Monday, September 17, 2018

Sermon Sept 15-16, 2018

Title:Sept 15-16, 2018 Setting III with Holy Communion
Title: The word of God casts out and restores!
Text: Mark 9:14-29

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Life and death and love and caring are human emotions that have been seen and felt in our own lives many times over the years. It may be a dear family friend who passes away, the sickness of an elderly parent or child, or dear friends and their children who you’ve seen grow up and felt their celebration and joy as well as sorrow and pain.

At time we are brought into the lives of perfect strangers who we comfort or see their grief from afar. The loss of a child is especially hard to deal with and understand. We at times can feel the pain as if it is our own loss.

Last week our text showed us the compassionate Christ as he opened the ears and mouth of a deaf mute who then “spoke plainly.” Not only having his ears and mouth healed but being given the gift of speech, immediately, as Mark so often says in his gospel account.

In today’s reading:

14 And when they [those that had been following Jesus] came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Jesus is known to the people as the one who brings peace, comfort, healing and the things that you and I also find of great value when things in our life need help. And here a voice from the crown answers Jesus’ question.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

A father’s pleading for his son. “I brought him to you … but your disciples were not able.”

The disciples fell short! They missed the mark! What was needed … wasn’t given … to a man in distress.

I can relate, how about you? Have you missed the mark? I think we can all agree with St. Paul.

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. … 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:18-24

At times we miss the mark by things we do and at times by things we don’t do.

Ill.

Last weekend Rally Day was lightly attended. In the past it has been a great even with many beginning the regular schedule with a pot luck and return to Sunday school and Bible Study. I must admit to feeling a bit dejected at the 43 who did come. As I reflected on the weekend on Monday and the sermon for this week … “Oh faithless generation” spoke to me. I felt the weight of burden lifted from me as I looked to the Lord’s good work from last weekend. We welcomed six men members – two couples through transfer, a shut in transfer and an adult instruction and profession of faith and we have has the blessing of visitors in our midst.

Our faith is weak when we look to self and inward. Our focus need to be outward to Jesus and his cross for there is where true salvation and hope is found.

Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring [the boy] to me.”

What I didn’t want to hear from my boss, the disciples now hear from Jesus … pain and disappointment from the Lord of Glory at their falling short.

Jesus takes control, “Bring him to me.”

The solutions for the problems we face are always best helped when the focus is on Christ. Because the evil foe is Satan and the forces of demonic activity that perplex and attack us and those who remain lost in the world.

This father is grieving for his son as he has been plagued with this demon “From childhood.” We might reasonably look at our own sinful condition and malady as those brought forth in iniquity … conceived and born in sin. Psalm 51:5

But though we have been freed by Christ Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit, we still remain in our sinful flesh … both Saint and Sinner.

On the one hand we are freed by the grace of God in Christ and have received all things being made new, but at the same time, we are bound to our sinful flesh and wrestle with faith and doubt, belief and unbelief!

The call … “I believe; help my unbelief!” is the call of a believing soul tormented by a demonic foe. We too call daily to God to lift the burden of sin we carry and to comfort us, and bring us peace … the peace … that passes all human understanding.

“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

We too are born into this world dead to God, and it is by God’s command:

“19 Go … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” that we receive life eternal promised from the lips of our Lord.

Having done a number of baptisms of little children, it always reminds me of this passage when they are baptized because when baptized there is crying out and convulsing. The devil cannot remain but must flee. Where light is, darkness flees.

“He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Death, raised to life and caring, through the sacrificial love of the God man Jesus Christ are what God has given you.

The picture in the today’s lesson shows the condition we too are born and wrestle with. But it also shows god love and power to bring us both from death to life through the means he has provided of word and sacrament but also show the picture of the final gift of God when:

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Dear friends,

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52,56

God brings peace, comfort, victory and belief through his means!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sermon Sept 8-9, 2018

Title: Hearing, we proclaim the Good News!
Text: Mark 7:31-37

36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

31 Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus was traveling through Sidon along the Sea of Galilee. As we might remember from a few weeks back, the disciples had crossed over the sea after the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus came to them walking to them on the water.

The crowds had followed Jesus who had fed them, healed them from illness, and he cast out demons and they are now in the region of the Decapolis – a region of 10 cities near the southeast corner of the Sea.

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The healings of Jesus are numerous in the gospel accounts. At times it is by faith in Christ that we see healing: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” The old woman thought to herself who had been plagued by the flow of blood for many years in Mark 5:28.

Or, it is by the healing touch of Jesus and the words of Christ’s own command, “Little girl I say to you arise!” as Jairus’ daughter was raised from death to life in Mark 5:41.

In today’s reading a deaf mute is brought to Jesus. He neither knows nor understands what is going on. He can’t hear and his speech is muted and unintelligible to those who are around him.

… and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The people knew of Jesus and his healing touch. Those who brought him to Jesus begged him to lay his hands on him … as if the laying on of hands from Jesus was the magic formula of healing and required to make one well and whole again.

Jesus sees the problem … here is a man who is deaf and mute.

Ill.

If you know someone who is deaf or have interacted with them before, you know that they communicate in ways their own. Those who use sign language know that communication with the deaf is highly visual. Our own Michigan District has an active ministry to the deaf and many churches work to accommodate the hearing impaired.

At Rev. Dr. Jacob Heckert’s funeral this year, while the service went on there was the traditional speaking of the liturgy as to accommodate those like me who can hear … and there was the signing of the liturgy for those who can’t.

Pastor Tom Dunseth who’s family is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Hartland provided the signing for those members and friends who came to the service so that they could more fully participate.

Communicating with the deaf is special and unique.

Jesus understood that.

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.

We can speculate, as many do, that there was something significant about Christ’s touch and fingers in the ears, or that the spit upon Christ’s fingers that touched the man’s tongue … brought about a miraculous healing. But what I believe Jesus is doing here is communicating. He is speaking to the deaf man in a way that he could understand.

Taking him aside privately … away from the crowd … Jesus now can have the man’s attention without distraction. How often have you or I who hear … needed to get away so we can speak to someone privately, so the noise of the crowd doesn’t distract us?

Jesus gets his attention.

The text says he put his fingers into his ears. Again not the healing but showing that he understands what the man’s problem is and that he intends to correct it. You can almost see Jesus show his fingers to the man and reach to his ears as if to say, “I understand your problem.”

And now we read: … after spitting touched his tongue.

Again in the language of the deaf Jesus wants the man to focus on the problem of his tongue and lack of speech and that he desires to heal these problems. You can see in the depiction on our bulletin cover the man sees and understands what is about to happen. He is fixed on Jesus.

Your maladies and mine are greater than hearing loss and being unable to speak. You and I and the man who is deaf and mute in our lesson for today are born dead to God and as a result we are unable to come to Jesus and receive the spiritual healing we need and that Christ desires to give. It takes an act of God to satisfy God’s justice and in Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased. It also takes an act of God to bring you and me from death to life by God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit … working through the word … opening our ears to hear … so that we believe in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

34 And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, not as a means to the healing, or a hope that God the Father would answer Christ’s prayer, but as a sign communicating the heavenly healing that he was about to perform, and a point of our own sighing in our own prayers mediated by God.

and said to him, “Ephphatha,” The common Aramaic language of the home intended by St. Mark to give us the very word Christ spoke … and what it means, “Be opened.”

Jesus has the man’s attention, privately; he shows what he intends to do with his ears and his mouth; that he understands his problem and he is willing and able to help; and he looks up to heaven, the place of all good and comfort, healing and peace and says “Ephphatha, … Be opened.”

35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

The healing of Jesus is complete, opening the ears and mouth of the man who was deaf and mute. And just as the man was healed and “spoke plainly,” as the gift of language was given him, you dear friends, too have had Heaven opened, the place of all good by Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, and have received comfort, healing, and peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Interestingly, Jesus as he does at times tells them to “tell no one.” And what do they do? They tell everyone! [And] the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

You know that feeling too, don’t you? When we pray for good test results and they come back good what do you do?

You tell everyone! You joyfully proclaim that good news you have been given for all to hear!

There is even better news than the good test results you get and that is the good news that in Christ all things have been made new again. No more sin, death and the power of the devil to fear because Christ has opened heaven to you and me who were once closed to God as his enemies but now have access to him as his children, having been given faith freely in his son.

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

And he brings we who were dead in trespass and sin back to life.
He has forgiven your sin and you have God’s favor on account of Christ!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Sept 1-2, 2018

Title: Your protection is in Christ!
Text: Eph 6:10-20

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Songwriter: STILLS, STEPHEN, Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. http://www.metrolyrics.com/for-what-its-worth-lyrics-buffalo-springfield.html

For What it’s Worth - the anthem of the unrest of the late 1960s, 1967 in fact … from the pen of Stephen Stills and the band Buffalo Springfield. The Vietnam War raged on, along with the draft and the draft dodgers who went to Canada; Kent State, and the students who died protesting at an Ohio University, an institution of higher learning. Richard Nixon and Watergate; the White House tapes and on and on … this was a hard and turbulent time in our nation’s history.

Today seems headed in a similar direction. Social unrest in the streets fill the headlines. Confederate statues come tumbling down, pro choice or pro life, politicians vying for mid-term election wins, and protests going on around the country. Battle lines are certainly being drawn, politically … socially … and morally.

Christianity and the church are being attacked from within and without. Young people are speaking their minds ... by their very absence from church – parents, grandparents and we the church are concerned.

In 1966 Time Magazine, on its cover asked the question: “Is God Dead?”
23 years ago Joan Osborn asked the question, in her hit song from 1995,
“What if God was one of us” you might remember the chorus:

What if God was one of us / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make His way home?

Today many may wonder and ask this same question as they struggle with the brokenness of their lives, in a world that is spiraling out of control, with ... it seems like … little ... or no hope.

Paul tells the Ephesian church to,

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Many Christians today take this as their marching orders from God to get in the world being ready to do battle and to fight the righteous fight for truth, justice and moral purity. And while we are told always [to] be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (1 Peter 3:15) we are also told to do this, with gentleness and respect.

For Paul reminds us who the enemy really is.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, - not against those who appear to be the enemies we face - but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The darkness of the devil and his demons are the ones railing against Christ and the victory won at the cross.

The target is on you too. To cause you to fall back into the darkness that you have been rescued once and for all from.

God’s armor is for your protection.

Paul tells the Ephesian church and us to:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand [or stand firm] in the evil day, days just like today … not to battle but, to stand firm … not to fall again into darkness and the temptations of the devil … but to rise, being clothed with Christ daily!

With the image of battle lines being drawn and battle armor being put on … belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and sword Paul says that we are really armed and fitted with truth, with righteousness, with peace, and with faith through the Gospel, the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

You dear friends are clothed in Christ with the armor of God and his saving gospel!

In the Joan Osborn song, the writer Eric Bazilian asks:

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to His face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

Songwriter Eric Bazilian, Published by HUMAN BOY MUSIC http://www.metrolyrics.com/what-if-god-was-one-of-us-lyrics-alanis-morissette.html

When the Joan Osborn song was climbing up the charts and I was still pretty active playing music with a few bands back in the mid 90s I wrote a song in answer to “What if God was one of us?” It was simply called, “God was one of us.”

As a Christian rescued by Christ and shown mercy in the face of my own depravity I could only sing God’s praise for what he had done for me. We are not called to faith to escape the trials of this world, for from the words of Jesus himself he says:

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

But, in spite of these trials we are to sing the truth of God’s rescue in Christ. To call, by the power of the saving gospel, those to faith by the word of God through the working of the Holy Spirit, that in spite of the devils lies that question “did God really say” from the Garden of Eden, to the lie’s of our own day which questions the existence of the historical Jesus, our own sinfulness, or the working of the devil in the world, 

God was one of us!

He came to live suffer die and rise again just for you and me.

You are God’s child not because of your efforts, but because God desires you.

You are God’s child because he died for you and freed you from the curse of the law that you and I could never keep … with even 99% being a failing grade.

You are God’s child because by his Spirit he called you to believe the word of the gospel giving you faith and raising you from being dead in trespass and sin to newness of life in him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The song asks the question:

If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

Jesus gives answer to questions in Matthew to the sheep and the goats when he says in Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Matt 25:31


34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matt 25:34

But the questions the righteous will ask:

37 … ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King [Jesus in glory] will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matt 25:37-40


In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sermon August 25-26, 2018

Title: Love, Submission and Jesus!
Text: Eph. 5:22-33

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Stephen Beck writes:

Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: "YIELD." Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge and to my destination. On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction. To my surprise, I saw another YIELD sign posted. Curious, I thought, "I'm sure there was one posted on the other side." When I reached the other side of the bridge I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both ends of the bridge. Drivers from both directions were requested to give right of way. It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision. When the Bible commands Christians to "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions.
Stephen P. Beck.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands
… as to the Lord.

25 Husbands, love your wives
… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Which one is harder? To submit to ones husband as you would to the Lord … or to love ones wife as Christ loved the church? 

I would submit that they both are pretty difficult or darn near impossible for we who wrestle with sin in our daily lives to do. Sin taints all of who we are, and everything we do so that even the good we do is covered and infected with sin.

Paul continues:

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

That sounds reasonable to me as a husband. It’s nice to know that my wife needs to hear, and listen, and submit to me as the church does to Christ.

But … there is more:

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 

Now … that, is a bit harder

Husbands are to love their wives as he loves himself, and cherish he, just as Christ does the church.
Well … what if the husband doesn’t know Christ? 

Or, what if he is not a follower of Jesus? How does this impact married life?

Quite a bit I would maintain.

… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her [make her holy or set apart], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [just as you were washed and marked as Christ’s child] 27 so that [Christ] might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Husbands are to present themselves to Christ in submission … and their wives should be sanctified or set apart unto Christ as the husband is the head of the wife … and … the head of the family in all things.

This, dear friends is not power … but servant hood.

Ill.

I remember the first time I came to realize that it was my duty to be the spiritual head of the family. I didn’t want to do it.

What! I thought. Wait a minute. Monica would be way better at being the spiritual head of the family. She could do the table prayers, and she could teach the children the bible stories … and she could ... and she could …

But, everywhere I went in the Bible (by this time the Lord had, by his Spirit, drawn me into the word) - as I kept reading and trying to find a way where I could pass off this responsibility - the word kept telling me:

“Russ! It’s your job! You are to be the head! You need to do it!”

So what does this say to the Christian who has fallen in love with an unbeliever?

Be careful! Marriage is hard enough when you have the uniting focus of faith in Christ as your guide.

But without Christ … it can be a devastating proposition.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Ill.

My friend Aaron Neilson on Facebook just had his 4th child a little boy they named Boaz Michael Neilson.

Boaz is an Old Testament name from the Book of Ruth. In the story, Naomi’s daughter-n-law Ruth will not leave her mother-n-law but follows her back to Bethlehem, Judah. While there she gleans in the field of a near relative named Boaz. The story concludes with Boaz redeeming his relative Elimelech, Naomi deceased husband’s field and property and also Ruth as his wife. Ultimately, Ruth has a child Obed, who is the father of Jesse who is the father of David, a King after God’s own heart.

Ruth from the country of Moab is redeemed by Boaz and we see her again mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1.

Boaz is a Kinsmen Redeemer a type of Christ we see as the two become one flesh the linage lead to King David and ultimately to Jesus Christ himself. In marriage the husband is a type of Kinsmen redeemer, the two have become one. It is no longer we who live separate but we live as one in Christ. Can you see the dilemma of those who are unequally yoked to an unbeliever and the difficulty that may result?

United as one and united in Christ brings not always peace as we all struggle with sin in life and marriage but it also brings a greater union outside oneself in Christ. In submission and in love towards him we live as one husband and wife, united as one flesh, one couple, one purpose and one hope.

As Paul concludes:

33 … let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Love, Submission and Jesus!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit

Amen

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sermon August 18-19, 2018

Title: Let the light of Christ shine in you as one alive!
Text: Eph. 5:6-21

8b Walk as children of light
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Empty words, we’ve all heard them … are words meant to deceive, to put off, or to fill one’s own agenda. The sons of disobedience hear and follow. Those opposed to Christ and his gospel continue to go the way of destruction, but we too who have been brought to faith by God’s gifts give way to the call of darkness and fall in sin.

7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

Don’t get sucked in, Paul tells the Ephesians. But what were the Ephesians getting sucked into … and does it apply to you and me?

Paul says in verse three and four that preceded our text:

3 [That] sexual immorality and all impurity or [coveting] must not even be named among you, and he concludes: 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking … but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who [covets], [which is to desire that which is not yours] … has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Harsh words indeed and the Ephesians were falling short then, and Christians today fall short too. When desires, feelings and societal norms go against God’s word and truth … the result is that darkness [the realm of Satan] reigns.

You and I feel it too. Sin is a powerful force that in thought, word, and deed we can all give in to … and its desires can lead us away from the truth that God intends.

When Paul speaks of sexual immorality and all impurity he is not just speaking of same sex attraction, (though homosexuality would be included in his rebuke) but of all sexual sins outside of God’s design of marriage or in the context of marriage that defiles that union.

Whether perpetrator or victim there are no winners when sexual sin rears its ugly head.

There has been so much in the news over the last year or so. Powerful men who took advantage or their positions in the Hollywood entertainment machine to prey on young women; TV celebrities; people of prominence, and the church is not immune either.

(Reuters) - A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania released the names on Wednesday of 71 clergy members and seminarians accused of sexually abusing children since the 1940s, acting in advance of a release of grand jury findings on clergy abuse in the state.

“I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children,” Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg said in the statement.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pennsylvania-romancatholic-abuse/catholic-diocese-names-dozens-accused-of-sexual-abuse-in-pennsylvania-idUSKBN1KM686

Paul cautions the Ephesians:

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

And here’s the key …

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

The light that exposes darkness is Jesus Christ and his word of truth. And it is not to use God as a means – claiming “I believe” - while denying him and living in sin using Christ as a cover. But through repentance it is God’s desire that you be restored freely by faith in Christ through his saving Gospel and working of the Holy Spirit. And also by the light of the gospel that your light shines in the midst of those in darkness so that they too might come to faith and believe.

Paul speaks of coveting as well, or desiring that which you don’t have … and this can also be things we desire or people.

As Luther says in his explanation for the 9th and 10th commandments:

We should fear and love God that we may not [find] seek to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it … (9th commandment)

… [nor covet], force, or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty. (10th commandment)

http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php

Darkness and light … lies and truth … you can’t ride the fence.

The primary election in behind us but the general election looms large for November and I’m sure that the ads will reflect this in word and deed.

Everything you do untimely says something about who you are. So:

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, Paul says, don’t let the world, your sinful flesh or the devil be your guide. And all too often we can fall silent in the face of evil.

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Joel Fritsche a career missionary suggests that this might be a stanza from an early Christian hymn. It certainly could be with this image of dying and rising and awaking from death that you and I who have been brought to faith understand.

[Aretha Franklin is another high profile person that just passed away ... In my previous life in the retail music world the company I worked for rented pianos for concerts, repaired her piano from smoke damage from a fire at her home and sold her a Bosendorfer grand piano for her new residence ... relate some personal stories.]

Death is the great equalizer for us all. Whether you are the Queen of Soul or just one of us we all need to have Christ and be brought to faith to have a eternity with him. That changes who we are and how we live.

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here in the Divine Service God calls us to come. To be fed on word and sacrament. To receive God’s favor on account of Christ, and to go fourth, in a world of darkness, with the light of the gospel of peace – the very word of God – and it is this word that brings those who are dead in sin and darkness to God’s marvelous light of forgiveness.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit

Amen

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sermon August 4-5, 2018

Title: Walking with Jesus in gentleness and humility!
Text: Eph 4:1-16

4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Humility, gentleness, and patience or - bearing with one another in love - sure don’t sound like the world I live in. At least if you watch the news, spend time on your computer, or check the timeline feeds on your phone or social media account.

You members who are not online or active with facebook or twitter accounts are not immune either. You’ve either heard about it on the radio, read about it in the paper, or have firsthand experience with it while you drive, shop, or go about you daily lives.

Rude and aggressive people who also happen to be impatient are all around us. The world is full of them. Guess what … so is the church.

As the body of believers we live in the world too. At times the world breaks into our lives with rude, violent, and unkind people and attitudes that can shake the foundation of who we are, causing in us a response that is no more humble, gentle, or patient than what we’ve experienced.

It is easy to take our eyes off Jesus; and Paul here is calling the church in Ephesus to refocus. Not only to see Jesus and all he has done for them but to reflect him in words, actions, and attitudes living as his followers wherever God has placed them in home, work, or church.

3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. NIV 1984

From Confirmation class we learn how the Law works as curb, mirror, and guide. It stops bad behavior, reflects our sinfulness to us, and directs us in a better way to go. Feeble attempts to keep the Law miss the mark as we actually at times think we measure up. It can cause a condescending spirit in us to see ourselves as better than others – especially as brothers and sisters in Christ - as pride grows and replaces humility.

Ill.

This past Sunday Alan Trammel and Jack Morris were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I remembered briefly seeing both men at my previous work as they came in to look at pianos. I didn’t wait on either of them as it was another salesman that got the opportunity. Both of them were polite and nice, though neither bought a piano from my place of business. As I remember, both bought a competitive brand and I believe it was Jack who commented to his wife, “We’ll always have a house big enough for the concert grand,” or something along those lines. It may have been a true statement, but confidently cocky is a phrase my boss use to describe successful people at times.

Moving ahead 30 + years or so, their Hall of Fame speeches showed men humble and gentile with their words and patient in their delivery looking to soak up the moment while they considered their accomplishments and the important people in their lives.

While thanking his mother Alan Trammel said,

“She would tell me, If you ever make it to the Major Leagues, I want you to be humble like my favorite player, Stan Musial.”

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2018/07/29/detroit-tigers-alan-trammell-hall-fame-speech/860198002/

But Jack Morris – the harder edged, confidently cocky, we’ll always have the big house for a concert grand guy, began his speech with these words of thanks:

“I am humbled and honored to be with all of you today. Above all, I give thanks to God for His many blessings.”

And he ended with:

“God blessed me with a gift and it was meant to be shared with others. My life in baseball has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for everything.

I want to thank you again for sharing this wonderful day with me. Praise be to God. Thank you.

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2018/07/29/detroit-tigers-jack-morris-hall-fame-speech/860426002/

Confident … yes, but not so much cocky.

Paul in his letter wants the church then and now to know that there is one church, one body of believers, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all … and you, like the church in Ephesus, have been bought with a price.

The death of Jesus is the gift and the price. Because he has risen from the dead and has ascended on high, we too who trust in him will rise and ascend. But only because he died in our place and descended, proclaiming victory over sin, death and the power of the devil can we ever understand the height that he has ascended too.

Humility is hard … success builds pride. Pride can see not the gift or the giver but only the reflection in the mirror. The mirror of the Law - shows us our sin – SOS. But it requires an act of God through his Holy Spirit to SOS – see our savior.

Hall of Fame honors, World Series wins, money, success and fame can cause a cloud of selfish pride to obscure the mirror that reflects who we truly are apart from Christ – lost and condemned creatures that we are.

But thanks be to God, he has made a way for the mirror to clearly reflect our true condition and to provide the means of comfort for a burdened soul … the word of God.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, NIV 1984

God’s gift comes to us through humble means.

Apostles – called by God in Christ to proclaim the way the truth and the life in Jesus and to write by inspiration of the Holy Spirit all that God had given them to do.

Prophets - Those who in many and various ways God spoke through in the past pointing forward to the coming hope that is Jesus.

Evangelists – Those sent to take the good news to the far reaches of the world to bring the lost into the fold.

Pastor’s and teachers – Shepherds that care for God’s flock, called to proclaim the full council of God, feeding God’s sheep, giving his gifts and teaching his children the truth of the word and their standing as his redeemed children. I am blessed to be here and called to serve you.

12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

God’s word is truth.

Paul’s desire is that the church knows the word of God …

knows the gift of faith …

knows the reliance on one Lord, one Faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all.

Only then is it possible to reflect humility, gentleness, and patient as we live as Christ’s body of believers in this broken world. No longer, children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Not being deceived by the ways of the world and the cunning of the devil or being drawn away through men who twist the word of God, deceive the flock, and build their kingdom on the backs of the faithful.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Reactions to the truth can cause differing responses. It can cause rebellion, anger, pride and arrogance by those in opposition to the word and the truth it proclaims or by the working of the Holy Spirit it can cause humility, gentleness, and patience in your life and mine as we live out or vocations as Christians.

Jack Morris sounds like a man changed by the word of God.

You too have been changed. May the joy of that change be a reflection in all you say and do waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13 ESV

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit

Amen

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sermon July 28-29, 2018

Title: Take heart, in Christ your sickness is healed!
Text: Mark 6:45-56

50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock.”

These are the words of St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, from a sermon preached around 400 AD. He was sent into exile for his faith … which led ultimately to his death.

He continues:

“Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise; they cannot sink the boat … of Jesus. What are we to fear … Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile … ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods … We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats; I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death or do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.”

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/233/whom_shall_i_fear___john_chrysostom.html

Fear can consume us all whether it is financial, personal, or medical. The Rock upon which our faith is built is Christ.

He is the rock of refuge.
He is the place of comfort.
He is the pavilion of rest.
He is the gift of mercy.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. Matt 16:18

That rock … is Christ Jesus our Lord!

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat [Luther sees the boat as a metaphor for the church] and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.

Jesus compels the disciples to leave. Maybe there was unwillingness on their part but Jesus made them get into the boat. He dismisses the crowds and then as is consistent with Jesus, no matter the crowds or the work or the distractions … Jesus prays.

47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, [also seen as a metaphor for the chaos of the world broken in sin, death and the devil]

and [Jesus] was alone on the land.

By this time … the boat was a far way off.

The wind and waves were against the boat and the disciples … as life at times can be.

Ill.

The storms can come, and at times it is with wind, rain, and hail. Tree limbs can break, homes and cars can be damaged, and power for some … can be lost.

You have experienced storms and so have I. Storms can come without warning and fear can be greatest … when we least expect it.

Jesus spent almost the entire night, after the disciples departed, in prayer.

The fourth watch would be late, between 3 AM and 6 AM. It can be the darkest part of the night or just before the grayness of dawn gives way to morning, and the disciples were fighting against the waves of the sea and the wind which were against them.

[Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea. Mark 6:48b

If you’ve ever been up most of the night you might understand the disciple’s distress. The wind, the waves … 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified.

Christ calms the storms of life!

Ill.

As a pastor, I get to visit quite a few people at the hospitals, care facilities and in their homes. Some are dealing with minor procedures while others have grave and serious concerns. Some just deal with the problems of age and the uncertainty of life. It is always a joy though to be asked to pray for those who need a comforting word at a time of great worry and fear.

Christ brings that type of peace.

This past Monday all seemed normal for the beginning of the work week. I went in to church, started my sermon preparation and work on things for my Elders meeting and confirmation this fall. I went hope at to feed my dogs and have lunch. While I was putting my plate in the dishwasher I thought I should call Trudy and see if I could make a visit. Her phone didn’t pick up it just beeped. It seemed odd to me. I thought I’d go back to church but something caused me to think … I’ll just drive to her apartment. If she is not there I’ll call her daughter and see what’s up.

Trudy is about 4 miles from me si it didn’t take long to get there. As I walked to her home her window blinds were drawn which is not normal. I peeked in the crack in the blind and could see the TV on. I banged a bit harder on the door and then heard a voice … “Help me.”

The door was locked so I called 911. I gave them the apartment number but couldn’t remember the street and wrestled with the dispatcher who was asking many questions for clarification and it was becoming frustrating to me. Fear was coming upon me as I only wanted to get the door open so I could check on Trudy.

I told the lady on the phone, “Look, I’m getting a bit frustrated and I’m about ready to bust this door down.” To which she calmly said, “You can do that and we even encourage it but just make sure she isn’t behind the door.”

Just then a young man from another apartment came out side. I asked him if he could call and get a security person to open the door. He did, but there was no answer and he asked … did you try the back door? I forgot about the door wall and ran around the back of the complex. When I reached Trudy’s door I pulled. It opened! There was Trudy on the floor. She was sitting and in some pain but looked clear headed and stable.

She said to me “I have been sitting and praying. Thank you so much for coming. I heard you on the phone but I couldn’t get up.”

For it is Jesus who says: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

I’ve told many of you that it is such a privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I get to bring the Lord’s word and gifts to those in need who can’t get to church. Last Monday God brought Trudy’s prayers directly to me in a special way so that her need and her prayers could be answered immediately.

Apart from God’s word of forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit we all would be consumed with fear at the despair and trials of life and weight of our sins.

Take heart, in Christ your sickness is healed!

The trials of life and the storms that attack us can’t diminish the Love of God for you his beloved redeemed children.

51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,

Jesus is the peace beyond all understanding.

54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard [Jesus] was.

The needs of body and soul are always at peace in Christ because he loves you and has given his life so that you might live.

56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Take heart, in Christ your sickness is healed!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit

Amen