Monday, April 29, 2019

Pastors' Retreat to San Antonio

Last week, Laura and I got to travel to San Antonio for a Growing in Grace retreat conducted by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for pastors and their wives.  Among the participants was the class of pastors who are celebrating their 25th anniversary of their graduation from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.  We are also the 1990 class from the now defunct Northwestern College in Watertown, Wisconsin.  Much thanks and gratitude to Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church for graciously paying for just about all expenses to this retreat.

We got to stay one block off of the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and the weather was fantastic for us to enjoy it.  We got to see classmates and friends whom we have not seen for years.  In some cases, we had not seen each other since our 1994 graduation.

The reunion and the sessions we had spent in God's word and mutual encouragement were priceless.  Laura and I cannot say enough to express our gratitude for this, and our classmates expressed the same appreciation for this event too.

Here are some photos.
Drury Plaza lobby.  (It used to be Alamo National Bank many years ago.)

At the Alamo.  I thought they might serve pie, but they didn't.
It seems like something they should do there.

Here we are with Laura's brother, Dan, and his wife, Liz.

Taking the narrated boat tour with 26 classmates and their wives, among others.

There are 37 on our class composite.  Some are no longer in the ministry.
Of those that are, most of us made it to San Antonio.

Our Farewell could have gone on for hours.

Lunch on the Riverwalk with the Oelhafens.

More reunions with Bitters, Arnolds, and Schneiders (who actually live in San Antonio).

Saturday morning -- last walk around the Riverwalk.  Sniff.....

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of Easter (April 28, 2019)

JOHN 20:19-31


M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Cong:  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name + of Jesus.

      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... (John 20:19)  I suspect that the disciples were even more fearful of Jesus than they were of the Jews who were locked outside of their room.  They all had good reason to be afraid of him.  The last time they had gathered in that room, they were making claims about which of them was the greatest, and boasting that they would die rather than forsake Jesus.  The last time most of them had seen Jesus, they were running for their lives out of the Garden of Gethsemane and into the dark of night.  They forsook him, and Jesus went on to die alone.  These disciples were plagued by guilt.  They had been unfaithful and cowardly.  They were not good disciples. 
     These guilt-ridden disciples were all gathered back in that upper room where they had feasted with Jesus.  They had heard reports of Jesus' resurrection from the women.  Some dismissed them as idle tales.  But what if it were true?  What would Jesus say to them if they saw him again?  How angry would Jesus be?  Would Jesus reject them and cast them into fiery judgment?  He should, shouldn't he?  These were legitimate concerns. 
     Then, Jesus appeared among them.  He was not angry.  He did not express regret.  He said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)  Rather than breathing fire, Jesus breathed his Holy Spirit upon them.  Rather than casting them out of the kingdom of God, Jesus gave them authority to serve in his kingdom and even to proclaim his forgiveness in his stead and by his command.  He came to trembling sinners and declared, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
     When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20)  Jesus demonstrated that it was really him—their flesh and blood Savior.  We should take to heart the fact that Jesus appeared in the flesh to declare his peace.  Although the Scriptures are clear about God's mercy and forgiveness, Jesus did not leave these disciples to figure out for themselves that God loves sinners and forgives the guilty.  If you are being plagued by guilt, you are too frightened and confused to be sure that God loves you.  You might hope so.  You might even insist that it has to be true.  But a guilty conscience will not let your heart have rest.
     Case in point: Judas Iscariot was just as guilty as the eleven.  In fact, Judas was the only one of the Twelve who actually tried to amend his sins.  Judas tried to return the money he had received to betray Jesus.  But Judas' attempt to undo his betrayal and its consequences did not take his sins away.  Wanting to be freed from his guilt did not make Judas free from his guilt.  Judas Iscariot was so overcome by his guilt and grief that he sought relief in suicide.  Sadly, Jesus had forsaken Jesus' promises, and his tragic death resulted in endless grief and eternal sufferings.  The remaining disciples huddled together in the upper room.  They, too, wanted to be freed from their guilt and shame.  But banding together for mutual consolation could not take away their sins or relieve their guilt.
     Therefore, Jesus himself appeared to these disciples.  The very one who had taken their sins to the cross delivered the message of forgiveness to them.  Jesus did not speak about some nebulous concept of forgiveness.  Jesus personally declared, “I forgive youPeace be with you.” (John 20:19)  Jesus knew they had failed.  He knew all their faults.  And he still loved them.  Jesus had authority to forgive their sins, and so he did.  As he declared it, so it was done.
     Now, our sins are just as real as those of the disciples.  Every day we strive to be faithful to our Lord and obedient to his word.  But we forsake God's truth when holding firm to it is hard or painful or inconvenient.  The world simply expects that we will approve of immoral behavior and that we will participate in it with them.  When you feel like you are alone in standing in God's truth and living according to it, it becomes easier and more comfortable to switch allegiance from Jesus to the world.  We feel ashamed at God's word when people sneer at us for believing it, and we feel like we have to apologize for godly living.  Or, we don't apologize for it; we abandon it.  So, how should the Lord treat us when we abandon him because it was hard or painful or inconvenient to be faithful Christians?  Repent.
     If you feel guilty over your sins, if you feel ashamed of your cowardice, if you are grieved by your faults and failures, you are where the disciples were in the upper room.  You know the fears they had.  You may have loved ones try to console you by saying, “Don't feel bad.  Everything's going to be fine.”  Or you may try to convince yourself, “It really isn't that bad because I didn't mean to be unfaithful.  I will try to do better next time.”  But there is no forgiveness in any of that.  The devil will either try to convince you that you are not really a sinner or that your sins are way too bad.  In the one case, you won't seek forgiveness because you don't think you need it.  In the other case, despair may lead you where Judas went.  In neither case is there forgiveness.  If you want to have peace, you need God's word to deliver it.
     The Lord Jesus appeared to his troubled disciples in the upper room on Easter evening.  Jesus personally declared, “I forgive you.  Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)   That is how God absolves sins, removes guilt, and heals broken spirits.  Jesus does not appear in person any longer, but this is what he does instead.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:21-23)  
     Jesus gives authority to forgive sins to his disciples.  The same authority Jesus has to forgive sins he gives to his disciples.  And the Church calls ministers to apply that forgiveness to troubled sinners.  If you are troubled by your sin and guilt, you will not find peace in some nebulous concept of forgiveness out there.  How would you ever know that Jesus forgives you, and that he forgives that sin?  He does this by sending flesh-and-blood ministers to speak in his stead and by his command.  “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” (John 20:21) Jesus said.  Jesus gives authority to forgive sins.  Through his ministers, Jesus applies to you personally the forgiveness of your sins.  Yes, Jesus knows that you have failed.  He is aware of all of your faults.  And he still loves you.  He does not look upon you with disgust.  He does not regret dying for you.  Rather, he gives the benefits of his death to you.  He is merciful to you.  He desires you to live without guilt or shame or fear.  So Jesus gives you a personal word of forgiveness.  You hear it when his minster declares, “I forgive you.”  It is Jesus' “I” that you hear.  It is Jesus' forgiveness that is applied to you.  It is declared with Jesus' authority and backed by Jesus' own promise: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” (John 20:23)  
     Jesus gives authority to forgive sins to his disciples.  And you are all disciples of Christ.  You are all priests of God who bear his name and confess his word.  And you all have friends who carry burdens of guilt and shame.  Many of them live in terror at the idea of seeing Jesus.  They expect him to be angry, and for good reason.  They need the very forgiveness that you have.  And you get to be the voice that Christ uses to bring relief to guilty hearts, comfort to troubled souls, and healing to broken spirits.  Jesus gives authority to forgive sins to you, too.  It is his word.  It is his good news.  It is meant for everyone Jesus died for—that is, everyone.  And it is to be delivered to each individual—that is: “Jesus forgives you.  Jesus saves you.”
     Jesus gives authority to forgive sins.  He does this for your benefit so that you can know, without a doubt, that your sins are forgiven.  He grants peace to troubled sinners, and he brings joy to grateful saints.

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sermon -- Easter Festival (April 21, 2019)

EXODUS 15:1-11


M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Cong:  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name + of Jesus.

     One of the great criticisms lodged against Christianity by unbelievers is that our God is bloodthirsty, violent, and murderous.  He destroyed the world population in the Flood (save Noah and his family), he ordered the slaughter of the Canaanite nations, and he commanded that Israel stone its adulterers, psychics, and false prophets.  The argument concludes, “If that is what your God is like, then I want no part of him!”  The Old Testament lesson for Easter Sunday seems to reinforce that argument.  Not only did the Lord act violently in slaying the Egyptian army, the Israelites took up instruments and sang rousing songs of praise about it.  Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1)
     There is no need to downplay what the Lord has done.  Yes, this was a violent battle and, in fact, a massacre.  The Egyptian army was utterly wiped out.  The nation of Israel sustained no fatalities or even wounds.  There is no need to be embarrassed about or to apologize for what the Lord has done.  Our Lord is a bloodthirsty God, and he acts violently as he slays his enemies.  But if you want to be saved, then it has to be this way.  The Lord has triumphed gloriously; his victory is absolute and undisputed.
     The Lord's violence against Pharaoh and his army came not because God had an intense hatred for those particular people, but because he has a fierce loyalty and love for his promises.  God had promised the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that salvation would come through them.  God promised to establish them in the Promised Land and to preserve them until the Savior came.  The Egyptians, however, had other plans for the children of Israel.  They were cheap labor for building up Pharaoh's empire.  They often had to be coaxed by whips and beatings, but they would be forced to build up store cities for the glory of Pharaoh and Egypt.  At the Passover, God delivered his people out of Egypt.  As the Egyptians were mourning the people the Lord had slain and were occupied with burying their dead, they begged the Israelites to leave.  But then they had a change of heart.  So, Pharaoh ordered the greatest army on earth to pursue the Israelites.
     The Egyptians were not going to ask politely for Israel's return or to negotiate a labor contract.  They were not going to play nice.  “The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.  I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’” (Exodus 15:9)  This was a bloodthirsty enemy, devoted to acts of violence and murder.  They sought to defeat and destroy God's people.  Whoever would not be slaughtered by Egyptian swords would be captive to the Egyptian empire and assumed into Egyptian culture.  It would not just be the loss of a nation, but the end of God's promise.  But the Lord is fiercely loyal to his promise.  He is fervently dedicated to having a Savior come for mankind.  To attack the promise is to attack the Lord.  So the Lord acted decisively for the salvation of mankind.  He destroyed those who would threaten his promise.  “Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.  The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.  Your right hand, O LORD , glorious in power, your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15:4-6)  Do not be embarrassed by this or apologize for it.  The Lord has triumphed gloriously.  He has defended his promise and upheld the salvation of mankind.  If you want to be saved, this is the way it has to be.
     Our songs today are even more robust than what the Israelites sang after the death of Pharaoh's army.  Today, we sing praise to God for his crushing defeat of much more dangerous enemies.  The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death.  The Lord Jesus Christ has put an end to sin.  The Lord Jesus Christ has crushed the head of Satan underfoot.  For many people, Easter is about powder-puff bunnies, fuzzy chicks, creamy chocolate, and frilly dresses.  Make no mistake: Easter is celebrated where a bloody, violent battle has concluded.  In this battle, one side would be utterly victorious, the other side deadly defeated.  It was winner take all, leaving behind no survivors.  Either life wins, or death wins.  The Lord Jesus has triumphed gloriously.  Only Jesus came out alive.  Indeed, it was a massacre.  If you want to be saved, then it has to be this way.  The Lord has triumphed gloriously; his victory is absolute and undisputed.
     If you want your praises to ring out, if your songs will be robust, if you will have joy that you have a bloodthirsty, violent, murderous God, you have to recognize your enemies—sin, death, and the devil—for what they are.  Every one of us entered this world enslaved to sin.  If you don't think you are, then try being holy this week. You won't be.  You can't.  You are a sinner, and you can't fight your way free.  Being a sinner also means that you will die.  You can try to fight off death, but you won't avoid the grave.  You can't.  And when you die, you will be judged for your life.  God will only be pleased with lives that are good, pure, and holy.  That is who God is, so that is his standard.  And here, the devil reveals himself as your great enemy.  For, he entices you to do whatever sins please you, and then he accuses you and buries you with guilt and damns you for the very things he convinced you were good.  Sin is not polite with you.  It condemns you.  Death does not negotiate with you.  It seizes everyone.  The devil does not play nice and he never will.  These are bloodthirsty, violent, and murderous enemies who drag their captives down to hell for everlasting torment, and no one can escape them.  There is no outrunning them, no outsmarting them, and no overcoming them. 
     If you want to be rescued from your enemies and delivered from their deadly grip, then they must be killed off.  No treaties.  No friendly agree-to-disagree arrangements.  Not even a cease fire.  They must be slain, never to rise again.  So, for us fights the Valiant One whom God himself elected.  God took on our flesh in order to deliver our flesh from sin, death, and the devil.  Jesus stormed the very center of the enemy lines to deliver us out of our captivity to our enemies.  The enemies drew blood and inflicted wounds on Jesus.  Your bloodthirsty God poured out his blood for you.  He let Satan do his worst, and Satan delivered the death blow to Jesus.  Jesus willingly threw our sins upon himself and threw himself into death for us.  But on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead.  By his resurrection, Jesus has left sin for dead.  Because of Jesus' resurrection, death is now a corpse.  By his resurrection, Jesus crushed Satan crushed under foot.  It is a bloody, violent, and deadly battle in which Jesus has risen as the victor, and all your enemies lie slaughtered and massacred.  Today, the sounds on the battlefield are robust songs of victory and praise.  If you want to be saved, then it has to be this way.  The Lord has triumphed gloriously; his victory is absolute and undisputed.
     The Lord Jesus is risen from the dead.  This man, Jesus, has rescued you from all your enemies.  Mankind has a victor over sin, death, and the devil.  He has conquered.  He has destroyed.  He proclaims freedom to the captives and leads you out of captivity into a kingdom of life, light, and grace.  The Lord Jesus has triumphed gloriously, and you are the spoils of the war—not to be his prisoners, but to be his brothers and sisters and fellow heirs of heaven.  Rejoice!  For your enemies are dead.  Jesus lives and reigns and makes you victors in a war that you did not even have to fight.
     The Lord has triumphed gloriously.  The violent battle has ended with a glorious peace.  And to show you that you are included in Jesus' victory and receive his benefits, you are baptized into Christ.  Just as the enemies of Israel were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea, so your enemies were drowned in the waters of baptism.  For, this is what the Lord says: “Baptism … 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.” (1 Peter 3:21)  In your baptism, you have been freed from your enemies.  For, baptism connects you to Jesus who saves you.  Your enemies have been killed—violently and definitively slain by the Lord lives and reigns forever.  He lives and reigns for you, and you shall now live and reign forever with him.  For, the Lord has triumphed gloriously.
     Therefore, let your hymns of praise be sung out with gusto and gratitude.  Do not be embarrassed by our Lord's bloody battle or apologize for his violent slaughter of your enemies.  If you want to be saved, it has to be this way.  The Lord has triumphed gloriously; his victory is absolute and undisputed.  So, we paraphrase the song of Moses and rejoice in our Easter victory: “I will sing to the LORD , for he has triumphed gloriously; sin, death, and the devil he has drowned in the waters.  The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.  The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.” (Exodus 15:1-3, paraphrase)

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

Sermon -- Easter Dawn (April 21, 2019)

JOHN 20:1-18

“He Even Calls Me By My Name.”

In the name + of Jesus.

     Mary Magdalene owed a lot to Jesus.  St. Mark informs us that Jesus had not only cast a demon out of Mary, but seven demons.  Who knows the level of torment and anguish those demons had afflicted on her?  But Jesus set her free.  Therefore she faithfully and zealously followed Jesus, supporting him out of her own wealth as Jesus preached the gospel and set other people free from the devil's kingdom.  As overjoyed as Mary was by Jesus' presence and teaching, she was just as overwhelmed with sorrow and grief at watching him be crucified, seeing his lifeless body wrapped for burial, and then gazing at the tomb where the stone sealed in Jesus' corpse.
     Now, Mary could only honor Jesus by anointing his body with spices.  But when she and others arrived at the tomb at the dawn of Sunday, she couldn't even do that.  The stone had been rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  Jesus was gone.  Grief was magnified with panic.  She ran to tell the apostles.  They ran to inspect the tomb.  Mary followed them back, finding the tomb still empty and herself coming up empty with answers or solutions.  She was reduced to tears; and so, she wept.
     When Mary Magdalene spoke of Jesus, she called him Lord and Teacher.  For her, there was no doubt as to who Jesus was.  He had the words of eternal life, but she thought his life had been snuffed out.  He was Lord over the devil, but she feared the devil had triumphed.  Perhaps the demons had the last laugh after all.  Death appeared victorious.  What else was there to do but weep?  If life is nothing but a series of strange events—some good, some bad—that ends up at a grave and that's it, you must wonder what's the point of life at all?  If it is all meaningless, why even be here?
     But life is not meaningless.  Neither was Mary Magdalene, and neither are you.  Jesus appeared to Mary.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15)  She did not recognize him at first, not when he addressed her as “woman,” or “ma'am.”  Merely being polite did not bring comfort.  Therefore, Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:16)  He called her by name.  It is no accident that this is what revealed Jesus' resurrection to her.  She rightly called him “Lord,” for he had ransomed her from the devil's grasp.  But she was no anonymous servant.  She was not merely one of the crowds he had healed.  She was his beloved disciple.  He even calls her by name because she is not meaningless.  She is loved.  She is redeemed.  And she is his.
     The Lord calls you by name as well.  You have been marked with Jesus' name in holy baptism.  Your baptism connects you to Jesus intimately.  His innocence becomes your innocence.  His death becomes your death; for, your sin was put to death with Jesus.  Now you are free from the devil's claims and accusations.  Jesus' resurrection becomes your resurrection.  You have been raised up anew—a saint in God's kingdom.  And you are set apart for the resurrection from the grave to everlasting life and glory, just like Jesus.  Your life is not meaningless; for you are a child of God who serves him with works that God himself has given you to do.  God delights in you.  He counts the hairs on your head.  He watches your life with interest.  He directs your steps so that you remain under his grace and devoted to good works for your family, your friends, and even strangers.  It is not meaningless; it is for God's honor.
     Though the world may not see your works, Jesus does.  Though your family may not think you are a saint, Jesus does.  Though the world may not know your name, Jesus does.  Just as Jesus has marked you with his name, so he knows yours.  You are not reduced to a number.  You are not just one of the crowd to the Lord.  You are his—beloved, redeemed, and precious.  He knows your name and has written it in the Book of Life.  For, Jesus lives.  And since you are his, you shall live because of him, and you shall live with him forevermore.  He has sworn it by his name.  And he even calls you by your name to say so.

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Sermon -- Good Friday (April 19, 2019)

JOHN 19:28-30

“It Is Finished.”

In the name + of Jesus.

     The last word St. John records from the lips of Jesus as he hung from the cross is this: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)  It is not the sigh of a defeated man who knows that his miserable condition and torment are just about over and that death will finally bring sweet relief to all of his pain and anguish.  “It is finished.”  He does not moan it that we might pity him.  He declares it so that he would comfort us.
     “It is finished.”  These words provide such great comfort for you that you cannot ponder them enough.  The devil is always lying to you.  He always wants to convince you that your sins are not really forgiven, that you must make amends for your sins with good works, and that your good works are never enough.  The devil doesn't care if you know that Jesus died on a cross.  Most people know that.  The devil wants you to doubt that Jesus really meant what he said: “It is finished.” 
     When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)  This brought an end to a life that had begun in Mary's womb.  God had become a man to become one with mankind.  He was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, served his parents, and lived a quiet, common life until he was thirty years old.  Then, he was anointed with the Holy Spirit and began his public work as the Messiah.  But whether it was a quiet life lived in the village of Nazareth or his public ministry being widely reported in Judea and Galilee, Jesus was at work.  As a man, Jesus was obligated to live under God's commandments or pay the price with the rest of us.  Temptations did not plague him just in Gethsemane and in the wilderness; Jesus was tempted his whole life long to go his own way—to despise ungrateful people for whom he provided, to condemn the demanding people who acted as if he owed them more and better, or to mock the people who made a mess of their lives by their own foolish choices.  These are the things we do, and we think that we are justified in doing them.  But sins are never justifiable, and they do not justify us.  Jesus, however, did not yield to temptation no matter how hard he was pushed.  He did what God demands of all mankind—he kept the commandments.  He was faithful to God's word.  He loved his fellow man.  He was holy and obedient.  With his final breath, Jesus acknowledged that the temptations were over and declared that the demands of the Law were met.  “It is finished, complete, accomplished.”  The work of obedience was done, and done perfectly.
    When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)  Jesus' mission was completed.  His work was not only to obey God's commandments, his work was also to redeem people who have not.  This meant he had to suffer what sinners deserve.  This meant that he had to submit to the wrath of his heavenly Father.  This meant that the flesh he assumed had to suffer great torment, and the body he had would be given into death.  And it was not easy work.
     Before Jesus suffered for sinners, he had to suffer being sinned against by sinners.  Jesus had to endure the faults of his friends, the wicked schemes of his enemies, and the brutality of others on his way to the cross.  He stood before religious authorities who crafted lies and hurled false accusations against him.  He stood before secular authorities as King Herod flaunted his little power by mocking the King of heaven and earth.  He stood before a Roman governor who repeatedly declared Jesus innocent only to hand him over to his enemies because it was easier for him to do what was convenient than to stand up for what was right.  He stood next to authorities on violence.  He exchanged places with Barabbas because the religious leaders deemed the streets safer with a murderer on them than with Jesus on them.  He was given a place among felons who were rightly sentenced to death for their crimes.  He was punched and spit upon.  He was crowned with thorns and beaten with rods.  He was scourged and pummeled so that he did not even look human anymore.  Women wept over him.  Children hid their faces from him.  Finally, he was pierced to a cross.  And that was not even the worst of it.
     From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)  The greatest torment Jesus endured at the cross was the wrath of God.  Jesus endured the torments of hell; for he was bearing in his body all the sins of all sinners.  There is nothing for which Jesus did not suffer.  Whatever sin you have thought or done, whatever sin you have experienced or witnessed or heard of, Jesus paid the price for it.  The love of God was withdrawn from him.  He suffered wrath, judgment, and damnation.  And this, Jesus did willingly.  And this, Jesus did for you.  The timeless Son of God was damned for people of all time.  And then he cried out, “It is finished.”  The payment for all sins was rendered.  Your debts are canceled, and you are free.  The holy, precious blood of Jesus and his innocent sufferings and death are sufficient for all your sins.  “It is finished, complete, accomplished!”
     No matter how many times you hear that you are forgiven, the devil challenges God's word.  He asserts that you cannot hide what you are.  He presents facts.  He reminds you how you have broken God's commandments.  He proves that you are guilty, and your conscience confirms every accusation and taunt.  But the devil is a liar, and Jesus himself says so. 
     The devil's lie is not about what sins you have committed; the lie is that your sins still condemn you and that God is angry with you.  If you want to know what God thinks of sin, look at the crucified Jesus.  There, God's wrath was unloaded on Jesus who suffered for sinners what sinners deserve.  God did this for you because he loves you.  Your judgment has been taken.  The punishment has been meted out—all of it.  There is no wrath left for you.  It is finished.  It is completed.  All has been accomplished.  Therefore, your sins do not condemn you.  They are forgiven.  Jesus said so, and overrules every accusation of the devil.  “It is finished, and there is nothing that can be added.  The sacrifice is complete.  Sins are taken away.”
     Still, the devil wants you to doubt it.  He insists that it is not enough that Jesus has died.  He insists that you must prove your worth by good works and obedience.  As it is with the devil's lies, there is always some truth in it.  It is, indeed, God's will that we do good works and live godly lives.  We do not give ourselves over to sins and run back to what brings death.  So if we are devoted to good works, how much needs to be done to save us?  Jesus already answered your question: “It is finished.”  God demands is holy obedience, but it has been accomplished.  It is finished.  Jesus lived his holy life to satisfy God's demands, and Jesus gives you full credit for it.  Your salvation is not something that has yet to be completed.  The pressure is off.  Fear is taken away.  Doubt has been done away with.  Jesus said so: “It is finished.”
    When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)  There is such sweet comfort in Jesus' words at the cross.  They soothe tormented consciences.  They console fearful hearts.  They calm troubled minds.  And they always will. 
     “It is finished” has been translated in the present tense, but the Greek word is actually a perfect tense.  That means salvation was purchased in the past—when Jesus gave up his spirit, but the benefits of Jesus' sacrifice continue to the present time.  His perfect life always covers you.  His sacrificial death always atones for you.  You are not teetering in and out of the kingdom of God based on how good of a day you are having.  Jesus has secured your place in his kingdom and has not left any doubt.  Jesus declared it in simple, clear, undeniable terms: “It is finished.”  It has been accomplished.  It is complete, and the devil can never undo it.  There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.  Be confident; you are the Lord's beloved saint.  Be comforted; your salvation is complete.  You have Jesus' word on it: “It is finished.”

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

Prayer for Good Friday

Prayer for Good Friday


800px-mathis_gothart_grc3bcnewald_007Today, O good Jesus,
you did not hide your face from shame and spitting for us.
Today, Jesus our Redeemer,
you were mocked,
mocked by unbelievers,
and crowned with thorns for us.
Today, good Shepherd,
you laid down your life on the cross for the sheep,
and you were crucified with robbers,
and had your sacred hands nailed through.
Today you were laid in the guarded tomb,
and the saints burst open their tombs.
Today, good Jesus,
you put an end to our sins,
that on the day of your resurrection
we may joyfully receive your holy body,
and be refreshed with your sacred blood.
Source: Mozarabic, freely modified from  Ancient Collects, ed. William Bright, p. 48#3.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sermon -- Maundy Thursday (April 18, 2019)

LUKE 22:7-20

“Take and eat.  Take and drink.”

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” (Luke 22:8)  This was an annual remembrance of the Lord's powerful deliverance of the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.  While the Passover feast recalled God's gracious deliverance in the past, the meal was basically a reenactment of that night.  Unleavened bread was eaten.  A lamb was slaughtered and its blood shed.  Its body was roasted on a spit and consumed.  They did not feast to be delivered; they only commemorated what God had done in the past.  At this feast, each generation was to learn about God's salvation.  The Lord had instructed them, “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 12:26-27)  This word was the main thing in the Passover, along with the eating and drinking.  For this honored the Lord, recalled his faithfulness, and remembered his deliverance.
     The Lord Jesus met with his disciples to celebrate the Passover.  It was at this meal that Jesus instituted a new meal based on a new covenant.  He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)  Take and eat.  Take and drink.  This is given and shed for you.  And so, the Church continues to gather and to feast as our Lord calls us to do.
     Jesus calls us to partake in the new covenant because the old covenant did not grant the gifts our Lord wanted us to have.  The very first covenant God had made should have granted life, but it did not.  God had placed Adam in the Garden of Eden with two special trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)  By obeying the word of the Lord, Adam and Eve would have been confirmed in holiness.  They would have feasted on the Tree of Life to live as God's saints forevermore.  You know how the story ends.  They tried to steal what God had wanted to give them for free.  By eating what God had forbidden, they brought sin and death upon themselves and all mankind.
     So, their story goes; and for us, it goes on and on.  Nothing changes for sinners.  Like Adam and Eve, we crave what God forbids.  We feast our eyes on the riches, the successes, and even the spouses of others, scheming to get what God has chosen to not give us.  We fill our ears with gossip and slander, hoping that the worst reports about others will overshadow our own shortcomings.  We long to feed our egos with people telling us how pretty, how smart, and how cool we are, and we get angry when others do not notice our accomplishments or praise our efforts.  We feed the cravings of our egos and our bodies.  But no matter how much we feed our sinful cravings, they are never full.  The sinful flesh always demands, “Feed me more!”  And no matter how much we cater to our flesh and feed it, the only reward it can guarantee is a grave. 
     Therefore, Jesus established a new covenant.  He does not give us conditions to meet, which will only result in another failed covenant.  Instead, he declares, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20)  Jesus set the terms of this new covenant—that he supplies the benefits, and we simply receive them.  What man had tried to steal by eating, Jesus gives again for free.  This new covenant was foreshadowed by the Passover, and it is fulfilled by Jesus.  At the first Passover, death fell upon every house in Egypt.  But while the Egyptians shrieked and grieved over their dead, the Israelites feasted on the lamb which had been slain.  The blood of the lamb marked their homes and spared them from death and grief and sadness.  Jesus Christ is that Lamb.  And to make us participants of this new covenant, Jesus summons us, “Take and eat.  Take and drink.”  By this eating and drinking, we receive what Jesus has promised to give.
     The Passover was a feast to commemorate what God had done in the past, but the Lord's Supper is neither a reenactment nor a mere commemoration.  (Jesus) took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)  Take and eat.  The body which bore your sin was given into death as the ransom price that sets you free—this Jesus gives to you in the bread.  Take and drink.  The innocent blood which was poured out at the cross to appease God's wrath—this Jesus gives to you in the cup. 
     Take and eat—for you.  Take and drink—for the forgiveness of sins.  By eating what was forbidden, man brought sin and death upon all.  Now, by eating and drinking, man receives forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  Take from the tree of life which is the cross.  The fruit which hung from that tree is Christ, and those who eat and drink his body and blood will live forever.
     Take and eat; take and drink.  “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)  And, indeed, we do; for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)  But the body and blood of Jesus are not merely remembered; they are given and consumed.  The new covenant is not merely reenacted.  By eating and drinking, you participate in the body and blood of Jesus.  This is how you receive his benefits.  We do this for Jesus' remembrance.  We remember Jesus who lived and died for us, and Jesus remembers us whom he has purchased and won from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death. (Luther's explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles' Creed)  And as we feast, God the Father remembers Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf.  He sees the blood which marks us, and death, damnation, and destruction pass over us forever.
     Take and eat; take and drink.  For here, the holy, innocent blood of the Lamb is poured into you, and the body which has conquered death is given to you.  Take and eat; take and drink.  For here, you are united to Jesus Christ.  While death and destruction go on all around us in the world, here we celebrate.  So, let us rejoice and feast and even laugh in the face of death and the devil.  Let us eat and drink and be merry; for our Lord is pleased to give us forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.
     Our Lord summons us to the feast.  And as it was at the Passover, so it is here.  Our feast comes with words of instruction.  How can eating and drinking do such great things?  It is certainly not the eating and drinking which does these things, but the words “given” and “poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  These words are the main thing in the sacrament, along with the eating and drinking.  And whoever believes them has what they plainly say, the forgiveness of sins. (Luther's Small Catechism: Lord's Supper, part 3)  With this common food is an uncommon promise and a gracious word, and by it he strengthens and keeps us in the one truth faith unto life everlasting.

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

Update from Good Shepherd (April 18, 2019)


Our Divine Services are on Sundays at 10:00 AM.
Thursday services will be suspended until Thursday, May 2.
        In place of Adult Bible Class and Sunday School, we will have our Easter breakfast (8:45-9:45 AM).

Easter is THIS SUNDAY (April 21).  In order to make sure that we provide a hearty breakfast for all who join us and to keep our Easter breakfast free of charge, we encourage our members to contribute food for the morning.  To RSVP for the Easter breakfast and to indicate what food you would bring, go to this Sign Up Genius link:
        Thanks in advance for your willing participation.  Also, bring family and friends.  We want them to join us too!

The schedule can be found here:
The worship notes regarding each part of the Triduum can be found here:

Regular office hours at Good Shepherd will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM. While there may be some flexibility to this schedule, we will try to keep it as regular as possible. 

       Our Adult Bible Class will read through St. Paul's letter to the Galatians.  The main purpose of this letter was to offer correction and encouragement to a congregation which was convinced that human effort must be added to the Gospel promises to be assured of one's place in the kingdom of God.  This is a constant struggle that we face, convinced that our salvation is somehow based on our performance or worthiness.  This epistle, perhaps more than any other, teaches us what it means that we are saved “by faith alone.”
      April 21           EASTER BREAKFAST
      April 28          How do we exercise our Christian freedom? -  Galatians 5:1-15
      May 5              Examination of Catechumen / Catechism review
      May 12            We are at the same time sinner and saint. -  Galatians 5:16-26
      May 19            Let us care for and encourage one another. -  Galatians 6:1-18 

Our next session for our Sunday Night Bible Series will be Sunday, May 5 at 6:00 PM. This series, entitled “Eating God's Sacrifice,” explores the Lord's Supper portrayal in the Old Testament sacrifices. While the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper flows from the Passover, its roots and forgiveness come from all the Old Testament sacrifices. After viewing each DVD segment, Pastor Purdue and Pastor Schroeder will lead a discussion about the material which is in the DVD. All sessions will begin at 6:00 PM. These are intended to be interactive discussions as well as informational. Desserts and snacks will be served.  All are welcome.

“And She Was A Christian” is a book that was written by Pastor Peter Preus, a Lutheran pastor whose wife committed suicide.  What hope is there for those who commit suicide?  Is it an unforgivable sin?  Is it the fast-track to hell?  What comfort can be given to those who grieve over the loss of their loved one?  How does one handle guilt, blame, or the shame of being associated with one who has killed himself?  Sadly, too many people have acquaintance with such a tragic death. 
Throughout the Wednesdays in May, we will meet at church, 7:00-8:30 PM to consider Scriptural ways to answer questions about suicide and to console those who grieve over the loss of loved ones who chose to end their own lives.
If you are interested in the book, “And She Was a Christian” ($25 each), sign up for a copy by the bulletin board in the fellowship hall—or send an email (  Copies will be here by Sunday, April 28 in case you want to read through the chapters before class.

The ladies of Immanuel Church, South Lyon (330 E. Liberty Street) are throwing a Baby Shower on May 11 from 11 AM to 1 PM to provide a few things needed for the RPCC.  The donated items for RPCC will be given to mother's and their children.  We are opening our doors and hearts by extending the invitation to the ladies of your congregations.  They may start a collection of new or gently used items (refer to the attachment) to deliver to us before 11 AM shower.  Fellowship, and a light lunch will be served, with a short presentation by a representative from RPCC.

        Join Us for the 2019 WELS Regional Youth Rally in West Virginia!
        This year's regional Youth Rally will take place at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, from July 15-18th. The Michigan District and North Atlantic District will again be partnering on this project.
The event will be similar to the rallies held at Villanova in 2015 and at Xavier in 2017. Students and chaperones will have the chance to join fellow WELS members from around the country for worship, Bible study, games, exploring the West Virginia countryside, a trip to an amusement park, and much more!
        You can find Rally information at or simply click the link below.

Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.

God bless you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
     Sundays at 10:00 A

     Sundays at 8:45 AM

     Sundays at 8:45 AM



Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +
Divine Services -- Sundays at 10:00 AM

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Worship Notes: The Triduum -- 2019


The enormous significance of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection has always been the central focus of Christian worship.  Prior to the fourth century, Easter Day itself included all three emphases, but thereafter they were distributed over three days of special observance, which Augustine called “the most holy Triduum of the crucified, buried, and risen Lord.”  These days have long been understood as the climax of the Church’s year.

Since the last half of the 20th century, Lutherans have been rediscovering the richness of the ancient Triduum (pronounced TRIH-doo-um) and adapting the traditional services associated with it for use in Evangelical-Lutheran worship.  In keeping with their origins, the Triduum services are closely connected with one another.   We observe the Triduum as a single service that extends over the “three holy days.”

MAUNDY THURSDAY -- April 18, 7:00 PM
        The theme of Maundy Thursday, best expressed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. John, is the novum mandatum or “new command” of Jesus that his disciples “love one another.”  The institution of the Lord’s Supper sets forth the depth of Jesus’ love and gives power to the Church to live out his command.  For the Triduum, Maundy Thursday marks the end of Lent proper.  The service begins with the sermon and an exhortation regarding the end of Lent.  This unusual arrangement allows the minister to explain the meaning of the Sacrament and the liturgical actions that are to take place so that they may proceed uninterruptedly and vividly from this evening through Good Friday to the Easter Vigil.  The action of ceremonially stripping the altar prepares the chancel and the congregation for Good Friday.

 As the middle service of the Triduum, Good Friday is prepared for by Maundy Thursday.  In turn, it leads into the Easter Vigil.  The absence of a benediction the previous evening and again on Good Friday underscores the connectedness of the Triduum service.  Good Friday is not a “funeral” for Jesus, but an austere celebration of the Lamb and his sacrifice.  The bare altar, symbolic of Christ who was stripped bare for his crucifixion, is the focus along with a large, rough finished wood cross. 
        The Service of the Cross consists of two parts: I. The Word and II. The Meditation on the Cross.  The service is highly meditative in nature and is celebrated simply and not hurried.  The Service of the Cross is intended as the primary Good Friday service and his historically been observed sometime during the “hours of the cross,” between noon and three o’clock.  It may also be used in place of the Service of Darkness (Tenebrae) as an evening service, as is the case at Good Shepherd.

NIKA is the Greek word for "He conquers."
The climax of the Triduum comes in the Vigil of Easter, a service of watching and waiting which utilizes prayer, Scripture, and hymns.  The Vigil is composed of four parts.

     I. The Service of Light focuses on the Paschal Candle,
          the representation of the unconquered life of Christ.
     II. The Service of Lessons uses Old Testament texts that
          foreshadowed our deliverance and rescue by Jesus.
     III. The Service of Holy Baptism emphasizes our
          baptismal connection to the crucified and risen Christ.
     IV. The Service of Holy Communion proclaims the
          risen Savior and our blessed reconciliation to God.

In the ancient Church, the Vigil began on Saturday and continued through to Easter Dawn.  It was at dawn that the cry rang out: “Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!”  We honor the spirit of the Vigil, beginning our Easter Vigil at an early hour on Easter Sunday.  With the service of Easter Dawn, we conclude the Triduum. 
        Our Festival celebration is held at our regular hour of Divine Service, at 10:00 AM.

May the Lord bless us as we observe these “three holy days,” the Triduum.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Pastoral Concern and A Bible Class on suicide

Sudden death is a very grieving and shocking reality that many people have to contend with.  That shock and grief is intensified tremendously when the sudden death is by means of suicide.  Even Christians have committed suicide, which adds questions and bewilderment to the grief and pain.

What does one say?  How do the loved ones cope?  What comfort can be given to them?

During the Wednesdays in May, we will consider these challenges, based on the book And She Was a Christian.  The book was written by Rev. Peter Preus who had to personally grapple with all of this after his wife committed suicide which resulted from severe depression. 

What this class will not do:  The pastor is not a psychiatrist.  Therefore, he will not attempt to diagnose or cure mental illness.  The pastor is not God.  Therefore, he will not make judgments about individuals' eternal fate.  The pastor is not omnipotent.  Therefore, he cannot prevent anyone from attempting suicide.  The pastor is not omniscient.  Therefore, while he would like to give answers to every mystery, he cannot reveal everything.

What this class will do:  The pastor is obligated to proclaim what the word of the Lord says--both to expose sin and to proclaim God's grace to the sinner.  He will declare God's promises bring consolation to the grieving.  He will offer encouragement through God's word so that those who attend can offer comfort to others who are grieving.  He will direct you to where God has spoken and gives answers, but he will have to remain silent where God has chosen to remain silent. 

If you would like to order a copy of the book prior to our class, you may contact Pastor Schroeder to request a copy by April 21, 2019.  The cost is $25 per copy.  They will be distributed at church on Sunday, April 28 or when you come to class.  The class schedule is here:

And She Was a Christian
A Bible Study
Wednesdays in May (7:00 – 9:00 PM)

May 1
I. Introduction:  “Why Did He Do It?!”
1.  What do all suicides have in common?
2.  How is the suicide of a Christian a most troubling paradox?
3.  How does one deal with suicide’s stigma?

May 8
II. In Search of Someone to Blame
4.  Shall I blame my loved one who took his life?
5.  Shall I blame someone in my family?
6.  Did God give him too much?
7.  Was God making the best of a bad situation?
8.  Is it my fault he died?!
9.  How do I get past the nagging “If I had only . . .!”?

May 15
III. The Case against the Suicide
Suicide and Faith
10. What is faith, what is its source, and how does it save?
Faith’s Add-Ons
11.  Faith plus Obedience: Can a Christian choose what he knows to be wicked?
12.  Faith plus Reason: Can a Christian believe as he should if he cannot reason as he should?
13.  Faith plus Self-Esteem: Can a Christian believe in Christ if he cannot believe in himself?
14.  Faith plus Optimism: Can a Christian despair?

May 22
Suicide and Sin
15.  Did he really wish to die?  
16.  How did he get this way?
17.  But wasn’t he accountable?
18.  Is suicide the unforgivable sin?
19.  Did he have time to repent?

May 29
Suicide and Grace
20. How can a person remain a Christian if his illness is preventing him from hearing God’s Word?   
21.  How can I be sure he’s in heaven?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Holy Week Schedule


Maundy Thursday

April 18 – 7:00 PM

Good Friday

April 19 – 7:00 PM

Easter Vigil

April 21 – 7:30 AM

Easter Breakfast (8:45 - 9:45 AM)

April 21 – 10:00 AM

The Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sermon -- 6th Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday (April 14, 2019)

LUKE 19:28-40

Blessed Is He.

In the name + of Jesus.

     The praises sprang forth: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)  The Jerusalem choir may not have been as polished as the angels, but they knew the lyrics well enough.  The same song of praise that was sung in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was sung at Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  And it was sung for the same reason—the Savior had come.  Blessed is he!  The Savior had come to restore all things. 
     While the motive of the angels was pure and the knowledge of the angels was perfect, it was not quite so for the Passover pilgrims.  They were overjoyed to see Jesus enter Jerusalem.  The reason?  St. Luke records it: As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38)  The crowds had witnessed the miracles Jesus had performed, and they praised him for it. 
     They knew the miracles of Jesus.  Some may have benefited personally from them.  But the knowledge of the crowds was not as complete as Jesus would have liked.  They knew Jesus as the one who cured leprosy, disease, blindness, and paralysis.  They knew him as a miracle worker.  They may have acknowledged him as a prophet.  But few confessed him as the Messiah or the Son of God.  Nevertheless, Jesus accepted their praise. 
     The crowd may not have been believers, but they were right about this: They cried out “Blessed is he!”, rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. (Luke 19:37)  Jesus corrected problems that had afflicted many.  They all knew that it was not normal for people to be lame, blind, deaf, or mute.  They had seen or experienced the challenges brought on by disabilities, diseases, and demonic oppression.  They longed for relief from physical ailments, mental torment, and spiritual anguish.  They longed for it; Jesus delivered it.  This was worthy of praise.  And so, they sang three words of truth: “Blessed is he!”
     We recognize what they did.  We don't simply accept bodies that are afflicted with cancer, heart disease, broken bones, depression, poor eyesight, or eczema.  When we have problems, we don't shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, it's God's will.  I guess I will have to suffer this pain or handicap which may even cut my life short.”  No, we go to the doctor to get these problems addressed and, if possible, cured.  Jesus is not here to lay hands on us for a miraculous healing, as much as we might want him to be.  But he has granted us medicine to alleviate symptoms and to provide relief and healing.  For this, we can all be thankful.
     The amount of money and effort that we invest in health and healing is staggering.  But if we fear, love, and trust in medicine above all things, we are worshiping the wrong God.  Science and medicine will never invent a remedy for death.  Even the people that Jesus healed eventually died.  The ailments we have are symptoms of a much greater deficiency—that we are not holy and pure.  We are corrupted by sin.  In our bodies, we bear the curse of sin, death, and decay.  Health regimens, prescriptions, and therapy may have some benefit, but they cannot elude the death.  They do nothing to remove our guilt or to lift the curse of sin. 
     Sometimes you will hear people mock you for your faith, saying that you use Jesus as a crutch to get you through life.  This grossly underestimates both the problem of sin and Jesus' work as Savior.  You don't give a crutch to dead people.  A crutch helps someone merely limp through life.  If you're dead, a crutch is useless.  Jesus did not come to supply temporary relief from the effects of sin.  He came to give life to those who are dead in sin and even to raise back to life those who have died in the faith.  When Jesus provided healing, he gave a glimpse of what the kingdom of God is.  It is not momentary relief from pain or disease.  It is total removal of these things.  Disabilities, disease, and death all come because of sin.  Therefore, Jesus came to take sin away from us.
     Blessed is he!  “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)  Jesus came to establish a kingdom where all things are right and restored to perfection.  He puts an end to all disorder, death, and decay.  Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in order to put an end to every curse and consequence of sin.  In order to take sin away from us, he had to put it on himself. 
     The crowds who sang “Blessed is he!” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem were already there for the Passover celebration.  The lambs would not be slaughtered for four more days; but the lambs would have been chosen and set apart on the 10th day of the month.  It was the 10th day when Jesus entered Jerusalem.  He was presented by the Father as the Lamb of God.  He was set apart to be slain for the sins of the world.  Jesus, bearing all sin and guilt, would be mounted to a spit and roasted in the fire of God's wrath for the sins of the world.  Jesus let death consume him so that you would be rescued from death and given new life.  The blood of the Lamb was shed for you.  You have been marked with the blood of the Lamb so that death passes over you.  Now, you feast on the Lamb and partake in his blood so that the curse is lifted from you.  You and I celebrate as those who are delivered into a kingdom which is not ruled by death, darkness, and decay, but by life, light, and everlasting peace.
     Blessed is he!  “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)  Jesus suffered and died to redeem you from sin and death.  And he rose to take up  his reign as king over all things.  Jesus lives and reigns, assuring you that you are set apart from sin and will be delivered from death.  Your body may still be afflicted by disease or disability, but that is because we all have sin-stained bodies.  But your King will grant you release even from these.  At the resurrection of all flesh, Jesus will give you a body that will never again be marred or scarred, never again be faulty or frail, never again be touched by disease or death.  The glimpse Jesus gave through his miraculous healings will be the new reality in his glorious kingdom.  He will not give you a crutch, but a perfect, incorruptible, imperishable body and a glorious, everlasting life.  Blessed is he!
     Stunningly, the Pharisees wanted no part of Jesus or his kingdom.  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)  It is not just people who are redeemed by Jesus; creation itself will be restored to what God had created it to be.  St. Paul writes to the Romans: “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21)  “Blessed is he!” sang the crowds, eager for Jesus' kingdom.  And if they had not sung, the creation itself would have.  For, God's salvation had come.  His kingdom was being established.  All things were being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and all things would be restored to the glorious creation God had designed and intended.  Even if mankind would not cherish it, the stones, the fields, the trees, and the weather will.
     Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  He comes in God's name to do God's work—to save sinners.  He comes again in bread and wine so that you can partake in the body which was slain and in the blood that was shed.  Through these, he delivers you from death and decay, and he shall bring you into life everlasting.  For Jesus, our King, lives and reigns; and we shall reign with him.  We long for his coming when we and all creation will cry out:  “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).

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