Maundy Thursday

Devotion for Maundy Thursday – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

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Wednesday in Holy Week

Holy Wednesday – Romans 5:6-11

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Tuesday in Holy Week

Holy Tuesday – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

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Monday in Holy Week

Holy Monday – Hebrews 9:11-15

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Every knee shall bow

Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11

Today, the Lord of heaven and earth comes into our midst, humble and lowly, welcomed by the crowds, but at the same time despised by others.  He comes into our midst to offer encouragement and to strengthen you as you stand against the attacks of the devil.

Jerusalem in 33AD?  It certainly could be, and no doubt that is our initial reaction as we prepare to enter into Holy Week.

And yet at the same time, Christ Jesus enters into our own midst.  He comes to us today, not on a lowly donkey, but in the lowly means of Word, water, bread and wine.  He comes to you today and is welcomed with the loud shouts of All Glory Laud and Honor and Hosanna Loud Hosanna, and Ride On Ride On In Majesty.  He comes to you as you are about to enter into a week where there will be multiple opportunities to gather and hear the Words of His Passion, and to pray earnestly to Him, just as He prayed to His Father in heaven.

Christ enters into your midst in a very personal sense this week, as even the most secular of stations and outlets will mark in one way or another that this is a holy week, and that Christians around the world view these days as holier than all the rest.

Christ Jesus enters into your midst and announces that He is here, that this is what He has come for; that this is the very essence of who He is.

How do you welcome Him?

The crowds of Jerusalem give us a clue this morning as to how you might welcome Him.

It is true indeed that many wave palm branches and shout Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  And indeed, many men and teenagers lay their outer cloaks along the road, and women hold their young children up to see Jesus as He passes by.

No doubt you can relate.  We sing out with gusto the words of All Glory Laud and Honor; we hold forth our palm branches and wave them with great enthusiasm.  No cloaks were laid along the aisle, but we have indeed put on our finest to come and meet the Lord in His house.

But if we dig deeper, we discover that not everyone in this crowd shouts out with the same joy.  Indeed, some have found themselves caught up in a crowd of which they otherwise would not be part of.  How many had other plans, only to be swept up in the commotion?  Who is this strange man who approaches on a donkey?  Why do we welcome Him?  Is what I have heard true?

Well that really depends on what you have heard.  For the attention that the Church receives this week will indeed draw in the curious onlooker; but how many will delight in what they see and hear?  And how many will be disappointed that the rumors are going to be just that?

Some in this Palm Sunday crowd have already discovered that Jesus is not who He says He is; or more likely not who they want Him to be.  The chief priests famously tell Jesus to silence the crowd, only to be rebuked and told the stones also will shout forth His praise.

Sadly, for many, this Holy Week is nothing more than just another week.  Not just for those who have never believed, but also for those who have walked away from the faith.  Alas, if you cannot come to church this week, if you cannot rejoice in the work of Christ this week, if you cannot bring yourself to hear the Words of Christ’s Passion this week, is there anything that would ever warrant your praise?  Or has your heart already been sealed off to the Lamb of God?

That is the crowd that Jesus sees as He enters Jerusalem; that is the crowd that Jesus looks out upon this morning here in this place.  A crowd of those who believe, mixed with those who are awkwardly caught up in the moment, and those who would rather bring the whole parade to a screeching halt.

How do you welcome Him?

No doubt you place yourself in the group that welcomes Him with great shouts of jubilation and exaltation; that is after all the expected answer, the answer that the pastor wants to hear; the answer your parents want to hear; the answer that is to be given in Sunday school and Bible class.

You would be less likely to admit out loud that you wound up here by accident, whether it be by marriage, or by invitation, or by hopes of a free lunch afterward.  And only the most ardent would argue that their hope in Jesus was misplaced, even if all evidence in their life suggests otherwise.

Most likely you circulate between the three: today you are overjoyed to be here, for this is the Sunday thing to do; but tomorrow, or later this week at one of the midweek services, or even when it comes time for meal time prayer or daily devotions, you may not be so thrilled, after all, the Sunday requirement has already been met.

And when your faith and your daily life intersect, and you know that your baptism prohibits you from one action or another that you really want to undertake, you very well may curse the very Lord you welcomed just a few days earlier.

That is our custom for welcoming Jesus into our midst.  Sometimes with open arms; sometimes with a disgruntled handshake; and even with cold eyes, and a grumble of harsh resentment.

But how does Jesus look upon you?

For this, we once again reflect on the crowds at Jerusalem; a mixed bag to say the least, and one that will play a role later this week when the shouts of Hosanna turn to shouts of Crucify Him.

But Jesus continues on anyway.  Jesus knows the crowds will turn on Him, and He knows that you will turn on Him, and yet He does not get off the donkey, nor does He immediately ascend into heaven, nor does He abandon you as you gather here in this place; rather He marches on, and continues on to the cross.

Jesus is here to suffer and die, not just for those who never turn from Him, but for those who do turn from Him.  Jesus is not just here for those who are holy and righteous, He is here for those who are far from righteous.  Jesus is here to suffer and die, so that your sins of falling away, of demanding that He be crucified, of refusing to hear His word, might be forgiven and so that you might live.

Today, Jesus looks over the crowds with the same love and compassion that He has when He gazes upon you, His beloved children.  He looks upon you, and He does not turn aside or abandon His purpose, even if that means that the crowds today may not sing the same tune that they will in a few days.

Today, the Lord of heaven and earth comes into our midst, humble and lowly, welcomed by the crowds, but at the same time despised by others.  That is the saga of Holy Week, that is the saga of our daily lives.  Sometimes Jesus is welcomed with joy, other times with confusion, and other times even with derision.

And yet there is an assurance given to you who stand tall to rejoice and sing praises to this Lamb of God who is about to be slain for your salvation: there will come a day, and it is coming soon, when every knee shall bow, even the knees of those who have nothing to go on but the rumors of who Jesus is, and every tongue confess, even the tongues of those that refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is a member of the Holy Trinity, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

That is what we look forward to.  A day when all will recognize Jesus for who He truly is, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the one who has come to save His people from their sins.  A day, when all will know the true wonder of Holy Week, which begins today, when the Lord enters into the midst of His people, the devout, the confused and the unbeliever, with words of forgiveness, life and salvation.

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The Abomination of Desolation

Lent 6 – Daniel 11:29-39

I just finished reading a book that talks about rebuilding society essentially from the ground up.

Rebuilding from what you might ask?

Rebuilding from nearly a century absent a Christian worldview; rebuilding from a half century of a worldview lacking any morals; rebuilding from a quarter century of the continuing deterioration of the basic understanding of life and marriage; rebuilding from whatever gross exploits the world has done in the last half hour.

Sounds like a daunting task does it not?  And indeed it is.  How likely is it we can turn this thing around?  Well some are more hopeful than others; although the book I have just started reading paints a far more pessimistic picture that may in fact be far more realistic.

It is easy to say that we are overlooking a pit of devastation that the world has never before seen.  And indeed, the fields that lay before us, littered with empty churches and broken homes and an absence of all that is good and right does indeed classify as a disaster.

But it has in fact happened before; and the people who saw their own fields of devastation and desolation felt as we now feel.

It is foretold for us this evening in Daniel, though the Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha actually has the fuller account.

A foreign ruler sacks Jerusalem, goes into the temple, and sacrifices a pig on the altar.

What a dreadful sight.  We speak of persecution today, and we bemoan the godless leaders that rule over us, and yet, how many come into the churches that still dot the landscape and desecrate them in such a way?

The answer to date, is zero.

And yet, what Daniel prophecies does happen.  And the people of Jerusalem look at the temple, they look at the mess, and many are tempted to give up hope, and walk away.

That is our outlook on the world today, to give up and to walk away.  To live as hermits in the mountains; to abandon the world and let the evil hordes run it over as they wish; perhaps even to forsake the Lord Himself, and join the masses that desecrate His name, for if no evil happens to them for desecrating the Lord’s altar, why should anything happen to you?

How many have adopted such an approach?  No thunder and lightning for changing God’s Word, so it must be ok?  No hellfire and brimstone for leaving out a portion of the Scriptures, so it must be ok?  No being swallowed up by the earth for adding your own word to supplement God’s Word, so it must be ok?

That is the way of the world, is it not?  If nothing bad happens, than it must be ok.  The foreign king was not smote, so why not join him?  The pagans around us are not reprimanded, so why bother?

And yet, that is not what actually happens in our text.

The pig is sacrificed and the temple desecrated, but the people of God do not give up.  Rather, they mount an uprising and cast out those who would seek to destroy the Lord’s temple.  And not only do they cleanse the temple, they go about rebuilding what had been torn down; not just the bricks and mortar aspect, but the hearts and minds.  They launch a reformation of sorts in Israel, calling people back to the way of the Lord.

Such is the example before us.  We see a world that has chased after the ways of sin, death and the devil and seemingly left no desire for the Lord and His Word.

But a remnant remains.  It remains here, in the Lord’s house, where His people still gather to pray, praise and give thanks as they gladly hear and learn the very word the Lord has given.

That is the guidance given in the books read, and in our texts this evening: rebuild society.  Yes, by electing leaders and passing laws and the like; but more importantly, one home at a time, one family at a time gathering to pray and hear God’s Word each and every day in worship and devotions.  Rebuilding one school at a time, one community at a time, one county at a time; slowly and steadily putting society back together again.

Trusting not in our own works for gain, but instead trusting in the one who has already redeemed the world from the depths and depravity of sin.  For Christ Jesus came into a world that was tarnished by far more then poor legislation and incompetent officials, or even by the Lord’s temple being desecrated by a pagan ruler.

Christ Jesus came into a world infested with sin; and it was not just in one corner of the world, or in one population of the world; it was in all the world, even in the hearts of those who believe.

Sin is a problem no program or leader could solve; it can only be dealt with by His holy and innocent suffering and death, by which He has redeemed the world from that sin.  Christ Jesus restored the bridge between heaven and earth, between God and His creation, erasing the fields of desolation that separated us, by His own suffering and death.

That is the message of hope we cling to, no matter how far and deep society plunges from the Lord’s Word.  The Lord still calls out to His people; still reaches out to those sitting in darkness; still extends His gifts to His people.  Even when society crumbles, even when people are evil, even when you think you are the only faithful one left.

The Lord is faithful, now and always.

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Grace Alone

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church   Natoma, Kansas

April, 2017

This is part 2 in a 4 part series on the Solas of the Reformation. Part 1 is in the January newsletter; parts 3 and 4 will be in the July and October editions.

I was always picked last to play basketball, probably because my dribbling was below average, my shooting was off the mark, and my free throws rarely went in.  On the other hand, I was picked much sooner to play baseball, probably because of several homeruns I hit, and the many batters I struck out.

My track record in sports determined where I got picked to play on teams: last in basketball, first in baseball.

That is how life works: if you are good, you will be called upon early and often to come forward and sing, or play sports, or do an important job.  If you are not so good, you will notice how infrequently your phone rings when people are looking for singers, or workers, or athletes.

Grace does not show up in our everyday world; in fact, grace is a very foreign concept.  Hard work, talent, family connections, the ability to pay back, that is where choices are made.

That is the worldview in Luther’s day as well.  If you were good, if you gave big gifts, if you could do something special, than God would want you to be with Him in heaven; but if not, then you were out of luck.

But that is not how the Scriptures speak: why does God call Abraham?  He was old, had no children, and was hardly a faithful believer.  Or why does God choose Israel?  They are the smallest and weakest of the nations.  Or why does Jesus call the disciples?  None were highly educated, nor were they influential in any way.  Or why does God call you?  What have you done that is especially good?  What great talent or benefit do you bring to the table?  Nothing; you bring nothing, just as Abraham brought nothing, and Israel brought nothing, and the disciples brought nothing.

But that is grace.  God looks past your weaknesses and your failings and He calls you anyway.  God sees you sitting in gloom and darkness, sees that you have no value of your own, and yet God calls you to be His beloved child.

In VBS we learn that grace stands for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense; what is grace?  It is receiving the full and rich blessings that God has for you, not because you are worthy by your words or actions, but because Christ was worthy by His words and actions.  Grace is receiving everything, even though you yourself did nothing and deserve the opposite.

You are now singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl without ever taking a music lesson; you are the starting pitcher for the Royals without ever picking up a baseball, you are on a space ship to the moon without ever being told how to get there.

You are standing in the glory and splendor of your Father in heaven without ever having done a thing worthy to get there, but solely because Jesus did everything for you.

Grace is perhaps best seen in the thief on the cross; who repents and confesses Jesus, and receives the promise of Paradise.  He had no opportunity to go and do some great works or live a Godly life, he was on a cross about to die; and yet what does he receive?  Grace.  He receives God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

That is what you now receive as well: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  You receive grace.

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

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