Showing posts from March, 2010

Something New, Something Old for Holy Week

We have entered the holiest week of the year, as we focus on our Savior entering Jerusalem, teaching in the temple courtyard, instituting the Lord's Supper, arrested in Gethsemane, tried, crucified and buried.

Here is a fascinating use of Google Earth to trace the path Jesus walked during these last and final days. Click this link to be taken to an interactive map of the final events of Jesus' life with a summary of the events.

Interactive map of Holy Week

First was something new. Now is something old. This is from Martin Luther's sermon from Palm Sunday.

From Martin Luther’s House Postil, from a sermon on John 12:12-19

“We should get really well acquainted with this Christ-King, and place all our hope boldly in the life which is to come, where we will be forever happy, free of all sin and infirmity. It’s for that reason that Christ came, and was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to occupy his kingdom. That’s how he overcame sin,death, and the…

Holy Week services at Epiphany

Holy Week is a time for each of us to consider what it means to follow the One whose greatest achievement was His death. Foolishness! It just is not logical that the all-powerful God would descend from His heavenly throne of glory to take on the lowly, feeble form of a human embryo. It doesn’t make sense that the One who cannot die was laid in a grave. It boggles the mind that the eternal Word through whom all creation came into being spoke His last words, breathed His last breath and gave up His spirit. It isn’t rational that the Father would pour out His wrath upon His Son so that He could call us His sons and daughters.

It doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t rational. It is pure foolishness.

To the unbelieving world, Christ’s cross is pure foolishness. But “to us who are being saved,” the message of the cross “is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18) There really is no defending the cross. It cannot be defended. It can only be proclaimed. And that’s what you and I do.

“We p…

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy

How important is setting aside a day for worship and the study of God’s Word?

It is important enough that God commanded that we worship Him. The Third Commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” He didn’t suggest that we worship Him when we have time. He didn’t imply that it might be a good idea to come to church once in a while when we have nothing better to do. He commands it!

In fact, God takes His command to take a Sabbath-rest in Him and His Word so seriously that in the Old Testament, if someone did work on that day, they were stoned to death! “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.” (Exodus 31:14-15)

Why would God attach so severe a penalty to worshiping Him? Because He knows how …

The Annunciation of Our Lord

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898.
March 25 is the celebration of the Annunciation of Our Lord. We mark the birth of Christ as December 25. Therefore, nine months earlier is March 25.

On this day we mark the Incarnation of Our Lord, of God taking on human flesh. We thank God that He loved His fallen creatures enough to become like one of us.

God started His dramatic rescue operation with a visit from His angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. We mark this day at the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth in the womb of His mother. It is also the day that mark that the angel gave the birth announcement of the Savior of the world.

When Mary heard that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God, she responded in faith, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

We rejoice on this day that our Almighty Creator, whom heaven and earth cannot contain, is lying in a womb for nine months waiting to be born! He took on human flesh so He could give up that flesh upon a cr…

Whether we live or die

On Tuesday I attended the Christian funeral of Captain John Wright, Sr. in Radcliff, Kentucky. John had been "the treasurer for life" at the mission congregation at Faith Lutheran Church. When you are a member of a mission congregation, you have to serve.
On Friday will be the Christian funeral of Lyle Rigby, one of Epiphany's longtime members. Lyle lived for decades across from the church and served his church home in countless ways. With so many members, it wasn't a matter of having to serve, but truly desiring to serve.
But it wasn't their service that set John and Lyle apart. What set them apart was that they belonged to the Lord.
With two funerals in one week, these words by Martin Luther are a great reminder and comfort.
"Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. We belong to none other than the Lord. This is our greatest comfort and joy: that we have as our Lord He to whom the Father has given all power in heaven and on earth and has placed all t…

Questions of timing

Over the years I have been asked why the date of Easter changes every year. For example, this year Easter is April 4. Next year it is April 24 – the second latest it can be in 50 years. You can find the calendar dates for Easter and other Church year festivals on page 162 in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal.

The short answer I’ve always given for the date change is that Easter is based on the date of the Jewish Passover celebration which changes based on the lunar cycle. Recently I was asked why the date for the Passover changes if it says in Leviticus: “The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.” (23:5) The question was, how can the date change if it is always celebrated on the fourteenth day of the same month.

I thought that was an excellent question. I wasn’t sure myself, so I went to the Q & A section at Here are the answers. I hope they are helpful.

The Jewish religious calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Its months are …

Ever Wonder Why You Are Lazy?

A comment directed to pastors, but … applicable to all of us.

“I believe the roots of clerical sloth are theological rather than primarily psychological. We become lazy and slovenly in our work because we have lost the theological rationale for the work.”

William Willimon, Proclamation and Theology, page 72.

File under: “Ouch, truth hurts!”

- First posted at Cyberbrethren: A Lutheran Blog

Jesus “I Am” Statements

Almost daily there are advertisements that make incredible claims: “This is the best product on the market.” “This is the most effective ever seen.” “There is nothing that can compare with this.” These are just a few of the claims. Then, the offer becomes even more enticing: “Double the amount at an incredible savings.” Finally, there is the clincher: “A 100% money back guarantee.” Almost immediately the thought ignites: “This is too good to be true.”

Too good to be true. Disappointment can usually be avoided when this proverb is followed. It is a reliable rule of thumb, except in one instance. The one exception is with Jesus. Jesus gives more than a money back guarantee. He even offers more than double the regular amount. He provides solid and unmistakable proof.

What is this great deal that Jesus offers us? Himself. Over and over again. Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus portrays Himself with “I am” statements.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes t…

There is No Other Way

What does it matter if the Bible is the Word of God or not?

Sounds like an obvious question. However, in light of the previous post about the foolishness of the cross, we need to believe in the truth of Scripture in order to believe in the truth of the cross. If you look out into the world of other denominations you will discover that the errors in their church bodies flow from not holding the Scriptures to be the inspired, inerrant Words from God Himself. Homosexuality, women ordination, the denial of Christ’s real presence in the Lord’s Supper, the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s saving power in infant Baptism, or the acceptance of indulgences, Hail Mary’s, Our Fathers, prayers to the saints, penance for removing the punishment of sins, and plenty more hellish errors all come from building a foundation other than the foundation of the apostles and prophets in the Scriptures. (Eph 2:20)

Does it matter if the Bible is the very “Word of God”? It matters for our very salvation. In fact,…

The Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Have you ever heard someone make this case …

The Via Dolorosa 2

These are the other stations of the cross. Where there are Bible references to read, we know these events actually took place. Where there are no biblical references, they are tradition.

5. At Station 5, Simon of Cyrene was forced by Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry this cross (Mt 27:32; Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26). This is located on the corner where the Via Dolorosa turns west off al-Wad Road and begins to narrow as it goes uphill.

6. At the top of a steep hill is Station 6, where, according to a tradition dating from the 14th century, St. Veronica wiped Jesus' face with her handkerchief, leaving an image of his face imprinted on the cloth. The relic, known as the Sudarium or Veronica, is kept at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Veronica's name may derive from the Latin vera icon, "true image."

Station 6 is commemorated by the Church of the Holy Face, served by the “Little Sisters,” a Greek Catholic rite. The chapel is part of the Crusader monastery of St. Cosmos and…

The Via Dolorosa

The Via Dolorosa (literally “The Way of Sorrow” in Latin) is the path pilgrims follow to recreate the last journey Jesus took on earth. It follows the path he traveled while carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha while in extreme agony.

The route winds its way through the Old City of Jerusalem. It starts at a school near the Lions gate in the Muslim quarter (east side of the Old City) which is believed to be the place where Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate. It ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian quarter (west sise of the Old City) which is believed to be the site of Golgotha.

The Christians knew where the Roman Praetorium was and they had the traditional site of Golgotha where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built, so they figured out a logical path from one place to the other. The path is 2.2 miles.

While there we witnessed a group of Christians walking the Via Dolorosa carrying a cross.

There are 14 stations along this path…

Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit

This is the sermon I preached on Saturday, March 13, 2010 for one of the saints at Epiphany whom God called to home last week. Though you may not have known Ken, the question asked of you remains the same, "Are you ready to face the monster?"

Psalm 31:5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.
When we were little children, we had to sleep with the light on because we were afraid – afraid of the monsters living in the closet or under the bed. Monsters that would grab us as soon as Mom and Dad left the room or the light went out. So we would lie there with our eyes wide open, afraid of what that monster might do as soon as our eyelids closed and we drifted off to sleep.

Fortunately, we are all grown up now. But, in a very real sense, there is still a monster lurking in our closet that makes it very hard to be at peace. And this one isn’t imaginary. It is all too real – life’s ultimate, inevitable realty. It is a monster that everyone has to face.…

What To Do When Your Faith Feels Weak

One of the authors of the Formula of Concord, Nicolaus Selnecker, penned these thoughts to help those who were suffering particular trials and temptations because of their weak faith. Though this was written hundreds of years ago, the advice still remains solid and standard.

When our faith is experienced very weakly in our hearts, we should, as God’s Word itself teaches us, do the following things:

1. Recognize that faith is God’s work and his gift, 1 Thess. 3.; John 6.

2. Inquire and examine ourselves if we gladly want to believe, and if we wish that our faith would be stronger and better. If this desire is present, then God’s work and his power is present, as St. Paul bears witness, that God also works this desire in us. Therefore even a weak, poor desire is God’s work.

3. Pay attention to the foundation and the bedrock of our faith, which is not our feelings, our nature, our strength, worthiness, word and service, but rather solely the service, innocence, satisfaction, obedience, …

Living a Fruitful Life

"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' " 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'" (Luke 13:6-9)

If you had an apple tree in your backyard that did not bear any fruit, it wouldn’t be any good for anything, expect maybe some shade. It is using up space and nutrients. If you really wanted to be able to walk into your backyard to pick a delicious apple then you would need to cut down that old tree and plant a new one.

Jesus told a story about a man who planted a fig tree in his garden. After some time had passed, he went to look for some fruit on the tree, but …

God is faithful

Though the early verses of 1 Corinthians 10 contain some of the most severe warnings ever written by Paul to baptized Christians, verse 13 also contains two of the most beautiful Gospel sentences ever inspired by the Holy Spirit. “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

God is faithful! That is the sweet Gospel message that Paul ends this section with. Every time we sin, we can come back. Every time we’ve slipped and fallen off the rock of Christ, the faithful God has picked us up in His loving hands and replaced us onto the solid rock of our salvation. Every time we’ve gotten ourselves filthy with hate, greed, grumbling, sexual immorality, idolatry, apathy, God has washed us clean with the blood of His Son. Every time we’ve tried tiptoeing the line between sanctification and sin, the Holy Spirit has called us back first with God’s stron…

The House of Caiaphas

Matthew 26:49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. 50 Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" 55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then…

The Courtyard of Denial

John 18:12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people. 15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. 17 "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, "I am not." 18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. 19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and h…

The Church of St. Peter

Luke 22:54 Then seizing [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." 57 But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." 60 Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times."…

Old Jerusalem, New Jerusalem

A few weeks ago, our tour group was sitting on the steps leading up to the Temple Mound in Jerusalem. In one direction, the other pastors and wives in the group could hear the clarion call of the Muslims, calling to pray to their god who cannot hear them. In the other direction were the Jews writing their prayers on little slips of paper and sticking them into the Wailing Wall, praying to a god who cannot listen. We sat on those Temple steps and listened to a devotion filled with words coming from the true God who still speaks to us and singing a hymn to the Lord who really can listen.

We were standing in the place where Jesus taught and Peter preached at Pentecost, David’s holy city, the location of Solomon’s glorious temple, yet the Muslims and Jews who control Jerusalem have rejected the one true God. Jesus lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks…