Monday, April 5, 2021

EASTER April 4-5, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “CERTAIN HOPE FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES!”

 

EASTER

April 4-5, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

 

“CERTAIN HOPE FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES!”

1.     Easter gives us hope for uncertainty in this life.

2.     Easter gives us hope for a certain life to come.

 

1 Corinthians 15:19-20 (EHV) “If our hope in Christ applies only to this life, we are the most pitiful people of all. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

 

          Uncertainty, not knowing, is the worst. You are left hanging, paralyzed, unable to act and not knowing which way to go. So if you apply for a job that you really want it’s the waiting that’s the hardest part. Did I get it or not? Once I know I can act one way or the other. Or take the biopsy. Is it cancer or not? Uncertainty again leaves you hanging, wondering, what should I plan for. So when you are waiting for some needed news that will be either good or bad it’s better to know. Then you can act. Uncertainty, uncertainty is the worst. We are so glad to be able to worship online and in person this Easter. It was good to know we could plan on having this service but we certainly have had more than our fair share of uncertainty this past year, haven’t we? If you are like me, you felt pulled back and forth by experts. Things that we were told were true one week weren’t true the next week. Things I thought for sure would happen didn’t happen. The waiting was the hardest part. Will the economy tank or bounce back? Will I keep my job or lose it? Will we be able to go back to in person worship, in person school, or not? What keeps you going in uncertain times is hope. Hope that things will get better.

          What are you hoping for this morning? Do you hope this virus goes away or the vaccines work so life can go back to normal? Do you hope that our nation can somehow heal? Is your hope more personal for something like a job or healing or for a relationship? It’s important to have hope. It’s also important that your hope is well placed. So often the hope people have is no hope at all but just a wish, a dream, “Wouldn’t it be great if..” but there is nothing backing that hope or wish. That’s why it’s good for us to be here, to be listening. We are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and what we shall see is that what happened outside of Jerusalem that first Easter Sunday almost 2000 years ago gives us a sure and certain hope, hope backed by Christ.

          It gives us hope for the uncertainties of this life. Jesus has made many promises to you, promises filled with hope. He has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised you that with Him in your life you never face any problem alone. He has promised to work all things in your life for the good. He has promised that He is ruling all things, including governments of this world, for the good of the church and that means for your good. He has promised that He has all power to provide for you and protect you and He is using it. He has promised to hear and answer all of your prayers based on what is best for you. He has promised you that He loves you unconditionally. He has promised you that His death has paid for every one of your sins in full, that you are forgiven.

          All those promises are meaningless if Jesus’ bones are buried in some cave somewhere outside of Jerusalem. None of these promises can be true. None of God’s promises can be trusted. You have no hope for this life if Christ has not been raised from the dead. But He did rise from the dead! Read all of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 today if you want and rejoice. Rejoice as it reveals Jesus lives! In addition to the eyewitness accounts from Matthew’s Gospel and Mark’s Gospel  and the ones Luke so carefully researched and wrote down in his gospel and the eyewitness account of John in his Gospel, Paul reminds us of the time the risen Lord Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time and then to Paul himself. Jesus is risen and that means you have certain hope for the uncertainties of this life.

          So go ahead and smile and be happy and have hope, hope in Jesus. Hoping for our lives to return to normal is just a wish, but hope in Jesus gives me confidence that because He lives we get to know that even if we don’t get back to normal He will work abnormal for our good. Hoping I get a certain job I have my heart set on is a wish. Hope in Jesus gives the peace that my living Lord Jesus will provide for me in the best way and if I don’t get that job it’s because my living Lord Jesus has a better one for me. Hope that our country will heal or a relationship will make it is a wish. But hope in the living Lord Jesus gives me the comfort of knowing my part in causing division in our nation and my part in ruining a relationship has been forgiven and I am free to live today in a way that promotes healing and peace. Hoping grandma’s cancer goes away is a wish but hope in Jesus gives me the calmness of knowing grandma will get better.

          Recently I was told of a retired pastor who had just gotten the news that he had an inoperable brain tumor, likely 6 months to live. A relative who did not know of this diagnosis happened to call him and ask how he was feeling. “OK,” he said, “but pretty soon I’ll feel perfect!” How could he say that? He could and did because not only does our living Lord Jesus give us certain hope for the uncertainties of this life but he also, and more importantly, gives us certain hope for the life to come.

          That’s what the Apostle Paul was emphasizing in the section of 1 Corinthians I read to you. “If our hope in Christ applies only to this life, we are the most pitiful people of all. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” I appreciate honesty. Paul’s words very bluntly remind us that a day is coming when hope for this life won’t matter any more because this life will end. That’s not a popular message in an America where many citizens strive to hold on to every last breath but it’s true. The death rate for Americans still stands at 100%. What then?  It’s good to have hope in Christ for this life. It changes attitudes and outlooks. But this life ends. Then what? If there is nothing more we are the most pitiful people of all.

“But” and I hesitate to say this, however, this is a really big “but.” But what? But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Jesus lives! Do you see what this means? We have certain hope for the life to come. Paul called Jesus the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Since we live in an urban area we really don’t focus on what firstfruits are or mean. Firstfruits are exactly what they sound like, the very first part of a crop that is ready to harvest. It’s the first daffodil to break ground, but it’s not the last. It’s the first apple or cherry blossom to show, the promise that more are coming. It’s the first ear of juicy Wisconsin sweet corn waiting to pop in your mouth, but more are coming.

Here is hope, certain hope for the life to come. Let’s go back to grandma’s cancer. You love grandma. She loves you more. Throughout her life she has been there loving, hugging, smiling. She has prayed for you and pointed you to Jesus her Savior by word and example. You pray for her to get better. She will! She will! Because Jesus lives. Whether the cancer takes her or something else she will not end when this life ends. She will fall asleep in Jesus and as He rose from the dead as the firstfruit  she will follow as the second or more likely billionth. You will be with her again. Now if it’s not Grandma you are hoping to see, who is it? Picture them. Easter gives certain hope for the life to come. It’s happening.

Now look at what that does to the here and now. This life can frustrate you but it cannot break you. It can vex you but it cannot defeat you. It can drag you down but it cannot put you out. It can cause you pain and your heart to ache but it cannot control you and does not define who you will be nor will the hurts and pains last. The Devil and the unbelieving world can try to marginalize you as much as they want but they will be the ones on the margins just hoping to get to be what we are, but their hope is nothing more than a wish that will never happen. But you, you will live forever in the glory and joy of heaven where no pain can touch you, no hope goes unfulfilled, no sin can make you feel guilty and no relationship break your heart. Why? Because Jesus lives! Certain hope for the life to come.

          Friends, I am quite certain that if I could tell you and the rest of America for a fact that all Covid related inconveniences would end tomorrow there would be great joy and happiness—for a little bit. At least until the next fear producing crisis came. If I told you, you would get that job that you really want or your house offer would be accepted you would be thrilled--for a bit, until the job or house became one more thing in this life you take for granted as we all find it so easy to do. However I can’t tell you any of those things with any certainty. What I can tell you  is Jesus lives. And because He lives you can always count on a brighter tomorrow. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Amen.

Friday, April 2, 2021

April 1, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: John 13:1-5, 12-17 “HANDS OF HUMILITY!”

 

MAUNDY THURSDAY

April 1, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: John 13:1-5, 12-17

 

“HANDS OF HUMILITY!”

 

John 13:1-5, 12-17 (EHV) Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved those who were his own in the world, he loved them to the end. By the time the supper took place, the Devil had already put the idea into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God. He got up from the supper and laid aside his outer garment. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…. 12 After Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer garment, he reclined at the table again. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me Teacher and Lord. You are right, because I am. 14 Now if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 Yes, I have given you an example so that you also would do just as I have done for you. 16 Amen, Amen, I tell you: A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

 

          I’m guessing you have all either had an experience like this or watched it happen. You go to a restaurant. The hostess seats you and says, “Your server will be with you shortly.” You wait. You converse with your dinner guests. After a while of talking you realize no has stopped at your table yet, not even to fill glasses of water. That’s weird. You look around trying to catch the eye of who is supposed to be your server. No one. You go back to the hostess who points out your server to you. You ask for some water. “Sure, I’ll be right there.” More waiting. Uncomfortable. Starting to lead to anger. You hunt the server down. “Can we get some help?” “Sure, just let me take care of this table first.” You head out in a huff. That’s not good service.

          Whether that has actually happened to you or not at a restaurant it has happened somewhere. Poor service just leaves you waiting and frustrated and it is all too common. At the doctor’s office. The grocery store checkout or just trying to get an oil change. Here’s the problem. We all depend on others for needed service. In fact God created people to depend on others. You might be able to do your taxes but can you fix your computer, your car, your plumbing? Good service is so important and often so rare that we are willing to honor good service with healthy tips and enthusiastic referrals.

          And if you are the person who likes to do that then certainly you will want to refer your friends and relatives, and maybe even your enemies, to Jesus! The word of God we are looking at shows Jesus providing invaluable service not just to His disciples but to all of us as we look at his Hands of Humility.

          We join Jesus and His disciples in the Upper Room and the night of what we have come to call Maundy Thursday. They are celebrating the Passover and Jesus has a lot on his mind. Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved those who were his own in the world, he loved them to the end. By the time the supper took place, the Devil had already put the idea into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.” Did you catch that? Jesus knew. He knew it was time, time for Him to feel the sting of betrayal by a friend, time for Him to endure the pain and suffering of Hell in order to redeem the people He loved so much. Who would have blamed Jesus if He made the night about Himself, if He had been withdrawn and quiet? But He wasn’t. He was busy serving.

          “He got up from the supper and laid aside his outer garment. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” You have to wonder a little bit just what had happened when Jesus and his disciples had first entered the upper room. Remember, these are the guys that Jesus busted arguing about who would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. These are the guys who fought again when James and John’s mother asked for special privileges for them. Normally when you entered a house in that culture someone washed your feet. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the lowest man on the totem pole got the privilege of handling, sweaty, stinky dirty feet. With no one there to wash their feet were they arguing again? Who would get stuck washing feet? Nose goes! Rock, paper, scissors! Wouldn’t you think one of them would at least have offered to wash Jesus’ feet? Didn’t happen. But feet were washed—by Jesus.  After Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer garment, he reclined at the table again.” With all that Jesus had on His mind, with the weight of the sins of the world resting on His shoulders we would understand if Jesus let a little of his righteous anger show. But he didn’t. His hands of humility went into action and He served.

          And He served with purpose. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me Teacher and Lord. You are right, because I am. 14 Now if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 Yes, I have given you an example so that you also would do just as I have done for you. 16 Amen, Amen, I tell you: A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” You can teach with words. You can teach with actions. You can do what’s best and teach with both. That’s what Jesus was doing. Without frustration or exasperation, with perfect patience Jesus taught the joy of service.

          Jesus’ hands of humility humble us. Most of the time our service to others falls far short of what Jesus has shown us. Often we base it on the behavior of our neighbor. We shun people who don’t agree with us. We get around to the problem child last. We do the least we can get by with for the most difficult people in our lives and gladly do good to those who are good to us and we justify our poor Christian service by saying, “That’s all they deserved,” And our own words condemn us. What if Jesus worked that way? No one would have gotten their feet washed. Much worse, no one’s sins would be paid for. But that’s not Jesus. He didn’t walk out in a huff over the bad behavior of his disciples and he didn’t walk out on you and me either. He served and gave his life as a ransom for many.

          Maybe we wonder why Jesus took this particular time to teach a lesson on Christian service. So many other things could have been His priority. But the Savior you know always has the best interest of His people in mind. He gives what they need. What we need is to know what will give us joy in this sin filled world as we wait for the glory of heaven. And what we need is the strength to do it. Both of those Jesus provided with His hands of humility. This day we call Maundy Thursday. Many people think Maundy must have something to do with the Lord’s Supper because this is when Jesus gave it to us. Actually the word Maundy comes from the Latin Mandate which means command. A new command Jesus gave that night. Love each other as I have loved you. Love by serving. Find joy by serving. The command is not to wash feet but to serve others needs even if it’s lowly, even if they don’t deserve it. And the strength to do it? Jesus’ hands of humility held out bread and said, “Take and eat, this is my body,” and the cup and said, “Take and drink, this is my blood.” Faith food. Strength for Christian living.

I said earlier that God created people to need the service of others. He also created us to find joy in serving others with our own hands of humility. That’s why Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Happy serving! Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2021

March 20-22, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34 “IT’S A NEW COVENANT!”

 

LENT 5

March 20-22, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34

 

“IT’S A  NEW COVENANT!”

 

SERMON TEXT: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (EHV) “Yes, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, although I was a husband to them, declares the Lord. 33But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34No longer will each one teach his neighbor, or each one teach his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord, for I will forgive their guilt, and I will remember their sins no more.”

 

          Just imagine you are on the game show The Price is Right. You get picked and make the right bid. They reveal what you can win. “It’s a new car!” You know what happens next. Screams and cheers from the crowd and the best reaction from the contestants. The opportunity to win a new car is just so exciting. And to be sure there is something to be said about the excitement of something new, like our new addition, or new clothes, or new shoes for my wife. Excitement and appreciation for something new builds when the old is worn out and broken.

          That’s what God had the prophet Jeremiah announce. It was about 600 years before Jesus was born. The prophet Jeremiah announced something new was coming, a new covenant. Any of the people back then who truly understood the covenant they were living under would be so excited at the prospect of a new covenant with God to replace the old. I imagine them screaming. “It’s a new covenant!” Things are a little different with us. We are living in the days the Lord was talking about, the time of the New Covenant. It’s what the Church year season of Lent points us to: how Jesus marches to Jerusalem to deliver a new covenant and then signs and seals it with His blood. Now here’s the problem. When you’ve had something new for a while, it doesn’t feel new anymore, even if it’s in perfect condition. It starts to feel old. And what happens with to us with stuff that feels old? We don’t appreciate it anymore. So today let’s eagerly examine the two covenants God put into place, the old and the new, with the goal that we will walk out of here once again excited that we have a new covenant!

          Now the best way to do this is simply to have a side by side comparison of the old and the new covenants which is really a comparison of life for believers in the Old Testament to life for believers in the New Testament. That’s what the word testament means, covenant. It’s important to remember that believers in the Old Testament were saved by believing in the Savior who would come and believers in the New Testament are saved by believing in the Savior who has come. Same Savior. Jesus. Life was very different however. Let’s look at some of the differences between old and new.

          First, the Old. It was given only to the Old Testament nation of Israel. Anyone who wanted to be a part of it would have to walk like an Israeli and by that I mean live like them and follow all the rules. Secondly it was put in place by a man, a great man, but just a man. Moses delivered the covenant to Old Testament Israel. Thirdly, the Old Covenant was conditional, two sided. God promised He would do certain things for the nation of Israel like fight their wars and bless their crops and herds. The people had to do their part and keep the laws of the covenant. And there were lots of them like food laws. Certain foods were considered unclean. Did you know that if you lived at the time of the Old Covenant you would never get to eat a BLT or a half or full rack of ribs or have eggs with bacon for breakfast, not even bacon bits on your salad? You would not have ham and rolls for Sunday lunch like so much of the rest of Milwaukee. Pork was an unclean food. Speaking of unclean there were all kinds of laws that made you unclean for a period of time which meant you could not come before God and had to be isolated from other people. You were unclean if you were near a dead body of man or beast. Unclean if you had a rash. All kinds of natural body functions made you unclean. When you learn all those laws you wonder how anybody spent any time being clean. But actually that was one of the points. You can’t clean yourself up. If you lived at the time of the Old Covenant you would have to worship on Saturday and you have to make your schedule work around that day. No going to Badger games. Nothing that resembled work. Fourthly the Old Covenant was bloody all the time. Take a read through Leviticus and find out about the many, many animal sacrifices that were required. Kids when you came to church you would see and smell a lot of blood. I’d have to be an expert butcher. Now the reason for all of this is that the Old Covenant was a teaching covenant. It taught very bluntly that sin makes you unclean so you can’t come to God. Sin is horrible and requires payment in blood and death. Either the sinner paid or a substitute and as soon as I say that word substitute you know what the Old Covenant was designed to do, point to and picture Jesus. Finally the Old Covenant was a broken covenant. It forced you to say, “I must. I have to. I can’t.” Actually do you know how long it took the Old Testament nation of Israel to break their side of the covenant? Remember what Moses found when he came down Mt. Sinai? The Golden Calf. Do you think we could have done better?

          What good news to hear “It’s a New Covenant!” “Yes, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, although I was a husband to them, declares the Lord. 33But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34No longer will each one teach his neighbor, or each one teach his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord, for I will forgive their guilt, and I will remember their sins no more.” Let’s look now at the new Covenant that you and I get to live under. First, it’s for everybody, not one nation. For God so loved the world. Secondly it was put into effect by Jesus Himself, the only Son of God. Thirdly it’s unconditional. It’s one sided. It’s all God’s doing. Six separate times God says “I will” when talking about the new covenant. It’s a covenant that frees us from those unkeepable Old Testament laws. So fire up your Traeger and smoke that pork but just remember as you do so that life under the New Covenant means whether you eat, drink or whatever you do, you can do it all for the glory of God. That happens my friends when realize that our freedom from “I have to obey the law” is replaced with the freedom of “I get to” of the Gospel. Jesus has perfectly obeyed for you in this New Covenant. So obedience flows from love. It’s not I must, I have to, I can’t. It’s I want to, I get to, I will. And when we fail. Did you hear what He said? “For I will forgive their guilt, and I will remember their sins no more.” With God nothing is impossible, even forgetting and what He forgets is our sins. And He can do that because the New Covenant was put into effect with the blood of Jesus shed one time on the cross which made full payment for all sin. And that payment points to another difference. The New Covenant is permanent. It can’t be broken because it’s all on God. This covenant makes us God’s people forever! As great as we might think it is to be able to eat Easter ham and not worry that what we eat or touch will make us unclean what’s so much better is to know that forever is real and forever is with God and forever is with all my fellow believers. It’s a new covenant!

          Now I suspect that those who win a new car on a game show gradually lose their excitement—especially when they realize they owe taxes on what they won. Then the new car becomes old. Friends, let’s not let that happen with us. It’s a new covenant. God’s mercies are new every morning. Every day you wake up you have a fresh start because God remembers your sins no more. And to help us remember Jesus gave us something that every time we see it, every time we participate, is to lead to renewed excitement and joy. You know what that is. “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” What a blessing! Amen.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

March 10, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Mark 14:55-65 “HANDS OF HYPOCRISY!”

 

MIDWEEK LENT 4

March 10, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Mark 14:55-65

 

“HANDS OF HYPOCRISY!”

 

          Our Lenten services this year have focused on the hands of the passion to help us grow in our appreciation of what our Lord Jesus did for us. Today we are looking at Hands of Hypocrisy. And fortunately for you I can show you exactly what hands of hypocrisy look like. Here. Can you see what my hands are doing? They are holding a mask. That literally is what a hypocrite is, a mask wearer. Someone who pretends to be what they are not like me pretending to be Mr. Walker when obviously, I am not. The word comes from Greek theater where actors would hold or wear masks so they could pretend to be what they are not.

          Who would come to your mind as the biggest hypocrite in the Passion of our Lord Jesus? Maybe you think of Judas pretending to be a friend when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Maybe you think of Peter pretending to be the unbreakable rock but who broke down after he denied even knowing Jesus. Maybe you think of Pontius Pilate pretending to be a fair governor as he washed his hands of Jesus’ death. But when you look at all of them you see at least some signs of struggle or remorse. Judas gave the money back. Peter wept bitterly. Pilate tried every trick he knew to manipulate the will of the people.

          There is one pure hypocrite, a total pretender whose hands were filled with hypocrisy. Caiaphas. The High Priest. As High Priest it was his job, his privilege, his honor to represent the people to God in the Old Testament Covenant set up. His hands were to be busy praying for the people pleading for God to do what was best for them. He also represented God to the people. “This is what God says. This is His will.” His hands were to be busy pointing to the coming Messiah. “This is how these sacrifices point to the coming Messiah. Wait for Him. Look for Him. God has given us the signs.”

          Instead they were busy with hypocrisy. “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they did not find any. 56Many testified falsely against him, but their testimonies did not agree. 57Some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59Yet even on this point, their testimony did not agree.” This whole trial was hypocritical. The High Priest was to be the Law upholder but this trial was held illegally in the middle of the night. A trial should try to find the truth but this one’s goal was to find some way to put Jesus to death. The High Priest was supposed to make sure a trial was fair but this High Priest allowed false testimony. Even then it didn’t stick.

          So Caiaphas went into action. You wonder if he was thinking to himself, “You bumbling idiots! If you want something done right…” The high priest stepped forward and questioned Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is this they are testifying against you?” 61But Jesus was silent and did not answer anything.” I’m sure Caiaphas was one of those guys who thinks he’s the smartest man in the room. When his first attempt didn’t work, he continued. “Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Smartest man in the room had a super smart question. If Jesus says nothing or “No,” they could discredit him. If He says “Yes,” then they could convict him. “I am,” Jesus said. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63The high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? 64You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” They all condemned him as being worthy of death.” The hands of hypocrisy went into action. Caiaphas tore his clothes in feigned horror. His plan had worked. Jesus was guilty of death. And then for a moment the hypocrites dropped their masks and showed their true colors. “Then some began to spit on him. They covered his face and struck him with their fists, saying, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him and beat him.” Spitting is someone’s face, Beating someone who can’t defend himself who can’t even dodge the blows because he is blindfolded? What kind of people do that to another? And this was the highest religious gathering for the Jewish people. It would be like our Elders doing this or our Synod’s Conference of Presidents. Why? They were hypocrites. The pretended they cared about what God said. They pretended they cared for the people. But what they really cared about was power and honor for themselves. All led by Caiaphas, the High Priest, and his hands of hypocrisy.

          Now what can we learn from this? Have you ever heard someone say something like this? “I’d never join a church. Churches are filled with hypocrites.” Why do they say that? It’s because their understanding of a hypocrites is someone who says one thing and does another. And with that definition they are right. This is a church full of hypocrites. We all acknowledge that what God says is right. Everyone should obey his commandments. We say that. But do we always do that? No. Even if we’ve gotten pretty good and cleaning ourselves up on the outside, no obvious sins, controlling our mouths, we haven’t cleaned up the inside. Sinners one and all. Hypocrites by America’s definition.

          But not by God’s. Remember a hypocrite is really a pretender, someone who wears a mask. Someone who pretends to be a believer but is not. That’s not you. That’s not me. We do believe in Jesus. We are happy to know He’s our Savior. We look at this account from the passion of Jesus and we see not one, but two High Priests present. There is the faker, the pretender, the hypocrite, Caiaphas. But then our eyes rest on Jesus. He is the true High Priest. He has no hands of hypocrisy. His hands aren’t thrown in the air in mock horror. They don’t tear his robes if faked holy anger. They stay stretched wide nailed to the cross as He went through the horror of Hell. They stayed there unused as soldiers gambled for His robe. Why? Because as the true High Priest Jesus represented people to God. He was on the cross as the substitute for all people. He became the world’s one and only sinner. He continues to plead with the Father for our good. And He faithfully tells us what God wants us to hear. Through word and sacrament, through pastors and teachers, through faithful Christian parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends He says, “God loves you. God has forgiven you. Heaven is your home. Come to the Father through me, your great High Priest.”

          Friends let the world call us hypocrites for being what we know we are sinners who can’t save ourselves. Sinners who despite our best intention to follow Jesus faithfully still stumble and fall. But may we never be true hypocrites who pretend to follow Jesus but don’t really at all. For us it won’t be Hands of Hypocrisy, but Hands off Hypocrisy. For the glory of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, March 1, 2021

February 27-March1, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Mark 8:31-38 “THE CROSS IS NECESSARY”

 

LENT 2

February 27-March1, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Mark 8:31-38

 

“THE CROSS IS NECESSARY”

1.     It was for Christ.

2.     It is for me.

 

Mark 8:31-38 (EHV) Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again. 32He was speaking plainly to them. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.”

34He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38In fact, whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

          Our church architecture is not unique. Many Christian churches are built this way. What is the focal point? What does the design of this sanctuary force you to do with the pews positioned the direction they are? With the walls gradually narrowing your focus? With the angled top walls? You’re right. Look at the cross! You can’t help it. Now the reason for that is not simply symmetry or aesthetics. It’s theological, Biblical. The focus is on the cross because the cross is necessary.

          Our Lord Jesus makes that abundantly clear in His words to us today. Now I seriously doubt that it was on Peter’s bucket list to be called Satan by the Lord he loved. And yet that is exactly what happened. How? Well right before this Jesus had asked His disciples who most people thought He was. All the answers could be best summed up with “a man.” A great man. A good teacher. One of the great prophets. But just a man. Then Jesus turned to His disciples and asked but “Who do you say that I am?” That’s when Peter had his shining moment. Peter answered for the disciples. “You are the Christ the Son of the living God!” A beautiful confession of faith. Could not have said it better.

          That’s where our text picks up as Jesus explains what it means to be the Christ. Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again.” Jesus taught that the cross was necessary. It was necessary for Him to be the Christ. Jesus had been sent on a mission. While he regularly pointed out people’s sin His mission was not to stop people from sinning but to save them from the eternal consequences of sinning. While Jesus healed some people and fed others His mission was not to make this world a nicer place to live but to make it possible for sinful people to live forever in the joy and perfection of heaven. And for that to happen He had to go to the cross. He had to be betrayed, suffer and die because only His holy and innocent sacrifice was worth enough to pay the awful debt for all the world’s sinners. Only His continued perfect obedience all the way to death would gain Him the right to give that perfect obedience to those who believe as a robe of righteousness, a ticket to heaven. Jesus spoke this very plainly to them.

          And then Peter had one of those moments we all have had. He opened his mouth when he should have kept it shut. “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Rebuking Jesus? Telling Jesus what to do or not do? This isn’t going to end well. “But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.” Ouch. He got called Satan. Why? He had his will set toward want people want, the things of men. What is that? Glory. Now. “You are the Christ, Jesus. You don’t suffer and die. You rule gloriously. No enemy can stand against you. You will crush your enemies.” All true statements except that Peter wanted those things for Jesus on earth. He wasn’t thinking of God’s eternal plan. For God’s eternal plan the cross was necessary for Jesus.

          Just like the cross is necessary for those who follow Jesus. Peter is not the only one who misunderstands God’s plan, Jesus’ mission. Peter isn’t the only one who wants to see Jesus triumphing here on earth. We all fall into that. We think, “If I do things right, if I behave a little better, things should go easier for me on earth than for those who don’t.” We think as followers of Jesus some of the glory Jesus deserves should rub off on us. We think if we do what God wants and say what God wants then things should go well for us and everyone will like us. Not a chance in a sin filled world. The cross is necessary for those who follow Jesus. “He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Ask the rich man in the Bible account of the rich man and poor Lazarus. He would have given anything to get out of Hell. But it was too late. You have to follow Jesus in earthly life.

          And if you will actually follow Jesus, you will have a cross. There is no other way to understand Jesus’ words. To deny yourself means to deny your way of thinking, your values, your priorities and replace them with Jesus way of thinking, values and priorities. When you do that and live that you will get your own cross. You have heard it said, “We all have our crosses to bear.” When people hear that they may think that the cross Jesus is talking about is some illness, or a family problem, a bad relationship or the pain of loss of life or use of limb. But that’s not the cross Jesus is talking about. Those things happen to believer and unbeliever alike. He’s talking about those things that can only come from following Him and His next words make clear what the crosses will look like. “In fact, whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Crosses for Christians happen when we show loyalty first to Jesus and His words, His teachings. An example. One of our college students told me one of her first classes where the professor asked for a show of hands. “How many of you believe the world is created like the Bible says?” A smattering of hands. “Good,” he says, “now we know who all the fools are.” The class erupts in laughter. Put herself in her shoes, in her dorm room among her classmates after that. That’s a cross. Here’s another. One of our students in college thinking she was messaging a friend shared her Christian values. That “friend” passed on snippets of her comments that brought down a barrage of nasty online bullying. Reported it to the college. Nothing happened. Had to switch schools to feel safe. That’s a cross. It's a cross when your faith in Christ moves you to deal with a relationship or family problem Christ’s way and it does not work like being mean would. It’s a cross when your kids or friends come to you to announce they are going to live together without being married or they are attracted to someone of the same sex and you tell them “I love you and I will always love you. I need you to know that God says that is wrong and dangerous. Can we talk about this?” and they storm out or cut off the relationship.

          There is of course, another way. We can be ashamed of Jesus and His teachings. When God puts those opportunities to speak the truth in love we can turn them down. We can give tacit approval. We can commit spiritual adultery on Jesus by implying that fake gods or no god at all can still get you to heaven.

          No we can’t. This is Jesus we are talking about. He knows how the Devil is going to try pry us away from Him. So He helps us with our weakness. First He warns that those who turn their back on Jesus on earth will find His back turned to them in heaven. Then He gives us what we need to stand strong. Glory. When the Son of Man comes in glory! The book of Hebrews tells us Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame because of the joy set before. He knew He was winning you so the cross was worth it. Parents who adopt children and have children know this. Why do you go through all the hard work, the angst, the pain? For the joy that will be set before you! You look forward to holding that child. That’s why we are willing to carry our crosses. We know what’s coming. There’s a simple saying to hold on to. First the cross, then the crown. It was true of Jesus. He went to the cross to be the Christ. Now He is King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s true for those who follow Christ. Take your cross now, glory is coming. Remember what He said? Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life. And so He will! Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

February 17, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 18:9-14 “HANDS OF REPENTANCE”

 

ASH WEDNESDAY

February 17, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 18:9-14

 

          Our hands. They are super important. Think of the many, many ways we use our hands each and every day. Brushing your teeth. Using a spoon. Opening a door. Turning a page. Communicating. Actually our hands communicate a lot more than with typing. They can welcome or accuse. They can say victory or surrender. They tell you something about a person. If you shake my hand now you will get the softer hand of a man who does very little manual labor. If you had shaken my hand at the end of the summer I worked construction working with sun heated steel all day they would feel quite different. Because of the way our hands talk, for this year’s Lenten series we look at the Hands of the Passion. We begin with some hands that talk to us about the attitude of the entire Lenten season.

 

“HANDS OF REPENTANCE”

 

Luke 18:9-14 (EHV) “Jesus told this parable to certain people who trusted in themselves (that they were righteous) and looked down on others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple courts to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 “However the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but was beating his chest and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went home justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

          Jesus told a story. Two men were at the Temple in Jerusalem. They were there to pray. One was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the religiously elite of Jewish society. They looked to be more reverent, more obedient and more zealous that God’s law be obeyed than their fellow Jewish people. His prayer starts, “God, I thank you!” Ah this is going to be good we think. “Thank you, God,” is a great way to pray. Immediately we feel convicted remembering all the times we began our prayers with a gimme please! “God, I thank you.” If only, if only he had stopped right there. I’m reminded of the proverb “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19). His prayer went on. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Now we are not told exactly what the Pharisees hands were doing at the time. Likely if he followed the cultural custom Paul described in his letter to Timothy he would have been looking up with hands extended up to communicate he was talking to God in prayer. I think we can tell though by his words what his hands were really doing—patting himself on the back. Thank you God that I, by my own power, am better than others. I do not steal. I do not do evil. I do not commit adultery. I do not extort money. The way the Pharisee saw it he had kept all the Commandments.

          Actually that’s not totally true. The Pharisee didn’t believe he had just kept the commandments, he blew them out of the water. He was extra. He went over and above and he reminded God of that. “I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of all my income.” The Law of Moses required faithful Jews to fast just one day a year. He was doing twice a week. He didn’t just give 10% of what he earned but 10% of what he received. We are not told why he prayed this way. Was it just following the normal sinful nature inclination to say, “Look at me! It’s all about me!?” Or was he maybe trying to convince himself he was as good as he was saying? We don’t know.

          Now our eyes turn to the hands of the other man. “However the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but was beating his chest and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The tax collectors of Jesus day often used their position of authority to extort money from those who owed taxes. When the people heard Jesus mention a tax collector they would want to boo and hiss. If a Pharisee was considered to be religiously elite, a tax collector would be considered religiously undesirable. We aren’t told if this particular tax collector was one of those who extorted from the people. But we are told what his hands were doing. Beating his chest. No hands upheld in prayer. No eyes up to heaven to indicated talking to God. Eyes downcast. I’m not worthy. Hands saying the same. And a prayer to match. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” He knew who he was. A sinner. He did not deserve anything from God. He pleaded for mercy. That God in love would not treat him as his sins deserved.

          God be merciful to me a sinner. It’s a short prayer. Just 7 words in our language. But a powerful prayer. It was prayed to the almighty God and it came from a heart of faith, the kind God looks for. A broken and contrite heart he does not despise. Jesus tells us, “I tell you, this man went home justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

          Now remember when Jesus tells one of his stories called a parable, it’s important you know why he told it. He tells us why. Jesus wasn’t talking to a specific person or group of people. It was not a parable just for the benefit of tax collectors and Pharisees. “Jesus told this parable to certain people who trusted in themselves (that they were righteous) and looked down on others.” Do you know anyone like that? Parables with people kind of push you to look at yourself and say which one am I? Pharisee or Tax collector. Is the honest answer a little of both? How easy it is when we’ve gotten good at controlling the outward actions to look down on and despise the brothers and sisters who are weak in the outward things like worship or giving. As we advocate for God’s moral high ground how easy to wish people were more like us. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit and something like the Church Year season of Lent that whispers to us again, “But unless you repent you too shall perish.” How good it is to be reminded that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and the only one who has the right to look down is God and when He does what does He see? He sees me. And all my sins. God have mercy on me, a sinner.

          Now let’s shift our eyes to the third person in the parable. Wait. What? There’s no 3rd person. Yes, there is! The teller. Jesus. Look at his hands. His hands worshipped God perfectly all the time. His hands were used in obedience to his parents. His hands were used to keep every commandment perfectly not for his sake but for ours, for you. His hands were stretched out on a cross so he could receive punishment for the sins of the whole world, for you. His hands plead for you and me before our Father in heaven. Because of his hands we know that our prayer, “God have mercy on me a sinner,” is answered with an “Absolutely yes. I have had mercy on you and I want you to know it.” That’s why Jesus commissioned His followers1 to have hands that proclaim forgiveness. That’s why Jesus used His hands to put the power of mercy and forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper so our hands can take and eat and take and drink. And that’s why I can tell you that you will go home justified of your sins. God grant that we continue to humble ourselves before Him as we look forward to the time He will exalt us to heaven. Amen.

Monday, February 1, 2021

anuary 30-Feb. 1, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Hebrews 3:1-6 “JESUS IS BETTER!”

 

EPIPHANY 4

January 30-Feb. 1, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Hebrews 3:1-6

 

“JESUS IS BETTER!”

1.     Better than Moses.

2.     Better than ______.

3.     Better for you!

 

Hebrews 3:1-6 (EHV) Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, focus your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in God’s whole house. 3In fact, Jesus is worthy of greater glory than Moses, in the same way that the builder of a house has more honor than the house. 4For every house is built by someone, and God is the one who built everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant within God’s whole house by testifying to the things that would be spoken. 6But Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house. We are his house, if we hold on firmly to our confidence and the hope about which we boast until the end.”

 

          So there is this thing called “Mission Creep.” It’s when an organization, or a person, loses sight of their main goal or purpose in life by slowly focusing on other goals that aren’t their real purpose so that over time they go off mission and eventually become what they are not. An obvious example might be if a hospital emergency room department would say, “You know it’s good that we provide emergency medical care for people. They need that. But you know what they also need? A good oil change for their cars. So let’s put up an oil change shop and when people drive up we can ask what they are here for, direct them the right way. Who knows? Maybe they can come for one and stay for the other!” I think you can see that you probably don’t want to go there for medical care or an oil change. Mission creep has set in. They lost their focus.

          It gets a little more insidious if you have an enemy trying to help you lose focus. One of the silly kids’ movies my girls and I liked to watch and re watch when they were young, and still now, is called Labyrinth. For a teaser to lead you to watch it I’ll just throw out there it has a “Bog of Eternal Stench” in it. In that movie a girl needs to find her lost baby brother. But someone does not want her to. So this enemy keeps trying to divert her attention to her old favorite doll or teddy bear, anything but her baby brother. And friends we have an enemy who has been trying hard to get us to lose focus and I fear he has had some success.

          I’m talking about the Devil and of course this is nothing new. The Word of God we are looking at comes from the letter written to the Hebrews, specifically to Jewish Christians who were living sometime before 70 AD. They were experiencing mission creep, loss of focus, helped along by the Devil who was using government persecution of Christians to try to get believers to give up on Jesus. Just in this section of the letter look at the appeal to every Christian to avoid mission creep and to stay focused. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, focus your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 6But Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house. We are his house, if we hold on firmly to our confidence and the hope about which we boast until the end.” The words are addressed to the believers individually.

          They were tending to focus more on Moses. Now if you were an Old Testament believer Moses was your hero and for good reason. You read about his leadership of Israel out of slavery. You heard how God used him to establish the nation of Israel. You know how God used him to give the Old Testament law. How could Moses not be your hero? But God had the writer make it clear. Jesus is better, better than Moses. “He (Jesus) was faithful to the one who appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in God’s whole house. 3In fact, Jesus is worthy of greater glory than Moses, in the same way that the builder of a house has more honor than the house. 4For every house is built by someone, and God is the one who built everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant within God’s whole house by testifying to the things that would be spoken. 6But Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house.” It wasn’t that their passion for Moses was bad or wrong. It’s just Jesus is better! Moses faithfully served God. He did his job. God used him as a servant. He pointed to what was coming. Bu the greater prophet he spoke of was Jesus. The one the Law of Moses showed was necessary and pictured was Jesus. Moses was a servant. Jesus is the Son. Moses gave the Law. Jesus gave salvation. Watch out for mission creep, Hebrews. Don’t be more passionate about Moses than you are Jesus. Keep your focus on Jesus. Jesus is better.

          Now I seriously doubt that any of us have Moses as our hero or that we are so enamored with the Old Testament laws we want to go back to living like that. And yet the enemy, the Devil is still working in our hearts and lives to lead us off mission, to get us to lose our focus. Please don’t misunderstand me with what we talk about next.  I’m not saying it is wrong to rally around other people or to have causes that are important to us for one reason or another. It’s just that those we rally around or the mission we take up dare not, can not, better not have a bigger place in our hearts and lives than Jesus and the mission He laid out for us. To do so is idolatry. And we are letting the Devil lead us around by the nose.

Just consider this past year. Was President Trump your hero or President Biden? Depending on what issues were most important to you one or the other may have been. And it is good for Christians to care about politics and to serve our country by being active and informed voters but if our passion for a man is greater than our passion for Jesus that is a problem. It is sin. “No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said. Whose mission gets the lead story on your social media? Or how about social issues like feeding the poor or that all people be treated as people with respect and not prejudged by a skin tone or the job they do? It’s great for us to care about the physical well being of others and to do something about it if we can, but we have lost focus, we are off mission, if we let those causes supersede people’s real need for Jesus and the mission Jesus gave us. “Be my witnesses,” Jesus told you. I was reminded of that recently when I heard a quote from atheist entertainer Penn Jillete of the famous illusionist duo Penn and Teller. He has no time for the Bible and Christians. But you know what he said? He said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” So if some social issue is getting all your attention and time and money and you are not doing more to warn sinners against Hell and to tell them about Jesus don’t sit there thinking you are such a loving person. You are not. You are a hater. Even an avowed atheist recognizes that.

Again, do not misunderstand. It’s great for us to have passion for helping others in all sorts of ways. It just cannot be greater than our passion for Jesus and His mission because Jesus is better. And he told us “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” Where is your treasure? What does God see as he looks at your money budget, your time budget, the content of your social media? Think about all the talk time and money that has been spent on Coronavirus. What if the good God intended this virus to be a worldwide call to repentance before the end comes? Makes you think. Repentance is sorely needed. It was nice to see at the Presidential Inauguration a moment of silence taken to remember the some 400,000 lives of mostly elderly Americans whose deaths are listed as Covid related. But you know what I missed? A moment of silence for estimated 600,000 American babies who were murdered through abortion last year. I say estimated. You know why? Because while you can fairly easily find on the CDC website the number of deaths that are Covid related in 2020 you know what you can’t find? Abortion deaths. Their last estimate was 620,000 abortion deaths in 2018. Apparently those deaths are not important enough to be tracked. What does that say about a society and a government that does not actively protect its youngest and most vulnerable citizens? It needs to repent.

You know a good example of how to be involved socially and stay on mission is WELS Lutherans for Life. Several Jacobi ladies volunteer there. In our school that is the 3rd quarter mission project. This group not only provides pregnancy counseling and physical support for women who are in such desperate straits that they are contemplating abortion but they also do what they can to tell them about Jesus. They get it! They are on mission. Both/and but most importantly Jesus. For if we save a life for earth that is great. But to save one for eternity is better! Or don’t we believe what Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

          Jesus is better! Better for you. Because only Jesus takes you to heaven. You know those babies we save from the abortionist’s knife? Eventually they will die from something. If you get Covid and recover, you’re still going to die from something. Those whose earthly lives we make better by fighting poverty or hatred? Still going to die. Because the wages of sin is death and all have sinned. Only Jesus takes away sin so whatever you come up with to fill your heart, Jesus is better. He’s better for you because He takes you to heaven. He’s better for everyone else as well. He’s their only way to heaven. You know that. Others need to know that. You are a walking talking witness for Jesus.  No wonder the Devil works so hard to distract us with lesser good causes and to lose focus1. No wonder the Holy Spirit warned against mission creep. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, focus your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Amen.