The First Sunday after Trinity 2016

Bible Text: Luke 16:19-31 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

So, what do I preach for my last sermon here? Well, Jesus, duh. Christ and Him crucified for sinners. Christ whose flesh was given into death for your sins and who was raised for your eternal life. Christ, who is the very incarnation of the Son in the flesh and the love of God for the world. And that’s what it all comes down to. Love. God is love. His love is shown in Christ. Does God love you? He loves you Jesus much! Jesus being conceived and born is God’s love for you. Jesus suffering and dying and shedding His blood is God’s love for you. Jesus rising from the dead is God’s love for you. Jesus washing you at the font, absolving you and feeding you with His own body and blood–that’s God’s love for you. God’s love for you doesn’t change and the proof is that Christ was promised long before you were ever born. Your sins have been paid for. There’s no sin you have done or will do that can suddenly cancel the promises the Lord has made to you in Christ. When the judgment of God seems to be a scary thing, and when you aren’t sure which side of that chasm you’re going to be on, God’s love in Christ is the answer: with Jesus in the “bosom of Abraham.”

And the love of God for us is connected to our love for others. When God loves you, then you love your neighbor. The rich man doesn’t love Lazarus, doesn’t care a bit about him. That’s proof he doesn’t love God. He just loves himself. And that’s because He doesn’t know God’s love or has ignored the preaching of that love from God’s Word. That’s our warning. That’s our call to repentance. That’s the flashing neon sign that says, “Don’t act like you love God and think you’re a good person when you treat other people like dirt and ignore them and refuse to help them in their need. It’s not that the rich man was rich. It’s that he didin’t love his neighbor. No matter how much or how little God had given him, he didn’t use it to help others. Just kept it all to himself. That’s not the love of God. That’s the love of self. And the worst part is that when he was in hell, he thought he could spook his brothers into avoiding the judgment too. But he already had everything he needed in Moses and the Prophets, in the Bible. So do we. It’s all there in the Law. Love God. Love your neighbor. But we don’t. And that would doom us. Except for what the Apostle said: We love Him because He first loved us. God loves you. Jesus is the love of God in action, to die and rise for you. And it is that love of God that turns you into a person who loves God back and loves your neighbor.

So love God, dear children. Love Him and receive His Word. Don’t stop coming to church to hear the preaching of that Good News or receiving that body and blood that brings forgiveness and peace. And love one another. Don’t pretend you’re a “good person” when there are people you want to ignore and not help and carry a grudge against. Repent of that stuff! believe that for Jesus’ sake God holds none of that stuff against you and so you need not hold any of it against anyone else. Love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And that means, after I am gone, that you still look after each other. That you still work together to love your new pastor and take care of him. It means that you forgive each other when you step on each others’ toes. It means making sure that Bethel is always about Jesus crucified and risen for sinners and a place where that love of God is at work in love toward one another. I know how it goes. The pastor leaves. A new pastor comes. Maybe you don’t like him as much. Maybe you like him better. Maybe you just don’t like change. Whatever. Maybe you think it’s a chance to fade away and skip out…but don’t let it be! Love and care for your new pastor and in the same way keep loving and caring for one another. You need one another. As a congregation, to keep the ministry of the Gospel here. As brothers and sisters in Christ, to support and care for each other.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Jesus died for your sins. Every last one of them. Not a single sin isn’t forgiven. He rose for you. Eternal life is yours. He has washed, absolved, and fed you. You’re good to go. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. In Christ, I know you’ll do exactly that. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Pentecost 2016

Bible Text: Acts 2:1-21 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Let’s build an awesome city! Let’s build a tower to heaven! Let’s build it right up into God’s face! Let’s make a name for ourselves! Then the whole world will know that we climbed up to heaven! We’ll put it on Facebook and see how many “likes” it gets. We’ll post the video on YouTube! It will go viral. It’ll be in every newspaper and on every news channel. It’s all people will talk about. That’s what it looks like to make a name for yourself. Your Old Adam wants nothing more than to be the center of attention. We all want to be liked, to have a better reputation than others, and to make a name for ourselves. Of course, we plan for it to be an awesome name. But our sin makes a name for us in other ways, too. “Oh, her? Yeah, we all know about HER!” “Him? Yeah, he’s the guy who…” Our sin is that we want to make a name for ourselves so that everyone thinks were the best ever or else sin makes a bad name for us, a horrible reputation that we can’t shake. Because, when it’s OUR name, that’s all it’s worth. Let’s build a tower and make a name for ourselves? Ha! Remember those fools at Babel who tried to build a tower and the Lord came down and scattered them? We’ll never forget THOSE failures! If you pin your hopes on your name, what people think of you, how you can manipulate them to like you or the reputation have, then you’re in trouble. Because that sort of name doesn’t save you.

But there is a name that saves us. The name of Jesus. Peter preaches it on Pentecost. Rushing wind. Tongues of fire. And a sermon that preaches on the prophet Joel: “And on that day, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The Spirit shows up on Pentecost to grab everyone’s attention and put it on the preachers. And the preachers preach the name that you call on to be saved. The Name of Jesus. Keep reading and you’ll get Peter’s full sermon on Pentecost: Jesus, crucified and risen for sinners. Crucified and risen for you. Jesus, whose name means “The Lord saves.” The Lord saves you. Salvation is in the Name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is the name of the Lamb of God. Where man tries to make a name for Himself, Jesus comes to give His name to us to save us. His death and resurrection give His name the saving power it has when we call upon it. Jesus. Jesus means cross. Blood shed. Death for sinners. Resurrection. Jesus means death and devil and hell defeated. Jesus means sins forgiven. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, of Jesus, will be saved.

How do we call on the name of the Lord? That’s just a Bible way of saying, actually, that God puts His name on you. You have called upon the name of the Lord when He brought you to the font and put His name on you. Cassidy and Emma have called on the Name of the Lord too. They were baptized. The name of Jesus was put upon them. And now, with us, they will call on the name of the Lord as we are gathered at the altar to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus tells His disciples that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will come in His name, to remind them of all things. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. To remind you of all the Jesus stuff. Everything His name brings. Baptism. Absolution. Gospel. Supper. Those are the Jesus gifts that bear His name and so bear His forgiveness for you. They are delivered by the Holy Spirit through the pastors Jesus calls to shepherd His people. This is what Pentecost is all about: that God has given a Savior for everyone. A Savior for sinners. A Savior for you. A name to call upon, the name of His Son. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. That Name is given to you so now you know. You are saved. Forgiveness and eternal life are yours. Because Jesus died and rose. Because the Spirit was poured out on Pentecost. And because that name is upon you. Happy Pentecost! In the Name…of Jesus. Amen.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter 2016

Bible Text: John 15:26-16:4 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

The Christian faith is an eyewitness faith. Jesus died on the cross. People saw it. Jesus rose from the grave. People saw Him alive after that for forty days before His ascension. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that if you didn’t believe that Jesus really died and rose, you could just ask the people who saw Him. But what about you? You didn’t see Jesus alive in the days after Easter. And you can’t ask the people that saw Him. So how do YOU know? Because they eyewitnesses that saw Him wrote it down. Matthew. Peter through Mark. Lots of disciples through Luke. John. Eyewitnesses. They saw Jesus. Saw Him dead. Saw Him alive. It really happened. And Jesus Himself says that they would be His witnesses. They would pass it down through the Scriptures and it would also be the Holy Spirit who was a witness. It’s not that different than going to a family reunion and hearing stories about your great-grandparents handed down to your grandparents and parents. You probably didn’t know them but you know the things they did because you’re heard all about it. That’s really what the Bible is: it’s the Family Album of Jesus, which you are given to see Him and His life, death and resurrection and ascension for you.

You see, the eyewitness part is wrapped up in the Word. Christ has ascended. We can’t see Him with our eyes. But He is here and present through His Word. The Spirit is an eyewitness. How? Well, you CAN see your pastor. He baptizes. He absolves. He preaches Christ crucified and risen. He gives the body and blood of Jesus for you to eat and drink. These are real gifts. You can see them. Because the risen and ascended Jesus gives them to us through His Word, we are witnesses too. Every time we see that water and word splashed upon someone at the font (and remember our own baptism, even if we don’t remember it directly), every time we hear our sins forgiven and Christ preached, and eat and drink His body and blood. When we see the church doing what it has done, receiving what it has receivied, believing what it has believed, since Jesus’ ascension, then we know that the eyewitness testimony of the Bible is true. Again, it’s like a family. At that big family reunion, we might hear something like, “Well if great-great-grandma never met great-great-grandpa, none of us would be here.” Just so, the church exists today because the church existed before us, because the church has always existed where Jesus is and His Word is preached. Get it? The fact that you are a part of a congregation of the body of Christ is itself a proof that Jesus died and rose.

Now, Jesus warned His disciples the haters would try to put them out of the synagogues. The devil will try to get you out of the church. When you are away from the church, you easily forget what Jesus has done for you. It’s easy to forget that He’s alive. It’s easy to forget you’re part of the family. That’s why Jesus tells us. So that we won’t stumble. So that we won’t be scandalized. He sends the Spirit to bring you to faith and He gives the Spirit to testify of Himself. It’s the preaching of Jesus that keeps you in the faith. It’s the Spirit’s work to constantly point you to Jesus. To point you to His cross. To deliver His forgiveness, life, and salvation. That’s what the Spirit is all about. He testifies, that is, He proclaims Jesus to you. The Jesus who is your Savior. The Jesus who rescues you from sin and death. The Jesus who was nailed to the tree of Calvary. The Jesus whose tomb was empty. The Jesus who ascended and was hidden to our eyes by a cloud. But the Jesus who is still right here in His church where His Word and gifts are. Here is the Spirit’s witness, dear children of God: Jesus died for you. He rose for you. His ascension is for you. He has washed you. He forgives you. He feeds you. He will be back for you. You can count on it. Because Jesus Himself died, rose, and sent the Spirit to tell you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Sixth Sunday of Easter 2016

Bible Text: John 16:23-33 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Finally! They get it! The disciples have heard Jesus all this time and they keep asking “What’s He talking about?” And they’re so excited! “Ok, Lord! Now we get it! Now you’re speaking plainly! We understand! Now we believe that you have come from the Father!” It’s a brilliant “aha!” moment in which the disciples of Jesus finally understand and confess their faith in Him. And how does Jesus reply? “Well done! It’s about time! Good job, guys. I’m glad you finally got it!” Um, no. Not at all! He says, “Oh, do you believe now? I tell you, you’re all gonna be scattered and run away and I’ll be left alone!” Ha! They are super excited that they think they’ve got faith and understand all this stuff and Jesus just shuts them down telling them all about how they’re gonna run away. And then, this whole Gospel reading ends with one of the best promises I’ve ever heard Jesus say: “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Get it? You guys have no clue. But I’m going to overcome the world and save you. So. Much. Comfort for sinners. For you and me.

Do you ever feel like you get it? You’ve got Jesus figured out? You understand? You know what’s going on? You’re living your life well? Don’t worry, you’ll mess up! You’ll fail. You’ll be grabbed by some temptation and run away and forget. Well guess what? Jesus has overcome the world. In this world you will have tribulation. Heartache. Suffering. Bad things happening. Be of good cheer. Jesus has overcome the world. That’s right. Any tribulation you have, any suffering, any bad thing–it’s been overcome by Jesus. Overcome by the cross. Overcome by His suffering and death. Overcome by His blood shed for you. Overcome by His resurrection from the dead. I’ve said it before this Easter season and I’ll say it again because it’s the big message of these readings: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Therefore everything simply must be all right in the end. It can’t not be. Even disciples running away. Even sinners falling into sin. Jesus has overcome the world by His death and resurrection and therefore everything is going to be just fine in the end. Because He’s defeated every enemy that can try to make it otherwise.

The disciples DID all run away. They were scattered and Jesus was left alone to suffer and die by Himself. But then He rose and He appeared to His disciples and showed them that He has overcome the world and they had joy no one could take away. Same for you. You’ll blow it. You’ll mess it up. You’ll make a hash of things. You’ll sin. Big time. Awful. But then Jesus will appear to you in His church, with His gifts. To give you forgiveness and life and salvation and joy. He’ll remind you of what He did at the font for you. He’ll absolve you. He’ll preach to you. He’ll feed you with His body and blood. And in each of those gifts, week in and week out, you can see His victory and triumph over sin and death and this world. In each of those gifts, you have the thing that gives you good cheer in the midst of the trouble the world has for you. What can the world do to you? You’re baptized! What can Satan accuse you of? You’re forgiven! What bad news can there be that isn’t answered by the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection? What mess can be made that isn’t left behind when the Lord brings you to His altar to feast upon His flesh and blood and promises to raise you on the Last Day? And that is why He says to ask the Father anything in His name. So we do. Dear Father in heaven, let us have this good cheer that Jesus has overcome the world, so that we overcome it too, in Him. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fifth Sunday of Easter 2016

Bible Text: John 16:5-15 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

The Holy Spirit has one job: Deliver Jesus. Take what is Christ’s and deliver it to you. The Holy Spirit is all about Jesus. He convicts the world of sin, because at its root, all sin is unbelief, it is the denial and rejection of Jesus. He convicts the world of rightousness because Jesus goes to the Father. “Going to the Father” means all that Jesus does in dying for the sins of the world, rising again the third day, and ascending to the right hand of the Father. That’s your righteousness: that Jesus does all that for you. The Spirit convicts the world of judgment because the ruler of the world is judged. He is judged by Jesus who strips him of his authority and power by taking away the accusation that is against you. Get it? Everything the Holy Spirit is doing and preaching is Christ and His gifts. The Holy Spirit’s job is to bring you to faith, that is, to trust in Jesus. To put upon you the righteousness of Jesus and to comfort you with the good news that the enemy is judged and has no power over you ever. Jesus is the One who has accomplished all this. It is the Spirit who makes sure you know about it.

And the Spirit does this in no other way than through the Holy ministry of the Gospel and Sacraments. If you want to know whether or not the spirit is working and where He is doing His thing, just ask this simple question: Do you have a pastor? Because it is through your pastor that the Spirit brings you what is of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection and the forgiveness and eternal life these accomplish are delivered to you by the Spirit through the ministry of the Gospel and Sacraments the Spirit carries out by your pastor. That’s what a pastor is for. To baptize. Sins washed away. There the Holy Spirit brings you to faith in Jesus and puts you in the church. To absolve. It’s a proclamation of Good News, that the devil is defeated, Jesus is your righteousness and that through Him your sins are forgiven forever. To preach the Word. There the Spirit calls you away from unebelief which tries to make you god and to faith in Jesus who takes away your sins and makes you God’s child. To commune. There the Spirit assures you that by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Lamb of God, you have forgiveness of sins and will be raised up on the Last Day.

Jesus calls the Spirit the Comforter. Pay attention to that. It means that everything the Spirit does through the ministry of the Gospel and Sacraments is about comforting you. Not hassling you. Not troubling you. Not scaring you. Comforting. Putting your mind at ease that God is not going to punish you. Teaching you to rest securely in the wounds of Christ. Teaching you, against whatever the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature throw at you, to find peace in the water, Word, and body and blood of Jesus. Those enemies trouble us. Bad news troubles us. Life troubles us. Our sins trouble us. They make us uncomfortable and uneasy. They make us sad and frustrated. They make us miserable. But the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. He preaches to you that despite all those things, nothing can overcome or cancel out your baptism or the good news of Jesus or the promises of His body and blood. Jesus goes to suffering and death and to rise again and ascend to the Father so that He can send the Spirit through His Word to bring you comfort. To put you at ease. To protect and deliver you from everything that would rob you of the comfort of Christ. Be comforted! The Spirit is at work. He’s here to deliver the Jesus stuff to you. And those gifts of the Lamb of God deliver you from sin, the world, the devil. And by those gifts He promises to keep you safe until He comes again and wipes away every tear for good. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter 2016

Bible Text: John 16:16-22 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

“A little while and you will see me no more. Then a little while and you will see me and you will have joy that no one can take away.” That’s Jesus talking to His disciples before He is arrested and undergoes His suffering and death. He’d be snatched away from them and crucified. And they would be crushed. But not for long. Because Jesus rose the third day. Because He overcame death. Because He was and is alive. And then they had joy no one can take away. Not suffering or persecution or even torture and death could end their joy. For their joy was in Christ who forgives sins and gives everlasting life. “Go ahead and kill us,” they could say, “Jesus will just raise us up from the dead!” This is what Jesus means. They will be sad for a time, when it seems like all is lost and the Son of God could be nailed to a cross and die. But then resurrection. Life. Victory. Triumph. Then a joy that cannot be contained or suppressed or smothered. And that’s not just a happy feeling. It’s true joy which is the happy and glad confidence that because Jesus is risen from the dead, everything is going to work out fine. Everything is going to be OK. In this life and forever.

That’s how our lives go too. Today, joy. Then, Jesus seems to be taken from us. It’s nice here in church. We’re gathered with our brothers and sisters in Christ and here we are reminded of our baptism. Our sins are forgiven. Jesus is right here with us in sermon and Supper to forgive our sins and give us life and salvation. Here in the church are all Christ’s gifts to give us true joy: that happy and glad confidence that everything is going to be OK in the end because of Jesus. Then it’s like He disappears. Out there, in the world, is a world trying to rob you of that joy and crush you. Out there is a world where diagnoses of disease happens, where marriages break apart, and kids seem to go wrong, where friends abandon and betray, and where your own flesh leads you to do things you never should. Out there, it’s as if Jesus is gone and you’re on your own. Except you will see Him again. Next Sunday! Next Divine Service! Maybe in Bible Study or when you read your Portals of Prayer or Higher Things Reflections during the week. There you will see Jesus and there you will have joy. Again, not always a happy feeling, not always a smile on your face. But real joy, the glad confidence and sure knowledge that everything is going to work out OK because Jesus is alive even though He was dead.

And then expand that out into your whole life. Your life now is one of joy where Christ’s Word and gifts are, but then comes the time of death. But after that, joy that can never be taken from you: eternal life. With Jesus. In paradise. Forever. And ever. This is your life. A joy that cannot be taken away. The devil cannot take it away. The world cannot take it away. Your Old Adam can’t ruin it like he ruins everything. This is joy that is in Christ. Joy that comes from a Savior who has taken your place and taken away your sins. Joy from a Savior who has laid in death and risen again. Joy from a Savior who washed and claimed you as His own, who preaches to you and feeds you His own body and blood. This is a joy that triumphs over death because on the Last Day, when Jesus has returned, and we are awakened from death, there will be such joy as we can’t even begin to imagine now. You see, the Christian faith is a little bit of “now but not yet.” Now we have joy in His gifts but also now we have suffering and death. And soon but not yet, we will have the joy of everlasting life with Him when He puts away all our enemies and gives us paradise. This is the Christian life. Joy that comes to us in Christ, a world that tries to take it away. Joy that is given in His gifts, and sorrow when the world comes after us. And then a once-and-for-all joy when Jesus comes again in glory. And when that day finally comes, the joy and happy glad confidence we have in Jesus, that He has continued to renew and strengthen in you–well, that joy will last forever. Really, forever. That is joy. The glad and happy confidence that everything is going to be worked out in the end because Jesus died and now is risen. He is risen indeed. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Third Sunday of Easter 2016

Bible Text: John 10:11-16 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

We are sheep. We need a shepherd. When Jesus talks about His flock, He doesn’t pick an animal that is self-sufficient and can provide for itself. He calls us sheep. Sheep can’t make it on their own. They wander off. They fall into holes. They get stuck in brambles. They stand there while the wolf attacks and eats them. They need a shepherd to protect them and lead them to pasture. That’s Jesus. The Good Shepherd. And what makes Him the GOOD Shepherd? He lays down His life for the sheep. He dies for you. He puts Himself between you and the wolf. He falls into the hole so you don’t. He gets tangled in thorns so you don’t. Whatever bad thing could happen to a sheep, Jesus lets happen to Him in order to save you. Trial. False witnesses. Condemnation. Scourging. Cruxifixion. Or, as we heard a while back: betrayed into the hands of sinners, mocked, beaten, spit upon and killed. And rise the third day. For the sheep. For you.

And the sheep know the Good Shepherd. They know Him because He lays down His life for them. Don’t look for any other shepherd than the Jesus who lays down His life on Calvary for you. The Jesus who is crucified for you. The Jesus who rises from the dead for you. Beware of the voice of hirelings, false preachers, who want to deliver something to you other than Jesus who lays down His life for you. Beware of preaching and teaching that isn’t Christ and His gifts but rather something in you. Beware of flattering preaching that says you can do it, that you can save yourself or find God. Beware of that preaching that calls you, under your own power, to live a better life in one way or another. In short, beware of any preaching and teaching that is not Jesus and Him crucified and raised for you. Beware of any preaching or teaching that does not, for the sake of Jesus, proclaim that your sins are forgiven and that you have eternal life.

The Good Shepherd, of course, sends His pastors (and “pastor” just means “shepherd.”) I suppose it’s a little awkward to talk about it right this minute. But maybe this is when we really need to hear it: Jesus knows His flock. He knows you. He knows that you need to hear the Gospel. He has laid down His life for you and He will make sure that you hear that Gospel preached. The Good Shepherd leads you to the still waters: Baptism in which you drink deeply of the Spirit and forgiveness. There is the green pasture of His Word, in which you may be fed with food that is for eternal life. There is the rod and staff to comfort you by absolving you of your sins. There is the overflowing cup of the Shepherd’s blood to drink in the presence of your enemies–the devil, the world, and your Old Adam have to sit helplessly by while the shepherd protects you and gives you life. The Good Shepherd is all about laying down His life for you, taking it up again, and making sure you are taken care of by His saving gifts. You are sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. That’s all you need to know. Because in His hands, as a part of His flock, you are safe and have life forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Second Sunday of Easter 2016

Bible Text: John 20:19-31 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

And the Lord Jesus breathed on them and said, “Peace be with you. If you set an example of behavior, people will behave.” No. “Peace be with you. If you encourage people in being good people, they will be good people.” No again. “Peace be with you. If you set a good example for people to follow, they will be nice to each other.” Still no. “Peace be with you. If you help people get their lives straight, they can go to heaven.” No and no! Christ is risen from the dead. And that means one thing: sins are forgiven. “Peace be with you. If you forgive anyone’s sins they. Are. Forgiven.” Jesus doesn’t ordain His Apostles to go and judge people and nitpick their lives. He sends them to forgive sins. He sends them to deliver personally, into their ears, the Good News that because Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead, whatever you’ve thought or said or done against God and your neighbor can no longer ever count against you. The Father sent Jesus and He sends the Apostles. The Father sent Jesus to save the world. Jesus sends His Apostles to deliver that forgiveness which saves people.

Now, He DOES also say, “If you bind anyone’s sins they are bound.” What is that? That’s just telling people that if they don’t want their sins forgiven, and they want to live like their sins are not forgiven, then they won’t be forgiven. NOT because they’re not forgiven by Jesus but because the person doesn’t want forgiveness. It’s kind of like the warden coming into a prison cell and telling an inmate, “The governor has pardoned you. You are free to go!” And then the inmate says, “No, I’m going to stay here in prison.” How does that make any sense? That’s what the binding of sins is all about. If you don’t want forgiveness, well, you can act like you don’t have it. But why would you do that? The forgiveness of sins is free. It’s a gift. It’s the whole reason Jesus did everything that He did. And it’s yours!

Now, the resurrection of Jesus means your grave is going to be empty on the Last Day. You are going to be raised from the dead. We know this is true because of the forgiveness of sins. And we know the forgiveness of sins is ours because Christ has sent out pastors to declare it. In fact, everything a pastor is about is the forgiveness of sins: baptizing, absolving, preaching Christ crucified and raised, giving the body and blood of Christ to His disciples. Each of those gifts is just one more way that Jesus is proving to you, that His forgiveness is YOURS. That every one of your sins has been taken care of and forgiven. That you have eternal life. That everything that is His is yours. In fact, everything the Christian church is about is the forgiveness of sins. It’s how God loves you. It’s what the blood and water and Spirit testify to. And that forgiveness is your life lived toward your neighbor too. You do your work, carry out your callings, and most of all you forgive the people around you. Be forgiven. Then forgive. That’s life as a Christian. And standing behind the forgiveness Jesus gives you and that you give to others is His triumph over sin on Good Friday and His triumph over death on Easter. And standing behind your forgiveness is the water, the Word, and the body and blood. And those gifts of Jesus stand behind the forgiveness you give to others. Peace be with you. Now go and forgive sins, He says to the preachers. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why Jesus did all that He did. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter Day 2016

Bible Text: Mark 16:1-8 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! “Go and tell His disciples-and Peter- that He is going ahead of you into Galilee.” Yeah, those disciples. The ones that ran away when they arrested Jesus. And yes, even THAT disciple, Peter, who flat out denied three times that He even knew Jesus! Tell them that He is not in this tomb. Tell them that He is alive and that He is going to Galilee where He said He would be. You know what this means? This announcement by the guy in a white robe means that God doesn’t have a doghouse anymore. You can’t be in the doghouse with God because there isn’t one! Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose the third day. That’s good news for Jesus’ disciples. Even for Peter. Even for you.

This guy in a white robe is telling you the same thing today. Christ is risen! He was dead. He was crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross. He suffered and bled and died. And now I’m telling you, He is risen. He is not in the grave. Jesus is not in God’s doghouse anymore and neither are you. You can’t be! Not even when you’ve betrayed Him or denied Him or run away from Him. Not even when you’ve done whatever it is you’ve done that makes you think you couldn’t possibly be saved. No matter what sin is yours, the man in the white robe declares, even to you: He is risen! He is not here! Here’s where He said He would be. Not Galilee now. But wherever His Word is. At the font. Upon the altar. In the water, the Word, the body and blood. There He is for you. There He is promising you that you can’t be in trouble with God. That the wrath of God is not upon you. That your sins can’t condemn you. That not even death can hold you. Hear this guy in the white robe tell you that you can’t leave here in despair today. Nothing but Easter joy that are loved, a part of God’s family in Christ.

Now, in a certain sense, the grave is like the doghouse. Death is the result of sin. But Jesus topples that tower. Jesus robs death of its power. His grave is empty. Your grave will be empty. Oh, you’ll sleep in it for a little while but then it has to let you out. Death has to let you go. See? No more doghouse for you. Even Peter is not in trouble with the Lord. Jesus has triumphed over sin and death. There can’t be anything against you before God. That means you have to rise from the dead on the Last Day. Death is so totally ruined by Jesus’ resurrection that ever since, Christians don’t even call it death! They call it “falling asleep.” Because now it doesn’t have permanent power. Death isn’t forever. Jesus rose from the dead. You’ll rise from the dead. It’s as simple as that. So no more doghouse for you. No matter what happens in your life, it simply cannot be the Lord punishing you. Can’t be because Christ is risen. You are baptized. His body and blood is for you. Your sins are forgiven. Nothing is held against you. Death is just a nap. And you now have life everlasting. You along with the disciples and Peter and the women. Because Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Good Friday 2016

Bible Text: John 18:1-19:42 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Did you know today is the Annunciation of our Lord? It’s the day the angel told Mary she would be the Mother of God. That the Spirit would overshadow her and the Son of God would be conceived in her womb. That’s right. March 25. Nine months before Christmas. And at that moment, the Lord was in the womb of Mary, floating in the water of her womb and sustained by the blood of the umbilical cord. Just like you when you were a baby. It’s funny but even in those early days of life, water and blood from someone else give you life and sustain you in life. Just so, the water and blood of Mary’s womb are a testimony that Jesus has truly become one of us. True God. True man. And He is, as John the Baptist first preached, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the Word-made-flesh. Conceived in water and blood. Born to be the Savior. Born to be your Savior. Blood and water testify. They proclaim. God is here. In the flesh.

Now, on Good Friday, blood and water preach again. They testify. They bear witness. They proclaim. Blood and water. Flowing from Jesus’ side. They bear witness that He is dead. Did He really die? Yes. Pierce Him and you’ll see. Blood and water flow out. They testify that this Jesus is really dead, has really given up His last breath. John was there. He saw it. The witness of the water and blood are therefore an eyewitness testimony to the death of the Lamb of God. The blood and water testify that “It is finished.” Everything. All of it. The Law is fulfilled and kept. The wrath of God is quenched. The blood and water testify that the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world. The blood and water testify that every promise of God going all the way back to the garden of Eden has been fulfilled and kept. God keeps his Word. The blood and water testify that your salvation has been accomplished. The blood and water testify that God’s Son indeed did not come to condemn the world but to save it. The blood and water testify all of these things; they proclaim this good news through the eyewitness who saw it and wrote it down.

And now, that blood and water still testify. They still proclaim. The water proclaims that you have been washed, cleansed, that your sins that were like scarlet are now like snow. The water proclaims that your Old Adam has drowned and died with Jesus on His Cross. The water testifies that you have been given a new birth from above, raised to life with Christ just as He rose from the dead. The water that pours from the side of Christ and into the font testifies that you are marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. And the blood testifies. The blood testifies that your sins are forgiven. The blood testifies that the Lord will pass over you and not slay you as He did the firstborn of Egypt. The blood that pours from the side of Christ into the chalice testifies that He lives in you and you in Him and He will raise you up on the Last Day. Yes, the blood and water that flow from the side of Christ testify of His death for sinners and as they flow into cup and font, they testify directly to you, that your salvation is a done deal and that the Lamb’s death was for you. And now you, new birth, from the womb of the church, born in water and blood. They testify. They proclaim. It is finished. You are the Lord’s. The blood and water testify and proclaim and bear witness to a Happy Good Friday for you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.