Baptism Has Power!

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The Baptism of Our Lord
Luke 3:21-22


What does baptism look like?  Just a simple ceremony, often it’s held in a church and a pastor pours water over the head of a child or an adult a few times and says a few words, right?  Or perhaps it takes place in a hospital room after a child’s birth and a mother or father scared for the life of their child pours water over the head of their new-born.  And perhaps the doctors stand back for a second while the parents do that, but then they rush in to do the “real” saving work, right?  Such a seemingly mundane or arbitrary ritual am I right?  But don’t be fooled by the what seems to our eyes to be powerless, or mundane, or ordinary.  Baptism has power! Because of Jesus and so Baptism has power for you.


What did the scene of Jesus’ baptism look like?  Well, perhaps a little different that what you and I are used to.  There was John, preaching down on the banks of the Jordan river.  He’s dressed in his camel hair outfit and this strange charismatic figure is calling out to the masses of people, “REPENT! Turn away from your sins your sins and turn back to the Lord!”


These people were coming down to him in droves.  Dozens if not hundreds of people coming to him day by day as John preached and baptized. And each and every one of them was a sinner.  The Gospels tell us there were the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the power-hungry, the greedy – you name it – they were all going out to John.  All were sinners.  Except one.

One who John said, he wasn’t even worthy to stoop down and untie his sandal. And it’s this one sinless one – he comes down to John to be baptized!  The other Gospel accounts tell us John was surprised that Jesus came down!  And no doubt!  Why should Jesus need to be baptized!?

This is why – Jesus didn’t shy away from these droves of sinners coming down to John.  He didn’t hold himself above them, thinking himself better than them.  No, these were the people that he came to save.  As Luke records, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.”

And then as he kneels to pray – heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”


For many of us, that statement, You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased, just brings us back to that initial question that even John the Baptist had, “Why should Jesus be baptized?”  It’s important that we see what’s going on here.

Jesus is identifying with all the sinners who came to John.  Let’s not pass over that too quickly!  Jesus identifies with the sexual immorality and the lust of the prostitutes, the greed of the tax collectors and the self-centeredness of the pharisees.  Jesus identifies with us!  We, who because of our own lusting, greediness, and self-centeredness rightly deserve to be swept off of God’s threshing floor and burned up.  Jesus identifies with those who deserve hell.  Truly, as St. Paul reminds us, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us!

This is what Jesus came to this earth to do.    This baptism was Jesus anointing, the very meaning of the word “Christ” is anointed one.  This was him looking out at the crowds of sinners and saying, “I’ll take the same baptism as the tax-collector, and the prostitute, and the pharisee, and the depressed person, and the greedy business man, and the harsh father or angry mother.”

Then, talk about a display of power, the heavens are torn open.  Heaven, that was once closed to sinners, is opened now again over this man Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one.  Jesus baptism was a mighty display of power.

PT 2: For you


The Father spoke, the Son – in the flesh – stood in the water and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove.

Heaven that was once closed to sinners is now opened wide above this Jesus.  Then the Holy Spirit flies out of it as a dove.  A Dove.  After the flood, the dove was the one that returned with the olive branch, proclaiming peace to Noah’s family.  They had passed through the water and were saved.  In the context of Jesus baptism this makes perfect sense.  That the Son of God passed through the water, in place of the sinner.  Now the baptized child of God needn’t fear the almighty God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It didn’t matter if you were the person in front of Jesus in line, or the person right after him, or you were baptized 2000 years later.  You are connected to him by your baptism.

And so when we hear the those Word’s spoken over Jesus, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased!”  Guess who else that applies to?


See, make no mistake about it, in baptism God makes a promise to you.  Baptism isn’t something that believers do as a rite of passage, it doesn’t mark membership in a church, baptism is not a promise that we make to God.  Because of Jesus, baptism is a powerful promise that God makes to us.

We see this in a similarity between Jesus baptism and our baptism – that it is a powerful act of God and God alone! In his baptism Jesus takes on this role of messiah because we can’t do anything on our own to merit heaven, we can’t on our own call ourselves “children of God,” rather if left to our own devices we end up in hell.  We can’t look up to God and demand that he love us for anything we’ve done, or said, or thought.

In this the infant child or adult are alike!  Neither is able to save themselves by nature.  This is why we are baptized into Christ.  Because he did it for us.  That when the Father looks down from heaven and sees you – in light of his son – he says you are my child whom I love and with you I am well pleased.  This is his declaration, not ours!  And because of that powerful declaration, in baptism the Holy Spirit grants us a powerful peace and comfort.

And what a comfort for us!  When we look back at a life of sin.  When we wonder if we might be really forgiven for the sins of our youth, or the sins of yesterday or this morning.  Remember the Power of your baptism.  God declared you his own child.  If you ever doubt your forgiveness, let that be your prayer “Lord help me remember my baptism, when you promised to save me too!”

What a comfort for parents!  Maybe you worry in prayer incessantly for a teen or young adult that they would remain in the Faith.  Or perhaps your kids are still young and you worry about the world they are growing up in, the temptations they will no doubt face, the trials they will go through or what Satan will throw at them.  Pray boldly as you hold them in your arms or in your heart!  “Lord you promised!  May they remember their baptism and save this one too!”


So, yea, when we see a baptism, it might appear to be something mundane.  The heavens are not ripped open and fireworks don’t start going off.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things to shame the strong.  Don’t be deceived by appearances – your baptism has power!  God the Father has opened heaven to you, because Christ Jesus took our place, and as we remember that – the Holy Spirit grants peace and comfort to the sinner.  God the Father, the Son + and the Holy Spirit keep us and hold us in the powerful promise of our baptism.  Amen.

Eat and Live!

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13th Sunday after Pentecost
John 6:51-58


You are what you eat.  I’m sure that you’ve all heard that before.  It’s very true! Have you ever seen that movie “Super-Size me?”  The guy eats McDonalds for a month straight and his health just goes right down the tube.  This guy willingly ate tons of garbage food, he gained weight, his blood pressure went through the roof, he had troubles sleeping from all the sugar and caffeine.  It’s sad to watch what that guy went through for the sake of “science.”

While, “you are what you eat” clearly applies to our physical health it also applies to our spiritual health as well.  As psalm 42 says, “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you oh, God.”  Our creator has endowed us with an inborn desire to crave him. Our souls need to be fed and nourished otherwise they starve or become malnourished.  If we neglect our spiritual health and let it starve, just like anything else it will wither and die.  Just as we need to eat right physically, so we need to eat right spiritually.  Today, in the Gospel according to John, our Savior tells what to eat.  He says we need the living bread from heaven.  He encourages us to “Eat and Live!”  He tells us that it matters what we eat, and when to eat.  



Jesus gives this bread of life discourse when he’s back in a familiar place, the town of Capernaum.  The same place where he did his first miracle of changing water into wine.  Just prior to this bread of life sermon, Jesus gave the people of that area an object lesson, he fed 5000 with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish.  There the people ate and had their fill!  But when Jesus saw that after that the people were going to make him their new king by force, he left.  Yet, they followed him around the lake, chased him down.  When they caught up to Jesus, he basically said, “You followed me not because you wish to know who I am, but rather you filled your stomach!”


PART I: It Matters what you eat


This whole incident drives Jesus to get the Jews to question what they had been eating spiritually.  Just 2 verses before the text for today, Jesus says, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.”  See, the Jewish religious leaders had been teaching their people for years that when the Messiah came, he would be greater than Moses.  Meaning, he would do signs and wonders that were greater than the ones Moses was permitted by God to perform.  So, when Jesus fed the 5000 they thought, “Well that’s pretty good, but a drop in the bucket compared to the nation of Israel 2 million strong that were fed DAILY when Moses led our ancestors in the desert.”

Yet, as Jesus points out – they died!  Jesus is driving them to look beyond the physical.  He wanted them to stop thinking only ever about their earthly needs, that they had eaten and had their fill when he fed the 5000, that they wanted a leader, a king, who would revive Israel’s armies and drive out the Romans who occupied their land.  This is the sort of thing that their religious leaders and politicians were feeding them – peace, prosperity, a new golden age of Jerusalem – right now.   Christ Jesus offered them something greater.  He wanted them to focus on their spiritual welfare.  In so many words he says, “I am greater than Moses!”  When he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

But they didn’t want to hear it.  This sort of thing was literally disgusting to them.  They were still thinking of the physical when they said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  But then Jesus goes even a step further!  When he says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

Drink his BLOOD?  That thought would have been abhorrent and revolting to them!  Just as it would be revolting and abhorrent if someone told you that! “He wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood – this is what we have to do to eat and live – PREPOSTEROUS!”


On physical level, preposterous indeed! But that’s the point.  Jesus leaves no room to remain thinking about the physical.  He’s directing us to look not at the physical but to the spiritual.  That our greatest need lies not with the flesh and blood that we see with our eyes.  But in the Spiritual, the needs and the hungers of the soul that which we cannot see – yet surely exist.

I think Christians are tempted in the same way, to seek after answers for their “best life now.”  It’s almost inevitable for Christians in America at least.  Our lives are pretty cushy.  We have homes, cars, and the nearest meal is a microwave away.  Most of the technology out there today is based around creature comforts.  Not that I’m even necessarily opposed to those things, many of them are extremely helpful to us – even in the case of Gospel ministry.  However, to maintain that standard of living the world around us is driven by a desire to take in knowledge.  All that we might improve our lives right now, that we might be comfortable and well fed right now.  Our culture worships the physical.  It worships things that seem imperishable.  I mean that’s pretty obvious when we have a culture that worships youth.  And that is an easy thing to get caught up in, it’s sweet and it tastes good, but it’s spiritual junk food.  Because reality tastes quite bitter.  Who isn’t afraid of dying, who isn’t afraid of that box in the ground six feet down, who doesn’t want to live forever?

But this is what Jesus answers here isn’t it!  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 

Jesus is the bread of life, the genuine article! He said, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  He implores us to make him a part of us, so then to eat, is to believe. Believe that he is who he says he is, God made manifest, the Savior, the one sent to take away our sins and remove the power of death.  This is what he wanted those Jews of his day to see, and this is what he wants us to see. He is far better than manna from heaven, that satisfies for a day but then leaves a person hungry again.  This bread from heaven was given for the life of the world.

PART II: When we eat


When Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  This is not altogether different than what he had preached and taught on various other occasions.  It’s similar to what he told the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  It’s reminiscent of when Jesus tells his disciples that he is the vine and they are the branches – if they remain in him he remains in them.

For the Jews who heard Jesus on that day, Jesus illustrates the idea of “remaining” in him in a unique way.  As St. John recalled this bread of life discourse, and wrote it down, the word that he chose for “eat” is rather graphic.  It’s not like “eat a light snack.”  Literally, the word that John chooses here is gnaw.  Chew on continuously, like a dog gnawing on a bone!  He wanted them to ponder him, to follow him, to listen to his words daily, to grow in their knowledge of who he was.


It’s really for that reason that this bread of life discourse isn’t expressly talking about holy communion.  Sadly, we know that there are some who partake of the Lord’s Supper and take it not to their benefit, but to their condemnation as Paul says in Corinthians.  Jesus is talking about a continuous eating – like the psalm talked about – a tree planted by a stream of water whose leaves don’t wither or fade.

Jesus wants us to come to him continually and often.  Part of the reason that Jesus uses such extreme language here – eating flesh, drinking blood, gnawing on him – is because this is a matter of spiritual life and death.

One of you, just the other day was telling me that you were talking to someone about their lack of regular church attendance.  The phrase that was used was, “If you don’t water the grass, it’s going to die.”  How true that is!  The believer plants his or her self in the Word.  We feed on the Word of Jesus.  We have an everlasting source of spiritual nourishment, this living bread from heaven.  This is what coming to church is all about.  It’s about feeding our souls.

I’m reminded of a lady that I used to visit while she was in hospice care.  I remember her telling me that she had many regrets about how she’d spent her time in life, as a mom, a wife, even as a daughter.  But one thing she said she never regretted, even on her death bed as she looked back on her life, was bringing her children, her family to church with her.  Even when she felt it would be too hard to come that Sunday for whatever reason.  Even when she thought that she probably didn’t need to go that week – she realized that when she got there that she needed it more than ever.  Her soul was starved during the week.  Spiritually her strength was sapped and she needed to come to the bread of life.

At the end of the day, that is what church is about.  It’s not all the meetings, activities and programs.  It’s regularly sitting at the feet of our Savior Jesus and feeding on his Word.  Meditating and believing on that message that his flesh, and his blood were given and poured out for us, for the forgiveness of all of our sins.  And his flesh and blood rose again!  Proving that he was LIFE, the main ingredient in him was eternal life.


This is why as Christians we eat this bread often because even as this mortal shell fails, even when all the food and drink in the world would avail us nothing and we have hours to live; not even the bitter taste of death can take away the effects of eating this bread.  The Gospel is the bread of life, given to us that we might have eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Remember you are what you eat – so eat and live!  Amen.

See Our Covenant God!

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10th Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 24:3-11


Infamous Atheist and author of the book “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins; is quoted in that book as saying this: “Yahweh: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Perhaps you’ve had friends or family members who’ve made similar remarks about God in the OT?  Perhaps we’ve even wondered at the God that we see in the OT from time to time.  Perhaps we’ve wondered why the OT seems to be so violent or why the OT seems to have so much blood in it.  I know I have.  Even in the text for today, we hear of those young bulls being sacrificed.  And if you let your mind ponder the logistics of that – it can make your stomach turn.  Indeed, there is a lot of blood in the OT!  Indeed, worship in in general in the OT was an altogether noisy, somewhat terrifying, possibly traumatic and bloody affair.  At times, for many of us it is difficult to see a connection between the Lord in the NT and the Lord in the OT –

In the Word of God from Exodus this week, the Holy Spirit helps us to clearly see that connection.  He helps us to see the heart of God, our immovable, unchanging from everlasting to everlasting covenant God.  In this text from the OT We clearly see our same covenant God: by his Word and by the Sacrament.



Anyway, speaking of terrifying, shocking traumatic things… If you were an Israelite standing there in that mass of humanity 2 million strong, camped out before Mt. Sinai, what you and your neighbors saw would’ve made you break out in a sweat and divert your eyes, and cower down in fear.  The mountain was covered in fire, thunder, lightening and smoke and the ground shook.  If God were to open his mouth to speak you knew for sure that the whole of Israel would wither and die right there at the foot of that mountain. This was the almighty. The hand of God, the creator of the universe himself resting his presence upon that mountain – of that there was no doubt.

Part I: By His Word


Why did the Lord give the Israelites such a terrifying display?  Why would he appear horrible, wrathful, and angry?  Why would he be unapproachable, save by one man, Moses? This hardly seems like the covenant God of free and faithful grace!  Why didn’t God just take them as they were and love them as they were?

It’s because the Israelites had no inkling, no bearing on what it meant to be the chosen people of a Holy God.  They were mortal, he was not.  They were fickle, he was not.  They were sinful, and he was not.  By nature, sinful mankind has no business approaching a perfect and holy God.

God was showing them his wrath and anger at sin.  They needed this terrifying display lest they think that there was some way to approach him on their own worth or merit.

Yet, God is driven by an insatiable love.  A love that has ever sought to overcome that massive divide between sin and holiness.  Enter the Covenant – that binding agreement to allow the LORD almighty to dwell with his people.  And where does it all start?  It begins with his promise, his Word to his people.

Moses returns from speaking to the Lord and, Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

Oh, the Word of God was precious to them!  Now they had it!  In written form!  Something they could look at, and reference and marvel at!  That almighty God would go to them!  And give them his Word, a document that told them what it meant for them to be his people, that they were to be special, different – a chosen nation a people set apart!

Just in the face of such a wonder that formerly terrified mass of humanity responded in “one voice!”  “Everything the Lord has said we will do!”


Do you see God here, our God of the Covenant?  A God that has chosen to deal with his people by his Word.  A Word that endures, and does not change.  Evidence of that is just the simple fact that I’m preaching from this text today.  These words have existed since they day that they were written down at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  It has survived attacks and those who sought to destroy it.  Because it is the very Word of that Almighty God, creator of heaven and Earth – the Holy Covenant God who appeared in fire and smoke and thunder.

The fact that God has given his Word to us, should fill us with a holy awe, just as it did the Israelites!  The wonder of having it makes a believer want to respond in the same way Israel did, “We will do everything the Lord has said!”

But do we?  Did they? No.  We know even after this Israel turned away time and time again from the true God and we’re no different.  Even when that Word has told us of how good God has been to us and Lord has lead us through wildernesses of our own.  Even when it shows us what it means to be called God’s people.  Every time we sin, we raise our fist in rebellion to God and his Word.  Saying, “God I know your word says otherwise, but I’m going to do what I want to do!  I’ll continue to be the person I want to be, live how I want to live, keep my comfortable pet sins and how dare you tell me otherwise.”

But friends, this is the truly amazing thing.  God knows we are like this, he knows that by nature we are divided from him. That as our sinful selves, we are in no way able to ascend the mountain of the Lord. But just as in the Old Testament, Our God is still and always will be driven by his love for us.  His one great desire is to draw us to himself and bridge that great chasm that divides sin and holiness.  That is why he gives us his Word, it is to remind us of the promise, the Covenant that he has made with us.


Part II: By the Sacrament


Were it not for this Covenant that God had made with his people, he rightly should forget about them in the wilderness that they are in.  But this is not just a Covenant made as a light agreement and a hand shake – a thing to be easily thrown aside.  It is a covenant that is sealed in blood.  See this transaction, this Covenant that the Lord made with his people there at the foot of Mt. Sinai was unique.  It set the pattern for what was to be the Old Testament Sacrament.  With Moses building the altar, and setting up the stones to represent Israel, the sacrificing of the young bulls and throwing half the blood on the altar and then the rest on the people – Israel was formally set apart as the people of God.

The New Testament writer to the Hebrews helps us in understanding the sacramental nature of this Covenant. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[e]21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

That is really the chief characteristic of a sacrament.  A thing that is connected with God’s Word and reminds the sinner of God’s grace.  And oh was there forgiveness, and oh was there grace and it was plain to see.  After the covenant was sealed in blood, and the sacrifices made: Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

These men, these sinful men, the representatives of all Israel go up with Moses, and they no longer see the fire, lightening, or hear the thunder and the ground shake as sinful men tread upon holy ground.  No, they see the definition of tranquility.  Pavement of sapphire blue and peaceful.  This is where they ate.  They ate a meal there in the presence of God.  Talk about a foreshadowing!  This extends beyond foreshadowing the promised Savior!  This is the wedding feast of the Lamb!  The peace and glory, at the end, with a new heaven and a new earth, when sin has been destroyed and man can dwell in the presence of a holy, eternal and righteous God.


Brothers and Sisters, it is really this covenant that we are reminded of every single Sunday.  We are reminded that without the shedding of blood that there is no forgiveness!  We really are reminded of a worse thing than a mountain smoking with fire and wrath.  But we see the blood of an innocent shed for the lives of the guilty.  We see an angry God who poured out all his hatred for sin, my sins and yours, on his very own son.  That God made one who had no sin at all to literally be sin for us.  He punished one who was full of love for our lack of it.  He shed the blood of one who never had an impure thought as though he were guilty for every single one of ours.

But as Jesus said on the night he was betrayed, that blood, his blood, was the blood of the new covenant poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  It is that covenant, that we are reminded of every time we put the wafer on our tongues and the cup to our lips.  That just as the elders of Israel ate that fellowship offering on the mountain and communed with holy God, we do the same exact thing.  We can literally taste the forgiveness that God has for us.  The sacrament really is a foretaste of the wedding banquet in heaven.

The sacrament of the altar reminds us that when someone else shuts our eyes in death, we will open them on our own to see that same tranquility, that same peace that the elders of Israel saw.  The savior, the God of the Covenant on streets of sapphire blue and clear and pure as the sky.  Where sin is gone, there is no pain or fear or tears.



A service of Word and Sacrament.  Sound familiar?  I believe that’s the order of service we are following today.  I also believe that is the order of service that Moses and the Israelites followed at the base of Mt. Sinai.  These are the things by which we see our Covenant God.  A God whose always sought to bridge that gap between sinfulness and holiness. Our Covenant God who shed blood, indeed his very own blood that we might be at peace with him and that we can depart, when we depart this life in peace.  Amen.

Your Triune God’s Baptismal Treasure

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Baptism of our Lord
Mark 1:4-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, a new TV show aired in the United States in 1997 on PBS. It was called the Antique Roadshow. In fact, the show is still running. What happens in it is that it travels around to different cities in the United States where people are invited to bring in various old antiques that they have lying around in their home. They bring them in and share a little about what they know about this item, perhaps it was handed down in their family from several generations, it’s been gathering dust in their attic, and they wanted to know a little bit about this thing. Then there’s an antique expert who talks about the history of the item, where it was from, who made it, etc. And then, typically, the expert will ask the person how much he or she thinks that this item is worth. Then the expert shares what they figure it would sell for at an auction. Sometimes the antique is worth an extraordinary amount and the owner is shocked that this thing that’s been sitting in their attic collecting dust is the most valuable possession that they own.

But did you know that you have such a treasure, such a gem, such a pearl, such a prize? It’s a treasure that can so easily be forgotten about, left collecting dust in the attic of our minds, left rather unappreciated as we go about our day-to-day lives. We’re celebrating, today, the Baptism of our Lord. This gives us not only the opportunity to review what a treasure Jesus’ baptism was for us, but also what a treasure our baptism is for us. Just like the Triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – was involved in Jesus’ baptism, so also the Triune God was involved in your baptism.

When Jesus was about 30 years old he went from the town where he grew up, Nazareth in Galilee, to John the Baptist who was baptizing in the Jordan River. Now, perhaps one of the first questions that comes to our minds when we consider the baptism of Jesus is, “Why was Jesus baptized?” I mean, we’ve gone over this morning part of the meaning of baptism for us. We were born sinful, we were born with sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, we were born dead in our sins and enemies of God. We needed to be reborn, we needed the forgiveness of sins in baptism. But Jesus didn’t. Jesus was the lamb without blemish or defect, Jesus had no sin, Jesus was born sinless and remained sinless his whole life. Why should he be baptized? In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist tried to deter Jesus, “I should be baptized by you, and you come to me?” He understood. So, why should Jesus be baptized?

Well, in order to understand Jesus’ baptism, let’s look to what the Triune God did at Jesus’ baptism. First of all Jesus is there. Jesus willingly went to the Jordan River to be baptized. By being baptized Jesus was officially beginning his work of redemption. Yes, Jesus was perfect from conception, yes, Jesus was carrying out our salvation every second from his birth to his death and resurrection, but here Jesus is showing us what that work means. He comes as our substitute in order to save us. Jesus receives the same baptism as tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners, like you and me. Jesus not only had to live a perfect life for us, but he also had to receive the punishment for our sins. Jesus identification with sinners began at his baptism and would end with his treatment as a sinner on the cross, when God would let all of his anger and wrath for sins fall on Jesus. Jesus’ baptism marked him for his work as our substitute.

But the Holy Spirit was also present. “He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” In the OT God foretold that the Messiah would be the “anointed One.” In fact, that’s what Messiah and Christ means. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism. In the OT, prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed. Someone would take some kind of canister of oil and pour it over a person’s head, this act designated them as either a prophet, priest, or king. When Jesus was baptized He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. He came as the Prophet to tell us about God, as a Priest to offer himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, and as the King to defeat our true enemies – sin, death, and Satan on the cross.

And finally we’re told that the Father was present too. “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” God the Father announces to all that He is pleased with the work that the Son has come to do on behalf of sinners. He is pleased with His Son who came to rescue sinful, fallen humans, like you and me.

What a treasure Jesus’ baptism was for us! But that’s not it! Not only was Jesus baptized with us but He has joined himself to us through the baptism he has given to us. And we see this blessing of this same Triune God in our baptism.

But again, is this a treasure that we’ve left to collect dust in the attic? For many of us our baptism was such a long time ago, maybe when we were very little babies, we have no recollection of it, it didn’t look like a whole lot- a few drops of water, a few words spoken. On the outside it looks rather simple, rather mundane, rather obscure, rather unimpressive. It’s easy to brush past it as not that important. Or, maybe we forget what our baptism means for us every day of our lives. Our sinful nature attacks us, Satan tempts us, and it can be so easy for us to forget what our baptism made us and has done for us and we give in as if we couldn’t say no to temptation and sin.

Well, let’s take this treasure of baptism, dust it off, and be reminded once again of what a treasure it really is. The Triune God was involved in your baptism. You were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of them was involved.

First, the Son, Jesus. Did you know that when you were baptized you were connected to Jesus? Jesus’ baptism marked him as the substitute for sinners who came to do in every way what you and I were supposed to do perfectly. And not only that, but Jesus came to receive in Himself the punishment for sin that was properly to be ours. He did that with his death on the cross. What baptism does is it intimately connects the person who is baptized to Jesus. The Bible puts it this way, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too may live a new life.” And also “All of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” In other words, through baptism, you were connected to Jesus; everything that Jesus was and did becomes personally yours.

Second, the Holy Spirit was involved in your baptism. We’re told that through baptism a person receives the “gift of the Holy Spirit.” We’re also told that baptism is a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit and that the way to enter the kingdom of God is being born of water and the Spirit. In other words, when you were baptized God the Holy Spirit entered your heart, your soul. He worked faith in your heart to believe in Jesus.

And finally, God the Father was also involved in your baptism. The way God brings children into this world is amazing. God chooses to use a father and a mother. God’s family plan is that that father and mother care for and nurture and feed and protect that child. It’s also God’s intention that the father and mother not only provide for the physical well-being of that child but also the spiritual. Providing for the spiritual needs of a child first means bringing that child to the baptismal font where the child is adopted into a new family. Because of sin we’re born dead, we’re born enemies of God, and outside of his family. Through the gracious waters of baptism God adopts a person into His eternal family. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit so that having been justified by His grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.

Because of the work of Jesus as your substitute and Savior, because of the work of the Holy Spirit working faith in your heart through baptism, God the Father looks at you and can say about you exactly what he said about Jesus: “You are my son, my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

You know what that means? That means that you have a treasure worth infinitely more than any treasure discovered on the Antiques Roadshow. In fact, you have a treasure worth infinitely more than any treasure in your house. In fact, you have a treasure worth infinitely more than all the treasures in the world combined. Why so? Because through your baptism you have the forgiveness of sins, through your baptism you’re a child of God, through your baptism you have been freed from sins shackles so you can live a new life- not enslaved to sin- you can make changes, through your baptism you have a treasure in heaven that will never perish, spoil, or fade, no matter what! Amen.



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5th Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 6:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

I like to fish. We didn’t fish much when I was growing up, but I’d say that since I’ve lived here in Bemidji for the last 6 years, I’ve fished probably ten times more in the last 6 years than I did in the previous 26 years combined. Last weekend we had some relatives visiting so we went fishing a couple of times and actually caught a few nice fish. We brought them home and cleaned them. So, afterward we were left with some nice fish filets and the unusable fish remnants. What do you do? The filets go in the fridge or freezer, but what about the rest of the fish? I’ve heard they make nice compost and since we have a garden I just threw the fish remnants in our compost bin. That was a mistake. Warm weather plus rotting fish doesn’t make a very nice smell, nor does it help reduce the fly population. Apparently, what I should have done, is bury the fish remnants in the ground. You see, that way, they’re gone, the stench is gone, the flies don’t find them, they’re gone. That’s the power in burial. We bury dead things, right?

The word that we’re focusing on this week is “buried.” You see each of us needed to be buried. We don’t like to hear this, but each of us was far worse than dead, rotting, stinking, fly-infested fish entrails. Remember how God describes our original state born into this world? We’re born dead in sins, hostile to God, enemies of God, we hated God, didn’t want anything to do with God, we were born into this world spiritually lost in our sins and condemned to eternal death. That is who we were. And God would have been perfectly fair, perfectly just, perfectly right in burying us in hell- out of his presence forever. I mean, you wouldn’t put a partially rotted, fly-infested dead fish on your kitchen counter, would you? Why should God do anything else rather than be done with us and our sinfulness forever?

But what did God do? He did the unthinkable. We’ve talked through it each week so far in this series: He atoned for our sins making us at one with him again, He reconciled us to himself changing our relationship from enemies to His own dear children, He clothed us with a perfect righteousness. How so? He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to live the sinless and perfect life in place of all people, to die on the cross for each and every sin, and to rise from the dead as proof of the world’s forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation have been won for all people. And God gives it as an absolutely and totally free gift.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone enjoys the eternal benefits of God’s saving work in Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Through faith I receive all the blessings God freely won for me in Jesus. How does God work faith? He works faith through the gospel. The gospel in Word when we hear in the Bible of God’s saving work. And the gospel in the sacraments. In the sacrament of Baptism, through water and the Word, God writes His name on that person, washes away all their sins, adopts them into His own family, clothes them with Jesus’ perfect robe of righteousness, and makes them an heir of eternal life.

In fact, describing the blessings of baptism Martin Luther wrote in the Large Catechism: “In short, the blessings of baptism are so boundless that if our timid nature considers them, it may well doubt whether they could all be true. Suppose there were a physician who had so much skill that people would not die, or even though they died would afterward live eternally. Just think how the world would snow and rain money upon such a person! Because of the throng of rich people crowding around, no one else would be able to get near. Now, here in baptism there is brought, free of charge, to every person’s door just such a treasure and medicine that swallows up death and keeps all people alive.” What a blessing to treasure!

But now, here’s the question: If God has saved us totally by His grace, freely, there’s nothing I have to do or can do, why not live any way that I want? Why live any differently than before? Why change? Why fight against sin? Or the Satanic thought will enter our minds, “God forgives me anyway, I’ll just do this sin or that sin, it’s not really a big deal.” “I’m just an angry person, that’s who I am, I can’t change.” “That’s just the kind of language I use, that’s who I am, I can’t change.” “My wife should have known that’s who I am, even though this causes huge problems in our marriage, that’s who I am, I’m not changing.” “I know I have this pet sin, I’ve tried to stop, I can’t, it’s no use, I can’t change.” What sins are you struggling with? What temptations do you continue to give in to? Which lies of Satan do you continue to believe? What rotting, stinking, maggot-filled fish are you carrying around with you?

See what God says: “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” And then God brings in baptism: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” You see, your baptism intimately connected you, united you to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Everything that Jesus accomplished is now yours. Think of it like this: a person becomes rich, how so? Through his or her own ingenuity, diligence, and effort. This rich individual then gets married. How does all that wealth then become the new spouse’s? By grace. By simply being married that person now has an equal share in all the wealth of the other. That’s what baptism did. Through your baptism you were intimately connected to Jesus. His death became your death to sin, His burial became your burial where your sins were left in the grave, His resurrection to new life became your resurrection to a new life.

Jesus came once to suffer for sins. The only reason people could lay their hands on Jesus while on earth was because He came to deal with our sins, He came to die for our sins, but now that our sins have been paid in full, now that Jesus has risen from the dead, Jesus has nothing to do with sin anymore. No one can harm Jesus any more, no one can lay their hands on him anymore, when Jesus returns in glory no one will be able to touch Him or put Him to death. He’s done with sins. That means we’re also done with sins, we’re dead to sin. “Our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

Yes, we carry around with us a sinful nature. Yes, we have an old sinful self that clings to us and tries to bring us down into sin every day. But that sinful nature was drowned and buried in the waters of our baptism. And even though it springs to life every day because of what God has done for us in baptism we have the power to say, “No” to sin. We have the power in Christ to change hurtful, wrong, sinful behaviors. We have the power to bury the dead fish and be done with it. We are no longer slaves to sin. Our sinful flesh, the world around us, and Satan himself have lost their tyrannical power over our lives. How so? You were baptized, buried with Jesus in death and united with Him in resurrection.  You have the power to live a new and holy life.

One of the awesome pictures of baptism that God gives us compares baptism to a wedding. In Ephesians 5 God tells us how a husband is to love his wife and this is what God says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Whenever I read that passage I think about my own wedding day when Katie and I were married. On that day I didn’t see Katie at all until she was walking down the aisle with her dad. I have this image burned into my mind of that moment. I was standing up front and I saw her, my bride, decked out in a beautiful white wedding dress, hair done just right, make up on, no blemish, no wrinkle, no stain. And I remember thinking, “That’s my bride!” It took my breath away. Jesus says that He’s that bridegroom in front of church and you’re his bride. He washed you clean with His own blood shed on the cross, in the washing with water through the Word in your baptism He made you His, holy, blameless, without stain or wrinkle or any kind of blemish. He says, “You take my breath away.”

Now, would that bride, beautiful, no wrinkle, stain, or blemish on her wedding day, decide to go and clean out the pig pen and roll around in the filth and dirt and manure? No way! Just so, we who have been baptized into Christ, clothed with His garments of perfection, do we really want to roll around in sin, in selfishness, bitterness, jealousy, anger, envy, hatred, giving into sinful lusts and passions? No way! That’s not who we are! We’ve buried that stench in our baptisms!

This week, every morning when you wake up, remember what happened at your baptism. You were buried with Christ in the tomb, your sinful nature was drowned, although temptations may come, sin has no power over you, you can live a new life, washed, cleansed, and forgiven. So, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Amen.

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Amen (Titus 3:5, 7)

“No greater jewel, therefore, can adorn our body and soul than baptism, for through it we become completely holy and blessed, which no other kind of life and no work on earth can acquire.” (Luther)

The Blood of the Covenant


Maundy Thursday 2016
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, friends in Christ, what is a “covenant”? That term is used all over Scripture, but it’s not something that we use a whole lot in our day to day lives, right? Perhaps we could think of a covenant as being something like a two sided contract that determines a relationship between two parties. We do have contracts in our society. If you contract someone to build a house for you, what you are saying is that you will pay a certain amount of money and the contractor will purchase the materials and hire the workers to build your home. So, in the end you get a home and they get money. It’s a two sided covenant. What about a one-sided covenant? Perhaps the closest thing in our world to a one-sided covenant is an infant child. The mom goes through a lot of pain to give the child birth, feed the child, nourish the child, protect the child, take care of the child and often at a lot of work and expense. What does the child offer the parent? The child isn’t going to offer emotional support, financial support, physical support. In a way it’s a one sided covenant because even in our society it’s still viewed as a deplorable crime for a parent to neglect or abandon an infant child.

Now, in Scripture there’s all kinds of “covenants.” There are covenants between two parties of people, there are two sided covenants between people and God – where both have a responsibility, and there’s unilateral or one-sided covenant where God promises something despite the action or non-action of people. It’s such a new covenant that God is promising in this text. But first we have to understand the old covenant.

One of the most important covenants was the covenant God made at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites- this covenant described how God was going to interact with his old covenant people. After God had wondrously led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt they assembled at Mt. Sinai and God made a covenant with them. It was a conditional covenant – He would be their God, their Protector, He would guarantee a great future for them- the condition was that the Israelites would remain faithful and totally consecrated to Him and live by all His commands. In a way, God treated them like children- he spelled everything out for them. And to ratify this Sinai covenant Moses took blood from young bulls and half of it he sprinkled on the altar offering it to God, the other half he sprinkled onto the bodies of the people (Exodus 24). That ratified this old covenant.

But this conditional Old Covenant was always meant to be temporary. They had to repeat all these offerings and sacrifices over and over again. It was also meant to keep the OT people separate and distinct from all other nations until the promised Savior would come. It also, in a way, showed that it was impossible to earn God’s love by obedience. There was just almost this impossible list of rules, regulations, laws, and commands. Imagine living as an Old Testament believer- almost every aspect of your life was regulated from the food you ate to contact with dead bodies to how to clean mold or mildew!

Now, we have to keep in mind that the way of salvation, however, is exactly the same in both the old covenant and the new. In the OT a person was saved exactly like a person is saved today: through faith in Christ. It’s just that the OT person looked ahead to the Savior, while the NT person looks back to the Savior who has come. But God understood the human weaknesses and tendencies to sin, so in the old covenant, in the old way that God interacted with people, He provided a ton of pictures for people of what forgiveness looks like. They had all these sacrifices and offerings which pointed ahead to a future sacrifice and offering and assured repentant sinners that they were forgiven by God.

So, the Old Covenant was: obey me, keep my commands and laws, and God will protect you and you’ll live long in the land. But the people broke God’s covenant with them. Instead of sacrificing to God, they sacrificed to idols and false gods, they abandoned God, didn’t keep His commands. That’s what was happening at the time of Jeremiah –and because they broke the Old conditional covenant- the people were on the verge of experiencing the most severe covenant curse – their land was about to be destroyed and they were about to be hauled into captivity in Babylon.

So, in the midst of all of this, God promises a “new covenant.” A different covenant, a new way He is going to interact with His people. It is not conditional, it is unconditional and unilateral. It is an unconditional promise of God to the unfaithful Israelites.

We live in the new covenant. But do we sometimes think that church, religion, the Bible is all about following rules and laws? There are two pitfalls we can fall into. On the one side we could view God’s moral laws as burdensome- “Ugh, all this stuff about sexual immorality, coveting, honoring God by hearing His Word – it’s burdensome! Why can’t I just do what I want?” Or, on the other hand we could view keeping God’s moral laws as a way to deserve God’s blessings, like “As long as I do this, as long as I go to church, as long as I’m good, God will have to reward me and give me the things in life I really want.” But both are wrong.

You see, the new covenant is totally different. He’s going to put His law in our minds and write it on our hearts. What does that mean? This is a different covenant. It’s not about outward obedience but heart transformation. There are no rules, or laws, or commands that have to be kept. It’s about the heart, trust, believing. The center of this new covenant is “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  When did that happen? It happened when Christ offered the one sacrifice that really matters. He offered the once-for-all sacrifice that pleases God and removes sin and guilt. His blood shed on the cross removes sin forever. The new covenant announces salvation that is complete, finished, and above all, free through Christ. The new covenant is forgiveness of sins.

In baptism God seals this new covenant to us because in it He gives us the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins and the faith to believe it. In baptism we hear this promise of God, “I forgive your wickedness and remember your sins no more.” But that’s not it! In further grace God shares the meal of the new covenant with us in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies, seals this covenant of forgiveness with us. In the old covenant blood of bulls was sprinkled as an offering on the altar of God, in the new covenant Jesus sheds his blood on the altar of the cross, in the old covenant blood was sprinkled on the bodies of the people, in the new covenant God gives us his own body and blood personally in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies this new covenant, He removes any doubts about His love for us, He comes to each of us personally to touch it, taste it, hear it, see it that we belong to him, we are one with him, all that is his is ours. When we receive the Lord’s Supper it’s a special assurance that we are the recipients of this new covenant- In the Lord’s Supper you receive the blessings of the New Covenant- the forgiveness of your sins. His lifeblood is our life.

In the new covenant God deals with us differently than in the old. Now God doesn’t have to beat you and tell you- now here are all the rules and laws you have to follow. Rather, God tells you what He’s done to save you and rescue you, so eternal life is yours. You know what that does? It sinks deep inside of you, in the Supper He gives you His own body and blood in a supernatural way with the bread the wine, and you literally cannot help but live a new life, a life of love! The new “law” is to live a life of love. And you want to! It’s not from a heart that’s enslaved but a heart that’s been set free, a heart that’s been forgiven.

So as you receive the Lord’s Supper this evening, receive forgiveness, receive the blood of the covenant, Jesus’ body and blood together with bread and wine that unites you with Jesus and transforms your heart to a live a life of love and service to God and others.

God gives you…Himself!

8th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Corinthians 10 and 11

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Jack Wurm was walking along the shore of a beach on the California Coast. He was thinking about his life and all of his troubles and was almost penniless. When something caught his eye. It was a bottle with a letter rolled up inside of it. Intrigued, he smashed the bottle and read the note, it read: “I Daisy Alexander do hereby will my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this note and to my attorney Barry Cohen. Share and share alike.” At first he was about to throw the note away as nonsense, but he folded it up and stuck in his coat. Sometime later he asked a friend who was a lawyer about the note. He was afraid people would think him to be a fool if he actually believed it and looked into it. But his friend said, “You’d be a bigger fool if you don’t check it out.” He did investigate it, it took him to the highest courts of the US, the evidence showed clearly that this Daisy Alexander was real, that she lived in London, and was an heiress of the Singer sewing fortune. She had made a separate will put it in a bottle and dropped it in the Thames river. It took 11.5 years but ended up in the place where Jack Wurm found it. He inherited 6 million dollars and $80,000 per year of company stock. Jack could have thrown the message away, rejected it as foolish, and remained a relatively poor man. But since he sought the evidence and investigated the matter, that which first appeared foolish turned out to be a remarkable reality and a great reward.

Now that story is probably nothing more than an urban legend and not really true, but it does illustrate a valid point: That which might first appear foolish can with some investigation turn out to be a remarkable reality and a great reward. And how fitting that is when we think about the Lord’s Supper and what the Lord’s Supper really is. Usually twice a month here at St. Mark’s we set aside a portion of our Sunday morning worship service where everyone who has had opportunity to learn what we believe and teach at St. Mark’s and has confessed their unity in faith with us by officially joining our congregation comes forward and receives a little wafer of bread and a sip of wine. On the outward appearance it may look so foolish- why use up so much time? Why eat and drink when it doesn’t come close to satisfying physical hunger or thirst? It seems so silly and foolish. And yet, if we don’t investigate what this exactly is, not only will we be bigger fools, but we’ll also miss out on a remarkable reality and a rich reward.

We can tell very clearly from the gospel account of Jesus’ institution what it is that we receive in the Lord’s Supper, but the blessings are so awesome that God wants us to be sure. Here in 1 Corinthians we are given yet again another description of what we’re receiving in the Supper. The congregation in Corinth, Greece to whom Paul first wrote the letter of Corinthians had a bunch of problems. One of the problems that they had concerned an abuse of the Lord’s Supper. They didn’t have to do this, but they celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the same time as they celebrated a larger fellowship meal. They didn’t have large churches with fellowship halls to host large gatherings. Rather, they usually gathered at a member’s house. Typically, the wealthier members of the church were the ones to host the gathering. Well, what seemed to happen was the wealthier member who hosted the fellowship meal was a little troubled thinking about how much his bill was going to be if he hosted this meal week after week after week. So, this attitude started to permeate the congregation, “I’ll provide for myself and the other wealthier people, but the poor people can provide for themselves.” So the rich, in order to save money for themselves, ate in the dining room, while the poor were forced to eat outside in the porticos. So the poor people came for Christian love and were forced to bring their own meager food and were shamed.

That selfish attitude is completely contradictory to what is going on in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not something to be treated lightly because of the awesome reality of what it is and the incredible blessing that it gives us. What Jesus says when He instituted the Lord’s Supper and what God says through Paul in 1 Corinthians can be understood only if there is something far greater going on in the Lord’s Supper than a mere representation or sign or symbol of Jesus’ body and blood.

First of all, there is the need for clarity in what we’re told about the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted it on the night He was betrayed, Maundy Thursday, within hours He would be dying on the cross. And Jesus wants to give His disciples and all His people something before He leaves them. This wasn’t the time for jokes, this wasn’t the time to speak in figurative language, this wasn’t the time to make confusing statements. Jesus says very clearly, “This IS my body…this IS my blood.” In fact, it’s so serious a thing, that we’re told that taking it in an unworthy manner – that is, refusing to repent of some sin or not recognizing that it is Jesus’ body and blood – will result in eating and drinking harm on oneself.

Next, consider the person who instituted the Lord’s Supper. If this was any ordinary human being speaking the words, “This is my body,” we would have reason to doubt it, consider that person a deceiver, and reject the simple, plain meaning of the words. But this isn’t just any ordinary person! This is Jesus! This is the Son of God! This is the one who is the essence of truth itself, this is the one who has infinite wisdom and infinite power to back up what he says and make His body and blood truly present! And Jesus has the power to be present in many different ways. It’s not His general presence in the fact that Jesus is present everywhere, nor is it Jesus’ special presence as He promises to be with us always, He has a very special presence- a sacramental presence where Jesus’ own body and blood are truly present in, with, and under bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Yes, we can’t explain it, yes it goes beyond science, yes it is miraculous and supernatural, but Jesus can do that.

And finally, notice what God says in 1 Corinthians 10:16, the sacramental bread is a “joint partaking” of Christ’s body and the sacramental cup is a “joint partaking” of His blood. Notice it isn’t just a “joint partaking” of Christ, like we enjoy a special spiritual connection with Jesus, but rather, it is a joint partaking of body and blood. Jesus’ body and blood are present together with the bread and the wine in an incredible way.

Well, why is it so important for us to recognize this? It’s because we are so unworthy. The reality is, each of us has an overwhelming need of forgiveness. The path that we live on isn’t a straight down the middle road, rather, we hover at the brink of a ditch on either side. At many times we’re on the brink of becoming self-righteous Pharisees, thinking that we’re doing fine in life, forgiveness, God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper, we know they’re there, but we don’t really need them. We’re doing fine on our own. God can take the back seat for a while. How eager were we to hear God’s Word this morning? How eager are we to crack open our Bibles during the week? How eager are we to receive the Lord’s Supper? If we don’t have an overwhelming sense that we NEED forgiveness and NEED the Supper, it’s because we have a spiritual disease deadening us to our true spiritual condition – a dangerous place to be! Then we spend the other times of our life on the other side of the road hovering over the ditch of despair. “Could God really forgive me for what I’ve done?” “If God really forgives me, why does the horror of my past sins still haunt me?” “Will I really go to heaven when I die?”

Then there’s the devil. Martin Luther said, “The devil is a liar, to lead the heart astray from God’s Word and to blind it so that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ. He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live on single hour. If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible.”

So, the reality is: we desperately NEED the Lord’s Supper. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we receive not just bread and wine, but we also receive Jesus’ body and blood. How it happens? We don’t know. When exactly it happens.?We don’t know. That it happens- that we know for sure, because Jesus says so. So as you partake in the Supper, yes you’re really eating bread, yes, you’re really drinking wine, but in a miraculous way, you’re also receiving the true body and blood of Jesus Himself. That’s amazing!

Just think, what if this morning instead of handing out bread and wine, we’d distribute 1 million dollar checks to every person who comes up. The checks are yours, they’re real. How would people react? Do you think any one would miss next time? But what’s worth more? A million dollars or the body and blood of God? It’s obvious! What price could we put on Jesus’ body and blood? It’s priceless! And God gives his true body and blood to whom? To you! “Take and eat this is my body given for YOU! This is my blood shed for YOU!” God Himself is willing to give you Himself! And all for what? Your forgiveness. So you can touch, taste, see, hear your forgiveness personally and individually. With the Supper He sweeps away any doubts about His love for us, for if He is willing to give you Himself, His true body and blood, then there’s nothing he won’t do for you!

And that’s why it’s so crucial to understand and hold on to this truth – the truth that we really do receive Jesus’ body and blood in the sacrament. It’s not just a symbol, it’s not just a sign, it’s not just a representation. Rather, there’s a remarkable reality and a rich reward in the Supper. In it God gives you confidence. You don’t face life thinking, “I hope I’ll go to heave someday.” Rather, God wants you to humble, yet confidently say, “I know I’m going to heaven.” I have Jesus’ body and blood given to me in the Sacrament all for my forgiveness.

Jack Wurm might have got a large sum of money for looking into a note he found in a bottle. But you get a far greater reward every time you receive the Lord’s Supper for in it, God gives you…Himself! Amen.

Small Catechism: The Lord’s Supper

Holy Week, Maundy Thursday

The Institution – Matthew 26:26-28

If you go to a birthday party, it’s almost a given that at some point there will be a special song. Probably when the cake is being brought out with candles lit on it. Everyone knows the song and every joins in singing it. Now, imagine going to a birthday party and when the cake is being brought out everyone begins singing a totally different song. How would you react? I’m guessing you would be surprised, shocked, and you would probably remember that strange birthday party.

Well, Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover. The Passover was something celebrated by Jews every year since the exodus from Egypt some 1500 years previous. So, for 1500 years the Jews had been following a set way of celebrating the Passover feast. But on this day Jesus did things really different. The disciples would likely have had rapt attention to what Jesus was doing.

Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to them saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” And it’s important to note that the Greek language typically doesn’t use the word “is.” Often it’s simply understood; somewhat like if I were to say what’s it like outside? You could say, “Dark.” Or, you could say, “It is dark.” Adding the word “is” adds emphasis to what is said. Then Jesus took a cup of wine and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant.”

So, in the Lord’s Supper Jesus really truly gives us His own body and blood under the bread and the wine. We really truly eat bread and drink wine and, yet, in a miraculous way, in a marvelous way we really, truly receive Jesus’ true body and blood in way that surpasses our human mind and reasoning.

And think about what this means. Each one of us knows how to play tapes over and over inside our heads. Especially after we say or do something embarrassing, silly, dumb, foolish. “How could I be so foolish!” “How dumb can I be.” “I’m pathetic.” “I must be worthless.” We know how to play those tapes over and over in our heads. I’m guessing the disciples knew too.

But then here’s the Lord’s Supper. Jesus comes to you and He says to you, “My son, my daughter, take and eat, this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood of the covenant.” And Jesus gives you… Himself. How much is Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood worth? Can you put a price tag on it? No. It’s priceless. And…Jesus gives it to you in His Supper saying to you, “You’re worth it to me. You’re priceless to me. I give you me.” And can anyone’s opinion of you matter more than His? Amen.

The Blessings

Apparently several power stations in N.D. generate the electricity that Beltrami Electric Coop uses. There’s a lot of power generated at that power station. However, that power would do me no good unless a system of power lines connected my house to the power plant.

What Jesus did on the cross is somewhat like that power plant. Jesus won enough blessing on the cross for the eternal salvation of all people. However, it would do me no good if I wasn’t connected to it. And how are we connected to Jesus? We are connected to Jesus through the Gospel which comes to us in the Word and in the Sacraments. One of those sacraments is the Lord’s Supper.

Notice again what Jesus said, “This is my body given for you…this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus’ body given up for us on the cross and His blood poured out for us on the cross, Jesus gives us to eat and drink in the Sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins.

The devil loves to come and tempt us with doubts about God’s love for us, doubts about our forgiveness, doubts about our salvation. And so what does Jesus do? In the Lord’s Supper Jesus comes to you personally and visibly, audibly, tangibly, and tastefully He gives you Himself for what? For the forgiveness of sins, connecting you personally to all the blessings He won with His death on the cross.

And not just once, but He comes to you again and again and again with forgiveness.  Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper you receive the very forgiveness of sins Jesus won for you on the cross. And not only that, with forgiveness comes strength, strength God Himself gives you to live for Him, to make choices in life not to sin, to make choices that honor and please your Savior. And finally, with forgiveness comes assurance. Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper God gives you the assurance that heaven is your home, for His own body and His own blood shed for you won it for you. What blessings!

The Power

Quiet. Be still. Get up take your mat and go home. Fill the jars with water and take some to the master of the banquet. Lazarus, come out. Jesus said some crazy things, didn’t He? It’s certainly not logical to tell a storm to be quiet and still. It’s not a medically approved treatment to tell a paralyzed person to walk. It’s not scientific to fill jars with water and expect them to turn into wine. It’s normally not nice to tell someone’s dead relative to come out of his tomb.  But Jesus did. And if it was anyone else who was saying those things we would have reason to believe they were crazy.

But not Jesus. Why? Because when said something, things happened. When Jesus spoke storms stilled, the lame walked, water washed into wine, and the dead came back to life. Jesus’ words have power.

And so it is when Jesus said, “This is my body; this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” It might not be logical, it might not be scientific, but it’s true because Jesus says so.  Jesus’ words give it the power.

Just like Jesus wanted storms to still and lame to walk, so now by His words Jesus has attached His power to His Supper so that every time you receive it your soul wearied with sin is refreshed with forgiveness, your spirit crushed by bad choices is renewed to live in a God-pleasing way, and your heart so often bruised by all the hurts of life is given healing by God’s love and commitment to you. That’s the power of Jesus’ words, that’s the power of Jesus’ Supper.

The Reception

You’ve been admitted to the hospital, you have a 104 degree fever, you feel terrible, your heart feels like it’s racing right out your chest, you’re in a cold sweat, a doctor – whom you’ve never met- walks in the room tosses you a bottle of pills and walks out of the room saying, “Take those.” And he’s gone. Are you going to take those pills? I’m guessing not! A different doctor walks in, looks you over, takes your pulse, your temperature, examines your charts, asks you a bunch of questions, then he says, “Yep, you’re sick, you’ve got whatever.” And you’re going ask, “Is there a cure?”

That’s kind of like what doctor God does.  Before we take the Lord’s Supper God wants us to ask ourselves, “Am I sinner? Do I need forgiveness? How have I measured up to God’s 10 commandments? How have I fulfilled my duties as a spouse, parent, student, employer, employee?” And if I’m honest with myself I have to conclude: I’m terribly sick with sin. I need forgiveness.

And what happens? God awakens in us a hunger for His Supper. He awakens in us a desire to receive the very forgiveness we need in the Supper. Then Jesus comes to us with His own body and blood together with the bread and the wine to give us the cure we need: the forgiveness of our sins. May we with ready hearts receive His Supper. Amen.