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Death by Offering November 18, 2018

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Hebrews 10:11-25

Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 28

November 18, 2018


Focus:  God gave His own Son as the perfect, final sacrifice for sin.

Function:  That the hearers see the value of the whole of Scripture to point us to Christ.

Structure:  Unpacking the text.


Death by Offering


There are some books in the Bible that we like more than others.  That’s just part of being human, we have favorites.  We could go round and round today talking about your favorite books in God’s Word.  What are your go-to’s?  But if we have favorites, it also means we have books that we don’t care as much for.

One of these is Leviticus.  It’s the king of abandoned Bible books.  Over the course of two millennia in the New Testament Church of Christ, it’s become worthless to us.  It’s dry, repetitive, Law heavy.  We don’t need it, and we don’t read it.

We talk about it this way in our own LCMS circles, even though we proclaim gladly that the “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16).  And yet, apparently not Leviticus.  In our three year lectionary series, where we have our assigned readings for use in the worship services of the church, Leviticus makes the list twice.  A 27 chapter Old Testament book.  We read from it twice in the course of three years.  And those two times are the same text, from chapter 19 about loving our neighbor.

Today, I want to show you why we’re wrong about the value of Leviticus.  And if you’re using our Faith @ Home Corner, Leviticus is the daily Bible reading starting in just a week’s time.  But before we can get to Leviticus, we need a little from Exodus.

In the latter part of the book of Exodus, we get an exquisitely detailed picture of the Tabernacle.  It’s a tent inside a courtyard, that symbolizes God’s presence with His people.  He is going to be in the midst of His people.  He’s not a far away God.  He’s right here among us.

And so the Tabernacle had a tent in the middle of a courtyard.  It measured 45 feet by 15 feet, and was divided into two rooms.  The innermost room is known as the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place.  Only one thing was in that room.  The ark of the covenant, which is clearly from God’s own description, His throne, His mercy seat.

That inner room then is the place of God’s holy dwelling with His people.  The only one who ever entered this room was the high priest, and he only once a year.  And there’s a curtain drawn between the two rooms.  It separates, it contains, God’s holiness.  In a way, for us sinners, this curtain is a shield, protecting us from a perfect and righteous God, protecting us from the guilt of our sin and the punishment of death.  We cannot come before a righteous God and live.

That second room in the tent, then, the place the priests could enter in to offer some sacrifices before the Lord, was called the Holy Place.  It had the lampstand, the incense altar, and the Table of the Bread of the Presence, which held both bread and wine.

Outside this tent then was the courtyard.  It measured in at 150 feet by 75 feet.  And there was a basin, filled with water, for washing.  Totally brilliant side note for us this morning, the sacraments are already here, already foreshadowed in God’s dwelling with His people in the Old Testament.

Anyway, at the entrance of the courtyard stood an altar.  It was square, 7.5’ on all sides.  Ours here is 8’ wide, 2.5’ deep as a point of comparison.  It stood 4.5’ tall.  They built it out of acacia wood, and added horns to each of its four corners.  They then covered the entire altar in bronze.  It was hollowed out on the inside.  And they lowered down into it a bronze grate, attaching it to the altar.  Not unlike your grill at home, this grate served the function of burning offerings to the Lord.

That’s an important backdrop for Leviticus, because this altar serves as the focal point of the entire system of sacrifices for generations, hundreds of years of the history of God’s people.  And that’s how the book of Leviticus begins.  Each of the first five chapters teaches us about a different type of offering the Israelites had to make.

It begins with a burnt offering.  You would offer up a bull, a male goat or sheep, a turtledove or a pigeon, in hopes of creating a pleasing aroma and having God’s favor.  You would kill the animal yourself, and then the priests would take the blood and throw against the sides of the altar.  They’d then arrange the parts of the beast on the altar before setting the fire.

Chapter two gives instructions for the grain offering.  Here you would give flour, unleavened breads, and roasted grains mixed with olive oil and frankincense.  Some would be burned on the altar as a pleasing aroma, again seeking God’s favor.  The rest was food for the priests.

Chapter three gives instructions for the peace offerings.  Here again we’d offer up our bulls, sheep, and goats in hopes of gaining the Lord’s favor.  We would kill the animal, and then the priests would cut into parts, splashing the blood against the walls of the altar, and then burning the fat, the kidneys, and the liver.  The rest served as meat for the priests and their families to eat.

Chapters four and five brings us to the sin offering.  There are several distinctions here, but they were all done for the sake of forgiveness.  To have our sins cleansed, removed from us, there had to be sacrifice.  If the priest himself sinned unintentionally, his guilt was on the whole congregation, and he would offer up a young bull on everyone’s behalf.  The blood was taken into the tent itself, sprinkled seven times, with some placed on the altar of incense.  The rest was poured out at the foot of the altar in the court.  The fat, the kidneys, and the liver would be burned.  And the rest of the bull, he had to carry outside the whole camp that held millions of people, to burn on a clean pile of wood.  The same was done if the whole congregation sinned unintentionally together.

For a leader of the people, it was a male goat.  The blood being placed on the horns of the court’s altar, and then poured out at the base.  The animal was burned.

If anyone else in the congregation sinned unintentionally, they would offer up a female goat or sheep.  Killed, the blood placed on the horns of the altar and then poured out, and the animal burned.

The last type of offering is seen in chapters five and six, the guilt offering.  Here, if we sinned against the holy things of God, like His Tabernacle, the courtyard, the tools for the altar, even the priests, we were guilty.  If we sinned by breaking one of the Ten Commandments, we bore our guilt.  If we sinned against our neighbor by lying, deceiving, or robbing, we were guilty.

In all of these cases, we would bring before the priest a ram to be the guilt offering.  We also had to pay for whatever we had ruined or destroyed or stolen.  But we’d offer the ram, and the priest would sacrifice it for us before the Lord.

These sin and guilt offerings truly accomplished the forgiveness of a sin.  Now imagine for just a moment how deep your sin runs.  How frequently you sin.  As we talked about this in connection to the Lord’s Supper, one of our 7th graders rightly asked, “Before the last sacrifice was even over, wouldn’t I already need to offer up another one?”  And she was profoundly right.

This is the first verse of our epistle text.  “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”  This was the job of a priest.  All.  The.  Time.  We read in Jeremiah 33:18, “And there will always be Levitical priests to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings and sacrifices to me.”  And in Malachi 1:11, the priests are heard complaining to God, “What a weariness this is.”

We sin much.  So much so that we would be offering up sacrifices day and night until we had nothing left, neither time to work, nor any property with which to care for our families and our neighbors.  This is how deep our sin runs.  Whether it’s as simple as a lie or speeding, or as complex as adultery or murder.  It doesn’t matter.  The blood of our sin flows constantly.

This is the context necessary for the rest of our Hebrews text:

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.


This is just how deep our sin runs.  Point to the cross.  These “boring” Levitical texts teach us just how dear and precious is the love of God for us that He would send His one and only Son Jesus Christ to bear on His own shoulders every sin of every person who ever walked this earth.

Christ’s sacrifice, His death on the cross did what our own sacrifices couldn’t do.  Sure, that ram was good to forgive that one lie.  But how many lies have you told?  And that’s just lies.  Multiply it out.  There’s almost an endless list of different ways we can sin against God and our neighbor.  Jesus’ death takes care of all our sins.  Every.  Last.  One.  Of.  Them.

I love the beauty of church architecture, that the cross hangs over, above the altar.  Christ’s sacrifice trumps our sacrifices.  We are forgiven not by the blood of bulls, but by the very blood of God Himself.  Our sins are forgiven.  “And where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”  We don’t have to keep the Levitical sacrificial system anymore!  But we do still see its value to teach us about Christ.

Then the author Hebrews gets even more profound on us:

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.


We can enter the Tabernacle!  Those spaces reserved only for the priests.  The space reserved for only the high priest.  We can now enter in.  We can come into the presence of God, the dwelling place of the Most High, because He opened the curtain for us.  That curtain that separated us from God’s holy presence was torn in two from top to bottom, from God to man, on Good Friday, as Christ died on the cross.

His death, His sacrifice covers our sins and our guilts.  We can now come into His presence.  Because our great High Priest, Jesus, has offered His blood once and for all.  And in His name, we are sprinkled.  We are washed clean in the waters of holy baptism.  Sins forgiven, cleansed, atoned.

And so we hold fast to our faith, to our confession, because “He who promised is faithful.”  We may not be, but He is.  God keeps His Word.  God keeps His promises.  And He has promised you life in the very blood of His own Son.  This is why we gather.  We gather to hear His Word and His promises.  We gather to hear His forgiveness, and to receive that forgiveness by His own blood shed for us.

As our text ends, it’s an excellent reminder.  We are a community.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  He is ours, and we are His.  And here in this place, where He has promised to dwell with sinful men, we receive the very blood that gives us new life.  Don’t give up that hope.  Don’t give up that certainty.  God is here, in this very place, for you.

And so we gather.  We gather regularly.  We gather frequently with one another receiving God’s precious promises fulfilled for us.  We gather often to encourage one another and build one another up that we may serve in our daily vocations.  And we have confidence to care for a broken world, because we know that our brokenness has been forgiven and we have been made new in the blood of the Lamb of God.





Jesus is Our Peace July 22, 2018

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Ephesians 2:11-12

Proper 11

July 22, 2018


Focus:  God brings us together in the blood of Christ.

Function:  That the hearers partake of their common union in Christ.

Structure:  This is the historical situation in the text…this is the meaning for us now.


Jesus is Our Peace


“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  How many of you know that verse?  Have heard it before?  Can anyone place it for me?  That’s right!  It’s the Lutheran verse.  Ephesians 2:8-9.  It is a critical passage for us to see that we aren’t saved by our own doing, but only by the blood of Christ. Not by our work, but by His.  This was especially important during the time of the Reformation.

But, wouldn’t you know it, Paul kept writing.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  And then skipping over the subtitle that is many of our modern day Bibles, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

How many of you already knew that the Lutheran verse was actually talking about circumcision?  From early on in the history of God’s creation, He set apart, He singled out Abraham and his descendants after him.  He cut a covenant with him, that He would be Abraham’s God, and that they would be His people.  This is the Old Covenant.  It’s what we call the first ¾ of the Bible.  Watching as this one man blossoms.  Is fruitful.  Multiplies.  And suddenly, after entering into Egypt as only about seventy people, they leave Egypt with a couple million people.

The nation of Israel.  These are the people of God of the Old Covenant, cut with Abraham.  And the marker, the entry point, the sign, the seal of this covenant with God was circumcision.  If you were circumcised, you and your household, were in.  You were Israelites, or as we might call them today, Jews.  If you weren’t circumcised, you weren’t in, you were a Gentile, an outsider, a foreigner.

But then this God-Man Jesus Christ, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and having given thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat, all of you, this is My body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of Me.” And then after the supper, He took the cup, and having blessed it, gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and drink. This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Earth-shattering and game-changing.  Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday changed the course of history.  The Old Covenant is no more.  No longer do you have to shed your blood to be one of God’s people.  Kids, I’ll let your parents tell you what circumcision is, but it involves some bloodshed.  No longer is it your blood.  Now, in this New Covenant, it is the blood of God Himself.  Shed for you.

That Jesus Christ would take all of the sins of this fallen, wretched, broken, and damned world, and carry them to the tree on Calvary.  That as those nails pierced through His hands and His feet, in His wounds, in His blood, all the sins of sinful mankind are taken into Christ, and forgiven in the sight of the Father.  All of them.

These are Paul’s words of encouragement for the Ephesians.  They’re not Jews.  They weren’t part of God’s chosen Old Covenant people.  And they’re not circumcised.  And so there’s been a divide.  The Jews are nagging them to cut off the flesh.  The Gentiles really don’t want to.  But they do want to be saved.

And that’s precisely then what Paul is giving them.  It is not by the works of your own hands that you are saved.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  It isn’t our work.  It’s His work.  Jesus has already shed the blood for you!  As you might imagine, this is some pretty fantastic good news for the Ephesians.

But now that we know the context of the Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, does it mean anything to us today?  And the answer to that is a resounding yes!  The history is profound, and those are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  For that reason alone we care.  But we can learn from it as well.

Our passage today is all about Christ being our peace.  Jesus alone reconciles us to God the Father.  So the contrast to this then, the law that the text would proclaim to us is division.  The opposite of reconciled is driven apart.  The opposite of peace is hatred.  Division and hatred, Paul wrote about those things to the Church in Corinth.  Pretty much that whole first letter.

But we’re not talking about just any mere divisions here.  It’s not that you’re Royals fans, and I like the Cardinals.  It’s not even that some of you like guns, while others of you would just as soon see them banned.  Not at all.

These divisions are about salvation.  How are we made right with God?  There are always those who want to earn it, who want to boast in themselves.  The Jews and circumcision.  For centuries during the dark ages and the middle ages, the teaching of the Church was that we had to earn it by our keeping of the Law, by our good works.  It’s the same thing the Jews were doing.  And we still do it today.

We’re always seeking to justify ourselves.  We try to say that those things we’re doing aren’t really sins at all, that we are keeping the Law.  I still remember two years ago in confirmation class.  One of the girls raised her hand and started to ask me a question: “Pastor, is it a sin if I…” Yes.  “But, I didn’t even get to finish!” Yes.  It’s a sin.  If you’re having trouble figuring out if it’s sinful or not: if it’s something we do, it’s at the least tainted by our sinful nature.

Turns out her question was about dating.  Guess what?  The answer is still yes.  And we can take that farther, as Christ does in the Sermon on the Mount.  Apart from marriage, physical attraction is sinful.  The “how far is too far?” question misses the mark.  Yes.  It is a sin to _____.  We can’t keep the Law.  Now, there is a little tension here.  We do want to do God’s Law, as it is His good and pleasing will for us.  But it’s not a matter of earning our salvation. We can’t earn our salvation.  Jesus has kept the Law.  He has saved us.  We, now, love God and love our neighbor, which will be our VBS theme this week.

We also cause divisions with the things that the Scriptures don’t even discuss.  Things where there is the opportunity for flexibility.  We call these adiaphora.  Neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture.  And yet we say, “It must be done this way.”  Organ vs. guitar.  Common cup vs. individual cup.  Donuts in the gym vs. fruit trays in the narthex.  We can make some decisions based on whether or not things are helpful in pointing us to Christ.   But, unless you want to say the hole in your donut reminds you of the wounds in Christ’s hands, that one’s really just an adiaphora.  We can take it or leave it.  Setting up new laws to follow when we can’t even keep the one’s that God gave us is just asking for trouble.

Don’t try to take it back.  Don’t try to reclaim your divisions from the cross.  Don’t try to reclaim the hatred and the disgust from His wounds across His scarred body.  Give it up!  Leave it all behind in the saving wounds of our Lord.

This is the beauty of it all.  It doesn’t matter what your background is.  It doesn’t matter which sins have plagued you.  It doesn’t matter what your baggage is, what you’re guilty of.  This is the place for you!  There is a place for you here!  Because in the body of Jesus Christ, there is peace and reconciliation for all people.  In the blood of Jesus Christ, all of our sins are forgiven.

It is Jesus alone who can do this.  And He has done it.  All believers are gathered in Christ.  We are reconciled to God the Father.  We are brought near to God Himself.  And in doing so, we are also brought near to one another.  In this assembly, the assembly of the baptized children of God, there is no stranger.  There is no foreigner.  We all have the same Christ.  He is our common union.  His body and blood, our communion.  We all belong right here.

The Fat Feast April 1, 2018

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Isaiah 25:6-9

Easter Sunday

April 1, 2018


Focus:  God swallows up death forever.

Function:  That the hearers be glad and rejoice in His salvation.

Structure:  Walking through the Text.


The Fat Feast


The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. 11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. 12 Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, these are the words of the Lord, spoken to His creation by His prophet Isaiah, the 24th chapter.  The party is over.  The creation is broken, the fruits of the world downtrodden, and its inhabitants ashamed, standing condemned by their own guilt.

The party’s over.  There’s no more gladness, no more rejoicing, no more instruments.  No longer do the people drink wine and burst out into song.

Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah’s prophecy are apocalyptic.  They’re about the end, about our own self-destruction and self-absorption, but also about God’s response to our despair.  Because in our text today in chapter 25, we learn that the party is far from over.  In fact, the party has really only just begun!  We’ve seen the judgment, now we get to see the restoration!

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
Talk about a promise!  A feast, but not just any feast.  This isn’t Golden Corral or Pizza Street.  The words used by Isaiah are the choicest of foods, the best of wines.  Literally, the best money could buy.  Here’s an endless feast of the perfect cut of meat.  An endless feast where the barrels of perfectly aged wine are bottomless.

And it’s for you!  That’s the best part of the promise: it includes you.  The promise is for ALL people.  It’s a gift, given for us.  And it happens right here.  On THIS mountain.  Isaiah is referring to Mt. Zion, to the city of Jerusalem, to the city on a hill.


And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.


Notice again, those same words twice more.  ALL peoples, ALL nations, and THIS mountain.  Regardless of your background, regardless of where you come from.  This promise is for you.  It is again, right here, in Jerusalem, the promise going out to God’s people.

That phrase, to swallow up, in Hebrew is the word “Belah” ([lb).  And every time it’s used, every time something is “swallowed up,” it’s always an act of judgment.  And so here, that judgment is not on us.  That judgment is on what afflicts us.

God will swallow up the covering, the veil that is upon us.  Remember those years where your favorite sports team was just plain awful.  You go to the game, with your brown sack in hand.  You’ve cut out the eyes and the mouth, and you sit there in the stands, with this bag over your head.  You’re ashamed; your team is a disgrace.  And yet there you are.

This veil and covering is our shame.  And it goes far beyond a paper bag and a losing record.  You have guilts that cling to you.  You have those times in your life that you can’t undo.  Things you’ve said that you can never take back.  Harm that you’ve done to someone you care about that you can never reverse.  Things you’ve seen and heard, things you’ve done that you’ll never be able to put out of your mind.

Satan accuses.  Our sinful nature accuses.  It takes our sins and turns them into guilt and uses them mocks us.  “You’ll never be good enough.”  “No one could possibly love you.”  “You’re hopeless.”

This promise is for you.  That God Himself will swallow up your guilt, your shame, your despair.  God Himself will swallow up your sin!


He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.


The repetition in these verses is like gold.  Yahweh is going to swallow up our enemies, the veil, the shame from upon us.  God Himself is going to swallow up even death itself!

The people of Israel that Isaiah wrote this book for, they lived in the Promised Land of God, a land that He took from the Canaanites and gave to His own people.  These Canaanites worshiped a false god, Baal.  And in their mythology, there is an ongoing battle between Baal and Mot, or death.  When the spring comes, Baal crushes Mot, and life begins again.  But every fall, Mot swallows up Baal, and death falls on the land.  In much of the ancient artwork, Mot is even pictured as a large and grotesque beast with an even larger mouth just waiting to swallow up life.

But for us, for the people of God, this stands in contrast.  This promise is not dependent on the seasons.  It doesn’t come and go.  No!  God will swallow up death forever!  It’s the main course on His dinner plate! He will wipe away tears from ALL faces.  He will take our shame, our despair, our reproach away from us, away from ALL people.

And He doesn’t simply cast them aside.  They aren’t merely removed from you temporarily only to harm you again later.  The veil of our shame and our guilt, the veil of our sin and our death is taken on by our Savior.  He carries it for us.  And by carrying it to the cross, He has swallowed it up forever!

Isaiah doesn’t mince words.  He’s intentional; he’s deliberate.  And He only uses this phrase “For Yahweh has spoken,” three times in the book.  And each time, it’s a statement of finality.  It is finished.  That is, God’s Word always accomplishes that for which He sent it.

This promise isn’t based on you or what you do.  We don’t trust in this promise because we can see it, or taste it, or find it, or predict it.  We trust in this promise because He said it.  Look back through the text thus far.  Yahweh is the doer of the verbs.  Not you, not me, not Isaiah.  God has done it.  We bring our sin, and God swallows it up.


It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”


Remember from before, we’re living in chapter 24.  We’re living in the midst of our brokenness, our sin, and our shame.  We’re living in a place where there is no singing, nor wine, nor joy.  But in spite of this, God tells us what to say.

On this swallowing day, God gives us the words to speak.  We may live in the midst of despair now, we may not yet be at the feast of God that never ends, but God gives us the glimpse.  These are the words that we’ll be singing at the promised feast.  And we can start practicing right now.

In fact, that’s what you’re doing.  That’s why you’re here.  It’s called Christian worship.  You have come to foretaste the feast.  You have come for a glimpse of the promise that is yet to come.  As Pastor Otto stood before you this morning, you heard the forgiveness of sins!  They were swallowed up by God Himself.  The Absolution is a foretaste of God’s final verdict for you: My beloved child!  As you come up here in just a few moments, you are partaking of a glimpse of the feast that is to come.  You are feasting on the body and blood of God Himself, poured out for you on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins.   Your guilt is swallowed up in Him.  It’s a foretaste of the final wedding feast of the Lord that has no end!  For Yahweh has spoken.

The Hebrew word in this verse for “waiting” isn’t what we typically think of.  The word Cavah (hwq) means to wait for something you know is going to happen.  It’s not an anxious worrying, it’s not chewing on your nails waiting to hear from your doctor the results of the recent tests.  This is much more like waiting for the sun to rise in the morning, or waiting for the spring and for warm weather again.  You KNOW these things will happen.  We wait for our Savior because we KNOW that He will save us.  We wait for Yahweh, because this promise is for you.

The last word of our text this morning should never be forgotten.  Salvation.  Every time this word is used in the Old Testament it is announcing the power God has over His enemies.  The Hebrew word here is Yeshua ([wvy). Salvation. We wait in gladness, we wait and rejoice in His Salvation.  In His Yeshua.  It’s the Hebrew name Joshua in English.  And in Greek, it’s the name Jesus.  Let us be glad and rejoice in His Jesus.  Our Lord and our Salvation.

It is on THIS mountain that Jesus has swallowed up all enemies.  It is on THIS mountain, that Jesus Christ swallowed up your sins and your despair and your grief by bleeding and dying upon the cross.  It is upon THIS mountain that Jesus Christ swallowed up even death itself by bursting forth from the tomb on Easter morning.

CHRIST IS RISEN!  (He is Risen Indeed!) ALLELUIA!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has feasted on our enemies by swallowing up the veil of shame, the cover of sin, the reproach of guilt, and the tears of death.  And so we gather in His house this day to celebrate this very thing: God has swallowed up death forever.  We gather in His house this day to celebrate an empty tomb, that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, giving us life that never ends. Jesus feasted so that we would feast forevermore.

This promise is for you because Yahweh has spoken.  Let us be glad and rejoice in His Jesus.  Amen.

Without the Shedding of Blood April 13, 2017

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Exodus 12:1-14

Maundy Thursday

April 13, 2017


Focus:  God sheds His blood for us.

Function:  That the hearers come to the Lord’s Table to receive the forgiveness of their sins.

Structure:  Old Testament/New Testament type and antitype.


Without the Shedding of Blood


One of the things that a good sermon must do is to rightly apply law and gospel from the text.  It’s the job of your pastor to dig into the Word of God, to dig into the text for that day and see where we’ve failed.  What’s in the text that shows me my sin, how we fail to do what God created us to do?  And once that’s established, your pastor then uses the same text to show you the gospel, to literally preach unto you the forgiveness of your sins.  That ends up being perhaps the most beautiful thing about the liturgy.  Your sins are forgiven again, and again, and again, even in the same service.

I admit, this one was a little tricky.  As I read over the text, it was hard to find the Law here.  It was hard to find the Law in this text that applies to you and to me.  It’s easy to get it wrong.  I could tell you that based off of the Exodus Passover festival, you must do these things.  And since you’ve never slain a lamb and painted its blood on your door, you’ve failed. If I preach that, I’ve failed.

The Law in this text is so easy, we miss it.  The Law in this text is simply this: you ARE a sinner.  Actually, that’s the Law in all three of our readings here today.  There’s nothing here that you must do.  You don’t keep the Passover.  That’s been done for you, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit.  But instead, each of these texts plays out the same.  This is us.  This is simply who we are: sinful human beings, fallen creatures who stand apart from God.

Each of these texts says “this is who we are and this is how God responds on our behalf.”  Let’s walk through these texts and unpack that.

In our Old Testament reading today from Exodus, we see the account of the 10th and final plague.  The plague of the firstborn.  Hundreds of years before this text, God had made a covenant with Abraham, that He would be His God, and that Abraham’s people would be God’s people.

But the Israelites, as Abraham’s people come to be known, failed over and over again in being the people of God.  They kept longing for the gods of their neighbors.  They kept insisting on living life on their terms, not on God’s.  They were sinners.  And it’s not much later that they fall into slavery in Egypt.

And over the next 400 years, living as slaves from one generation to the next, the pattern continued.  Like a dog returns to its vomit, they returned to their idolatry, to their distrust.  And they wasted away in their sins.

But it was at this time that God acted.  He sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh demanding the freedom of God’s people.  And as Pharaoh rejected God, the plagues began.  And that cycle would repeat: Plague, rejection, plague, rejection.  Until we come to our text for today.  The tenth, and final plague that God inflicted on the land of Egypt.

You know it as the plague of the firstborn.  God, in His righteous judgment, as punishment for sin and rebellion, is going to strike down the firstborn son in every household, in every family.

But He also provided a means of grace, a way out.  God institutes the Passover.  Each family was to take a young lamb, without blemish, and slaughter it at twilight on the 14th day of the month.  Now this wasn’t just a cast off lamb.  This is a spotless lamb, from among your best.  This is a call to trust in God and to be His people.

So each family slaughtered their lamb.  And they took the blood of that lamb and used it to paint the doorframe of their home.  And then they ate it.  They roasted the lamb, and made a meal of it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  It was a meal eaten in haste.  There was no telling when the plague would strike, and as soon as it did, the Israelites would be fleeing from the land of Egypt and from the wrath of Pharaoh.

But in this we see the promise of God. He said,

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”


Salvation, salvation in the blood of the lamb!  The Israelites listened, they slaughtered the lambs at twilight, they painted their doorframes, they ate a speedy meal, and then the plague struck.  And the Egyptians, Pharaoh, cast the Israelites out of Egypt.

Sinners, stuck in their sin, and God comes to them.  He comes to them in the midst of their sins, in the midst of their slavery, in the midst of their suffering.  And He gives them life.  He frees them from their bondage and forgives them of their sins.  God comes to His people where they’re at with His gifts, with His promises.

This event, to the Israelites, this was as a close a thing to Easter as they were going to get.  The Passover feast, or the Festival of Unleavened Bread, is one of the biggest celebrations of their church year.  And, the slain lamb for the forgiveness of sins leads to the rest of Exodus and Leviticus, where you can find the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system through which God gave His people the forgiveness of their sins.

But this event, as significant as it was, this was only the type.  A type is a foreshadowing, an earlier account pointing to some later event.  The antitype is that later thing, that greater thing, the fulfillment of it.  The Passover is merely a type.  It only points to the real deal.

That’s the profoundness of our reading from Hebrews.  We won’t focus on it, except one verse.  In verse 22, we hear the words “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

The Passover lamb, the burnt offerings, the guilt offerings, the sin offerings, the peace offerings, you name it.  All that blood to cover your sins.  The result of a broken covenant, the penalty of death.  Blood must be shed.  But even this is just a type.  It’s a foreshadowing of something greater.  Here’s an example from Leviticus chapter 5:

14 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 15 “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of Yahweh, he shall bring to Yahweh as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16 He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.


Here’s my question for you: how could you ever know it was enough?  How could you ever know for certain, that your sins were removed from you?  How could you know that you didn’t unintentionally do it again the very next second?  How could you be sure of your salvation?  And how would we not run out of rams?

We are sinners, in need of a Savior.  And that brings us to the gospel.  Jesus and His disciples have been in Jerusalem now for a few days already, and it’s time for the Passover celebration.  It’s time for the regular, annual rejoicing and remembering of God’s gift in the blood of the lamb.

Scholars debate whether this was Christ’s 3rd or 4th Passover spent with His disciples.  But that number doesn’t matter.  As they recline around the table, and celebrate together, it’s familiar.  There are traditions, routines, common food from one year to the next, just like you will be doing at your family gatherings this weekend.

But then Jesus changes it.  Rather than just talking about the Exodus, He changes the script.  Jesus changes the Passover meal and its very meaning.  He takes the bread, blesses it, and then hands it to His disciples saying, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  And then He takes the cup, gives thanks, and passes it around saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”


“Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”  This is the antitype.  Christ shows the disciples that the Passover itself pointed to something greater, it pointed to Him.  And while they didn’t understand it yet, the next couple of days would be devastating and wonderful at the same time.

And this is why you’ve gathered here today.  This is why we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the night Christ is arrested.  The night that His path to the cross is set in stone.  The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world is going to the altar to be slain.  To shed His blood for you, for me, for all people of all time and of all places.

Remember the guilt offering?  How could you ever know it was enough?  Where could your assurance be?  That’s not the case now.  Christ is the final sacrifice, the final blood shed for the forgiveness of sins.

That’s why, spacially, the church is designed this way.  It’s not just for aesthetics.  The cross hangs on the wall above the altar as a reminder to us that Christ’s death is the fulfillment of all sacrifices.  Type (pointing to the altar), antitype (pointing to the cross).  It is finished.

That’s the Law and Gospel, not just of these texts, but indeed, of all Scripture.  You are a sinner.  I am a sinner.  And apart from God, we’re dead.  Bound, slaves to sin.  Dead and without hope.  And, yeah, if the assurance of salvation rests here, the doubts will only consume me.

Simply put, we are sinners.  This is who we are.  But this (pointing to the cross), this is how God responds.  God doesn’t leave you in you there, dead in your sins.  He doesn’t leave you trying to work your way back to Him.  Trying to find, and climb, the stairway to heaven.  He came down to you.

So today, as you come before this altar, as you come together here in this place, to partake of the body and blood of Christ, your sins are forgiven.  They already have been in confession and absolution.  They already are forgiven in the words I’ve proclaimed to you now.  And you will be forgiven again in just a few moments.  And the beauty in all of this is that none of it depends on you.  None of this depends on me.  If someone asks you, “How do you know you’re saved?  Where’s your assurance?” you need only point them to Christ.  God has promised it.  In my baptism, in the spoken words of absolution, in the body and blood of the Lord at His Table, forgiveness and life are mine, they’re yours.

While We Were Still Enemies March 1, 2015

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Romans 5:1-11

Second Sunday in Lent

March 1, 2015


Focus:  God sacrificed His own Son for His enemies (us).

Function:  That the hearers rejoice in their Savior.

Structure:  Walking through the text.


While We Were Still Enemies


Perhaps, by now, you’ve seen it.  I’m talking about McDonald’s new marketing campaign, that their food is so good, it’ll make even the worst of enemies love one another.  One of the ads they’ve been running so far this year does that, using pop culture from the last fifty years, it shows us bitter enemies, suddenly acting like best friends:

Pacman and the Ghost, Batman and the Joker, a dog and the mailman, Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West, Spongebob Squarepants and Plankton, a lumberjack and the tree, Republicans and Democrats, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, Bowser and Mario, a dragon and a knight, a few Smurfs with the wizard Gargamel, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, a beachgoer and a shark, King Kong and the fighter pilot, the two Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, a Packers fan and a Bears fan who we’ll replace with a Vikings fan, and an angry cat with its owner.

I admit, I did chuckle when I first saw it.  But I don’t buy it.  There’s no way that those two robots who’ve been doing nothing but punching each other in the face since they were first designed back in 1964, there’s no way that they’re suddenly going to set the gloves aside and share a bag of French fries.  There’s no food that good.  Restoring a relationship with an enemy takes a lot more than that.

In our text today, Paul reminds us that we made ourselves enemies of God.  Let me paint the picture for you.  In a span of only six days, God created everything.  He created the earth, complete with its seasons and time, night and day, water and land, plants and animals.  The heavens filled with stars too numerous to count, with the sun shining brightly and giving us warmth.  Gravity, Thermodynamics, planets orbiting a sun in a solar system, DNA, and even billions of unique personalities.

God made it all!  And on the sixth day He took a step back, looked over everything and declared, “It is very good!”  Then He placed Adam and Eve, His creations, His people, His friends, He placed them into the garden.  And He gave it to them, He gave the Garden to them saying, “Take care of it.”  All of this vast creation and its beauty, He entrusted to us, to care for it, to preserve it, to help it grow and flourish.

But we know that didn’t happen.  We know that instead of choosing to follow God’s instructions, Adam and Eve chose the side of the enemy.  Despite all God had done for them, despite all that He had given them, they chose Satan instead.  They chose to follow the serpent.

It was a crushing blow to everyone.  It was more than an insult to God.  We betrayed Him, turned our backs on Him, spit in His face.  We chose the temptations of sin instead of His perfect love.  We broke our relationship with Him.  We broke the creation He entrusted to us.  And that’s when pain and suffering and death entered into the picture.  They didn’t exist before we messed it all up.

Now before you get all defensive and say, “Pastor, what do you mean we?  We weren’t in the Garden, we didn’t make that choice.  We’re just paying for their mistakes.”  Let me explain it to you another way.

At another point in history, God interceded, He broke in and tried to reclaim His creation.  He reached out to Abraham and cut a covenant with Him, saying “I will be your God and you will be My people.”  That covenant reestablished a relationship, God reached out to us and claimed us as His own.  And yet in spite of that, we did it again.  Again, we chose the enemy to love.  We chose the temptations and the desires and the sins.  We chose to abandon God and worship other things like money and power and food.  We abandoned God and chose to worship the devil.

Again, I say we because God made that covenant to include us.   But because it was broken, because our ancestors chose to leave it and not be God’s people, because they chose to sever the relationship, we are born outside of it.  We are born apart from a right relationship with God.  We are born sinful, separated from the One who made us.

And even if you still want to try and argue, we have no ground to stand on.  Just as Christ once called out to the Pharisees who wanted to stone the prostitute and said, “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone,” and they all dropped their rocks and walked away, we too know that we couldn’t have thrown the stone.  We know that we have sinned.  We know that we have put other things before the Lord, whether it was work or family, money or food, gossip or lies, whatever it might have been.

One sin, one broken command was all it took to cause thousands of years of pain and death.  One sin took a creation that was very good and made it into a place where the hearts of men were nothing but evil.  We have made ourselves enemies of God.  Both directly and indirectly.

That’s a gloomy picture, the outcome looks bleak.  And a Big Mac isn’t gonna fix it.  But then we hear the words of the Apostle Paul:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


We get his point, we really do.  There’s no way Batman is going to lay down his life to save the Joker.  We wouldn’t do that for an enemy.  In fact, if we’re honest, we’d struggle to do that for someone we care about.  And yet, that’s precisely what God did for us.  We weren’t righteous, we weren’t good, there’s nothing here that could be deemed worth dying for, but He still did.

That’s how deep the Father’s love is for His creation, for His people.  That once again, He would break into history by sending His Son to us, that He would go to the cross and suffer a painful death for those who hate Him.  God, help me to love that way.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.


No amount of self-sacrifice from the lumberjack can give new life to the tree.  He just can’t do it.  No blood, no tears, no guilt, nothing can help that tree grow back again.  Nothing we can do anyway.  But the blood of Jesus, the blood He willingly shed on the cross for you and me, that can.  That blood can forgive sins.  That blood can fix the broken relationship.  That blood can cause the tree to grow again.

In the blood of Christ we are forgiven, we are healed, and our relationship with God has been restored.  That blood washes over us and delivers us from the wrath of God that we rightly deserve.  But as wonderful as that is, that’s not the end!

Christ doesn’t remain in the grave, but instead three days later, the Father gave Him new life.  And the Apostle Paul tells us that if we’re reconciled, if our relationship to God has been fixed by Christ’s death, how much more do we now have through Jesus’ life?

It’s not just the cross, but the empty tomb.  That as Christ rose again from the dead, so will we.  That as the broken world wilts and fades, as we suffer pain and death, as plants and animals around us fade, we have not just a promise, but a true and perfect hope in a resurrection.  Because if while we were still enemies of God, He loved us so much that He would give His Son for us, how much more, now that we are His children, now that the relationship is restored and beautiful again, how much more will He bless us with the good gifts that only He can give?!

11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  We rejoice.  We enjoy the gifts that God gives us, gifts of His beautiful creation, of countless days to soak in its wonders and the blessings of life together with other people, even with the animals and other parts of God’s creation.  We rejoice by spending time with our Lord and Savior in Word and prayer.  We rejoice by loving our enemies just as He first loved us.

A Happy Meal can’t fix it.  But God most certainly can.  And He has.  In the blood of His Son, God fixed our relationship, He healed us, He’s saved us.


Freedom by the Blood July 6, 2014

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Zechariah 9:9-12

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 6, 2014


Focus: God freed us by His blood.

Function: That the hearers rejoice in the blood of the Lamb.

Structure: This is the historical situation of the text…these are the meanings for us now.


Freedom by the Blood


“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation….”

The words of the prophet Zechariah mark a celebration, rejoicing.  They mark the arrival of a King, a King who would bring with Him peace.  Because of this, we can have this reading in the midst of our celebration.

As we come together this weekend, many of you are with your family and friends.  Many more aren’t here because they’ve traveled to see their family and friends.  We are celebrating.  If you were here in town just a couple of days ago, you would have seen the celebration.  The street dance, the festival, the food, the parade, the fireworks.  Stewartville loves to celebrate the 4th of July.

It’s Independence Day.  It’s the day we gather to celebrate the events that happened 238 years ago, as our nation’s Founding Fathers put pen to paper and signed the Declaration of Independence into existence.  It was fought for and won.  It’s been fought for by millions of men and women ever since.  And so it isn’t only a place on our calendar, but it’s the very freedom that makes this country what it is.

After decades of war and civil war, the remainder of God’s people were conquered by Babylon in 587 BC.  For roughly 50 years, they served in Babylon, many, if not all, under poor conditions.  They were weighed down, they were oppressed.  But in 538 BC, King Cyrus the Great led his Persian army against Babylon, and won.  God had sent him.  God had given him a mission.  “Set My people free.”  And so in that same year, Cyrus proclaimed that freedom to God’s children.  They were free to return to Judah and Jerusalem.

“As for you, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.  Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

After the United States declared their independence, there was a growing process.  It took thirteen years to get the Constitution in place.  It took time to figure everything out again.  It was no different for God’s people.  Not only did they not have a plan, they hadn’t even begun to think about what freedom might look like.

But God kept His promise.  He reminded them of the blood of the covenant, by which He pledged Himself to be their God, and they His people.  He never forgot.  He was still looking out for them.

So in the midst of their newfound independence mixed with confusion and chaos, God again provided for His people.  He gave them two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah.  In recent history, God’s people only knew the prophets for declaring bad things for them.  Isaiah and Jeremiah forecasted the doom of the nation.  Some prophets are so negative, you’ll never hear about them in most churches.

But not so with Zechariah.  Martin Luther said this about him:

“This prophet lived after the Babylonian captivity.  With his colleague, Haggai, he helped to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple and to bring the scattered people together again, so that government and order might be set up in the land again.  He is truly one of the most comforting of the prophets.  He presents many lovely and reassuring visions, and gives many sweet and kindly words, in order to encourage and strengthen the troubled and scattered people to proceed with the building and the government despite the great and varied resistance which they had till then encountered.”

It wasn’t often a prophet was sent to encourage and build up God’s people.  But in their newfound independence, delivered by the blood of the covenant, they were lost, and encouragement was exactly what they needed.  They had been free for 16 years and they had accomplished nothing.  Many of them, out of fear, hadn’t even left Cyrus’ Persia.

But in the year 520, that’s what Zechariah and Haggai did.  They empowered the people with God’s Word, and inspired them to return to their homes and rebuild.  And so they did.  And by the year 516 BC, the new temple was complete.  And they celebrated.  They’d been set free.

Zechariah did, however, leave them with a couple other prophesies to remember.  He warned them of people who would come, false christs, who would claim to be their Savior.  But these men would only lead them astray.

And then he told them of the true Christ.  Of the King who would come to them “gentle and riding on a donkey, the colt, the foal of a donkey.”  “He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  We celebrated this together on Palm Sunday just about three months ago.

But he also told them about the thirty silver coins and that their shepherd would be struck.  These events came to pass through Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ and then the crucifixion.  The King’s blood was shed.

The peace Zechariah proclaimed to God’s people wasn’t the peace they expected.  After the generations of war, they expected earthly peace, a ceasefire.  But that’s not what we needed.  Instead, God again provided for His people precisely what was needed.  And the blood was shed.

The blood of the covenant, which Jesus calls “the new covenant in My blood,” is again God taking care of His people.  By His blood you are free.  By His blood your transgressions have been forgiven.  By His blood, your sins have been washed away.  By His blood, you have been washed clean.  All of us, and now Emi, are white as snow.  We are clean, we are free.

But in our newfound freedom from sin, we are just like God’s people of old, just like the Founding Fathers of this nation.  We are lost.  If you doubt it, try to read through Paul’s statement again.  It’s tongue tangling!  “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

In our freedom, we’re lost and confused.  We allow ourselves to get caught up in the world and the culture around us.  We believe the lies and we give in to the temptations.  We listen to the false christs who lead us astray.  We seek the comforts of this world rather than rely on the only true source of comfort.

For this Paul tells us there is another law at work, a war being waged.  He says, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The peace that was prophesied wasn’t a ceasefire.  The peace that was prophesied was the blood of the Lamb.  That our sin is washed clean.  That we are free.  The peace of God is salvation.

And to help us in the present time, God has provided many gifts for His people.  There’s the gift of baptism, when God calls us His child.  There’s the gift of the Lord’s Supper, where He freely forgives us of our sins.  There’s the gift of the church and this community, where we gather together to be built up and encouraged.  There’s the gift of parents, teachers, pastors, and others who help to raise us in the one true faith.  There’s the gift of God’s holy Word, which continues to strengthen our faith as we read it daily.  God has richly blessed His people.

Zechariah closed his prophetic ministry with one more prophecy.  He foretold the coming day of the Lord.  He told the people that the day would come when “Yahweh will be King over all the earth.  On that day Yahweh will be One and His name One…Jerusalem shall dwell in security.”  When that day comes, we will no longer be lost or confused.  We will see clearly.  We will not only taste the freedom that we have in Christ, but we will enjoy to the fullest.  And it will be cause for celebration and rejoicing.


Blood of the New Covenant April 17, 2014

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Matthew 26:20-30

Maundy Thursday

April 17, 2014

Focus: God has made with us a new covenant.

Function: That the hearers confess their need for a Savior.

Structure: This is the historical meaning in the text…these are the meanings for us now.


Blood of the New Covenant


As you well know, seeing as you’re here, today’s Maundy Thursday.  Today marks an important day in the middle of Holy Week, as Jesus has been in Jerusalem for a few days and the moment at the cross draws near.  But just what exactly is Maundy Thursday?  Outside of Holy Week, you never hear that word.

I could quiz my confirmation class right now, make Karl and Adam come up here and answer that for you, but that would be mean.  So I guess I’ll just tell you.  Maundy is from Latin, from the words mandatum novum, or in English, a new commandment.  It refers to the moments after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.  It’s supposed to remind us of Jesus’ words in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

But this year, this Maundy Thursday, we won’t focus on that aspect of the day.  Instead, we’re focusing on another new commandment that Christ gave that day.  We’re focusing on the Last Supper.  And in order to truly understand the Last Supper we need to see it for what it really is: a bridge, a link, a transition from one thing to another.

See the Last Supper isn’t just any meal.  It’s the celebration of the Passover.  It’s the celebration of what God has done for His people.  You know the connections, you know the accounts that I’m talking about.  In Genesis, God made a covenant with Abraham, that He would their God and that they would be His people.

But covenants are tricky things.  It’s not like a promise.  If you break a promise, not much happens.  Okay, maybe a little trust is lost, but that’s about it.  But not with covenants.  If you break a covenant, you die.  Bloodshed is required.  And that’s where all of the animal sacrifices came into play.  God allowed for their blood to cover our sins.

But eventually all of that sin led God’s people into slavery in Egypt.  And it wasn’t pretty.  You can’t make the pyramids without tortured slaves, harsh labor, and death.  God saw the pain of His people and He heard their cries.  And He acted.

Nine plagues later, Pharaoh still wouldn’t let God’s people go.  So God rolled out one last plague, the killing of the firstborn.  And He told Moses what to do.  Have them make a meal and eat it in great haste, for after this plague, they will be driven out of Egypt.  Put no leaven in the bread, as it won’t have time to rise.  Instruct the people to sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on their doorposts.  When the angel of death comes, he will not touch their home.  They will live.

That’s where the name Passover comes from.  The angel literally passed over their homes and spared them.  And that night, the Egyptians, led by Pharaoh, drove the Israelites out of town.  They were free.  God had heard them and He had saved them.

For nearly 1500 years after that night, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.  The meal that reminded them of God’s redemption, of God’s deliverance.  That may seem hard to believe, but we’ve been celebrating Christmas and Easter for nearly 2000 years now.  So did they, year after year, they remembered.

And that brings us to the Last Supper.  Christ’s disciples certainly didn’t know it.  They assumed it was another Passover just like any other.  They assumed they were celebrating their salvation from Egypt.  And they looked forward to sharing it with Jesus, just as they had done the past three years.

They didn’t know that this night would be different.  They didn’t know that Jesus was about to change everything.  They didn’t know that that night would change their lives, and ours, forever.

But it did.  That night Jesus reinterpreted the Passover meal.  The Last Supper became a bridge from something old to something new.  A bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  A bridge between the old covenant and the new covenant.  A bridge between the Passover and the cross.

That night, Jesus reinterpreted the meal and all of its parts in light of Himself.  That night, the Messiah taught the disciples how all things pointed to Him.  The Passover deliverance, the meal, the prophets, the blood, everything was meant to point us to Christ.

The Passover meal begins with a blessing and the first cup of wine, and then a preliminary dish, an appetizer, of mostly herbs.  After that, the host, in this case Jesus, retold the Passover story, retold Israel’s history.  Then they drank the second cup of wine.

The host would then speak a blessing over the unleavened bread.  At that point, they would eat the main course, consisting of the lamb, bread, herbs and finally a word of blessing over the third cup of wine.  The meal would then conclude with some singing of a few psalms of praise, followed by the fourth, and final, cup of wine.

The Passover meal is highly scripted.  If a Jewish family were to invite you to their Seder dinner multiple years in a row, you would begin to notice and catch on.  So imagine the disciples’ faces when Jesus broke from the norm and started teaching about Himself.

Imagine the disciples’ faces when Jesus lifted up the bread and said, “this is my body.”  Imagine the disciples’ faces when Jesus lifted up the cup and said, “this is my blood.”  Imagine the disciples’ faces as Christ took the Passover meal and made it His, as He proclaimed Himself to be the Passover lamb for all people.

That’s the connection, that’s the bridge the Last Supper is building.  Passover, Last Supper, Lord’s Supper.  Christ calls it the “new covenant in My blood.”  As the lambs were sacrificed to save the Israelites, the final lamb, Jesus Christ, is sacrificed to save us.

We are sinners.  We, every one of us, have broken the covenant.  There is no hope of salvation for us now without the shedding of blood.  Without the sacrifice that passes over our sins.  It matters not if it’s lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy or pride.  We need a Savior.

This Maundy Thursday, we wanted to highlight and focus on the Lord’s Supper, on the new covenant, on the forgiveness of sins.  To help us do just that, I baked the bread.  And yes, it’s unleavened.  But today you will see your Pastor break the bread and give it to you, as Christ broke the bread and gave it to His disciples.

Today, you will partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Today you will come into His presence trusting in the words and promises He made in the Last Supper, that this is no mere bread, but His very body.  And this is no mere cup of wine, but His very blood.  Today, you come to His table, trusting in His promise, trusting His words, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Maundy Thursday is not yet over.  Know that the events that are about to happen are part of God’s plan.  Because we have sinned blood must be shed.  But take comfort, for Christ is our Passover lamb!  He is our Savior!  Come, remember, celebrate, and be forgiven!