Do you really know a guy?

Ash Wednesday – Genesis 37:1-36

A number of years ago, when I was in junior high, the pastor did a series of sermons in weekly chapel on Joseph.  And he started with this very text from Genesis 37, and he told us that Joseph was really a spoiled little brat.

I kid you not, I almost fell over upon hearing that.

How could you say such a thing about poor little Joseph?  He was picked on by his brothers to no end; he was sold into slavery; he had a hard life in Egypt, where his loyalty to Potiphar is repaid by being thrown into prison based on one false accusation.  He then helps out two fellow prisoners, only to be completely forgotten when what he predicts comes true.

How can Joseph possibly be a spoiled, little brat, when he is the VICTIM for about 25 years from Genesis 37-40, and then is the hero from there on out?

I was so distraught by this, I asked the religion teacher about it later that day, and he was equally surprised by what he heard; so I asked the pastor about it on Sunday morning.

Perhaps you also find yourself in the same position I did.  The Joseph we know is a Joseph who was sold into slavery; who lived a hard life; who by the grace of God was elevated into a position of power and prestige in all Egypt, who was able to save not just his family, but an entire nation from certain starvation.

How could this Joseph that we know and love, how could this Joseph whose story we fondly recall, how could this Joseph, be a spoiled little brat?

But of course, the same could be said about you, could it not?

If we were to examine your life, what would we find?

Oh, we would find what you want us to find.  We would find the hardships that you faced; we would find the heartaches you endured; we would find the trials and tribulations that you had to overcome.  And I would imagine, in the story of your life you would paint yourself as the hero who saves the day, who everyone looks up to, who stands at the pinnacle on the last day, and mercifully forgives those who did you wrong; how thoughtful of you indeed.

Because that is the story you want others to hear; that is the story you want others to tell about you; and dare I even say it, that is the story you want to believe.  The story where you, like Joseph, are the victim, who ends up being the hero.  The story where God is on your side.  The story where in the end, we forget about all the other details, and only focus on the ones that you want us to remember.

I can assure you that I recovered from this traumatic experience in junior high, and it did not take years of therapy or a safe place to do so.  Instead, when I confronted the pastor on his seemingly baseless accusations about good ol’ Joseph, he merely pointed out what the text says.

Now granted the text does not call Joseph a spoiled little brat, at least not in so many words.  But look at what it does say.

Joseph is the favored child of Jacob by virtue of him being the first born of the favored wife, who later died in childbirth with Benjamin.  You don’t have to be a family therapist to say that the first born of the favored wife is going to get a big head about himself when he soon discovers that his presents are a whole lot nicer than those of everyone else, and that no matter what, he can do no wrong.

And what is the nicest present of all?  A coat of many colors.  Could there be anything more gaudy, more flashy, more in your face for all to see, than a coat of many colors in a world where everyone else is living in black and white?  A coat that you can’t just hide in your pocket, or keep to yourself, but a coat that demands to be worn and seen and shown off every chance you get.

And what could cement your status as favorite child, than by ratting out your older brothers?  Look at me in my fine coat, being the good child, while these 11 others are off being naughty.  Oh, and don’t forget those dreams, where everyone bows down and worships him.  I’m sure the brothers enjoyed hearing about that.

Is Jacob to blame?  Absolutely; he is a horrible parent; and there is no doubt about it, his failed parenting style has created this monster child in Joseph, and the deep seated animosity in the brothers.  But that does not give anyone, especially Joseph a permission slip to do whatever he wants; Joseph is accountable for his own sins, and by golly, does he have a lot to account for.

Because Joseph is nothing more than a spoiled little brat, and he deserves to be thrown into that pit, and while selling him into slavery may seem a little overboard, don’t think for a minute that you would not be tempted to do the same with some of your neighbors or relatives, or whoever else is the spoiled little brat in your life, should the opportunity ever arise.

Do you see what happened?  When you read the text, when you examine the full life of Joseph, you soon discover that Joseph is not so innocent anymore; Joseph is a sinner; Joseph is worthy to some degree of what he has got coming to him, and I don’t mean being appointed second in command of all Egypt.  Joseph deserves the pit, and he may even deserve to be sold off.

Now look at your own life; not the part you want others to see, the clean shaven, polished surface, smooth edges, no problems here image, but the underbelly of yourself; the part of you that is drenched in the blood of your enemies, who you have verbally and physically beaten down.  How much better are you than the Joseph of Genesis 37?  That Joseph is a pain, and you know it.  What of you?

Tonight, marked upon your forehead is your answer.  Perfect angels don’t get ashes, but spoiled little brats do.  That is where you find yourself: with Joseph, in the pit, covered in dust and ashes.  You are chief of sinners; from depths of woe you cry out in agony; because the image you portray to others is nothing but smoke and mirrors, the truth is that you are sentenced to death.

But God never forgot Joseph; and God never forgets you.  For Christ Jesus has come into the world to bare the sins of all people, even spoiled little brats like you, and terrible parents and teachers and pastors and leaders like Jacob who created the situation that yields spoiled little brats.

Even those who we only remember as being wonderful human beings, need Jesus.  Pastors need Jesus; elders need Jesus; teachers need Jesus; parents need Jesus; babies need Jesus; even Joseph needed Jesus; even you need Jesus.  Tonight, with ashen foreheads, we remind ourselves of this truth once more.  You need Jesus, because you are a spoiled little brat, and spoiled little brats need Jesus, and they, and you, get Jesus, the one who has come to redeem you from your sins.

Posted in Joseph Series | Leave a comment

Setting the stage

A preview of our Lenten series on this Ash Wednesday

Posted in Joseph Series | Leave a comment

Do you get it?

Transfiguration of Our Lord – St. Mark 9:2-9

After six days, Jesus takes Peter, James, John and you, up to a high mountain; and at the peak, His clothes become radiant white, and suddenly Moses and Elijah appear.  You and the disciples are stunned at this sight, and you marvel at it for a few moments, wondering if what you see before you is even real.

As you have come to learn, Peter is always the first one to speak, and this occasion is no different as he offers to build three tents, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus.

Flabbergasted by what you have just heard, you slap Peter across the face; and you stand in front of everyone and say: Don’t you guys get it?  Jesus brought us up here to show us this so that we might understand that Jesus is not a new law giver, He is not a new Moses or Elijah; but rather Jesus is far greater than Moses and Elijah; and He has come not to institute a new law, but rather to fulfill the law perfectly for us.

And Jesus walks up to you, puts His arm around you, and says Well done, good and faithful Lutheran.  You understand what no one else does.  Surely your reward will be great in heaven.

And going down the mountain, Jesus cannot stop raving about how great is your faith; and how much greater you are than everyone else in St. Mark’s Gospel.

Or at least that is the way you like to imagine it happening.

In St. Mark’s Gospel, no human being gets who Jesus is.  The disciples are constantly confused by Jesus; first He heals and casts out demons, and teaches as one with authority; but then He goes up to a mountain to pray and rejects the crowds in one town if favor of going onto the next.  The scribes and elders don’t get who He is; first He teaches with authority, but then He refuses to answer seemingly simple straightforward questions about where He gets His authority.  The crowds definitely do not understand Jesus; He is merely an entertaining speaker who provides a meal on a moment’s notice.

The only ones who recognize Jesus for who He truly is, are the demons, and Jesus often refuses to let them even speak.

And so today, you shake your head in disgust; how could no one recognize who Jesus truly is?  How could they all miss the signs?  How could they not hear the very clear words spoken by Jesus about who He was?

You have to ask yourself what else does Jesus have to do?  Does He have to literally say that He is going to suffer and die and on the third day rise?  Does He have to sit at the Last Supper and literally point to Judas as the one who will betray Him?  Because He actually does that, and they still don’t get it.  What is it going to take to get these people to understand?

You would have known.  You would have been able to identify the clues; you would have seen what was happening and made the proper confession of who Christ Jesus truly is.

Or at least, that is what you tell yourself.

You tell yourself that you would recognize all the signs, you would have heard all the words, you would have seen what no one else was able to see.  You would know who this Jesus is and for what purpose He has come into the world.

Or at least, that is what you tell yourself.

You say you would have seen and known what no one else did back then, but how can that be true, when you don’t get who Jesus is today?

You say you understand Jesus, but how can you, when you insist that just because you believe, God will shower earthly gifts and blessings upon you?  Did Jesus not say that those who believe in Him should be willing to forsake all earthly possessions and follow Him?

You say you would hear the words of Jesus and properly make the connection; but how can you make the connection, when you look at the bread and wine and question whether or not it is also Jesus true body and blood; when Jesus own words are ‘This is My body’ and ‘This is My blood’?

You say that you are saved by grace and not by works of the Law; but how can you follow that line of thinking when you shame others who will not work as hard or as long as you do?  Was Peter not rebuked when he offered to build tents for everyone at the Transfiguration?

You say that you would never be afraid to confess the resurrection before others, and that unlike the women at the tomb, you would race off and tell everyone; and yet, when the schedule is being made out for the week, how many times do you refuse to speak up and point out the conflict one event or another has with Sunday worship?  Are you not just as terrified as the women at the tomb?

When it all boils down in the end, do you understand Jesus any better than those in the Gospel of St. Mark?  Here, at the Transfiguration, can you honestly say that your words would have been any more intelligent, let alone beneficial, than the words that make their way out of Peter’s mouth?

Should God not strike you both down?  What is to stop Jesus from having a temper tantrum right here and now; screaming at the disciples, screaming at you, wondering how dense you can be to not get what is going on here?  How much clearer does it have to be?

And yet none of that happens; not at the Transfiguration and not today.  There is no bolt of lightning, no earth swallowing everyone up, no plague, not even a strong reprimand.

Instead, there is a voice from the heavens, speaking to the disciples and to each of you, saying: This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.

The voice of God the Father speaks, affirming what was already assumed, that this Jesus is a member of the Trinity, and reminding the disciples and you to listen to Him, for what He speaks is true, and will lead one to eternal life.

He speaks these words to the disciples and to you, that though you may not always have a clear confession or understanding of Jesus, that He is patient and kind.  Jesus explains again and again who He is and for what purpose He has come.  Jesus points again and again to His death and resurrection; Jesus announces again and again that He is the way, the truth and the life.

He does this not only for those dunderheads in the crowds, or those blockheads who are on television all day long, or even just for those who refuse to believe; He speaks these words again and again for you, so that you too may constantly be reminded of who Christ is and for what purpose He has come.  He reminds you again and again, so that you might know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He has come into the world in order that He may redeem the world.

And so confess your misunderstandings; confess your misconceptions; confess your confusion, and receive the absolution.   Confess your sins of not knowing who Jesus is and why He is here, and receive the absolution, for that is in fact why He is here.  He is here so that you might be forgiven all of your sins, and have eternal life.

And then listen to Him.

Listen to Jesus words here in the Gospel; listen to His words that are proclaimed to you each and every Lord’s day; listen to His words are you read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Scriptures.  Listen to His words and promises in Baptism, Lord’s Supper and in the Absolution.  Listen to Him, so that you might not be confused or perplexed or distracted; but so that you might boldly proclaim the good news of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

Posted in sermons | Leave a comment

The great calendar irony of 2018

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

February, 2018

This is the year of the great calendar irony for Christians.  Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th, which is Valentine’s Day; and Easter Sunday falls on April 1st, which is April Fool’s Day.

Needless to say, the sermons and illustrations for both days write themselves.  What greater love is there, then that the Father sent His Son into the world to redeem you, not you who present yourselves in your Sunday best, but rather you who sit in sackcloth and ashes?  Valentine’s is all about the perfect love that shows itself in Hallmark movies; the love where the man and the woman declare that they are perfect for each other; and yet what is the reality, but that when one errs most grievously, that the other should run away into the arms of another?  Valentine’s love is all about the passion of the moment, not the nitty gritty of daily living.

And yet the perfect love of God the Father declares that even when you are buried in your sins and transgressions, even when you are the one who runs away to the arms of another, He still loves you, He still forgives you, He still sends His Son into the world to die for you.  And that the red of Valentine’s Day is not the red hearts and red roses that will adorn so many kitchen tables and office desks, but the red blood that pours forth from the wounds of Christ Jesus, so that you might have forgiveness, life and salvation.

But this love that the Father has is a confusing love for many because it is so unlike that which we experience day to day; the Father’s love is both unconditional and undeserved.  We are much more accustomed to the Valentine’s love that is here today and gone tomorrow, a love that does in fact die when old age sets in, when times get tough, when the feelings of passion are gone; Valentine’s love is not a love that endures all things.

And if that love that God has should find its origins on Valentine’s Day, only be fully and completely rejected on Good Friday, what is there to bring it back?  If you kill the one who loves you so deeply, why would they ever accept you back, no matter what?

And yet, what does the Psalmist say, but that the fool says in his heart there is no God, and how many fools surround us to reject the message of the resurrection?

The resurrection is a continuation and completion of that love that begins on Ash Wednesday, yes begins at your baptism.  Christ Jesus comes into the world to live, to suffer, to die and to rise, so that you might live.  That is the true definition of perfect love, for what greater love is there than that a man should lay down His life for His friends, and you are Jesus’ friends.

Only a fool would offer such love, and indeed, only a fool would reject such a love.

This Lent, we will not focus on the irony of the calendar, but we will focus on the depths of our sin and the heights of God’s love as we examine the account of Joseph in Genesis 36-50.  This beloved account is filled with many opportunities to see the depths of sin in every character, but at the same time is filled with many opportunities to see the love of God at work for His people, both then and now.

Midweek Lenten services begin with Ash Wednesday on February 14 at Peace Lutheran, Natoma at 7PM.  Please make use of the many opportunities to mark the time of Lent, including the daily devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries, and praying the Litany daily on LSB p. 288.

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

Posted in Church Newsletter Articles, Observations on Society, Preaching Series | Leave a comment

Jesus in the Distractions

Epiphany 4 – St. Mark 1:21-28

Posted in sermons | Leave a comment

Hope for life

Epiphany 3 – Life Sunday – 1 Peter 3:15-17

Posted in Pro-life, sermons | Leave a comment

Can any good come from…

Kansas District Pre-Lent Retreat devotion based on St. John 1:43-51

Philip, the fresh seminary graduate who is new to the circuit, runs up to the grizzled veteran Nathanial, and announces to him the great success he just had in teaching confirmation class; to which Nathanial asks: can any good come out of confirmation class?  Or of counseling?  Or of preaching?  Or of a pastors conference?

The Nathanial’s of the church want to have the energy and the enthusiasm and the excitement of a Philip, but years of disappointment, and reality, have caused all of that to fade away.

Nothing good comes out of Nazareth; that is a backwater town that is full of people who are more likely to screw everything up, as opposed to produce the long promised Messiah.  And such is often the case with confirmation; they’ll just end up breaking the 6th Commandment anyway; the couple you counsel will just end up getting divorced; that sermon you slave over for hours to get just right will be ignored; you’ll get home from conference with nothing more than a backlog of work that needs to be done.

Can any good come out of any of this?  Such is the question of Nathanial, such is the question of all who find themselves sitting under fig trees, or behind desks, or in the front of the classroom, or in the driver’s seat of the car.

Perhaps it is to humor Philip that Nathanial goes along, or more likely guilt that this may be the one time, let alone the first time, that something good actually comes out of showing up.  Energy and enthusiasm do at least cause some interest to be raised, even if only for a moment.

Jesus response upon seeing Nathanial is Behold, a pastor in whom there is no deceit.

Jesus of course knows what you and Nathanial thought before coming here; he knows the burdens and the heartaches of being disappointed so many times, of not knowing if anyone will ever understand that the 6th Commandment, the sermon, the words of Law and Gospel apply to them.  Jesus knows that after years of service, sometimes it is hard to get one’s hopes up about much of anything, and that it is far easier to be cynical about everything.

And so Jesus speaks these words to you: Behold, a pastor in whom there is no deceit.

You know of course that there is much deceit in you; that grumbling and groaning about one thing in the church or another is not godly, nor is it part of ones call documents.

But today Jesus speaks the words to you that there is no deceit found in you.  Not because you are allowed to mumble and grumble, but because by His death and resurrection, Christ Jesus has forgiven you this sin, just as He forgave Nathanial, and just as He will forgive Philip when the work of proclaiming the Gospel produces a cynical nature in him as well.

For you will see greater things: you will see those who break the Law, repent.  You will see those who come to be counseled, reconcile.  You will see that sermon open the eyes of those in the pews to the wonder of God’s love.  You will see that Bible study reveal the true nature of Christ in the world.  You will see that conference provide a renewed spirit and zeal for the work of the Lord.

But even if it should not, you will see the Lord Jesus, standing before the throne of God, announcing for one and all to hear: Behold, a child of God, in whom there is no deceit, for you have been redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Posted in sermons | Leave a comment