Easter Day at Hope

Pastor Simek

Easter Day at Hope, Jerseyville

4/21/19

“A New Creation”

Sermon Text: Isaiah 65:17-25

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” That is the first Easter message, the first resurrection proclamation. He is risen. But it is not the first time it had been said. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Jesus had predicted it before His crucifixion that He would die and be raised and it happened.

Jesus died. He was crucified. He endured an excruciating, painful death, suffering at the hands of sinful men, suffering because of sinful men, suffering and dying because of you, because of your sin. You are a sinner, a son of Adam through whom comes sin, disobedience and unfaithfulness, even doubt so that the resurrection of Jesus would seem to you as an idle tale as it had the disciples. What does His resurrection have to do to me? What power or difference does it make to me? These are just words, some story or fairytale, that with them or without them it isn’t going to change my tomorrow.

And while I would certainly argue that they will, putting that aside for a moment, how short-sighted are we if we simply live only for tomorrow? And in every other aspect of our life, we don’t. We buy groceries for more than tomorrow. We save money or at least budget our money assuming we will live longer than just tomorrow. So why do we not think beyond tomorrow, beyond this week, month, or even year when it comes to the things of God and the resurrection of Christ?

Because more certain than even tomorrow is the end. You are a son of Adam and in Adam all die. All. Not even Jesus was able to escape this fate. You will not escape death. You will die. Then what? What happens after death? Heaven or hell? Well even that is a bit short-sighted on the scale of all eternity. What happens after death is resurrection. What happens after Jesus dies for you? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Death is not the end. Death does not have the final say because Christ has been raised from death which means you and all people, all, will be raised up. And all those in Christ, will be given eternal life. Just as death came through one man, Adam, so through one man, Jesus, all will be raised up and made alive. Jesus takes on death, endures death, to overcome death and bring life. Death has no sting. Sin has no power. They have been defeated. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And in this resurrection, everything is different. Sin is different. It, you, are forgiven. Death is different. Tomorrow is different. All of time and eternity is different because Christ has been raised. All things are made new. Sin and death no longer rule this life and this earth, but God reigns in power over it, having power over sin and death, forgiving sin, saving and raising from death.

And that changes everything about today and tomorrow. Tomorrow, you are not living in your sin, bearing the burden and guilt of your wrong, waiting for the inevitability of death to strike. You have been set free by the cross and the empty tomb. You are free to live without fear. You are free to rejoice and be glad. You are free to look at a friend or loved one who has passed away and say, “I will see you again,” because it’s not over. You are free to look at your own death, to lay on your own death bed, to be pinned and strangled by death and find comfort, even smile and laugh at death, because as hard as death fights you, as soon is it wins it loses because after death comes resurrection because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And in this resurrection, the New Life, New Jerusalem, New Heaven and New Earth, “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” The pain and suffering, the difficulty and struggle, every hardship you have faced in this life will be gone and done. And what of the future? “Be glad and rejoice forever… for behold I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people.” The future is gladness, rejoicing, and joy forever. “No more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days.” There will be no weeping, no mourning, no distress and no death. The infant shall live. The old man will be alive. There will be no more death, no more expiration, no more end. For all of eternity we will live in our homes and our vineyards, in the Paradise of the New Creation which God has prepared for us to be with Him. God and Man, God dwelling with you, forever.

This account of the resurrection is no idle tale. It is no myth or fairytale that makes no difference. It is the greatest Gospel proclamation that we would run to the empty tomb, run to the resurrected body of Christ, run to His Word and Sacraments and marvel at them and receive them because they change everything, today, tomorrow, and for all eternity because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Good Friday at Hope

Pastor Simek

Good Friday at Hope, Jerseyville

4/19/19

“Who’s Right? Who’s Wrong”

Sermon Text: Luke 22:39-23:56

They had to be right. There was no other way, no other possibility. The Jews had made up their minds and they had to be right. Jesus was not God. His trial was not about His innocence or His guilt, it was about whether or not He agreed with them. Jesus knew it. He knew His trial was a mockery and a sham. He even tells them that “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.” This is not a trial for the truth, but for agreement because there was nothing that was going to change the minds of the Jewish council. They had to be right.

All of the signs Jesus had done didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that Jesus had turned water into wine, had cast out demons and healed people, had preached truth, forgiveness, and shown true love. Jesus could not be God. It didn’t matter that Pilate didn’t agree with them. It didn’t matter that he found no guilt in Jesus, that he saw that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death, that he did everything he could to get Jesus released and tell the Jews that they were wrong to cry out for Jesus to be crucified. Jesus would not comply, would not agree, would not affirm their truth and He had to die.

They had to be in the right. Their truth had to be true and anything and everything was subject to them. They put themselves in the place of God, subjecting all things to themselves. Their thoughts and their ways were of highest authority and when Jesus didn’t fit into their box of what a man was supposed to be and do, yet didn’t fit into their box of who the Messiah was supposed to be and do, they crucified Him.

We do the same thing. We put our truth, our ideas and opinions first and foremost and expect God to fit into them, into the boxes we create for Him. We want to say that He must do this or that in order to be God. He must not let anything bad happen to me or He is wrong. He must come to me in this way or do this thing for me or He must not be God. Or we put demands on Him and what He does because we think we deserve it as though He owes us. I have been good, I have done things the right way, I have followed the Law so You have to or ought to do what I want. I’ve done what you’ve asked of me, now You do what I ask of you.

It doesn’t matter what He has already done. It doesn’t matter what He has promised you and how He has promised to deliver it. It doesn’t matter that He has told you that the grace and assurance you seek is given to you in your baptismal waters, is proclaimed to you in His absolution and His Word every Sunday, is delivered to you through bread and wine that is the body and blood of Jesus. He has shown us who He is and how He is going to work for us, but we want it our way. We tell Him that He has to or we want Him to do something else, something that fits our demands and expectations, something more or at least different. So Jesus is crucified.

He is beaten, blindfolded, slapped in the face, punched in the nose, and mocked. He is flogged, whipped with the cat-of-nine-tails, with leather laced with bone and glass that would rip His flesh from His bones because we have to be right. He is nailed to a cross, stakes are driven through His wrist piercing every tendon and nerve, sending shooting pain through His body for as long as He hangs there, struggling to breath, bleeding from the crown of thorns on His head, the nails through His wrists, His bare beaten back as it scrapes against the splintered wood of the cross so that He can lift Himself to take just one more breath because you have to be right. He dies because you want to make yourself God, put yourself above Him and demand that He conforms to what you think.

But you are not always right. The Jewish council is not right. Pilate is right, there is no guilt in Jesus. The Roman centurion who sees His death is right, certainly this man was innocent, righteous, right. Jesus is right. He is the Messiah. He is the Christ. He is God and Man for you. He is the one who is forsaken by God for you. He is the one who is scorned and despised, stricken, smitten, and afflicted for you just as the Psalms and the Prophets said. He is the one who is crucified for you, made wrong for your wrong, to make you right, righteous, and innocent by His righteousness and innocence. By His death, you are forgiven of all of your sins, all of your arrogance, and all of your self-righteousness. That is what Jesus says and He is right.

And He can and will prove it. He proves that He is right in His death and He will prove that He is right again. God, the real God, not those who make themselves a god, will prove it. He will speak and give the final word as to who is right and who is wrong on the third day, Sunday, and your third day. On Sunday, He will declare and prove without a doubt that Jesus is right, righteous, and innocent. And on your Third Day, when you and all people stand before Him, He will prove without a doubt that you are right, righteous, innocent, and forgiven. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

 

Maundy Thursday at Hope

Pastor Simek

Maundy Thursday at Hope, Jerseyville

4/18/19

“A New Covenant”

Sermon Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

God is faithful. God is true. When God makes a promise, draws up a contract and a covenant, you can be certain that He will do it and keep His promise. He will fulfill and do exactly what He says He will. He always has and He always will. Since the very beginning, when He made a promise to Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit of the tree of knowing good and evil they would surely die, and sure enough, they died. Yet when they ate the fruit He also made them another promise, the Promise of a savior that would bring them life.

And when God makes a promise to the people of Israel while they are in the wilderness, makes a covenant with them, you can be certain He will carry it out. In this covenant, God sets before them a way of life and a way of death. He gives to them the Ten Commandments and the whole law and says that if they do these things, they will surely live, and if they don’t, they will surely die.

This is the covenant that God made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt, and they agreed. They said they would do all that God told them, that they would be obedient. He would be their faithful husband and they would be His faithful bride. And God was faithful. He cared for them, took them by the hand and guided them out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. God was faithful to this covenant, but the people were not. They broke the covenant. They did not uphold their end of the bargain. They desired not their Husband, but themselves. They chose the way of death and as God promised, they died.

We, too, are guilty of breaking this covenant. We are not faithful to our God. We have failed to do the Ten Commandments and be obedient. We are guilty of desiring not God, but ourselves and our own will and our own way. We have chosen the way of death, and as God promised, we will die.

But our death doesn’t do anyone any good. God does not benefit. It does not make Him more righteous when He punishes the guilty sinner. God does not want us to die even if it is a death we have brought upon ourselves. He wants for us a way of life which means we need something new, and He promises, in Jeremiah, a new covenant with His people.

And in order to bring about the new, He must fulfill the old. The old covenant, the way of life and death must be brought to a close, the agreement not ended, but upheld to the very end. And this covenant and agreement, this marriage, between God and His people is “’till death do us part.” So either we or God must die. The old covenant can only be fulfilled by death, by blood, and God has no desire for your death. He is the one who dies and fulfills this old covenant so that He might give us the new.

And this very night, the night in which He was betrayed, He gives us a new covenant, a covenant with His people in His blood by His death. The old fulfilled, the new instituted, not by the blood of an animal, not by the blood of a goat or of a lamb, but a covenant, a promise, a contract and agreement made by the blood of a man, the blood of God and His life which is given and poured out that you would not walk in the way of death, but the way of life.

For this new covenant which God makes with His people is not a way of life or a way of death. It is not a matter of do it and live or don’t do it and die. The death has been taken away, fulfilled at the cross in the death of Christ. In this new covenant, there is only life. This new covenant which is made by the pouring out of Christ’s blood is a covenant of forgiveness.

In the promise of this new covenant, God says that in it, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” In the new covenant made by the blood of Jesus your iniquity is forgiven, your sin is remembered no longer. It is a covenant, drawn up by God, signed and sealed by the blood of Jesus, so that as sure as we are that Christ was crucified and died, we can be equally sure that our sin is forgiven and God has prepared for us the way of life.

And this life given to us in the new covenant, in the death of Jesus, is the life of His resurrection, that though we die, yet we shall live. And the promise of this forgiveness and life is delivered to us in bread and wine, His body and blood, for us Christians to eat and to drink, to taste it and be assured and confident that God has delivered His Son to death for us, delivered that death and the blood of His covenant to you, delivered you from death to eternal life. That is His promise, the promise of the One who is faithful and true, the promise of the one who always does what He says He will do. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Palm Sunday at Hope

Pastor Simek

Palm Sunday at Hope, Jerseyville

4/14/19

“The King of Peace”

Sermon Text: Zechariah 9:9-12

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

God has done it before. In fact, He has done it a lot. When His people have been in slavery, oppression, or under attack by an enemy, God has raised up for them a champion time and time again. When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God raised up Moses to set His people free. When they were in the Promised Land and were attacked by surrounding countries, God raised up for them judges, like Samson, who led and fought off their oppressors, bringing peace to Israel. When the Israelites wanted a king, He gave them David, a king after God’s own heart to lead the nation, then David’s son Solomon, who brought Israel to the height of its power and wealth before the nation divided. And after that, God continued to bring forth kings and prophets in the midst of the turmoil during the history of Israel, its conquering, exile, and return of the people to the Promised Land, all the while promising a king that would eventually come and bring everlasting peace.

On Palm Sunday, the Jews think that king has come. They greet Jesus who was riding on a donkey just as Solomon once had. They laid down their cloaks and palm branches before Him, welcoming Him into Jerusalem the way that had done with kings before Him. They cried Hosanna, save us, crying out to God that they would be set free from the oppression of Rome. They looked for their peace in a king, a political leader, even though time and time again, throughout their entire history, these kings had only given temporary peace.

You think that they would learn that true, everlasting peace does not come from the king of a nation or some political leader or way of life. Although, you would think that we would have learned that too. You would think that we would know better than to put our hopes of peace in a person, a king or a president or any political figure, because even the best ones, even Moses, even David and Solomon, are not able to bring about real peace.

So our hope for peace should not, and cannot, be in politics for that kind of hope is in vain. If your hope for peace, for a better life, better education, better protection of the unborn and the aged is in a president or a political party, your hope is misplaced. If your identity is first placed in a nation, that I am an American, your identity is misplaced. If your identity as an American first and everything else second makes you question Scripture or you impose your American worldview on the Bible so that it fits into your identity as American, then your identity is misplaced.

The Israelites were not saved from Egypt in the days of Moses, or preserved in the days of the judges, or prospered in the days of David and Solomon because they were the nation of Israel, but because they were children of Abraham, not by blood, but by faith. Their identity was not in their politics, but in their savior. They were, first, children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were, first, children of the Promise. They were, first, Christians and everything else fit into that identity and only then were they, and are we, able to see Jesus for who He is.

When we throw out our preconceived notions, throw out all American precedent, throw out our western, American, worldview and find our identity, first, in being a Christian, we can see what Jesus is all about. Do not let politics or your political identity as an American be your god and idol before Christ. Repent.

Put God and your Christian identity first and make everything else fit into that. Define America and what it means to be an American first according who you are and what it means to be a Christian. Impose Christianity on what it means to be an American rather Americanizing Christianity. Don’t look or try to find hope in politics or a leader, a king, or a kingdom of this world, but look to Christ.

In Him is a true, eternal King. In Him we can rejoice greatly and shout aloud. He is a truly righteous King and He alone brings everlasting peace. And He does it not by conquering kingdoms and nations of this world, but by defeating sin, conquering the devil, overcoming death and hell, making peace for Man with God. He does it by the cross. There is where He is high and lifted up. There is where He is a champion and king. There is where He is victorious.

While our identity in this world says there is no victory in death, God says His greatest glory is dying for you, shedding His blood for you, making a new covenant with you to set you free from the waterless pit of hell and bring you into the stronghold and mighty fortress of His kingdom. By His death, you are forgiven for your national idolatry, and made a citizen in the kingdom of God.

And by His resurrection, you too are raised. You are raised a child of Abraham by faith, a child of God in the Spirit so that when this world fails to bring peace and your body fails to bring life, God will raise you once more to live in His eternal kingdom of peace. His is a kingdom not of this world, but of the next, the new, the New Heaven and New Earth, the New Jerusalem. There He is and will ever be enthroned to live and rule in peace. There shall be no division, no enemy, no opposing party or candidate, only God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, upon the throne ruling in unity and peace, dwelling with Man, living at peace with you forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Lenten Wednesday 5 at Hope

Pastor Simek

Lenten Wednesday 5 at Hope, Jerseyville

4/10/19

“Passover Lamb”

Sermon Text: Exodus 12:1-14

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Similar to Good Friday, Passover is sort of a strange day to celebrate. At Passover, in every Egyptian home, someone died. There was not one home of all the Egyptians where death didn’t strike, yet it is a celebrated event. It is a reminder of the tenth and final plague to strike the land of Egypt when God passed through the land and killed every firstborn of man and beast. Passover celebrates death.

You might argue that it’s not the death of the Egyptians that is celebrated, but that the Israelites did not die in this plague, but the only reason the Israelites did not die is because a lamb died. A lamb without spot or blemish, a perfect lamb a year old, fully grown and in its prime was slaughtered. An innocent victim was killed, its blood, shed, the lamb, dead. So even if it doesn’t celebrate the death of the Egyptians, it does celebrate the death of the lamb.

And by the death of this lamb, the shedding of its blood which was then painted upon the door posts and lintel of the homes of the Israelites, the people of God were passed over. They were spared death because the lamb died. They were saved because the lamb was slaughtered. They were set free from their slavery to the Egyptians because the blood of the lamb was shed.

And every year this was celebrated and remembered with a meal, a Feast of Unleavened Bread, a Passover Seder, where the story was retold to remind the people that a lamb and its blood had saved them from slavery and death and set them free to live as God’s own children.

It sounds bad, even sick, twisted, or demented to celebrate death, even that of a lamb. Passover is a strange celebration, but one that is not all that foreign to us because we, as Christians, celebrate death too. We celebrate not our death or the death of our enemies, but the death of a Lamb in our place, on our behalf, by whose death we are set free and saved.

On Good Friday, in just a little more than a week, we will celebrate the death of the Lamb, the shedding of His blood that we would be passed over from the plague of death coming for us. For you, O Man, you are dust and to dust you shall return, but by His blood, you shall return to life. The blood of Jesus is shed for you. His life is given for you so that as judgment and death falls upon those around us, you are passed over by death and given eternal life.

And we celebrate this death not just on Good Friday, but in every Supper. We don’t have a Passover Seder, but we eat and drink at the wedding feast of the Lamb and His kingdom. And we retell the story, remind ourselves every week that our Lord Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb, on the night in which He was betrayed, when He was arrested, tried, judged and condemned, beaten and flogged, shed His blood and was crucified, hanging on a cross until He died, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take, eat. This is My body which is given (on the cross) for you.” And in the same way also, He took the cup after supper, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Drink of it all of you. This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you (on the cross) for the forgiveness of sins.”

Here in these words and in this meal we celebrate death, the death of the true Passover Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who saves and rescues us from slavery to our sin and from all the power of death and the devil that we would be set free, that we would live even when we die, that we would be called children of God. That is the story of our salvation. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fifth Sunday in Lent at Hope

Pastor Simek

The Fifth Sunday in Lent at Hope, Jerseyville

4/7/19

“Judgment Two Ways”

Sermon Text: Isaiah 43:16-21

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Our God is a God of awesome power and might. There truly is no ruler, no army, no nation, or any other god like Him. He is able to create and move mountains with only a word. He created the whole world and everything in it in only six days, speaking and it was done. And He has shown His power and might throughout history, even within the U.S. even as recent as in your lifetime and mine.

We have all seen the beauty of creation: the plants and flowers as they bloom and grow, the fresh layer of perfectly white snow that covers the grass as far as we can see. It really is pretty, until it melts and the waters and rivers rise and the next thing you know the roads and farm land is underwater. Then we see the power of God in the water, washing away not just dirt, but cars or even houses, dealing with the damage of the water in the homes that remain. Or we can see His power in the air, in the wind, in a tornado as it picks up cars, trees, and the roof of a building. Our God is a God of awesome power and might.

And as much as we have witnessed His work, there were few, if any, other times in all of history, where God revealed His power as clearly as in the Exodus. Those are the works of God that Isaiah is referencing in our reading today. The ten plagues that fell upon Egypt, but left the people of Israel untouched. Finally convincing Pharaoh to let God’s people go after killing the firstborn of all Egypt, sparing the Israelites by the blood of the Passover lamb. Leading the people of Israel in a pillar of cloud and of fire, dwelling with them in it, protecting His people when the whole of the army of Egypt came after them, bringing their enemies to a halt while Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, making “a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters” for His people.

So God saved His people by His miraculous and mighty works. However Egypt had been destroyed, plundered, and exiled. The whole of their army that chased the Israelites into the sea, the “chariot and horse, army and warrior, they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick.” God’s power and His judgment goes two ways. There are two options. Not everyone is saved by His mighty work, but some are condemned.

It’s not what God wants. He gave Pharaoh nine chances, nine other plagues, before bringing about the death of the first born. The Egyptian army didn’t have to follow the Israelites into the sea, yet through the hardness of the heart of Pharaoh and his people, they brought judgment and condemnation, the limitless power of the almighty God, upon themselves.

So beware the hardness of your own heart. Beware of your own ego and self-righteousness. Beware of your own entitlement and desire lest you be like the wicked tenants and find yourself casting out the heir and killing him for your own peril because if God can kill all of the first born sons of an entire nation overnight and can drown the entire army of one of the most powerful countries in the world in a moment, what could He do to me?

So repent of your hardness of heart, your ego, and your self-righteousness. Repent of your own desires and the desires of men but set your heart, your ego, and your desire upon the things of God. Because this God of limitless power and might has not drowned you or destroyed you for your sin, but sent His Son to suffer and die in your place.

Your judgment for your sin has been executed and carried out upon Jesus. God has used His power and might not to kill you, but to save you, and He has done it in a way that shows His almighty power is even greater than what is shown in the plagues and the sea. There, He takes the away the life of His enemy while preserve the lives of His people, but in His new thing, He brings forth life from death.

He does not just kill Jesus and take His life away. The Passover lamb is not merely slaughtered to preserve the lives of the living, but the Passover Lamb of God is brought back to life from the dead. He is crucified and yet risen again. God has power not just to take life, but to give it and has all power and might over all of the living and the dead. He has the power not simply to keep you alive, but to bring you back to life from the dead.

And that is exactly what He has done for you. You who were dead in your trespasses and sins were washed by water and Word, crucified with Christ and risen with Him. He drowns your sin, extinguished and quenched like a wick, forgiven not in the Red Sea but at the font. There you are not just kept alive, but brought back and saved from your slavery and death to sin, created new, raised up a new creation.

And as He has done it there, He will do it again. Just as Christ rose from the dead and walked out of His tomb, so too shall you be raised from the dead, walk out of your tomb, body and soul together for your death has been overcome by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Your sin and death has been defeated by the One who has power over death. Our God of awesome power and might has used His almighty power not to kill you, but to save you, to give you life right now, in this world, and there in eternity, in His kingdom, in His New Creation, where He gives to His people food and drink, the people whom He has formed and saved by Himself, by the blood of His Son, “that they might declare (His) praise.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

 Lenten Wednesday 4 at Hope

Pastor Simek

Lenten Wednesday 4 at Hope, Jerseyville

4/3/19

“Consecrating Blood”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 10:1-10, 15-19

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is a tale of two goats, one for the Lord and one for Azazel. The one for Azazel we talked about, the scapegoat upon which the sins of the people were put that it would be taken to the wilderness, to hell, separating the people from their sins. It was a goat marked for life, even if that life was in hell, in place of the people.

The goat of the Lord is a different story. This goat was not marked for life, but for death, a sin offering for the people, its blood shed to make atonement. So the goat was killed, its blood shed and drained from its body to be used for a holy purpose, to make clean that which was unclean because the clean and the unclean don’t mix. There is no “kind of clean.”

And the Lord is clean. He is holy. So if you want to be with the Lord, to be in His presence or for Him to be in your presence, you must be clean, holy, perfect, and righteous. The people of Israel were not. That is what got Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron killed, using common fire for a holy purpose. The people were not clean. The temple was not clean. The tabernacle was not clean. Atonement needed to be made. Blood had to be shed. So the blood of the goat of the Lord was shed to make holy that which was unholy, to make clean that which was unclean.

The blood of the goat was taken inside the veil, inside the Holy of Holies, to the most holy place, to the mercy seat of God and was sprinkled upon the ark and in the Holy Place because of its uncleanness, and it was atoned for, made right, and cleansed. And the same thing was done to the altar and the tent of meeting. All of the places where the Lord was and had promised to be was cleansed and consecrated by the blood of the goat of God.

It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” but its meaning is every bit as significant, the Goat of God who atones for the sins of the people, Jesus, whose blood cleanses and consecrates us. He is the goat marked for life and for death. He is the scapegoat and the goat of sacrifice. His blood is shed upon the cross. His life is given for the life of the people that they may be made right.

His blood and water that flow from His side atone for you, for your sin, for your uncleanness. You are washed in His blood. It is sprinkled, pour upon you three times in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and you are cleansed and made holy. You are made a dwelling place for God, the Holy Spirit. You are His own temple.

And His blood poured out upon the cross does not just flow and sprinkle from the font, but from the altar. There His blood is poured out for you to drink for the forgiveness of your sins. By His blood you are made right, the common becomes holy, the sinner becomes a saint. And as you drink the wine that is His blood, He dwells within you. You are in communion, in union, with Him. You are made a fit, right, and holy place and person where God promises to dwell. The Lord is with you by His blood, the blood of the Goat of God.

And not only is the Lord with you, but you are and shall be with Him. The kingdom of God is yours today and will be yours forever. You dwell with God today and for all of eternity. Your home is not here, now, in this world. Heaven isn’t even your home. Your eternal home is in the New Heaven and the New Earth in the day of resurrection where you shall be united again with Christ and all believers because you have been atoned for, consecrated, and made holy by the blood of the Goat of God, shed for you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent at Hope

Pastor Simek

 The Fourth Sunday in Lent at Hope, Jerseyville

4/31/19

“Angerless”

Sermon Text: Isaiah 12:1-6 and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

My sons. My boys. You’ve heard our story. Some of you probably call my youngest the prodigal son. Some of you might call my oldest self-righteous. You may not think very highly of either of them, but they are my boys and there is nothing like them in the world. I made them. I begot them. They are my flesh and blood, and I love my boys. I always have. From when they were born and I got to hold them I knew I loved them. I watched them grow up, taught them everything I knew, poured every bit of knowledge and passion and love that I had into them, that they would grow up to be strong, independent men, good men, that they would, one day, be men like me, have my farm and their own, have a family, and love their children the way I love them. That’s all I ever wanted for them.

But my youngest, my boy, my baby, he wanted his inheritance. And I remember being his age, being impatient, wanting everything right now, living for the moment. And it wasn’t easy to give him what he wanted. It wasn’t easy to accept that, really, what he was asking was for me to be dead. It wasn’t just the stuff, it’s me. He doesn’t want me. I’m dead to him. How would you feel if your son, your baby, told you that?

Angry? Furious? Full of hate, rage, or vengeance? I understand that, but more than any of that, I was sad. I was hurt and disappointed. The seeds of anger were still there. There were times while he was gone that I got angry. He turned his back on me. He took a portion of what I had work so hard my entire life for and just wasted it. He spent it on meaningless stuff, stuff that gave him happiness only for a moment. He was reckless, living a dangerous, frightening lifestyle, putting himself at risk. Not only did he cut me out of his life, he cut himself out of mine. He left a child-sized hole in my heart and an inheritance sized hole in my land and goods. So yeah, the anger and frustration, that came and went, but I never stopped missing my son. My little boy was gone and the sorrow and sadness, that was there to stay.

Some people told me, “Well at least you still have one left. Your oldest, he’s the good one.” And I loved him too. He was loyal. He worked with me and for me. He did everything I asked, until his brother came home. And I understand, I’m sure he was hurt too. He lost his little brother. The brother he helped take care of, helped raise, worked with everyday, was gone and had abandoned him just as much as me. I thought he would be happy to have him back, the brother sized-hole in his heart filled again, but instead he was angry instead.

It hurt almost as much as when his brother left. My son, the one whom I had given my heart and life to, the one that I worked with in the fields for years, the one I had put my heart and soul into, my hope and my future, my good son, was angry at me because his brother came home. His self-righteousness showed me that I guess he wasn’t the man I expected him to be. He wasn’t the man I raised him to be. He wasn’t the person I wanted him to be because he was just as selfish as his brother, more worried about the goat and the party that he never had or got than the brother he had just gotten back.

I could have gotten angry with him. It wouldn’t have been wrong for me to yell at him. He was being just as selfish as his brother. But again that anger was nothing compared to my sadness and disappointment. I just wanted him to forgive his brother like I had. Forgive him the way I taught him to forgive. After all, it was never supposed to be this way. We were never meant to be split or divided. I just wanted them to be happy. I just wanted to be with them. I just wanted to love them and make everything perfect for them.

I’d give anything for that, to have that moment of joy and peace, to save them and protect them from all sin and every evil, to comfort them when things go wrong and make everything right, everything perfect. Whatever the cost, I’d pay it: a fattened calf, a goat, or a lamb. If it meant taking my best lamb, the perfect one, without spot or blemish, and sacrificing him, I’d do it. I would give the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, see it crucified and die. It would be worth it.

I know my boys don’t deserve it. They didn’t do anything to earn my love when they were born and they certainly haven’t done anything to earn it since. They should be the one making the sacrifice to me, to earn my forgiveness, but I did it for them. I just want them to come back to me. I want them to be with me. I would throw a party for them every day. I would wash them clean, clothe them in the best clothing, the whitest, best robe. I would give them the body of that Lamb to eat and its blood to drink that they would know and be comforted that I put my anger away. It’s gone and done. I forgive them.

I forgive you. If you have wandered like the youngest, squandered My gifts, lived recklessly for the moment, I forgive you. Or if you are the self-righteous, thinking yourself better than your brother, thinking you have earned My love, well you’re not and you haven’t, and I forgive you. I don’t want you in a far of land. I want you with me. I want for everything to be perfect for you. Whatever the cost, I’ve paid it. The Lamb, My Son, Jesus, was crucified for it, for you. Be with me.

I’ve washed you in My forgiveness, with water and My Word, given you the best, whitest robe of righteousness. I’ve prepared a feast, a party for you. The body of the Lamb and His blood is here for you. Eat it and drink it. I forgive you. My anger is turned away. I love you.

Don’t run away. Don’t be angry that your brother ran away. Don’t be angry that he is back. Rejoice. Celebrate with me. The anger is gone and the sadness is no more, we are together again. Shout and sing for joy for your salvation is finished. It is fitting to celebrate and be glad. You were lost and I found you. You were dead and I gave you life. You and your brother and sister beside you, we are together again exactly the way I wanted it, exactly the way it ought to be. We are united again, a family again, and together, all that is mine is yours. Yours is the kingdom of God. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Lenten Wednesday 3 at Hope

Pastor Simek

 Lenten Wednesday 3 at Hope, Jerseyville

3/27/19

“The Goat of Azazel”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 23:1-10, 20-22

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Day of Atonement, or as it’s known to Jews in Hebrew, Yom Kippur. It is the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday today, in part because it was one of the most important holy days then that your average Jew did not have to go to the temple to observe. While the Feast of Booths and Weeks required you to go the temple, Yom Kippur doesn’t, so most Jews continued celebrating it even after the temple fell. And although there’s no requirement for all Jews to go to Jerusalem, originally, it was all about the temple. It was the one time a year when the High Priest was to enter not just the Holy temple, but the Holy of Holies, the holiest place in all the earth and offer a sacrifice.

The sacrifice was a tale of two goats. One goat would be offered to the Lord, that we will talk about next week, and one was for Azazel. Lots were to be cast over these two goats, a sort of flip of the coin/roll of the dice/drawing of straws. This game of chance was thought to be directed by God so that it was God who chose which goat was for Him and which was for Azazel.

The goat for Azazel, our focus today, was a very unique goat and offering because it wasn’t a goat marked for death, but one sent away alive. The High Priest would take this goat, put his hands on the head of the goat and confess the sins of the people. And in this laying on of hands and confession of sins, all the sins of all the people were put upon this goat. He was the one who bore their sins and iniquities.

Then this goat, these sins, were taken out of the city and removed from the people. That is one possible meaning of Azazel. It doesn’t have one definitive definition upon which scholars agree because it is so unique, as unique as this goat offering. However, one understanding of Azazel is a scapegoat. Upon this goat, all the sin, all the blame of the people was put and it bore the fate and punishment for it, being cast out and cast away from the city into the wilderness. Every year a scapegoat, a goat for Azazel, was offered until the final scapegoat was offered.

This goat, the one who truly was the greatest of all time, is the sinless Son of God. Jesus, the goat, was the spotless, unblemished, perfect scapegoat. And John the Baptist laid hands on Him, baptized Him in the Jordan River, where the Father confessed His Son and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove and all the sins in all of the waters of Holy Baptism were put upon Him.

What was confessed and washed off of you in your Baptism, where all of your sins were taken from you and poured into the font, Christ is brought up from the Jordan River, cleansing, purifying those waters that they may be life-giving for you. And bearing all the sins of all the baptized, Jesus is driven out into the wilderness, out of the city, out of the country. And He goes about His ministry, goes to Jerusalem where God’s lot falls upon Him. There, He is taken and cast out of the city once again, carrying His cross and the punishment we deserve for our sins, and He bears it and takes it away from us.

And outside the city, outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus is crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. Which brings us to our other meaning of Azazel, hell. That is where sin goes, that is where the goat was let go, in the wilderness, the desert, the symbol of hell and nothingness. That is where our sins goes, on the back of Jesus as He descends and takes our sin there and leaves it.

The scapegoat takes the sins of the Israelites away so Christ, our scapegoat, takes our sins away, dies with them, carries them into hell so that there is no hell for us. For you, your sins are gone. You are forgiven. Because of your scapegoat who died on the cross for you, you are given eternal life in heaven. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Third Sunday in Lent

Pastor Simek

 The Third Sunday in Lent at Hope, Jerseyville

3/24/19

“Fair and Unfair”

Sermon Text: Ezekiel 33:7-20

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

“It’s not fair! God’s not fair! This shouldn’t be happening to me! I don’t deserve this!” Or at least these are the things we tell ourselves. Or, maybe the most popular one of all, “How could God let this happen? Why would He let this happen?” This is a reaction that the devil has been using for millennia to tear down and destroy faith. It is a reaction that paints God as a bully, that mean big guy in the sky with a magnifying glass scorching us and everything in His path as it goes by. It’s a reaction that paints us as innocent victims, minding our own business, going about our lives, not hurting anyone until God comes and blows everything up. It’s a reaction that can’t find any reason or logic behind the horror and the tragedies of this life and one that doesn’t really want a reason from God, but only from ourselves. It’s a reaction that puts our thoughts and our judgments above those of God.

But God is not a bully. We are not innocent. We might not be able to see a reason behind it other than to say “because God is mean,” but there is a reason. And our thoughts and judgments aren’t higher or better than God’s.

God is good. God is love. He does not want to see you suffer and be miserable and hurt. God takes no pleasure in death. He want you, He wants all people, to live. He wants suffering, pain, and misery to stop. So then why doesn’t it stop?

Sin. It happens because we are not innocent and this world is broken because of it. We are hurting ourselves and one another by our sin and it hurts God to see it because it’s not right. We are not right. Things are not good, they are not even okay. The world is on fire in sin and is headed toward the eternal fires of hell and there is nothing more disappointing, devastating, and painful to God to see His creation continue to wander away from Him to spend eternity separated from Him.

Yet while all this is happening, the very people who are the bullies, who are in the wrong, who are the sinners, are blaming God, the one trying to stop His creation from going to hell. We think He is not being fair. We think that even if we do sin some, we’re only human, surely God should understand that. Surely our best should be enough for Him. He can’t expect us to be perfect like Him. But He created us to be like Him. He created us in His image and likeness. He created us to be perfect, not “just human.”

But really I think our bigger issue is that we don’t think our crime fits God’s punishment. He’s too harsh. How can He punish cute little babies? Even if they are sinners, what kind of mean God would let a baby go to hell? Or is one little white lie really so bad that it deserves death? Look at all the good stuff I do and you want to punish me for my one mistake? What sort of God would do that?

Which is the irony of it all, because that is what makes God fair. A fair God punishes sin the same way every time. A fair God punishes selfishness the same every time whether it is stealing, murdering, or lying. A fair God punishes the selfishness of an adult the same as the selfishness of a baby. A fair God holds everyone to the same standard, to perfection, and doesn’t bend the rules for one person just because they are a young good looking pastor or because they had this and that thing go wrong in their life or because they did this or that thing right. That is fair, yet that is the very reason we accuse God of being unfair.

And yet when we really look at it, when we really consider it and consider God and His judgment, we actually do see that God is unfair. He is unfair not in how He executes His justice, but because He doesn’t. It is not God’s punishment that is unfair, but His mercy. It is not unfair that sin makes bad things happen in our lives, it is unfair that we have lives to live.

What is unfair about God is that in all our sin and all our unrighteousness, without any merit or worthiness in us, He does not call us to death, but to repentance. For God has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

When things go wrong, God doesn’t throw His hands up in the air, shrug His shoulders, and say, “Well that’s fair, it’s a natural consequence.” When God sees Man’s sin, when He sees your sin and your wickedness, He says, “Let me make you right.” And God does what is unfair and takes your wickedness and makes you righteous.

Jesus takes on your flesh, takes on your sin and wickedness, and takes the fair punishment and justice for it in your place and on your behalf. The righteous for the unrighteous, the innocent for the guilty, the sinless for the sinner. That is what is not fair about the work of God. Jesus crucified for you. God dead that you would live. That’s unfair!

And so why, O house of Israel, why, O people of Hope, will we die? Why will we call His way unjust and despise it when the only thing God does unjustly is to give us life? Christ is our life, the life of all the living. He has done everything to take away our wrongs and begs us, calls us, works in us repentance and faith so that “the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness,” and “Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

So repent. Believe in the injustice of God’s mercy. Believe that Christ died for you. Believe that Jesus takes your unrighteousness and gives you His righteousness. Believe that you have been washed in His blood in the water of your Baptism for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Believe that this bread and this wine is His body and blood, hung and shed upon the cross now given to you to eat and drink, that you would have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Believe me when I tell you that in the place and by the command of God I forgive you all your sins and that by His word they are forgiven in heaven. Believe and trust that as unfair as it is, eternal life in the kingdom of God is yours. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.