Acts 4:23-33

Psalm 23

1 John 3:1-2

John 10:11-18

 

 

“The Self-Sacrificing Shepherd”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        Here on Catawba Island we have a Volunteer Firemen force. Any of you can join. In fact I have a recruitment sheet in my office in case any wish to volunteer. They meet every Monday to conduct training, to prep the vehicles and make sure all is in order. If anything was to happen and they are in need they are at the ready. They get no pay, they are not hired hands, but are purely giving up their time and service for the sake of the community. The job they do have the potential of being very dangerous, this they are already aware of, but for the sake of the community they are willing to courageously tackle the danger in order to save those in need. They don’t needlessly give up their lives, but they are willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to preserve the lives of others. They won’t run away, they won’t cower in fear when the rising heat of a treacherous fire rears its ugly face as it attempts to devoir both life and property. And again, they do all this as volunteers.

 

        Do not be mistaken, for I am not disparaging hired firemen, that is not my intention, but what I am doing is pointing out the selfless, the self-sacrificing, service of one who is willing to face danger in order to protect others, no matter who that person may be. They are very much like the Good Shepherd who is Jesus, and not at all like the hired hand who runs away when faced with danger.

 

        So who is the hired hand? They are the ones who say I was hired for a particular thing, only thinking about their self-preservation, to include getting the money needed to put food on the table. When faced with trouble, trouble that might jeopardize their potential to continue receiving money they buckle, they collapse in fear, they run away. They are not invested in the preservation of others. So when the decision between self-preservation and preserving others must be made, they will always choose to preserve themselves. They are not working for the sake of others out of love toward these others; they are not working for the sake of others because they have invested every tear, drop of sweat, and blood into them. There is no sense of belonging or servitude or honor or duty or leadership. They care only for themselves. So when trouble happens, they will avoid such trouble out of selfishness.

 

        The hired hand was hired to take care of the sheep, but that is all. The hired hand doesn’t truly care for the sheep, all they care about is the money involved in caring for the sheep. Thus, when the wolves come will the hired hand lay down his life to protect the sheep or will he run? No sane person would willing give up their life for sheep unless love their sheep so much that they were already willing to give up everything, even life itself, for the Sheep. And this is the Good Shepherd.

 

        The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. He does not work for money, but works for the sheep because the sheep is the source of His joy. The sheep are not His servants, but He is a servant to the sheep. His joy is found in being with the sheep and knowing that His sheep are safe and secure and well fed and at peace. Thus when the wolves comes which jeopardizes the safety of the flock, out of concern for the sheep’s safety, the Good Shepherd fights until the danger to the sheep is no more.

 

        Jesus is our Good Shepherd and we are His sheep, and we know that we can have faith in the security and the peace and the providence that comes from Him alone. We are assured of this because Jesus already died for us. Here’s the thing, a Good Shepherd is willing to die for His sheep; well we know with certainty that Jesus has indeed already lay down His life for the sake of us His flock. For the wolf that came in the middle of the night, coming to rear its terrible head at us defenseless sheep, for by ourselves we are defenseless, was Satan Himself, with the wolf known as sin on his right side and the wolf known as damnation on his left. They came to devour us, but Jesus who is just and righteous stood in front of us and confronted the enemy. He is our defense, our mighty fortress. Well, he took on the old satanic foe, and in battle, he won victoriously. Yet the battle he was involved in had a cost, and that was death itself. Jesus willingly gave up His life to save us. Jesus died. Yet it was through His death that the enemy was conquered. But lest you believe that the enemy won as well by putting Jesus to death, our Lord and savior rose, and is once again at the gateway guarding His sheep, defending us, alive and well.

 

        There may be devilish hordes that fill the land, all threatening to devoir us, but because we know that Jesus will defend us no matter what, is willing to die for us, as we have proof of this, we tremble not, no, but instead unmoved we stand, for they cannot overpower us. In order for them to overpower us, the demons need to first get through Jesus. But Jesus will win. So us sheep can look upon our Good Shepherd with peace of mind knowing that in Him, all is well. Have faith in Christ, and graze in the pasture greens safe and secure from all alarms.

 

        Now there is only one flock and one shepherd. The hired hands are not shepherds, only the Good Shepherd is the shepherd. And there are many sheep out there who are of the shepherd but not in the flock yet. The Good Shepherd is currently searching for these lost little sheep, who suffer the fears of not knowing when they might get attacked and devoured. The Good Shepherd finds them and brings them under fold, into the one and only true flock, defending them from the evil wolves that prowl in the darkness. Now there is only one true flock because there is only one true shepherd. The sheep that are led by hired hands are not a true flock but are being led astray with a false sense of security, for when the wolves descend upon them, their hired hand will run away and the supposed flock will be destroyed. Thus there is only one true flock because only a Good Shepherd will defend the sheep from wolves, and there is only one Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

        Nothing on earth can protect you from the devilish wolves. Nothing on earth can protect you from Hell. No earthly made schemes, no crafty philosophical arguments, no worldly desires or means, no man-made gods, no fake religions or human spirituality, no man-made traditions, no institutions or governmental laws, no good-intentions, no gold or pearls, no possessions, no nothing can protect you except for Jesus Christ alone. This is why Jesus is the one and only Good Shepherd, for only Jesus can protect you from the wolves that will devour you. Only Jesus can give you the reassurance and peace of mind associated with protection. Only Jesus can promise you safety. Why? Because He has already proven it through His death!

 

        All these other precautions that we ourselves hired in order to protect us little sheep cannot hope to win against the wolves, in fact some of these hired hands might be themselves wolves in sheep clothing, or rather shepherd clothing. Believing you are born already good, wolf in shepherd clothing. Believing you are born with the Holy Spirit already within you and thus baptism should wait until after professing faith, wolf in shepherd clothing. Believing in the sanctity that comes from humanity, aka human narcissism, wolf in shepherd clothing. These and many more are misguided beliefs that make us think we are safe and secure, but in all reality protects us the same way a nerf gun would protect you if a tommy gun wielding mafioso invaded your house.

 

        Nothing except for Jesus can protect you. Plus he is not hired; in fact he was our shepherd since the beginning of time, already wielding authority and a willingness of His own accord to give up His life. He did not give it up because some contract was formed. We didn’t demand Him to die for us. We didn’t search for him like some employer and give him a sheet to sign saying that He must serve us. We did not create him, we have no authority over him, we do not force him into servitude. Instead, He who has authority over us, chose to serve us and chose to give himself up for us and chose to die for us and chose to rise again to continually protect us. This is why He and only He is our Good Shepherd, our champion, our Lord, our savior, our Mighty Fortress; this I can say is most certainly true.

 

Let us pray,

 

        Dear Heavenly Father, there are many false gods and things propped up by humans pretending to be protectors scattered throughout the earth. Give us the wisdom to know that all these are worthless when the Devil comes, for against the Devil, we and all these things will surely fail. Instead help us to look towards with peace and faith and joy and hope toward the Good Shepherd who has already defeated the Devil and will continue to fight by our side, protecting us from all the evil that assails us. We pray in your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Acts 4:8-12 

Psalm 139:1-11 

1 John 1:1-2:2 

Luke 24:36-49 

“In His Name” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

You’ve heard the saying, “Through Him all things are  possible.” This is most certainly true, but not in the way many in  our past throughout history have interpreted. For example, many  have said that they are now capable of doing this or that, simply  because they have faith, only to get disappointed when said  things don’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, miracles do happen, but  just because a miracle can happen does not mean a miracle will  happen. That is what is meant when we say that through Him all  things are possible. Miracles are indeed possible because of Him.  For what is a miracle? Anything that defies the Laws of Nature,  quite simply. 

I can already imagine a supposed scientist controlled by the  religion of secularism stating that miracles are impossible and  can’t happen because they defy the Laws of Nature. Such a  statement would cause me to do a face palm and groan in agony  for that is what makes a miracle a miracle. Let me ask you this,  who created the Laws of Nature? God? So the Laws of Nature  are only possible because of God who is the source of their  existence? Is God subject to His creation or are the Laws of  Nature subject to their Creator? Obviously, the latter. Therefore,  because the Laws are subject to God and not the other way 

around could God do something in addition to the Laws? And if  He was to do something in addition to the Laws then would that  not imply that the addition is outside the Law? And if this thing  God did was outside the Law then would that not classify God’s  action as a miracle? Congratulations, miracles are possible, but  only through God. And on top of that, all things that are not  miracles, aka under the Laws of Nature, are de facto possible  through God because He created them. 

One such miracle is the Resurrection. The resurrection of  our Lord and Savior is a miracle, only possible through the  intercession of our Father in Heaven. It is only through Him that  Jesus’ resurrection was possible, for resurrection does not fit in  the natural laws. In fact, resurrection defies the natural laws.  Many have said that Jesus not resurrected, nay born of a virgin  birth, because the such do not follow the Laws of Nature. They  are impossible. Well yah, they are impossible, which is why when  our Lord and Savior was born of a virgin and raised from the dead  following his sacrifice on the cross it was a pretty big deal. But it’s  impossible, such clueless people may insist. Yes, yes, but  through God, in His Name, it is indeed Possible, for in His Name,  all things miracles and natural laws are possible. The mere fact  that Jesus rose from the grave, and He indeed did rose from the  grave, proves that miracles can happen, that God exists, and that  God is above the natural laws which He established. 

It is only through His Name that such things are possible.  Only through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s most Holy  Name, that the chains of the natural forces and the chains of  Satan are broken and miracles and good works become possible. 

We who were once subjects to both Satan and the natural laws  understand this slavery to be true, for under them our capabilities  were limited. Under them there is no hope, no love, no good  works, no freedom, no righteousness, no healing, no faith, no  moving of mountains. But under, with, and through the Name of  Christ, all of us have indeed been set free from this tyranny. In His  Name we do have hope, love, the ability to conduct good works,  freedom, righteousness, healing that surpasses all understanding,  faith, and the right to tell a mountain to move. Again, this does not  mean that these things will indeed happen, but that through Christ  and in His Name alone, they may happen. 

By ourselves, we cannot hope to accomplish any of these  things. We can’t even do one thing void of sin without the help of  God, let alone believe in God. But when His Word enters into our  hearts, He provides us with the faith necessary to truly believe in  God and thus be set free and do all things. This is why we baptize  not in our name or in the name of one of the disciples, but in the  Name of the Triune God, for there is power in His Name. If we do  not say, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son,  and of the Holy Spirit,” then we are not truly baptizing but are  simply getting a poor person needlessly wet. But through both the  water and the Word, when we invoke His most Glorious Name,  then the Spirit enters into the baptized and provides them with the  faith necessary to finally believe in the Triune God. It is in His  Name that we have faith. 

This is why we do not pray to Saints or angels or archangels,  to Mary or the Disciples, to Seraphim or Cherubim, to princes or  Lords, let alone ourselves. We do not pray to them nor in their 

name for none of them, nor our self, have an ounce of power. No,  instead we pray in the Name of our one true King and God,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For true power comes from His  Name, not in these other things. Now the Saints and angels and  archangels do have power, but their power is not their own, for  their power comes from God alone. And because their power  comes from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we do not pray  to them for their power, but to the source of their power who is  also the source of our power. 

This is why when we go out into the world proclaiming the  Good News we do not claim that it is us who converts believers,  but His Name alone which has filled each and every individual  with the faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, who is also now  their Lord and their Savior. It is in His Name alone that Christians  are born. You’ve heard me said in my sermons before how  professing Jesus is Christ is a miracle in of itself? This is because  nothing on earth can open our eyes to the truth. We are born  slaves to Satan and unless the Word enters into us we remain  slaves to Satan. As slaves, the evil tyrant forces us to blindness  which prevents us from seeing reality. By our own powers we  cannot overcome the Devil, but through His name we conquer  Lucifer and are set free, finally capable of expressing the plain  truth, that Jesus is Christ. Again, only through His Name are  miracles possible. Thus it is not us who converts, we have neither  power nor ability to reason faith in anything, but God alone who  speaks through us and through us enter into the hearts of those  who listen to our testimonies and proclamations.

This is why when we convert we proclaim His Name to all  nations, to the old and young, to the blind and deaf, to Gentile and  Jew, to Americans all the way to Europe to South Africa to China  to Australia. All nations and all people are in need of hearing not  our voices and our wisdom and our power but in His Name which  is the Word filled with wisdom and power. 

This is why when miracles do happen such as unexplainable  healings we do not profess that it was the saint who performed  the miracle but Jesus Christ alone. It is in His Name that we heal  and move mountains, and if the world obeys it does so not  because of our commands or faith per se but because of God  who is the source of our authority. So next time a snake charmer  conducts healing and exorcisms know this, their smokes and  mirrors and usage of tricks and deceit are just that, for unless they  invoke the name of God, the true name of God which is and only  is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then their antics are exposed as  fake as the eye can see. Many supposed pastors, aka conmen,  have swindled money off of genuinely worried Christians through  their circus acts. Be wary of them for they have no power. Only  God can perform miracles, thus when such do happen, we don’t  praise the saint but God who is the source of miracles. 

Nothing exists without God, and nothing is possible without  God. Through His Name, all this and so much more is possible.  The Church, Salvation, Heaven, Divine Fellowship, Communion,  Forgiveness of Sins; all this and so much more is only possible  through the Name of God. We who are but a mere creation of  God, subjects to the Laws God has established, are nothing  compared to the might and wisdom and knowledge and goodness 

that comes from God. We pale in comparison, for who can  compare to their Creator? Even if all of Humanity was to gather  together and globalize against God, turning ourselves, humanity,  into God, we would be an ant to God. Yet, though we are but  lowly servants, God does not look down on us. He does not treat  us like how one may treat the ground they walk on, walking all  over it. God looks at us with compassion and grace. He looks out  for us and provides for us. He gives us power and dominion over  the earth. He looks at us lowly servants and even gave himself up  on the cross, acting as a servant to us, all in order to save us. We  are nothing, God is all powerful. We do not deserve grace; God  gave it to us anyways. We do not deserve to be kings; God  anointed us anyways. We have no power; in God’s Name He has  provided us the power to conquer Satan himself. All things are  possible through His Name. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, you are our ever provider and  protector, the source of our existence and the source of our  salvation. Through your Son and the Holy Spirit we know that we  are saved and that the promise of heaven is indeed ours.  Continue to guide us, providing miracles, and the power to  overcome all to include the Devil. We ask you all this in your most  Holy Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 118:1-2, 15-24

1 Corinthians 15:19-28

Mark 16:1-8



“Empty Eggs”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

Today is a most glorious and happy day, for today the doom and gloom of the last several days has been lifted. Gone is the depression of the buried King who was killed on a tree and placed within a tomb, and why? It hasn’t been very long since we last saw Him breath His last breathe. Many, if not most, of us are still mourning. Why should we be happy? What has happened to lift this dreadful weight off of our heavy hearts and slumped shoulders? Why should we be happy? Our Lord, our King, our Savior, our Messiah, is now dead, and our hands at that!

 

Have you not heard? Heard what? There is no need to have such heavy hearts or slumped shoulders, for I bring good news! What is this good News you bring to alleviate me of this ailment of shame and guilt? What good news is so powerful that it can wipe away the tears from cast down eyes and remove the permanent creases in my frowning face? I am tired, I am weary, I am worn. I killed my Savior, if not with my own hands then with my unwillingness to protect Him, to sacrifice myself in lieu of Him. I did nothing, and now He, the Son of Man, Son of God is dead! Why should I be happy?

 

He is no longer dead. He is no longer dead! That is the Good News, the grave no longer has dominion over Him, the deep holds Him no more, He has conquered Death! He is Risen! He is Risen! He is Risen!

 

That is the Good News, no more do you have to look down with eyes full of sorrow for the Lamb who was slaughtered is alive once more! Your King of which you thought was gone is here. Your King of which you killed is no longer dead! And he does not come with vengeance against those who persecuted Him, who wronged Him, who slandered Him, who left Him to die, but with forgiveness and open arms. Did He not say with his dying breath, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing”? So no more do you have to worry; instead rejoice, rejoice in the Lord, not just now but always, again I say rejoice!

 

Walk with joy in your steps, with vigor that causes you to leap. Lift up your heads, lift them high. Your Lord is not in the Ground, so stop looking down. He is here, so look up. And while you are at it cast away those worries and concerns, cast away that frown that mares your face, but know that your Lord is with you for not even death can hold Him. Smile! Leap with joy! Dance with mirth! Be Merry and have fun! Eat together in fellowship and celebration! And above all else, Worship and give Praise, for the tomb that once held our Lord is empty. He is Risen!

 

How is this so...? Does this have something to do with those most curious sayings of His when he said that He would raise the temple up in three days? It must be! For though I did not understand what He meant back then, now it makes sense! He is the temple! Tear this temple down and on the third day He will raise it back up. Is not today the third day? It is! He’s been foretelling this to us all along! How did I not notice? How did I not see? What else did I miss? What about His death? Why did He die?

 

In Scripture, does it not say many times that the Messiah must die, that this servant must give up His life? And does it not say in what manner He was to die? It says so in Psalm 22, Isaiah 52, and 53. And recently, our Teacher told us that the Son was to be lifted up. Does that not mean the cross? It does, but why did He had to die? He died so that through His death He may put to eternal rest the Old Adam, to put to death our sins, but He rises and with Him also rises within us the New Adam and newness of life! All this was foretold, and now we finally see what Scripture and our Lord has been trying to tell us. Christ died for our sake, but Christ is alive for our sake. Christ descended to Hell so we won’t have to, but then Christ ascended, is resurrected, so that we may never be alone.

 

In the days of old it was taught that because God is the God of the Living, upon death we go to Sheol, abandoned by God whose face is not cast on us. This was because God could not have any sin within Him. But through faith in Christ we are not abandoned but are guaranteed eternal life with Christ! How is this so? Here is the great mystery finally revealed. When God came in the form of Christ and died upon that Cross, He took on all of our sin and went to Hell for our sake. Yet Christ is not the God of the dead, but the God of the Living, therefore death has no hold over Him, so in three days, Christ rose from the dead, conquering Hell, and lives eternal. And because He already paid our ransom and went to Hell in our stead, upon our last breathe, through faith in Him, we will not certainly die but live with Christ and all the saints eternally.

 

Yes He died, but wipe away that frown, because He lives and wants you to know, each and every one of you, that he has already forgiven you and wants to walk with you, not as the Lord who died but as the Risen Lord.

 

One tradition we have in the Church that helps us with not only remembering the miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection but also to have a little fun while we remember, a very common Easter tradition, is Easter Eggs. There are multiple “hidden” messages and layers to the meaning behind this tradition. First, is the search for Jesus. He is Risen! Cool… So where is He? Have you ever try to find something and you can’t just figure out where it is, only to realize that you have been looking right at it, plain as the eye can see, the whole time? The same feeling can be used for the search of Jesus. He is here! Where? I do not see Him. Is He under that pew? Is He behind the NALC in the Narthex? Is He hiding in a bush outside? No, but I did hide some eggs there. No, Jesus is not hidden, it is plain as the eye can see that He is indeed Here. But I don’t see Him. Trust me, He is here. On top of that, notice how in all the stories of Jesus after His Resurrection that when many see Him they don’t recognize Him and how it is only when He reveals Himself that the disciples finally see Him. Jesus is not like some tamed animal who comes at your beckoning call and reveals itself when you wish to see it. He is like a free lion who does as He pleases. Who comes and goes as He chooses. He is here, that is most certainly true, but if He wishes to be seen He will reveal Himself. And yes, I just referenced Aslan from Narnia, written by C. S. Lewis, Father of modern Christian Apologetics.

 

Now when you finally do find the eggs what do you do? We gather them up and find the next. Yes, yes, not what I meant, what do you do to that particular egg? You open it up and take out the candy. Exactly! So the egg is now… what? Open? Yes, and? Empty. Exactly! At one point the egg had something in it and on Easter it was opened and became empty. What else was filled and on Easter was opened and empty? The Tomb! These eggs are like the tomb that Jesus was placed in for just like these eggs, on Easter day, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. And upon finding the tomb they saw that it was already opened and Jesus was not in it.

 

Now as a joke I almost decided to do likewise with the eggs, that is hide a lot of plastic eggs that are both cracked open and empty throughout the church. I thought better of it. I mean the message at least would not be lost, just like the three you searched and found an egg that is already opened and empty… don’t you hate it when that happens? You participate in an Easter egg hunt, you see the shiny red color of an egg in the grass, you go to it and upon lifting it up off the grass you find out it is already open and empty. I mean come on. So, out of displeasure, what do you do? You drop it on the ground… only to repeat the process with someone else. So I didn’t hide empty eggs.

 

Yet, here is the thing, whereas we would be disappointed at seeing an empty Easter egg, do you think the disciples were disappointed in finding out that the tomb was empty? Terrified, definitely, but not disappointed, for they were told that Jesus has Risen from the Grave. Why would the disciples be disappointed over that? Terrified? Possibly. Skeptical? Some were. Joyious? In the end, when they realized that Christ has Risen, most definitely. For this much is most certainly true: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen!

 

Let us Pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, you and your Son cannot be conquered by death for you are the source of all Life. You are the Way, the Truth, and Life. Instead you have conquered death and have given us a sign through the glorious resurrection of your Son. That nothing can separate us from your and from your love toward us. You are with us now and forever and just like your Son who was resurrection, we know with certainty that through faith in Him we too cannot be conquered by death, but resurrected too. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Acts 3:13-26

Psalm 148

1 John 5:1-6

John 20:19-31



“You Are Blessed”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

When this day in the church calendar comes so often does many pastors and lay leaders and teachers of the faith rag on Thomas the Doubter; looking down on him as we praise the faith of the other disciples. The contrast is quite sharp. The other disciples see Jesus and proclaim praises for Jesus as they gladly receive Him. Thomas, who wasn’t present, on the other hand did not believe the accounts of his brothers and sisters and said unless He sees the marks of death that Jesus sustained on the cross he would not believe. Very different reactions… or so it appears.

 

When addressing this story at its surface many may look down on the reaction Thomas gave in comparison to the reaction of the other disciples. Pastors may concoct a sermon against doubt, which is all well and good, but do so while disparaging Thomas, painting him a fool of sorts, all the while saying that we should be like the other disciples who did not doubt. Some teachers of the faith may likewise only skim the surface of this story and tell those growing in their faith, whether child or adult, that we should not be like Doubting Thomas who only believes what his eyes can show him, but be like the other disciples who received Jesus with gladness. Parents may use this account as a means for teaching their children the beauty of faith, versus the issues of doubt, especially doubt that requires sight to rectify.

 

These lessons are all very good, in of themselves, but only in regard to the intended end result. Yet, the means to achieve such end results is lacking, for there is much more to the story than what meets the eyes. The saying is true, the ends don’t justify the means. Now I will get to the end result, which I do agree with, but before I do I believe I should first rectify the issue I have with the means, aka the lackluster deep dive into today’s Gospel.

 

Again, many just skim over the surface of today’s Gospel to grab the intended purpose of Jesus’ interaction with Thomas, when He ends by teaching the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.” In doing so they, the pastors and lay leaders and teachers, have wronged Thomas, and they intentionally turned him into a scapegoat, separated from the other disciples, in order to teach a good lesson. Their attack on Thomas is at worst ill-founded and at best laziness, all for the purpose of speedily getting to that final verse in today’s Gospel. It makes me think of a Cat who sees a treat at the end of a hallway that is filled with empty cups. Many of you may recognize this image as I see it quite often on Facebook. Some cats may carefully walk through the cups, knocking down, accidentally, zero to few cups, as they reach the treat. But then you get that one cat who charges through the cups, knocking every cup in his path, you see cups flying in the air, chaos ensues, as the cat races towards his goal, the treat. Another image is one of two people trying to reach a river protected by a field of thorns. The first, carefully proceeds, only getting pricked a couple times as they move around the thorns and moves branched around to form a path. The other, marches through the bramble, head held up high, forcing their way through the thorns as branches get caught in his clothes, only to reach the river in desperate need of new clothes and many band aids.

 

So what do I mean when I say they turn Thomas into a scapegoat, whether it was intentional or not? Did not Jesus show up in the locked room the other disciples were in, out of fear of the Jews who wished to kill them for being Christians and because the tomb which Jesus was in was now empty? The chief priests and Pharisees knew what Jesus meant when He said he was to rise in three days, which was why they had the tomb sealed and guarded. Now the body is gone. Because the tomb was opened and the body disappeared, the Jews who hated Jesus and what He might be started to persecute the Jews who did believe in Jesus. So the Disciples, out of fear of the murderous mob, locked themselves in a room, a room that Jesus shows up in. then, after showing up, did not Jesus show His hands and His side? He did, and it was not until after He did this did the terrified Disciples, again murderous mob of Jews outside, become glad. Jesus just up and showed up and immediately presented His wounds. Of course they are going to believe!

 

But who was not there? Thomas. Thomas got left out of this amazing revelation. He never had a chance to see Jesus, let alone see His wounds. The disciples did, but they didn’t believe until they saw Jesus’ wounds. So of course Thomas felt left out. He is no different than the other disciples. He wants to witness Jesus and see His wounds just like the disciples. Now He made have gone a little too far with his defiant proclamation when he said that unless he touched Jesus’ wounds he would never belief, yet when the day did come when Jesus presented Himself to Thomas, Thomas’ reaction was similar to the Disciples, if not better. For here is the thing, though Thomas felt left out, He wanted to believe. So when Jesus did present Himself to Thomas and dared him to touch his wounds, Thomas didn’t but instead professed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responds with this, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Notice that Jesus is stating that Thomas believed merely because he saw Jesus. Apparently Jesus didn’t need to show his side, and obviously Thomas didn’t need to touch Jesus’ wounds. Thomas believed and professed His belief just like his fellow disciples who only after seeing Jesus and his wounds believed. He is no different, maybe even better than his fellow disciples.

 

In the end, what I am attempting to do is reclaim Thomas’ good name. To not make a scapegoat out of him, but present him as no different than the other disciples. His situation was just unfortunate, for he was not with the other disciples. And had a different disciple been put under the same situation as Thomas, would you think they would act in a similar fashion? So let us reclaim Thomas, and now reclaimed, let us proceed to the message Jesus gave in response to the fact that none of His disciples believed until they saw Him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

This message is about you, all of you, each and every one of you. For whereas all the disciples witnessed Jesus and directly influenced by Jesus, there would come a time when there would be followers who have never met Him, who may have been born after Jesus ascended into Heaven. That day was to come, and those people, the new generation of Christians would not be as privileged as the first disciples who walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, was taught by Jesus, and saw the Resurrected Jesus. Yet, whereas they were not blessed with this privilege, they are most definitely blessed simply because they believed even though they did not see.

 

If everyone initially reacted like Thomas, who was not present when Jesus presented Himself to the disciples, and maintained that mentality then Christianity would have died out before the third generation of Christians. So those who believed are truly blessed, and, de facto, so are you. Why? Because though none of you have seen the physical Jesus and walked with Him nor talked with Him nor ate with Him you still believe and have faith in Him. The mere fact that you have faith in Him though you never seen Him is proof that you are blessed. Blessed with what? Why the Holy Spirit of course.

 

Here is the irony of what I just said, everyone is already like Thomas. We all initially react like Thomas, for it is ingrained in our psyche, our soul, our very fallen fleshly being. It is ingrained to not believe in Jesus Christ. We cannot believe; it is impossible to believe, to have faith. We are born under original sin and it is because of Original Sin, ergo original guilt, that we are born incapable of knowing, let alone loving, God, the true Triune God, thus including Jesus Christ. And on top of that, because of Original Sin, if left to our own devices, we would maintain that very same mentality and thus never become true Christians, members of the Church, Saints through faith in Jesus Christ. Because we are fallen Humans, we will never believe that Jesus is Christ. We are not like the disciples, we never have the luxury to witnessed Jesus. So how could we believe? We can’t. That is the quick and simple, we cannot believe.

 

Yet, through the Holy Spirit, we do believe. When we hear the Words of God, which is Scripture itself, and when we are baptized, which is the literal Word of God alongside water and not just some kind of human-made incantation that acknowledges faith, then and only then are we filled with the Holy Spirit. And it is through and only through the Holy Spirit that we have faith, true faith, not by some human ability, but through the Holy Spirit alone. And through faith, you are blessed, for here is the simple truth, the mere fact that you believe, truly believe, is proof that you have been blessed by the Holy Spirit. Halleluiah!

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, you are the source of the breathe of life which fills us with understanding, wisdom, and truth. Through your breathe, the Holy Spirit invigorates us and brings us to new life, revealing to us the truth that Jesus is Lord of all, our Savior, and our King. Continue to bless us with the gift of the Spirit so that we may never fall into doubt, and help us to spread this gift so that others too may be blessed. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Exodus 12:1-14

Psalm 116:1; 10-19

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Mark 14:12-26



“Maundy Thursday”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

“Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me… This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

 

Today marks the night in which our Lord, Jesus Christ was to be betrayed, taken away from us, leading towards what could only be called a shame trial, suffered humiliation and death on a cross, and eventually sealed within a tomb. The Passion is about to begin, but before it does, and Jesus gave his disciples fair warning just before serving the meal about this betrayal, He wanted to leave them something. This Bread is my body. This Cup of Wine is my blood. Eat and drink this for the forgiveness of sin and in remembrance of Me. Though He died, He left for all of humanity the means of allowing Him to be with us at all times, for though we are in Him through our faith, He is in us through Communion, not just spiritually but also physically.

 

Now previously in the Bible, John 6 to be exact, Jesus mentioned to the Jews that He was the Bread of Life and all who consume Him will live eternally. Of course many of the Jews were horrified by Jesus’ rhetoric and were accusing Him of promoting cannibalism which is against the Law. Jesus then doubles down on the Word, for it says in scripture, “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”’ (John 6:52-58). Even after this, the Jews still grumbled, taking offense at Jesus’ words, and many turned away from Him, but the twelve remained.

 

What is interesting is that history repeats itself, for just as many of the Jews balked at Jesus’ words, during the time of Martin Luther, among the Christian group known as Protestants, there too was balking at Jesus’ words. This can’t be His physical flesh and blood, is must mean a metaphor and we should consume the elements out of just mere remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. This was coming from the Leader of the Protestant movement, Zwingli, Luther’s arch nemesis. So in response to the Protestants, the Augustinian Catholics, led by Luther, professed this: Jesus said that this is His body and blood therefore the bread and wine is His body and blood. End of debate, no point in asking how it is so, Jesus never told us that, instead let us discuss why it is so, which Jesus did tell us.

 

Fast forward to today’s Gospel, Jesus is now blessing the elements of what will be His final meal with them before His death. So He leaves them the reminder that He is the Bread of Life, and gives them a command, a mandate, on this Maundy, this Mandate Thursday. Eat. Drink. And according to Mark, this meal that Jesus blessed was on the first day of Unleavened Bread, that is Passover, which means that this meal was the first Seder, which is Jewish for order. It is commanded that on this Seder, alongside the Passover lamb, the Jews are to ceremonially eat unleavened bread and drink wine. It is this bread and this wine, prepared for the first Seder that Jesus blessed and then provided for us His mandate.

 

And just like the Jews, today we too eat the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may abide in Him and He, the source of all life, in us, but there is so much more to this Sacrament than just mere physical consumption so that He may abide in us. For is not the Holy Spirit attached to the elements of Communion? It is, for Communion is a Sacrament, and the Word is present in the Sacraments, therefore the Holy Spirit is present. Why is that important? What do we say about the Holy Spirit in the Small Catechism? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.”

 

Bread is sustenance necessary for life, without our daily bread, without food, we will die. Likewise, we who are already truly dead, dead in sin, needs the daily Bread of Life in order to be brought back to life from our dead sinfulness and daily retain God within us who is the source of true life. And as we live in sin, our eyes are veiled from the truth, for we are born in original sin incapable of knowing nor loving God. It is through the Word that our eyes are opened to the truth and life is breathed into our lifeless bones and the veil of sin lifted. We cannot believe in God, we cannot have faith in Him, but through the external Word that enters into us through Baptism we are finally capable of belief, yet, how do we retain this belief?

 

Only Christ can truly wipe away all our sins and sanctify us, and because Christ is present in the Eucharist, the remission of sins does indeed come from the bread and the wine, and it is the nourishment of Christ that not only cleanses us and daily sanctifies us but also allows us to retain the knowledge and love of God. Again by our own devices we are incapable of knowing, let alone loving, God; yet through the Holy Spirit we have faith. Over time, because of the buildup of sin and the weight of the world we may get lost in our despair, guilt, and shame; losing our love in God, giving into worldly notions that deceive us about God, and eventually altogether forgetting God. We don’t just consume the body and blood of Christ because we remember Him; we consume His body and blood so that we will continue to remember Him, to live in Him truly as He truly lives in us.

 

And what is it we remember? According to Paul, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Jesus is about to die, but we do not mourn His death, we proclaim it, for through His sacrifice He has provided for us unworthy servants the means of eternal forgiveness and everlasting life. When we celebrate communion, we also proclaim the Lord’s death, and should we not proclaim the Lord’s death as often as we can? Should we not consume this daily bread as often as we can in communion with one another all for the sake of receiving Christ’s forgiveness, His spiritual nourishment, and retention of our faith with remembrance and love toward the Triune God?

 

This is my body. This is my blood. As we consume Communion today let us remember this fact and never forget.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, through your son you have provided for us the means of daily forgiveness and retention of our faith toward you. Encourage us to forget not your promises and to latch on to every gift you provide for us, Word and Sacrament, all for the sake of, above all else, latching on to You. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible Verse of the Day

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