Wednesday, December 21, 2011

God Does the Impossible (A sermon based on Luke 1:26-38)

That's not possible! But God does it anyway! He heals the sick. He walks on water. He raises the dead. And he becomes a flesh and blood human just like us! He does it to save us from our sin and to establish his Kingdom forever! Knowing that God does the impossible lead us to put our quiet trust in him and to be his servants, just as Mary did. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Luke 1:26-38 (or click here to watch the entire service) and rejoice that God does the impossible!

God Does the Impossible

A sermon based on Luke 1:26-38

Sunday, December 18, 2011 – Advent 4B


"That's impossible!" must have been a phrase Jesus grew accustomed to hearing. It's not possible for deadly diseases to disappear, for the lame to leap, for the blind to see. It's not possible for a human to walk on water or for five loaves of bread and two fish to satisfy five thousand people. It's not possible for the dead to come back to life.

But Jesus life was once characterized by the impossible. In fact, the very person of Jesus is the impossible. The fullness of the Deity—all of God—embodied in a human being seems as impossible as putting an elephant in a paper bag! Yet, God does the impossible. Nothing is impossible for him.

How do we know? Consider the news given to Mary. It seems unlikely, even impossible. But listen to what God promised as we read Luke 1:26-38…


26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

I.              The Lord Saves His People from Their Sin


Stand in Mary's sandals. Imagine you're at home minding your own business, when suddenly the room is filled with a light so bright that it makes a thousand spotlights seem dim. You're blinded by the brilliance! And before you have time to wonder if this is some alien abduction the brilliant light speaks… and you know exactly what it is standing before you. It's an angel—a messenger of the Most High, the Holy God! And he says to you, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Can you imagine standing there—sinner that you are— in the presence of the holy—a perfect sinless messenger of the perfect sinless God? No wonder Mary was greatly troubled! She wasn't worthy of a special visit from God's messenger. She wasn't holy or sinless in her thoughts and actions. She admitted as much in her song when she cried out, "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:47) She was a sinner who needed a Savior.

So can you imagine how exposed you would feel standing before the holy? Wondering how much the angel knows. Wondering what God has told him about you. Does he know what I said to my spouse this morning? Does he know that vindictive thought I had about my co-worker? Or about the seductive thought I had about my neighbor? Does he know where my every dollar has been wasted or how I've squandered the precious hours God that has given to me?

If an angel were appear to you or me tonight we'd be just as troubled as Mary, just as terrified as the shepherds, just as panicked as the disciples, because God's law has exposed our sin. Because we know that we don't deserve to be highly favored by God.

But the amazing thing is that instead of fearing, the news Gabriel brought gives us reason to be cheering…  "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…"

Why don't we have to be afraid of a holy God? Because of Jesus, whose name means, "The Lord saves." And not just from not just from political enemies or physical suffering, but from even more. An angel explained to Joseph: "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Seem impossible? Mary thought so, but the angel told her, "Nothing is impossible with God."

Only through her Son, the virgin-born God-man, could this be possible. Born of God, not of man, he is true God. Born of Mary, a true human, he is true human. These are the necessary ingredients for our Savior. He had to be true man, so that he who wrote the law, could be under the law. He had to be true God so that he could do the otherwise impossible task of keeping it perfectly in our place, as "the holy one to be born." He had to be true man, so the immortal God who cannot die could do the impossible and die. And as true God, his death would be worth enough to pay for the sins of all mankind of all time.

It seems impossible that God would do all this, doesn't it? There's no reason for him to do it all! God didn't have to do any of it. He didn't need a Savior. When Gabriel told Mary, "Do not be afraid… you have found favor with God," the word translated "favor" is charis, the word we usually translate as "grace." "Do not be afraid… you have found [grace] with God," Why did God save his people from their sins? Not because they're worthy, but because his grace is so bottomless it seems impossible.

But perhaps what seems most impossible of this whole account is that God did these things for you and for me. He not only did the seemingly impossible work of saving his people from their sins, but he did the seemingly impossible work of establishing his kingdom forever. A kingdom that continues 2,000 years later. A kingdom that you and I are a part of!

The Lord Establishes His Kingdom Forever 

I once read that Italy has had more than fifty different governments in the last one hundred years. The great Kingdom of Rome, the likes of which the world has never seen, only lasted for 244 years. The US is doing remarkably well to have had the same government for 235 years now! Kingdoms don't generally last that long. They rise… and they fall. But not Jesus' kingdom. Of the increase of his government, his ruling, his kingdom, there is no end! The New Testament Church has been around for not 200 years, but for 2,000 years. And it will last, not just 2,000 more years, not to the end of the world, but to eternity!

How do we know? Listen to the angels words… "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Jesus' Kingdom is not something that can fall like an earthly government or nation because Jesus' Kingdom—his ruling—takes place in the hearts of believers. And this Kingdom—as impossible as it may seem—is established in you, 2,000 years after began, in the same way it was for Mary. God created faith in your heart through the Gospel. And that will last forever.

When Mary heard the good news she asked, "How will this be?" not as a question of unbelief, as if to say, "No way!" but in awe, mystified by God's grace and his plan for her. She expressed her faith and quiet trust in God's promises when she confessed, "I am the Lord's servant… May it be to me as you have said."

And you, friends, can have the same quiet trust in God and his ruling over all things as Mary…

Have you ever wondered, "Who am I that God should do all this for me? Who am I that he promises to work all things—even the struggles and problems of my life, the hurting relationships, the financial struggles, the failing health—He works it all for my good?!" It seems impossible, doesn't it? Almost too good to be true!

But nothing is impossible for God! If God can create life in the womb of a virgin, he can create life in your heart. He who was born of a virgin, has saved you from your sin. And he has established his Kingdom in you. And he has established his Kingdom for you. Nothing has stopped him for 2,000 years and his Kingdom and his good purposes for you will continue to last forever!

You and I may not always understand "How will this be?" We may at times be mystified by God's ways in our lives. But, nevertheless, we can put our trust in him just as Mary did.

He's already done the impossible of saving you from your sins and he's done the impossible task of working faith in your heart to believe in these impossible promises. You are highly-favored! You have found favor and grace with God. You are forgiven! The Lord is with you! And he will work all things for your good just as he promised.

And one day soon God will do the impossible again. He will raise all the dead. And he'll take those in his Kingdom into eternal glory. And "He will reign… forever; his kingdom will never end." "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun." And so, trusting in our God, who does the impossible, we too say to him with confidence, "I am the Lord's servant… May it be to me as you have said," in Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God’s Gift Exchange (A sermon based on Isaiah 61:1-3)

Ever have an office party with a gift exchange? They're not always as much fun as they're cracked up to be, are they? Sometimes, you give a nice gift and get something kind of crummy. But sometimes you give a crummy gift thrown together in haste, and you get something great. In God's gift exchange we give him the very worst we could possibly give. We give him the filth of our sin. But in exchange we get the very best. We get forgiveness and peace with God. We get Jesus' righteousness and every blessing that God gives. What a wonderful gift exchange! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Isaiah 61:1-3 and rejoice in the gracious gifts that God gives...

God's Gift Exchange

A sermon based on Isaiah 61:1-3

Sunday, December 11, 2011 – Advent 3B


Last weekend, the faculty of Grace Lutheran School had our  annual Christmas party at which we have our gift exchange. But we don't just buy gifts for each other. We play a game. I'm sure you've played it before, but for those who haven't, here's how it works: everyone brings a wrapped gift to the party and when it's time to open the gifts, everyone draws a number from a hat No. 1 opens any present they want. No. 2 can either "steal" that gift from number one or open something else.

But sometimes, the game that's meant to be fun, isn't always that fun. I remember one year in college our dorm floor decided to try our hand at the white elephant gift exchange—something I highly recommend you avoid for reasons that will soon become obvious. You see, while I brought what I thought was a nice CD that anyone might want, someone else thought it a funny joke to bring a loaf of moldy bread (and I mean moldy beyond recognition), wrap it up very nicely, complete with gold ribbon and bow, and bring that as their gift to be exchanged. I'm sure you can guess which gift I unwrapped. And while I did find the joke a bit humorous, I would rather have had the prank fall on some other unsuspecting party-goer as no one was going to steal that gift.

This advent season, as we get ready to celebrate Christmas, we're reminded of God's gift exchange—which, odd as it may seem, is somewhat similar to the white elephant gift exchange of my college days. You see, just like I got the raw end of the deal in my gift exchange—giving a nice CD and receiving a moldy loaf of bread—on a much larger scale, God got the raw end of the deal in his gift exchange. We give God something more disgusting than a loaf of mold. We give him our hideous sins. And in exchange, he gives us the best gift there is—he gives us his Son.

Martin Luther once prayed, "Lord Jesus, I am your sin; you are my righteousness. I have made you what you were not; you have made me what I was not." Because of God's gift exchange in Jesus, who became what he was not, he has made us what we were not. Now we are forgiven. Now we are righteous. Now we are heirs of eternal life. Listen Isaiah elaborate on God's wonderful exchange in Isaiah 61:1-3…


61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.


I.              We Made Him What He Was Not


The Israelites had it good. God gave them everything they could ask for. He brought them out of slavery into their own land, promised to their forefathers. He gave them great amounts of wealth, every comfort and convenience. He gave them peace and protection from their enemies. And on top of all the physical blessings he gave them the promise of a Savior to come remove their sins and the promise of eternal glory forever.

Yet in spite of all he gave them, God's people rejected him. In exchange for the great gifts God had promised and given, they gave him a horrible present in return. They cheated on him. They worshipped false Gods, blocks of wood, and carved pieces of stone. They "worshipped" these "gods" with obscene sexual acts and even with human sacrifice. It was as if they gave God a box of manure in exchange for the diamond ring he gave to them. And for such ingratitude for God's gifts, for such wicked rebellion against him, they deserved to die.

But instead of destroying them, God in his love only spanked them. He allowed the Babylonians to carry them off into captivity to lead his people to repentance. Now, in captivity, fully aware that God allowed their ruin because of their sin, they were dejected and brokenhearted, prisoners in a dark dungeon, mourning with ashes on their head, on the verge of despair. They knew they deserved no good thing from God and fully earned his day of vengeance against them.

But now that they were aware of their sin and recognized what they deserved, God sent them the comfort they needed. He would give them another great gift—the best one yet. In exchange for their sins, he would send them a Savior to bind up their broken hearts and bring them comfort. He would give them a great exchange. And that exchange would come in the Messiah.


Isaiah writes, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." Literally, it says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has 'Messiah-ed' me to preach good news to the poor." Messiah, or the Greek equivalent, Christ, literally means, "the Anointed One." Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One anointed by God. In fact, in Luke 4, we hear how Jesus read these very verses in the synagogue and said, "Today these Scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing." "These Scriptures are fulfilled in me." The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord did come on Jesus at his Baptism when he began his mission.

It's Jesus himself speaking about that mission through Isaiah when he writes, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…

 What a great gift the Savior would bring. What an awesome exchange. He would take away all that troubled them. He would remove their grief, sorrow and pain. He would proclaim freedom and declare the Year of the Lord's favor, a reference to the Year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25, where every Israelite slave would be set free. He would rescue them from slavery to the Babylonians and from slavery to sin. And he would do it all by taking those curses on himself. He would become what he was not. He would become their sin and take the punishment they deserved in their place.


And dear friends, God makes that same exchange with us as well… While we too have been blessed with every blessing, both physical and spiritual, we often treat those gifts with the same contempt the Israelites did. We too at times use our physical blessings only to serve ourselves. Just look at your bank statements. We too often ignore God's spiritual blessings and don't bother to take advantage of them. Consider how many minutes you've spend in the word this week compared to how many hours you've spend being entertained.

In exchange for all he's given us, do we get him a pair of used, unwashed socks? Do we pull a few scraps out of the garbage and offer that as our gift to him? Do we give him a loaf of moldy bread? No. It's even worse. Though it's often packaged in beautiful wrapping so outwardly we look like great Christians, in reality we give him a bag of manure, a box full of maggots. We give him sin upon filthy sin. And for our ingratitude, for our indifference, we too deserve damnation in exchange.

But dear friends, we don't get what is rightfully ours. We don't get it because Jesus did. Jesus became what he was not. On Christmas Day Jesus, the anointed one of God, God himself, became a lowly human. On Good Friday, Jesus became what he was not again, when he, being perfectly righteous, took all our sins on himself. And there he took what we deserve. He became the brokenhearted man of sorrows. He was held captive by our sin, in the complete darkness of hell, abandoned by the Father. He was the mourning prisoner, covered in ashes, enduring God's day of vengeance—the hell of God's full wrath poured out on him.

And because he became what he was not, we will never suffer that hell. He looked around at the gift exchange and saw us stuck with the moldy loaf of bread—with hell—and he took it away from us. And because he took the raw end of the deal for us, we're free of the disgusting mess we were in. And what's more, he not only took away the horrible gifts, but he gave us something great in return. He made us what we were not…


II.            He Made Us What We Were Not


God's gift to the Israelites was even greater than taking away their despair and destroying their captors. It was even greater than removing their sins. You see, not only would he take away the negative, the curses that were theirs, but he would also give them positive, incredible blessings, in their place. By becoming what he was not, Christ made them what they were not…

"He has sent me … to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

Do you know the difference between mercy and grace? In God's mercy he didn't give the Israelites the punishment they deserved. In his grace he did give them the blessings they didn't deserve. God didn't just deliver them from slavery (mercy), but gave them blessing upon blessing as well (grace). If he'd only delivered them from Babylon, they might have starved to death back in their home land, but God blessed their land and their crops upon their return. Or when they did grow prosperous again they might have been attacked by a new Persian enemy, but God protected them. Or they could have lived a wealthy and prosperous life only to die and go to hell, but God saved them. He not only took away the Israelites' captivity, but gave them freedom in the full sense. They were free from Babylon and free from the sins that brought them there, free from God's punishment, free from their fear.

In exchange for the Day of God's Vengeance which they rightfully deserved, they received the Year of the Lord's favor as his chosen people. Again, this Year of the Lord's favor is a reference to the Year of Jubilee, which happened every 50 years in Israel. Every 50th year, not only were all the Israelite slaves freed, but all land that had been sold was returned to its ancestral owner. They would be released from slavery and blessed with land. They got a great gift—God's favor—in exchange for their lousy one.

Very soon they could celebrate Jubilee again with three more great exchanges… 1) For the ashes they wore in sorrow, God would give them a crown of beauty. 2) He would take away their cause for mourning and give them every reason to be glad, pouring soothing oil of healing on them. 3) In exchange for their despair, he would give them glory and every reason to praise God when he wrapped them up in Christ's righteousness. For as great as the return from captivity in Babylon would be, greater still was the spiritual deliverance they had in the Servant of the Lord—in Jesus. That's the greatest gift God could give to Israel or to us…


You see we too have been freed from a dungeon of darkness. We're no longer held captive by sin. We're no longer slaves to death. We're not lost in the blinding darkness of our own efforts to gain God's love. Instead we've received every blessing from God, having become what we were not in Christ when he became what he was not for us. At Christmas, he was born a lowly human. At his baptism he was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord and from that time on he began his mission: the work of our salvation, by making God's gift exchange.

He lived a perfect life on earth, always obeying God perfectly—and he gave that perfect gift of obedience to us. You see, Jesus not only removed our sins, but he also gave us the perfect gift of his righteousness. He made us what we were not—sinless, perfect, and perfectly pleasing to God, heirs of heaven itself and recipients of every good and perfect gift that comes from God.

Now we're no longer in darkness, but have clear direction in our lives—to serve our God in thanksgiving for the gift he's given, to bring glory to his name. We have God's favor (for more than a year; for all of eternity) with no need to fear God's coming Day of Vengeance. We have comfort in every situation, knowing that if God loves us enough to give us such great spiritual gifts, how much more can't we trust him to take care of our physical lives? We know he will provide for us in all our needs. The wife who gets a diamond necklace from her husband for Christmas can be sure he loves her enough to get her that book she's always wanted too.

Jesus gives us the best gifts. He gives us the crown of life in exchange for the ashes of our death. He gives us gladness, with the certainty that heaven itself is ours, in exchange for the sins that brought us such sorrow. He brought us a garment of praise, Jesus own robes of righteousness to replace our spirit of despair. Because Jesus became what he was not, and made us what we were not, praise God! We don't ever have cause to despair because we are his oaks of righteousness.

At the house Becky and I lived in when I served my vicar year in Austin, TX there were two giant live oak trees. One was in back yard, one was in the front. The branches covered entire property and gave great shade to the house. When someone first told me what variety of tree they were, I thought, "Why 'live' oak? Isn't it obvious it's alive and not dead?" But before long I learned that this particular deciduous tree was really like an evergreen in that it never lost it leaves completely. And while it made for constant yard work cleaning out the gutters and raking the lawn all year round, those trees were awesome. They were so huge they could never be moved. That's what God has made us in his gift exchange. In Christ, we are "called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

We can't be moved in our righteousness. Nothing can ever take it away because it doesn't come from us. It's a gift of God in his great exchange. Like a live oak, our spiritual life can never stop spreading its leaves all around and affecting every part of our lives and everyone we meet. Since our righteousness, life and salvation, come outside of us, as a gift of God, we can't ever be shaken.

So no matter what gifts you get from your friends and family this Christmas, even if it's a moldy loaf of bread, rejoice because you have the greater gifts of God's gift exchange. And join with Luther in praising God, saying "Lord Jesus, I am your sin; you are my righteousness. I have made you what you were not; you have made me what I was not." And give thanks to God for his great gifts! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make the Proper Preparations (A sermon based on Mark 1:1-8)

There are lots of preparations that need to be made before Christmas, especially if you have guests coming over. We all have a very important guest coming to visit us soon: Jesus. He will return. But the thing is, we don't know when he will come. So we want to always be prepared to welcome that special guest. So far more important than getting the house ready with the decorations and the lights, we want to get our hearts ready with true repentance: Turning away from our sinful ways, and turning to our Savior in faith. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Mark 1:1-8 and be encouraged to make the proper preparations...

Make the Proper Preparations

A sermon based on Mark 1:1-8

Sunday, December 4, 2011 – Advent 2B


How are your Christmas preparations coming? You getting everything done? You have presents bought for everyone on your list? The gifts all wrapped? The tree up? The lights on the house yet? Are you going out of town for the holidays? If so, do you have the travel plans made, the tickets purchased, the bags packed? Or perhaps you have guests coming to your place for Christmas. Are you prepared for their arrival? Do you have the house cleaned, the meals planned, the guest bed all ready to go?

There's a lot to do to get ready for Christmas isn't there? A lot of preparations need to be made. And even if you don't have relatives staying at your place in the next few weeks, we all have a guest that's coming very soon… Jesus. For that reason, the most important thing to prepare this Advent season is ourselves. We want to prepare our hearts for Jesus return.

A man by the name of John, more commonly called, John the Baptist, helped the people of his day do that very thing—prepare for Jesus' arrival, his advent, on the scene. He helped them prepare their hearts by preaching a message of repentance. And really John helps us to do the same. He helps up prepare for Jesus' advent by that same message of repentance.

But what exactly does "repentance" mean? How do we get ready for Jesus' advent? Well to repent literally means to have a change of mind, a change of direction or to turn around. But when you turn around and make a U-turn, you not only turn from the wrong direction, but turn to the right direction. This morning John helps us Make the Proper Preparations. He helps us Turn From Our Sinful Ways and Turn To Our Savior in Faith. Listen again to a summary of John's ministry in Mark 1:1-8…


1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"— 3"a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' " 4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."


I.              Turn From Your Sinful Ways


Mark begins his gospel by telling us what it's all about. This whole book, he says, is the beginning of the gospel, the good news, about Jesus, the Christ, who was no ordinary man, but the very Son of God. That's his whole purpose in writing. So Mark skips past all the unnecessary stuff about Jesus childhood, his adolescent years, about the first thirty years of Jesus life. And he gets right into the ministry of Jesus. And it all began with John the Baptist who helped get the people ready. He helped them make the proper preparations for Jesus' advent.

But Mark points out that John wasn't just an ordinary guy. He was different, for a number of reasons. For starters, he had some special prophecies made about him. Mark quotes two Old Testament prophecies when he writes…"I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"— 3"a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "

Then he says, "And so John came." Mark is saying that God sent John to fulfill those prophecies. John did not come on his own, as some self-proclaimed prophet, but with divine authority. His was a message from God to prepare the way for the coming Savior, just like a messenger would travel ahead of a king to get the people to repair the roads on which the king would travel, to help them prepare for such an important guest. John was sent to prepare the hearts of the people, as that would be the road on which Christ would travel. And he did that by his message of repentance.

John was also different in the way he dressed and acted. He didn't dress in the finest of clothes like the Pharisees did. He didn't wear a nice suit and tie. John was a weirdo. But his strange dress and diet attracted people to him. Mark uses hyperbole when he says "the whole countryside and all the people of Jerusalem" went out to see him. And many people heard what John had to say.

And finally, when they did, they learned that John's message was different. By his dress and diet, he pointed out that the "material things" of this life weren't really that important. What really mattered was whether or not they were ready for Jesus' advent, God's coming to earth. And by his preaching John helped them get ready.

Though it must not have been fun for them to hear, John pointed out all their sin and called a spade a spade. The Greek word for sin in these verses is amartia, it means to miss the mark. John showed the Jews that they had missed the bulls-eye of God's demands. In fact, they had missed the target completely. God demanded absolute moral perfection from his people. But they were far from it.

In Luke 3 we get a sampling of what John preached to the people as he pointed out that sin. He pointed out their greed and selfishness as they misused the blessings God had given. He told them, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." (v.11) He pointed out their theft and their dishonesty in their attempt to get more material wealth for themselves. He told the tax collectors, "Don't collect any more than you are required to," (v.13) and the soldiers, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay." (v.15)

It certainly wasn't fun for them to have their sins pointed out. It never is, just like it's no fun to be woken up at three in the morning by someone screaming, "Fire! Fire!" But who would complain if the cry woke you from your sleep and saved your life? If that annoying scream saved you from burning alive? Who would get upset and say, "Don't wake me up! I'm sleeping!"? This cry of John's, pointing out their sin, was meant to save them from the eternal fires of hell.

And his shouts worked. The people did repent. They had a change of mind about themselves and saw what they really looked like in the mirror of God's law. They recognized how serious a problem their sins were. They confessed their sins and cried out to God for help.


God kept his promise about sending John the Baptist as the forerunner, the one who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. In fact, God has faithfully kept every promise he's ever made. For that reason we know that he will keep his promise about Christ's return to this earth. And so, we too had better make the proper preparations to get ready.

But how do we do it? Well the ads, flyers, and commercials all suggest that to get ready for Christmas you have to buy more stuff. Our society in general puts a great emphasis on material wealth, but never so much as around Christmas. All the retail stores pretend to help us get ready for Christmas with those countdown signs you see everywhere, "Only 21 days to Christmas!" But all of these distract us from what we really need to get ready. What we really need is repentance.

Though it may not be fun, we too need to have our sins pointed out to us. We too need to see our own reality in the mirror of God's law. We need this cry of "Fire! Fire!" to save our lives from hell. We need John's reminder that this life isn't what it's all about. It's not all about fine clothes and great foods. It's not about living in nicest homes in the best parts of town. It's not all about the great presents I get. It's all about getting ready for Jesus.

We need to have our greed and selfishness pointed out just as the Jews did. We need to be warned against those attitudes that always want more and more, never content with what we have, never willing to share with others or give to God with willing hearts. We too need to have our dishonesty and thievery pointed out, like when we rob from our employers by not working our hardest all the time we're on the clock. We too need to have the Holy Spirit work in our hearts with his law to turn us around, to turn us from our sinful ways that we confess them before God and cry out to him for help.

And when we do, he won't leave our cry unanswered but will give us the comfort of the gospel. That's exactly what John did. He not only told the people to turn away from their sins, but he pointed them to Christ and told them to turn to him in faith…


II.            Turn To Your Savior in Faith


When John pointed out the people's sins, they did recognize that there was nothing they could do to take back the sins they committed. There was nothing they could do to make things right with God again. They were in desperate need of help. They badly needed a Savior. And when they looked to John to be that Savior, he pointed out that he wasn't it…

7And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

John didn't say, "Come to me. I have the solution. I have all the answers. I'll give you all you need." No. He knew he couldn't help these people himself, so he didn't want them to focus their attention on him. Though Jesus said of John the Baptist, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John…" (Luke 7:28) John didn't want to be thanked for his ministry. He didn't care if he was acknowledged. "Don't look for your help from me. Look to the one who is to come. I'm not even worthy to untie his shoes, he's so great. (A task that a Hebrew master wouldn't even demand of his slave it was considered so lowly a job.) He is where you ought to turn," John told them.

And he pointed them to the real answer to their great need. He pointed them to Jesus. Though Jesus came after John chronologically, being born later, appearing on the Judean scene at a later time, he was and is greater than John—the very Son of God, the Savior of mankind. So John rightly said, "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:27) John was only the instrument to point people to Jesus. Jesus had the real power. John baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with his Holy Spirit. If the people would look to Jesus, John pointed out, they would be forgiven of their every sin.

And the Holy Spirit did work through John and his message to not only turn the people away from the wrong direction of their sinful lifestyles and self-righteousness, but to also turn them to the right direction, to Jesus their Savior. Many people heard John's message of Law and Gospel, confessed their sins and were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.


And dear friends, when we recognize our sin and our great need for a Savior, God doesn't leave us hopeless either. He sends "Johns" into our lives to point away from the wrong solution and toward the only right way in Christ Jesus. We do need a Savior, in a bad way. But our help doesn't come from a man like John, it doesn't from your pastor or your president, from your wealth or your works. It doesn't come from your own wisdom, your own spiritual struggles, or your repentance. We, like John, need to look away from ourselves and toward our Savior. There we find the real solution to our great need.

In Christ, we find the forgiveness of sin, for every time we've missed the mark. We find forgiveness for our materialism, for losing sight of what matters most. There we find forgiveness for giving without a cheerful heart or motivated by how good it makes you feel, instead of by thanksgiving to God. There we find forgiveness for every sin since our Savior took them all on himself and paid the penalty they deserve on the cross.

And we turn to Jesus in faith and remember our baptisms where our sins were forever removed. We remember our baptisms and drown our sinful, selfish natures again each day. We turn around, turn away from our sins and put our trust in Jesus who won salvation for us. Then we're truly prepared for Christ's advent, ready for his return.

And then we're equipped to be like John and help others to get ready too. Invite your holiday guests to come to church with you. Remind your co-workers that Christmas isn't all about gifts and commercialism. Invite them to the Kids' Christmas Eve service or to worship Christmas Day. In love, call out, "Fire! Fire!" and show your friends their sins so they too see their great need for a Savior. And share with them the only answer to their need in Jesus and his death on the cross. You too are God's instrument to lead others to repent, that they too might turn away from their sins, and toward their Savior; that they too might make the proper preparations and be ready for Christ when he comes.

These are the preparations that are far more important than the Christmas shopping, or the Christmas decorations, than the parties and events. And God will give us the courage, wisdom and strength to make the proper preparations. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Monday, November 28, 2011

Be Ready for When God Cleans Up (A sermon based on Genesis 6)

The test is on Tuesday. The boss asked for the presentation tomorrow. The wedding is only a few weeks away. Are you ready? We live with deadlines all the time. But one big deadline that's always looming on the horizon is that of Judgment Day. Though we have no idea when that deadline will come up, we're urged to be always ready for that day when God scrubs the world clean of all evil once and for all. Just as Noah prepared for the flood, not just by building the ark, but by putting his trust in the promises of God, so too, we are urged to be ready for Judgment Day by keeping our eyes on Jesus and God's gracious promises through him. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Genesis 6, and get ready for when God cleans up...

Be Ready for When God Cleans Up

A sermon based on Genesis 6 (select verses)

Sunday, November 27, 2011 – Advent 1B


Do you have guests coming for Christmas? Have family joining you for dinner? Then it's time to clean up! Time to clean the house, wash the dishes, pick up, put away, and tidy up. Time to clean up before Christmas. This Advent season as we get ready for Christmas by cleaning our homes for guests and cleaning up ourselves for special holiday events, we see how God cleans up for Christmas too. He cleans away the wickedness and sin to make us ready for his Son's coming.

This morning we hear how God cleans up the earth, scrubbing it clean of all wickedness and sin. He scoured the earth once before by a universal flood, wiping the evil off the face of the earth. And he will scour the earth again at the end of the world when Christ comes again, destroying all evil and wickedness from the world once and for all.

And God tells us how he's going to clean up well in advance so we can get ready. This morning as we recall the account of the flood, we get ready for when God cleans up again. Listen now to Genesis 6, select verses…


When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

This is the account of Noah.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.

17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.


I.              God Will Clean Up the Mess


Why does evil exist? Ever had that challenging question fired in your direction? "If God loves everyone, and God is all powerful, then why does he permit evil? Why not stop it and put an end to all evil once and for all?"

Why does evil exist? Because God gave mankind freewill—the freedom to reject him, to serve ourselves, and to ruin his creation. And ever since Adam and Eve, fallen mankind has rejected God's will and chosen to serve self instead. It wasn't long after creation that, "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."

Earth was covered in the disgusting muck of sin. And it broke God's heart to see his perfect creation so filthy. And God was ready to clean up the evil and wipe up the mess. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth… for I am grieved that I have made them."

This week someone pointed out to me how Noah's ark is often depicted as cute and cuddly in pastel colors all over baby's room. But the flood was really an act of God's condemning judgment in his holy wrath. There wasn't anything cute or cuddly about it. (But it is still a good idea, by the way, not to paint people drowning on baby's wall.) But with a universal flood, with God's wrath poured out in his fury, the earth was scrubbed clean.

…But it didn't stay clean.

You see, Noah passed his sinful nature on his sons and they passed it on to theirs. And even after God scrubbed the earth clean by the flood every person born was still born dirty, filthy, covered in the muck of sin. How God described that sinful nature before the flood hasn't changed since: "Every inclination of the thoughts of [man's] heart was" [still] "only evil all the time."

And it remains that way today. Just look at the wickedness that surrounds us: The murder and rape, the child porn, the "adult" porn, the scandals and corruptions that we hear about every day. The world is still evil, just like it was before the flood.

And so once again God will don his rubber gloves so to speak and will scrub the earth clean. But sometimes when you try to scrub a stain clean water just won't cut it. You need something more powerful. The next time God cleans the earth of evil, he won't use water. He'll use fire.

He said through the apostle Peter (in 2 Peter 3:3-7): …you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come… They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago… the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

 "Why does evil exist? Why doesn't God put a stop to it and end all evil once and for all?" Oh, don't worry. He will. Just as God sent his judgment against the world by the flood, so he will most definitely judge the world again by fire. The question is will we be ready for that day when God scrubs the earth clean of evil a second and final time?

II.            God Has Cleaned Up Our Mess


You see, it's not just those evil people out there that are by nature objects of God's wrath. You and I received that sinful nature that Noah passed down through our parents. And you and I were born dirty, filthy, covered in the muck of sin. What God said of mankind in verse 5 was true of us by birth: "Every inclination of the thoughts of [my] heart was only evil all the time." We weren't just kind of evil, but every inclination was! We weren't just a little evil, but only evil, with nothing good in us! And we weren't only evil once in a while, but all the time!

"Why does God permit evil? Why not stop it and put an end to all evil once and for all?" I love the way the movie, Road to Emmaus, answered that question: Jesus turned to the disciple who asked that question and said, "Why doesn't God just wipe out all the evil people? …Then who would be left? Would you?" Evil exists because God is being patient. He's waiting for more evil people to come to faith and be clean. But eventually his patience will run out. He will scrub the earth clean of all evil.

God said through Peter, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

And even though the day is unknown, God doesn't want to surprise anyone by his judgment. The ark may have taken 80 years to build! And all that while Noah was preaching to those around him of God's coming judgment by the flood. But even though God gave people plenty of time to prepare for the flood, all but eight ignored the warning. And all but eight were swept away.

And God is warning us about his impending judgment by fire today! Jesus warned us not to be caught off guard by that day. He said iMatthew 24:36-39, 36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man."

"Don't be like those people," Jesus warns, "who should have, but never did see it coming." So… are you ready?

Not all were caught off guard by the flood. Noah and his family were ready. And the day of the flood wasn't a day of judgment for them, but a day of salvation as they were rescued from the wicked and corrupt world around them. What made the difference? What made them ready?

Well, verse 8 says, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." And verse 9 adds, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time…" Is that to say that Noah earned God's favor by how well he behaved? No, not really. You'll notice he wasn't blameless before God, but blameless among the people of his time. Before God, "Every inclination of the thoughts of [Noah's] heart [too] was only evil all the time."

No. Verse 9 explains how Noah could find favor in the eyes of the Lord and be considered righteous. It says, "and [Noah] walked with God." Hebrews 7:11 explains what that means: "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith."

Noah had faith in the promise of the coming Messiah, a promise that Adam could have shared directly with Noah's father, Lamech, by the way (since Adam died only about 120 years before Noah's birth). He trusted that someday God would send one of Eve's offspring to crush Satan's head and make him righteous. And by faith in that promise, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless…" before God.

Make no mistake, God will scrub the earth clean of all evil again. Last time he did it with water. Next time he'll do it with fire. Are you ready?

In Christ, you are! By faith in the Messiah who came, you are clean! God has cleaned up your mess of sin and wickedness already! He has made you righteous and blameless in his sight! By the waters of baptism he has washed you clean of all your sin, just as Peter wrote in our Epistle lesson: "This [flood] water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…"

We are ready through Christ, made clean through his death and resurrection. Now, may you daily remember your baptism and drown your sinful nature again and again. May you keep your trust in Christ and always stay ready.

Then we won't be caught off guard when God is ready to clean up once and for all. And Judgment Day won't be a day of terror for us, but a day of salvation as we are rescued from the wicked and corrupt world around us. And we'll stay clean forever in heaven. Are you ready for that day? In Jesus, the answer is, "Yes!" Amen!

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

See the King of Kings… (A sermon based on Matthew 27:27-31)

Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords. But he didn't always seem like he was in charge. When he was being mocked and abused and enduring so much suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers who crucified him, he didn't seem very kingly. Yet, by their mock parody, they really declared the truth; that Jesus is the King. And ironically by his very suffering and death they were inflicting, Jesus conquered his enemies and won his kingdom. He won us. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Matthew 27:27-31 and let Christ rule in your heart more and more...

See the King of Kings…

A sermon based on Matthew 27:27-31

Sunday, November 20, 2011 – Christ the King Sunday A


What comes to mind when I mention "The King"? Do you picture a man sitting on a throne wearing a crown? Or maybe you think of sequined suits, big sideburns, and blue suede shoes? Or maybe it's visions of Whoppers and French fries that fill your mind? Or maybe some of you noticed that this is Christ the King Sunday and you didn't even think of those other kings at all. Hopefully.

But what image of Christ do you get when you think of Christ the King? Do think of a man robed in white, shining as bright as the sun, sitting on a throne of gold, ready to judge the nations? Or do you picture a man dressed in colorful robes sitting at a banquet table, laughing in joy as he feasts with his friends? Or maybe you see a man in full armor riding out to meet the enemy in battle? How about this one… do you picture a man stripped of his clothes, severely beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, barely able to stand, taunted, ridiculed, and scorned?

Well, if that's a picture of a king, that's one very sorry king, isn't it? It's a weak, defeated king, right? No. It's not. It's actually a picture of a conquering king taking his throne…

Jesus didn't seem to be a very impressive king as he was mocked, tortured and killed. But his kingdom was and is not of this world—it's a spiritual kingdom. And by those very things that made him seem like he was weak, he defeated his enemies, took his throne and became the King above all kings, ruling the heavens and the earth, ruling in our hearts.

Today I invite you to see the King of Kings. See him suffer in humility and through it see him enter his kingdom. Listen again to the Gospel lesson for Christ the King Sunday recorded in Matthew 27:27-31…


27 Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.


I.              Suffer in Humility


Jesus was and is the King of all things. He demonstrated his power over  sickness when he cured every disease and over death when he brought people back to life. He showed his power to care for his subjects by miraculously providing food from a few fish and a few loaves of bread. And when he did the crowds tried to make him their king by physical force. On Palm Sunday they hailed him as their King as he rode into Jerusalem amid their songs of praise. But now, what a different picture we see.

Now Jesus is in custody with a company of soldiers surrounding him. He had just been scourged, whipped with those leather straps embedded with shards of metal or glass. He was hurting, bloodied, in extreme pain, all in a desperate attempt by Pilate to save Jesus' life by moving the crowd to sympathy (for it was obvious to Pilate that Jesus was innocent). But the physical abuse and pain wasn't enough. Pilate would do a very thorough job. With Pilate's full consent, the soldiers made a mockery of him. And the King of the universe wasn't treated with much nobility.

While Jesus, the one who simply spoke and caused the soldiers to fall to the ground, the one who had the power to end their lives in an instant if he would so choose, the one who created the very universe, should be treated with the utmost awe and respect, while he should be bowed to and worshiped, they didn't recognize that he was a king. Instead they mocked him with a gruesome parody, this "King of the Jews."

They took an old faded cloak and threw it on Jesus to mimic the rich purple robes of royalty. They fashioned a mock crown out of a thorn bush and pushed it on his head. They laughed at how weak this king was that anyone could hit him in the head with his own "scepter" after they pulled it from his hands. They pretended to give him honor by kneeling and saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and they replaced the kissing him in homage with spitting in his face.

But even when they were done with their fun, even this degradation was not enough to inspire sympathy in the Jews and Pilate finally gave in. Jesus was led out to Mount Calvary and was tortured to death with a sign overhead reading, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

Pretty inhumane treatment right? Even for a convict, let alone the King of the universe! But before we're too quick to judge the vicious soldiers or the cowardly Pilate, let's take a look at our own lives.

Jesus is still the King of all things. He still has power over sickness and death. He still has power to provide for our every need even. And while we do often hail him as our King that's not always how we treat him, is it? We at times still treat him as the soldiers did.

"Now, wait a second," you say, "I've never denied Jesus authority like that. I've never hit him with a staff, never forced a crown of thorns on his head! I've never mocked or taunted him like those soldiers. I wouldn't dream of spitting in Jesus' face or forcing him to the cross." Yet, dear friends, that's exactly what we do.

When we choose to serve ourselves instead of our Savior, we deny his authority and reject his kingship over us. Look at the evidence, how many hours per week do you spend with Jesus in Bible study and how many watching TV? How many dollars do you put in the offering plate each month and how much you spend eating out?

And it's worse than our bad priorities, mistreating our king by negligence. When you talk down a co-worker, you hit Jesus, for "whatever you do to the least of these," he says, "you do to me." When you use your lips to curse others, when you fail to speak up and defend someone, you spit in Jesus face. It was our sins, yours and mine, that nailed Jesus to the cross when we rebelled and dethroned him putting ourselves in his place.

I hurt Jesus. I mock him. I taunt him. I push that crown into his head and hit him with his own staff. I spit in his face and show my utter contempt with each and every sin. And I am ashamed at how I've treated my King. And for the way I've treated him, I deserve to be humiliated like he was. I deserve to be shamed. I deserve to spit on, to be scourged, to suffer the hell that he endured, to die forever.

But dear friends, I won't get what I deserve. Because it is for my sin that he endure it all. For by this abuse, Jesus conquered his enemies and mine, he entered into his kingdom, and brought me into the same…


II.            Enter Into His Kingdom


As the soldiers laughed at their parody of this "king," as they made sport of him, giving him all symbols of royalty, they really made a true statement. When Pilate ordered that the sign above Jesus' head read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" he too made a true statement, unawares. Though he didn't seem to be, Jesus was and is a true king. When Pilate asked him flat out, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus said, "Yes, it is as you say." (Matthew 27:11) The truth is that Jesus was and is the King of the Jews, and not just of the Jews, but of the Gentiles, of every nation. He is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth. He is King of kings and Lord of lords to whom is due all honor and glory.

But his kingdom is not of this world as Pilate and his soldiers thought. It's a spiritual kingdom. And he didn't win his kingdom by force, but by sacrifice. Though he could have easily silenced those who mocked him and though he could have easily destroyed those who hurt him, all without lifting a finger or saying a word, yet, in order to win his kingdom, he willingly endured this abuse. He silently suffered this unjust treatment. He voluntarily experienced hell on the cross and in so doing defeated his and our spiritual enemies, sin, death, Satan. He conquered them all and his rule began.

This is exactly what Isaiah prophesied would happen in Isaiah 53. Go home and reread that chapter to see how the Christ would win a portion among the great because he poured out his life unto death. And that's exactly what happened. And he did it all for us. "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) He endured such humiliation and shame so I won't be humiliated or put to shame before God. He was hurt by sinful men, so I won't be hurt by a righteous God. He was unjustly condemned that I might be unjustly pardoned.

He was humiliated, hurt and abused to take away every time I've abused Jesus, every time I've spit in his face, and every time I've tried to remove him and put myself in Jesus' throne by my sinful selfish actions. Now, with every sin removed, he makes me perfectly righteous and fit to be in his kingdom.

And in that sacrifice, he won his kingdom, that is, he won us. That kingdom of Jesus' exists in us. He rules in our hearts today. He made you a member of his kingdom at your baptism, when he took your stony heart and softened it, and created the very faith that trusts in him. He continues to rule in your heart today as he moves you to thank him in every act of service and love you do for him. We are members of his kingdom.

In medieval times, if you were a vassal to a good king, what a joy it was. He would protect you from your enemies so you could live in peace, even taking you in to his keep when the enemies attacked. He would ride out to meet them and drive them away. He would provide for your needs when you were unable, giving you food, drink and shelter. All this he did if you would work hard for him in his fields.

In a similar way, we enjoy great blessings by being members of Jesus' kingdom! We enjoy a real peace since he rode out to meet the enemy and defeated Satan and removed all our sins. He gives us perfect protection from every enemy that might harm us. He provides for our every need when we're unable—giving us the robes of righteousness we could never get ourselves, by wearing the scarlet robe of shame, giving us the crown of victory because he wore the crown of thorns. But while a medieval king would demand that you work in the fields to earn his protection and care, Christ gives us all this without asking for a thing in return, as a good and perfect gift.

And not only does Christ rule in the hearts of believers, but he rules all things for our eternal good. "The kings of the earth belong to him" (Psalm 47:9) and he arranges all the events of our lives to be a blessing to us. He not only protects us from our spiritual enemies, but from physical harm only allowing it to serve our greater spiritual good. He showers us with countless physical blessings and makes it a joy to serve every day of our lives.

And finally, he's not just the King of believers, but of all people. One day very soon even unbelievers will have to acknowledge the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of all the earth. As Paul points out, because "He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11)

Though the kingship of Jesus' first coming was marked by humiliation, it won't be that way at his return. In Matthew 25:31 he describes what that return will be like, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." He will be an exalted King, seated on his throne, no longer the one who is judged, but the one who dispense his perfect judgment, ends all wickedness and takes us to the festive celebration of heaven to live in his palace with him for all of eternity.

Dear friends in Christ, see the King of kings and rejoice that you're a part of his kingdom! Don't reject him as your king and don't just pretend to pay him homage, but treat him with the respect and honor he deserves. Treat him as your Savior King! Willingly submit to his authority to thank him for his protecting care. Honor him. Worship him. And give to him your unending thanks and praise as you serve him with your wealth, your talents, your very lives. And to him who sits on the throne, to the Lamb, be praise and thanks and honor and glory for ever and ever! Amen!

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611