Faith and Sacrifice

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

Sacrifices are always a test of faith. The command of God through Moses to offer sacrifices, the blood of sheep and bulls on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem was not a command to do service to God. A work by which sinful humans can make themselves worthy of God, worthy of His blessings. Rather, these Old Testament sacrifices served the purpose of forgiveness. By the blood shed was atonement made for the people. One life offered in innocence for the life of the guilty. Ultimately, the blood of beasts on Jewish alters slain points to the blood of the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The blood of Jesus offered freely that those who hear the Word of God and trust in the Savior may be free in this forgiveness of all sin.

However, for the faithful, the sacrifice of Jesus is tied into the sacrifice of our own lives for His sake, and the sake of His kingdom. Not because we have to in order to be saved, to have life in Jesus name. Rather, it is because we have forgiveness and life in Jesus that we now give back to God what He gave to us in the first place.

Sacrifices are a test of faith. It was certainly this for Abraham, as he led the son of promise, Isaac, to the mountain appointed by God that father Abraham may take a knife to his own sons neck, and offer his blood to God, the life of Isaac as God commanded. Those who fear, love, and trust in God above all things willingly give to God in sacrifice things, and people of priceless worth. Such is the radical nature of our faith, born of Water and Word, fed by the Holy Spirit that we give our all to and for God.

The truth of all of this is found in the cross of Jesus. God Himself, because of His love for you sacrifices His own son, that you who justly deserve the death suffered by Jesus may instead have life through His forgiveness. Faith in Jesus then makes your life a sacrifice. An offering of thanksgiving leading to the eternal joys of heaven.


The Day of Salvation

The presence of God on earth, since the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God the Father, is in His Word and Sacraments. God has limited Himself to these means, not that He Himself has limits, but in order that He may come down to our level, and speak to us in our affliction. For we are limited. Jesus wants you to know beyond any doubt where He can be found. It is by these means, found in the Divine Service that Jesus dwells with us in our lives. That our God gives to us His gifts that we are made to be His people by the Word, and by faith.

For this reason it is always tragic when a baptized child of God removes him or herself from the worship service. While there are many reasons they can give, ultimately the result is they have left the presence of the merciful and loving God to wander in trackless wastes. Lent is a time when the Lord Christ, through His church calls us all to repentance, and especially desires the return of His beloved, wandering people.

This time of waiting, in which we, the church on earth wait for the coming again of Christ is often described by the Bible – most notably in Isaiah the prophet, as the day of salvation. This is so, because as she waits for the return of her divine bridegroom Jesus, the church is busy receiving from Jesus His gifts, and confessing the faith delivered by this Word of grace. The Holy Spirit is busy and active as we, the church confess the truth of Christ, and visit with our neighbors, sharing the hope we have in Jesus, in His love and forgiveness.

For us, the day of salvation is a time of receiving. In the Word, in baptism, in the table of Jesus set in the midst of our enemies we receive from the hand of God the gifts of life, and in receiving return thanks for all God does for us in Jesus our Savior. Giving thanks that Jesus forgives all our sins, freely, without reservation, without anything in us or any good deeds done by us that would earn for us the mercy of God. Mercy earned is, after all, not really mercy.

Behold, now is the day of salvation. Now is the time that God the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, that we may be enlightened by His gifts, and receive mercy and love. Food lasting to eternity.

Funeral sermon for Kelton Dean Adams

A House Not Made with Hands

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”


By baptism into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit you have died. You who by faith hear and trust the Word of Jesus are pinned by nails to the cross – for that is where Jesus was, crucified and dead on the cross. And really – this is all we need in the face of death – this truth that all those who trust in Christ, who seek from Him, from His Word His life giving absolution – His forgiveness given by baptism and faith – this reality, born of faith in Christ, received in the waters of baptism is all we need when our loved ones die. For real comfort in the face of death is found only in Jesus. Found only in His Word.

By baptism and faith Dean, who we today both mourn and celebrate, is now at peace and rest with Jesus, even as Dean is no longer with us here on earth. Jesus’ victory is sure and true, even when life here on earth speaks a different word. Especially when we gather to hear God’s word, and find comfort in Christ at the death of a loved one. At the death of Kelton Dean.

Marcie – Joel, Paul, Joy and Angela – family and friends. Grace to you and peace from Christ today as we walk together through the valley of the shadow of death. Amen.

This memory sticks out to me today, and I’m not entirely sure why – about how happy it made Dean that I, as his pastor, usually called him Dean. I never really asked why he liked that so much – maybe you can tell me later Marcie.

But – anyway, as everyone here is well aware, Dean was a story teller, and he lived a life worthy of many stories. Many of which I myself had the privilege of hearing first hand. This story telling puts Dean in good company – for his Lord and Savior Jesus was also a story teller. The purpose of the many stories our Savior told was not simply to entertain, but to illustrate a greater truth about who God is and what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. These stories of Jesus are never purposeless, rather, they illustrate for us the greatest truth that God loves us – and even though we struggle with our own failures, Jesus never leaves, nor forsakes us. Even when we are stubborn and insist on our way, Jesus is patiently, and lovingly calling us by His Word to Himself.

Many of Dean’s stories served a similar purpose. From running away from home, to hitchhiking with nothing more than a nickle in his pocket, dean shared these stories to let us know how the Lord Jesus watched out for him, and how Jesus will watch out for us. The stories of our Lord’s protection of Dean illustrate how God also cares and provides for us, and leads us to faith in Jesus. At least, that is what Dean always told me. The consistent refrain Dean spoke was how merciful God had been to him. What a good and gracious God we have in Jesus.

In many ways, we live in a house made, not by hands, but by words. In the very beginning of all things, when there was nothing, God spoke – and by His Word our Lord made. “Let there be light…..” This physical flesh in which we dwell, this body is merely a tent – an earthly dwelling that, because of sin – that is, because you and me, all of us have fallen far short of God’s Word and will for our lives will one day be destroyed. Death – the death of a loved one such as Dean reminds us of this difficult truth.

While some say that because all people die, that death is natural – the truth is that death is not natural. Not everything that is common, not everything that all people experience in life can be called natural. Death is not the way it is meant to be in this life. Life is natural. Death is not. Death is a punishment. It is because of this reality of death that we must look not to this earthly tent, but to a house not made with hands. A house eternal in the dwellings of God in heaven.

A house built on the Word of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan illustrates the answer to the question: “Who is my neighbor.” Most of us know the answer to this question – we just don’t really like the answer.  Your neighbor is everyone. Your family – the people who live in your home. The people who live next door. That one person you don’t like. That other person who made you mad, so you no longer want to speak or listen, or help them. Everyone.

Dean knew the answer to this question of who was his neighbor, and because of the love Jesus poured into his heart, Dean lived it. Following the example of Jesus, Dean would help anyone who asked. Because He knew who it was that crawled into the mud and muck of his life on the side of the road to clean, bandage and heal him by the Word of forgiveness, namely Jesus. Therefore Dean looked on others, all those who he met along life’s path as an opportunity to share his faith in Jesus.

Most often, when we hear this story of the Good Samaritan, we are left with the impression that we have to now go and be the Good Samaritan. However, not only is this impossible, for no one can live up to this great example, it is also wrong. You are not the Good Samaritan. Jesus is.

It is Jesus who lays down His life for you. It is Jesus who bears all your sin and sorrow and pain, and on the cross it is Jesus who bleeds to heal you. Jesus is your Good Samaritan, a truth Dean knows very well.

Today is a day of tears, as is appropriate when we experience loss. Dean has left you, and so your hearts and minds experience the loss as a time of mourning. Such is the way of life for us here in this world that has been broken by sin and death.

These emotions of loss and sadness reveal a deeper issue – we have fallen in love with a world of sin, and brokenness and death. As wonderful as the blessings of family is, the danger is to lose sight of Jesus’ words that teach us that to be truly blessed is to both hear and keep God’s Word.

Loss is hard for us, yet, in your sorrow, you are not left as an orphan. Jesus Himself is with you in His Word, so the challenge for us as Christians is to mourn our loss in thanksgiving. The challenge for us today is to remember with thanksgiving the life of Kelton Dean, and as we shed our tears, do so thanking Jesus that Dean, while he is now dead is not gone. He is only gone from this world, but Dean is alive with Jesus. Even now – even today Dean is alive with His Savior.

There is no doubt that Dean fell asleep in the arms of Jesus. On his lips was the Name of his Savior. Countless times, as I was privileged to share with Dean and Marcie the Words of Jesus, the Words of the Bible, the Words of the forgiveness of Christ, Dean’s response was one of faith. “How beautiful.” In Dean’s ears, and in his heart lived the beautiful words of Ps. 23. Comfort and hope found in the truth that his good shepherd, Jesus the Lord was gently leading him through the valley of the shadow of death and into the light of eternal life. The very same lips that received with thanksgiving the body and blood of his Savior in the Lord’s Supper spoke words of beauty for those of us who were privileged to hear them. Dean spoke of the sure and certain hope of Jesus in the midst of the trials and sufferings of this earthly life. As death slowly stole his breath, his heart was set on Christ, and on His sacrifice for Dean. Jesus’ sacrifice for us all.

Dean was not afraid to die, for his confidence was, indeed, is in Jesus.  Knowing this, knowing this Word of God let it be kept in your heart that at death you may find comfort and hope in Jesus. This is the lasting heritage Dean leaves behind, the Word of the Gospel. The truth that in Christ we have forgiveness.

In Jesus we have life. So, even as Dean passed from death to life in the Word of Christ, the very same Word of God speaks blessings from a merciful and loving Savior to you, for Jesus desire and  will is for all of us to follow in Dean’s confession of faith in Jesus.

Dean has made his final journey, and hitchhiking on the wings of Angels, He is now home. May this Word being comfort to grieving hearts and tear stained faces. Jesus has called home His son, Kelton Dean. Amen.

Walk in Love

God, who is rich in mercy and love, does all of His works for the sake of His beloved. Even the work of justice which leads to punishment is done by God for you out of love. Even when you suffer judgement’s lash against your sin, it is done because the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

This truth then should prompt us to walk in love, even as our Lord Jesus loves us and gave Himself up for us, that we may be rescued from the troubles and trials of this life and brought into the joys of the life to come.

A common descriptor of the baptized people of Jesus found in the Bible is child. Many times in the New testament we find that the faithful are addressed as children, or described as being children, but sufficient are the words of Jesus, “Whoever would enter the kingdom of God must become like one of these” (referring to children.)

Christians then are children, not in stature, or in reason, but in attitude. As children, we listen to what our God speaks to us in His Word, and we believe it to be the truth. If God says it, then, even if I cannot understand it, or do not like it, or if science, or anything else in creation contradicts it, it must be true.

This is no easy thing for us. Due to the amazing advances we enjoy in science we think, for instance that we know why the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Yet, even though we have uncovered the mechanics of the motion of the earth’s rotation and moving around the sun, the truth remains that the sun rises because God has commanded it to be so. Yet, in the arrogance of our hearts, we think that we can eliminate God from the equation simply because we have discovered the laws of His ordering of all things. This is why it is hard for us to hear the Word of God and keep it, and thus receive the blessing.

Even so, the Holy Spirit has called you by the truth of Jesus, who gave Himself in sacrifice for you, that by His blood you may be called a beloved child. Therefore, as one loved by our Father in heaven, let us walk in love. Let us imitate Jesus in giving our lives for the sake of His kingdom.


“We rejoice in our sufferings” Romans 5:3. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” Colossians 1:24. “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” 1 Peter 4:13. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:5. “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” Ephesians 3:13. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” Philippians 3:30. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Hebrews 2:10.

Would you consider your sufferings to be a blessing? If your anything like me, of course not! No one likes to suffer. Pain is not a good thing, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual…….. at least not from our earth bound perspective.

However, the Bible paints for us a different picture. These quotes are just a small sampling from Scripture on the topic of suffering. What they have in common is a call to the faithful in Jesus to rejoice even in the face of sufferings.

How is that even possible?

It is not. Not apart from the call of God in Christ, that we may know the truth, and in knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior find that suffering is a gift.

Now, to be sure, there is a distinction from suffering due to the just punishment for your sin, and suffering for the sake of the cross of your Savior Jesus. Both are a blessings.

When you suffer for sin, God is calling you to repentance, that you may not parish in sins, but rather turn to Jesus, and find comfort and hope in His cross. When you suffer for the sake of Jesus, you know your faith is alive, and can rejoice that God is saving you by grace through faith for the sake of Jesus.

When you suffer, know that the cross of salvation is with you, for Jesus is with you in all things with His comfort and hope.

Tragedy to Triumph

In Genesis 3 we read the tragic and true story of Adam and Eve’s fall into death, destruction and dust. It is this story that has set the stage for the very human experiences of all of us descended from the first mother and father. This is because the effects of this disobedience, this eating the food not given by God to eat has tainted all of us. We call this original sin. All of the sorrow and loss, and death. All of the broken families, and shattered hopes. All of the garbage that is all too often experienced in this life has as its cause this fall into sin.

Yet, shining in the midst of the rubble – even in the tragedies of your own life is the promise of God. The Lord did not abandon His creatures to their demise, but set His Word and promise as a beacon of hope. God Himself would entry the fray, and in the same flesh and blood broken by sin would defeat the forces of darkness.

Baptized in fulfillment of all righteousness by His cousin John, Jesus is lead out by the Spirit as the scape goat, the animal set lose in the wilderness by the priest to carry the sin of all people. Bearing the flesh of humanity, and the sin of the world, Jesus waits for 40 days, to face the temptation of the adversary.

The devil begins with the flesh – tempting this second Adam to once again take food not given by God. To turn stones into bread. With one little Word from the Scriptures, the voice of the living God, the purpose of Satan is thwarted.

Next, the devil attacks the heart, the spirituality of humanity in tempting Jesus to throw Himself down, and test the Lord’s Word, by saying in effect, “Did God really say?” Jesus once again looks to the Word, showing that it is God alone who directs or days and deeds in His peace.

Finally, the old evil foe appeals to the lusts of the sinful human heart, promising power and peace. Just as you swat a gnat, our Lord Jesus crushes His foe with one little Word, felling the devil.

All for us. All to undo the damage wrought by sin, and bring about the kingdom of the Gospel, the reign of forgiveness and life in the Name of the Lord Christ, that in Him and Him alone we may have life and salvation.


On the night when He was betrayed, our Lord Jesus, in the upper room, Jesus, in His final teaching to His disciples before His crucifixion laid out for us what love truly is. From John 15 we read, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We hear an awful lot about love. In politics we are told if you are not for this, or not against that then you do not love. Children are prone to say, “You don’t love me” when parents say no to something they really want. To our sinful flesh, love is about what we can get form others, how other people make us feel.

Jesus turns this around. Love is not about how you feel. Rather, love is an action that is taken for the good of others. Love is a sacrificing of the self for the good of someone else.

Blindness can be understood both physically and spiritually. One can be blind when their eyes no longer work as designed by God, and one can be blind when they do not recognize the truth of God as given to us in Scripture.

The old saying “Love is blind” would have us thin that love overlooks faults in others, and accepts them for who they are, no questions asked. This same thought is applied to God, wrongly. God’s love goes beyond acceptance of us in all our faults and failures and transforms us. Blind love is nothing less than spiritual blindness, a purposeful ignorance of what is best and most beneficial for others.  Love doesn’t ignore sin, for love knows sin is destructive. Love offers the better way.

This is of course the way of our Savior Jesus. The way of sacrifice. Jesus dies to fulfill the promises of salvation God gave to us, for it is Jesus alone who can bring sight from blindness.  It is faith in Jesus that clings to the Word of promise from our Lord that holds on, even as the world seeks to silence our cries for mercy.

Love is sacrifice. A sacrifice made by our Savior on the cross, and given to us by faith.