Sermon – March 29, 2020 – Lent 5

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The Promised Warrior  ~  Pastor Mark Jacobson  ~  John 11:17-27; 38-45  ~  Lent 5

17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” 45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.                                            


The mood is somber. Tears are shed. Tissues shared. Over the sniffles a loud voice reads comforting verses from Scripture. At the end of the committal service flowers are handed out, and eventually the mourners leave the graveside with any number of thoughts and emotions. Yes, we’ve all been there, and it doesn’t take many years for children to gain this cemetery experience, too. We know what Martha was thinking and feeling because we have thought and felt that way, too.

In the Gospel of John, Martha puts her thoughts into words, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” “My brother would not have died.”  Martha’s words express confidence, don’t they?  Martha had seen this script play out before. Jesus healed people.  Healing was a significant part of Jesus’ ministry. He gave sight to the blind. He let the lame walk. The deaf could hear. Those with leprosy were cured. The demon possessed were made whole. Martha knew what the Lord could do to keep people alive and make them well. Her words expressed great confidence and yet at the same time her words allow for at least a small dose of disappointment.

“Lord, if you had been here…but you weren’t here. And in her disappointment maybe Martha feels some guilt about Jesus not being there. In the opening verses of chapter 11 it says, “The sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When he heard this Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death.” but when Jesus arrives Lazarus is already dead. Can you sense how Martha might feel guilty about this death? The message Jesus delivered to Martha was he wanted to heal Lazarus and he could heal Lazarus, but Jesus didn’t get there in time. What if Martha would have sent for Jesus sooner? Had she done that, Martha might have reasoned, Jesus could have made it in time and then her brother Lazarus would not have died. It wasn’t Martha’s fault, but we can understand if she felt that way because we have felt that way, too.   

Think of the loved ones you wish were still here and fill in the blank. “If I would have gotten my husband to the hospital sooner I wouldn’t be a widow right now.” “If I didn’t let my daughter take that trip, she wouldn’t have gotten into that accident.” “If I would have done something different maybe I wouldn’t have miscarried my baby.” It’s not your fault, but no matter how many times someone tells you that, isn’t there a little voice inside you that says I should have done something different? One thought we can have from a cemetery is guilt. Another thought we might have from a cemetery is anger.    

Yes, Martha could have given her Lord a little more lead time, but by the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. What is more, prior to our lesson it says starting in verse 5, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’” Are you kidding me! “Stayed where he was two more days!” What was there, a thumb twiddling competition? Martha called for the Lord in her day of trouble, and he stayed where he was two more days and did not deliver for her. He delivered for other people, but he did not deliver for her.  

To her credit, Martha, didn’t get angry in her face-to-face conversation with the Lord, and I don’t anticipate that we would either, but have you ever gotten mouthy with the Lord in your prayers? Have you prayed to the Lord with anger? Haven’t you prayed like this? “Why did this tragedy happen? You could have prevented this from happening, but you didn’t. You have changed the outcome for other people, but you didn’t change the outcome for me.”   

Thoughts from the cemetery (and other places) can be dark, but as Jesus talks with Martha he wants to shed some new light on her faith. Martha has faith, and her faith shines brightly. Listen to some of her comments: I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come in the world.” Martha knows a lot about Jesus. She has heard him preach and teach. Martha believes in Jesus, too. She has seen him in action.

Martha’s words resembles many of our words at a time like this. Don’t you hear comments like, “What would we do without our faith?” “I know my loved one is in heaven.” “I know I will see him again.” “She is not suffering anymore! She’s with Jesus.” Like Martha we believe the most amazing truths as we have been taught in the Bible. We believe God created the world out of nothing in six days. We believe Jesus is God made flesh, 100% true God and 100% true man. We believe Jesus has taken all of our sins away by the holy life he lived and the innocent death he suffered. We believe on the last day Jesus will raise all the dead and will separate the believers from the phonies and grant eternal life to all who believe. Like Martha we know great truths about Jesus, but like Martha we, too, can struggle to believe that Jesus is aware of our current realities.

“‘Take away the stone,’ Jesus said.  ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor.’” Let’s think this through a little bit. Martha knew God could give Jesus whatever he asked. Martha knew her brother would rise again on the last day, and Martha knew Jesus was the Christ, the one who was to come into the world, but she didn’t think Jesus knew about the odor of body that had been decaying four days? Looking back, Martha realized Jesus knew about the odor, but looking forward Martha now realized that Jesus knew everything about everything. She also realized Jesus had the power to do whatever he wanted. As true God Jesus knew Lazarus had been sick. Jesus didn’t need a messenger to tell him. Jesus didn’t need Lazarus to be alive in order to do something about his situation. Jesus can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. When “Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus come out!’ The dead man came out.” And if Jesus hadn’t called Lazarus by name, who knows how many dead people would have walked out with him.    

Are you learning what Martha learned about Jesus? Yes, Jesus has power over death, but Jesus also has power over everything. Don’t underestimate his abilities. Jesus doesn’t need you to do the right thing at the right time to be effective. Jesus doesn’t have to answer your prayer the way you want and when you want to give you what is best for you. That’s what Martha came to believe, and that is what Jesus wants you to believe, too. This teaching frees us from the needless feelings of guilt about what we should have done or could have done. This teaching can also cool our anger when we are tempted to think God isn’t doing what is best for us.

This faith does not excuse you from your Christian responsibilities. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Faith does not excuse us from common sense and simple tasks. Help people. Love your brothers and sisters like Martha loved her brother. Pray to Jesus for the needs of others like Martha went to Jesus in her time of need. And listen to Jesus even when you are frustrated about life like Martha listened to Jesus even though she was frustrated when her brother died. And in today’s world helping people includes a whole new list of activities we never imagined like: stay home, don’t congregate with more than 10 people, stay six feet away from people, and don’t shake hands. Faith does not excuse us from our responsibilities, but faith does allow us to live our lives with all the peace and all the comfort we receive from God’s Word. God has everything under his control. We don’t have to live with feelings of guilt. We don’t have to carry angry thoughts. Leave those matters for Jesus. Jesus is amazing. He raised Lazarus from the dead, and you know what else he did, he also made sure that Lazarus didn’t stink. Every matter is under his control. Amen.

Sermon – March 25, 2020 – Wednesday Lent 5

Printable PDF:  3-25-2020 Midweek 5 Sermon

The Promised Warrior  ~  Pastor Lincoln Albrecht  ~  Isaiah 42:13  ~  March 25, 2020

Our Champion Is Committed & Victorious

They stood there, on the edge of blood. The Israelites assembled on one hill. The Philistines on another. Frightened men could find plenty of cover in the Valley of Elah, and the Israelite men were frightened. During the days of Saul, the enmity between the Israelites and the Philistines had reached a fevered pitch.

The Philistines were famously powerful, tall warriors from the southern part of the Canaanite coast. They had been a thorn in the side of Israel for at least 100 years. The Philistines inflicted some of Israel’s worst losses. They captured the strong-man Samson and gouged out his eyes. The Philistines, in one day, killed 4,000 Israelite soldiers. The next day, when the Israelite army brought the Ark of the Covenant to battle as a good luck charm, 30,000 men were killed and the Ark was stolen. The Philistines were organized, experienced in warfare, and armed to the teeth. The Philistines had thousands of archers, cavalrymen, and charioteers. From the days of Samson through the reign of King David, the Philistines were public enemy number one.

As they assembled there at Ephes Dammim (literally “The Border of Blood) these powerful people sent out just one man. A man who cut a frightening figure. Almost 10 feet tall and covered in bronze nearly from head to toe, he was hard to miss. With a javelin on his back, a sword at his side, a massive spear in his hand, & a shield-carrying servant by his side, he was more fortress than man. But for forty days—morning and evening—he dared the Israelites to fight him. He mocked them for lining up for battle, shouting their war cries, and then doing nothing. For more than a month straight, Goliath challenged the children of Israel. Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects. But if I prevail over him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.

For forty days, no one stepped up to the challenge. Everyone cowered in fear. Everyone except David. And you know how the story ends. In fact, today, Goliath, that massive and mighty warrior, is overshadowed by a small shepherd-boy. A boy whose own father didn’t think much of him. A boy whose brother questioned why he was even there at the battlefield. A boy whose own king underestimated him saying you’re only a youth, and Goliath has been a warrior from his youth. 

A boy who was so unremarkable, that—even though David had served as Saul’s personal musician, and had just tried on Saul’s own armor moments earlier—king Saul didn’t know whose son he was or where he came from. Yet, through this young man, the Lord delivered his people.

And today the story of David and Goliath is almost legendary. Sportscasters and political pundits reference it as they describe the fierce battles they cover professionally. Coaches and CEO’s leverage David’s victory for their own purposes, too. They hope to inspire the people they lead to see that plucky underdogs have their day when they are bold and courageous and determined.

While David vs. Goliath has become a rallying cry for many leaders ever since, so many have missed the point. David’s triumph over Goliath is not the story of a brave underdog beating the odds. David’s victory over Goliath is not about how one well-placed stone can defeat an imposing enemy. David’s victory over Goliath is about how God responds to the boastful and blasphemous defiance of the evil one. David’s victory over Goliath is an example of how the Lord rescues his people from evil. David’s triumph anticipates God’s greatest delivery when the Lord himself marches out to the battlefield and triumphs over his enemies.

The Lord our God draws upon these war themes in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Like during the days of king Saul, Israel was suffering because of their sinful choices…again! They had forsaken the Lord’s way and done what seemed best to them. And that created problems far bigger than Goliath…again. Problems that we face today, too.

Ever since Satan’s first strike in the Garden of Eden, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve have been facing evils that are far more powerful and frightening than even Goliath and the Philistine armies were—sin, death, and the devil. This unholy trinity has waged war on every aspect of life in this world. They are the reason our lives are filled with so much pain and suffering. They are the reason that our world is filled with so much violence and greed. They are the reason that our own homes are filled with so much heartbreak and unhappiness.

And much like the Israelite soldiers in the Valley of Elah, we are too afraid to confront our foe head on. Deep down, we know we don’t stand a chance against evil that powerful. Not when we’re this weak. Not when we’re this overmatched. Not when we’re this mortal.

The truth is, on our own, we’re even weaker than we realize. More overmatched than we might think. Because the evil that dwells in our hearts and minds by nature—that predisposition to sin—is too much for us. For a moment, take your eyes off of the victories evil has won and is winning in our world and in our communities. Just look at your own past. Your own life. You will see personal battles against specific sins that seem like they’ve been going on as long as you can remember.

Each of us faces a fierce battle against a remarkably formidable temptation. Maybe it is against anger or lust. The fight against those fiery passions of the flesh doesn’t ever seem to really die down, does it? Perhaps you have a penchant for jealousy or greed or some other form of selfishness. Each time you see another person experience a measure of success, or receive some kind of blessing, you find yourself straining to rejoice with or for them.

It could be that you’re a very prideful person. You think you’re humble, but you’re most motivated to work when there is praise or respect to be won. You’ve always struggled to accept any criticism, to forgive those who’ve wronged you, and to pray without ceasing. Or maybe you are the opposite. You wage war against worry and anxiety. Your life is filled with poor choices made in an effort to please others. You’ve lived like a cat on hot bricks, stepping carefully everywhere you go. Always fixated on what people are thinking and saying about you. Your timidity has caused you to be silent in situations when you should have spoken up and to accept the unacceptable—and only now do you see all the damage that stems from your inactivity. Now you spend sleepless nights worried about this thing and that person. Even after hours in prayer—you feel exhausted, instead of soothed.

The battle against the evil in ourselves is fierce. And sometimes, just like the Israelites gathered in the valley of Elah, we are content just to draw battle lines, raise war cries, and hope evil will just go away. But it won’t. And God knows that. This is why he sent his champion. The one the Scriptures said would be David’s son and David’s Lord. Isaiah 42:13 – The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. 

Like David did for the Israelites that day, the Lord marches out as our champion, our representative. He stands in our place in the fight against sin, death, and the devil. Jesus had an unmistakable commitment to righteousness. Jesus faced all the temptations we face and triumphed over them. His love for people never became lustful. His righteous anger, of which we only see flashes, never wandered into arrogant wrath or pettiness. Jesus was generous and humble, selfless to the point of troubling and insulting his disciples. When his disciples thought little children were a bother to their Teacher, he rebuked them and said, “Let the little children come to me.” On Maundy Thursday evening, Jesus stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet. Peter took exception, but Jesus insisted, telling Peter that unless you let me wash you, you have no part with me. The Son of Man came to serve sinners.

In all situations, Jesus was never prideful, but also never was steered by public opinion. He didn’t stop eating with prostitutes, tax collectors, or other sinners because it affected his reputation. Instead he said: It is the sick who need a doctor. It’s sinners who desperately need a Savior. It’s those held hostage by the evil one who desperately need to be rescued.

Isaiah 42:13 tell us that the Lord in his zeal to win back those he made in his own image got mad and went to work. Isaiah 59:17 says, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate and the helmet of salvation on his head. He wrapped himself in garments of vengeance and zeal as his cloak.” And then he delivered us through weakness. By allowing himself to be arrested and mocked. He let temple guards take him captive and Roman soldiers make fun of him. He allowed himself to be whipped and wounded because there was no other way to deliver us from the evil of our sins. There on the cross he suffered for us and he did what even David did not. He died. But before he died he raised his battle cry. In John 19:30, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. By his death and resurrection, death was swallowed up. Our champion triumphed over the one who holds the power of death, the devil.

And we do not need to be afraid. We know we are weak. But he is strong. We know we are sinful. But he is righteous. We know we have lost, time and again. But he has triumphed. By God’s grace, through the faith he has worked in our hearts, we share in his triumph. All your guilt, all your shame, all your iniquities have been scrubbed clean. You are God’s own victorious child. David’s Son has won the victory and like David’s fellow soldiers, we pursue evil and plunder all the good things sin has taken away from us. Our zealous Lord has raised his battle cry. It is finished! Psalm 118:15 says, “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’” He has triumphed over all our enemies. Now and forever. Amen.

Sermon – March 22, 2020 – Lent 4

Printable PDF:  3-22-2020 Lent 4 Sermon

Vicar Lindemann  ~  Matthew 20:17-28  ~  March 22, 2020  ~  Lent 4 

Jesus Worked Like a Servant

17Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” 20Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21“What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:17-28


The Servant Works for You

If you call someone a servant, is that a compliment? It can be. It’s a compliment when you describe someone as giving a public service, or that they had a servant-like attitude in their career. It’s more like an insult if you say something like, “What do I look like, your servant?” Being a servant is an admirable quality in someone else, but when people describe us, we can think of a lot more flattering descriptions that we would rather have them use than servant. Instead of a servant, wouldn’t you rather someone say of you, “That person is a real leader,” a great manager or teacher, influencer or warrior. But a servant, follower, or helper? Not my first choice. In a time when everyone was looking for recognition, the Lord of heaven and earth, who created all things, Jesus described himself as a servant. That great Servant works for you. His service teaches us to drink the cup he gives you and to recognize that he will always out-serve you.

1. Drink the cup he gives you. (verses 17-23)

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. Jesus had shown his disciples his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and had been teaching them how the last will be first and the first will be last. Now he was about to ride in on a donkey to live out his last few days on the earth. And even with his near suffering on his mind, he wanted to serve the disciples. He took the 12 aside with him and served them with the truth about what was about to happen. He tells them about the cup he is about to drink, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” This is the Servant’s service. He let all this happen to him. Jesus did not put up a fight, take things into his own hands or even tell them to stop. He willingly submitted. Jesus drank the cup he was given. “Drinking the cup” is a phrase the Bible uses which has a similar connotation to “taking your medicine”. He drank the cup given to him by the Father, even though it was horrible.

But after Jesus gets done explaining his service, the disciples James and John quickly shoo away that thought from their mind and ask Jesus for a favor. To James and John, following Jesus meant something different than service. James and John were close with Jesus, they had been learning with him and following him everywhere for three years. They got in with Jesus on the ground floor. So, they wanted to make sure that once Jesus did his work, they would be recognized for following Jesus and wouldn’t have to do the hard work anymore. They were not interested in serving. To try to get this favor from Jesus, they got their mother to ask for them, so that Jesus would be more likely to say yes. They were trying their best to get the better position.

Their tactics and their claims did not flatter Jesus. He showed them what was wrong with the way they were thinking. Instead of answering their mother, he turns to the brothers and says, “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Instead of pointing out what’s wrong with their tactics and their claims, Jesus wants them to think about the cup that he will drink. He wants them to reconsider how he serves. But the disciples, craving that position of honor, answer yes without hesitation. So Jesus teaches them about the cup God was giving them. He told them they will taste his suffering, but it wouldn’t earn them anything. Their motivation for service was not to be getting recognition or rewarded or the better position. Rather, Jesus taught them to trust God and drink the cup he gives, just like he was doing. Jesus was telling them to serve and trust God to see them through.

James and John’s request makes a lot of sense at first. They saw a way where they could secure a better position and they were willing to work hard to get it. If you saw a way where you could secure a better position wouldn’t you put in all the work you had to in order to get there? That’s the way our world works. I’ll put in work at school, so I can get good grades for myself; I’ll put in the hours at work, so I can work my way up; I’ll live hard and sparing so that I can have enough money in my bank account. That will put me in a better position, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what kind of recognition or better position have you ever gotten for serving or being a Christian? That is rare. Since that is rare, serving and living out your life as a Christian is not naturally at the top of the list. Since no one recognized when you were doing it, who will even notice that you’ve stopped? It’s hard to go the extra mile for someone if I don’t get recognized for it. It’s hard to put others above ourselves.

God asks us to do that very thing. God’s plan is that we serve. The cup that he gives each of us is that we serve others and put God first and ourselves last. It goes against everything in us to do that. That’s because sin has turned our focus inwardly on ourselves. The first thing we think of is always ourselves, and we can’t bear the thought of not being in control.

It is the wrong focus to look for a better position in God’s kingdom for ourselves. The right focus is to look to God’s plan, and to be motivated by Jesus’ cup. Jesus trusted God’s plan. Jesus did the opposite of what James and John were trying to do and the opposite of what we sinfully seek first. Jesus trusted what God had prepared for him. For all of Jesus’ service, he gained nothing for himself but served the world with forgiveness of sins. Jesus drank the cup given to him to save us. He served everyone by living perfectly for us and suffering and dying for us. The servant works for you. Only when we look to the work of the great servant, can we drink the cup that God gives to us. His plan is that we also serve, and he gives us opportunities to serve. When you have opportunities to go the extra mile for someone else, do it not to serve yourself or even them but because of the cup Jesus drank for you. In a time where everyone is worried about what they can do to serve and protect themselves from disease, think about how you can serve, not only your family, but your neighbor, and your Christian family.

Serving is not our natural reaction, but when we see the things that the great Servant did to serve us, then we drink the cup he gives us. So we serve. Once we get past the obstacle of starting to serve, we meet another obstacle. When you do serve, it is easy to think that your service is not worthwhile. Whatever the good reason is that you might think that, Jesus teaches us that service is always worthwhile. No matter how much or how great your service, Jesus will out-serve you.

2. He will out-serve you. (verses 24-28)

When the rest of the ten disciples found out what James and John were doing, it says they were indignant, they felt wronged. Why were they upset? Did the rest of the ten have “service” figured out? No, they were upset because they were jealous of the better position for which James and John were looking! They caught James and John cheating to get a spot that they thought was rightfully theirs. It’s like the disciples caught James and John hoarding all the cleaning and food supplies and were upset because they wanted to have their own stockpile of the same thing. In the coming days, the disciples would always argue about which of them was the greatest. Their mindset shows that they had just as wrong of an idea about how greatness works with God as the brothers did.

Jesus taught them about true greatness. He pointed out the things that the world thinks of as great. They wanted to become rulers who make it to the top, important people who have authority over others. This is not greatness to Jesus. Jesus turns it upside-down with his definition of greatness, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Can he be serious? Who would consider a servant great? The whole point of being a servant is showing with your words and actions that someone else is greater than you!

We are like the disciples. We think that others have a better spot than us and we get jealous of them, and sometimes I even feel like a victim. I think that I deserve better than what I’m getting because of my service. To us too, Jesus says that true greatness is being a servant. Jesus flips our world upside-down.

To show that he is serious, Jesus gives the example of what he’s talking about. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus served his disciples. Jesus served us. We didn’t just need a little help; we didn’t just need someone to go the extra mile for us. We needed a servant who would give his life and die for us. Jesus did that. He paid our price by being betrayed, condemned, mocked, flogged, and crucified. That great servant hung on the cross to serve you, and to earn forgiveness of sins for you. He served you with new life by giving up his life.

Because of Jesus’ work for you, you don’t pay for your sins, you don’t have to fear punishment. Simply believe in Jesus, and it’s yours. But consider again his example, and what he says true greatness is – serving. He gives us this opportunity to follow his example. So we serve our Lord by serving others, like he served us. This perspective makes it a lot easier to serve, because then when we serve, we realize that whatever service we offer, he will out-serve us. And that’s ok. We are happy to serve Jesus in whatever way we can because he served us with his life and death. So let everyone know you are there to serve. Let your neighbors know you are there to help. And even if they use your service, they run you out of all your supplies and don’t even say thank you, you will be following the Lord’s example, who did not spare his own life to save you.

Jesus drank his cup of suffering and death to serve you. Drink the cup of service that he gives to you. Since the Servant works for you, we also serve others. But whatever we do, the Servant will always out-serve you, because he serves you with forgiveness of all sins and life in heaven with him.  Amen.

Sermon – March 18, 2020 – Lent Wednesday

Printable PDF:  3-18-2020 Midweek 4 Sermon

Vicar Lindemann  ~  Midweek 4 Sermon  ~  March 18, 2020

The Warrior Faces Satan’s Ally, the World

 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” – John 18:38

Do you have a grip on reality? My friends would say that I don’t after living in the winter haven of Phoenix for the past year. But I think I do, in the morning before the sun is up, I know it will be pretty chilly and that I’ll need a jacket, but when the sun shines for a while, I won’t need it because it will be warm. Do you have a grip on the reality of all the changes that are happening? I don’t think anyone has all the answers for the impact of this virus. But you clicked on this service out of the countless different websites you could have clicked on because you have a grip on eternal reality. It’s a truth you cannot see, but you believe. You learn that truth from the Bible, the truth about Jesus.

Not everyone believes that. The enemy of Jesus wants you to question that truth. And Satan is not alone. He has an ally in his campaign against Jesus and against his followers. The world around us also challenges us to question what God tells us in the Bible, and it offers a different reality, and alternate truths. Our Warrior, Jesus, faced the world’s question about what is real and true. He defended the truth because he knows that you and I depend on it. Jesus faced Satan’s ally, the world. This part of the conflict is important for us because it is crucial that we understand that we live in a world where…

  1. God’s own truth is under attack.

Jesus had been standing in front of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who had to decide whether to have Jesus crucified as the Jewish leaders wanted or to set him free. Pilate had asked him whether he was a king, which was the charge that the Jews thought would condemn Jesus. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

Jesus is talking about the two sides of this conflict! On one side is the truth; on the other side is the lie. Lies aren’t usually blatant denials of the truth. They contain some truth mixed in with deceptive words. But on that side is the Father of lies, Satan. The lies he offers pretend to have answers to the big questions of life but they’re not true. John warns us, “Everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). The enemy, not the Father, stands behind those lies.

Satan has an ally, the unbelieving world. The world that we live in eats up those lies. They accept Satan’s lies and challenges anyone who does not agree with it. So the world is damaged and sinful. People parade ungodly ideas and trust in themselves as the solutions to all the things that are wrong in the world. The world thinks that Jesus and his Word are just so much foolishness.

The world wants nothing to do with Jesus. And how many of the world’s values haven’t we swallowed? The lies of anti-Christian culture seem to be fun, fresh, or loving. The world tells you the only way to survive is to hoard supplies for yourself or to ignore the guidelines and have no regard for people’s sensitive consciences. Immoral lifestyles and values that go against God’s Word bombard us and cause me to let down my guard at times. “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Our world says that it is whatever you want it to be. The world’s lies try to undermine and destroy God’s truth.

John went on to write, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). Satan and the world want us to concentrate on what passes away and not on the truth about sin, death, and our need for salvation. God has something far better, and Jesus came to fight for it.

Jesus came up against a cloud of rejection by people, religious leaders, and politicians. The whole world was ganging up. Yet every day, he calmly and strongly faced them all. Our warrior is ready. He spoke the truth with power. You just heard him tell Pilate: “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. Pilate voiced the words of his world and our world as well. Pilate’s truth was whatever made his life the easiest. The world’s truth comes from distorted values. Trapped in a world of lies, Pilate couldn’t even recognize the truth when he was staring it in the face. Jesus clearly laid out the truth.

  1. Our hero is the truth.

What is the answer to Pilate’s question? God and the world both have an answer. God’s answer to Pilate’s question is and has always been: Jesus! He had told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Jesus is the truth. In other words, he is the only way to understand reality—what is real and true. He’s the only way we can possibly make sense of life. Anyone or anything else cannot do that job. From the beginning of time to the very last day of the earth, he is the only one who will ever be able to help us see straight.

Jesus never said, “I’m guessing” or “I wish” or “I hope” or “I think” or “possibly” or “maybe.” He always spoke with complete authority. He said, “Truly, I tell you…” “I tell you the truth,” or “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

God’s Word, the Bible, holds everything we need to know for life, to live freely without guilt—without the fear of God’s punishment—and, especially, to live forever free in eternity. That’s because every word in the Bible, in one way or another, points to Jesus Christ. And that’s why it is so important that my eyes see and my ears hear the dynamic Word of God! All other messages come from the Father of lies and flow through the world.

The world always questions God’s truth, and reality in general. Why am I here? What can I hope? How will I survive? Where can I turn? The world, of course, has millions of answers to those questions. The world’s guesses and wishes and “I thinks” all fail the test of truth.

Our world is broken. We all see it and know it. People hate. Nature and disease kill. Death stalks us all. I think, say, and do the evil I know I shouldn’t. We go running after the answers that the world gives. All of their answers promise to fix this mess. All have failed.

God’s answer did not fail: Jesus Christ! One honest to God, Gospel truth life came into our world. Our triune God loved us so much that he planned to rescue this sin-damaged world. The Son came to be the truth that would battle sin, death, Satan, and a world that hates him. Throughout his entire life he remained holy so that he could trade his life for ours at the place of God’s judgment. This is the sacred truth that we believe, confess, and hold dear because it means the solution for our sin. Our truth-telling Jesus gives us the certain conviction that he will take all those who trust him to live with him in heaven. This is the only reality there is.

His promise puts everything else into perspective. It gives us a worldview that is bigger than our eyes can see or what we can know. As a child of God through faith in our Savior Jesus, who now lives in us by that same faith, look at this great promise: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Jesus came from above with absolute truth from heaven. No matter what challenge or attack the world brings, Jesus has battled through all the world-perverted ideas of truth in order to give us the truth he came to share. That truth has changed us. We are on his side, the side of truth. We see reality—eternal reality—in the cross and the love of God for us sinners.

  1. He shares the truth through us.

Our Warrior, Jesus, calls us to be his warriors in this world. We don’t use swords or guns as Peter tried to do in the Garden of Gethsemane. St. Paul tells us how to wage our battles against Satan and the world: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). The weapon he gives us is his own powerful Word. That has given us a Christian worldview far superior to any other worldview.  The Word has changed us. Our faith shows the hope and joy we have in Jesus.

Our world goes from experience to experience, seeking some form of happiness before moving on. It’s like using matches to find your way through the desert. The match goes out and they light another. But they find no happiness, true joy, or real peace.

So our high privilege is to grow in the truth of Christ through his Word, and then to show and share the beautiful faith he has given us. When you get out of bed in the morning, think, “Jesus.” As you choose what to spend your time, energy, and money on, think, “Jesus.” Let Jesus and his Word be the GPS for your entire life!

Sometimes we are tempted to think this world is so too far gone to be helped. So throw out the TVs and computers, don’t listen to anyone, and just read the Bible all the time at home. But keep in mind that Jesus gives us some direction. He told his disciples in a prayer during Holy Week, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18).

So consider this: After being exposed to a godless worldview—whether godless panic or hateful skepticism—turn to your Bible and spend some personal and family time discussing how Christ gives us a far more truthful view of the world and life! Use those opportunities to equip yourself and your family to be confident of the real truth!

Jesus has overcome the world and given you the treasure of his truth. Go out there and live, play, and work in God’s marvelous truth. Be ready to share it. Amen.

Sermon – March 15, 2020 – Lent 3

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David R. Clark  ~  John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39  ~  March 15, 2020  ~  Lent 3


1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing…13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. 17Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”…34To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. 35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”


Dear friends in our Savior Jesus Christ,

When you say the word, “Coronavirus,” what emotions do you have? Fear? Skepticism? A desire to buy out all the toilet paper at Costco? This has not touched Arizona in a significant way. But somewhere someone is sick, and it’s not a sickness that comes from poor personal habits, unless you count not washing your hands for 20 seconds. A Christian will say this is an evidence of original sin in the world as are all sicknesses. But perhaps there is way to look at this. Jesus says, “SO THAT THE WORKS OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED.”

  1. Jesus gives physical sight.

He didn’t have the coronavirus, but a man was blind from birth. Being men of their time, the disciples offered popular explanations for this. Maybe he had committed some sin or his parents had or even his grandparents. Jesus showed them how ridiculous that was by mixing his spit with a little dirt and smearing the mud on the man’s eyes. The waters of the pool of Siloam washed the mud and his blindness away. For the record, it wasn’t the mud, the water, or Jesus’ spit that did that. It was Jesus’ promise.

If they had understood who Jesus was, that should have been clear, but it wasn’t. So when people couldn’t explain it, their rationalization was anything but the power of Jesus’ promise. So why was he blind from birth? So that on that day for believer and unbeliever alike the works of God, the works of Jesus, might be displayed.

We don’t usually find fault with healing on a Sabbath as their religious leaders did, but there does seem to be a lot of fault-finding and second-guessing about sickness today. When that happens, Jesus’ explanation can be as easy to overlook and hard to accept as it was for the people of Jesus’ time. That doubt is the foundation for not attributing healing to the Great Physician, Jesus.

So what does this mean today? Although Jesus can, we shouldn’t expect to see miraculous healing. But Jesus does work through proper hygiene and medical people and drugs and surgery and so on. For all of these things we give glory to God. But while there is a science to this, let’s not overlook why such blessings have power. God put it there at creation. Although we were not there, God did this so that you and I can see that even in the midst of tragedy or difficulty, we can see the works of God displayed. When someone gets better, God’s work is made manifest. All of this leads you and me to give thanks for such entities and the source of their blessings which is from our God in heaven. As we give glory to God, we take an active step to defeat fear and panic.

  1. Jesus gives spiritual sight.

That is even clearer through a higher form of healing that Jesus offers. (16-17,34-39) 16But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. 17Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”…34To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. 35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

The world into which Jesus was born was in much need of healing. Over and over again people looked at Jesus like a traveling free clinic. They would line up with their sick people for him to heal. But that is not why Jesus came. There were many other blind people who Jesus never healed. Jesus came as the light of the world to save the world as true God and true man. As much as this man needed his physical sight, the spiritual sight Jesus offered was an even greater need.

What good would it be to heal him in this life if he ended up condemned to hell? He needed spiritual sight even more. Jesus gave him that sight, and he worshiped Jesus.

Jesus wants to give such sight to everyone, but some people refuse it. The Pharisees, the religious scholars of their day, needed this kind of sight. But they refused to accept that Jesus had such power. They chose to remain spiritually blind.

The world in which we live understands all kinds of physical healing. It does not understand spiritual blindness at all. Which miracle do you suppose the blind man thinks is most important today? Heaven is the far greater gift.

The Biblical novice believed. The Biblical scholars did not. That’s a reminder and an encouragement to look to Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man and the way he works in this world. He is worthy of being worshiped for our earthly blessings of health, but even more so for giving us spiritual sight, the ability to see the truth in his Word. It’s also a reminder to each of us to confess our faith in Jesus both now and also after the rest of our community feels a little more confident. That confidence that you and I have in our Savior is a witness to each other and to those who are still spiritually blind. And it is an encouragement in uncertain times that no matter how uncertain our times may seem, through it the works of God will be displayed. Amen.

Sermon – March 11, 2020 – Lent Wednesday

Printable PDF:  3-11-2020 Midweek 3 Sermon

Midweek 3 Sermon  March 11, 2020  Pastor Myrl Wagenknecht




The Warrior Rejected by Many Followers

66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  – John 6:66-69

Do you have a BFF? Be careful, because you can only have one BFF:  One “best” friend. And you can’t change BFF because that one friend is “forever.” Think back to grade school, high school, or some great adventure that found you very close to someone. But they are no longer friends because of time, misunderstanding, lack of trust, gossip, disappointment. I will suggest one Best Forever Friend.

  1. His own rejected him.

It was during his last year of ministry. For two years, crowds regularly followed him, eagerly watching and listening. Shortly after he had fed a college basketball arena-sized crowd of five thousand men, plus women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish, the people began to think that they should make Jesus their king. They were even going to take him by force, probably so they could keep him there at the Sea of Galilee and get all that free food and maybe also be free of disease. Keep in mind that all of these people were part of the chosen nation that God had carefully protected for more than two thousand years. They knew that God had promised a Savior, and they were looking at Jesus as that Promised One.

It’s tragic that their expectations were for a Savior who would give them food and health. Some of their spiritual leaders had abandoned the beautiful promises of the Savior from sin and the giver of eternal life. They had turned those promises into a prediction of a king who would throw out the hated Roman rulers and establish a kingdom on earth with unlimited bread and health. How could that have happened? An enemy had been at work! He had attacked the Bible. Satan had convinced the spiritual leaders with a lie to reject Jesus. Many others chose to do the same.

Jesus resisted their efforts to make him a king and withdrew from them. The next day, the crowd found Jesus and had many questions. The subject turned, naturally, to bread. That’s when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Whoa! They had bread on their mind, but the bread Jesus gave them was so different from what they expected. He told them he had come from his Father in heaven. He was the bread from heaven, and all who “ate” the bread from heaven, that is, who took him in by faith, would live forever. He would raise them up on the Last Day. Jesus often taught with parables, object lessons, similes, and metaphors. Why were they too dull to catch on to the true spiritual meaning? He was bread from heaven giving everlasting life. He was living water giving everlasting life. Eating this bread and drinking this water was simply believing in him. But they seemed to stop listening. Many turned around and headed home. He would have been a great king. Free bread. He would have been a great friend. Healing. Wisdom. Comfort. No BFF here.

But it wasn’t just the crowd of thousands who walked away. Jesus had a group of 70 disciples whom he was training to reach out with the gospel to the huge mission field in Galilee and beyond. But the words of Jesus, the bread from heaven, were difficult to understand. How could he claim to give them eternal life? “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” (John 6:60). And right after this we learn, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” This was the Savior of the world who had come to offer his perfect life in exchange for our sin at the battle on Calvary. He’s getting ready for that battle and has been preparing the troops to carry on. And some of them leave. They did not believe Jesus had the authority or power to grant eternal life. They reject him. They will look for another friend.

The enemy of Jesus had gotten to the hearts and minds of the Jewish leaders and others. He had led them to believe the lie that Jesus couldn’t be who he had said and showed he was. The leaders were teaching false doctrine of the worst kind to their people: that they could somehow get to heaven by trying to be good people and following the law. Jesus was simply telling them what he had said at the beginning of his ministry: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). They planned to kill him and reject his message.

We begin to see the huge forces Jesus was fighting against. How does the awe for Jesus go out of someone who’s been that exposed to him? An enemy did this.

It wasn’t just back then.

The enemy still hates Jesus and, as much as he can, still fights hard against him. The enemy has encouraged lost people to grow deeper in their separation from God by establishing numerous false religions such as Islam, Hinduism, atheism, materialism, and many more—all of them offering some sort of path to God or a substitute for God, a path that leads only to hell.

He has also made inroads into the Christian church, spreading false doctrine, attacking the Bible, and using critics of Christianity in the media, in universities, and in politics to damage and destroy saving faith. You know about the growing numbers of “dones”— people who have left the church and say they won’t come back. And the “nones”—people who claim they have no religious affiliation. Satan is a terrorist who is cornered and knows he’s going to die—but he wants to take as many as he possibly can with him.

Even here in our own church we have some members who once enthusiastically promised right here at the front of this church that they would remain faithful to Jesus and his Word, even if they had to die to do that. Those confirmation vows have been broken. Something has happened to take away their joy of being in God’s house.

Maybe you have someone close who is slipping or has lost his or her faith. We all sometimes struggle with a personal doubt about something God says. Our doubts and questions keep buzzing in our brain. Maybe in your own heart there is some doubt when you confess, “I believe in God the Father almighty, and in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.” So you can understand Jesus when he turns to the smaller group of 12 disciples with a question. Listen carefully to this question and hear the emotion:  “‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve” (John 6:67).

Jesus gives them the opportunity to make a clear answer. Was there emotion in his voice? Did they hesitate? Did they want time to see how many others were staying first, before they gave their own answer? We don’t know, but this we do know:

  1. His gracious words of life draw us ever closer to him.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I love Peter here because he is so right! “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

When God created the world, he simply spoke, “Let there be …,” and there was light and dirt and stars and galaxies and lions and butterflies — a universe beyond understanding. He just spoke! What power God has in his words!

I’m holding in my hands the Bible, God’s own love story toward us — his words of life, forgiveness, and salvation. These words have terrific power. You know the passage in Romans where Paul tells us, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Only God knows how many believing Christians there are in the world. This I do know:  Every single one of them did absolutely nothing to create saving faith in their hearts. Everyone — you and I, too — came by only one very powerful means, one agency, one path. It doesn’t matter if it is spoken, read, or received in a tactile, visible fashion called Baptism. It’s the single most powerful force for good in our world:  GOD’S WORD! That’s what brought you and me to trust that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has purchased and won for us the forgiveness of all our sins! He did it all and paid it all for us! He loves us enough to die so we might live with him forever. So can you see why Jesus fought false teachers so hard?

He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). They continue to oppose Jesus and lure you to abandon your Savior. They have a lot of opinions and theories, but they do not have the words of eternal life. There is only one source for that, and Peter had it right: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Peter and the others were blessed and did not want to lose what Jesus had given them. We are also blessed. You and I stand here washed in the blood of the Lamb of God! We are forgiven and we have eternal life. Jesus is our BFF. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.”

Jesus becomes our guest preacher here every time we come to listen. He promises to take us through the door marked “Death.” He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It was Martin Luther who said, “If you were to ask a Christian what his task is and by what he is worthy of the name of Christian, there could be no other response than hearing the Word of God, that is, faith. Ears are the only organs of the Christian.”

We are just a few weeks away from Easter. It’s spring. Baseball teams are almost done with their spring training. Let this Lent be time for us to grow more deeply in the Word— our own spiritual spring training. My prayer is that by Easter this congregation will be renewed in its zeal to make better use of the Word. Start your own personal reading program or home devotions. I suggest each of us start tonight or tomorrow by reading chapter 6 of John’s gospel, and then a chapter each day to the end of John’s gospel. If you want to stay tight with a friend, you talk and you listen. Having some doubts? Listen to Jesus. Read his words. Study his suffering, death, and resurrection FOR YOU.

We are challenged every day to hold on tight to God’s Word when we see and hear all the stuff the world, our sinful flesh, and Satan throw at us. It’s a pretty steady flood. So if Jesus were to ask us right now, “You do not want to leave, too, do you?” let’s answer:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”  Amen.

Sermon – March 8, 2020 – Lent 2

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Pastor Mark R Jacobson  ~  Lent 2 Sermon  March 8, 2020  ~  John 4:4-26


4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 

  1. Jesus knows you and loves you anyway.

How thirsty would you have to be? If you identify with the Democratic Party, how thirsty would you have to be to ask President Trump for a glass of water? If you identify with the Republican Party, how thirsty would you have to be to ask Senator Bernie Sanders or Former Vice President Joe Biden for a glass of water? Would you even ask for water, or would you actually consider dying of thirst?

The Apostle John tells us in one of his parenthetical remarks, “(For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).” That parenthetical remark explains why the Samaritan woman asked Jesus, “How can you ask me for a drink?” Yes, Jesus was thirsty, but he was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. They were political rivals. The reason for this hostility dates back to the early days of the kings. When King Solomon died, his kingdom split into the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. About 200 years later, the Assyrians captured and destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The few surviving Israelites married foreigner settlers. This mix of nations, called the Samaritans, also had a mixed religion. Chapter 17 of 2 Kings tells us the Samaritans worshipped the Lord, and at the same time they served idols. The Jews and the Samaritans were different people. The Samaritan woman knew this, but the Samaritan woman didn’t know everything about Jesus.

Jesus, who was born of a Jewish mother and a divine Father, said to the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The conversation continues and while the Samaritan woman still doesn’t know who Jesus is, she is very interested to learn more about living water. This is where the conversation takes a sharp turn. Jesus told her, “’Go call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet.’

In his mercy, Jesus doesn’t rehash all the details for us, but Jesus does speak directly to the Samaritan woman about her sins. What she had done with her 5 husbands was wrong. What she was doing with this man who was not her husband was wrong, too. Not only were her behaviors wrong, her behaviors also left her thirsty. The Samaritan woman was not satisfied with any of her five marriages, and now as she lived with this man, she demonstrated how she wasn’t satisfied with what God says about marriage. Good thing Jesus isn’t talking directly to you or to me this morning about our sins. Oh, but he is! What conversation is Jesus having with you in your heart right now? Jesus knows the dirty details of your sinful heart. Jesus knows what you crave that is opposed to God’s Word whether that craving be pleasure or profit or something else. Jesus also knows how the ultimate pursuit of the things of this world leave you thirsty. That’s why he’s so direct in his Word about sin. His commandments tell us simply what we should and should not do. That’s also why Jesus is so direct in his Word about salvation. Jesus loves you and forgives you and always will be there for you. That’s why Jesus is here with God’s Word today. He wants to give you living water and he wants you to drink living water. You drink well water or tap water or bottled water to quench your thirsty throat. By believing what Jesus says about salvation you drink living water and quench your thirsty soul.

It only seems like the Samaritan woman was changing the subject in verse 20 when she said, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” The Samaritan woman wasn’t changing the subject. The Samaritan woman was changing her life. Changing one’s life starts with repentance. The Samaritan woman was “sorry, sorry, sorry” for her sins and she wanted to know where she should go to be forgiven. The Samaritans went to Mount Gerizim for forgiveness, and the Jews went to the temple in Jerusalem.

  1. Jesus teaches you the path of God’s salvation.

Jesus’ answer draws her attention away from the place of worship and more toward the meaning of worship. It’s not enough to come to church and rattle off the words, “Lord have mercy on me, a Sinner.” We have to say it, and we have to mean it. It’s not enough to thoughtlessly sing the song, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” We have to sing it, and we have to want it.

Grudgingly coming to church is not worship. Gladly hearing God’s Word is worship. Mouthing the words in prayer and song is not worship. Talking to God with sincerity and singing with joy is worship. Just being in the same room with other believers is not worship. Living in harmony with one another is worship. God’s Word extends worship beyond the sanctuary. The Bible says, “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Living our lives to reflect God’s love is worship. Being a faithful spouse, a loving parent, or a devoted friend out of love for Jesus is worship.

I don’t know if Jesus ever got his water. He probably did, but we don’t have a confirming word that Jesus ever received his drink. However, we do have a confirming word that Samaritan woman drank from the Living Water of Jesus. Later in this chapter, she left her bucket at the well and told other people in town about Jesus, and they believed in him as she believed in him. With God’s help, we can assume the Samaritan woman did what was God-pleasing with the man she was living with, too.

Today, Jesus invites us again to drink of the living water of salvation. There is nothing in all the world that quenches the thirsty heart like the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing else like the Gospel of Jesus Christ that motivates us to worship our God with all of our hearts, soul, and mind by all that we think and all that we say and all that we do. Amen.

Sermon – March 4, 2020 – Lent Wednesday

Printable PDF: 3-4-2020 Midweek 2 Sermon

Pastor John Sprain ~ Ephesians 6:12 ~ March 4, 2020 ~ Lent Midweek 2 Sermon

Reconnaissance Report:  Know Your Enemy

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When you Google something, that search engine actually only searches about 4 percent of everything out there in cyberspace. Something called the deep web has the other 96 percent—all of which is hidden to most people. There is some technical stuff and some military stuff on the deep web, as well as secret communications and more.

The really scary part is that there is another hidden part of the Deep Web. That hidden part is called the Dark Web, where you can find stolen credit card numbers for sale, mail order street drugs, killers for hire, sex trafficking, and much more. To read about it sends shivers up your spine!

When God tells us there is a darkness to this world, he includes SOMEONE in that darkness—an enemy who is both invisible and evil. We are in a struggle with this darkness. We should not enter battle without knowing something about the enemy whom we will face. Let’s look at God’s reconnaissance report. We are…

  1. Facing off against the ruler of darkness

If a thug is trying to rob you on the street or invades your home, you will defend yourself in whatever way you can. You have a flesh-and-blood person to deal with, somebody you can see and strike. But listen to St. Paul’s chilling words. Our biggest battle isn’t with our neighborhood gang. It’s with an invisible, mysterious, sinister, evil force. He warned us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). St. Paul urges Christians to arm themselves with God’s armor, especially his Word, because we are facing a huge struggle—a battle that is a lifelong wrestling match—a battle that if we were to lose it, would result in eternal death and damnation.

We face a dangerous enemy. We’re not talking about fictional ghosts. We’re talking about the devil and demons, which are all evil, and real angels, who are 100 percent on the dark side. As unrepentant followers of their leader, Satan, the goal of demons is to destroy you and me and everyone else—destroy our faith, destroy our life, destroy our hope, and destroy our soul. There is nothing fascinating or attractive or funny about Satan, whose very name means “enemy.”

Paul’s references to rulers, authorities, and powers indicate that the evil angels are organized in a military fashion with leaders and soldiers who follow the ringleader—Satan. He is the chief ruler, head general, authority, and power. We call them demons because there must be no confusion between them and the millions of angels still in heaven and around us here on earth who are always working for our good. On the other hand, the demons bring darkness with them—a spiritual darkness that can smother our souls like one of those blanket’s firemen use to cover a person on fire.

The goal of all demons is to remove saving faith from the earth—to steal it from you and me and to prevent unbelievers, who are already cut off from God by their unbelief, from hearing about God’s grace for them. That’s what spiritual darkness is—being separated from our Savior. It’s walking and talking and appearing to be doing the things of a normal life but having a dead soul inside. It’s being dead to God. No desire for him. No love for him. No faith in him. Satan hates you. He is actively waging war on you. The devil wants your soul to be dead so that you end up dead eternally.

God’s reconnaissance report goes on to compare our enemy to a hungry wild beast. The apostle Peter said it like this, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It’s startling to see this picture because it means this dark world is not a static thing. It doesn’t just sit there like your bedroom’s darkness, which goes away when you turn on the light. Lions don’t stay in one place. They are on the prowl. So the spiritual darkness is like a blackness creeping out of your bedroom to put out all the lights in the house and on your street and beyond. It’s an active, evil darkness!

God’s report also tells us that we are…

  1. Caught in this battle with a liar

At some point in your life, somebody lied to you. You are more careful now when people make promises, right? That’s sad, because if someone is not honest, we know we can’t trust that person. Jesus told the Jewish people who were plotting to kill him about who was behind their dark plot, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Jesus knew Satan. He knew that he has the blackest, vilest, most deceitful heart. He is a hater of God, and he hates you and me. He even wants to murder us eternally in hell.

If a person speaks English or Spanish or another language as their native language, they use that language all the time. Satan’s native language is lying. The name devil means “slanderer; one who brings charges with hostile intent.” He’s angry and jealous of what God has given us in Jesus. He lies in order to get us to doubt or question God’s Word. He especially encourages us not to read or study it. That’s why we have Bible classes here in order to keep him off balance.

He likes to use two favorite and effective lies. First, he tells you that you are such a good person that you don’t need Jesus because God could never damn you to hell. The second lie is just the opposite but no less effective. He will tell you that you are so bad that not even God would ever want you. Both lies. He wants us to believe that God is not fair and doesn’t care about you or me. He wants us to get deeper into his darkness: to be angry at God, to reject God’s promises, and to hate God. He wants you to abandon God’s Word so that you will be totally, spiritually dark and dead.

That’s why the Son of God went forth to war! It’s not hopeless. Our reconnaissance report for battle includes a clear report on what God has done for us. He has put a . . .

  1. Light in the darkness

We turned the lights on for worship today. And light always defeats darkness! Even a small candle pushes back the darkness of a big cave. More important, another light shines here, far more powerful than the bulbs shining forth above our heads! That light led you here. That light has pushed out the very darkness that Satan has tried to shove into your heart. That light has given you hope and faith and a future in heaven so bright that the Bible describes us as no longer needing the sun or moon for light at all for eternity! St. John is talking about Jesus when he says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Did you catch the battle in that verse? “Darkness has not overcome it.” Our hero, Jesus, fought against our dark enemy Satan many times, as we find it recorded on the pages of the New Testament. Most of the time, Jesus used his Word to defeat him. Sometimes he used miracles to undo the damage of illness and death that Satan had caused.

In the Star Wars movies, Luke Skywalker defeats the evil Darth Vader in a battle of light sabers. In real life, both Jesus and Satan used the cross as their war weapon. Satan thought he had beaten Jesus when Jesus died on the cross. Of course, we know that Jesus used the cross as his ultimate weapon to beat all the forces of darkness—the devil, the world, our sinful flesh, and death itself. Satan is defeated eternally, but like a terrorist who is cornered, he wants to take as many of us as possible with him to hell.

Thank God that you and I have been given the wonderful gift of faith in Jesus. Through that faith we see Jesus for who he really is—the Savior of the world who brings forgiveness and freely gives eternal life to those who believe in him: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4).

I can’t see anything when I’m in the dark, so I need to get my flashlight to walk around without smashing into something. But it’s much worse for those who do not trust in Jesus, because they are existing in spiritual darkness. There’s only one flashlight for that kind of darkness, and it is Jesus. Jesus is life, the source of all light and life.

Our vision is precious to us. Our mothers always warned about poking out an eye. Jesus once healed a beggar man who had been born blind. After Jesus had healed him, he came home seeing and, even under fierce questioning by those who hated Jesus, kept saying the same thing, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25).

As wonderful as that sight is, to come out of spiritual blindness and darkness into the light is infinitely better. It means that I can be totally honest with myself and admit the mess of my life. I see what sin really is and how much damage it does to me and others. I see why God hates it so much because it damns. I confess it freely to my Lord and trust him to forgive every last evil thought, word, and deed, because I see HIM! He’s the Light of my life, the one who has bought and paid for me with his own life! He has shown me what grace is. He has opened my eyes to see all God has done for me because he loves me.

As we follow Jesus, the Son of God this Lenten season, we will hear many reports, but remember his words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  Amen.

Sermon – February 26, 2020 – Ash Wednesday

Printable PDF:  2-26-2020 Ash Wednesday Sermon

Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ Ash Wednesday ~ February 26, 2020 

We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. – Hebrews 4:15


The classic TV series M*A*S*H tells the story of an army field hospital located mere miles from the front lines during the Korean War. In one episode, the army chaplain, Father Mulcahy, cannot comfort a wounded soldier because he’s admitted that he’s never experienced what it’s like to be in battle. After some introspection, the chaplain makes a decision. He secretly stows himself away in a truck headed for the front. Upon his arrival he finds himself in the middle of a full-fledged firefight. When it’s finally over, he returns to the hospital where word of what he’s done has already spread through the ranks. The final scene of that episode is Father Mulcahy sitting down once again with the same soldier. The chaplain looks him in the eye and says, “Now, let’s talk.”

Our Lenten Series theme is, “The Son of God Goes Forth to War.” As we make our way through this series each service will have a focus on Jesus as the warrior who fights and defeats sin, death, and Satan. Tonight we focus on skirmishes. What is a skirmish? I don’t remember learning about George Washington and the Revolutionary Skirmish or about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil Skirmish or about World Skirmish I and World Skirmish II. Skirmishes are not those long and drawn out battles that are easily remembered. Skirmishes are short battles, sometimes those battles are so short a person doesn’t realize they were in a skirmish until the skirmish is over.

Adam and Eve were in the first skirmish with Satan. Satan attacked them very strategically. Satan approached Adam and Eve in a friendly manner. Satan directs his question only to Eve and not to Adam. Satan’s question, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden,” was not a boldface lie, but a seemingly innocent question. And yet when Adam and Eve fell into temptation they both fully realized they had been in a skirmish with the Evil One and they had lost.

Satan now skirmishes with us and he is just as strategic with us as he was with Adam and Eve. Satan, of course, is not God. Satan can’t read our hearts or know our thoughts, but Satan can study our behavior like Satan is the Internet. Social media studies our clicks. The Internet knows about what you just bought, about where you are thinking of taking your next vacation, and whether or not you think cat videos are funny. The technology on your Internet will then offer you links to buy more stuff or to watch the next YouTube video and the next one and all the commercial advertising on the sides of your screen. The Internet studies your behavior and has a well laid out plan to manipulate your behavior and so does Satan.

Where has Satan found you at your most vulnerable spot? With what temptations are you struggling? In national religious surveys on temptation, people said they struggle most with worry (worry about finances, relationships, health – we even worry about worrying). The survey said most people struggle with a lack of self-control (that could include eating too much or spending too much or too much time on electronic devices). Another struggle was lust (especially the viewing of pornography). Another struggle was with lying and cheating. Amazingly, when asked why they had given into temptation a few said they enjoyed it and some said their sin gave them an escape from real life, but many said they didn’t know why they fell into temptation. Satan doesn’t care why you fall into temptation, only that you do fall into temptation. Satan is happy to get your minds away from Jesus. He wants you damned. And He could guarantee your damnation if he could get your Savior to fall into temptation, too.

At his birth Jesus Christ stepped into our humanity. Jesus wasn’t born with a sinful nature. Jesus was pure like the original Adam. But Jesus succeeded where Adam and Eve failed. Jesus’ victory over Satan wasn’t just one major battle. Jesus’ victory over Satan was any number of skirmishes every day. In the wilderness Satan went one-on-one with Jesus for forty days. Satan strategically studied Jesus. Satan tried to use Jesus’ hunger against him. Satan tried to show Jesus an easier path to victory than suffering and dying. Later, Satan would seek allies for his damning work. Jesus was rejected by his own people. Jesus was deserted by his own disciples. Finally, perhaps even to Satan’s surprise, Jesus own heavenly Father had also forsaken him. Jesus remained pure and holy throughout his entire life and yet Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are! So when you realize that Jesus was perfectly faithful every second of his life, you begin to understand how massive the battle of temptation and sin really was!

This victory over Satan’s skirmishes wasn’t a divinely appointed exercise to see if Jesus could keep his own commandments as God AND man. Rather, Jesus faced those daily skirmishes and the final battle with the devil because none of us could handle the job. Sinful humanity needed a perfect human to serve as their substitute. Sinful humanity also need a holy God so that his victory over Satan could count as their victory. Jesus won the victory over Satan’s skirmishes for us and our salvation!

Our great hero hasn’t left you alone to face the skirmishes of your enemy. Jesus understands your skirmishes. When you are hurting, Jesus knows what you feel like. When you have problems, you know Jesus experienced all kinds of problems. When you talk to Jesus in prayer, you’re not talking to some far-off God. He hears the words of your heart and he can relate. When you tell Jesus you’ve reached your limit, he knows what you mean. When your plan doesn’t seem to match up with God’s plan he knows what it’s like to journey down a difficult road. And yet Jesus also knew God’s promise to protect us and rule over all things – Satan included for our good. Our Savior taught Peter, James, and John, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Peter would later teach us in his epistle, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Believe in the power of prayer! When you are tempted to keep quiet about our Savior, pray as King David did in Psalm 51:15, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” When you are surrounded by impurity and immorality, pray as King David did, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (51:10).

Believe in the power of prayer. Also believe in the power of God’s Word. That was how Jesus defeated Satan. Jesus didn’t listen to his gut! Jesus didn’t follow his instincts. Jesus listened to God’s Word, and Jesus did what the Word said! Isaiah said in the Old Testament, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. St. James, the Lord’s brother wrote, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan is not almighty. Satan’s strength is limited and as we win our skirmishes with the strength the Lord provides in the Word, Satan will give up on us as the loser he is and come back at another time.

Tonight has been good for us to have this talk with God. He knows what it’s like to be us. He’s been where we are, and he’s won the victory we couldn’t. Because of him we are forgiven! And now at the right hand of God, Jesus aims to help us win our daily skirmishes. We are not alone. We have a Savior who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet did not sin. Talk to him. He won all his skirmishes. Let him also talk to you. He understands our skirmishes and he helps us win. Amen.