Who is a sermon written for?

Last Sunday I preached a sermon about why God does not take our troubles away from us.

Looking at Numbers 21 and John 3 I want to understand what it means for Moses to lift up the bronze serpent and for the Son of Man to be lifted up. Why didn’t God just drive away the snakes from the people in the wilderness. The people repented of their disobedience and they asked God and Moses to forgive them. God certainly brought his forgiveness and strength to the people, but he did not take the snakes away. Instead he told Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and hoist it up on a pole. Then when anyone was beaten and they looked upon the bronze serpent they would no longer suffer the pain of the snake bite.

I think the truth is that God does not want us to only seem him present in our lives when he takes away our troubles but also that he is present and victorious in our troubles. When Jesus is lifted up on the cross we witness the Son of Man suffering all the backwards love of selfishness. He takes that upside down hate and transforms the cross into the presence of his mercy for us in the midst of our suffering.

There are some relationships that we wish would just go away because we are exhausted from trying to figure out how God can be at work in that friendship. I am getting tired of death and dying happening around me. It would be great if God would just stop this pain and make all these troubles go away. Why? Why is the God who is the king of kings not doing this for me?

Truth is I need to be reminded of how to see God present on the cross for me. He is for me in my suffering and pain. I will be stronger when I see him in the crosses I carry in my life. I can never carry these crosses on my own, the burden is too much and the journey is too long. If I know that Jesus is with me in my burden-bearing-crosses, then I know I can carry them.

On Sunday people thanked me for preaching this sermon. It is always encouraging to hear from people on Sunday about the sermon I preached. Some wondered if I preached the sermon for them on Sunday. I wrote this sermon more because this is a message I need to hear for myself. As a preacher, I use sermons to encourage and strengthen both the people and myself.

I will sometimes write a sermon because of what I know other people are going through in their lives. I wrote this sermon because I need to be confident that God is in this world of suffering.


Come and See–The Invitation of the Gospel

We started a journey through the gospel of Mark, with the Baptism of our Lord. But this Sunday we make a slight diversion over to the Gospel of John.

It is helpful to see our “next day” text from John in the context of what has happened in the other days with Jesus. Because you see John 1:43-51 is the third “next day” story in the first chapter of the Gospel of John.

The Gospel of John opens with the introduction of the Word of God made flesh and dwelling among us. In those days John is asked, “Who are you?” He confesses and does not deny, “I am not the Christ.”

They ask, “What then…”

He answers them, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness…”

Then the first “next day” is John pointing to Jesus and confessing, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

The second “next day” John again points to Jesus and says about him, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Two of John’s disciples heard him, and they followed Jesus. I always find the first words that Jesus speaks in a story important. Besides the first words in a particular event, we also hear his first words in the whole Gospel of John. Jesus asks them, “What are you seeking?” I want to think about what I am looking for when I follow Jesus. Am I looking for a teacher, a miracle worker, a mentor, savior, or something else?

These two answered, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” These words from Jesus are words of invitation and promise. The invitation is to come and follow him. The promise is that they will see where he dwells. One of those two was Andrew, the brother of Peter. Andrews goes to find his brother and brings him to Jesus.

Now we arrive at our “next day.” Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Philip is going to follow Jesus, and he goes to share this good news with his friend, Nathanael. He shares with Nathanael the good news that they have found the one that Moses in the Law and the prophets wrote about.

But Nathanael is skeptical. Philip may have known what kind of response to expect from his friend. I wonder how any of us would have reacted to Nathanael’s scathing criticism. Remarkably, Philip responds with an invitation that is filled with trust.

“Come and See.”

The answer to Nathanael’s outlook that nothing good has been found, because nothing good is ever going to come out of Nazareth, is to respond with invitation and trust.

Philip shows to me that trust in the good news shall be my guide through even the most challenging of conversations. The answer to doubt and anger is to respond with invitation and trust that Jesus will reveal the truth.

I am not the one that will convert. I am not the one that will change the hearts of the hard-hearted. I must trust in Jesus to be the one that turns doubt towards trust.

United with Christ

John 17:1-11
Jesus prays to His father and asks that we may be one just as He and the father are one.

In this prayer for unity Christ longs for the glory of God to be known.

Jesus talks about eternal life in terms of knowing the Father and Jesus the Christ.

How do we know God?

Jesus describes it through his work of manifesting the name of God and sharing the Word with the world that we might believe in Him and the one whom sent Him.


On the Way

This weekend I am preaching on John 14:1-14. This text is well known to me as a text for funerals. Just this week I shared these words with people who gathered for the funeral of Bruno Hanses.

I once preached a sermon using a hook I heard from someone else, “Eternal Home Makeover.” I looked how Jesus promises to prepare a place for us. I imagine that Jesus knows how to design and prepare the perfect place for us to dwell with Him for eternity.

This weekend I am preaching a sermon about Life Together on the way with the Risen Lord. I appreciate Thomas’ question to Jesus, “Lord, how can we follow you of we don’t know the way?”

I don’t know where my life is going and I don’t know the path that my kids lives will take. Thomas, I understand your struggle. How can I follow you Jesus when I don’t even know where you are going? What if your path is too hard? What if you go somewhere I haven’t been before? Am I ready for this adventure?

I think Professor Arand in the Concordia Journal put this text in a good place for me. We want to know God and in this world we can witness much about the awesome and creative power of the Almighty Father. But Jesus has come so we can know so much more about God. The way to the Father will not be following in humbleness along the path of His amazing power. I follow Jesus. I don’t always know where He is going on the way, but I trust in His mercy that He is taking me to the Father. By the mercy of Jesus I go on the way, even the rocky paths make more sense when I trust in Jesus.

I will not be afraid, I follow mercy. I follow Jesus.