Maundy Thursday 2016

Bible Text: John 13:1-15, 34-35 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

So let’s get this out of the way right up front. The washing of the disciples’ feet is about absolution. It’s about forgiving us when we step in it. You’re already baptized. You’ve already bathed, says Jesus, but you just need your feet washed. In other words, you’re already baptized but you step in steaming piles of sin, so you need your feet washed. You need to be forgiven. And this is the example Jesus gives to us, that we are to love one another this way: that we forgive others their sins. Jesus does this because He knows all things and He’s going to the Father after He accomplishes our salvation. Think about this. Jesus knows He’s going to do the will of the Father and save sinners. He knows Judas is about to hand Him over. He knows the rest of the disciples are going to abandon Him and run away. He knows Peter is going to deny Him. And He still washes their feet. He knows that their sins and the actions of evil men will end Him up on the cross. And He still loves them to the end. Because that’s what saves us. Jesus loving us all the way to the end. The “telos.” The final thing. His death for the sins of the world and your sins on the cross. That’s Jesus loving you all the way to the end. Going all the way. To the final end. Your salvation on Calvary.

Jesus knows what you’re going to do. He knows the sins you’re going to commit. He knows what you’re going to say, think, and do. He knows. And He still came to die for you. He still washed you in your baptism. And He will still wash your feet when you step in sin, absolving you and giving you His Supper of salvation. He will still hang on that Cross for you. Because that’s the only thing that will save you. And then He washes you from head to toe. That’s your baptism. Your sins washed away. The blood of Calvary sprinkled on you. The body and blood given you to eat and drink. That’s how Jesus loves you. He delivers and bestows upon you the forgiveness of His dying and rising. But, of course, you still sin. Still step in it. So there’s washing for that. Foot washing. Absolution. You still need forgiveness over and over. And you’ll always have it. No matter what you have done. You are clean because Jesus has washed you.

And now look at this picture of life in the church. Jesus washes the disciples feet and then tells them to wash one another’s feet. Jesus gives them this new commandment to love one another as He has loved them. What does that look like? It looks like you coming to church to have your feet washed, that is, your sins forgiven, and then going out to wash other people’s feet, that is, forgive their sins. Because as nasty as somebody’s feet might be to wash? The actual dirtier job, the more difficult and disgusting thing is to forgive them their sins. Their faults. Their mistakes. Their blunders. To forgive others is a nasty and dirty business because it might mean you get hurt or stepped on your taken advantage of. It might mean you die for that person as Jesus died for you, to bear your sins. But here’s the thing: Jesus forgives you. He’s going to raise you from the dead. No matter what you suffer or have to forgive, He’s going to work it all out in His love and forgiveness. Jesus washes your feet. You wash others’ feet. Jesus forgives you. You forgive others. Why should you go to the Sacrament? Remember the Christian Questions: So that I may learn to believe that Jesus, out of great love, died for my sin, and also learn from Him to love God and my neighbor. That’s life in the church, living from the gifts that Jesus has given beginning on the very night He was betrayed. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Sunday of the Passion 2016

Bible Text: Matthew 26:1-27:66 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

“Is it I?” Really, Judas? Did you seriously just ask that? You know it’s you. You’ve known since you pocketed the thirty pieces of silver! “Is it I?” Yeah, Judas. Of course it’s you. But you and I would ask it too. “Is it I?” Did I really do something so bad the Son of God had to die for it? Come on! That’s going a bit far. And even if you were right in the middle of doing something you know is wrong, is against God’s Word, you’d still ask, “Is it I? Am I really sinning?” Yes, it’s you! It’s me! It’s all of us! We are to blame. It’s our fault. It’s our sin. We betrayed and killed Jesus. The sad thing is what happens to Judas. He feels remorse. He feels guilt. He gives the money back. But the preachers don’t have any Good News for Judas. “What is that to us? See to it yourself!” Is it I? Am I it? Am I the answer to my own sin? And when the only person Judas can come up with is himself, there’s nothing there but despair. And he hangs himself.

Is it I? It is. Until Calvary. Then it’s He. Then it’s Jesus. On the cross, it’s not you, it’s He. Not your sins but His. Not your hating God but His. Not your hating your neighbor but His. Not your despsing God’s Word or dishonoring your parents or killing or lusting or stealing or gossiping or coveting. His. Is it I? Not on Good Friday. On Good Friday your “It’s me” becomes “It’s Jesus.” There He who knew no sin was made to be sin for you so that in Him you would be the righteousness of God. It is Judas who betrays Jesus. It is Peter who denies Him. It is the rest who all run away. It is you, who by your sins may as well have pounded in the nails with your own hands. But there, on the cross, it all has become His. His to suffer for His to die for. His to forgive in you.

So all of this comes down to your life like this. Is it I? Is it you? Sins? Yes. Mine. Yours. That’s a good confession. Sins. That’s me! Is it I? It is indeed! But forgiveness? Is it Jesus? Yes, Him. For that. You, the sins. Him the forgiveness of those sins because He made them yours. Child of God? Is it I? Baptism says, “Yes, it’s you. Child of God.” Is it I? Confession says, “Yep, it is I. Sinner.” Absolution says, “But then it was His and now forgiveness is yours. Forgiven. That’s you.” Is it I? Your sinful flesh, yes. The sinless body and blood of the Son of God, however takes away your sins. Is it I who will rise from the dead? The body and blood of Jesus say, “Yes. You. Raised on the Last Day.” That’s because you have what Judas didn’t hear: the Good News. That all that makes you the betrayer and denier and murdere of Jesus has been forgiven forever and in their place bestowed live and salvation. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fifth Sunday in Lent 2016

Bible Text: John 8:42-59 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

The devil is a liar. The devil is a murderer. In fact, the devil’s lies lead to murder. They kill those who believe them. Just look at Adam and Eve. The devil lies to them. They believe him. They ultimately die. Jesus says, “Whoever holds fast to my Word will surely never see death.” Catch that? The devil has lies and death. Jesus has His Word which is the truth and it gives life. The antidote to the devil’s lies and murder is Jesus’ Word and life. Now, the lie the devil tells that leads to our death is this: You can be like God. In fact, you can be god. Put yourself first. Push the true God aside. Put yourself above others. You are the man. The king or queen. Top dog. It’s all you. In this life, this world, this universe, everything revolves around you. You are a god. And that leads to death. It leads to death from God because to believe that means abandoning His Word that gives life. It also means physical death because what do you think happens when the people who think they are number one run into the other people who think they are number one? Conflict. Sin. Death. The devil is a liar and murderer. Which is why Jesus points out that He didn’t come to serve Himself. He came to give honor and glory to the Father. And He does that by bringing to fulfillment all the promises God made to Abraham and those after him. Jesus came to do the Father’s will and that means saving those who have been lied to and murdered by the devil.

Now pay attention, because this is awesome! How does Jesus save us from the lies and murders of the devil? By being lied about and murdered! He totally allows Himself to be attacked the devil’s way to save you from sin and death. Lies. All lies. False witnesses testifying about Him. The religious leaders making up stories and calling those false witnesses. The Roman governor talking like it’s not his responsibility and there’s nothing he can do about it. The hecklers at Calvary lying about the things Jesus said and could do. And all that lying leads to His murder. The hatred of the Jews. The crycifying of an innocent man by the governor. Jesus is lied about and murdered. That’s exactly what the devil does! That’s exactly what he does to us so in order to save us from that, Jesus undergoes the same thing. Lies. Murder. Lies and murder bring suffering and death to Jesus. But lies cannot overcome the One who is the Truth. And death cannot hold back the One who is the reusrrection and the life. So despite the lies and murder of the devil, there is Easter. And Jesus is alive.

Now, to save you from the devil’s lies and murder. Truth and life. Jesus’ Word. Jesus’ life. His Word brings life. It does it with water at the font. There is the truth and life: You are forgiven. You are not God but you are baptized into His Name and called His child and claimed by Him. Absolution. The truth is that your sins are forgiven. The lie that you are guilty is abolished and negated. Your sins are forgiven. The Supper of Jesus. His Body and Blood. The truth is that He gives what He says He gives and that Body and Blood forgive your sins and promise that you will be raised from the dead on the Last Day. And then consider this: with these gifts, given to you by the One who died and rose, whose Truth cancels out the devil’s lies and whose Life counters death–with these gifts, Jesus makes sure you will never see death. You will not. It’s at worst a nap for a time until He raises you again. But death? Real death? Permanent, blotted out nonexistence apart from God? Not for you. Not, because of His truth and His life. The devil says you can be god. Lie! The Lord says you are His dear and precious child. The devil’s lies lead to death. The Word of the Lord given in water, Word and bread and wine gives you life. Lies are exposed. Death is defeated. This has been the work of Jesus for all of Lent: Snatching you back from the devil and his lies and death by being the One who suffers all things in your place. Jesus’ Word. His truth. His life. And you shall never see death but live forever in Him. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent 2016

Bible Text: John 6:1-15 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Jesus asked Philip where to get food in order to test him because He already knew what He was going to do. He already knew what He was going to do. I wish I did. About this call, for one thing. But about lots of things. I wish I knew how I was going to raise my kids before I raised them. I wish I knew how I was going to handle every situation as a pastor before I had to handle it. I wish I knew ahead of time how everything is going to work out. But notice what St. John writes. Jesus did it to test Philip because HE already knew what He was going to do. Philip, I suppose fails the test. 200 denarii is nowhere near enough! Andrew tries. But what are five barley loaves and two fishes for so many people? But guess what? That doesn’t change that Jesus knows what He’s going to do. I don’t know how the Lord is going to work things out. Not for Bethel. Not for Zion. Not for you each and every day. But we know this: He already knows what He’s going to do. But the idea that Jesus already knew what He was going to do isn’t just right now, with 5,000 hungry people. Jesus knows He’s going to Jerusalem. He knows He’s going to suffer and die. He knows He’s going to be the Lamb sacrificed for the Passover. He knows He’s going to His suffering and death. He knows that He is about to give His flesh as the bread of life for the life of the world.

Let’s face it. Uncertainty is a fact of life. Our worrying about it, however, our getting worked up over what we can’t control, our refusal to trust that the Lord has got it covered–that’s our sinfulness. There’s our need for repentance. We ought to abandon our worry and trust in the Lord who already knew what He would do. When Jesus fed the 5,000, He already knew that He would. He already knew that the Passover was near and that He was on the way to Jerusalem. He already knew what was going to happen to Him there. We heard that, right? Ahead of time: mocked, beaten, insulted, spit upon, scourged, crucified and rise the third day. But the Lord knew that was coming long before He became man. He already knew, as He spoke it through the prophets of the Old Testament. He already knew when He was laying manna out for the people to eat. He already knew when He told Adam and Eve there would be a Savior. He already knew before He made the heavens and the earth! Wrap your mind around that, if you can! He already knew! Not enough food won’t stop Him from feeding these people. And faithlessness and doubt dont’ stop Him from doing what He came to do and saving us from our sins and triumphing over death. For all time, He knew what He would do: die and rise to save you.

But now that Jesus has DONE all that, does He still know what He’s going to do? Absolutely. Because Jesus doing what He knew He would do and His having done what needed to be done will never stop Him from continuing to do what He does for you. That’s what your baptism means. It’s the promise that He knows what He’s doing. Forgiving your sins. He’ll always absolve you. Your sins can’t scare Him. Jesus has died and risen. He’ll always feed you with His body and blood and raise you up on the Last Day. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for Bethel or Zion. I do know that HE already knows what He’s going to do. And it’s exactly what I just said: The Lord is going to keep forgiving sinners here. And there. And in His whole church wherever it is and whoever the pastor is. Because, in the end, it wasn’t Philip or Andrew who fed the 5,000. It was Jesus and they and the other apostles just distributed the food. And the big deal is never the fish sandwiches anyway. It’s that Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life, whose flesh gives us the forgiveness of sins and does what He knows He will do: raise you up on the Last Day. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Third Sunday in Lent 2016

Bible Text: Luke 11:14-28 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

That’s funny! They accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul. Beelzebul was “Lord of the Flies.” Except he’s not because only God can actually control the flies. After all, who brought the flies to Egypt? It wasn’t Pharaoh. It was the Lord. The finger of God brought judgment and plagues upon Egypt because Pharaoh refused to acknowledge the true God and let the Israelites go. Just so, Jesus has the finger of God. Ten actually. And He throws down Satan’s kingdom. We saw it in the desert. We saw it with the dog-lady’s daughter. We see it today: Jesus is in the business of throwing down the devil’s kingdom. He is the stronger man who comes and knocks the weaker one out. So why on earth would they accuse Jesus of doing His work in the name of the devil? Because, listen carefully: The devil’s super power is lying. And one of the ways he lies is to say that what he does is good and what Jesus does is evil. If God allows some bad thing to happen to you, the devil is right there, trying to convince you that whatever God is doing is of the devil. The “real” Jesus would never let that happen! He would love you and bless you and let you do whatever you want.

And there’s only one thing that stops that lying. The Word. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” That’s Jesus, for one thing. He keeps the Word. Fulfills the Scriptures. Obeys the Father. He does everything the devil says is worthless and dumb and that’s EXACTLY what saves you. Jesus, handed over, arrested, beaten, and crucified, like He’s not God, like He’s not in control, like He’s just swept up in some random evil actions. The religious leaders of the Jews, declaring Jesus to be a criminal and a liar and a blasphemer. Get it? The devil tries to divert attention from himself to Jesus. And that’s exactly the thing that will do the devil in. Because Jesus came to do exactly that: to take all that is horrible and evil and become it, undergo it, suffer it, endure it. To expose and destroy Satan. To save you. That’s the power of the finger of God. That the devil’s kingdom is thrown down mightily and you are saved and brought into the Lord’s kingdom.

Lying and accusing Jesus to His face is clearly not going to work. So the devil turns his attention to you. Your life. Whatever YOU like must be of God. If you like it or it makes you happy, even if it’s against God’s Word, then God must approve. If it’s bad, or painful, or suffering, or sad, that can’t be from God. The devil tries to turn everything on its head and call God the devil and himself God. Don’t listen! Repent of thinking he’s making sense! You already know the power of God’s Word against Him in your life. Your baptism. The splash of water and the Word. That’s the finger of God reaching down and tracing the sign of the cross on your forehead and your heart, marking you as one who is the Lord’s not Satan’s. The declaration of the not-guilty verdict of Holy Absolution, as your pastor’s finger traces the sign of the cross. That’s the finger of God, poking the devil in the chest and telling him to back away from you. The very body and blood of Christ, held in the fingers of your preacher and delivered to you. That’s the finger of God wagging at the devil and telling him he cannot come near you, has no power over you, has nothing to say about you. The kingdom of the devil HAS been thrown down. Not because it’s divided against itself but because One who is stronger showed up and took it down by His death for sinners and His triumphant resurrection from the dead. This is, as Pharaoh’s magicians declared, the very finger of God, that cannot be blocked or hindered or kept from doing its thing, which is to save you from sin and death. The devil wants nothing so much as to destroy you and drag you down to hell. Too bad. So sad. Jesus came and took care of that. Of him. Of you. The finger of God has done it’s work. The Lamb has done His saving. And you are in the house and family of the Stronger One, the King, the Lord, the Lamb; now and forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Second Sunday in Lent 2016

Bible Text: Matthew 15:21-28 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

We need to learn to wrestle with God and pray like Jacob. “Let me go.” “Not until you bless me!” Jacob knows that the Lord is the Lord who blesses and gives gifts and he’s not gonna let go until he gets a blessing from that Lord. So the Lord gives Jacob a new name: Israel. Do you wrestle with God? Go round and round hoping He’ll do something or hear your prayer and answer it? God is not a God who ignores you or puts you off. His wrestling with you is to teach you to hang on tighter, to trust Him more, to learn to believe that you have nothing and that He has everything. The Lord would teach you this lesson: that He is the God who blesses and gives you a new name. That name is given to you in Holy Baptism. The name of “Christian.” That name means you have struggled with God. Your Old Adam has gone down to a watery death kicking and screaming, crucified as Jesus was crucified. Your new man has been brought forth, raised with Christ as He was raised from the dead. And that means you have a name the Lord has put on you. It marks you as one who is the recipient of His promises. Because you have the name the Lord gave you, all the promises He makes are for you, no matter how much it might look sometimes like they aren’t.

We need to learn to pray like this Canaanite woman. Jesus ignores her. She persists. He calls her a dog. She agrees and says, “Yes! And even dogs get the crumbs.” Because her daughter is under the power of the devil and she knows that Jesus cannot leave her in the devil’s power. That’s just not the kind of Jesus He is. He must help her because that is why He came. And when Jesus says, “Woman, great is your faith!” He’s NOT telling her, “Way to be stubborn and hang in there.” He’s telling her, “Your faith trusts in Me, and it is not misplaced. I am the one who destroys the devil’s power. And now it is destroyed for your daughter too.” And for you too. Why? Crumbs from the table. Ok, more than just crumbs. But even a little bit of the body and blood of Jesus is enough to send the devil running away in fright! What does Jesus have for you? Against sin, death, temptation, devil, hell, the judgment of the Law, He gives Himself. The body broken on Calvary, the blood shed there–these declare to you, “Your faith, your Jesus has saved you.” Faith is nothing else than saying, “I need that body and blood. As often as I can get it.” For that body and blood, from this Master’s table, is a healing, saving, forgiving, devil-overthrowing, death-destroying food. Between the Name you’ve been given in the water and the Word and the crumbs of life and salvation from Jesus’ table, you can’t but believe that God does not have it in for you but is out to save you and bless you.

Listen dear little doggies of Jesus: the devil has it in for you. He wants you to believe that God is going to put you in a sleeper hold and then abandon you. He wants to convince you that you have no claim on Jesus so it’s no use trying to ask Him for anything. But everything the Lord does says otherwise. Jesus came to defeat this liar by speaking His Word. The Word of blessing that He speaks to Jacob, the Word of healing He speaks to the mother of the little girl, and the Word of your baptism, and the Word of absolution, and the Word of the Gospel preached into your ears, and the Word of His Supper–all these say the devil is a liar. These gifts and promises declare that no matter how badly things seem to be going right now or at some point, you cannot be anything other than loved and blessed by the Lord. No matter how much you seem to struggle, no matter how much things seem to fall apart, no matter how much temptation and sin attack you, you are the Lord’s. His. No one else’s. He died for you. He rose for you. He has named you. He feeds you. There is nothing you could want that God does not truly provide for your salvation and everlasting life. So go now, your faith, your Jesus, has saved you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The First Sunday in Lent 2016

Bible Text: Matthew 4:1-11 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Admit it. Confess it. You would turn the stones to bread. You would jump off the temple to see if the angels caught you. You would take a knee for Satan just for a few seconds. Admit it. You would. I would. Know how I know? We do it all the time. We come into God’s house and hear of His immeasurable grace. We hear of His great forgiveness. We hear all of the Lord’s promises. And then we go right back out and live and do things as if the whole point is to test it. “Can I do this and still be a Christian? If I do this, will anyone find out? If I go through with this, if I give in, I can just be forgiven again.” For us temptation isn’t even a struggle usually. It’s a foregone conclusion. After all, we are our parents’ children. How long did it take from creation until Adam and Eve botched the whole thing? And this is why we need Jesus. Because when the devil shows up, we wave our hands and say, “Pick me!” And Jesus doesn’t play that game. And we would want Him too. Turn stones into bread? That would be awesome! But He does the only thing that will actually save us: He denies Satan his accusing power and He defeats temptation for us. He defeats it by not giving in. And He doesn’t do this so we can say, “Hey, Jesus stood firm. You stand firm too!” He does it so that it will count for you. So it will be, as you are in Christ, as if you have never given in to temptation. As if you have never sinned. As if you are perfect as He is perfect. In Him. In Jesus.

“If you’re the Son of God, turn the stones into bread.” Not that kind of Son of God. “If you’re the Son of God, jump off the temple and let the angels swoop down and catch you.” Not that kind of Son of God. “Fall down and worship me and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world back.” Not that kind of Savior. Here’s the deal with Jesus. If He does something for Himself, if He saves Himself, satisfies His own hunger, takes the easy way out, then there is no hope for you. You can’t save yourself. You’re right there ready to make loaves of rock bread. So if Jesus listens to the devil, we’re done. That’s what Adam and Eve did. They listened to the lies. Jesus does the opposite. He stands firm in the Word. He glorifies the Father. He saves you. The devil will be back. It’ll be the voices of the people around Him on Good Friday. The people looking up at the cross: “He saved others but He can’t save Himself. Let Him come down off the cross if God loves Him so much!” The thieves next to Him: “Hey, save yourself…and us!” Save yourself, Jesus. He could. But if He did, that’s the only person He would save. So He loses His life to save yours. He gives Himself into suffering and death so that the devil will have no claim upon you, no power over you, no accusation against you. You see, the ultimate temptation of the devil was to make man believe he could be God. And that lie is finally defeated when the God who became man saved you by dying and rising for you.

So Jesus is tempted. He wins. He’ll be tempted worse. We’d come down off the cross if we could. Anything to end the pain. Jesus stays there. For you. He overcomes the devil in the wilderness by showing his accusations to be a lie. The devil accuses Jesus of not really being the Son of God. But Jesus shows that He is most of all the Son of God because He obeys His Father and saves you. Now, when temptation is thrown at you, you have the weapon to defeat it: The Word of God who was tempted for you, died for you and rose for you. When you have the whisper that you aren’t really a child of God, so do whatever you want, you have the Word and water of Holy Baptism to remind you that you ARE a child of God. When you go after that temptation and fall into it, you have the Word of Holy Absolution that you are forgiven. When your flesh is weak and frail, then you have the Word made flesh and given you to eat and drink in the Supper of salvation. Get it? The way out from temptation isn’t you. It’s Jesus who has already defeated it. Held fast. Overcome. His victory is your victory. And when the devil, the world, and your sinful nature are whispering, calling, shouting, urging you to dive into that pool of sin, you throw against them your baptism, Jesus’ words spoken by your pastor, Jesus’ body and blood which you have feasted upon. Those are the things that defeat the devil. They drive him away and declare he has no power, no authority, no accusations that can stick. These gifts are the ones which stand fast against a world that is passing away. These gifts are the ones that give you new life while putting to death that Old Adam who loves to give in to temptation. Now, you won’t turn those stones into bread. You love the Word of God above all things. You wouldn’t jump off that temple. You wouldn’t take the knee for Satan. You can’t. Because Jesus didn’t. And what He didn’t do you didn’t do. And what He has done you have done. And what’s His is yours. And now, where paradise was shut by the sin of our parents, now it is once again opened to you by the Son of God. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Quinquagesima 2016

Bible Text: Luke 18:31-43 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

This is what matters. This is everything. Jesus. Going to Jerusalem. Delivered to the Gentiles. Mocked. Insulted. Spit upon. Scourged. Killed. Risen the third day. It all comes down to this. Jesus, going to Jerusalem for His disciples. For the blind man. For the crowds. For all the people. For you. To be handed over. Mocked, insulted, spit upon. Scourged. Killed. And rise again the third day. And we get a window on the ignorance of the twelve. They have no idea what Jesus is talking about. It was hidden from them. They don’t know what He’s saying. It will only be later that they realize everything Jesus has just told them is going to happen has actually happened and was supposed to happen and happened for them. And for the world. And for you. Handed over. Mocked, insulted, spit upon. Scourged and killed. Rise the third day. If you ever want to know what the most important thing is that Jesus ever did, it’s that. That’s your salvation. Walking on water. Healing the sick. Raising the dead. Feeding the 5,000. Telling cool parables about God’s grace. All of it points to Jesus as the one who is going to undergo His saving work for you. Handed over. Mocked, insulted, spit upon. Scourged. Dead. Risen. Pay attention. We’re about to enter Lent and that’s what it is all about: Jesus going to suffer all things to save you.

The twelves disciples have big question marks above their heads. They still don’t get it. So it’s ironic that Jesus opens the eyes of a blind man. Here is a guy who cries out for Jesus’ mercy. And the crowds tell him to shut up and he just cries out louder. He wants to see! And Jesus opens his eyes so he can. And then he can see Jesus. You: cry out for mercy! Cry out for Jesus to open your eyes and show you God’s mercy and grace and forgiveness. But when you do that, there will be lots of things telling you to be quiet! Stop yelling for Jesus! The devil. The world. Your own sinful nature. It may be your warm bed on a Sunday morning that cries out, “Be quiet! Never mind Jesus. Go back to sleep!” It may be your friends or even family members: “Quiet with all that Jesus talk. It’s not that important!” It may be the people around you or the world that says, “Jesus is irrelevant! Stop calling out to Him. What has he ever done for you and what will He ever do for you?” Cry out to Jesus and everyone and everything will tell you to be quiet! What is it in your life that tells you to shut up and leave Jesus alone? Our repentance is to pay no attention to those things and cry out even louder: “Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Well, is he going to have mercy on you? He already has! The mercy of Jesus is that He gets handed over, mocked, insulted, spit upon, scourged, crucified to death and then rises the third day. What saves you is that whether you are a hard-headed disciple who doesn’t get it, or a blind guy who just wants to see or any other kind of sinner or person–nothing stops Jesus from going to Jerusalem. Nothing can sidetrack Him or turn Him from doing His work of being your Savior. You want the mercy of God? You want God to be merciful to you, a sinner who’s messed it all up? He’s got mercy for you, all right. Mercy on Calvary where He suffers and dies for you. Mercy at the font where He washes the sin crust from your eyes. Mercy in His Word, where He declares your sins forgiven. Mercy at the altar where the handed-over-mocked-insulted-spit-upon-scourged-dead-and-risen body and His blood are given to you to rescue you from blindness, from sin, from every little last bit that stands between you and the Lord. That’s mercy. Jesus is on His way. There’s no stopping Him. He’s gonna be handed over. He’s gonna be mocked, insulted and spit upon. He’s gonna be scourged. He’s gonna die. He’s gonne rise. He’s baptized you. He’s absolved you. He’s gonna give you His body and blood. And He’s going to keep reminding you of your baptism. He’s going to keep absolving you. He’s going to keep giving you His body and blood. That’s the Jesus that He is. His one mission, His work, His goal, is to save you and deliver His salvation to you. Now go in peace because your faith, your Jesus, has made you well. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sexagesimal Sunday 2016

Bible Text: Luke 8:4-15 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Just like last week, the story isn’t about you, it’s about Jesus. The grace of Christ. The generosity of the Lord. Because, again, we have a parable telling us of something that wouldn’t fly in the real world. In the real world you don’t pay everybody the same no matter how much or how little they work. And when you sow seed, when you plant crops, you don’t just throw the seed all over the place. I’m no farmer, but the last time I checked, don’t you plant the seed in well-ordered rows in good soil? Not this farmer. He’s chucking the seed all over the place. It lands on the path. It lands in the thin soil. The thorns. The good dirt. Jesus’ Word isn’t targeted. It’s for everyone. The whole world. This Good News, that Jesus died for sinners and rose again; the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His Name; it’s for everyone. Everywhere. Any time. Any place. That Good News is proclaimed; preached; spoken; delivered. The Son of God came into this world to accomplish our salvation. To deliver us from our sins. To conquer sin and death. To die and rise. Then He ordained preachers and they ordained preachers and the Lord keeps sending preachers so that His Good News is sown and scattered to the ends of the earth. Far and wide. Near and far. Everywhere. A Savior. For you.

But wait! The devil! Like birds snatching up the seed from the path, the devil comes and snatches away the Word from people so they don’t believe. Then there’s the sinful flesh! The Old Adam gives in so easily to temptation. The Word might take root a little bit but it’s thin roots. The Old Adam lets tempation wither away faith. And then the world! The Word gets choked because the person who hears it is overcome by the worries and cares of the world about all sorts of things. These are the things that could rob us of the Word. They just are. It’s not as if the Word is not strong. It’s that there are things trying to destroy the Word and faith in Christ and the devil, the world, and our sinful natures are working together to make that happen. In simple terms this is the answer to the question: Why do some people hear the Word but don’t believe? Why do some people stop coming to church? Why did they get confirmed and then never come back? Why were they baptized but now you never see them? What happened to the ones who heard the Word but are nowhere to be found? Jesus answers it. These enemies snatch, wither, and choke the Word. And without the Word, we will bring forth no good fruit. Fruits of faith which trusts in Christ and fruits of good works which serve our neighbor.

So which one are you? Path? Thin soil? Thorny ground? Good dirt? Wait a minute… I’ll tell you which one you are. You are the disciples to whom Jesus says, “To you has been made known the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” You are the ones who are warned by the “seeing but not seeing and hearing but not hearing” words of Jesus to pay attention and treasure this saving Word. You are the ones to whom the Lord has given His Word and planted it and brought forth fruit. You are the disciples who have been given the “God’s-eye” view of how this works: the Word is for everyone. Splashed upon you in baptism. Fed to you in the Supper. Preached into your ears. Your repentance is to cry out to Jesus that you don’t want to be unseeing or unhearing, but that His Word would do its work in you. Your clinging to Jesus is to trust in Him that He will protect the Word in you from the devil birds, the thing soil of your sinful flesh, and the thorns of the world in order to bring forth a good crop from you. Here we come before Jesus and say, “Yes, Lord, it would be so easy to let the devil have it or let it wither or be choked to death. Yet you have promised me mysteries. Your death and resurrection. Your forgiveness. So plant your Word in me and make me a true believer who bears fruit. The fruit of faith which grows stronger as it trusts your good and gracious Word and the fruit of good works which seek the best for and help the people around me and in my life.” In short, this parable teaches us to learn that the Word is the Lord’s, the growth of that Word is the Lord’s and it is all a gift that we want to have a part in. And the fact that you are hearing this parable preached right now is Christ’s own proof to you that He will do exactly that: save you from sin and death and bring forth in your life a great big harvest of faith and love. Because the Sower went out to sow, and He has sowed life and salvation in you through His Word. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Septuagesima 2016

Bible Text: Matthew 20:1-16 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

There are two ways you can deal with God. The first is that you can work out an agreement with Him. Earn what you get. Like the guys who got hired first. You work a day, you get a denaius, a day’s wage. People do this. They want God to do something in exchange for their good behavior or fixing something in their lives. “God, if you save me, I’ll do x, y, or z.” “Jesus, help me and I’ll be a better person.” This is how the world figures God works. (Otherwise, those guys wouldn’t have assumed they were going to get more when the others got the same.) God gives you what you earn. You get what you deserve. That doesn’t usually work so well because you’re going to get what you deserve when you don’t hold up your end of the bargain. Sinners don’t keep the commandments. They may be hired in the morning but there’s no way they did a full day’s work. The worst thing about dealing with God this way is that in the end, all you have is what you have earned and that will never be enough for eternal life and paradise. You want to deal with God like that, go ahead, but the result will be very sad. “Take what you got and go away.” But the other way of dealing with God isn’t about you at all. It’s about His grace. It’s about Him giving you not what is fair, not what you’ve earned, but what His generosity comes up with: forgiveness of sins and eternal life. That comes to you not because of you, but because of Him, His grace, His mercy, His generosity. His gifts are just that: gifts. Undeserved, given freely, given to you and the world.

I should think that the less you worked in the vineyard, the more generous a denarius is. If you work all day and you get paid a day’s wage, well, meh, that’s not that big of a deal. If you worked half the day and got a day’s wage, that’s pretty cool. If you only worked an hour and got a day’s wage? Awesome! And here’s the point: We could extend that out infinitely when it comes to our sinfulness. If you don’t have a lot of sins, what Jesus has for you isn’t that impressive. But if we understand just exactly what it is the Law says about us, that no sin is too small to condemn us and no work is big enough to save us or make us right, then we’ll begin to see just what exactly Jesus has done. His work. His bearing the heat of the day. His brow crowned with thorns, His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced for blood and water to flow. His enduring the agony of death and the punishment of the Law for those who wouldn’t lift a finger to keep it. His death on the cross in the place of sinners who demand something from God and think they’ve earned something when they’ve earned nothing. It is the death of Christ for sinners that is the demonstration of the vineyard owner’s mercy in giving all of us way more than we deserve. To put it another way: the point of the parable isn’t something about us but something about God. It’s that He is merciful and He dishes out that mercy to those who don’t deserve it at all. It’s His forgiveness, life, and salvation to do with what He wants. And he wants to give it to you.

And He does. At the font. At the altar. From His Word. From this pulpit. Grace. Mercy. Not what is fair. What is “just.” What is “right.” He gives you the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and salvation. He rescues you from death and the devil. He opens heaven and paradise to you. Why? Because you earned it? Nope. Worked for it? Nope. Kept your end of some bargain with God? Nope again. He gives it to you because His mercy is His to do with what He wants. And He wants you to have it. To have all of it. To have the Jesus-born-of-a-woman-grown-up-to-die-and-rise-for-you mercy that means it’s yours. Look around at the church. Here you are. Brought in by the Lord. Some of you were scooped up by Jesus when you were babies. For others it was later in life. Some of you have rotten, obvious sins, and others have dark, hidden sins. Some of you are dealmakers with the Lord. Others might not even know what to try to negotiate. Some have drifted away and been brought back. Others of you have been here your whole lives. The thing is, none of that is the point. Time frames and quantities of sins and all of that is really not the point at all. Jesus is. He has borne the heat of the day for you. And you receive a wage based on His work. The vineyard owner is super generous. He’s crazy generous because He pays people like no other employer ever: not on your hours worked or your performance, but because He likes to gift His riches to you. And that’s what He does. After Transfiguration last week, it probalby won’t surprise you to learn that right after this Gospel lesson too, Jesus gives another “going to Jerusalem to die and rise” speech. That’s because it is by His death and resurrection, by His water, Word, body and blood, that you are called and chosen to be on the receiving end of His immeasurable gifts. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.