Friday, April 23, 2010

Fisk on YouTube

Some people have a face for radio. But Fisk sure has a talent for V-logging. You have to check out his YouTube stuff.

You can also check him out at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sermon - Easter 3 - John 21:1-19

John 21:1-19
Easter 3
April 18th, 2010
“What Jesus Knows – What Jesus Gives”

John's Gospel is wrapping up. He tells us today a third appearance Jesus made after his resurrection. Now on the shore of the Sea of Galillee, Jesus the risen Lord appears to his still dazed and confused disciples.

They seemed out of it. Bored. Peter abruptly announces he's going fishing. The others join him.

And here comes Jesus, with a familiar miracle – a catch of fish after a night of nothing. He had done this before, when he was first calling his disciples to follow him. That was then, but this is now. The catch seems even greater. They can't haul it in, but the nets aren't breaking. Jesus, of course, knows fishing better than the fishermen.

Before, when Peter saw such a miracle he trembled in fear. That was then, but this is now – and Peter throws himself into the water just to be all the closer to Jesus as soon as possible. Wouldn't it be nice if we were so eager to be with Jesus – to come hear his words, and receive his gifts?

Now he who has renewed all things by his death and resurrection is renewing his commission to them in word and deed. Soon he would be charging them as his under-shepherds – feed my sheep – be pastors.

But first, he wanted to feed them. The last meal they had together was different. It was a Passover meal, in which he gave them a New Testament in his body and blood. Now, breakfast on the beach. And while this meal isn't the sacrament per se, it sure reminds us that Jesus the host and provider of the meal is always the one to feed us.

Then, as now, Jesus feeds his disciples, his people. He's still the host of the meal. He still invites us to the table. He still prepares and provides what we need. All physical and spiritual blessings, undeserved, from his grace and mercy. For even in his glorified and resurrected form, he is not too humble to serve his people.

After breakfast, Jesus singles out Peter. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” What a formal question. Not calling him by his nickname, “Peter”, but by his given and family name. Something official is about to happen.

Peter answers yes, and Jesus asks again. After the third question, Peter gets the point. And he is grieved. In a not so subtle way, Jesus was reminding him of his sin.

Peter, who had denied him three times. “Oh, no, Lord, I'll even die with you if I have to!” But Peter failed when the going got tough. Oh he would wield his sword and cut off a man's ear – but would he stand and boldly confess Jesus? Peter would fight the soldiers, but when questioned by a servant girl, he crumbled. He denied, denied, and denied again, just as Jesus said he would. And then their eyes met, and Peter bawled like a baby.

Does our sin bring us to grief? Do you know and feel your sin like Peter? Do we realize just how much and how often we let the Lord down by our own denials of him? We surely act like we don't know him. And even if we think we can put on a good front, Jesus knows all things. He knows that we don't love him as we should. He knows we don't love our neighbor as ourselves. We want to... but like the disciples, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

But even in his grief, Peter still trusts Jesus. He appeals to the one who knows everything. Jesus knows Peter's sin. He also knows how sorry he is.

But he also knows his love for Peter, a love that drove him to the cross, a love that death could not contain. And so he restores Peter, forgives him, and even re-commissions him for work in the kingdom. So does Jesus do for us all.

This formal conversation was needed to clear the air, and restore Peter from the denier he was, to the pastor he would be. The shepherd of Jesus' flock. Feeding and caring for the sheep by distributing the gifts of the great Good Shepherd himself. Just as pastors do today – in the word, in the sacrament, in baptism and holy absolution. We pastors give to you – formally - what we also receive from Christ – all for the love of Jesus which he first shows us.

He deals with our sin. He forgives and feeds us. Then he puts us to work. Fishermen become fishers of men. Wayward sheep become shepherds of his flock. Wanderers in sin become followers of Christ.

No, we're not all called to be pastors, but we all need restoration and forgiveness. We're not all going to be shepherds of the sheep, but we support the ongoing work of the Good Shepherd. And we receive his gifts as he gives them, always giving thanks.

And a final cryptic saying from our Lord. He predicts how Peter would die. Tradition tells us Peter was crucified in Rome, upside down. Jesus, who knew all things, surely would know it was coming. And perhaps he tells us here to remind us that following him will come with opposition, suffering, and even sometimes death. But a death in Christ always glorifies God.

Yes, Peter would follow Jesus to a cross, and to a death. But he who restored Peter from denial will also restore him and all believers from death itself. Just as he conquered the grave, so a resurrection awaits his people. And we will live, like Jesus lives, forever.

This good news sustains us, his sheep. This promise feeds our faith, and strengthens us to follow him. So be fed by him, you sheep of the Lord. And follow him – in life, in death, and in new life forever. Just like Peter.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sermon - Easter 2 - John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31
Easter 2
April 11th, 2010
“Thomas and Jesus”

It's not just because I like his name. I've always had a soft spot for Thomas. Who knows why he wasn't there on that first Easter Sunday – when Jesus appeared to them in the locked room. Maybe because he wasn't quite as afraid as they were? And who could forget Thomas was the one who said, when it appeared Jesus was headed for Jerusalem, “Let us also go, that we might die with him”.

But we don't call him “brave Thomas”, do we? We know him as “doubting Thomas”. For when the other apostles told him the news of the risen Jesus, he didn't believe it. In fact, in a foot-in-mouth moment that would last for all history, he went so far as to say, “I won't believe it unless I can touch his wounds myself!' Well, Thomas, you don't want to put the Lord to the test, now, do you?

But really, this account from John's Gospel isn't so much about Thomas – and whether he is brave or a doubter. This account is about Jesus. And it's not only about Jesus and Thomas, but like all of John's Gospel, “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

It's about Jesus. Jesus who is, in fact, risen from the dead. But because he rose for the benefit of his people, he takes the time to prove it to them. He shows them. He appears to them. To Mary Magdelene and the women at the tomb. To his fearful disciples now in the wake of the Good Friday tumult. And to at least 500 others throughout the next 40 days.

Jesus – so reliable and true, his word so sure and trustworthy, that he rose from the dead just like he said he would. Jesus, who fulfilled every little prophecy about the suffering servant Messiah – prophecies of the Scriptures and prophecies from his own lips. He knew he would die. He knew how he would die. He knew he would rise. And he told the disciples how it would all go down. But they didn't believe.

Not only did they doubt it, but Peter even argued with him. God forbid it! He said. But Jesus said such talk was of Satan.

Now it had all come to pass. The betrayal, the denial, the striking the shepherd and the sheep were scattered. So much for bravery from them.

Now these same cowardly doubters were locked up for fear of the Jews. And it took a miraculous entrance by Jesus for his first resurrected visit with them. Oh, but doubting Thomas wasn't there with the other doubters.

They tried to tell him. We have seen the Lord! But he didn't believe them. If none of them would believe Jesus before, is it any wonder Thomas wouldn't believe them now? As much as they tried to convince him, he would only believe on his own terms. Seeing is believing. Touching is believing. But just hearing the word? Not so easy.

And when Jesus appears a week after Easter, he tells him, and shows him, and invites him to touch. It's true, Thomas. Stop doubting and believe. And Thomas believes. “My Lord and My God!” he confesses. Doubting Thomas becomes believing Thomas.

Tradition holds that Thomas became a missionary to India, where he is still honored as the first Christian missionary there. It is also said that Thomas was stoned to death and then stabbed with a spear, thus fulfilling his own words, “Let us also go, that we might die with him”.

And on this first Sunday of Easter, the Christian church traditionally recalls this “doubting Thomas” account, for it occurred on the original first Sunday after the Resurrection. We remember the account of Thomas and Jesus.

We remember Thomas for his doubting. But we remember also that Jesus met him where he was. He knew just what Thomas needed, and invited him to stop doubting, and believe. He showed him his wounds – hands and side – proof of his suffering and death. But the one who showed the proof was alive. And interestingly, the text never says whether Thomas actually touched those wounds. But it does record his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”.

What was truly unusual was not that Thomas doubted. The story is really about Jesus – who was alive – and who reached out to the doubter.

So what are the lessons for us? What would Jesus have us learn from the Thomas account? Perhaps, very simply, “stop doubting and believe”. For Thomas isn't the only doubter. Those other disciples doubted too. And the disciples here this morning are doubters too.

We doubt the resurrection. We doubt the words and promises of Christ. We doubt those hard words of Scripture that bump against what our culture has taught us. We doubt those plain words of Scripture that fly in the face of what mainstream science proclaims.

We doubt the perfect demands of the law. We doubt the soothing forgiveness of the Gospel. We want to believe what we want to believe, and not what he calls us to believe.

But still he calls us. And still he promises a blessing, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. What a far-reaching blessing. For almost all who believe in Christ do so without seeing or touching. Thomas and those other disciples were truly the exception. We are the rule. Christ comes to us his people through his word, and in his sacraments. And yet somehow, by the power of the Spirit, we believe. And we are blessed.

Well, we may not touch the wounds. But Christ does touch us in the sacrament. His body and blood touch our lips, and nourish our souls. One of the many benefits of the Lord's Supper is the strengthening of our faith – that is, the diminishing of our doubts. But more than that he calls us through his word. He calls us Sunday after Sunday, persistent in his mercy and grace. Stop doubting, and believe. And if he can conquer death, he can conquer your doubts and fears.

And just as he invited Thomas to put his finger in the wounds, he invites you to put your faith in his words. I am with you always. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.

John closes the Thomas account, “These things are written that you may believe.” And so we hear, and so we do. In Jesus Christ, amen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Sermon - Good Friday - 2010

Hebrews 9:27-28
Good Friday
April 2nd, 2010
“Die Once”

Jesus dies. Today we not only remember it, but we face it starkly. It is finished. He breathes his last. He gives up his spirit.

We're so accustomed to throwing it out there like nothing: “Jesus died for you”. But today we think carefully, closely, on what that means. Death. In all its darkness and ugliness. Death, that great enemy that looms over us all. The end. Lights out. No more.

Death is never pretty. It is, after all, the wages of sin. And sin is ugly. It's an ugly feeling to know your sin. Guilt. Shame. But worse is the punishment. The fear of punishment. And the ultimate punishment is death.

Hebrews tells us, “it is appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. We know it's true. Physical death isn't the final end. But it brings us before God for judgment. Eternal death is the real punishment. Physical death is only a shadow of this.

We die once. We don't keep coming back, again and again. There is no reincarnation, no cycle of endless lives to keep on trying and improving. This precious gift of life is a one-time-deal. A short breath, but an important one. One life to live. And then, we die. Once. And then the judgment. There is no second chance.

Or is there?

Christ died once, but not because of his sin. He died because of your sin and mine. He died to bury sin. He died to “deal with it” as only he could. And at the cross sin IS dealt with. It is finished. It's a done deal.

Christ rose, and will come again – but not to die. He will come to judge, and to save. To judge those outside of salvation. Those who reject his gifts, his work, his death. And to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Christ died. And we too, die. But because he died, death, for us, is different.

Death no longer means judgment. Death no longer has a sting. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But Christ gives us the victory.

Or to put it another way, we have already died. We died with Christ. We were buried with him. You look in that borrowed tomb and you see yourself there – your old self with all the sins and warts and faults and flaws and deep dark secrets. All of it lies on the cold slab, sealed in the tomb of death. Jesus took it with him.

You died – at the cross – your sins died. You died – at the font. You drowned in the waters of baptism. Overwhelmed in the flood, your sins never stood a chance.

And since you've already died, now you live, even though you die. By faith in Jesus, he who lives and believes will never die. Even though he dies, he will live.

In other words, death isn't really death for those who die in Christ. His death changes what death means for us. It is no longer the enemy to be feared, but the gate to eternal life. It is no longer the summons to God's courtroom for judgment, but a liberation from the prison of our fallen flesh.

In Christ we do get a sort of second chance at life. We get a new life. We partake in his death to partake in his life. We are bound up with him in all of it.

Good Friday, in a sense, is your own funeral. It is the death of your old nature, your sin and shame. It's all nailed to the cross in him. “You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great, here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”

It's too dark for some people. There are even many Christians who skip Good Friday. Too much of a downer.

But it is good to gather this day, to observe this event, to stand before the cross and appreciate what it means. There's what our sins deserve. There's what his love for us does. There's death in naked display.

But there also, is life in all its fullness. From the cross spring all the blessings we treasure and need. From Christ on the cross flow the blood and water that cleanse us all. From the cross he declares, “it is finished” and makes it so. Here is the center of all human history, the cross-roads of time. The God-man suspended between heaven and earth, the one without sin who becomes sins. And eternal life is born out of eternal death and suffering.

They take him down. They wrap the body and apply some spices. Joseph offers his tomb. They bury him. The stone seals it shut. All is quiet. Death's silent rest begins for our Lord. But death is not the end of him, or of us who are in him

And so we eagerly wait. In somberness over our sin. But with a peace that death will soon give way. In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sermon - Tre Ore - Good Friday 2010

Matthew 27:45-46 / John 19:28-29
Good Friday – Tre Ore Service
April 2nd, 2010
“Forsaking and Fulfilling”

Two very different words in this segment. “My God, why have you forsaken me” and “I thirst”. The fourth and fifth of Jesus sayings from the cross. The fourth word is a grand and eloquent declaration of suffering. The fifth a very simple admission of thirst. The fourth word is poetic and existential. The fifth word – factual.

And yet, there is a similarity. Both fulfill prophecy. Both draw on the Psalms. Both words, expressions of his suffering, are not for him, but for us. For in his forsaking, there is fulfilling. In his thirsting, there is salvation.

The fourth word is perhaps the darkest. Jesus quotes Psalm 22, which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There the psalmist writes a complaint that shows an eerie foresight. “All who see me mock me” the Psalm laments. “they wag their heads and say, 'he trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him!” it goes on... “dogs encompass me, a company of evildoers encircles me. They have pierced my hands and my feet... they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”.

Not only does Jesus know God's word very well, but the Scriptures know Jesus very well. They know and point to him and to this cross on which he hangs.

But why? Why has God forsaken him? Why does God turn his back on his own Son? Aside for the deep mystery concerning the inner workings of the Trinity – why must this happen?

It is clear. Sin must be punished. Its wages are death. God's righteousness demands it. His holiness cannot tolerate sin. And there is plenty of sin to be dealt with.

As Jesus suffers, he cries out – but not like you and I do. He's not really asking here, “why?” like you and I ask when we suffer. He knows exactly why. He is the Lamb of God. He is the sacrifice appointed. This is the cup he must drink. He who has no sin now becomes sin for us.

But as he quotes this Psalm he speaks for our benefit. And so we see – that his suffering is not some accident. It was the plan from the foundation of the world. And so we see that his suffering is not in vain – for at the end of the Psalm, God restores his suffering servant. Jesus suffers for us – and he cries out in his suffering, for us.

It's not just physical death, though. The spiritual death of sin, the separation from God that sin causes – and the ultimate eternal separation – is the very definition of hell. Away, far away from God – that's the worst place to be. And that's where Jesus was on this cross.

It's been said that the physical suffering he endures here is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to what was happening spiritually. The thorns, the nails, the flogging, the jeering and shame. None of it compared to God the Father's turning away. If you've ever gotten the cold shoulder from a loved one – imagine enduring the disapproval of God for all sins ever committed. Imagine suffering the torments of Hell for all condemned souls who ever lived and sinned. And you will begin, just begin, to appreciate the magnitude of his suffering.

But because God frowns on Christ, he smiles on you. Because God turns away from Christ who carried your sins, he turns to you and sees a clean slate. Because Jesus was forsaken, we will never be forsaken by God – a promise for all eternity.

The fifth word also keys into the Psalms – Psalm 22 reads, “ my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”. Psalm 69 says, “and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink”.

Jesus knows his work is finished. And one detail of prophecy remains. In order to fulfill the scriptures, he says, “I thirst”.

No, this is not Jesus complaining for his own sake. Anymore than he was crying out for his own sake in suffering God's wrath. Some have pointed out how after losing all that blood and sweat – he must have been dehydrated. He must have been terribly thirsty. But that's not why he spoke.

In all things, Christ acts for us. Even on the cross. Even in his dying woes, he acts for us. He thirsts – for us. He thirsts for our salvation. He was drunk the cup of God's wrath down to the last drop. And now, to fulfill prophecy, he tells us, “I thirst”.

Every little detail of his work of salvation is complete. Jesus finishes the job, and does all things well. He does all things well for us who can do nothing right. We who thirst for sinful pleasures, we who lust for more and more. He, however, is the Savior. We who deserve God's wrath and punishment, he who takes it. We who turn away from God in sin, yet God turns away from Jesus - for us.

So too, with Jesus, the news is good. Even in the midst of suffering, surrounded by enemies, the subject of ridicule, thirsting and dying – he is our God, we are his people, he deals with our sins, and brings us salvation.

It's a Good Friday indeed. In Jesus Christ, Amen.