
       He, our Enoch, is translated 
              To His everlasting home.

4     Now our heav’nly Aaron enters 
              With His blood within the veil; 
       Joshua now is come to Canaan, 
              And the kings before Him quail. 
       Now He plants the tribes of Israel 
              In their promised resting place; 
       Now our great Elijah offers 
              Double portion of His grace.

5     He has raised our human nature 
              On the clouds to God’s right hand; 
       There we sit in heav’nly places, 
              There with Him in glory stand. 
       Jesus reigns, adored by angels; 
              Man with God is on the throne. 
       By our mighty Lord’s ascension 
              We by faith behold our own.


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

             Sturdy Ships, Not Safe Harbors

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020


Opening Hymn: O God, Our Help in Ages Past (LSB 733)

1     O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, 
       Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home:

2     Under the shadow of Thy throne, Thy saints have dwelt secure; 
       Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.

3     Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame, 
       From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same.

4     A thousand ages in Thy sight, Are like an evening gone, 
       Short as the watch that ends the night, Before the rising sun.

5     Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Soon bears us all away; 
       We fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the op’ning day.

6     O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, 
       Be Thou our guard while troubles last, And our eternal home!

Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Confession of Sins
       If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

       Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

Proclamation of God’s Grace
       Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all your sins. As a child of God I can declare that all my sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Introit Psalm 119:89–93; antiphon: v. 105

       Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
              Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. 
       Your faithfulness endures to all generations; 
              you have established the earth, and it stands fast. 
       By your appointment they stand this day, 
              for all things are your servants. 
       If your law had not been my delight, 
              I would have perished in my affliction.
       I will never forget your precepts, 
              for by them you have given me life. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
            as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
       Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Prayer of the Day
       O God, the giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

First Reading: Acts 17:16–31
       16 While Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
       22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

       “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

       “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

       29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 3:13–22
       13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
       18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Gospel Reading: John 14:15–21
       15 [Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
       18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Meditation Hymn: Be Still My Soul (LSB 753)

1     Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; 
              Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; 
       Leave to your God to order and provide; 
              In ev’ry change He faithful will remain. 
       Be still, my soul; your best, your heav’nly Friend 
              Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2      Be still, my soul; your God will undertake 
              To guide the future as He has the past. 
       Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; 
              All now mysterious shall be bright at last. 
       Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know 
       His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3      Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart 
              And all is darkened in this vale of tears; 
       Then you will better know His love, His heart, 
              Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears. 
       Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay 
       From His own fullness all He takes away.

4      Be still, my soul; the hour is hast’ning on 
              When we shall be forever with the Lord, 
       When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, 
              Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. 
       Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, 
       All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.


Meditation

       Today, our meditation is based on the New Testament Lesson, 1 Peter 3:13-22.

       Boats. We know about them because we live in the Pacific Northwest. There is water all around us, not only in the Puget Sound, but in the many lakes that surround us. A short drive away will find us at the Pacific Ocean.

       Boats are vessels that are used for business, as well as pleasure. We especially know of fishing boats—both commercial fishing and recreational fishing. Ships are used to transport goods. Ships are used to transport people. A vacation on a ship can be a wonderful, happy thing. My wife and I know as we did the seven-day cruise from Seattle to Alaska through the Inland Passage.

       Peter, the writer of our reading this morning, knew quite a bit about boats as well. He was a fisherman before he encountered Jesus. As a matter of fact, Jesus said to him while he was most likely on a boat, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men!” (Matthew 4:19).

       Boats were used for transportation across the Sea of Galilee. Crossing this rather large lake could be risky. There was a time that Jesus sent his disciples on ahead across the lake. He went up onto a mountain to pray. The boat was a long way off from shore. That evening, Jesus walked on the water of the lake to the disciples in the boat. The disciples were terrified at what they saw. Was it a ghost!? But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

       This is a well-known New Testament story. Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Matthew 14:28-32)

       Although we sometimes belittle Peter for his lack of faith in this story, we forget that there were eleven other disciples in the boat that never ventured out of the boat. Unlike Peter, they missed two wonderful amazing things: They did not experience God working through them in a miraculous way, such as Peter walking on the water. And, they did not experience the saving hand of Jesus in a special and mighty way, as Peter did when Jesus reached down and took hold of him. They were complacent. They were comfortable. They stayed in the boat.

       We want to be comfortable as well. Unfortunately, in the midst of the current pandemic, we are VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. Staying at home can be nice, but it can ‘get old.’ It can become uncomfortable. Going to the grocery store used to be a comfortable thing to do, but now it is uncomfortable. Going to work, likewise was a simple thing to do, but now it is uncomfortable. This list could go on and on. We don’t want to take unnecessary risks and we should not. Our comfort level is challenged!

       But is being uncomfortable bad?

       In the midst of this uncomfortableness, there is a true and sincere comfort that only Jesus can bring to us. There is comfort in knowing that our sins are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is comfort in knowing that we have a good and gracious God. There is a comfort in knowing that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and all believers. There is a comfort in knowing that we are God’s children.

       Unfortunately, there is the mistaken belief that because of these things, God guarantees that our earthly lives will be comfortable. This is easy to buy into. And not only that, we sometimes add to our mistaken belief the additional thought that it is our ‘right to be comfortable’ in our earthy life!

       “Wanting to be comfortable” is an issue that comes up more than we realize in our own lives. Each of us looks forward to having a comfortable home, a comfortable job, a comfortable family. Extreme comfort, however, does not enable one to grow, but simply vegetate.

       So, being uncomfortable is not bad. It is actually an opportunity to grow in our faith in understanding that true comfort can only come through Christ. There will be those things that will challenge our “earthly comfort.”

       We find comfort in Christ. In today’s reading, Peter puts it this way (with a slight addition on my part: Now who [or what] is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. (1 Peter 3:13-14). Peter can say this because he knows the comfort that only Christ can bring. No one, nothing—even a pandemic—can take away our comfort in Christ.

       So then, what do we do with our “comfort in Christ”—knowing the love of God and the forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus—in the midst of our current uncomfortable pandemic situation?

       Peter knows how it felt to be uncomfortable. He experienced it repeatedly and we read about it in the New Testament. Jesus corrected him, his thoughts, and opinions many times. Peter was so uncomfortable that he denied Jesus three times the night in which Jesus was betrayed.

       But Peter was restored by Christ. That is why he can claim that no one and nothing can harm the one with faith in Jesus Christ. So, what is one to do? Peter goes on to say in our reading, “. . . in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

       We are to be prepared in the midst of being uncomfortable. We are always to be prepared—but not as a boy scout would be prepared, but as people of faith, understanding the love of God in Jesus Christ. We are to be prepared . . . but to do what?

       Peter says, “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” In other words, be ready to share the reason why you have hope—even in the midst of a very uncomfortable situation we know as a pandemic. Our hope is in Jesus. Our hope is Jesus!

       To put it in another way . . . If you are the boat . . . a ship floating among the seas of life, encountering storms, jagged shorelines, wild winds—all uncomfortable things out of your control, including a pandemic—what do you want? Are you seeking a safe and comfortable harbor in which to permanently port? Or, are you seeking to be built into a “sturdy ship” . . . a ship that has been empowered and equipped by the grace of God to navigate the challenges and storms of life—including this current pandemic?

       Lord, we pray for sturdy ships, not safe harbors. We pray for this because there are no true safe harbors. There are no true ports of comfort. There is only life and the many challenges that come with it—including a pandemic. In the midst of this, we may find God working in a in a miraculous way. We may experience the saving hand of Jesus in a special and mighty way, as Peter did when Jesus reached down and took hold of him waling on the Lake of Galilee.

       One is the way of comfort. The other is the way of challenge and growth. May all of us truly wrestle with the calling the Lord Jesus has put upon us individually. as well as the calling he has put upon us as his church.

       In Jesus name. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed
     I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth.
 
     And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
          who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
          born of the virgin Mary,
          suffered under Pontius Pilate,
          was crucified, died and was buried.
          He descended into hell.
          The third day He rose again from the dead.
          He ascended into heaven
          and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
          From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
     I believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the holy Christian Church,
               the communion of saints,
          the forgiveness of sins,
          the resurrection of the body,
          and the life everlasting. Amen.


Prayers of God’s People

       We pray for ourselves, those within the household of faith, for our world and for all people according to their needs.

       For the courage to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of the uncomfortable situation of our current pandemic, that we be not only comforted by the Gospel, but bring comfort to others that those we encounter that may be brought to faith and to the knowledge of the truth, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       For the Church of God here and everywhere, that all who confess Jesus Christ may be united in doctrine and witness, defended against all the assaults of the enemy, and eager to gather together around Your Word and Sacrament in love for one another, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       For the agencies and institutions through which we love our neighbor and provide for those in need, for the destitute and homeless, and for everyone who suffers unemployment and underemployment, that we may aid them in their needs and assist them to find honorable labor to supply all their needs, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       For the lonely who suffer the burdens of life without friendship or family, for those depressed or weary of pandemic measures, and for the fellowship of the Church, that we may bear one another’s burdens and live in community with Christ as our head, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       For those who serve the needs of the ill and dying, that you would grant them strength. For the sick and those who suffer, that God would grant healing to their bodies, peace for their minds, and consolation in their grief and sorrows, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       For love of godly things, that we may delight in God’s Word and walk in His ways; and for the Spirit, that we may be led into all truth and kept from error and false doctrine, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the nation, for those who lead our nation, for the end of the pandemic, for peace among nations, and for an end to terror and violence, that we may work for the common good so that justice may prevail, life be protected and truth abound, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

       O Lord, our God, as we recall the obedient life and life-giving death of Your Son for our salvation, we pray You to strengthen our faith and to make our hearts bold, that we may not fear but address our prayers to You in all humility. Hear us on behalf of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who even now stands before You on our behalf, pleading our cause with His own blood, until that day when we are delivered from the changes and chances of this mortal life and stand before You in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name, 
      Thy kingdom come, 
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread; 
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; 
      and lead us not into temptation, 
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen


Benediction (The sign of the cross may be made)
     The Lord bless us and keep us.
          The Lord make His face shine on us and be gracious to us.
               The Lord look upon us with favor and + give us His peace.

Sending Hymn: Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me

1    Lord, take my hand and lead me, Upon life’s way; 
      Direct, protect, and feed me, From day to day. 
      Without Your grace and favor, I go astray; 
      So take my hand, O Savior, And lead the way.

2    Lord, when the tempest rages, I need not fear, 
      For You, the Rock of Ages, Are always near. 
      Close by Your side abiding, I fear no foe, 
      For when Your hand is guiding, In peace I go.

3    Lord, when the shadows lengthen, And night has come, 
      I know that You will strengthen, My steps toward home. 
      Then nothing can impede me, O blessèd Friend; 
      So take my hand and lead me, Unto the end.



Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                      A Place of Certainty

5th Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020

Prayer of Preparation
      Gracious God, we live in an uncertain time in the face of this pandemic and the uncertainties that come with it. We admit that our hearts can be easily troubled. Help us to take comfort in the certainty that you love us, sent Jesus to die for us on the cross for us, and with that you forgive our sins—even the sin of uncertainty and the doubt that comes with it. Calm my troubled heart this day. In Jesus name, Amen.

Opening Hymn: Christ be My Leader (LSB 861)

1     Christ be my Leader by night as by day;
            Safe through the darkness, for He is the way.
      Gladly I follow, my future His care,
            Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.

2     Christ be my Teacher in age as in youth,
            Drifting or doubting, for He is the truth.
      Grant me to trust Him; though shifting as sand,
            Doubt cannot daunt me; in Jesus I stand.

3     Christ be my Savior in calm as in strife;
            Death cannot hold me, for He is the life.
      Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain
            Can touch my salvation: with Jesus I reign.

Invocation (The sign of the cross may be made.)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

      Alleluia, he is risen!, He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Confession of Sins
      Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

      If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared.

      As we contemplate today God’s Word and call upon Him in prayer and praise, we first consider our unworthiness and confess before God that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition. Together as His people, we take refuge in the infinite mercy of God, our heavenly Father, seeking His grace for the sake of Christ, and saying: God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Almighty God, have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life. Amen.

Proclamation of God’s Grace
      Almighty God, merciful Father, in Holy Baptism You declared us to be Your children and gathered us into Your one, holy Church, in which You daily and richly forgive us our sins and grant us new life through Your Spirit. Thank you for the forgiveness you bring us this day.

      Be in our midst, enliven our faith, and graciously receive our prayer and praise; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen,

Introit (Psalm 30:1–5; antiphon: Psalm 149:1)

      Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, 
            his praise in the assembly of the godly! 
      I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up 
            and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 
      O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, 
            and you have healed me. 
      O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; 
            you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
      Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, 
            and give thanks to his holy name. 
      For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. 
            Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
      Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 
            as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
 
      Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, 
            his praise in the assembly of the godly!

Prayer of the Day
      O God, You make the minds of Your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

First Reading: Acts 6:1–9; 7:2a, 51–60
      1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
      7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
      8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. . . .
      2 And Stephen said:
      “Brothers and fathers, hear me. . . .
      51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
      54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 2:2–10
      2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
      4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
            “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, 
                  a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
            7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
                  “The stone that the builders rejected 
                        has become the cornerstone,”
            8 and
                  “A stone of stumbling, 
                        and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
      9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Gospel Reading: John 14:1–14
      1 [Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
      8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Nicene Creed
              I believe in one God,
          the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth
                  and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
        the only-begotten Son of God,
        begotten of His Father before all worlds,
        God of God, Light of Light,
        very God of very God,
        begotten, not made,
        being of one substance with the Father,
        by whom all things were made;
        who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
        and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
        and was made man;
        and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
        He suffered and was buried.
        And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
                and ascended into heaven
        and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
        whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
        the Lord and giver of life,
        who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
        who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
        who spoke by the prophets.
        And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
        I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
        and I look for the resurrection of the dead
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Hymn: At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing (LSB 633)
1    At the Lamb’s high feast we sing, 
      Praise to our victorious King, 
      Who has washed us in the tide, 
      Flowing from His piercèd side. 
          Alleluia!

2    Praise we Him, whose love divine, 
      Gives His sacred blood for wine, 
      Gives His body for the feast— 
      Christ the victim, Christ the priest. 
          Alleluia!

3    Where the paschal blood is poured, 
      Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword; 
      Israel’s hosts triumphant go, 
      Through the wave that drowns the foe. 
          Alleluia!

4    Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed, 
      Paschal victim, paschal bread; 
      With sincerity and love, 
      Eat we manna from above. 
          Alleluia!

5    Mighty Victim from the sky, 
      Hell’s fierce pow’rs beneath You lie; 
      You have conquered in the fight, 
      You have brought us life and light. 
          Alleluia!

6    Now no more can death appall, 
      Now no more the grave enthrall; 
      You have opened paradise, 
      And Your saints in You shall rise. 
          Alleluia!

7    Easter triumph, Easter joy! 
      This alone can sin destroy; 
      From sin’s pow’r, Lord, set us free, 
      Newborn souls in You to be. 
          Alleluia!

8    Father, who the crown shall give, 
      Savior, by whose death we live, 
      Spirit, guide through all our days: 
      Three in One, Your name we praise. 
          Alleluia!


Sermon
      I am guessing that you, like me, have a “troubled heart.” Normally, in a sermon, I would talk about a time when you remembered that your heart was troubled. For us, that time is now—we have troubled hearts.

      We are in the midst of a pandemic and its effects seem to be unlimited. People are sick. People are dying. Businesses are closed down. People are out of work. There isn’t enough money to pay the rent or house payment. Cleaning supplies are hard to get and now it looks like some food items may become scarce and higher in price. The market has tanked and many retirement funds appears to be in jeopardy. Now we are questioning what freedoms we really have and what freedoms can be taken away from us.

      Things don’t appear positive. We have troubled hearts. Those around us have troubled hearts. Our nation has a troubled heart. 99% of what we see and hear in the news tells us that we have troubled hearts.

      In the midst of all of this, our Gospel reading today echoes loud and clear, “Do not let your hearts be troubled!” says Jesus, “Believe in God; believe also in me!”

      Even when it appears that we have lost many things or could lose many things—our livelihood, our future, our homes, Jesus’s words echo out, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” God has prepared a place for us. It is described as a house—a mansion if you will—a place with many rooms.

      For the Jews at the time of Jesus this would be an overwhelming concept. The history of the Jewish nation reveals that they were nomads. They have a history of wandering throughout the land. You get the image in your mind of nomadic tents, of sheep and camel herds, of rapid mobility of putting up and taking down large tents as the family moves from area to area. It was to this type of people the a Promised Land was given—a land, a place where they could build homes. A place they could call their own.

      By the time Jesus arrives in history, the Jewish nation is established. What types of home did those at the time of Jesus have? They are not like the lavish homes we have today in America. A little bit of research provided this explanation:

What was the housing like in Galilee at the time of Jesus?

      “Most houses were simple constructions like a cube. They usually consisted of just one (or sometimes two) rooms where all the living, eating sleeping and so on took place. Poorer families who couldn't afford the use of an outside 'room' or cave also shared their homes with their livestock - so everything could get rather smelly especially in the summer heat of Galilee. The roof was usually made of rushes woven together - to protect from the night cold and also the daytime heat. Windows and doorways were small - again for protection from the weather.

      Doorways had wooden doors in them that could be locked with primitive wooden locks; windows were just open rectangular holes with no glass, as glass was extremely expensive.

      Occasionally (depending upon the area of the country) the roof was solid and surrounded by a low parapet and access was by a stone stairway at the side of the house. Here was extra living space but it was open to the sky so not much use except in dry, warm weather.

      Upper enclosed rooms were rare; that is why, when Jesus arranged his Last Supper in an upper room, it was easy for the disciples to find within the town as there wouldn't have been very many.

      “In those days the difference between rich and poor was just as wide - or even wider - than today. The poor lived in lowly dwellings so far described, but the rich lived in splendor, judging by archaeological finds on sites such as the site of Herod's palace, and other similar holdings.”


(https://www.answers.com/Q/What_was_the_housing_like_in_Galilee_at_the_time_of_Jesus)

      For most people, homes at the time of Jesus were not very large. There would not be a multiple number of rooms. The homes were small with only a room or two. Children would not have their own space. A lot of different activities would go on in that one room.

      Contrast this reality with what Jesus says in our text this morning. He knows he is dealing with “troubled people.” He knows the type of homes from which these people come. He knows their meager means of living and what we, today, would consider poverty to be. This was their life style. This was their way.

      So what does Jesus say to these “troubled hearts?” He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms . . .” this is not like the houses they knew! . . . this was not the cramped space of poverty. This is a place where there is room for all!

      Likewise, the contrast between what we have now as people with “troubled hearts” is much different than what we have when we enter our Heavenly Father’s mansion. It will not only be a place of great space, it will be a “place of no trouble.” All that troubles us now will be gone.

      My friends, we ARE people with troubled hearts. It is not limited to a pandemic. Our troubled hearts come from other “life circumstances.” Our hearts are troubled when we face layoffs and unemployment. Our hearts are troubled when we face hurts or brokenness in our relationships with our loved ones. Our hearts are broken when we experience unexpected death. Our hearts are troubled when our children make poor decisions that seem questionable at best.

      Our hearts are troubled when we see how we have wronged the ones we love. Our hearts are troubled when we face the reality that we have “dropped the ball” and have not met a prescribed expectation—whether it be from God or from others.

      If there is anything that we share in common as people, it’s that we all have “troubled hearts.” It amazes me when Christians cannot see what they have in common with all of humanity. It is in the commonality of troubled hearts that we can reach out to those who do not know Jesus.

      “You have a “troubled heart,” my friend? I have one too! But let me tell you about a wonderful place that will come that will have no trouble!” This sounds like an opportunity to share the Gospel message to me!

      The message that Jesus had for his hearers that day in which John records this text, is the same message that he has for you today. We must say it again. Do not let your hearts be troubled! In my father’s house are many rooms. And then comes that wonderful proclamation: I have prepared one for you!

      The best part is yet to come. Not only has he prepared a place, he provides the means for us to get there. It doesn’t depend on our ability to travel or if we are “locked down.” It doesn’t depend on our ability to get there as if we had the capability to do so. Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.”

      Jesus is the “vehicle” in which we travel to his father’s house. When we die in faith, Jesus will bring us to this mansion. He can do this because, as he says, he is “the way, the truth and the life” and that no one goes to the Father except through him. Because of his death and resurrection, those who die in faith go to the Father. They spend eternity with God.

      We have the certainty of a place prepared and a loving Savior who will take us there. He can do so as there is a unity in the Godhead. Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” He goes on to say, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

      This all is pretty good news in the midst of having a troubled heart. This is good news in the midst of a pandemic. This is good news at any time in our lives!

      It is this same John, the writer of our Reading, who earlier in this Gospel recorded these words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

      My friends, let not your hearts be troubled. Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross for your sin. He took the punishment you deserve and he satisfied God’s wrath. You are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ—the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” His resurrection from the dead on Easter shows us he is victorious over sin, death, and the power of Satan. Alleluia, he is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

      Through the cross and the empty tomb, God has prepared a place for you. Our hearts may be troubled for a time. But the day will come when he will gather you and all believers together to live with him in eternity. This is most certainly true. Do not let your hearts be troubled!

      May God give us peace in knowing to Whom we belong, in knowing that He is with us, in knowing that He will take us home to heaven.

Prayers of God’s People
      As newborn infants who long for the pure spiritual milk, we come before the Lord seeking His mercy with confidence that His grace will be sufficient for all our needs.

      Almighty Father, everlasting God, Your Son has revealed You to us as a merciful Lord. Give to us Your Holy Spirit, that we may believe in Him whom You have sent and do the greater works He has told us we will do in His name. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Lord God, You have promised to build up Your Church to be a holy priesthood, that Your people might offer the spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving acceptable to You. Bless Your Church and bring all congregations back together again. Bless all pastors who proclaim Christ to us. Bless all church workers and those preparing for full-time church vocations, that Your Church may be supplied with faithful leaders and servants of Your Word. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Holy God, Your power brought all things into being and still You preserve what You have made. Bless our president, the Congress of these United States, our governor, and all elected and appointed civil servants so that they may honor You and Your purpose, establishing order and justice, encouraging virtue and protecting all life. Give wisdom and moderation to them in their leadership for the well-being of the nation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      O merciful Father, You have compassion upon the sick and those in need and have promised not to ignore them in their afflictions. Turn back the pandemic across the globe, and give us relief. Bless the sick with healing, those who suffer with strength and patience, and the dying with peace. Hear us on behalf of those who have requested our prayers. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Gracious God, You have established the home and blessed those who show us Your love. Bless all mothers and the children in their care. Bless all families and make their homes places of blessing and love, where Your Word is spoken, forgiveness reigns and love is displayed. Give us good examples to inspire youth to all that is good and pure, and to seek after these things. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Heavenly Father, You have given us the wisdom of faith that through the Spirit we might know Your Son to be the way, the truth and the life. Bless all those who teach and all who learn, that the goal of our knowledge may be to know Christ and to make Him known. Do not let Your Word be bound, but let it have free course among us. Preserve those in isolation from idleness, and instead let our minds be renewed in Scripture and prayer. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Compassionate Father, You are not aloof from the needs of this body and life, and You have called us to love our neighbor in need and give aid to the poor. Give us courage and faith, that we may not fear sharing the resources You have supplied with those who live in want, especially the widow, the orphan and the unemployed. Let love be perfected among us to drive out selfish fears. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Eternal Father of an eternal mercy, You have raised up witnesses in every age and blessed us with those who endured suffering and even death in faithfulness to Christ. We give You thanks for these faithful saints and martyrs, and we pray You to make us strong when we face the day of test, that at length we may be brought with them into the joy of Your presence and the glory of everlasting life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      Creator God, in your infinite wisdom, You created the gift of family. In it, we learn of your love reflected through our parents and those you have given to care for us. Thank you for the gift of parents, especially mothers this day. Thank you for the gift of life that was given to each of us through them. Bless all godly mothers that they may be an example of your gracious love and goodness. Use them to show us your love. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

      We praise You, God, for Your goodness in hearing the prayers of Your people and granting us confidence to approach Your throne of mercy. Hear us now in the name of and for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom, with whom and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is Yours, almighty Father, both now and forevermore. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name,
      Thy kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread;
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
      and lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen


Benediction (The sign of the cross may be made)
     The Lord bless us and keep us.
          The Lord make His face shine on us and be gracious to us.
               The Lord look upon us with favor and + give us His peace.

            Alleluia, he is risen!, He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Closing Hymn: You are the Way; Through You Alone (LSB 526)

1     You are the way; through You alone
            Can we the Father find;
      In You, O Christ, has God revealed
            His heart and will and mind.

2    You are the truth; Your Word alone
            True wisdom can impart;
      You only can inform the mind
            And purify the heart.

3      You are the life; the empty tomb
            Proclaims Your conqu’ring arm,
      And those who put their trust in You
            Not death nor hell shall harm.

4    You are the way, the truth, the life;
            Grant us that way to know,
      That truth to keep, that life to win
            Whose joys eternal flow.


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

                            I am the Door

Worship for Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2020


Prayer of Preparation
    O Holy Spirt, in our worship today we see how Jesus is both “Shepherd” and “Door.” Enlighten us with God’s Word to understand what that means for us as part of God’s kingdom. Thank you that Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd, but the Door to which we come into relationship with God. Keep us steadfast in God’s Word, especially through the challenging times of this pandemic. In Jesus name, Amen.

Opening Hymn: Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us (LSB 711)

1    Savior, like a shepherd lead us; Much we need Your tender care. 
          In Your pleasant pastures feed us, For our use Your fold prepare. 
      Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, You have bought us; we are Yours. 
          Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, You have bought us; we are Yours.

2    We are Yours; in love befriend us, Be the guardian of our way;
          Keep Your flock, from sin defend us, Seek us when we go astray. 
      Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, Hear us children when we pray. 
          Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, Hear us children when we pray.

3    You have promised to receive us, Poor and sinful though we be; 
          You have mercy to relieve us, Grace to cleanse, and pow’r to free. 
      Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, Early let us turn to You. 
          Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, Early let us turn to You.

4    Early let us seek Your favor, Early let us do Your will; 
          Blessèd Lord and only Savior, With Your love our spirits fill. 
      Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, You have loved us, love us still. 
          Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus, You have loved us, love us still.

Invocation (making the sign of cross across your head and heart)
    In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Confession of Sin
     If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

     Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

God’s Grace in Absolution
     Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. In the celebration of Easter, I acknowledge that God’s wrath was satisfied and that I am forgiven. Jesus rose from the dead, showing himself victorious over my sin, death, and the power of Satan. As God’s forgiven child, I live in thankfulness knowing the love of God in Christ—even as we live in uncertain times as this pandemic. Thank you, dear God, for the forgiveness I acknowledge in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

INTROIT Psalm 95:1–3, 6–7a; antiphon: John 10:14, 15b
  I am the good shepherd. 
      I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep. 
  Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; 
      let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 
  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; 
      let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 
  For the Lord is a great God, 
      and a great King above all gods. 
  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; 
      let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 
  For he is our God, 
      and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. 
  Glory be to the Father and to the Son
      and to the Holy Spirit;
  as it was in the beginning,
      is now, and will be forever. Amen.
  I am the good shepherd. 
      I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Prayer of the Day
    Almighty God, merciful Father, since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47
    42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Psalm 23
  1 The Lord is my shepherd; 
      I shall not want. 
  2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
      He leads me beside still waters. 
  3 He restores my soul. 
      He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; 
      your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  5 You prepare a table before me 
  in the presence of my enemies; 
      you anoint my head with oil; 
      my cup overflows. 
  6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
  all the days of my life, 
        and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 2:19-25
    19 This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Gospel Reading: John 10:1-10
    1 [Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
    7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Hymn: The King of Love My Shepherd Is (LSB 709)

1    The King of love my shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; 
          I nothing lack if I am His, And He is mine forever.

2    Where streams of living water flow, My ransomed soul He leadeth 
          And, where the verdant pastures grow, With food celestial feedeth.

3    Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love He sought me 
          And on His shoulder gently laid, And home rejoicing brought me.

4    In death’s dark vale I fear no ill, With Thee, dear Lord, beside me, 
          Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.

5    Thou spreadst a table in my sight; Thine unction grace bestoweth; 
          And, oh, what transport of delight, From Thy pure chalice floweth!

6    And so through all the length of days, Thy goodness faileth never; 
          Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise, Within Thy house forever!


Sermon
     As we look at today’s Gospel reading, we find Jesus referencing himself in two ways. First of all, he says he is the “Good Shepherd.” This makes sense to us and seems to be a common theme in the Bible. In the Old Testament, evil kings were referred to as “bad shepherds.” In contrast, Jesus refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd” to show the contrast of his intent with those who did not properly care for the flock—the people of God.

     Throughout our worship today, the theme of Shepherd is apparent. The 23rd Psalm is the one appointed for the day, where we say, “The Lord is my Shepherd . . .” The hymns selected for today also reflect the theme that Jesus is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of his flock. Even our New Testament reading says, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25) Likewise, the first part of our Gospel reading would support the thought that Jesus is our “Good Shepherd.”

     But then, there is a second reference in our Gospel reading. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7). Jesus is both “shepherd” and “door.” You would think that Jesus is “mixing metaphors! Whereas this text is usually used to explore Jesus as the “good shepherd,” today we will explore Jesus as the “door.”

     Doors are the means by which we enter buildings. When it comes to sheep pens, we usually refer to them as “gates.” Gates are found in fences. They surround something. They are the “doors” to get inside. The gate is the entry point. If the gate is open, the animals can escape. If they escape, the animals can be difficult to gather and even cause mischief. I know this personally, as one who was recently kicked in the knee by a horse who got out of the pen through an open gate!

     However, doors and gates are found in other places than animal pens. You may not realize it, but computers have “gates.” Electricity flows through them. They are either “open” or “closed.” In computer logic, there are “AND Gates, “OR Gates, “NAND Gates, and “NOR Gates.” The opening and closing of these gates—at a speed so fast that we cannot comprehend—is what creates the “binary language.” The binary language is the “Ones” and “Zeros” that make up computer language. You see this often as “1100101101010,” etc. It doesn’t make sense to us, but it is created by the opening and closing of these gates.

     In the business world, the process to get something done is often referred to as a series of “gates.” These are the key points or steps in the process to get you from the idea or concept of the product to the actual production of the product. Getting a product idea through a specific “gate” shows that the process is on track to making the product. It is said in the business world that a new product has to go through 15 gates before it hits the street for sale.

     In regards to the current pandemic, State Governors have made it clear that state residence will not be going directly from the current situation of social distancing and sheltering in place to an open economy. The timing of all of this has become controversial in our nation and varies from state to state. There are people who are protesting—even in our own state—and want the economy to be open again.

     Unfortunately, the economy cannot be simply turned back on like a light switch. It will be a process. There will not be one “gate” through which our citizens must pass, but a series of gates that will lead us back to normal, or more appropriately put, the “new normal.” Governor Inslee, this past week, has put out his plan of opening the economy. There are four steps, or four gates involved in opening our Washington State economy.

     We find “gates” in our homelife as well. The “gates” that we have in family life are those processes that we have in place to get something done. Our children are aware of the “gates” that they must pass if they want something. They know the steps needed to get something done. And we know, in all honesty, that wives and mothers are the primary gates in the family, if not the actual “gate keeper.” In the word of one old German proverb translated into English, “Pa is boss, everyone knows, but what Ma says, always goes!”

     In our reading this morning, Jesus is the “Gate for the Sheep.” He’s not only the Good Shepherd, but the entry point for the sheep—the people of God. The fence protects God’s flock, his kingdom, his Church. There is only one way in—Jesus. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:7-9)

     Some want to get in by other means than the one true Door. Some think they can enter the flock through their good works—doing things for others and themselves. Some think they can enter flock by what they have to offer—their wealth, or talents, or ability. Still others think that they are part of the flock because they were raised in a religious home or have their names on a Church roster.

     At the same time, there are “thieves and robbers” who are out there to steal the sheep—the people of God—away from the Shepherd. They attempt to “sneak in” to the flock and lead people away from God. Satan is at work to do so. False prophets try to sneak in. False doctrine tries to sneak in. Anger and discord try to sneak in. Doubt and misbelief try to sneak in. All of these want to climb the fence and steel the sheep.

     Satan is out to steal the sheep of God–he is a master thief. Unfortunately, he also has some great allies such as our sinful nature, deception, demonic ways, and even death. Satan’s deceptions include “self-centeredness”—the belief that the individual is more important than God. There is our own laziness and the lure of the world which can include the pursuit of wealth, the pursuit of power, or the pursuit of any object deemed more important than God.

     There is even more. Sheep are stolen through the misuse of drugs and alcohol. They are stolen through an unforgiving spirit. They are stolen through discouragement with God, the Church, the Pastor, Church leaders and others in the flock. Sheep are stolen in many ways, to include fear and panic that can be part of a pandemic.

     All of these things, however, attempt to “sneak in.” They can never enter through the Door, which is Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not compatible with robbers and thieves. Ironically, Jesus allowed himself to take on the punishment of robbers and thieves when he went to the cross of Calvary. His death and resurrection conquered all things, including Satan and the deception that he brings.

     We are protected from the robbers and thieves and the evil that tries to sneak into our lives when we remember the Door and what the door has done. Even though we still struggle with our sinfulness, we know the grace of God in Jesus Christ when he freely forgives our sins. We receive this forgiveness when we confess our sins and acknowledge the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death is our death. His resurrection is our resurrection.

     The Door not only protects us from robbers and thieves, he gives quality to our lives. Our reading concludes with these words of Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).

     The abundant life that the Door brings does not guarantee earthly wealth and happiness as the world defines it. Unfortunately, there are those “robbers and thieves” who, in their deceit would warp this Good News for us to believe that, somehow, we are to be monetarily blessed in this earthly life. They even would have us believe that somehow, the current pandemic we face is the result of our lack of faith in God, as we are not blessed in such a pandemic.

     No, the abundant life in which we share is centered in our relationship to and with the Door, or more appropriately put—the relationship that God has with us through Jesus Christ. The abundant life that we face is the full assurance of eternal life and the joy that it can bring to our everyday living—even in the midst of a pandemic. In the midst of all that befalls us and what we experience, the Door remains. Jesus, our Door, brings us into relationship with him. He remains as the Door in the midst of all that we face in the challenges of life.

     Shepherd and Door. Today we are reminded that our Good Shepherd is the Door to the kingdom of God. We thank him for how he brings us into his kingdom through his death and resurrection. We thank him that this door “shepherds” us throughout our lives and all that will befall us.

     In Jesus name. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed
     I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth.
 
     And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
          who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
          born of the virgin Mary,
          suffered under Pontius Pilate,
          was crucified, died and was buried.
          He descended into hell.
          The third day He rose again from the dead.
          He ascended into heaven
          and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
          From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
     I believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the holy Christian Church,
               the communion of saints,
          the forgiveness of sins,
          the resurrection of the body,
          and the life everlasting. Amen.

Prayers of God’s People
     Bidden by our Shepherd, we come before God’s throne of grace in prayer on behalf of all people.

     Blessed Shepherd, You established Your Church with Your sacrificial death and mighty resurrection. Grant us devotion, that we may abide in the teaching of the apostles and honor the fellowship of the Church. Guard us against all enemies of Your Word, and keep us within the care of Your flock and staff forevermore. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

     Mighty Shepherd, You hold in Your hands all the might of man, and You hold accountable those who would govern Your people. Grant to us good government and good leaders who will honor Your purpose, protect Your people, serve the cause of justice and defend our liberty against all threats. Give them wisdom and moderation in their pandemic response. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

     Loving Shepherd, You loved the world enough to shed Your blood, and You desire that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Inspire and equip Your Church and her ministers to speak faithfully and boldly Your Word, and bless all those who serve us on Your behalf. Bless us especially when we are persecuted for the faith or suffer for the sake of the good that honors You and is obedient to Your Word. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

     Merciful Shepherd, Your wounds are our healing and Your voice calls us to You in time of need, especially during this pandemic. Hear us on behalf of all those who suffer in body or mind, who grieve those whom they love, and to whom death draws near. We pray especially for those we name in our hearts. Grant them healing according to Your will, grace to sustain them in the day of trouble, and hope of the new and everlasting life to come. Be with the unemployed and the distraught, and return them to health and livelihood. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

     Gracious Shepherd, You seek out those who have fallen and restore the sinner to repentance. Send forth Your Spirit to rekindle faith in the hearts of those who have fallen away from the truth or who have been overcome by temptation and sin. Bring good from ill and increase in all the hunger for Your Word and a recognition of our need, that many may be gathered into Your flock when church doors are opened wide again. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

     Giving Shepherd, You have not withheld anything from us but emptied Yourself fully upon the cross that we might be saved. Move our hearts to such devotion and teach us such generosity, that we may bring to You the tithes and offerings of a grateful heart and serve our neighbor in need with the resources You have supplied to us so abundantly. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

     Good Shepherd, You set Your table among us in the presence of our enemies. Hear us because we are beset by so many false voices and tempted by so many false gospels. Help us to hear Your voice and to abide safely in Your Word that remains forever. Equip us with Your Spirit so that we may receive Your body and blood with faith and a repentant heart. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

O great Good Shepherd, we pray You to hear Your sheep and answer our prayers with mercy, granting us those things profitable for us and our salvation and keeping from us all things harmful; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Benediction (The sign of the cross may be made)
     The Lord bless us and keep us.
          The Lord make His face shine on us and be gracious to us.
               The Lord look upon us with favor and + give us His peace.

Congregation Amen.

Sending Hymn: I am Jesus’ Little Lamb (LSB 740)

1    I am Jesus’ little lamb, Ever glad at heart I am; 
          For my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my need and well provides me, 
      Loves me ev’ry day the same, Even calls me by my name.

2    Day by day, at home, away, Jesus is my staff and stay. 
          When I hunger, Jesus feeds me, Into pleasant pastures leads me; 
      When I thirst, He bids me go, Where the quiet waters flow.

3    Who so happy as I am, Even now the Shepherd’s lamb? 
          And when my short life is ended, By His angel host attended,
      He shall fold me to His breast, There within His arms to rest.


Pastor James A. Freitag


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                   On the Road to Emmaus

A Worship Service with Sermon
Third Sunday after Easter
April 26, 2020

Prayer of Preparation

     Dear Jesus, on the road to Emmaus you revealed yourself to two men walking from Jerusalem. They did not understand what they witnessed there concerning the events that led to your death. You opened he Scriptures to them to explain that the Messiah would come to suffer and die, only to rise again. Then, you revealed yourself to them as the risen Lord in the breaking of bread.
     In this midst of our walk through this pandemic, keep us mindful of your presence. Open up the Scriptures to us so that we can see you at work in the midst of the difficulties and challenges we face. Comfort us with your word and help us to remember that, as you are the Lord over sin, death, and the power of Satan, you are Lord over this pandemic as well. Bless our individual worship of you today, even as we are scattered as a Church. In your name we pray. Amen.

Opening Hymn: Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds LSB 465

1    Now all the vault of heav’n resounds; In praise of love that still abounds:
          “Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
      Sing, choirs of angels, loud and clear! Repeat their song of glory here:
          “Christ has triumphed! Christ has triumphed! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

2    Eternal is the gift He brings, Therefore our heart with rapture sings:
         “Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
     Now still He comes to give us life And by His presence stills all strife.
        Christ has triumphed! He is living! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

3    O fill us, Lord, with dauntless love; Set heart and will on things above 
         That we conquer through Your triumph; 
     Grant grace sufficient for life’s day; That by our lives we truly say: 
         “Christ has triumphed! He is living!” Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

4   Adoring praises now we bring; And with the heav’nly blessèd sing: 
         “Christ has triumphed! Alleluia!
     ”Be to the Father and our Lord, To Spirit blest, most holy God, 
         All the glory, never ending! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Invocation (making the sign of cross across your head and heart)
    In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Confession 
     If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

     Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

Absolution
    Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. Because of his death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Introit Ps. 133; antiphon: Ps. 133:1
  Behold, how good and pleasant it is
      when brothers dwell in unity!
  It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron,
      running down on the collar of his robes!
  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!
      For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
  Glory be to the Father and to the Son
      and to the Holy Spirit;
  as it was in the beginning,
      is now, and will be forever. Amen.
  Behold, how good and pleasant it is
      when brothers dwell in unity!

Prayer of the Day
    O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36–41
    14 Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, . . .
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
    37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 1:17–25
    17 If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
    22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
      “All flesh is like grass 
            and all its glory like the flower of grass. 
      The grass withers, 
            and the flower falls, 
      25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:13–35
    13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Hymn: Who Are You Who Walk in Sorrow LSB 476
1    Who are you who walk in sorrow, Down Emmaus’ barren road, 
          Hearts distraught and hope defeated, Bent beneath grief’s crushing load?
     Nameless mourners, we will join you, We who also mourn our dead; 
          We have stood by graves unyielding, Eaten death’s bare, bitter bread.

2     Who is this who joins our journey, Walking with us stride by stride? 
          Unknown Stranger, can You fathom, Depths of grief for one who died? 
     Then the wonder! When we told You, How our dreams to dust have turned, 
          Then You opened wide the Scriptures, Till our hearts within us burned.

3    Who are You? Our hearts are opened, In the breaking of the bread— 
          Christ the victim, now the victor, Living, risen from the dead! 
     Great companion on our journey, Still surprise us with Your grace! 
          Make each day a new Emmaus; On our hearts Your image trace!

4    Who are we who travel with You, On our way through life to death? 
          Women, men, the young, the aging, Wakened by the Spirit’s breath!
     At the font You claim and name us, Born of water and the Word; 
          At the table still You feed us, Host us as our risen Lord!

5    “Alleluia! Alleluia!” Is the Easter hymn we sing! 
          Take our life, our joy, our worship, As the gift of love we bring. 
     You have formed us all one people, Called from ev’ry land and race. 
          Make the Church Your servant body, Sent to share Your healing grace!


Sermon
     As we look at the Gospel Reading today, we find two unidentified individuals traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We know that one is named Cleopas. It is clear later in the reading that they were followers of Jesus and knew the eleven remaining disciples. They returned to Jerusalem to bring exiting news of what had happened to those who followed Jesus.

     I look at this story of the men walking freely about—perhaps they are returning home after spending Passover in the city. They move freely about—something that you and I can’t do right now in the face of the current pandemic. Perhaps you, like me, have a little jealousy about how they can freely move about. Sure, we could go out, but its best only to do this for those key essentials that we need in our daily lives. The “stay at home” guidelines producing social distancing is the only way we know how to properly face this pandemic as there yet is not a vaccine to prevent it.

     And, just how are you doing with your social distancing? It is obvious that people have reacted differently. Some of those in our community are scared and concerned because of their previous health issues. Some believe it is a hoax and that we should not be any more concerned about the current pandemic than we should be about the annual flu virus. Some are just frustrated because they can’t go to work and miss the feeling of contributing to our society through their job and the satisfaction it brings. Some are concerned about their economic future and retirement as the stock market has taken a hit, as well as the job market.

     We all face many challenges in the face of this pandemic. With it, we all have choices of the many ways that we can respond in the midst of all of it. For me, I collect humorous Face Book posts, as it helps me keep my perspective. I chuckled at the one I saw this week of someone posting pictures of their “Spring Vacation.” It was five picture frames with no pictures in them!

     So, we find these two walking to Emmaus, perhaps walking home. They had not experienced a pandemic, but they had faced something that caused them to be in deep discussion— the events that had transpired in Jerusalem surrounding the death of Jesus. Similar to our lack of understanding of our current situation and the pandemic with which we are dealing, they did not understand what had transpired in Jerusalem that had led to Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

     And then the unexpected . . . a stranger joins them in their journey. A stranger joins them in their conversation, basically asking, “Hey, what have you guys been talking about?” Our reading tells us “they stood still, looking sad.” That which had transpired in Jerusalem had an impact on them. What had happened in the city was a BIG DEAL and everyone there would have known about it. They ask this stranger, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

     We know that the stranger is Jesus, but it has not yet been revealed to the two men. Jesus asks the question for which he already knows the answer, “What things?” The two share with this stranger what had transpired and what had been done to Jesus.

     . . . they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:19b-24)

     How typical was their human response! They were troubled, perplexed and perhaps even heart-broken at the events that had taken place. They didn’t see the bigger picture. They didn’t understand the promises of God that a suffering servant, a Messiah would come, sent by God. It was part of their faith tradition, but they didn’t understand.

     We shouldn’t be too hard on these two men, though. Things happen that we can’t understand. We can’t see God at work because the situation at hand is beyond our understanding. We have all had situations like this in our individual lives, even as now we all face the current pandemic that is beyond our understanding. We perhaps ask the same question that they were asking of themselves and one another that day, “Why would God allow this to happen?” Why would God allow a good man, a “prophet mighty in deed and word” to be delivered up and crucified? Why would God allow a pandemic that has brought unnecessary death to our world and has made the elderly and those in ill health especially vulnerable to its clutches of death?

     You know, when it comes down to it, we can’t answer the questions that may rise up regarding the pandemic. We can’t explain why it is has happened and affected so many. We might be able to explain “how,” the pandemic came about, but we can’t explain “why.” Although this is frustrating for some, it is not the end of the story.

     Although we can’t answer the second question regarding the pandemic, we can answer the question regarding why Jesus would be delivered up to be crucified. Jesus himself provides the answer. He says to the two men, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Jesus then goes to the heart of their Jewish faith and interprets what would be our Old Testament Scriptures regarding the promised Messiah, beginning with Moses and the Prophets. It was necessary “that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory.”

     Perhaps Jesus is saying something similar to our world today in the midst of this pandemic. “Oh foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that I have promised and given to you! Do you not remember that I rose from the dead on the third day showing myself to be victorious over sin, over death, and over the power of Satan? Do you believe that I have ceased to love you in the midst of the pandemic and the challenges that you face that have come with it? Do you not remember that I said that I will be with you always—even to the end of the age? Do you not remember my words when I said . . .”

     “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

     But, Jesus doesn’t just chastise their lack of understanding and belief or our lack of understanding and belief that comes in the midst of a pandemic. He shows himself to be who he is—the very Son of God, our Savior.

     You remember how the story ends. The two walking with this “stranger” approached a village. Jesus acted as if we was continuing on. The two urged him to stay and he did. Later, at the meal time, Jesus was giving the meal blessing. As he did, he broke the bread and their eyes were opened. The two men recognize this stranger as Jesus. Then, Jesus vanishes from their sight.

     It then all made sense. They show the intensity of what Jesus had said to them on the road when they exclaimed to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)

     They were excited—they had encountered the risen Lord Jesus! They returned to Jerusalem, found the eleven disciples and shared what had happened. Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

     My friends, we need to remember that the Scriptures are open to us also, as we face the challenges of this pandemic and all that has come with it. We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. We take refuge in knowing that God will provide for our every need, as he has provided for our salvation through his death and resurrection. Even though we are still in the “Easter Season,” we need to recognize that every day for the Christian is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus—even when our world as we know it seems to be falling apart. We hold fast to the word of Scripture that reveal God’s love for us through Jesus Christ.

     But, do we dare keep this only to ourselves? The two men on the road to Emmaus ran back to Jerusalem to confirm that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were so excited about their encounter with Jesus that they had to share this blessed experience!

     You, also, encounter Jesus! He comes to you in the proclamation of the Gospel. He comes to you through your baptism as he placed his name on you and called you a “Child of God.” He comes to you in the words of Absolution in which we claim what God has promised—the forgiveness of sins. He comes to you in his very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper which is given and shed for you for a very specific reason—for the forgiveness of sins. He comes to you in your devotional time, in your reading of Scripture and in your meditation upon his gracious love for you!

     How can we keep this a secret? It has affected every part of our lives—our hearts, our minds, our attitudes, our actions! It is who we are in Christ—not perfect, but forgiven!

     These are questions we need to contemplate as our world returns to normal, or should I rightly say, the “new normal,” whatever that may be. None of us will be the same again as this pandemic passes. It will affect us and who we are for the rest of our lives. But there is One, however, who has affected us even greater than this pandemic. It is Jesus Christ and his love for us.

     Let’s not keep this a secret! Let the love of Christ affect your attitudes, words, and actions with others—especially those who do not know him; especially in this time of crises; especially as people try to understand the world in which they live. There is a God who is still in control, who loves us more deeply than we can understand, and provides a peace that passes human understanding.

     May God so allow us to be his witnesses to our world. Amen.

Nicene Creed
              I believe in one God,
          the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth
                  and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
        the only-begotten Son of God,
        begotten of His Father before all worlds,
        God of God, Light of Light,
        very God of very God,
        begotten, not made,
        being of one substance with the Father,
        by whom all things were made;
        who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
        and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
        and was made man;
        and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
        He suffered and was buried.
        And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
                and ascended into heaven
        and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
        whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
        the Lord and giver of life,
        who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
        who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
        who spoke by the prophets.
        And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
        I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
        and I look for the resurrection of the dead
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The Prayers of God’s People
    You have heard our pleas for mercy, O Lord, and given up Your Son to be our Savior. Hear us now as we come to You on behalf of ourselves and all people according to their needs.

    Our hearts have burned in us, O Lord, as Your Word has been read and proclaimed. Keep our faith from growing cold and grant us grace, that we may not waver in faith or succumb to temptation in the midst of the challenges before us and the world, especially this pandemic. Give to us and to our children receptive hearts, that we may hear and, hearing, believe and, believing, be steadfast in this faith and hope all our days. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    You have cleansed us, O Lord, with water and the Word in Baptism, and You have marked us as Your own people. Give to us grace, that we may live out this faith in holy lives, lifting up Your name in word and works for as long as we live. Guide us, that with souls purified by obedience to the truth, we may love one another earnestly from a pure heart. Show us how to express this love to our neighbors and those in our community during this time of difficulty. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    Bless Your Church, O Lord, that she may welcome the stranger in Christ’s name and manifest the unity of the faith in the bonds of love. Gather together those who are separated and preserve their faith by Your Word until all precautions and shelter measures have passed. Bless all those in leadership in our Church body. Bless those training for church-work vocations. Bless each of us as we live out our baptismal vocation of worship, witness, prayer and service. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    Guard our nation, O Lord, that we may enjoy peace and security in the face of threat and danger. Bless our president; the Congress of the United States; our governor; and all state and local officials, that they may fulfill their offices faithfully. Bless all emergency and medical workers and the members of the armed forces who protect us and minister through their vocation all who are sick and ill, and teach the nations the ways of peace. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    Deliver us from all our afflictions and grant us strength to bear all burdens we face at this time of pandemic, O Lord. Work your miracle of healing through the hands of science, doctors and other health care professionals that a vaccine will be found that will combat this illness throughout the world. Use this time to draw us together as people and prevent the polarization that can come from political aspirations that so easily can thwart the truth. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    Hear us in particular for those whom we name in our hearts. According to Your gracious will, heal the sick, relieve those who suffer, comfort the grieving and give peace to the dying. Make your presence known. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    Stay with us, O Lord, and be our strength in weakness and our hope in time of despair. Your gracious will once kept the saints in faith even unto death. Keep us, we pray, with them in Your faith and fear, that we may be found faithful when Christ comes again in His glory to bring to fulfillment all things, once and forevermore. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

    These and whatever other things we need, O Lord, we pray You to grant us in the name of and for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose death has made full atonement for our sin and whose resurrection has granted to us the promise of our own joyful resurrection to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name, 
      Thy kingdom come, 
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread; 
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; 
      and lead us not into temptation, 
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen

Benediction (making the sign of cross across your head and heart)
     The Lord bless us and keep us.
     The Lord make His face shine upon us and be gracious to us.
     The Lord look upon us with favor and give us peace. Amen

Sending Hymn: Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus LSB 685
1       Let us ever walk with Jesus, 
            Follow His example pure,
        Through a world that would deceive us, 
            And to sin our spirits lure.
        Onward in His footsteps treading, 
            Pilgrims here, our home above,
            Full of faith and hope and love,
        Let us do the Father’s bidding. 
            Faithful Lord, with me abide; 
            I shall follow where You guide.

2       Let us suffer here with Jesus, 
           And with patience bear our cross. 
        Joy will follow all our sadness; 
           Where He is, there is no loss. 
       Though today we sow no laughter, 
           We shall reap celestial joy; 
           All discomforts that annoy 
       Shall give way to mirth hereafter. 
           Jesus, here I share Your woe; 
           Help me there Your joy to know.

3      Let us gladly die with Jesus. 
           Since by death He conquered death, 
       He will free us from destruction, 
           Give to us immortal breath. 
       Let us mortify all passion, 
           That would lead us into sin; 
           And the grave that shuts us in 
       Shall but prove the gate to heaven. 
           Jesus, here with You I die, 
           There to live with You on high.

4     Let us also live with Jesus. 
           He has risen from the dead 
      That to life we may awaken. 
           Jesus, You are now our head. 
      We are Your own living members; 
           Where You live, there we shall be 
           In Your presence constantly, 
      Living there with You forever. 
           Jesus, let me faithful be, 
           Life eternal grant to me.


Pastor James A. Freitag


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                       Peace be with You!

A Worship Service with Sermon
Second Sunday after Easter
April 19, 2020


Personal Prayer of Preparation
       Gracious God, more now than ever we ask for peace—peace in the midst of the uncertainty that comes with this current pandemic; peace in the midst of those around us who are falling ill; peace in the midst of those who are unemployed; peace in the midst of economic challenges; peace in the midst of our personal fears that come from all of this and much more. Allow us to find your peace this day and remember the great love you have for us through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Invocation (make the sign of the cross and say)
      In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Confession
       Lord God, in the midst of our current situation, we often find ourselves without peace. Things are not well with our communities and our nation. It is easy to worry. Forgive us when we place our trust in things of this world. Forgive us when we do not place our trust in you. Forgive us for our actions that portray panic and actually go against you and your word, for we know in our humanity, we have sinned against you and others in thought, word, and deed. Forgive us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Forgiveness
       Lord God, in the midst of my lack of peace, I acknowledge the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know that he paid the price of my sin and took your wrath that I deserve upon himself. I am now completely forgiven. Thank you for reminding me of this forgiveness today, at this time, and knowing that it only can bring me the peace that passes human understanding. I claim that peace today through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

We Proclaim
       Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Opening Hymn: I Know that My Redeemer Lives (vs. 1-4)

            I know that my Redeemer lives; What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
                He lives, He lives, who once was dead: He lives my ever-living head.

                      He lives triumphant from the grave; He lives eternally to save;
                      He lives all-glorious in the sky; He lives exalted there on high.

                  He lives to bless me with his love; He lives to plead for me above;
                    He lives my hungry soul to feed: He lives to help in time of need.

                  He lives to grant me rich supply; He lives to guide me with his eye;
             He lives to comfort me when faint; He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

Introit Reading: Psalm 105:1–5, 8; antiphon: 1 Peter 2:2–3
       Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to
              salvation— 
              if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 
       Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; 
              make known his deeds among the peoples!
       Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
              tell of all his wondrous works! 
       Glory in his holy name; 
              let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 
       Seek the Lord and his strength; 
              seek his presence continually! 
       Remember the wondrous works that he has done, 
              his miracles, and the judgments he uttered. 
       He remembers his covenant forever, 
              the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations. 
       Glory be to the Father and to the Son 
              and to the Holy Spirit; 
       as it was in the beginning, 
              is now, and will be forever. Amen.
 
       Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to
       salvation— 
              if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Prayer of the Day 
       Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 5:29–42
       29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
       33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Epistle: 1 Peter 1:3–9
       3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Gradual (adapt. from Matthew 28:7; Hebrews 2:7; Psalm 8:6) 
      
Christ has risen from the dead. 
              [God the Father] has crowned him with glory and honor, 
       He has given him dominion over the works of his hands; 
              he has put all things under his feet.

Gospel: John 20:19–31
      19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”
      24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
      26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
      30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Sermon Hymn: I Know that My Redeemer Lives (vs 5-8)

                  He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears;
               He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart.

          He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly friend; He lives and loves me to the end;
       He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing; He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

         He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death;
             He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there.

          He lives, all glory to his name; He lives, my Jesus, still the same;
       Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives; I know that my Redeemer lives!



Sermon
       Our Scripture setting is the evening of the Resurrection of Jesus. The disciples were behind locked closed doors for “fear of the Jews.” They had seen their Teacher Jesus arrested, tried, and convicted. They had seen Jesus beaten before the crowds. They had seen Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha—the place of the Skull—and there be crucified. Now, they gathered together in fear. Perhaps they reasoned that those who went after Jesus and crucified him would come after them as well.

       In the midst of their fear, Jesus appears before them. He says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them his hands and his side. There could be no doubt that this was Jesus—now alive. The same Jesus who was beaten and crucified stood before them. Once again he says, “Peace be with you” and then goes on to say that he will send them on a mission. They will share that peace.

       What exactly is this peace? In the Greek text (the language in which the New Testament was written), the word is Ireene (pronounced I-ray-nay). It is the basis of the name Irene (anyone out there named Irene?). The name Irene means “peace.” I don’t know if Irenes are more peaceful than the rest of us, but they have that as a name.

       According to Scripture, we are supposed to have that peace—whatever it is! St. Paul wrote to the Church is Colossae, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . .” (Col 5:15). Paul also said in his letter to the Galatians that “peace” is a “fruit of the Spirit”—that is, a by-product of having a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Do you remember the fruit? “. . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23)

       But what is it? What is peace? Outside of the Christian context, the answer would be obvious. Peace is when hostilities have stopped. Peace is happens when there is no conflict. Peace takes place when there is no war. We believe that peace will come when we make it through the current pandemic.

       However, either Jesus is lying in our reading and didn’t bring peace, or this is not the type of peace that Jesus meant. There have been wars and rumors of wars before Jesus came to earth as well as since he ascended into heaven. When the First World War ended, it was termed as the “War to end all wars.” We got Armistice Day, then Veterans Day out of that on the 11th Day of the 11th Month at the 11th Hour. No, this is not the type of peace that Jesus was bringing into the world.

       Some see peace as some type of earthly contentment. That opens a whole can of worms if you think about it. “Contentment” for one person, may not be contentment for another. For one person, content may mean having good health; for another, a cooperative family; for another, time alone away from chaos; for another getting through this pandemic; and, still for another, not having your financial retirement in question because of what is happening to our economy.

       But is this the type of peace that Jesus is bringing to his disciples and to you today? Does he simply mean that he will give to us and all believers some sort of earthly “peaceful contentment?” If so, then why does he tell them that he will be sending them out? They won’t stay behind locked doors—they will go out with the Gospel message and they will be challenged. No, this is not what he meant by peace.

       Others see peace in terms of being free from financial burden. I must admit that knowing that a steady paycheck is coming in does bring a sense of freedom from worry, but one in five work-force Americans have applied for unemployment as a result of pandemic job loss. But is this what Jesus was talking about? If he is to bring “financial peace,” then why is there poverty in the world, even among Christians? And why this current challenge that we all are facing. When is “enough”?

       I once did a children’s lesson using M&Ms. I had actually located seven different sized bags of peanut M&Ms. I asked for seven child volunteers. I stood them up in front of the Church with me. I had the M&Ms hidden in a paper sack. The first child I gave a “snack pack” of M&Ms. The next child received a slightly larger “fun size.” The next child received a regular sized pack. Each child received a slightly larger pack of M&Ms until the last child. I picked a small child to be last in this lesson. I gave the last child a 2 ½ pound bag of peanut M&Ms!

       It was interesting to see the faces of the children watching (as well as the adults) as each bigger bag of M&Ms was given out. I then went to the very first child—the one who received the “snack pack” and I simply asked him, “So, what do you think?” I was expecting something like, “Hey, this is not fair!” But this child preached the lesson for me. He said, “Well, I guess I should be thankful for what I got!” This is not typical. Most of us complain about what we don’t have when we compare it to others! Perhaps this child has a greater understanding of peace than most of us!

       But, Jesus didn’t come to pass out M&Ms. He came to bring peace. He declared it to his disciples—those in that room that day, as well as when he would return the following week to encounter Thomas. His greeting is, “Peace be with you.”

       Jesus had already told his disciples in the past that the type of peace that they would receive from God would not be of this world. On the night in which he was betrayed—just a few days before his resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. (Jn 14:27)

       The peace that Jesus brings is different than what the world offers. This peace is recognized in several places in Scripture. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”. (Lk 2:14)

       God promised an old man named Simeon that he would not die before he encountered the Messiah. One day at the Temple he encountered the infant Christ Child and prayed: “Lord now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word. My eyes have seen your salvation! A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel." (Lk 2:29)

       The Palm Sunday crowd, a week before his resurrection, proclaimed: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Lk 19:38)

       You see, every time “peace” is proclaimed in the Bible, it has something to do with Jesus Christ. The opening of all 13 letters (books of the Bible) written by Saint Paul in the New Testament refer to peace. In one of those letters he wrote, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. (Rom 1:7)

       Peace comes from God. Peace comes through Jesus Christ. It is not an “earthly peace.” It is a peace that “passes human understanding,” as Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (4:7). In other words, mere human intellect can’t understand the peace that Jesus brings to us. Our intellect is incapable of grasping the grace of God in Christ Jesus outside the context of faith.

       Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians spells it out. “. . . he [Jesus] himself is our peace . . he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near . . . You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." (2:14, 17, 19)

       First and foremost, you have peace with God because Jesus paid the price for your sins. God placed his wrath—the wrath that you and I deserve because of our sin—on Jesus. Jesus “satisfied” God’s wrath, by being sacrificed in your place. The death that you deserve was placed on Jesus. Therefore, you have peace with God.

       I think we Christians underplay this in our lives. It is only when we come to grips with our own sinfulness do we realize the peace that Jesus has brought to us. We don’t deserve God’s love, grace and forgiveness. But, it is freely given to us because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross—where he suffered and died for you; and at the empty tomb—where he proclaims himself victorious from sin, death, and the power of Satan. Alleluia, he is risen!

       God doesn’t stop working with the one-time act of forgiveness and grace through the cross and the empty tomb. He continues to come to you and bring you his peace. He does so every time you confess your sins and hear those words of forgiveness. Jesus comes to you in the words of absolution. He says to you “Peace be with you,” your sins are forgiven.

       That is the “peace that passes human understanding.” It is knowing that through faith, in spite of all the crud of the world; in spite of all you have to deal with; in spite of an uncertain economy; in spite of all that falls before you—family issues, broken relationships, a world-wide pandemic—he comes to you and says to you, “Peace be with you.”

       Isn’t this why we gather to worship—even if it is as we do today in our homes apart from one another? To remember and celebrate the peace that we have in God through Jesus Christ? In our worship Jesus continues to bring us his peace—through the words of forgiveness that we speak here; through the reading and proclamation of the Word of God; through when we share the Sacrament of the Altar, where we are reminded that the body and blood of Jesus Christ is given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. Our entire worship is one where we receive once again the real peace that only Jesus can bring.

       That is why the traditional ancient liturgies of the Church included these words spoken by the pastor: The peace of the Lord be with you always. The people would respond: And also with you. It is a greeting to remember and share God’s peace.

       The one thing that I wish for you this day is that this simple worship will allow you to have a sense of God’s peace. Know that your sins are forgiven—all of them! Know that Jesus has met you and has come to you and given you his peace. Know that all is right with God because of Jesus. Know this peace is present even with what we are facing in this  pandemic.

       Know it. Remember it. Call upon it to give you strength. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7) Amen.
      
The Prayers of God’s People
       Hear us, merciful Father, as we pray for ourselves, for the Church, for our nation and for all conditions and manner of people.

       God of peace, give us comfort in the midst of uncertainty of this pandemic. Give us the trust that only comes from you that provides the assurance that all things are in your hands—our world, the people in it, to include us as well. Thank you that nothing stands in the way of the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness that you provide through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Keep us mindful of your presence through the Holy Spirit that brings your peace. Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of mercy, keep us from the doubts and fears that cripple us and prevent us from knowing the fullness of Your saving peace and gracious presence. Teach us to trust in Your Word and to believe with all our hearts, minds, bodies and strength in Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of grace, bestow upon Your Church Your Holy Spirit and all the gifts that come down from on high. Grant to us faithful pastors who will preach faithfully, and give us ears to hear Your Word proclaimed. Sustain us while apart, and bring Your scattered Church together again quickly. Give us boldness in our witness before the world and courage to speak Your name without fear. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of power, give courage and strength to those persecuted for the faith, and comfort the families of the martyrs. In uncertain times, keep Your Church from being tossed about by the winds of change. Keep her steadfast in the doctrine of the apostles and the faith once delivered to the saints. Help us to admonish those who have fallen away and to restore with gentleness those who have wandered from the truth. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of might, counsel the nations and their leaders to act wisely in all matters. Bless us with faithful and just leaders who will protect the sanctity of life and defend us against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Make us wise and discerning citizens who use the gift of liberty for noble purpose. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of love, teach us to love one another as You have loved us. Guide us to make manifest the love and strength of Christ to our troubled and fearful world. Deliver us from disease and everything else that would threaten our homes and families. Protect the police, firefighters, disaster-relief workers and medical personnel who attend to us, as well as the places where we live and work. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of comfort, give Your aid and relief to all who suffer want or need, to the sick in their afflictions, to those troubled in mind, and to those to whom death draws near. Heal and sustain them according to Your gracious will, and preserve them in faith to eternal life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of hope, be with those who grieve the loss of a loved one. Point them to the promise of the resurrection and the gift of everlasting life to all who die in Christ. Deliver us from distractions, that we may focus on Your needful Word and Sacraments and so be found faithful when our Lord returns in His glory. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       God of compassion, bless us with the good gifts of the earth, with the fruits of our honest labors, and with kind and generous hearts. Accept the worship of our hearts and voices, along with the tithes and offerings we bring in gratitude and thanksgiving. Look with mercy on the unemployed, and open our eyes and hearts to the needs of the poor, that we may serve them in Your name. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

       O blessed God and Lord, hear the prayers of Your people and teach us to trust in Your will to answer our prayers with all that is needful and beneficial, both for us and for all for whom we pray; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

All this and that which is on our hearts we bring before you, trusting in your grace and mercy and praying the family prayer of God:

       Our Father who art in heaven,
       hallowed be thy name, 
      Thy kingdom come, 
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread; 
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; 
      and lead us not into temptation, 
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen

God’s Blessing
       May the peace of God, which passes all understanding,
              keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,
                     and of God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
       and the blessing of God Almighty,
              the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
                     remain with us always. Amen


Closing Hymn: This Joyful Eastertide

                             This Joyful Eastertide, Away with sin and sorrow!
                          My love the crucified, Has sprung to life this morrow;
                  Had Christ, who once was slain, Not burst his three-day prison,
             Our faith had been in vain; But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
                                                But now has Christ arisen!

                   Death’s flood has lost its chill, Since Jesus crossed the river;
                            Lover of souls, from ill, My passing soul deliver.
                Had Christ, who once was slain, Not burst his three-day prison,
            Our faith had been in vain; But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
                                               But now has Christ arisen!

                       My flesh in hope shall rest, And for a season slumber;
                 Till trump from east to west, Shall wake the dead in number:
              Had Christ, who once was slain, Not burst his three-day prison,
            Our faith had been in vain; But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
                                              But now has Christ arisen!


Pastor James A. Freitag


__________________________________________________________________________

             Angel Eyes Easter Celebration

Eyes on Jesus: Angel Eyes
Easter Celebration
April 12, 2020

Meditation and Prayer

Early on Easter morning, the angel, which means “messenger,” announced what he knew to be true: the tomb was empty because Christ had risen. The women were initially overcome with fear, as anyone would be if confronted by a holy herald from God. Their physical eyes would not see our Lord until He revealed Himself. But we have been given the angel’s eyes, as it were, for by faith we see our Lord with us now. The news the angel proclaimed is too good to keep to ourselves. As God’s messengers today, it is our turn to tell the world that He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

       Gracious God, Heavenly Father, as we stop to celebrate your resurrection this day, we do so, not united as a physical body, but as a spiritual body with all Christians throughout the world. The disciples were also self-quarantined on that Easter Day, afraid of the authorities and what may happen to them as followers of Jesus. This didn’t stop their celebration of the risen Lord Jesus Christ once they realized that he had risen from the dead. Likewise, Heavenly Father, let our self-quarantine not stop our celebration, for “He is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Opening Hymn: Jesus Christ is Risen Today!

                                       Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
                                       Our Triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
                                    Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
                                       Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

                                 Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
                                   Unto Christ, our heavenly king, Alleluia!
                                Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
                                     Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

                                  But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
                                     Our salvation has procured; Alleluia!
                                    Now above the sky He’s king, Alleluia!
                                     Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

                                      Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
                                       Praise eternal as His love, Alleluia!
                                 Praise Him, all ye heavenly host, Alleluia!
                                   Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

Invocation (read together)
       In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Holy Gospel Mark 16:1–8
       When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
       And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.
       And he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.
       And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Responsive Sentences
       This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
       The LORD is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us. Psalm 118:27

Confession
       The angel told the women what his eyes had beheld, and he urged them to tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter, but “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Let us confess to God all that holds us back from spreading the news of our Lord’s resurrection.
       Our gracious heavenly Father, we confess that we have let the things around us cloud our vision, dim our joy, and close our lips. We have experienced fear in the midst of the current pandemic. We have failed to look at Your glory and power through the eyes of the angel. Instead, we have relied on the limited information that our senses provide. We have feared what we could not explain and failed to rely on Your gracious promises. We have, therefore, not loved You with all that we have and are; we have not loved our neighbors as much as we have loved ourselves. Worse, without Your aid, we cannot change.
       In Your great mercy, forgive us and, by Your Holy Spirit, assure us of Your victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil on our behalf. Help us then to announce the resurrection to all we meet, to the glory of Your holy name.

Absolution
       By becoming one of us to die for us, our Lord Jesus Christ paid for all our sins. When the Father raised Him on this glorious day, He showed all creation that He received that payment and nothing, even death itself, can stand between us and His gracious, eternal promises. Knowing that He is risen, that he atoned for our sins on the cross and is victorious over death and the power of Satan, we know that our sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Response
       Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Prayer of the Day
       Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading Job 19:23–27
       23 “Oh that my words were written! 
              Oh that they were inscribed in a book! 
       24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead 
              they were engraved in the rock forever! 
       25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, 
              and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
       26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, 
              yet in my flesh I shall see God, 
       27 whom I shall see for myself, 
              and my eyes shall behold, and not another. 
              My heart faints within me!”

Epistle 1 Corinthians 15:51–57
       51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 
55 “O death, where is your victory? 
         O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Holy Gospel John 20:1–18
       Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
       So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
       Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
       But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
       She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
       Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
       Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
       Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
       She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your
God.’ ”
       Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord! and that He had said these things to her.

Hymn: This Easter Celebration (tune: Aurelia - “The Church’s One Foundation”)
                          Words: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, 2020

                         This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.
                              We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.
                   We’re distant from our neighbors, from worship leaders, too.
                         No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.

                 No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.
                 O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?
                  With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place
                      We ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.


                    Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room
                       But from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.
                      Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see
                  Who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.

                       In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:
                    Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.
               Each Easter bears the promise: Christ rose that glorious day!
                        Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.

                  We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be
                          A scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry.
                       In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,
                        We live the Easter message by gladly serving you.


Sermon: Angel Eyes

             Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! 

       As I sit at home preparing for this Easter Celebration and what I want to share with you this day, I do so sitting on the couch with my leg propped up. I have not only been “homebound,” I have also have been “couch-bound,” having come off of significant knee surgery three weeks ago. I look at out my back window at the yard remodel project that I started, knowing it will now be delayed. Being at home, I have all this extra time—which is spent on the couch with my leg elevated!

       It’s easy to get frustrated in the midst of this pandemic lock-down. We are “social-distancing,” a term that actually has been around in the medical community in relationship to pandemic response. It has taken on a whole new meaning for us. Our Holy Week and Easter celebrations are not what we expect. Yet, they go on—regardless of our restricted movement and the inability to meet together as the people of God. The resurrection is not dependent upon our availability, but rather upon what Jesus accomplished that morning when he rose from the dead.

       One Facebook posting stated it so well, given to us in the style of Dr. Seuss . . .

                                                   How the Virus Stole Easter
                                                             By Kristi Bothur 

                                            Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
                                    Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

                                               People were sick, hospitals full,
                                         Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

                                      As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
                                   The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

                                People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
                        They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

                                   April approached and churches were closed.
                                “There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

                           “There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out. 
                              No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

                                       Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
                                 The world was focused on masks and on tests. 

                                  “Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
                                 “Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

                          Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
                                  The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

                              The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
                                 The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

                             “Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
                              “They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

                          “They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
                                Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
                                   And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

                         “That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
                               So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

                            And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
                                    It started down low, then it started to rise.

                                         But the sound wasn’t depressed.
                                         Why, this sound was triumphant! 
                                                      It couldn’t be so!
                                             But it grew with abundance!

                                   The world stared around, popping its eyes.
                            Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

                               Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
                                     Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all! 

                               It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
                                   Somehow or other, it came just the same!

                            And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
                                           Stood puzzling and puzzling.
                                                  “Just how can it be?” 

                               “It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
                                 It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.” 

                            Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
                         “Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
                              Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

                                            And what happened then?
                                           Well....the story’s not done.

                                                  What will YOU do?
                                            Will you share with that one
                            Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
                             Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

                                 The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,
                              And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

                                  So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
                                As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

                         May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
                       May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
                       May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
                                  May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
                                  May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
                                        But not only that - Let it start a revival.

           So, we boldly proclaim, “Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

       In our Lenten, Holy Week and Easter series, we have been looking at the Passion, and now the resurrection, through the eyes of those who encountered Jesus as he moved to the cross and now the empty tomb. Today, we look at the resurrection through “angel eyes.”

       The phrase “angel eyes” will conjure up different thoughts based on your age and interests. Older music lovers will think of the 1946 jazz standard popularized by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Others will think of the 1988 power ballad of the same name released by The Jeff Healey Band. Listeners to modern country radio will think of the 2012 song “Angel Eyes” by the band Love and Theft. And dog lovers will recognize “Angels Eyes” as the brand name for products that help clear up tear stains around the eyes of dogs.

       But for now, push all those other kinds of angel eyes out of your mind, since today we focus on only one set of angel eyes, and through those eyes see the greatest sight this world has ever seen—the eyes of the Easter angel in the empty tomb of Jesus.

       It’s funny that we call it the “empty tomb,” since St. Mark’s account depicts the tomb being a bit overcrowded on the first Easter Sunday. The two Marys and Salome were shocked to discover the large stone rolled away from the tomb, and they went inside to investigate. They were startled to find not a dead Jesus inside, but a young man dressed in white, an angel of the Lord. Their alarm was most likely twofold: first, they were distressed that no Jesus was to be found, and second, angels of the Lord are scary! Despite what you see in figurines and artistic depictions, God’s angels usually appear as majestic creatures who strike fear into the hearts of onlookers. That’s why the first words out of the mouths of angels are often “Don’t be afraid!”

       On Easter morning, this is exactly what happens. The angel says to the terrified women, “Do not be alarmed” (Mark 16:6). They don’t need to fear this angel, since he has come in peace to be the bearer of Good News. The word we translate as “angel” means “messenger,” so bringing the Gospel is His main job! He announces that they don’t need to fear what happened to the body of Jesus, because He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

       The angel continues, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you” (vv. 6–7).

       The angel directs the women to see with their own eyes that Jesus isn’t there, and then he explains what his own eyes have witnessed. He knows they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, “who was crucified.”

       Another way of translating this is “the Crucified One,” which is very significant. The women had gazed upon Jesus suffering for the sin of the whole world under His Father’s wrath on the cross, and they had looked on as Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus, but that’s all they had seen. The angel, however, has seen the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes but still calls Him “the Crucified One.”

       Later that afternoon, Jesus would appear to ten of His apostles and prove His identity by showing them the nail and spear scars on His hands and side. The next Sunday, Jesus invites doubting Thomas to touch those scars, which turns him into believing Thomas as he cries out to the Crucified One, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Still later, St. Paul would encounter the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus and then write to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul characterized his preaching to the Galatians this way: “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1b).

       You might be thinking, this is Easter, why are we still so focused on the crucifixion? Because the cross must always be the center of our theology, the focal point of life. A God who has not been crucified on your behalf would do you no good. Look through the angel’s eyes and see that Jesus is the Crucified One, put to death for your sins. The cross is our life! St. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20); and “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14).

       Of course, the resurrection is essential too. You also need to see through the angel’s eyes that Jesus was raised on Easter for your justification. Good Friday and Easter are like two sides of the same coin. You can’t buy anything with a one-sided quarter. Jesus couldn’t pay for your salvation only by dying or only by living but by both. He had to actively obey God’s Law on your behalf and passively suffer for your sins against the Law. He had to actively fight Satan, whom you couldn’t defeat, and die for all the times you have fallen for the devil’s temptations. He had to go into the grave and deposit all of your sins there, but He had to come out alive in order to grant you forgiveness of sins and His own righteousness.

       After His resurrection, Jesus continues the pattern established on the first Easter by hiding Himself from the sight of His disciples and by using angels to proclaim His death and resurrection. Though you are like the women at the tomb and cannot see Jesus with your own eyes, the reliable testimony of the Easter angel recorded in Scripture is precious Gospel that you should keep before your eyes at all times.

       Though Jesus remains hidden from our physical sight, He has continued to send us angels ever since His resurrection to testify to His presence among us. No, I’m not talking about angels from heaven, but earthly angels who proclaim the Gospel. Remember, angel simply means “messenger.” In the Bible, “angel” doesn’t necessarily imply a heavenly being. The very human and mortal John the Baptist, for example, is called God’s “angel,” or messenger.

       After His resurrection, Jesus sent His apostles out to be His angels, His messengers, to preach the Gospel to the whole creation. And everywhere they went those angel apostles appointed pastors and teachers to continue sharing the Good News of Good Friday and Easter.    

       Just as the heavenly angel Gabriel visited Mary with the wonderful news that the Lord was with her in the incarnation, now earthly angels or messengers proclaim to all who believe and are baptized that the Lord Jesus is with them until the end of the age. Just as the angel of the Lord brought glad tidings of great joy for all people to the shepherds at Christmas, now earthly angels proclaim the glad tidings of great joy that Christ has died for all, for the sin of the whole world, and has risen to declare all humans righteous so that they may be saved by believing this message.

       There was nothing particularly angelic about Christ’s apostles then or about Christian pastors today. We are a pretty sorry lot, really. Nobody would look at me and say, “He’s got angel eyes.” But what apostles and pastors of Christ do have are beautiful feet. Not literally, but according to the prophet Isaiah and the apostle St. Paul, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15). In other words, the footsteps of angels who preach the Gospel to us are beautiful because they proclaim the beautiful message of Christ, and Paul continues, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

       Today, I am Christ’s messenger to you through this printed sermon. For the sake of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. Baptized into His death and resurrection, you are now clothed with His righteousness, which grants eternal salvation. And recognize that Jesus comes today in the words of absolution that we proclaim together, even at a distance from one another.

       We look forward to the day when we once again share the Lord’s Supper which feeds us with His true body given and true blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, hidden under bread and wine. We don’t see Jesus with us, but through His angel messengers He announces that He has promised to be here, so we see Him through the eyes of faith.

       After Communion, we will often sing the words of Simeon, “Lord, now You let your servant go in peace. . . . My own eyes have seen the salvation.” But before that, we look under the bread and wine and worship Christ through angel eyes, as we gather “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven” around Christ’s glorious throne.

       On Easter, the angel told the women where they could find Jesus; likewise, today I have the same message: Jesus has promised that you may find Him in His Word and Sacraments. May your eyes always stay fixed on Jesus Christ, crucified for your sin and raised for your salvation.

       These are important words to remember, even as we are spread out this day from one another in our respective homes. Some of us are physically alone. Some of us have loved ones with us. Although we are distant from one another, let us remember that we are never truly alone. There is One greater than this pandemic and our current situation (and my elevated knee as I spend hours sitting on the couch). Our Lord Jesus Christ is with us, even as he has promised, “. . .behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)

       The Christ, the Son of the Living God, resurrected from the dead is with us in our homes. This profession of faith in Christ is the rock upon which the Church is built. It is the rock upon which we take refuge in the midst of crises—whether they are personal or manifested in a pandemic. Because of the resurrection, “. . .the gates of hell”—nor a pandemic—"shall prevail . . .” (Matt 16:18) as we are reminded in Holy Scripture.

       In the midst of everything, WE CELEBRATE THE RESURRECTION! 

              Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Nicene Creed
              I believe in one God,
          the Father Almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth
                  and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
        the only-begotten Son of God,
        begotten of His Father before all worlds,
        God of God, Light of Light,
        very God of very God,
        begotten, not made,
        being of one substance with the Father,
        by whom all things were made;
        who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
        and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
        and was made man;
        and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
        He suffered and was buried.
        And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
                and ascended into heaven
        and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
        whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
        the Lord and giver of life,
        who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
        who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
        who spoke by the prophets.
        And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
        I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
        and I look for the resurrection of the dead
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Prayer of the Church
       Let us pray for all people in their various needs and for the Church as it witnesses to our Lord’s resurrection.

       The women “were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us?’ ” Let us pray for all whose work is tiring and laborious, especially those who serve in the midst of this pandemic.
       Lighten their load, O Lord, strengthen their bodies, and give them dignity in their efforts.

       The angel said to them, “Do not be alarmed.” Let us pray for all who awaken this day in fear of violence, discrimination, or injustice.
       Accompany them, risen Lord; graciously protect them and strengthen them until they find days of peace and security.

       The angel invited the women, “See the place where they laid Him.” Let us pray for all who are laying in hospitals and nursing homes on this holy day.
       Dry the eyes of those who weep, O Holy Spirit, through their resurrection faith. Give not only healing, but comforting words of resurrection to those who are ill, and skill to health workers in all professions.

       Then the angel urged them, “Go, tell His disciples.” Let us pray for all who carry the news of Christ’s victory over death to their neighborhoods and to nations around the world, even at this time through social media.

       Lord Jesus, protect, guide, and bless our brothers and sisters who announce the resurrection in the company of those who gather with them, even as they do on social media. Allow all who receive the Good News of Christ then carry it with them as Your messengers to all others they meet, both near and far.

       Into Your hands, heavenly Father, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy for the sake of Your Son, our risen Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray the prayer that he gave us:

       Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Benediction
The blessing of God Almighty—the Father, who sent His Son to certain death in order to give us life, the Son, who left the tomb empty on this day of His rising, and the Holy Spirit, who graciously enables us to be messengers of the resurrection—be upon us, now and forever. Amen.

Closing Hymn: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

               “Christ the Lord is risen today!” Saints on earth and angels say;
           Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing, ye heavens and earth reply.

              Love’s redeeming work is done, Fought the fight, the battle won;
                  Lo! Our Sun’s eclipse is over; Lo! He sets in blood no more.

           Vain the stone, the watch, the seal; Christ has burst the gates of hell.
                  Death in vain forbids His rise: Christ has opened paradise.

            Lives again our glorious King! Where, O death, is now thy sting?
               Once He dies our souls to save; Where thy victory, O grave?

          Soar we now where Christ has led; Following our exalted Head.
       Make like Him, like Him we rise; Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

       Hail the Lord of earth and heaven! Praise to Thee by both are given!
             Thee we greet triumphant now: Hail, the resurrection, Thou!



Acknowledgments
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

                  Good Friday Meditation

Eyes on Jesus: God's Eyes
John 18:1 – 19:42
April 10, 2020


Meditation and Prayer

This Lent, we have been using the metaphor of eyesight to examine how the various people in Mark’s Gospel viewed Jesus during His Passion. In most cases, they misunderstood who He was and what He was doing; then again, sometimes by faith people did recognize Him correctly.

As we conclude these forty days of Lent, looking within ourselves as people of faith in our day, we again ask how we are like or unlike the people who saw Jesus in the flesh. Most important, as we gather for worship, we see again what Jesus has done to save us from our sins by His holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death.

       We are standing at the foot of the cross, O Lord. There are others standing with us. Simon of Cyrene, the people who mock Jesus, and the centurion all have their eyes on the cross as well. But the only viewpoint that truly matters is that you, our Triune God. The Father sees our sins taken upon Jesus on the cross, the Son looks on us in forgiving mercy, and the Holy Spirit sees the message we are to proclaim. “Oh, come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). Allow us to do so in this meditation, we pray. Amen

Prologue
       The Lord is with us. There were many people watching our Lord as He finished the course He was determined to follow, His eyes set on the cross before Him. Few of the onlookers could understand what was happening. But none of them dissuaded Him from doing His Father’s will—for us.

Confession
       We have to look up to see Jesus on the cross, where we see the full measure of God’s love. But our heavenly Father looks down to where His Son gives Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, the Son looks down on us with full forgiveness, and the Spirit opens our eyes to the salvation won for us. With such awful payment made on our behalf, let us freely go to our loving God, confessing our sins.

       Gracious heavenly Father, we would rather cover our sins from You, our neighbors, and ourselves, but nothing is hidden from Your eyes. Exposed in our sinful condition and unable to save ourselves, we plead for Your mercy and forgiveness. Our thoughts, words, and deeds are stained with sin but because we are confident that Your Son’s blood washes them clean, we dare to ask that Your Holy Spirit lift our eyes to the cross, our hearts to Your will, and our minds to a new determination to serve You with all the strength You provide.

Absolution
       Although creation itself mourned to see the Lord of life on the cross, the sun darkened, and tombs rent open, on the third day, the rising sun would reveal that almighty God had accepted payment for all our sins—that eternal life is open to us. We are forgiven from all our sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Prayer of the Day
  
     Lord God almighty, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, so strengthen our faith this day that we may fix our eyes on Jesus, ignore the views of this fallen world, and see with clarity Your love for us and all mankind; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Old Testament Reading Isaiah 52:13—53:12
      Isaiah writes about how people saw our Lord during His Passion, how His Father viewed the sacrifice, and the love which was in our Savior’s eyes.

     13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; 
               he shall be high and lifted up, 
               and shall be exalted. 
     14 As many were astonished at you— 
               his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, 
               and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— 
     15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; 
               kings shall shut their mouths because of him; 
     for that which has not been told them they see
               and that which they have not heard they understand
     1 Who has believed what they heard from us? 
               And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 
     2 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. 
     3 He was despised and rejected by 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
     4 Surely he has borne our griefs 
               and carried our sorrows; 
     yet we esteemed him stricken, 
               smitten by God, and afflicted. 
     5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; 
               he was crushed for our iniquities; 
     upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 
               and with his stripes we are healed. 
     6 All we like sheep have gone astray; 
               we have turned every one to his own way; 
     and the Lord has laid on him 
               the iniquity of us all. 
     7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, 
               yet he opened not his mouth; 
     like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, 
               and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, 
               so he opened not his mouth. 
     8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; 
               and as for his generation, who considered 
     that he was cut off out of the land of the living, 
               stricken for the transgression of my people? 
     9 And they made his grave with the wicked 
               and with a rich man in his death, 
     although he had done no violence, 
               and there was no deceit in his mouth. 
     10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; 
               he has put him to grief; 
     when his soul makes an offering for sin, 
               he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
    the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 
    11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; 
    by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, 
            make many to be accounted righteous, 
            and he shall bear their iniquities. 
    12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, 
            and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, 
    because he poured out his soul to death 
            and was numbered with the transgressors; 
    yet he bore the sin of many, 
            and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Epistle 2 Corinthians 5:14–21
        14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 
        16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Holy Gospel Mark 15:21–39
       And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry [Jesus’] cross. And they brought Him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. And they crucified Him and divided His garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified Him. And the inscription of the charge against Him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with Him they crucified two robbers, one on His right and one on His left. And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!
      So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked Him to one another, saying, He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe. Those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him.
      And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
      And some of the bystanders hearing it said, Behold, He is calling Elijah. And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink, saying, Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.
      And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that in this way He breathed His last, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God!


Sermon Eyes on the Cross

Sermon Goal: That hearers would fix their eyes on Jesus, knowing that, because of Him, they are the apple of God’s eye.

Main Sermon Theme: While we should all fix our eyes on Jesus and His cross, what matters most is what God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—sees happening during the Passion: the once-for-all atonement for the sin of the whole world and the justification of all sinners on Easter.

       I.  What did God the Father see on Good Friday?
       II. What did God the Son see on Good Friday?
       III. What did God the Holy Spirit See on Good Friday?

                                                             I.
       Our first six midweek Lenten sermons focused on what is seen through the eyes of various characters in the Passion—the perspectives of Judas, Peter, the chief priests and scribes, Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and the Jewish crowd. Last night, we meditated on how there is much more than meets the eye going on at the Last Supper. Tomorrow night we’ll rest our eyes upon the sealed tomb of Jesus with the sorrowful women, and on Sunday we’ll look at the empty tomb through the eyes of the Easter angel.

       But tonight, we’ll view Jesus’ crucifixion through God’s eyes—what God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saw, and what they accomplished at the cross for us men and for our salvation.

       What did God the Father see on Good Friday? He saw His only-begotten Son suffering and dying unjustly on a Roman cross. Can you imagine watching your own child die in this way? It is unfathomable. As sinful mortals, we cannot understand what it is like to be the immortal, holy God, but surely the Father’s heart was grieved beyond words.

       Yet what’s even more unfathomable is that God loves you so much that He willingly inflicted this on His beloved Son. St. Paul wrote that the Father “did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32), and that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He didn’t wait around for us to clean up our act first, but while we were ungodly and enemies of God, He slaughtered His Son in our place, under His righteous anger against the sin of the world. This means that we provoked the death of Jesus.

       On Pentecost, St. Peter preached, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). The Father gave the Son to the world, but “You crucified and killed” Him. Yes, Peter is also talking to you and me. He isn’t offering some anti-Judaic rant but an indictment of all sinners. Whether a sinner lived in the first or twenty-first century, the guilt and blame is all the same: we all crucified the Son of God by our sin.

       As we acknowledge our sin and unworthiness, we need to see ourselves nailing Jesus to the tree, but at the same time, His crucifixion was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” the Father. What value did the Father see in this plan? The Father saw, and now all of us can see, God’s own glory being manifested to the world. This is what Jesus prayed for, just hours before His crucifixion: Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do’ ” (John 17:1–4).

       The Father and the Son both glory in having mercy on sinners. That is what they accomplished during Christ’s perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection. The Father sees all of your sin taken upon Jesus on the cross, even the sin of crucifying His Son. Moreover, He sees His wrath against sin being poured out upon the Son and the gates of hell prevailing over Him. Yes, hell is being under God’s wrath, and that is what the Father sees Jesus taking, in your place, to save you.

                                                                 II.
       Now for the Son’s perspective. Jesus always knew that His name means “the Lord saves,” so He sees Himself as the object of the Father’s wrath but as the subject of your salvation. He drinks His Father’s wrath down to its dregs, finally crying out in abandonment from His Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” But this is no cry of despair. He suffers abandonment from His Father, He suffers the pains of a sinner condemned to hell, but still He looks to His Father with perfect love and trust: “My God,” He cries, with unbroken faith. With the words “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46), He breathes His last. He knows His Father still loves Him and will raise Him from the dead on the third day. 

       On Good Friday, what does Jesus see when He looks at you and all sinners? He recognizes you as the cause of His woe, but He doesn’t hold this against you. The Lamb of God bears this willingly. He wants nothing other than to be your Savior. He looks at you and then prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He stares into your sinful eyes and says, “I love you all the same. I and My Father love you so much that We would make this sacrifice for you. I am offering Myself under the Father’s wrath in your place to save you from your sins and spare you from hell.”

                                                                 III.
       Finally, what does the Holy Spirit see? First, He sees the Son and comes to Jesus’ aid as He offers His life as a ransom to the Father. We don’t know the ins and outs of this, but the Epistle to the Hebrews says that Christ, “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14), thus accomplishing your redemption by the blood of His cross. Jesus had received the Spirit without measure in His Baptism, and we know that the Spirit is the Helper, so it makes sense that the Holy Spirit not only helped Jesus fulfill all righteousness during His earthly ministry but also helped Him offer Himself to the Father on the cross. 

       Second, on Good Friday, the Spirit sees that everything necessary for the salvation of sinners is achieved by the Son. Again, Jesus had promised just hours before His death, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . . He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13–15). Here we see the Holy Trinity working together in their natural perfect harmony. The Father gave the Son the task of redeeming mankind. The Son willingly took this task upon Himself. And the Holy Spirit joyfully proclaims this
message to you so you may enjoy the benefits of the Son’s sacrificial death.

       The Spirit takes what is Christ’s and declares it to you. He takes the righteousness of Jesus and instills it in the waters of Holy Baptism to make it a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of new birth into God’s eternal kingdom. He takes the forgiveness of Jesus and declares it to you through the Gospel and through the words of Absolution. And He presents to you the body given and blood shed for you on the cross to be received for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in Holy Communion. 

       On Good Friday, God’s eyes see everything necessary to save you from sin, death, and hell. Although your own eyes look upon your guilt, unworthiness, and impurity, the Father looks upon your sin forgiven for Christ’s sake, the Son credits His own righteousness to your account, and the Holy Spirit makes you a participant in the holiness of Jesus. You are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so keep this truth on your mind, in your heart, and before your eyes at all times: When God looks at you, He sees the apple of His eye, His beloved child united with Christ in His death and raised up to new, eternal life with Him. Amen.

Prayer
       We come before you this day, O Lord, recognizing that we need your powerful hand in our world and in our lives. Bring healing to our land in the midst of this pandemic. Bless those who suffer in body and spirit, especially those who have lost loved ones to this disease. Allow all people to draw close to you in the midst of this hardship and find your mercy and grace. Amen

Lord's Prayer
       Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Passion Reading: John 18:1 – 19:42
       When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with His disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So He asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He. So, if you seek Me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that He had spoken: “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost not one.”

       Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?”

       So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

       Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

       The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When He had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how You answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike Me?”

       Annas then sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

       Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

       Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered Him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death He was going to die.

       So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You over to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

       After he [Pilate] had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

       Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. They came up to Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck Him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing Him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law He ought to die because He has made himself the Son of God.”

       When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered Me over to you has the greater sin.”

       From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified.

       So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

       When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

              “They divided My garments among them,
                            and for My clothing they cast lots.”

       So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

       After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

       Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on Him whom they have pierced.”
       After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Acknowledgments
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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             Maundy Thursday Meditation

Eyes on Jesus: More than Meets the Eye
Mark 14:22–25
April 9, 2020

Meditation and Prayer

This Lent, we have been using the metaphor of eyesight to examine how the various people in Mark's Gospel viewed Jesus during His Passion. In most cases, they misunderstood who He was and what He was doing; then again, sometimes by faith people did recognize Him correctly.

As we conclude these forty days of Lent, looking within ourselves as people of faith in our day, we again ask how we are like or unlike the people who saw Jesus in the flesh. Most important, as we gather for worship, we see again what Jesus has done to save us from our sins by His holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death. 

       Heavenly Father, it is difficult for us to look through the eyes of the disciples when they were celebrating Passover, but it was within that context that Jesus pronounced the bread and wine to be His body and blood. Today, it is within the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper that our Lord’s words call us to recognize more than meets our physical eyes. What do we perceive? Help us to see your presence through the eyes of faith and receive what is promised in this Holy Supper—the forgiveness of sins. In Jesus name, Amen.

Invocation (spoken together)
       In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Passion Reading  Mark 14:22–25
       22 As they were eating, [Jesus] took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.” 23 And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Address 
       On Ash Wednesday, there were physical signs of our penitence, visible in the mirror and to everyone we met. The ashes were placed on each of our individual foreheads. Soon, many of us will be receiving our Lord’s body and blood, somehow in, with, and under the bread and wine—certainly more than our physical eyes can perceive. But we cannot commune with our Lord so intimately, sinners that we are; penitence is not enough. We need God’s forgiveness, assured thereby that God’s Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, has staved off the death sentence our sins deserve as surely as the Seder lamb’s blood told the angel of death to pass over the Israelite homes so long ago.

Confession 
       O almighty God, merciful Father, I, by nature sinful and unclean, confess to You that I have failed to see You present in my daily living. In addition to my faults that are visible to the people around me, You know my secret thoughts, my whispered words, and my furtive actions. For these and other sins I have hidden even from myself I am heartily sorry. I repent of them and pray that You will show me mercy for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.    

Absolution 
       In your mercy, O God, you sent your son Jesus Christ into our world to bear the punishment for my sin. That which I have done wrong; that which I have failed to do which is right; the very sinful nature which I inherited is forgiven. Your wrath is satisfied and your grace abounds. I receive from you that which you freely give—the forgiveness of my sins for Jesus sake. Amen!

Prayer of the Day
       O Lord, in the wondrous Sacrament we know as the Lord's Supper, You have left us a remembrance of Your Passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us when we meet again to share in that holy meal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.  

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 12:1–14 
       When the Israelites were captive in Egypt, God instructed them to put lamb’s blood on their doorposts as a visible sign for the angel of death to pass over them. So that they would always remember that night, they were to observe the Passover Seder, a meal prepared and eaten as God directed them.

           1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 
          7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 
          14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23–32 
       Paul reminds us that in the Sacrament we are visibly proclaiming what onlookers miss: the Lord’s death, His body and blood, until He returns.

          23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 
          27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Holy Gospel: John 13:1–15, 34–35 
       As He washes their feet, Jesus opens the disciple's eyes to what true servanthood means.

         1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. 5 Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe
them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, Lord, do You wash my feet?
        7 Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.
                8 You shall never wash my feet, said Peter.
                If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me, answered Jesus.
                9  Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!
                10 Jesus replied, The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.
                11 For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. . . .
        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.”

Nicene Creed 
       I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. 

       And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. 

       And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.


Sermon: More Than Meets the Eye

Sermon Goal: That hearers will embrace Jesus as the bread of life and find in the Sacrament of His body and blood forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Main Sermon Theme: The Old Testament provides background for the Last Supper and the mystery that Jesus makes bread His body and wine His blood in order to deliver to us the benefits of His Passion.

       I.  All sinners deserve the fate of the Egyptians for our sins, but God was
           merciful to Israel through atoning blood.

       II.  God is merciful to us through the atoning blood of Jesus in the Lord’s
            Supper.


                                                                 I. 
       Tonight, there’s blood all over the place in our regular Maundy Thursday liturgy, hymns, and Scripture Readings. The sight of blood makes many of us squeamish. Perhaps the bloodiness of our Readings strikes you as odd and primitive, even unsettling. So, you need to look under all this blood by hearing the Word of God to find that there’s more there than meets the eye.

       Our Old Testament Reading sets the stage for the first Passover. The Lord had visited nine plagues on Egypt; the Passover marked the tenth and final one. To every house that was not protected by the blood of consecrated lambs, the Lord came and struck down firstborn sons. On the other hand, the Lord caused the destroyer to pass over houses marked by the blood of a lamb.

       This was such a momentous occasion that God commanded His people to celebrate the Passover annually as a memorial meal. Moses told the people, “When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for He passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when He struck the Egyptians but spared our houses’ ” (Exodus 12:25–27a).

       Take a hard look at the Passover. Dwelling only on the blood and violence, it might cause us to stumble. It shocks our pacifist sensibilities. What kind of God would perpetrate such wrath against even helpless children? And doesn’t it seem morbid or cruel to memorialize such a bloody, gory event?

       Now look deeper. There’s more here than meets the eye. After Moses announced the institution of the Passover, we are told, “The people bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 12:27b). They recognized that when the Lord speaks His will, the only proper response is worship. The Passover is all about the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” The Lord had said concerning the Passover, “On all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (Exodus 12:12).

       The tenth plague was divine warfare against God’s idolatrous enemies, against the Egyptian false gods and the oppressors of His people. And later in Exodus, God said this: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me” (20:5).

       This means that under all the Egyptian blood, you should not see innocent victims of a capricious god, but impenitent sinners receiving just judgment from the one Holy God. And all of God’s acts of judgment on idolaters—from the flood to the Passover to the conquest of Canaan—are intended to warn us about the consequences of idolatry and impenitence. They are previews of the final judgment.

       You also should see that this judgment is what you deserve and more. For your idolatrous sins, for every time you have not feared, loved, and trusted in the Lord your God with all your heart, you deserve for the destroyer to come and spill your blood on the ground, while your soul is taken swiftly to hell for eternal punishment. The Lord is no tame God. The apostle known for writing about God’s grace, St. Paul, also wrote this: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

       For their own sins, the Israelites deserved the same fate as the Egyptians. But now look at the blood of the Passover lambs and see more there than meets the eye. To the naked eye, the blood of lambs and the blood of the Egyptians would appear to be the same sticky red substance, but God attached His Word of grace to the lambs the blood of Passover lambs, you do not find any merit or worthiness in the Israelites, but only the promise of deliverance from the gracious and merciful Lord. 

       So, the Passover was to be celebrated by Israel above all as a remembrance of His election of Israel and of His protection and salvation of them from their enemies. Later the Lord would attach His word of forgiveness to the blood of lambs, goats, and bulls in the sacrificial system operated by the priests at the tabernacle and the temple. Through the pouring out of blood in the Most Holy Place, God provided a means of cleansing and forgiveness for His people’s sins. As the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no
forgiveness of sins”
(9:22).

                                                                      II. 
       And this leads us to find more than meets the eye in the Upper Room on the night when Jesus was betrayed. It was a Passover Meal, so Israel blood of Passover lambs would be fresh on the disciples, they had celebrated this meal dozens of times with their families from little on, and they knew the Passover liturgy by heart. They thought they knew what was coming as they celebrated it with Jesus, but there would be way more than meets the eye, when Jesus, the Lord of Israel Incarnate, revises the Passover liturgy. 

       St. Mark writes, “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them” (14:22). So far, so good; no surprises yet. But here’s the bombshell: Jesus said over the bread, “Take; this is My body” (v. 22). The disciples must have looked at one another with bewildered glances. Then Jesus seems to slip back into the regular liturgy: “He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it.”

       Okay, back to normal, the disciples must have thought, looking at each other with relief. Perhaps they had just misheard Jesus earlier. But then another bombshell! Jesus “said to them, ‘This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many’ ” (v. 24). Or as rendered in the Greek: “poured out on behalf of the masses.” Once again, Jesus boggled their minds!

       At this unprecedented Passover Meal, Jesus teaches three main things to His disciples. First, that in a short while, His body would be given and His blood shed on the cross—and that under the apparently senseless slaughter of a Righteous Man, they should see His death as a ransom for the masses of humanity, for the sins of the whole world. This is God’s final judgment on sin, and from that day forward, the only sin that condemns to hell remains idolatry, but specifically the idolatry of rejecting Jesus and His death for the life of the world.

       Second, Jesus teaches that in a mysterious and supernatural way, there was more than meets the eye under the simple bread and wine of an ordinary Passover Meal—now, by the power of His Word, the bread was truly His body and the wine was truly His blood, given to His disciples for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Further, by His words “Do this,” He instituted the Lord’s Supper for His Church to proclaim His death till the end of time (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).

       And third, Jesus was teaching them that the Passover and the sacrificial system of Israel were types, or prefigurements, of His once-for-all sacrificial death on the cross, but now these Old Testament ceremonies must give way to the New Testament in His blood.

       John the Baptist had pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Later, St. Paul would write, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

       At the Last Supper and on Good Friday, John’s preaching was fulfilled, when God’s holy, spotless Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, finally offered His life as a ransom for the masses, so that sinners don’t have to get what they deserve but instead what Jesus has earned for them. Everything in the Old Testament was pointing forward to the coming of the Lord in the flesh as the Messiah to redeem His people and win forgiveness for not just Israel but Gentiles too.

       There’s another peculiar part of the Old Testament that finds its fulfillment and explanation here. The Lord had told Israel, “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:10–11).

       The blood of animals in the Old Testament was reserved for atonement for the people’s sins, but the prohibition on its consumption would end with the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the New Testament in Christ’s blood: now and until Christ returns, the atoning blood of Jesus would be sacramentally fed to God’s people in, with, and under the wine of Holy Communion.

       And what is in that blood that doesn’t meet the eye? Life! The blood of Jesus delivers to us the forgiveness of sins and serves as the antidote to death. God said, “The life is in the blood,” and that is what Christ’s disciples receive as the life-giving blood of Jesus is drunk by us in the Lord’s Supper: “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” For, as you come in faith to Jesus to feed on His body given and His blood shed for you, Jesus promises, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:54–56). Amen.

Prayer of the Church
We pray for the Church around the world, ourselves, and all people in their various needs. 

       For the world in face of the Covid-19 Pandemic, that sickness may subside, that healing may come for all affected, that your presence may known in the midst of loss life, that people find comfort in You, let us pray to the Lord. 

       For all who serve the Lord as they care for others, medical personnel and first responders, counselors and advisers, friends and neighbors, professionals and volunteers, let us pray to the Lord. 

       For all who struggle with unemployment or underemployment, with poor living conditions or displacement from home, with personal demons or ill health, let us pray to the Lord. 

       For the Church around the world, as clergy and lay leaders seek to proclaim the Gospel and faithfully endeavor to share their faith, especially in the face of the current Pandemic, let us pray to the Lord. 

       For the Church, wherever it gathers around Word and Sacrament, relying on God and faithfulness, and looking forward to the fulfillment of all His gracious promises, let us pray to the Lord. 

       For us individually, that we may be bold witnesses of your love through our attitudes, words and actions, that those in our community may know of your goodness and mercy and through our efforts come to faith, let us pray to the Lord. 

       All this and that which is upon our hearts we bring before you this day, O God, trusting in your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
       Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing
The peace of the Lord be with us this night. Amen. 

Acknowledgments
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

                   Palm Sunday Worship

With My Mouth, Will I Make Known
John 12:12-19
Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020)

Prayer of Preparation
: Heavenly Father, from my mouth comes all kinds of words. They are words of encouragement and praise. They are words that can be hurtful and demanding. What a wretch I am that both blessing and cursing can come from my own mouth. Forgive me for my harsh and unloving words. Center me on your love and allow that which flows from my mouth to be a blessing to others. With the Church I acknowledge that Jesus is highly exalted, having a name above all other names, worthy of bended knee. I pray that my tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-10). Amen.

                          Order of Family Home Worship for Palm Sunday

Together make the sign of the cross over your head and heart and say these words together: In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

OPENING HYMN (can be read or sung if the tune known) Hosanna, Loud Hosanna

1) Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang;
         Through pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang.
   To Jesus, who has blessed them, close folded to His breast,
         The children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.

2) From Olivet they followed mid an exultant crowd;
         The victor palm branch waving and chanting clear and loud.
    The Lord of earth and heaven rode on in lowly state
         Nor scorned that little children should on His bidding wait.

1) “Hosanna in the highest” that ancient song we sing;
         For Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heav’n our King.
    Oh, may we ever praise Him with heart and life and voice
        And in His blissful presence eternally rejoice!

OUR CONFESSION (can be spoken together)

Most merciful God, we confess that by nature we are sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. Our thoughts and words have not been pure. We find ourselves angry and frustrated as we endure the effects of our current pandemic. We need your grace, mercy and forgiveness to remember who you are in the midst of all that befalls us. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

GOD'S WORD OF FORGIVNESS (can be spoken together)

Gracious God, we know that in your mercy you sent your Son, Jesus, to die for us and our sins. Because of his death your wrath has been satisfied on our behalf. Our sins are forgiven through the cross and empty tomb. To those of us who believe in Jesus Christ you have given the power to become the Children of God. You give us your Holy Spirit. May this good work that you have begun in us be completed on the day you return. I receive your forgiveness with heart and hands wide open. Amen.

READINGS
(may be read silently, or in turn with the family)

Isaiah 50:4-9 (ESV)
  
          4 The Lord God has given me
                  the tongue of those who are taught,
               that I may know how to sustain with a word 
                   him  who is weary.
               Morning by morning he awakens;
                   he awakens my ear 
                   to hear as those who are taught.
            5 The Lord God has opened my ear,
                  and I was not rebellious;
                  I turned not backward.
            6 I gave my back to those who strike,
                  and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
               I hid not my face
                  from disgrace and spitting.
            7 But the Lord God helps me;
                  therefore I have not been disgraced
               therefore I have set my face like a flint
                  and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
            8   He who vindicates me is near.
              Who will contend with me?
                  Let us stand up together.
              Who is my adversary?
                  Let him come near to me.
            9 Behold, the Lord God helps me;
                  who will declare me guilty?

Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)
           5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

John 12:12-19 (ESV) The Triumphal Entry 
           12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 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!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
            15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
              behold, your king is coming,
                  sitting on a donkey's colt!”

           16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone
after him.”

SERMON HYMN (may be read or sung if tune known) Ride On, Ride On in Majesty

1) Ride on, ride on in majesty! 
       Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry. 
    O Savior meek, pursue Thy road 
       with palms and scattered garments strowed.

2) Ride on, ride on in majesty! 
       In lowly pomp rides on to die.
    O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin 
       o'er captive death and conquered sin.

3) Ride on, ride on in majesty! 
       The angel armies of the sky
    Look down with sadness and wond'ring eyes 
       to see the approaching sacrifice.

4) Ride on, ride on in majesty! 
       Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh.
    The Father on His sapphire thrown 
       awaits his own anointed Son.

5) Ride on, ride on in majesty! 
       In lowly pomp ride on to die,
    Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, 
       then take, O God, Thy power and reign.


SERMON
(to be read or spoken)

       Today marks the festival in the Church known as Palm Sunday. It refers to Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on the first day of the week that led up to his death. It marks the beginning of what we call Holy Week.

      Jesus and his disciples were getting ready to enter the capital city of Jerusalem. It was at Jerusalem that we find the palace of the king and the Roman Governor. It was at Jerusalem that we find the Temple, the place of worship for the Jewish nation. It was on Mount Zion on the north side of the city. It was at Jerusalem we find that Jesus cleared out the money changers from that temple. It was at Jerusalem where Jesus was betrayed, fell into the hands of those who opposed him. It was just outside of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world for your sin and my sin. And it was just outside Jerusalem where Jesus rose from the dead, proclaiming himself victorious over your sin, over death, and over the power of Satan in your life.

     Jesus and his disciples are in the vicinity of Bethphage and Bethany. Jesus sends two disciples on ahead to get a donkey and its colt—a foal. Jesus told them that if anyone asks about why they were taking the donkey that they were to say, The Lord has need of it. And, the Bible tells us that it happens just as Jesus says. They found the donkey, they were questioned, and those who owned the donkey let it go. 

      The disciples take the donkey back to Jesus. They place their cloaks on the donkey and Jesus sits upon it. They begin their journey into the city. The crowds gather around to see this prophet, this great man named Jesus. The crowd put their own cloaks on the road, as well as cut down palm branches—thus we get the name, "Palm Sunday." We can envision this on the movie screens of our minds—Jesus, the Son of God, entering the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. The crowds lining the streets and coats and palm branches making a path toward the city.

      A great crowd of people were there that day. No social distancing. People together, celebrating the coming of a king—but not just a simple king. We know who he is—the KING OF KINGS. 

      It might be interesting to note that the animal that carried this king into the city was not the animal that a king would ride. A king, a conquering hero would be riding a horse—the beast of war, of might, and power. No, the beast that carried the Lord of Glory was a beast of burden; a work animal of lowly estate. In a real way, this beast was a reflection of the mission that Jesus was about to complete. A mission that would not take him to the palace in Jerusalem to reign as king, but to the cross of Calvary where he would carry the burden of the world. The place where he would reign as the King of Peace.

      The crowd was not silent. They cheered. They shouted. They proclaimed the goodness and greatness of God. They said many things according to the accounts of this event recorded in our New Testament Gospels:

       "Hosanna to the Son of David." "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." "Hosanna to the highest." "Blessed is the coming of our father David." Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord." Peace in heaven and glory in the highest."

     
But how on earth do you justify this? How do you justify what they said. Their words are words of praise. They remind us of the words spoken by the angels to the shepherds the night that Jesus was born. "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will toward men in whom he is pleased."

     
The people that day spoke words of praise and gratitude. They were thankful that this Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They hailed him as king and gave him a kings welcome. If this is the case, what happened that Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified the same week? How could the people who proclaimed him as king and savior on Sunday, with the words, "Hosanna to the Son of David, be the same people who on the next Friday would shout out Crucify him, crucify him!"?

      To me this presents a very interesting problem. What is it with these people? Are they “two-faced?” Do they have split personalities? Are they mentally ill? How on earth can you justify the contrast between what the crowd said on Sunday and what they said on Friday?

      With my mouth, will I make known . . .  these are the words of Psalm 89:1. But what were those with Jesus on that day making known?  And what do we make known with our mouths today?

      If we were to be honest, it is hard to be overly critical of the crowd who at one time gave glory to God and later that week cursed God. Don’t we find ourselves sometimes doing the same thing? Don’t we all find a little incongruence between the mouth that proclaims the goodness and praises of God and the mouth that espouses anger and cursing?

       I’ll never forget when I lived in Antigo, Wisconsin. I began serving a church that was the largest church in the community of 8,700 people. There were two pastors and a full parochial school with a principles and teachers in every grade from Pre-Kindergarten through 8th Grade. I was the Youth and Family Life Minister on staff.

       The utility company in this small town kept messing up my utility bill after we first arrived and settled into the community. Every month I would call them and get the bill straightened out. Still, they kept fouling up the bill. I even got overdue notices and threats of shutting down the service. Finally, in exasperation, I went down to the business office to get it all straightened out.

       I was not in a good mood. I didn’t have the time to take care of this matter, nor did I want to take time for it. I walked into the office agitated. I was very cross with the lady at the desk. She intently listened to me spew on about how upset I was and how inefficient I thought the company was. I was not polite. Suddenly, she said to me, “Say, aren’t you the new minister at my church?”

      What do you say at this point? How do you wipe the egg off of your face?

We all have run into situations like this. Incongruency of what is spoken out of our mouths is a problem most of us, if not all of us, face. How can we at times praise and honor God with our mouths, and at other times bring down curses upon him and others. How can we love, serve and honor God with our lives and break the commandment about taking God’s name in vain at the same time?

       And what about our attitudes and the words that come out of our mouths in the face of our current national challenges, especially the pandemic that has affected our lifestyle and livelihood, if not our actual retirement. Do we praise God in the midst of these challenges? Are we the ones who can be “two-faced?” Are we the ones who can have split personalities regarding what comes out of our mouths? Are we the ones who are mentally ill?

       At this point, some of you may feel a little uneasy and say, “Wait a minute preacher, who are you to judge what I say or don’t say? Who are you to judge what comes out of my mouth? What does it matter to you the choice of words that I use? After all, you have probably used a few words that I wouldn’t expect a pastor to use.”

      Well, I've got to admit that I would feel pretty convicted as well. None of us wants to admit the incongruency that is part of our lives. Our mouths are the same that praise and glorify God on one hand and bring cursing and verbal abuse at other times.

      We know that consistency of speech and behavior is a mark of Christian maturity. People are watching us Christians to determine whether we are genuine in what we believe and say and how we live our lives. As one poem puts it, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are gospels, this is true. But the best gospel there is, is the gospel according to you.

      Our lives and how we live them are living testimonies to what we believe. People are measuring the genuineness of our Christianity by the words that we speak, the choices that we make, and the way that we address other people. This is a difficult and awesome responsibility, as we are Gods workmanship, created for good works in Christ.(Eph 2:10)

      In the face of the current pandemic and all that comes with it, those in our community will be watching how Christians respond. Will we act like the rest of the world with uncertainty, with frustration or even with anger? Or do we trust Jesus and place everything in his hands knowing that he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, even as he was hailed in our reading today?

      There is a message of hope in our sermon today. The message of hope if found in the very act of Jesus in todays text. He is on his way to Jerusalem. He is on the mission for which he was sent. And he knows why he is going there. He is going there to die.

      He is going there to die for the very people that are hailing him as a victorious king, who later that week would be yelling Crucify him, crucify him!He knew of their incongruency. He knew of their inconsistency. This didnt stop him, however. He was going to the cross for the very people who blasphemed him and turned their back on him. He would die for their sins.

      Jesus knows about our inconsistencies as well. He died not only for the sin of those who blasphemed in his day, but for those who blaspheme in our day as well. He calls us to repentance and to amend our sinful ways. When we err, we should repent and pray for the Christian maturity that opens us to be used by God instead of being the vehicle that closes the door to others through poor speech and behavior.

      This is a tough calling. It is not easy to be a Christian at times. It can be challenging in the face of the pandemic and all the related issues that come with it. We have to admit that we can develop bad verbal habits that can stand in the way of Gods love. Through God's help and the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can endeavor to amend our sinful lives. This begins with a renewed heart that comes about through the forgiveness of sins.

      In the words that we share in our worship together: . . . we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.

      In all humility, I was given the honor of sharing Gods forgiveness with you. It may not have been verbal, as we are not together in worship today. But the words still ring true even if I did not have the opportunity to say them directly to you: Almighty God, in his mercy, has given his Son to die for you and, for his sake, forgives you all your sins. What a great and mighty God we serve!

      Many of us will go on struggling with the incongruencies in our lives. The Do as I say, not as I do, syndrome is hard to break. Christian maturity tackles those inconsistences and by His grace, God makes changes in our lives that not only benefit us, but bring glory to Him. We need to realize that when we repent, when we turn to God and admit our sinfulness, a miracle takes place. This miracle is nothing less than the very death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. He brings his forgiveness to us this day and allows us to begin anew. This, my friends is a blessed gift.

      Jesus went on to Jerusalem. We find ourselves along the way. We see him riding upon the donkey. We place our coats and palm branches on the road before him. We hail him as Lord and King. From our mouths we proclaim, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” Jesus looks at us and knows where he is going—to the cross to die for the sins of all of us who hail him as king, as well as those of us who have rejected him through our choice of words and lack of Christian witness. By his grace and mercy our lives are amended and we can live on to be the witnesses he calls us to be.

      God does not leave us alone as we work toward the changes in the words we speak and that which we proclaim. We have the promise of God that the Holy Spirit will work in our lives to mold us to be the people of God that he calls us to be. In Jesus name. Amen.


THE PRAYERS OF GOD'S PEOPLE
 (can be prayed silently or together as a family)

Let us pray for the Church, that the Lord would defend her against all her enemies and keep her true to Jesus Christ by the power of Your Word and Spirit:

Gracious Lord, keep Your scattered Church in Your mercy, that she may endure the assaults of the evil one and remain faithful for the sake of those numbered within Your Kingdom and those who have not yet heard the Gospel and been brought to faith; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Let us pray for all pastors, for all church-work vocations and for all the baptized in their vocation as God’s people:

Almighty God, by Your Spirit You have gathered us as Your Church and promised that wherever two or three are together in Your name, there You are in our midst. Do not allow stress or disaster to distract us from the particular vocations into which You have called us to serve in the Church, home and community. Grant to us every gift and blessing needful, that we may honor our calling and serve You to the best of our ability; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Let us pray for the government, for all in authority over us in the face of our current pandemic, and for our own lives as citizens and neighbors:

O mighty Lord, You have gave the gift of government and hold accountable all those who govern in this and every place. Guide our president; the members of Congress; the governor of this state; and all who make, administer and judge our laws, that they would serve nobly and wisely, pursuing the path of justice and protecting the citizens entrusted to them. Give them the wisdom and strength needed to bring our world out of crisis and back to stability; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Let us pray for those not yet of the Kingdom, that God would make us bold to speak the faith to them and that hearing, they might believe:

Everlasting Father, it is Your will that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of Your Son by faith. Give us Your word to speak in support of others, sharing your love in the face of this pandemic and it’s effects. Give to Your Word success and deliver from error all those who live in darkness and fear, that they may walk in the light of the Lord Jesus and have confidence for the trials of this world and hope for the world to come; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Let us pray for those who are ill, especially with the pandemic, that healing will come to them and all in our land:

Gracious God our Healer, you can work miracles of direct healing. You can work miracles through the hands of first responders and health care workers, doctors and nurses. Bring healing to those who suffer in this disease. Allow our medical scientists to find not only a cure in treatment, but a vaccine to prevent it. Allow medical supplies to be in abundance as they are shared with those that need them and suffer with this disease. Give us the confidence that you are at work in bringing healing to our land; through Jesus Christ,
our Lord.
Amen.

Let us pray for our First Responders and our Medical Personnel, that they may be sustained in the midst of this pandemic.

O God who renews strength, we pray for the First Responders and Medical Personnel that are caring for those who are ill. First of all, give them your holy hand of protection that they may not contract this disease from those they serve. Give them strength and endurance in fulfilling their calling. Comfort them and renew them when they are stressed and worn out. Thank you for the blessings that come from you through them; in Jesus Name.
Amen.

Finally, let us pray for families throughout our land and the extra hardships they endure in social distancing and seclusion.

Almighty and ever-present God, allow those who are alone and secluded to know your presence. Strengthen families as they struggle to maintain. Give them guidance in the education of their children. Give them patience to trust that you are still in control in the midst of unexpected challenges, whether personal or financial. Give them wisdom on how to live through this pandemic and calm their fears. Show us how to be good neighbors who share your love and goodness to those who need help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

All this and that which is on our hearts we bring before you, trusting in your grace and mercy and praying the family prayer of God:

Our Father who art in heaven,
      hallowed be thy name, 
      Thy kingdom come, 
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
      give us this day our daily bread; 
      and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; 
      and lead us not into temptation, 
      but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen

BENEDICTION
(may be read or spoken together, make the sign of the cross and say)

The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit bless and preserve us. Amen 

CLOSING HYMN
 (may be read or sung if tune known): All Glory, Laud, and Honor

Refrain:
    All glory, laud, and honor 
        to You, Redeemer, King, 
    To whom the lips of children 
        made sweet hosanas ring.

1) You are the King of Israel 
         and David's royal Son, 
     Now in the Lord's name coming, 
        Our King and blessed One.
Refrain

2) The company of angels 
        is praising You on high, 
     And we with all creation 
        in chorus make reply.
Refrain

3) The multitude of pilgrims 
        with palms before You went; 
    Our praise and prayer and anthems 
        before You we present.
Refrain

4) To You before Your passion 
        they sang their hymns of praise; 
    To You, now high exalted, 
        Our melody we raise.
Refrain

5) As You received their praises, 
        accept the prayers we bring, 
    O Source of every blessings, 
        our good and gracious King!.
Refrain


Pastor James A. Freitag


________________________________________________________________________

                      5th Sunday in Lent

Life Does Not End in Death
John 11:1-53 
Sunday (March 29, 2020)

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-53
Focus: Life Does Not End in Death!
Goal: That the hearer celebrate in knowing that Jesus has power over all things including life AND death.

       My friends, I offer this sermon to you today in three parts, as it covers an entire chapter in the Gospel of John. Feel free to meditate upon it all at once, or if you prefer to meditate upon it in segments throughout the coming week. We face a unique situation worshipping at home. We know that God is bigger than our current situation and the challenges that we face. Knowing our God is Lord of All, and over all things, we rest in the assurance of his love and grace.                                                                                       Pastor Jim
    
Prayer of Preparation: Gracious Father, you have power over life and death. You brought the dead back to life when you walked the earth, to the amazement of all. You bring us who are dead in our flesh back to life through your life-giving Gospel. You will bring us and all who die in the faith back to life to be with you in eternity. Thank you for your gracious love through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Amen. 

Gospel Reading: John 11:1-53 (ESV) 

The Death of Lazarus 
    1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
   5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
   8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”
   9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”
   12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
   16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

I Am the Resurrection and the Life
   17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
   23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
   25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
   27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps
   28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
   32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
   33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?”
   They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
   36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus
   38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
   40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone.
   And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
   43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus
   45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
   49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

                                                   SERMON—Part I

    If there is one thing to which we would all agree it would be the fact that unexpected things come into our lives. All of us are experiencing this firsthand in the midst of the current COVID-19 Pandemic. My personal situation is complicated with a knee injury—something totally unexpected which means that I am not only at home, but with limited mobility.

   It’s not that we are unplanned for the unexpected. We know that there will be illnesses—event pandemics. We know that there will be cancer. We know that there will be hardship situations. We know that there will be death.

   Perhaps the challenge that we face is when these things come to us at unexpected times. We know that they will come, but we are unprepared for the “surprise” of that which comes. That is usually followed by reactions—even extreme. It makes absolutely no sense, for example, that our fellow citizens are buying up all of the toilet paper, but it is a response and it is happening. Some psychologists believe that it is an attempt for people to feel they have a “sense of control” in the midst of an unpredictable situation.

   In today’s reading, we get a sense of an unexpected event—the death of Lazarus. Jesus, as we know from Scripture, has a close relationship with this man and his family—namely his sisters Mary and Martha. The sisters had hosted a special dinner for Jesus and his disciples. You remember the story—Martha was complaining to Jesus about her sister Mary not helping with the serving of the meal.

   In our reading, Jesus demonstrates his love for Lazarus in raising him from the dead, although he is also demonstrating much more, as we shall see.

   Jesus, himself, appears to be a “stone’s throw away from death”–literally! The Scribes, Pharisees and Jewish Leaders had repeatedly tried to seize him, but had been unsuccessful. Their patience with Jesus was running out. The setting of our reading takes place in the district where the Jews had just tried to stone Jesus.

   Let’s get into the text . . .

    1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.

   These verses identify the family structure: Lazarus, Mary, & Martha are brothers and sisters. They live in Bethany. Mary is the one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. This event takes place during that last visit (see John 12). Lazarus lies sick–this sickness will lead to his death.

   3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

   Note that this is the key to what this reading is all about. Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. 2. The sickness is to reveal God’s glory. The Son of God–Jesus Christ–will be glorified through this sickness.

   5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
   8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

   Here we find Jesus’ relationship to this family—Jesus loved them. This relationship was different than the typical relationship Jesus had with others.

   Jesus response to the news of Lazarus is somewhat odd. He decides to stay where he was for two more days. This is unnatural from a human point of view. This waiting is necessary if the glory of the Father is to be reflected through the work of Jesus. 

   Without warning Jesus announces to his disciples that he wants to return to Judea to see Lazarus. The disciples are not pleased about this. They protest. The Jews attempted to stone Jesus in that area. They are not in favor of returning to the area of Judea.

   9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

   Jesus points out that the fear of the disciples is unnecessary. Jesus is still enjoying the safety of the daylight—not the physical light of day, but the light of God’s presence and protection. Jesus can travel unmolested by the powers of darkness, as the time of darkness would be coming, but had not yet manifest. The time of darkness would come when Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, sentenced to death, and crucified. Until that time of darkness, Jesus was enjoying the protection of God.

   11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”
   12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

   The disciples are of the opinion that Lazarus is only physically sleeping. Jesus tells them plainly: Lazarus is dead. He was glad that he was not there when Lazarus died. Something is going to happen that they may believe. But, believe what? We will see. 

   16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

   Thomas is the practical one and expresses the opinion of all the disciples. They all knew there was danger in the region of Judea. The Jews were out to get Jesus and kill him. 

   17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

   There can be no doubt—Lazarus is dead. Four days in the tomb. Many, many mourners had arrived for the funeral. Lazarus is not merely sleeping, HE IS DEAD! 

   20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

   When we first encounter Mary and Martha, it is Mary who shows devotion to Jesus. She sat as his feet while her sister Martha did all the work. When approached by Martha, Jesus proclaimed that Mary had made the better choice. Now it is Martha who chooses to meet Jesus. She demonstrates her faith. She knows that God will answer any prayer of Jesus. 

   23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
   25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
   27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

   Martha believes in the resurrection of the dead. She is following the traditional belief of the Pharisees, one of the strict sects of the Jewish faith that believe in the afterlife. Martha thinks Jesus is speaking of the future, but he is not. He is speaking of the present. 

   Jesus presents the Gospel. He provides three solid statements that Mary is to take to heart. These three statements we are to take to heart, even in the midst of the unexpected—whether it be life, death, a pandemic, or whatever situation. Jesus proclaims: 1) “I am the resurrection and the life.” 2) “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” 3) “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

   As the Son of God, Jesus can proclaim these things. He knows where this is heading. He is heading to the cross. He will suffer and die for the sins of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He did for them. Not only that, he suffered and died for your sins.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He conquered death on the cross. He came back to life on the day we call Easter. Each Sunday we celebrate his resurrection—which he made to be your resurrection. Each Sunday we celebrate his forgiveness—which he made to be your forgiveness. Each Sunday we celebrate his life—which is the new life that he brings to each of you in faith. Each Sunday we celebrate Eternal Life—which is now eternal life for you and all believers in Christ.

And what we take to heart is that we celebrate these things, even when we are unable to meet together on Sundays during this time of the pandemic. We have what God has given to us through Jesus Christ, regardless of life circumstances. 

   Martha proclaims her faith in Jesus: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” This is POWERFUL STUFF! It is our profession of faith as well.

                                                 SERMON—Part II

   We continue now with our reading and Jesus interaction with Mary. 

   28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

   Mary quickly responds when she hears that Jesus is asking for her. Those mourning around her most likely aren’t sure what would happen next. They assume she is going to the tomb to mourn. They follow her.

   32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
   33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?”
   They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
   36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”


   Mary now echoes the words of Martha, “Lord if only you would have been here . . .” The great “if onlys” of living. If only you would have been here. If only I would have known. If only she didn’t go out when she felt sick. If only he knew he had contracted COVID-19. If only . . . If only . . . If only. It is the “if onlys” that plague our human soul.

   Jesus is moved in spirit and is greatly troubled. He senses and knows the emotions present in those that are mourning and is moved. He also senses the lack of faith or perhaps unbelief that he finds in his disciples, the mourners, and also in Mary.

   Do we stop to realize that Jesus is moved by our own weeping? Our own sorrows? Our own challenges that we face—even in the midst of a pandemic, let alone normal everyday life? Could he also be “deeply troubled” with what we face as well?

   Even though he may be facing some doubt and unbelief, Jesus acts. He is taken to the tomb of Lazarus and there he weeps. Those that see him cry acknowledge the depth of Jesus’ love for Lazarus. Yet there were scoffers–he opened the eyes of the blind, could not he have healed Lazarus?

   38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
   Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”


   Jesus approaches the tomb of Lazarus with much agony of spirit. Jesus will experience the same agony of spirit on the night in which he would be betrayed, while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is going to expend the divine power that will raise Lazarus from the dead–to exhibit the glory of God. There would be no doubt of Jesus’ ability to raise the dead.

   Jesus commands that the stone be removed from the tomb. There is some protest for Lazarus had been dead for four days. This would be the time to practice some social distancing. Dead for four day—his body would smell of rotting flesh. No one would want to be exposed to the literal stench of death.

   40 Jesus said to her [Mary], “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

   It comes back to a matter of belief. Martha got it, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Now Mary faces the same challenge of belief. She is being a realist. She has sized up the situation. Her senses (literally) tell her that Lazarus, her beloved brother, is dead.

Faith, as we know it and it is described by the writer to the Hebrews, goes beyond human reason. He wrote: Faith, as we know it and it is described by the writer to the Hebrews, goes beyond human reason. He wrote: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Mary is letting that which she literally sees and senses determine her understanding of what is real.

   This is not unlike us. We look at the COVID-19 illness that is spreading in our country. We see it and we are afraid. We see the sickness. We see sick people. We see death—especially in the older population and those who suffer chronic health issues. Yet the young have been affected as well.

   We see businesses shut down. We see the unemployment rate soar because of the outbreak. We see and experience social isolation because that is what is needed. We see the stock market crashing. We contemplate whether we may be coming to the end of the world. We face all of this in fear, unknowing what will come. Our sense—what we see and experience—tell us that things are NOT good.

   Jesus words for Mary are important for us today, at our time, in our situation Jesus says: “Believe and you will see the glory of God.” This does not mean that things will go back to the way that they once were before the pandemic. This does not mean that things will be like what we expect them to be. But we do cling on through faith is that we will see the glory of God—if not in this life, then in the life to come. That is the promise that we have for those who have faith in Jesus Christ and what happened through his death and resurrection. The resurrection is the glory of God!


   Jesus now has a miracle to perform . . .

   41 So they took away the stone.
   And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
   43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

   Jesus knows that his Heavenly Father has already heard his prayer. Jesus is doing all these things for the benefit of those around him–Mary, Martha, the disciples, the mourners. We take comfort in knowing that God’s hears our prayers as well. Paul reminds us in Romans 8: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (vs 25-27)

   And then, Jesus proclaims those famous words, “LAZARUS, COME OUT!”

   44 The man who had died [Lazarus] came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

   Like a scene from the twilight zone, Lazarus comes out of the cave that acts as his tomb. He still is in his grave clothes. He is no longer dead. He is alive! Jesus is able to demonstrate the creative and redeeming work of his Father.

   The grave clothes are no longer a proper garment. The bindings are removed and the Lazarus is set free. In the resurrection, our death clothes are removed and we have been given the new clothes of eternal life.

   There is a response to the resurrection of Lazarus . . . 

   45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 

   Those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus were always left facing a choice. Either Jesus had to be the Son of God–the Messiah -OR- Jesus had to be a fake and was dangerous to the nation. He is to be reported to the authorities and eliminated. Both views are expressed here. Some of those who came to mourn turned to belief in the Christ. Others, rather, reported the incident to the Pharisees and enemies of Jesus.

   How shall we respond to the resurrection miracles of Jesus? How do we respond to the fact that Jesus overcame death on the cross and we find him the resurrected Lord on Easter Sunday? We respond in faith, knowing that we have a God who loves us—regardless of who we are, regardless of the situations we find ourselves in, regardless of what comes our way—even a pandemic that seems to be upsetting our world.

   Thank God for the miracle of resurrection.

                                                   SERMON—Part III

   There is one more part to our reading that shows us why this story is part of our Lenten journey and our preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

   47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

   The Sanhedrin was the ruling Jewish council of the nation. They were the Pharisees & Sadducees that hated Jesus, although some were hidden followers of Jesus. They knew they had to stop Jesus. They feared his popularity. They feared that people would turn to him and follow him. They feared that there would be reprisals on the part of the Romans who controlled and occupied their nation. If this were to happen, those on the council would lose their prestigious positions. Worse yet, the nation would cease to be a Hebrew nation.

   And now comes the words of the high priest . . . 

   49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

   Do you see the irony in these words of Caiaphas? He is the high priest, the successor in Aaron’s line. He was the one designated to make sacrifice to God at the Jerusalem Temple on behalf of the nation. God still spoke through his high priest, Caiaphas—even if he did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah; even if he did not realize what he was saying and the importance of it.

   The prophetic words of Caiaphas: “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Jesus did die for the Jewish nation. Jesus died for the entire world. The Jewish nation and our world was and is on the path of death—all would perish, all would be required to die. But a Savior would die in their place–-in your place. His resurrection would be their resurrection–your resurrection.

   And then the final, pivotal verse:

   53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

   This episode with Lazarus was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This event would set the clock in motion. The Jewish leaders were now in agreement–THIS JESUS MUST DIE! They would now be actively seeking his death. Jesus was on his way to the cross for us, and then the empty tomb.

   The raising of Lazarus is important for us to know and understand. In summary:

      1. It is the event that led the Jewish authorities to take decisive action against Jesus.

      2. It is the sign which shows more clearly than any other event the foreshadowing of his
          own death and resurrection.

      3. It reveals the supernatural power of Jesus. There is no doubt that Lazarus had been
          dead for four days.

      4. It reveals not only Jesus’ love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but for everyone—
          including you.

      5. In this event, Jesus manifests himself as the “resurrection and the life.” Yes he will
          die, but he will rise again!

      6. This event sets things in motion for the final showdown. It sets the stage for the
          Passion Week—Jesus betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.

      7. This event reveals primary truth about God the Father. He desires to bestow eternal
          life upon all who have faith in his Son. He desires to bestow eternal life on you.

      8. This event removes any doubt regarding God’s mission in Jesus Christ. Jesus
          knows his mission. He is the resurrection and the life.

      9. This event proves that his gift of eternal life is there for all who believe that he is the
          resurrection and the life.

    10. It is an event upon which, in faith, we draw strength and comfort.

   When you face doubts in the midst of life challenges—including our current pandemic and all that has come with it—look to this story. There can be no doubt of Jesus’ intent. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you:

       + To bring you to faith, if faith is not present.
       + To strengthen your faith, if you already believe.
       + To give your faith a firm foundation in Jesus Christ.
       + To make you a bolder witness as to the ministry and work of Jesus Christ as 
          THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD!

   May the Lord so graciously bless us with the knowledge and understanding that Jesus is the Christ. With Martha we say: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

   In Jesus name, Amen.

Pastor James A. Freitag