Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent 1 2013 Midweek Homily

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor” (Lk. 4:4)

The season of advent is not a time to sugarcoat things.  We live in a fallen world.  All is not well.  And I’m not just talking about shoveling out our cars and the trouble of salting our walkways.  Many of us are suffering.  Some of us are suffering from extraordinary loss.  Our health is failing.  Perhaps most of us are suffering from some sort of chronic pain.  Not just physical pain but also emotional.  And no amount of medication can really truly fix what ails us all.  There are real assaults of satan that seek to destroy our faith and the faith of those we love.  We are tempted, troubled, and tainted by sin.     

Advent is really a time to take inventory over our lives and recognize the reality that not all is well.  Some of our children have renounced their baptisms and are no longer present in Christ’s church.  And we pray for them.  But we also pray ourselves.  Our lives are not hallmark specials.          

This past Sunday we heard the cries of the crowds of Jerusalem.  They watched their Savior ride into Jerusalem on a donkey – a beast of burden.  They cried out Hosanna…Hosanna…Hosanna in the highest.  Hosanna simply means save us now.  Come quickly and save us.       

Advent – the coming of Christ is not for those who love their lives.  The Gospel and the Christian religion is not for those who are confident, self-assured, and happy with themselves.  Jesus himself said whoever loves his life will lose it and whoever hates his life for my sake will find it.  The Gospel is for those who know they are in darkness.  Christ is for those who know they are lost and damned.  He is for those who desperately desire to be saved – and know they are helpless.    

Tonight Jesus opens up the holy scrolls of the book of Isaiah and reads a prophecy about himself.  I have come to preach good news to the poor.  I have come to heal the broken-hearted.  I am here to proclaim liberty to the captives – those who feel trapped and burdened by their sins.  I have come to give sight to the blind and give liberty for all those who are oppressed – oppressed by demons, depression, and despair.  Jesus reads Isaiah to show that he is the one to whom all the Scriptures point.

The promised Son of God, is now here.  The seed of the woman promised to Adam and Eve.  The sacrifice for sin that would crush the serpents head.  The Savior spoken of by Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph.  The God of Moses.  The long await Savior in the flesh - born of Mary – predicted by Isaiah and all the prophets which bear witness to him.  Now he is come.  He will die for sins.  Destroy death.  Restore life.            

Jesus appeared at Nazareth in our reading to proclaim that the era of God’s salvation is breaking in with him.  But the people are evil.  They want wondrous deeds instead.  They want power.  They want to drive out the Romans.  They want results.  They prefer darkness to light.  For them, Jesus does not measure up.  He is not doing what they want him to do.           

Jesus preaches the Gospel to the religious crowds and they reject him.  People are angry.  He is not the Messiah they want.  He talks too much about sin.  He stirs the pot.  He ruffles too many feathers.  He calls the people to repentance.  And several verses later the crowds rise up and drive Jesus to the outskirts of town – to a cliff.  They try to grab him and throw his body over the cliff but somehow he is able to escape.

The beginning of Jesus public ministry shown here tonight is really a foreshadowing of what’s to come.  Angry mobs will hunt Jesus down his whole ministry and eventually they will get the best of him.  He will be handed over to be crucified.  The same child born in a wooden manger will be tied to a wooden post and beaten for your sins.  He will wear the yoke of man’s rebellion against God on his back.  His mother Mary’s heart will be pierced and her Son will bleed for sins he did not commit.  He will carry the wood of the cross to make a fiery altar that Isaac escaped from.  The ram caught in the thicket has arrived.  He is caught in a crown of thorns.  And there is no escape.       

The father offers up his Son.  And the Son, willingly goes.  Sins are paid for.  And the fiery wrath of God is poured out.  Our Jesus drinks vinegar from the cross and gives up his last breath of love.  Payment is made.  Satisfaction is complete.  Justice is done.  The Father raises the Son from the dead to give us all what we need.  Comfort for troubled consciences.  Drink for dry and tired souls. 

The Gospel is for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  This God is for the poor in spirit who long to be rich with the righteousness of Christ.  God is only for the broken.  He is only for the spiritually crippled.      

God is for those who are oppressed and afflicted.  He is for those who are deeply troubled by their sins. 

The Kingdom of God has its arrival in Jesus.  Jesus is coming.  And the first words out of his mouth are “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here.”  The Kingdom of God comes through preaching, teaching, and baptizing.    It comes by His Word and Sacraments. 

God’s way is a donkey sort of way.  An unexpected way.  A humble way.  A preacher, a word, a pulpit and a promise.  God’s Kingdom comes among us.  A congregation of dying sinners but also a congregation of living saints.      

There is no salvation in anyone but him.  There is no darkness in your life which Jesus himself does not know.  He too knows betrayal, emotional anguish, he knows despair and sorrow.  He too knows what it’s like to be rejected by his own children.  But his love for you remains the same.  God cannot deny his love for you.  Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today and forever    

Jesus enters into Jerusalem this week and tonight he tells us that he is the long awaited Messiah.  He is our Savior.  A real savior who brings health, fortune, and happiness through the forgiveness of sins and the promise of His abiding presence.  He alone is the light that disperses all the darkness that surround us.  He lifts the clouds of sadness that covers us. He is the light of the world.  And He is coming.  Therefore our prayer is.  Come Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.      

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent 1 2013

Every year we have the same religious ritual.  We gorge ourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole.  We wash it down with beer whiskey, and football and thick gravy courses through our veins.  The high from the triptophyn only lasts so long.  The packers can’t pull it off – and even the Badgers are capable of disappointment.  The real world comes crashing back in.

We return to mundane lives with difficult people to deal with.  The excitement of thanksgiving dulls and we realize we can’t eat stuffing and pumpkin pie every day but have to settle for tomato soup and grilled cheese instead.  We no longer eat in the company of friends, family, and children but now take lunch alone. 

Our bosses are difficult to deal with.  Our work is not appreciate.  It becomes long and tedious, perhaps unfulfilling.  Our critics grow and friends grow tired of our company.  At school we return to the same mean bullies.  And have to deal with the same embarrassments at recess.             

However our biggest problem in life is not the packers, it’s not dry turkey, and it’s not even a demanding boss or rude coworkers.  The biggest problem in life of course is our own sin.  We are afraid of everything except God.  That’s why are medicine cabinets are filled.  We trust in everything except God.  That’s why are closets are packed and attics are filled.  And we treat God, like the strange uncle at thanksgiving – who is fine as long as you don’t get stuck next to him at the table and have to talk to him.  We give him a passing glance and a grunt but not much more. 

After Thanksgiving, what do we do?  Buy more stuff of course.  We go out and shop till we drop on black Friday - literally.  Every year there is at least one person who dies in a stampede at malls and shopping centers.  This year was no exception.  Weeping and gnashing of teeth, as crowds stretch out their claws for video games and ipads.            

But all the evil is not just with them.  It’s with us too.  Do we really want to notice when our children are fornicating.  For the fathers out there can your children recite the ten commandments?  Can you?  If not, how can you expect your family to know right from wrong?  The worse problem is that we have placed our hopes in the passing pleasures of this life, it’s allurements.  We prefer entertainment to prayer.  And to top it all of – we are satisfied with ourselves.  We think we are doing just fine.  We like God as long as He keeps a safe distance from us – just like the estranged uncle at Thanksgiving.

Our sins are worse than what we think.  Our standing before God is not good.  And his expectations are much more demanding than Santa Claus.  You better watch out.  He’s checking his list and he knows who is naughty and nice.  God knows your secret sins.  He knows your heart.  But unlike Santa Clause, he won’t pass by your house.  And he doesn’t reward you according to what you deserve.

You need a Savior.  A Savior who will be punished for what you deserve that you would be God’s poster child.  You need a God who does not just show up for one family meal a year but comes every Sunday.  You need a rescue mission – an escape from all the passing allurements, and dissapointments of this life.   

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a beast of burden – a slavish animal - created to carry baggage - in this case your sins.  And this God will not disappoint.  He is going to die a criminals death and to be cursed with the sins of the world pressed upon his innocent head. 

The people in Jerusalem cry out Hosanna…Hosanna..Honsanna in the highest.  Hosanna literally means “save us now.”  They are crying out save us from our sins…die for us…make atonement…make payment for our sins…save us now they cry out.   

You sing the same thing every Sunday when you sing Hosanna..Hosanna…but maybe you haven’t looked in the hymnal to see what the word means.  But that’s what you are praying for to be saved.  For Jesus to come quickly and to save you.      

This is a new year of grace.  Advent is a time to set the clock back.  The first week of Advent is really New Years Day in the church.  A time to start fresh and open the doors of your hearts to Christ.  A time to open your ears once again to the promises of God.

Our thanksgiving is even better this morning – with one another.  For God rides into our church not to fill stockings but to fill hungry mouths and to gladden tired  hearts.  For here we gorge ourselves on the promises of God.   We eat the risen body of Christ and drink his blood.  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” 

And he heals us from all that ails us.  He satisfies us.  Our sports teams will nearly always disappoint but not Christ. He has already stormed the field, torn down the goal posts of hades and stormed the gates of hell.  He has pulled the teeth out of death itself and has destroyed the power of the devil.  All of the evil bullies have been routed.    

Risen and fresh from the grave he rides into our town and places himself on our altar.  He prepares for us a feast.  Here you never eat alone.  But you eat with angels and archangels and with all the whole company of heaven.

A child will be born in Bethlehem.  He will be your judge.  He is coming.  And He does not come to punish you for your sins, but rather to forgive them, wipe them away, cast them as far as the east is from the west.  He knows all the trouble that you are in.  He knows the sorrows that depress you, he knows the tears that you secretly shed.  This King is gracious and loving.  He hears your prayers and your sighs.  He wants to dry your tears, protect you, and finally to redeem you and lift you to heavenly places by His blessed death. 

Your King who is coming is not just willing to do this but is also able to because he is the Son of God.  Therefore lift up your heads and greet him.  You won’t see him on a humble donkey, but in humble bread and humble wine, where he comes to bring you everlasting peace.  In Jesus name.  Amen.