Monday, January 20, 2020

Lamb of God sermon

Background: During the week of January 12th, 2020, Pastor Rodney Klinzing of Zion Lutheran Church had a heart attack. As he was on the mend, he asked me to do the sermon at the early, 8:00 AM, service at Zion on January 19th. My sermon for the church, which was founded by my great-great grandfather, focused on John 1:29-42 which is about the lamb of God and John's baptism of Jesus. Here's the transcript of my sermon....

As you know, Pastor Rod had a heart attack last week.

He needed two stents and spent a night in the ICU at Buffalo General. We’re blessed that he knew what was happening and that doctors could address it in a timely fashion.

He wanted to come back this week, but the doctors told him “no” ….and so did Janice.

It was imperative that he rest.

So, I told Janice that one of the best ways to make stubborn people rest is with a right hook.

She must have given him one…because he called me Thursday night to ask, “will you handle the sermon Sunday?”

No one in the right mind would ask me to do that.

But here I am.

Today’s sermon? We’ll give it a title of a “The lamb arrives…and so does a New Era.”

Once Rod told me what our scripture was this week I thought "Lamb. Delicious.”

It was fresh in my mind because I made lamb kebobs for our special New Year’s Eve dinner at home.

I’m sure that you either went out for dinner or stayed at home and made something really swell for New Year’s Eve.

Why do we do that?

Two reasons.

Reason One:

To say good-bye to the era that was. We savor the good but we wish away the bad things that happened in our lives.

Reason Two:

To welcome a new era. We get excited about what the future holds.

So, it’s fitting that I had lamb when I said “Goodbye 2019. Hello 2020.” because it mirrors what we’ve just read and how it impacts the universe as we know it.

Let’s go back and see how that New Era reflects our New Year celebration.

This is the first time we see adult Jesus in the New Testament.  Look at John’s exuberance.

He knows the man -- the son of God -- before him is newness, a brighter future. His excitement can be felt throughout the reading. It’s the same excitement you had looking at what 2020 will hold.

John said: “he forgives the sins of the world!”

That’s the same outlook we had on New Year’s Eve when the change in calendar forgave the sins or bad moments of 2019 and put them in the rear view mirror.

John’s analogy was spot-on, too: Jesus was the Passover lamb.

You might ask, “what’s a Passover lamb?”

Well, according to the Tora, which defines the rules of Judasim, each Jewish household had to sacrifice a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH each year during the Feast of Passover.

It was killed on the evening of Passover and eaten the next night with herbs and matzo.

So, the Passover lamb was a perfect, clean lamb and a sacrificial lamb.

That’s what Jesus was in the hands of his father.

As we know through his teachings and of those who walked with him, Jesus was without sin. He was, like the Passover lamb, without blemish.

There are the stories of his trial in Wilderness and how he denied Satan’s wishes 3 times. There are stories of how he turned away riches and influence to stay with and protect the common man and even the uncommon man, the lowest of the low.

He was then sacrificed just as the lambs were.

It was said that butchering the Passover lamb was necessary as it would die in place of the First Born child during the 10th Plague of Egypt.

Jesus, like that lamb, then died in your place, and he died in a special way, for our sins.

Had he not, sin would have led to separation from God – and eternal death.

And, to round out this whole “Passover lamb” thing – when did Jesus die?

Some will say Passover, others say the last supper happened on Passover. Any way you put it, it’s when the lamb went to slaughter.

So, the title the “lamb of God” was incredibly fitting in so many ways-- and it stuck. That’s why even nonbelievers or irregular church goers know Jesus as such.

This got me thinking about the whole concept of Jesus as food.

This is the first time was see Jesus as an adult. He’s compared to a lamb that is eaten during the Passover feast.

The last time we see Jesus as a minister before becoming a prisoner is during the last supper. There, he offers bread and wine as his body and blood.

So, the entire Jesus ministry, the whole adventure of Jesus, is bookended with him being the embodiment of food.

He’s food for the soul.

That got my thoughts going back to my New Year’s Eve dinner, my lamb kebob.

What’s the critical part of New Years? Resolutions.

We resolve to be better people, in some way, shape or form.

We set goals.

For many of us, it’s focusing on better health.

What does that take?


And sometimes, a personal trainer.

And that’s what happened when Jesus appeared on the scene to be baptized and go down his chosen path of sacrifice.

He asked everyone to commit themselves to the wonders of his Father and the wonders of loving your fellow man and the wonders of eternal life.

But, he understood we couldn’t do it on our own.

We needed a spark. We needed a personal trainer for our souls.

He was it.

He motivated our spiritual exercise with parables, sermons, and actions.

He made sure mankind resolved itself to be better in a new era, just as we do in a new year.

So it’s important we follow his lead and put his teachings to use….to exercise our hearts and souls….

Let’s make sure his sacrifice was not put to waste.

He was our Passover Lamb.

Let’s enjoy the feast.

Friday, January 17, 2020

What’s so grand about grand jury duty?

I value jury duty as an absolutely important component of our criminal and civil judicial systems.

In a nation founded on liberty and justice it’s critical to have a panel of citizens determine the outcomes of one’s personal or financial well-being. Otherwise, it would be dangerous and unjust to always vest too much power in one person, a judge, to determine the fates of the parties involved. The opinion of one can be swayed by personal beliefs, stereotypes, ignorance, sympathy and, in extreme cases, kickbacks. That absolute and often times flawed power is cast aside by a body of jurors who have to, as a group, overcome those individual flaws to come to a consensus.

Twice I’ve gone through the jury selection process, once missing a day of work, another time missing a week. I didn’t fret too much about it because, as a guy who walks around with the Constitution in his back pocket, I value what I as a citizen can do to protect and ensure justice.

I also value when that belief comes around to serve me.

A couple of years ago my company was embroiled in a civil lawsuit. The incredibly stressful trial lasted two weeks. Had we been found liable for the injuries that our product was alleged to have caused the company would have likely gone out of business. Fortunately, the jury saw that improper and unsafe use of the product led to the chain of events. I was thankful for the jury system because it saw what was right and wrong and in turn saved our 45-year legacy and the jobs of more than 200 people.

Despite my belief in all the grandeur and almost sacred importance of this civic obligation I know it can also become an agonizing and financially-harmful burden to the juror if taken in excess.

In the previous examples, jury duty was manageable. A day. A week. A couple of weeks. Those are reasonable expectations when it comes to saving a life or business, ensuring fairness, punishing those who deserve it and making the injured and aggrieved whole.  

But, when it comes to grand jury service those expectations are exceeded to the point of becoming completely unreasonable.

I’m seeing it secondhand.

I work with a young man who was recently selected for federal grand jury in Buffalo. He has to report once a week…for 12 months…and they could tack on an additional 6 months. And, by the way, he’s getting off easy: It should be 18 months with a 6-month permissible extension.

Think about that.

At a minimum he will lose 50 days of pay (I’m assuming a break for the holidays). As much as someone would love to be a nice guy, no employer can be expected to grant someone 50 days of pay for no work above and beyond the paid days off given in a healthy benefits package. So, he will have to cover his lost income with a $50 per diem from the feds or by sprinkling his paid-time-off benefits through his service, which cuts back on his vacations. So, depending on what he does he will lose somewhere between 15% and 20% of his income this year. A fifth of his earnings disappear to satisfy the courts.

Virtually everyone on that 23-person jury are in the same boat. They’re losing money. Their employers are losing them. If they are a caregiver their families are losing them. It’s not fair to the jurors unless, of course, they work for the federal government as they are paid their full salary (go figure).

It’s definitely a system in need of reform. Shorter stints would ensure that jurors aren’t financially hurt, employers have their employees and frustrated participants won’t become careless with their duties and hateful of the court system that may one day be needed to help them. 

Getting reform is not easy, though.  

The main body of federal grand jury law goes back to Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure adopted by order of the Supreme Court in 1944 and then approved by Congress in 1946. 

It may seem unusual that the rules are promulgated by the Supreme Court since it’s the judicial body, not a legislative one. But, it can because of statutory authority unfortunately granted by Congress under the Rules Enabling Act of 1934.

While Congress has the power to reject the Court's proposals, modify them, or enact rules or amendments on its own, it has rarely rejected the Court's proposed amendments, though it has occasionally passed its own.

So, it’s somewhat of an uphill battle.

Would Congress be interested enough in the financial well-being of good citizens to lord over the Supreme Court?

Would the unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court listen to the common man and amend their rules?

The answer to both is probably “no”.

But, it’s worth a try, especially when one considers that a third of the House are lawyers and half the Senate is. They should know full well the complaints that people have with the judicial system and understand the value it brings to citizens when it’s administered justly…justly for the parties involved and the jurors. 

From the 20 January 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News