Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Hope that Can Never Perish, Spoil, or Fade… (A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9)

"The mild is bad. I can just smell it. It's expired." 
"The joy is lost. I just don't have fun with that anymore."
"The money is gone. It's all spent. There's nothing left."
Thank God that Jesus' resurrection gives us an inheritance that can never spoil, fade, or perish! Thank God that Jesus' resurrection gives us a living hope that changes who we are. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9 (or watch the entire service at and rejoice in our living hope...

Our Living Savior Gives Us Living Hope

A Hope that Can Never Perish, Spoil, or Fade…

A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Sunday, April 27, 2014 – Easter 2A


Are you full? I hope you had a good breakfast, but that's not what I mean. I don't care if you're full of food as much I hope that you're full of faith, that you're full of joy, that you're full of hope.

Martin Luther  once said, "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No farmer would sow one grain of corn if he did not hope it would grow up and become seed; … no merchant or tradesman would see himself work if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby." In other words, would you really go in to work this week, if there was no hope of getting paid?

Hope is important to all we do.

But hopes can sometimes leave you disappointed. The crop might be destroyed. The job might be lost. The class might be failed. The cancer might come back.

But we have a sure and certain hope that will not leave us disappointed. And we have a living hope that moves us to live differently. We have a living Savior. The resurrection of Jesus means we have a hope and an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade. The apostle Peter, who saw the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes describes this hope for us in 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV84) 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I.              A Certain Hope That Does Not Disappoint Us 

"Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!" Do you believe it? Are you filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy at that truth? Do you feel it? How about during the week? Did you then? All week?

Or were you sometimes a bit distracted by the kids, by the bills, by the "to-do" list that didn't seem to shrink much, by the funny noise the car's started making again, by the mounds of homework? How about when you were suffering? When the flu left you wiped out, when you were in pain due to physical malady, some emotional hurt, or one more financial crisis—did you feel the inexpressible and glorious joy then?

Joshua Bell, quite possibly the best living violinist in the world—who gets paid $1,000 per minute to perform—played music written by Bach and Schubert on Stradivarius violin—worth $3.5 million!—for 45 minutes. But he wasn't wearing a tux. Nor was he in a concert hall.  He was in a subway station. And during those 45  minutes 1,095 people passed by one of the most beautiful concerts to be played. And yet hardly anyone stopped for the free concert. It just wasn't that important to them.

Do we sometimes act like that as we walk by the Word of God too rushed and too hurried to stop and notice the great gift given to us—not just a great concert for free—but eternal life for free! How often don't we get so distracted by the minute and mundane of this life, that we fail to really stop to listen to the message, to marvel at God's mercy and love for us, to be filled again with an inexpressible and glorious joy?! Martin Luther once said, "You have as much laughter as you have faith." Have you been laughing much lately? Or have you been doing more whining?

The truth is, that for all the times we've passed by the Gospel message, brushing it off with a quick, "Oh, I already know all that," or "I have too many other things to do right now…" For all the times that we've read it, but only to cross it off our to-do list without pondering it again… For all the times that we've read it and understood it, but failed to appreciate the message there for us… well, we deserve to just go skipping merrily along on our path to hell.

That's what we deserve. But, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he [acted]!"

Do you remember that in the Gospel of Luke two separate men asked Jesus the same question. They asked, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25 and Luke 18:18). Now every time I read that I can't help but think, "What a dumb question!" What does anyone do to inherit anything? Nothing at all! Someone else dies and leaves it to you!

In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into… an inheritance…"

You and I have been given a new birth "born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5 NIV84) in our Baptisms, through the Word. "[We] were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13 ESV) We've experienced our own resurrection from the dead in our conversion—from spiritual death to spiritual life. And by that new birth, we inherit forgiveness of sins, not by anything we might do, but entirely by what Jesus has done. We inherit forgiveness of sins, that's what he left us in his death. We receive Jesus' very body and blood to strengthen our trust in this sure and certain hope. That's what he left us in his new covenant—his last will and testament.

And this inheritance of ours is, "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…"

A recent ESPN documentary called "Broke" chronicles the lives of professional athletes who once earned millions of dollars but have now gone bankrupt. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 60% of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. By the time they have been retired for 2 years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. Sucked into bad investments, paying child support and alimony to their broken families, saddled with medical problems, and naturally prone to showing off and living the high life, many pro athletes find that their riches just don't last.

And how many people don't win the lottery and then only a few short years later wish they'd never played. That kind of money allows them to buy things they don't need, to get involved in drugs they shouldn't use, and ruins relationships and the lives of the "winners" in general.

The riches of professional sports, of lotteries, of hard work and good investments, all spoil, fade, perish. They just don't last. And they certainly don't last beyond this life. As country singer, George Strait, has pointed it out, "You don't bring nothing with you here and you can't take nothing back. I ain't never seen a hearse, with a luggage rack." (Lyrics from You'll Be There by George Strait)

But that's not the case the inheritance we receive through Jesus. It's, "kept in heaven for you." It's kept far away from anyone or anything that could ever destroy it or even touch it. Satan cannot go there! And it's shielded for us, guarded and protected better than if it were in Fort Knox, better than it would be if a legion of angels were guarding it. It's "shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." God himself will guard your salvation with his power until Judgment Day. And that truth that our inheritance can never spoil, fade, or perish, that it can never be lost or destroyed, gives us a sure and certain hope that changes how we live right now.

Martin Luther once told his congregation that he only plans for two days in his entire calendar: Today and that Day. Confident that he knew where he was going on that Day, thanks to his living Savior, Luther would get to work today to serve his Savior now. That's exactly how this hope of ours is a living hope…

II.            A Living Hope That Does Change Us


Do you remember the three parts of faith? The Latin for them is scientia, assentia, and fiducia. Scientia is knowledge. You know what Jesus did—how he lived a perfect life for you, died an innocent death for you, and rose again from the dead. Assentia is agreement. You know this to be true. You nod your head to those historical facts. But fiducia is trust. It's having that sure and certain hope that this all applies to you. It is fiducia that saves and this faith alone saves. It's who you trust, not what you do. But you also know that this saving faith is never alone. It has to act. It's not some dead faith, but is itself living and active…

The term living water was used in Biblical times for water that was not stagnant like the water collected in a well or in a pool, but was active, moving, bubbling, "living," like water from a spring or a stream.

Likewise, "God… has given us new birth into a living hope." Our faith is not dead or stagnant, but alive. It doesn't just sit still, but has to act! Martin Luther once said that this faith (that is, this trust in this sure and certain hope that Jesus' resurrection brings) is not like the foam on his beer that just sits and does nothing, full of air. Rather it was more like the bubbles, that stir within and make it move!

Our faith in this sure and certain hope moves us. That's why Peter called it a living hope. And it moved Peter. It moved Peter to preach to the crowd on Pentecost. It moved Peter to write to the churches that had sprung up as a result. And it ultimately moved Peter to die a martyr's death for his Living Savior, confident that death would not win. That was his living hope.

And this is the same living hope that moves us. It moves us to die for our Living Savior, if we must, confident that death will not defeat us. It moves us to do what may be even harder still: To live for our Living Savior each day, even in the midst of suffering. It moves us to keep our focus in the Word, to read of his love for us again and to love him all over again, even though we don't see him physically. It moves us to be filled again with an inexpressible and glorious joy as we receive the goal of our faith: the salvation of our souls.

And it moves us to speak well of him; to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! It moves us to praise him regularly in worship, to praise him in prayer, to praise him to others as we share with them the great mercy God has shown to us all until, "Jesus Christ is revealed… [and we receive] the goal of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls."

So be full, dear friends! Sure, you may be ready to get lunch at the end of our worship service today. But I still don't care that much how full of food you are. But be full of faith! Be full of hope! Be full of joy! Be full of God's grace. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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Monday, April 21, 2014

The Mystery of Easter Revealed (A sermon based on John 20:1-18)

Do you love a good mystery? Maybe you enjoy a good mystery when it's in a movie or a book, but how about when you're trying to figure out how to put the pieces back to a broken relationship or a messed up life? That's the sort of mystery Peter must have faced on Good Friday and Saturday. What now? His master, his friend, his Savior was dead. But answer to the mystery was revealed when Jesus revealed himself--alive!--on Easter day. And the resurrection of Jesus solves life's mysteries for us too. Read or listen this to (download or stream) this sermon based on John 20:1-18 (or watch video of the entire worship service at and thank God that Jesus is not dead! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

We Have A Living Hope in Jesus

The Mystery of Easter Revealed

A sermon based on John 20:1-18

Sunday, April 20, 2014 -- Easter Day


Imagine this scenario: Every day, Bob went to work, he would ride the elevator all the way to the bottom floor of the apartment building that he lived in. But when he came home from work, he would ride the elevator back up to only the 6th floor. Then, he would take the stairs to his apartment on the 10th floor. He did this every day, unless it was raining. If it was raining, then he would ride the elevator all the way up to the 10th floor. Why?

Here's another one to think about. Ann is lying on the floor dead. There's broken glass and water all around her. Stuart is asleep on the couch seemingly oblivious to the death that has occurred. How did Ann die?

Did you ever read those one-minute mysteries—those puzzles where you're presented with a scene, and you have to figure out what happened to make that scene make sense?

Now just so that you won't be trying to figure these two out during the rest of the sermon instead of listening to me, I'll just give you the answers.

The reason Bob would only go the 6th floor on his return home from work was because he was a very short man and 6 was the highest button that he could reach in the elevator. But on days that it rained, he had his umbrella with him, and he could use that to hit the "10." And it might help you to know that Ann is a fish, and Stuart is a cat. And the glass and water all around Ann on the floor is from her fishbowl that Stuart successfully knocked over before taking a nap on the arm of the couch.

Now let's try one more. On Friday night, a man died. He was buried on that same night. On Sunday morning, some friends of his arrive at the tomb where he was buried to pay their last respects only to discover that his body is gone. What happened? That's the mystery we examine this morning. And the answer is already given to us in John 20:1-18…


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16 Jesus said to her, "Mary."

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

I.              All Hope is Lost


Have you ever been faced with a mystery that you just can't crack? A puzzle you couldn't solve? A magic trick you couldn't figure out? It can be frustrating, can't it? Confusing? Maybe even lead you to toss up your hands in exasperation and despair, crying, "I'll never figure this out!"

That's the way it may be in math class for some kids. Or that's the way it can be for some adults trying to figure out how to get out of debt, or figuring out to fix the relationship mess they're caught it. They just can't figure it out. They feel like just giving up. They'll never get it! So why bother? They might even come close to despair.

That must have been some of what Peter was feeling on Friday and Saturday after he heard that Jesus was dead. You see, you and I celebrate Good Friday every year, knowing that Easter is just around the corner. We expect it. But Peter didn't. (He should have expected it, since Jesus told him pretty clearly what would happen. But he didn't.) Can you imagine the despair he must have felt?

Peter must have felt that all hope was lost. His friend, his mentor, his Savior, was dead. The one in whom he'd put all his hopes for a better future, the one in whom he'd put all his hopes for eternity with God… was now dead, cold and lifeless, in some tomb. Peter took a gamble, and left his prospering fishing business to follow this Rabbi. He gambled, and he lost. Jesus was gone.

It should have been different for Peter. Peter should have known better because Jesus told Peter that he would suffer, die, and on the third day rise again. If only Peter would have listened better. If only Peter had believed Jesus—really trusted what he'd said. He wouldn't have lost all hope.

Have you ever felt the way Peter must have felt? Have you ever lost all hope? Have you lost hope for some broken relationship gone, out the window, when the other person has moved on and remarried? Have you ever lost hope for a better life, when instead of a promotion you got a pink slip? Have you ever lost hope for financial peace when some new crisis caused another major setback?

Have you ever lost hope for ever having peace with God because of your sin? Let's face it. We, like Peter, have thought we'd fight for God only to find that our strength was not enough, nor was it even what God wanted. We, like Peter, have denied knowing Jesus by the way we speak and live, and even think, if not outright denying him in a crowd. We, like Peter, have heard Jesus words, but failed to believe them. Oh, we nod and smile and say we agree, just like Peter did, but when thing are tough and hope is lost, we don't really trust his words. We don't live our lives in quiet faith clinging to his promises.

Let's face it. We, like Peter have disappointed Jesus at almost every turn. And we, like Peter, ought to feel the despair of all hope lost. All hope of anything good ever again. And I think that's really what hell is all about. Not just eternal physical pain, but eternal regret, eternal hopelessness, eternal despair.

Yes, that's what we deserve for our sins against Jesus and against one another. And we have no hope for finding any solution to our problem. That mystery simply cannot be solved on our own, because we can do nothing to take back our sin, to unspeak our words, or unthink our thoughts. And we can't make up for what we've done. No amount of good will undo our evil.

The mystery of finding peace with God is out of our grasp. We just can't figure it out like it's some magic trick that defies our logic and taunts our intellect. And it can lead some to give up in despair, tossing their hands up in the air, crying, "I'll never be able to please God! So why bother even trying!"

But the solution to this mystery is revealed in Easter. It was revealed to Peter in the empty tomb. It's revealed to us in the pages of our Bibles. Here's how it happened for Peter…

II.            A Living Hope Discovered


Early Sunday morning, some women came bursting through the doors of the disciples' secret hideout where they had bolted the doors, with their only hope that those who had tortured Jesus' to death, didn't come for them next. But the report the women gave made no sense. "The tomb is empty? Angels sent a message? Jesus is alive?" It was utter nonsense to Peter. And I hope I don't sound sexist here, but it was just a bunch a women bringing the report, after all. And in that culture, the testimony of women wouldn't even be allowed in court. It was too unreliable since it came from women.

So Peter and John would go investigate this mystery for themselves. They'd figure out what all this nonsense was about. And in their zeal to find answers, they set out on a footrace. John was younger, and perhaps in better shape, so he outran Peter and made it to the tomb first. But John was always thinking, pondering, working things out in his head before he acted. Not Peter. Peter was a man of action. There'd be plenty of time to think later. So even though he arrived second, he went in first, entering the tomb without hesitation. (By the way, this moment seems awfully real, doesn't it? Not like some myth or legend.)

But you can imagine Peter's surprise, can't you? Jesus' body was gone! But oddly, the grave clothes were there! Who would steal a body, but leave the clothes? And who would fold them neatly after the theft? And who would want Jesus' body anyway? Even if they thought they could steal some wealth, Jesus didn't have any. And even if he did, why take the body too? It just didn't all add up. What had happened here? What did it all mean?

John believed. He knew Jesus was alive. But Peter was still putting the pieces of the puzzle together. He wondered what it all meant. And after he went back home to ponder it all, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, who in turn ran back to report to the other disciples (sans Peter, John, and, of course, Judas). But it didn't make sense to them either. Later that evening Jesus appeared to two disciples heading to the small village of Emmaus just outside of Jerusalem. But between those two appearances, between visiting Mary Magdalene in the morning and visiting the Emmaus disciples in the evening, Jesus appeared to Peter.

The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 …he was buried ….he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also…"

And with that appearance, the mystery was solved for Peter! He got it! Jesus really was alive! "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 …he was buried ….he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

But the mystery still persists for some. Some believe like John did. They have the accounts of the Gospels, they have the empty tomb, they have the fact that no one has found Jesus' body to date, and they have the witness of the Christian church through the centuries. And that's enough. They get it. They believe.

But others are more like Peter, still trying to figure it all out. Maybe they think the resurrection of Jesus is just too good to be true? Maybe they've been burned too many times. Maybe they just don't want to get their hopes up only to have them dashed again. Or maybe it's just too hard to believe. They trust their senses and they've never seen a dead person come back to life. And to them, it's like the puzzle of Bob on the elevator or Ann lying dead on the floor, but they don't have the solution. They just don't get it.

But consider the evidence. First, note that the disciples didn't believe right away. That's important to us because we know that the resurrection accounts aren't some made up stories that came from their expectant hope. They had no hope. Peter didn't believe Jesus' promise that he would rise from the dead.

And they gave an honest report of these events even when it made them look kind of dumb. They honestly reported that women were the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. But if they made up the story, don't you think they'd find credible witnesses that won't be dismissed right off the bat? But they told the truth.

Then you have the multiple appearances of Jesus to many different people at many different times. This was not an isolated event or one group vision. It was not some hallucination shared by hundreds. After all no one says, "Remember that dream we had last night?" The multiple accounts different enough to exclude the possibility of the authors of the Gospels copying off of each other. But they're similar enough to give enough evidence that would hold up in any court today.

But finally, we have the weight of the Scriptures which prophecy about the resurrection hundreds of years earlier…

When a certain atheist was presented with the mountains of evidence in favor of the resurrection of Jesus, he still refused to accept it. His friend asked him, "What would convince you? Could anything convince you?" And the man replied, "I could imagine discovering tomorrow morning that every tree outside my house has moved five feet. That needs some explanation. I don't know the explanation, but I won't immediately presume a miracle."

Well, neither would we, because most events actually do have a natural explanation, so it makes perfect sense to seek a natural explanation first. But let's suppose the trees did move five feet outside that man's house. But let's also suppose that 500 years earlier, someone claiming to be a prophet of God predicted that all of the trees in one certain neighborhood would move five feet in one night during one particular year. Suppose a man arrived that year to tell everyone that the tree-moving miracle would soon happen. This man claims to be God, teaches profound truths, and performs all kinds of other incredible acts that appear to be miracles.

Then, one day, hundreds of eye witnesses claim that they saw all the trees move five feet, just as the God-man predicted. They even suffer persecution and martyrdom to maintain this truth, refusing to recant their testimony that the trees moved. Skeptics continue to try to find some natural explanation for this strange event centuries later, but can't come up with anything that's even remotely plausible. 

You might not immediately presume a miracle, but given that context, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that the movement of the trees was
supernatural rather than natural in origin? Isn't it reasonable to believe that Jesus really is alive, given the mountain of evidence in favor of that truth? Don't we have a clear solution to the mystery? Jesus is not dead! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

But so what? What's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that Jesus' resurrection proves who he is. He claimed to be the Son of God and then he rose from the dead. I think we have a good idea who Jesus is.

Jesus' resurrection proves that our sin is paid for! Jesus wrote the check with his sufferings. He signed it with his blood shed on the cross. And his resurrection is the receipt that God has accepted the payment on our behalf! Our doubts, our despair, our frustration with God, is all forgiven! We have peace with him!

Jesus' resurrection proves that Jesus lives right now to care for you, that, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:32-34)

Jesus' resurrection proves that there is more to life than just this life, that we too will rise from the dead just as Jesus promised: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26)

And Jesus' resurrection gives us hope even in this life. We have the sure and certain hope that we are at peace with God with sins forgiven. We have the hope that the power of forgiveness and love can change hearts and attitudes. We have the hope that prayer actually does change things, that it's powerful and effective. And all of this hope hinges on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

But the resurrection is a true, historical fact. The mystery is solved. And I hope that you will all join us for the next five weeks as we continue to look at this living hope we have in Jesus, as we examine it from Peter's perspective, looking at portions of his first epistle and seeing what Jesus' resurrection means for our daily lives each day.

But for now, know that the mystery of Easter is revealed: Jesus is alive! We are forgiven! For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen!


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

When to Speak Up and When to Pipe Down (A sermon based on Isaiah 53:7)

"Oops. I shouldn't have said that. I should have just kept my mouth shut." Ever say that or think that? I'm sorry to admit, that I have to say that far too often. I don't always know when to keep my mouth shut. Sadly, I also have the opposite problem. I don't always speak up when I should. I too often know know when to speak up and when to pipe down, but I often do the opposite. Thank God for sending Jesus who always spoke up when he should speak up, who remained quiet when he was being condemned, that he might pay for my sin, for yours, for the sin of the whole world. Now, we pipe down when we suffer, but speak up to share our Savior's grace. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Isaiah 53:7 (or watch video of the entire service at and rejoice in our Suffering Savior...

Our Suffering Savior

When to Speak Up and When to Pipe Down

A sermon based on Isaiah 53:7

Sunday, April 6, 2014 – Lent 5A (Palm Sunday)


I've been diagnosed with "Foot in Mouth Disease." Not to be confused with "Foot and Mouth Disease," I have "Foot in Mouth Disease." You know the one, where I sometimes have to open mouth and insert foot? I say stupid things sometimes without thinking. I talk a lot—maybe that's an occupational hazard, or maybe it's just my personality. But with many words come foolish words—words I sometimes regret and wish I'd never said. I have "Foot in Mouth Disease."

I'd give you a few examples, but most are pretty embarrassing to me, and, besides that, I'm pretty sure that all of you could come up with a few examples of your own, couldn't you? And I wish it were just a social faux pas, this disease of ours, but it's not. It's a sin. When we speak first, think later, when we just don't know well enough to keep our mouths shut, we reveal our sinful nature.

Thank God that we have a Savior who always used his word wisely—who spoke up whenever he had opportunity to proclaim the truth of God's Word, who kept quiet when he ought, even when he was being led like a lamb to the slaughter. Thank God that even though we willingly whine, he silently suffered. And thank God by proudly praising him for what he's done.

Our text for this morning, is once more from Isaiah 53. Today we look at verse 7 and rejoice that where we willingly whine, our Savior suffered silently. Now, like those on that first Palm Sunday, we proudly praise him. Isaiah 53:7…


He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

I.        We Willingly Whine


"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me."?! Nothing could be further from the truth. Our words have incredible power. They can build people up, encourage others, and change lives. Or they can destroy people's reputations, their careers, their very lives. Our words are truly powerful. Indeed, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

Listen to the way that James, the brother of our Savior, describes the power of our words: "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire…" (James 3:3-6)

So how do you use your powerful tongue? How do you use your mighty words? Do you sometimes gossip—talking about others in a way that puts them in a less-than-favorable light? Or do you always take their words and actions in the kindest possible way? After all, pointing out the sins, faults, and failures of others, does make it easier to minimize or altogether overlook your own, doesn't it?

Or when someone speaks unkindly toward you, do you respond in like manner to put that person in their place. Does your tone ever reveal your selfish heart? "Yes, dear, I knoooow. But I don't think you're really listening to what I'm saying!"

Do you ever whine or complain when things don't go your way or when you're not content with your lot in life? Do you ever use Facebook as your venue to complain or tear others down rather than to encourage? Do you correct faulty ideas without attacking the person or those who are in some political party? Do you always speak the truth in love?

I had a friend who got an email from his manager about a new policy that his boss had recently implemented. He replied back to his manager complaining about this stupid new policy and what a dumb idea it was, wasting everyone's time with such pointless procedures. And… he almost lost his job, when he accidentally hit "reply all" and sent the email not just to the manager, but to the entire company, the boss included. Oops. Open mouth… insert foot.

And though you may not have made that mistake at that kind of scale, I'm sure you've done the same with your spouse, with your parents, with your kids. Open mouth… insert foot. Too often the proverb is true: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." (Abraham Lincoln paraphrasing Proverbs 17:28)

And you know what we deserve for failing to control our tongues: "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." (James 3:6)

But of course, there are other times when we abuse our power in the other direction. If you see someone's house getting robbed, but choose not to call the police even though your cell phone is in your hand, what a horrible sin of omission. Likewise, there are plenty of times when we should speak up but don't. And it's no less sinful to keep quiet to the truth, than it is to speak the truth in a harsh and unloving way.

Yet too often we're silent. We're strangely silent when we have an opportunity to defend others and speak well of them, taking their words and actions in the kindest possible way and encouraging others to do the same. After all, the attack might turn toward us. We're strangely silent when it comes time to lovingly point out the sins of others. After all, I'm not perfect. Who am I to point out sin? We're strangely silent when it comes time to share our faith. After all, they might think we're "Jesus Freaks."

And you know what we deserve for our silence. Jesus said, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)

Sadly, we know when to speak up and when to pipe down, but all too often we speak up when we should be quiet and we pipe down when we should speak up. Paul, acting as prosecuting attorney against all of wrote in Romans 3(:13-14, 19), "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." And he closes his case: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God."

We have no defense. We can offer no excuse. We have sinned before God who hears every word that ever falls from our lips and warns: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37)


II. He Silently Suffered


And yet, you know that we will not be condemned, but will be acquitted, in spite of the abuse and misuse of our words, because of what Jesus has done for us: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."

His whole life Jesus used his words perfectly. He spoke the truth in love, even when it would have been incredibly difficult to do: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! … Woe to you, blind guides! … Woe to you… whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones… on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness… You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" (Matthew 23:13, 16, 27, 33)

Jesus knew when to speak up. But his truthful words, spoken in love, made him enemies eager to take his life. So after he rode into Jerusalem amidst the praise of the people, they arrested him, and put him on trial. But Jesus didn't speak up to defend himself. Jesus knew when to pipe down.

What Isaiah prophesied came true first before Caiaphas: "Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, 'Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?' But Jesus remained silent." (Matthew 26:62-63)

And the prophecy was fulfilled again before Pilate: "When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, 'Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?' But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor." (Matthew 27:12-14)

And so, he was condemned. And like a sheep led to the slaughter, "Then they led him out to crucify him." (Mark 15:20) Now, if I were come down there, grab your arm and nail it to a board, do you think you'd remain silent? Do you think you'd just scream in pain? Or might you have some other choice words to shout at me? But what did Jesus cry out when they nailed not just his arm, but both hands and feet to the cross? He cried, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

How could he say such a thing? Because that's exactly what he came to do. He came to be the Passover Lamb, who's blood shed for us in his slaughter would cause God's wrath to pass over us. He came to be the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world—your sins and mine!—all of them!—every careless word spoken in frustration, every carefully chosen word offered in insult or gossip, every quiet moment where we had opportunity to speak up for Jesus or for someone else, but remained silent. All of our sins are removed by the blood of the lamb.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19)


III. We Proudly Praise


And having been redeemed from that empty way of life, we're no longer the same. We don't go back to using our lips to gossip or tear others down, to whine and complain. But now is not the time to keep quiet either! Now we use our lips to encourage one another and to praise our Suffering Savior! Let's not let the stones take our job from us! When the Pharisees told the disciples to pipe down on Palm Sunday Jesus replied, "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40)

But now we eagerly join in with the Palm Sunday crowd and proudly praise him. We praise the Lamb of God who's taken our sin away, acquitted us before God, and promised us unimaginable glory and joy in heaven. We proudly praise him with all that we have.

We use our voices to sing his priase here in worship, at home, or in the car. We use our voices to share what he has done, proclaiming "Hosannah! He saves!" and telling others how the Son of David is the Son of God, our Suffering Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I know that last weekend some of you who went to see the movie, "God's Not Dead," heard Willie Robertson's call to action at the end of the movie and texted your friends and family the simple message, "God's Not Dead." And you followed up with, "Ask me what I mean?" or "Go see the movie!" Now follow through and don't keep quiet when they ask, but proudly praise our Suffering Servant who knew when to speak up and when to pipe down to redeem you and me.

And eagerly offer to him, "Take my voice and let me sing Always, only for my King. Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from thee." (CW #469:3) In the name of Jesus, our Suffering Savior, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

With Liberty and Justice for All? (A sermon based on Isaiah 53:8)

We Americans love our liberty and our freedom! And we love justice and what's fair. But sadly, not everyone gets liberty and justice. Jesus suffered a horrible injustice. But he suffered willingly that we might have wonderful freedom, even though we don't deserve it. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Isaiah 53:8 (or watch the entire service at and rejoice that we get liberty, not justice, through Jesus...

Our Suffering Savior

With Liberty and Justice for All?

A sermon based on Isaiah 53:8

Sunday, April 13, 2014 – Palm Sunday


“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” thousands of children profess each school day across our nation. That’s always been a part of the bedrock of our nation: liberty and justice for all. We value our liberty—our freedom to speak and act as we wish (within reason). And we value justice—we want what’s fair.

And yet, liberty and justice aren’t always given out as they should be…

On February 13, 1976, Richard Holloman was shot and killed in his grocery store when he didn’t immediately hand over all of the cash in the till. Charles Ray Finch was quickly convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. But now, more than 37 years later, the case has been reopened. And the evidence is overwhelmingly in support of Finch’s innocence.

The eyewitnesses swore they saw him shoot Holloman with a shotgun. But Holloman was killed with multiple shots from two different handguns. None of the witnesses were ever able to identify Finch in a lineup. And Finch has always maintained that he was walking past the grocery store when he heard shots fired and ran to help. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And now he’s almost 76 years old, but still in prison, hoping his lawyers can prove his innocence once and for all.

Now, unlike the story I told you about John Coffey, wrongly accused and sentenced to death on the Green Mile, this story is sadly true. They got the wrong man. And Finch has spent almost four decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. The innocent has been condemned and the guilty is set free. Sadly it isn’t true, even in our great nation, that there is liberty and justice for all.

And it certainly isn’t true in Jesus’ case. An innocent man went through a mock trial where the witnesses were clearly lying. No charges could stick. And the witnesses couldn’t identify the accused for who he was. And being deprived up his liberty, robbed of justice, innocent Jesus was condemned. He was sentenced to die by torture on a cross.

And yet, we rejoice in this gross miscarriage of justice, as horrible as it was, because we know that the innocent has been condemned so that the guilty might be set free. We rejoice because we are the guilty. We rejoice because we don’t get justice. Instead we get an incredible liberty that Jesus won for us by the injustice inflicted on him. Isaiah foretold all about the miscarriage of justice that took place for Jesus… and for us… in Isaiah 53:8…


By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

I.              Justice for Liberty Abused


Is there any question that we Americans value our liberty? We love having the freedoms that we do, even if we do take them for granted far too often. We love our freedom of speech. We love our freedom to choose what we will make of our lives, what occupations we pursue, and what we do with our own money. That’s why we get so irritated when we’re told what to do with our money by our government. That’s why we get upset when our freedoms seem to be restricted. We want our liberties!

But what do we do with those liberties? I’m free to do what I want (within reason), but do I do what God wants? God has given us freedom to rebel against him. He didn’t want mindless robots serving him. He wants us to willingly love him. But we abuse that freedom. We do rebel against God. We break his commands and sin against him.

And we’re all to happy to have a miscarriage of justice when we’re the guilty party, aren’t we? Sure, we’re quick to seek justice when someone sins against us. We’re quick to cry foul when we’re the ones hurt or when our team is the one wronged But what about when it’s the other way around? When I foul the other guy, or when the call goes against the team I’m rooting for, “No harm, no foul,” is what I’m quick to cry. When I’m caught speeding I want leniency, not justice.

And when it looks like leniency’s not coming, we’re all all too quick to try to get out of the trouble we know we deserve. We try to minimize the sin, excuse the sin, even let others take the fall for my sin. We do anything but own up to the sin. Let’s face it. We’re a part of the problem of injustice. We’re happy to go unpunished when we do wrong.

So don’t be too quick to cry, “No fair!” As my dad used to point out to my brother and me any time we whined, “No fair!” because one brother got better treatment in our opinions than the other, “Life isn’t always fair.” And thank God that it’s not. Because of the transgression of this people, we all deserve to be cut off from the land of the living. We don’t really want what’s fair because “fair” means hell for all of us.

II.            No Liberty and Justice for Jesus


And thank God that we don’t get what’s fair because, “He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.”

What a horrible miscarriage of justice dealt to Jesus! Where our text says, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” the Hebrew could be translated, “By oppressive judgment he was taken away.” That is, the judgment was no fair!

At the start of Jesus’ trial, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.” (Matthew 26:59) They already had the verdict and the sentence determined before the trial! And even though many false witnesses came forward (v.60) perjuring themselves in court, no evidence could be found! But that didn’t stop them. Even though Pilate and Herod together acquitted Jesus five times! (cf. Luke 23:1-22) “‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered.” (v.66) And they convicted him, not to life in prison, but to a death sentence! To be carried out that very day so no appeals could be made! (cf. Acts 25:11-12)

And where our text say, “And who can speak of his descendants?” the Hebrew could be translated, “And who of his contemporaries spoke up?” No one came to Jesus’ defense. No lawyer would take the case. No lawyer had the chance to be the main character in some future John Grisham novel, such was the miscarriage of justice in this trial by night.

And no friend would speak up for him. Only two had even followed him. And one of those—Peter—had denied him. Even John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, kept his trap shut.

And the innocent was condemned to die. Liberty? Not for Jesus? Justice? Not for Jesus? The only sinless person who alone deserved no punishment, no pain, no death, because he alone did nothing wrong—ever!—took on suffering… pain… torture… hell! Talk about injustice!

Jesus was cut off from the land of the living. “And who can speak of his descendants?” He was killed without any children. He was executed for crimes he did not commit. No fair! … Thank God!

III.           Liberty and No Justice for All


You see, we dare not complain. We dare not cry, “Mistrial!” Because like the case of Charles Ray Finch, the innocent has been condemned and the guilty are set free. And the guilty… are us. 

“He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.”

Now God’s justice is satisfied. Sin is adequately punished. As Paul wrote in Romans 3:25-26: God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his [patience] he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Jesus didn’t get what he deserved. He lost his liberty. He saw no justice. But Jesus didn’t get what he deserved so that we don’t get what we do deserve. We don’t get justice. Instead, we get liberty. We get freedom from hell… freedom from death… and freedom from sin!

Now cherish this freedom, dear friends. Rejoice in this liberty! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Live to serve your Savior, not yourself! Live to fight against the injustice in the world. Live to share the message of the injustice that was done against our Savior, that others too might know of his grace for them.

We may not be too happy that it’s simply not true that there is liberty and justice for all. We may be saddened and angered by the reality that for hundreds—or even thousands!—of people like Charles Ray Finch, the innocent are condemned to die while the guilty go free. But we rejoice in the gross miscarriage of justice that was carried out against Jesus, because we know that the innocent has been condemned so that we, the guilty, might be set free. We rejoice that we don’t get justice. We rejoice that instead there is liberty, not justice, for all who believe in him. In Jesus’ name, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

For Sheep Who Love to Wander (A sermon based on Isaiah 53:6)

"Have it your way!" promises one fast food chain. And that message appeals to us because we all like to have things done our way. But sadly, too often our way isn't God's way. And we wander away from him. Thanks to Jesus who did things God's way to rescue us wandering sheep! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Isaiah 53:6 (or watch the entire service online at and rejoice that God did it his way...

Our Suffering Savior

For Sheep Who Love to Wander

A sermon based on Isaiah 53:6

Sunday, March 30, 2014 – Lent 4A


They called him “Old Blue Eyes,” or “The Chairman of the Board.” He was one of the most popular American singers ever, with his career spanning more than 50 years. Recording hundreds of songs in many different styles and genres earned him the nickname, “The Voice.”

And toward the end of his career, Frank Sinatra recorded a song that fit him perfectly. “And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain,” it began. The lyrics describe an old man approaching death and looking back on how he lived his life, reflecting on all the things he’d said and done. And he was quite satisfied, proud even of the way he’d always been in control of his life, always charted his own course:

“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain, My friend, I’ll say it clear; I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain… I planned each charted course, Each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this—I did it my way.”

He wasn’t ashamed at all about the way he’d lived his life. He didn’t feel bad at all. A few regrets? Maybe, but too few to mention. “And may I say, not in a shy way, Oh, no… not me. I did it my way.” (Frank Sinatra, My Way, 1969)

It’s easy to see why people like that song: It’s about rugged American individualism, independence, and freedom to be who you want to be, to go wherever you want to go. It’s about the freedom to chart your own course in life, to go your own way and do your own thing. 

I.      I Did It My Way 

You know, anyone of us could look back over our lives, whether the years are just a few or, well…  a few more. And we could identify times and places where we did it our way. Sometimes we were happy with what we’d done, the way we dealt with challenges, the way we kept our head held high, chewed up our problems and spit them out.

But other times… many times… we have to admit that when we did things our way, it wasn’t the Lord’s way. Maybe it was only later that we realized what we’d done and became embarrassed or ashamed, or thankful that no one else found out. We did it our way. But our way was the wrong way. But that’s what we sinners do. We like to reject God’s way and do it our way.

Our text for this morning is from that familiar prophecy in Isaiah which we’ve been studying all Lenten season. Today, we look at just verse 6 of Isaiah 53: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”


Frank Sinatra was proud of the way he did it his way. And we can join with him in singing, “I did it my way.” But for us, it’s not in pride, but in confession. We join with Isaiah in owing up to the fact that many times in our lives, we did it our way. That’s really what any sin is—doing it my way instead of God’s.

I know God wants me to be in the Word, but it’s so hard to get to Bible Class on time. I’ll still make it to worship. Jesus is cool with that. I know God wants me to be loving, but I’m so much better than that person. I’ll be loving to someone else. I know God wants me to give generously to others, but then I’d have so much less for myself. God understands.

And so we must confess with the prophet: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”

First, note how all inclusive this confession is: “We all.” No exceptions. Nobody’s different than anybody else in this huge flock. We all were part of the same mass of humanity that acted just like stupid sheep who follow their eyes and noses, heads down, sniffing out that next delicious bite or for a better spot to die down and rest—always looking for “greener pastures.”

It’s easy to wander and get into all kinds of danger when you keep your nose to the ground, looking for immediate satisfaction or quick gratification. And that’s exactly what fallen, sin-filled people do. By nature, all we care about is the next delicious bite, for more comfort, for that day when we can just lie down and rest, for whatever catches our eye and suits our fancy at any given moment.

And while this is true of us all, we each have our own particular way of doing it. I do it my way. You do it yours.  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”

Whether it’s sex or success, a chemical high or an adrenalin rush, more money or more munchies, pride or prejudice, whatever it is that floats your boat… We each have our own pet sins. Eyes and noses to the ground, we sniff out what we each think will satisfy the desires of our minds and our bodies.

And we go astray. Sometimes blindly, unaware that we’re heading toward destruction. Sometimes eyes open, but uncaring, we wander away from the Lord. We plan our charted course, each careful step along the byway. And we like to do things “my way.”

Look around and we look like the Israelites in the book of Judges. The book ends with this verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25) And if left to our own devices, we sheep would wander right into hell… 

II.    God Did It His Way 

But we’re not left to our devices. Thank God the verse doesn’t end there! Isaiah goes on to give beautiful Gospel: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

While we were stumbling, and bumbling, and charting our own course, while we were straying and playing and streaming toward destruction, this is what God was doing: All through history from the time of Adam and Eve, and even before—in eternity!—God was planning his work and he was working his plan. And it all fell into place at Golgotha—at Calvary. It all fell into place when your sins and mine—our iniquity—fell on Jesus.

“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The confession of sins began this verse with “we all.” It got personal with “each of us has turned to his own way.” But it all leads to this beautiful confession of faith that ends with “us all” again. See what Isaiah did there? He brought it all full circle in one simple, beautiful verse.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he looked ahead to Calvary where our suffering Savior suffered what we deserved. Literally the Hebrew says “the Lord caused our iniquity to fall on him.” God, in his unspeakable love for stupid, stubborn, straying sheep, let our sin fall on Jesus. He let our guilt land on him. And with that guilt he let his justice fall—all the wrath that the human race had heaped up for itself—fell on Jesus crushing him.

And while we do confess, “I did it my way in my pride, in my foolishness, in my stupidity, like a sheep wandering away,” we also confess, “But God did it his way.” His way was the way of love, of grace, of substitution, of sacrifice. His way is the only way for you and me to find forgiveness.

And now, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, you and I get on board with Isaiah and gladly confess with him, “God laid my iniquity, my sin, my guilt, my hell all on Jesus, for all the times I did it my way. I am forgiven. I am heaven-bound. I am at peace.”

So what now? What does this all mean for sheep that still by nature love to stray? What does it mean for sheep who now belong to the Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, only to take it up again?

It means that we don’t love to wander anymore. We don’t keep our eyes and noses to the ground, sniffing around for the next “green pasture” that will satisfy my sinful appetite. It means we’re not sheep in that flock anymore! It means that we now listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd. We follow him and run away from strangers. It means we rest secure and content in his fold. (cf. John 10)

Paul put it this way: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2) Noses to ground? Not any more! Eyes to the skies! Hearts and minds looking up, fixed not on earthly things, but on heavenly things! On eternity!

You know, the last song Frank Sinatra ever sang before his death in 1998 was, "The Best is Yet to Come." And that’s what’s etched on his tombstone today: "The Best is Yet to Come." Thanks to God, who did it his way to rescue us from our way, this is our confidence too: "The Best is Yet to Come." In the name of Jesus, our suffering Savior, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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God's Affordable Health Care Act (A sermon based on Isaiah 53:4-5)

Feeling okay? Got the sniffles? Have a few extra pounds or high cholesterol? How healthy are you, really? Thanks to our Suffering Savior we have perfect spiritual health! And thanks to him we will have perfect physical health too! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Isaiah 53:4-5 (or watch the entire service at and rejoice in how healthy you are! 

Our Suffering Savior

God’s Affordable Health Care Act

A sermon based on Isaiah 53:4-5

Sunday, March 23, 2014 – Lent 3A


How do you feel this morning? You healthy and well? Relatively speaking, right? I mean no one is bleeding out or coughing up a lung or you wouldn’t be here. At least, I hope you wouldn’t. I hope you’d be in the hospital or at least in the back of an ambulance. But how healthy are you? Is your blood pressure exactly where it should be? Your cholesterol counts? Your weight? Have healthy and clear toenails? Perfect skin? Perfect hair? And when was the last time you had a complete physical? And who but God knows exactly what you look like on the inside?

The truth is, none of are as healthy as we should be. Because of sin in the world, our bodies are dying—literally! Cells are dying every day and being replaced by new ones. We’re all sick. But far worse than the physical ailments and health challenges we face, we have a much bigger problem. We’re all sick with sin. It may not be apparent to others, but we don’t need an x-ray, a CAT scan, or an MRI to reveal it. We have our own consciences which remind us how sick we are. And if those aren’t working right, we have the Word of God. And what’s more, this sickness is terminal. We may delay the inevitable, but it always ends in death. And if left untreated it will end in eternal death.

But thank God that he has given us the cure. He has given us Jesus. Jesus is God’s health care plan. He acted to save us from our terminal illness. And it worked! The cure works perfectly for all who take it every time! And what’s more, it’s very affordable; it doesn’t even cost us a thing! This morning, as we again consider that familiar prophecy in Isaiah 53, we specifically look at verses 4 and 5 and see God’s affordable health care act…


4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But 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.

I.              From Terminally Ill


Now, literally, the word translated “infirmities,” in the NIV or  “griefs,” in the KJV is sickness. Maybe a more literal translation would be, “Truly, he lifted up our sicknesses and carried our pains. But we considered him diseased by God.”

The truth is, we are sick. We can’t deny it. That truth is revealed even in the way we think about physical health: In the way we think of our own bodies, either indulging in whatever we want with no thought of how it affects our health, or energy levels, or ability to serve God, or focusing too much on how healthy I am so I look good, so I feel good, so I live longer, but giving little thought on how I’m going to live for God and not myself. And our sick souls are evident in the way we think about other people too.

Ever act like Job’s friends and think, “Those sick people deserve what they get. They don’t take care of themselves.”? But while it may seem easy to find the flaws in others, we too often fail to recognize how sick we are with such unloving judgment of others, with pride, with our own sin—the whole time thinking ourselves healthy (or, at least, healthi-er than others).

Not long ago I watched a documentary on Netflix called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Joe Cross is an Australian businessman who has a large wallet and had an even larger lifestyle. Parties on the weekend, elaborate business lunches, and plenty of trips to the bar left him overweight, on all kids of medications, and feeling tired and lethargic all the time. But he got sick and tired of being sick and tired. So he went on a 60-day juice fast, eating nothing, and drinking only pulverized fruits and vegetables. In the process (and under close medical examination, by the way), he lost over 90 lbs. and got off all of his medications. And it launched him on a path of health and wellness, eating sensibly (though still enjoying a bacon burger from time to time), getting regular exercise and maintaining his new health.

Sadly, many people think that if they just get on the right plan they can not just lose weight, but lose their sickeness of sin. One man recently told me that he’s not that bad. He said that he’d be perfectly comfortable having a camera follow him around 24-7 confident that a camera crew would find no sin in him, maybe a nose picking at worst if they followed him for a few years. He thinks that with the right diet, the right exercises, the right self-help books, the right meditation and the right medication he can be, in essence, perfect. He doesn’t understand how deep the cancer of sin goes.

But he’s not the only one. We all forget how sick we are sometimes. We think, “Sure, I’m sinful. Everyone is. But I’m not that bad. With the right diet, the right exercises, the right self-help books, the right meditation and the right medication we can be, in essence, perfect. But it’s like trying to cover up cancer with a band-aid. Face it: we are sick. We’re fat with selfishness, sick with this terminal cancer of sin, (for the wages of sin is death), and we’re nearly dead when our short time on this earth is over. And there’s nothing we can do to make it better. No hospital or treatment center has the cure.

There is only one cure for sin: Go on a Gospel fast: Drink of the Living Water that is Jesus. By his substitutionary atonement, taking our sickness on himself, he gives us the cure. Instantly! Like a magic pill that sounds too good to be true, he makes us healthy—just like that!

II.            To Eternally Well


In 1932, John Coffey, a huge, 6’8”, black man, was found cradling the bodies of two small white girls. It didn’t take long to convict him and soon Coffey was off to Cold Mountain Penitentiary to await his execution. But there was more to John Coffey than met the eye. He had a special gift. You see, when Coffey placed his massive hands on someone sick he could heal them. He healed a prison guard of his urinary tract infection. He healed a mouse that had been stepped on.

But Coffey healed in a unique way. He took the sickness into himself. He absorbed the disease. And in spite of the fact that was innocent of the crimes for which he was accused, he even took the cancer from a prison guard’s wife, knowing that it would likely be too much; it would kill him. But he was going to the electric chair anyway. So innocent John Coffey died that she might live.

Okay, this is fiction of course. The Green Mile was a great movie and an even better set of books. But what Stephen King wrote as fiction, took place in reality for you and me. His name wasn’t John, but Jesus.

Jesus took people’s sicknesses away in real life. By his miracles he demonstrated who he was—divine, the very Son of God. But he took our sicknesses on himself. He became human, one of us, susceptible to sickness, injury, pain. And he took our greatest sickness—that terminal illness of sin—on himself. He absorbed it into himself. And he who was innocent of all charges, of all sin, died—he endured, not an electric chair, but torture on a cross, and worse! the agony of hell that our sins deserve when God the father turned his back on Jesus, disgusted by sickness, oozing with our sin. Innocent Jesus died that we might live.

Because of Jesus act, we have perfect health care. By that act we are made healthy and whole—not in body, but in soul. I prefer a different translation in verse 5 too. The word translated “healed” can also be “made healthy.” You see, it’s not just taking away the problem—removing the cancer but leaving the high cholesterol, or mending the broken leg but leaving the extra pounds. No! It’s giving perfect health.

We have peace with God—not just the absence of war with him with our sins forgiven, but the presence of every blessing—with the assurance that he will work our physical ailments, our aches and pains, all for his good purposes, with the assurance that he will always be with us. We have perfect spiritual health with no room for improvement!

Though we considered Jesus diseased by God, in truth, he lifted up our sicknesses and carried our pains. By his wounds we are made healthy and whole.

And, even though “faith healers” misuse these verses to promise physical healing of diseases, it is true that through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are healed not just of sin, but of every sickness and disease of body and mind too. One day soon all sickness, disease, pain, and suffering will come to an end. We will be perfectly healthy in soul, body, and mind when our Savior takes us to glory where there is no sickness, suffering, or pain, when we are made imperishable with glorified bodies.

What perfect care we have in Jesus! And it’s completely free to us! Because of God acted in Christ we have affordable care. This is God’s affordable health care act for us.

Now, having been made perfectly healthy in our souls with sins forgiven, certain that we will be made perfectly healthy in body and mind soon, let’s inoculate ourselves from falling away by the Word of God. Let’s drink lots of the Living Water and get a healthy diet of the Word and of Jesus’ body and blood. Let’s exercise our faith as we live to serve Jesus and others. And lets take care of our physical bodies too, that we might have more energy, more vitality, and more years down the road to serve our God in thanks for his affordable health care act. For the innocent died, that we might live:

4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But 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.

In Jesus’ name dear friends, amen.  


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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