Monday, November 20, 2017

Sermon November 18-19, 2017

Title: God’s joy is your joy in Christ!
Text: Matthew 25:14-30

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

As we prepare for Thanksgiving there is much to be thankful for. For me personally this past year has brought great joy with my son Jonathan and Elizabeth Nold getting married. Also, Monica's good reports for continued healing from cancer has been a great blessing of which I am especially grateful. For many though the Thanksgiving holiday is passed over and we are already in the Christmas season and all that come with it in giving and receiving gifts. The Hallmark Channel is going full tilt and if one wasn’t enough there are two for your viewing enjoyment. The shopping network is ready with deal on many of the needed items and – no use waiting for black Friday – it’s here, having died the death of bargain prices earlier and earlier in the season. Christmas has been commercialized but that happened a long time ago. Christmas is on full display yet we haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving, the end of days, or Advent, but gifts are being bought and thoughts of joy and the Christmas season are on our minds.

Giving is a wonderful thing but what if the gift is neglected or wasted? It certainly wouldn’t be looked upon as a good thing. We have all been gifted according to our own ability and God also wants to see that gift used in proportion to that ability. Whatever your gift is and whatever you have been given you have the joy of serving Christ because of his gift to you and his mission to reach the lost with the saving gospel.

With these last two weeks in the church year we hear the really good news that all believers long to hear:

Enter into the joy of your master and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you!

Both of these sayings are really good news for those who are prepared, with lamps full of oil just like the wise virgins from last week’s lesson. But just like last week, there too are those who are foolish and who are ill prepared for the coming of the master, and who also when Christ returns, will find themselves hearing words of rejection, terror and judgment.

Jesus in preparation for his passion and the time of his departing tells a parable about a man going on a journey. Who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. And then he gives them a potion of his property to manage according to their ability.

15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

According to New Nave's Topical Bible, one who possessed five talents of gold or silver was a multimillionaire by today's standards. Some calculate the talent in the parables to be equivalent to 20 years of wages for the common worker. Other scholars estimate more conservatively, valuing the New Testament talent somewhere between $5,000 to $30,000 dollars today.

None the less it represented a large sum of money to be entrusted with.

We also see that the one, who had been given the most, went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. He took what he had been given and with the ability given him went and doubled the master’s investment. He used what had been gifted to him in ability to grow his master’s kingdom.

The one who was given the two talents, made two talents more. He too did with what he had been given in ability to grow the master’s kingdom.

Finally the one who was given one talent, did with it what the master had not expected, 18 But he … went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

He took what had been entrusted to him and buried it.

In this parable we have to look at it on the surface and also at what greater biblical meaning is Jesus pointing at. First, the money given to the first two servants brought a return. In money matters this is always good. As my boss told me many years ago when I was first hired to work in his business, “When you work on commission you have to prepare for the times when you will have a bad month. You must first produce, then save and then invest.” His point was that once you receive your pay check you must invest some of it so that it produces a return that is greater than the investment you began with. Servant three didn't understand that, it wasn't even invested, so that it brought some interest on the investment from the bankers for the master. It was buried and brought no return.

20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Remember we already said that 5 talents of money was a very large sum but the master here refers to it as being faithful over a little and promises to set him over much. This too happens for servant two in much the same way.

In our Biblical understanding we all are made sons of our heavenly father and of the word himself, Jesus Christ. We have been given the gift of faith and made partakers of the Kingdom of God. We have all been gifted richly by our loving God through the working of the Holy Spirit and at the end times and upon Christ’s return will give an accounting of what we did with the gift of God in Christ Jesus that had been given to us.

Did we believe or did we reject?

For some it is using our gifts within the church for others it is in the world and for some it is in both places reaching the fullest return with what you have been gifted.

Now don’t get me wrong, the parable is not about money, it’s not about giving but it is about the word of God Jesus Christ which is the gift of God and what ultimately is done with it.

Upon Christ’s return you will either receive the joy of the master by his gift and his work alone, or you will shut the door of faith with unbelief, burying the word of God, which by the Spirit work brings that faith, and then, just like the servant who buried the master’s gift, there will be those who blame God for their own rejection of his free gift.

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Those who believe that the gospel is hard fear the Lord’s return.

Those who think that a loving God would not judge those who reject the gift of grace and faith are also those who themselves reject the means of receiving eternal life, which is given by faith in Christ through word and sacrament.

27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Christ welcomes all who by faith trust his work and believe. He has gifted each one of us with the blessed gift of faith and by his working through the Holy Spirit we believe and serve our Lord Christ in blessedness and holiness.

We all have been gifted to serve the Lord and his kingdom. May we all find joy in his use of each one of us for his greater purpose so that you will:

Enter into the joy of your master!

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

Amen

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sermon November 11-12, 2017

Title: Your lamps are fueled by God’s word and Spirit!
Text: Matthew 25:1-13

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

As we look to this gospel text and parable today let us begin with a few verses that precede this reading today from chapter 24.
Here Jesus is speaking with his disciples and says:

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

And:

44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

And finally:

50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In light of the tragedy of last Sunday in Sutherland springs Texas we pray for comfort and peace to those affected there as well as asking the Lord to come quickly.

So the text today speaks of the end times and preparation for the Lord’s coming.

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

In the parables that we have studied previously, the kingdom of heaven and the joy that awaits those who believe … had been described as a Wedding feast.

There were those closed with wedding garments and those who were not. There was also a casting out and a weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And now we continue, for the disciples benefit and ours, with the foolish and wise virgins who took their lamps and while the wise had oil in their lamps, the foolish did not and though the bridegroom was a long time in coming … they were unprepared for the time of his arrival.

Being unprepared is not a good thing.

Ill.

Preparation has been evident these last few weeks as we’ve moved things from the offices, halls, Narthex and Sanctuary to make way and prepare for the new carpeting. It has been a long time coming … some ten years in our thoughts that we needed it and a few years in preparation to make it happen. But, until the last council and voters meeting we didn’t know if it was possible and would materialize. Day by day we don’t know what will be needed and who will be available to make things happen but we are prepared and work around the schedules that are needed.

We’ve received some donations, wrote some checks, and paid some bills and as of right now – though we were prepared to borrow money to finish the carpet – it doesn’t appear to be needed.

Preparation is not always on the minds of all.

For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,

How much good is a lamp that has no oil? Not much. We too know about oil here at church and at times the acolytes have to try to light candles that have no oil in them. They have a dry wick and no fuel from which to draw. We also have at times had lights with burned out bulbs. How helpful is a light that is out? Not much.

4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

As we know, lamps with oil bring with them light … and light the way. As do fresh bulbs in our EXIT signs. But in our parable the oil signifies something more. It signifies the work of God, the gift of God and the working of his Holy Spirit that brings faith … the gift of God for all who believe. So what did the foolish lose? They lost focus on Jesus, and their faith had dries up. The faith that is a pure gift of God and not of our own doing … had dimmed to the point of flickering and had gone out.
What does this say to you and to me and to all who have the gift of faith by God’s Spirit?

Let us look at Matthew 7 and what Jesus had said to his disciples and the crowds after the Sermon on the Mount.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

What is it to do the will of my father who is in heaven? In John’s gospel we have a glimpse in Chapter 6:

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Ill.

This past Sunday tragedy once again came to our country. But this time it came to a church and those who were worshiping - as we are - sitting in God’s house and hearing God’s word.

How unthinkable it is that in a place of worship evil came. How unthinkable that as they prayed and sang hymns of praise to our God the brokenness of sin broke through the doors of that little church in a death hail of bullets.

How unthinkable some of the comments were:

“The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”

They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.

No need to go into all the tweets of those in support of this viewpoint as it pertains to Christians, prayer and those opposed to the faith or those who replied in opposition to these heartless statements. To say things once again became political would be an understatement.

Last Sunday’s Bible study was on the Beatitudes from our gospel reading.

2 And [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Had only the gunman been touched by the gospel and brought to faith then too his flask of oil would have been full and the outcome would have been very different.

If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”

Jesus himself prayed from the cross:

42 … “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”

41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked [Jesus], saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

Dear friends, we who have lamps are fools too at times.

We fool ourselves into believing that we have measured up; we fool ourselves into believing that we are acceptable in the eyes of God and that we will all stand before him in righteous acceptance.

The truth is that apart from Jesus and his Spirit working … my lamp is empty. Your lamp is empty too … and so are the lamps of all who trust in their own way.

But dear friends, your lamps are fueled by God’s word and Spirit!

Christ has made a way to give you a full lamp. Christ has filled you with His Spirit who points you to him. Christ has promised he would never leave you or forsake you. Christ continues to feed you on word and sacrament so that the gift of faith continues to fill your lamp for you and me who trust in Him.

Christ was feeding those dear souls at the first Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas too, and by his Spirit they are with the Lord.

You also who have been filled and are continually being filled by God’s blessed faith as you remain connected to his word and sacraments and are wise and prepared and ready for the coming of him – whenever and however that may come to pass.

Because of Jesus and your lamp of faith fueled by the Holy Spirit you who believe are ready! Come Lord Jesus!

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

Amen





Monday, November 6, 2017

Sermon November 4-5, 2017 All Saints Day observed

Title: Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!
Text: Rev.7:9-17

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

[As I sang with the congregation the opening hymn For All the Saints and the Sermon hymn We Praise You and Acknowledge you, O God  the Holy Spirit made it clear to me that I needed to preach a different sermon than what I had prepared. Those places are  bracketed off. It was the first time that I felt compelled to go off in this way and it was a blessing and well received. Thank you Lord!]

[Reflections on All saints Day]

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What a picture the book of Revelation gives us!

This heavenly picture has some wonderful and awesome truths depicted as well. There is an uncountable multitude – more than you can even imagine. This multitude is made up of people like you and me … real flesh and blood people. And they come from every nation and tribe – people from around the world – dressed not in the rags of their own unrighteousness but covered in white robes, the robes of Christ’s righteousness … and carrying palm branches!

Wow! It sounds like Heaven is a very tangible place too. Because to speak of palm branches … we might reasonably assume palm trees, but the image that also comes to my mind is the glorious ride of Christ into Jerusalem and the waving of palm branches by the people:

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9)

Their cries of welcome led up to the cries of “Crucify Him” and the cross of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and now these cries of death are completed in the heavenly cries of glory in the gathering of the multitude before the throne of grace who have been brought to faith in this same Jesus Christ, crying:

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

What had been anticipated before the cross is now fulfilled. What had been a triumphal entry for Jesus is now a triumphal fulfillment for you and me though the cross of Christ and though you - of many faces are many - you have been adopted into God’s family and are now His child, a child of His own choosing because:

Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!

Ill.
A story is told of a couple had adopted a baby boy after trying to have a baby for five years. To their surprise, a short time after the adoption, the mother discovered she was pregnant, and she later gave birth to a boy. One day when the two boys were eight and nine years old, a neighbor came to visit. Observing the children at play, the neighbor asked, "Which boy is yours?" "Both of them," the mother replied. The neighbor persisted. "But I mean, which one is the adopted one?" The mother replied, "I’ve forgotten."

Randy Aly

That is the good news for you too. God knows you are His child. To see you is to see Christ. Unfortunately, we all fall short as his children.

[Additional thought of God’s Saints here at Peace now and in years past reflecting of visits with past members, hospital calls and those who have departed and recent visits with past members and the loss of a charter member.]

Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Being brought to faith in Baptism makes you part of this great number from every nation and from all tribes and peoples and languages. And that was the good news for those early believers too. They knew that this Jesus who had died on the cross was the same one taken up to heaven was the same Jesus who said:

[Additional thoughts]

Behold, you are part of that great multitude that no one could number! (Rev. 7:9)

Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

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

Amen

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sermon October 28-29, 2017 Reformation

Title: The Freedom of the gospel and Truth in Christ has set you free!
Text: Romans 3:19-28

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Fredrick Douglas once said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet [deplore] agitation are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.”

Frederick Douglas

Martin Luther certainly felt the thunder and lightning that he did not expect when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg castle church door on October 31, 1517. What he intended for theological debate and discussion caused turmoil, divided the Christian church, and marked the beginning of what we know today as the Lutheran Reformation. The freedom that we who name the name of Christ received is in the Son and because of His wonderful work you are free in Christ!

Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, began by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy that we who today benefit from this blessed freedom found in the Gospel message, will continue together with the whole church to reach the lost with this same gospel message.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law … 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

This was the crux of Luther’s struggle. How could a sinful man stand before a holy God? He would ask himself, “Must God condemn sin? Yes. Am I a sinner? Yes. Must God condemn me? Yes!”

This struggle and torment tore at Luther as he tried to understand the depth of the fall into sin and the rescue that was enacted on our behalf in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As one myself who came to Lutheranism as an adult, and also as one who struggled to find peace with God, I came to identify a great deal with Luther. One book that was important in my transition to Lutheranism was Heiko Oberman’s, Luther: Man between God and the Devil. It was not only a history of Luther and the reformation but it also was a perfect picture of where Luther stood … between God and the Devil. On the one hand judged and condemned as a sinner by God and on the other hand tempted and taunted by the Devil. Luther thought, “Where can peace be found in this life let alone the life to come?”

[Interestingly LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matt Harrison posted on his facebook page that 1/3 of all LCMS members are adult converts.]

For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. 3:22b-24

You are free in Christ!

While verse 24 says pretty much the same thing it was Chapter 5 and verse 1 that gave Luther what he was looking for … peace.

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace was God’s gift but the means that Luther now understood was through the instrument of faith. This gift of Grace and Faith gave Luther hope and peace in a God, not of wrath but of love.

25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

[The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.]

http://www.gotquestions.org/propitiation.html


So not only is God no longer angry with you, because Jesus has accepted all of God’s wrathful anger in a once and for all sacrifice at the cross, but in Christ by faith you receive what Christ received … God’s favor … on account of that same sacrifice.

Luther was free and the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t be the same.

Not that Luther was trying to topple or rebel against the Roman Church but just to reform its errors. It’s a little like a student finding an error that the teacher wrote on the blackboard. The student points out the error not to show up the teacher but to show that he was paying so close attention that this error jumped out at him. The proper response from the teacher is to thank the student and move on. That’s what Luther thought would happen, that his propositions in his 95 theses posted on the door of the Castle Church would bring theological debate and he felt confident that he could prove that his thinking was right by the word of God.

I was born on April 18, 1955 and baptized in May of that year. My first remembrance of Church was at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, in McKeesport Pennsylvania. The services were in Latin … and I didn’t understand a word. Not much different for the Church members in Luther’s day. Remember the only thing they knew about God was what the Church told them. The Bible was in Latin and they, if they didn’t read Latin were in the dark.

Ill.

One movie that I show to my confirmation students is a film called Martin Luther Heretic. The title says a lot about how the church viewed Luther … as one who taught falsehood. One scene that is especially poignant has Luther teaching his students the difference between the scripture in Latin and what he found in the ancient Greek. He points out that in the Latin it reads, do penance but in the Greek is reads, change heart. Luther saw that the Latin was a mistranslation of change heart.

The changing of our heart from being God’s enemies to being at peace with God is all God’s work.

This set Luther free to preach the freedom of the Christian who at birth is bound to sin, just like you and me, but who is freed from sin, death and the power of the Devil by God’s gift of Grace through faith and this is not of your doing, not a result of works (doing penance) so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9

This led Luther to the Diet of Worms, in Germany to hear the charges of heresy, in front of the Emperor Charles the V, which were brought against him and to give a defense for what he believed, taught and confessed. This happened on April 18, 1521, 436 years to the day of my own birth, so I felt a certain kinship with Luther as I wrestled with my own religious upbringing.

It is to [papal legate] Aleander that we owe the eyewitness account of Luther’s arrival in Worms:

I had already concluded my letter when I gathered from various reports as well as the hasty running of the people that the great master of heretics was making his entrance. I sent one of my people out, and he told me that about a hundred mounted soldiers, probably the Sickingens, had escorted him to the gate of the city; sitting in a coach with three comrades, he entered the city [at ten in the morning], surrounded by some eight horsemen and found lodgings near his Saxon prince. When he left the coach, a priest embraced him and touched his habit three times, and shouted with joy, as if he had a relic of the greatest saint in his hands. I suspect that he will soon be said to work miracles. This Luther, as he climbed from the coach, looked around in the circle of his demonic eyes and said:”God will be with me.” Then he stepped into an inn, where he was visited by many men, ten or twelve of which he ate with, and after the meal, all the world ran there to see him.

Oberman, Heiko A. Luther Man between God and the Devil, Yale University 1989 Pg. 198-99

To those inside and outside the church the Lutheran liturgy and Roman Catholic liturgy look similar.
We have many of the same elements, invocation, confession of sins, the creeds, and even the readings for the day are the same coming from the historic lectionary. We baptize infant, instruct our youth, have confirmation and receive the Lord’s body and blood in the sacrament of the Altar. So why was there this battle in 1521 and why does it still rage today? In a word … it’s the gospel.

Lutherans believe that we are saved by grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, and that we know this by the means of Scripture alone. No works, no penance, no merit Luther knew as those bound in sin from birth that, “the only thing we contribute to our salvation … is sin.”

In Augsburg Germany on June 25, 1530 the public reading of the Augsburg Confession first took place.

[Chancellor Christian Beyer, a member of the government of Duke John, elector of Saxony, read before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and a gathering of princes (a “Diet”) in the city of Augsburg, Germany, a confession of faith signed by seven princes and two city councils in whose lands the teachings of Luther and the Wittenberg reformers had taken root in the previous decade. Luther’s colleague, Philip Melanchthon, is the principal author, though he used several previous documents in the preparation.]

http://wmltblog.org/2013/06/june-25-the-presentation-of-the-augsburg-confession/

Justification … how are men saved continues to divide the church.

Lutherans say in article IV of the Augsburg Confession:

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

The Roman Church counters in Canon 9 of the council of Trent:

If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

It is either all of Christ or we do something. It hasn’t changed in almost 500 years. There are many similarities and big differences still between Lutherans and Catholics but also between Lutherans and Evangelicals.

Matthew Block writes in First Things of the Evangelical Catholic tradition:

Jaroslav Pelikan in his 1964 work Obedient Rebels, attempted to situate Lutheranism’s place in the catholic tradition writing:

“Martin Luther was the first Protestant, and yet he was more Catholic than many of his Roman Catholic opponents,” Pelikan quips in the first sentence of the book. “This paradox lies at the very centre of Luther’s Reformation.” The rest of the book is devoted to exploring this [Lutheran] movement which was, at one time, both Catholic and Protestant.

https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/12/the-evangelical-catholic-tradition

Martin Luther brought the thunder and lightning but not to be a agitator - but to restore the Gospel. To give the peace of God to we who are bound in sin. To bring true freedom to those bound by the Devils lies … that we can do anything to merit forgiveness.

Let it be proclaimed!

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

You are free in Christ!

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

Amen




Sermon October 21-22, 2017

Title: The Father has given you all you need!
Text: Matthew 22:15-22

[And they said to Jesus] 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

When Sgt. Ray Baarz of the Midvale, Utah police department opened his wallet, he noticed his driver's license had expired. Embarrassed at having caught himself red-handed, he had no alternative. He calmly and deliberately pulled out his ticket book and wrote himself a citation. Then Baarz took the ticket to the city judge who issued the fine. "How could I give a ticket to anyone else for an expired license in the future if I didn't cite myself?" Baarz asked.

Source Unknown.

Holding yourself accountable is important as we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. We are compelled to live within that tension - between the spiritual and civil realm - every day of our lives. So daily we must remember that:
Christ has claimed you and made you His!

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his words.

The Chief priests and Pharisees had not been doing well with Jesus.

Previously in the parables they had been thrown out of the vineyard, having had the vineyard given to other tenants (Matt. 21:33-44) and last week they had ignored the invitation of the King to attend the wedding feast, (Matt 22:1-14) and unless you are clothed with the proper wedding garment which is - not certainly the filthy sin stained rags of our own righteousness – but the righteousness that comes only by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord and His finished work.

To say that the Pharisees are not happy would be an understatement and they begin to plot and make plans to trap Jesus. They want to catch Him in something that they can then accuse him of and turn him over to the authorities to have Him tried and ultimately … have Him put to death. This way they are sure that they can get rid of him once and for all.

6 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians …

The disciples of the Pharisees went to Jesus and also brought some of the Herodians with them. The Herodians are only mentioned 6 time in the New Testament and there is some debate as to whether they were a political party distinct from the Pharisees and Sadducees and supporters of Herod Antipas, or were actually soldiers in Herod’s court. Either way … the Pharisees were bringing politicians or soldiers with them to Jesus, and that was neither meant as a way to get Jesus’ political support or to have him enlist!

… saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

This is what might be called … painting a picture.

“Yea, yea … we believe everything you say because we know you’re telling the truth. You don’t care with other’s say … even if they are the religious leaders so why don’t you say it in front of these politicians or soldiers of … Herod … yea … and of course we mean you no disrespect!

So ... 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

So, speak up so these Herodians can hear you.

Ill.

Church and State has been on the minds of many over these last few years. Much has been brought to light what churches can do to protect their rights and conscience as it pertains to a changing culture. One thing that became very clear is the need for we Christians to register to vote. The more true believers who take part in the process and exercise their right as citizens to vote in a biblical way, the more biblical and pleasing of an outcome we might have. But as Christians we also need to be informed voters.

The Pharisees and the Herodians – politics and soldiers - too had an agenda.

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” as if they didn’t know 21 They said, “Caesar's.”

You and I know the laws. We know what or whom has been placed over us whether it is the laws that are on the books, or the police officer that has just given you a ticket for an expired driver’s license, or political official who has just voted in a way that is contrary to your desire and even God’s desire.

We are all called to proclaim God’s truth in light of civil persecution. We are called to love those who persecute us. If the laws call us to do something contrary to God’s word we need to sand firm and use our ability as citizens to also exercise our rights to bring about change.

Ill.

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him joyfully, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?"

The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god."

When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night air.

When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you."

God answered, "Abraham … I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?"

Thomas Lindberg.


The things that in this life may grieve us as Christians grieve our loving God as well. But He who is righteous is long suffering.

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 2:9

God is slow with you and He is slow with me. Not giving up on us and our failings but calling and bringing us by the power of His Spirit to believe. God in Christ has suffered with us for some of us many years as we at times choose to fall away from His word looking to what society and the civil leaders tell us what to believe and do. He is long suffering towards us and we need to be long suffering to those we encounter that also don’t see things as we do.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

This image is very much simple to see. The question of should we pay tax is simple answered by Jesus give to Caesar or give to the State what it requires but then it becomes a bit harder. Give to God what is His.

You are called to respond to the call of the gospel. The Pharisees and Chief Priests had been called and they had refused to care for the vineyard and ignored the invitation to the wedding feast. We too look to things other than the things God’s desires and drift away from Him and his word. God’s desire is you and you fully trust in Him.

He has claimed you and made you His!

Despite the trials of this world God has sent His son to take the fullness of His wrath you deserve. It is finished Jesus said and you are no longer accountable. He has died for all flesh, heterosexual as well as homosexual and calls you to repentance. Broken as you are He restores, forgives and calls you to be his child forever. Your sin is never beyond his redemption.

Christ has claimed you and made you His!

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

Amen

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sermon October 14-15, 2017

Title: Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!
Text: Matthew 22:1-14

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Yes, the Lord gives us daily opportunities to be his witnesses in the world.

This is LWML weekend. We celebrate the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in witnessing the love of Christ to a broken world and all that they do to bring this witness of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins to those who need to hear.

Many in our congregation have been or continue to be Christ’s servants through this faithful ministry. But at times others in our midst and in the world see the call to witness about Jesus and what he has done for us fall on deft ears.

The work of the flesh, the world, and the devil can bring to nothing what God intended for good.

Many opportunities are missed. Have you missed an opportunity? I have. The question always is, “Why did I forget to tell them about Jesus?”

22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.

So Jesus moves right from the master and the vineyard parable from last week to the parable of the wedding feast. The chief priests and the Pharisees had just realized that Jesus was talking about them as the ones who would be removed from the vineyard and it would be given to other tenants.

Now, with the wedding feast parable He once again paints the picture of those who will be welcomed at the feast.

4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’

Jesus calls all to come. He welcomes all who believe and trust in Him

5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

The chief priests and Pharisees are once again singled out as those who having abused the vineyard and the servants sent to get the master’s good grapes and now in this parable, they are the ones called to the feast but pay no attention or continue to abuse the servants.

So like the master in the previous parable who will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants:

7 The king [too] was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

So He tells them to:

9 Go … to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Both … bad and good … those who, to human eyes appear to be worthy, and those who we might assume would never be invited, too are called.

It is very good news that:

Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!

The LWML – The Lutheran Woman’s Missionary League is and has been at the forefront of bearing witness for 75 years this year. What a great accomplishment. There Bi-annual budget to serve the needs in our area and around the world for this Biennium 2017-2019 is 2,075,000. Included in that mission outreach are:

Mercy house for woman and children in Flint
Christ for Veterans and Families in the CMS
LCMS International Missions
Lutheran Children’s Books for Families by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation
Lutheran Hour ministries
Labor of Love Lutheran Brail Outreach to name a few totaling $2,075,000 for mission and ministry outreach for these next two years. Thank you ladies!

Those little mite boxes when gathered together grow and it was a blessing for me a few years ago to serve as the pastoral representative for our local LWML.

Ill.

A story is told:

A man was headed home late from a wedding reception and had about a two hour drive when a friend said to me, "Remember that for every mile you drive there are two miles of ditch".

He said, “I was in the car before that really sunk in, and then it hit me, for every path we walk, there are two miles of ditch along the journey inviting us to veer off the road. There are twice as many chances to stray away from God [into the ways of the world.]

Few of us ever intend to go into the ditch. No one just drives down the road and says "Hey I'm going to drive into the ditch" For most of us, it is simply hugging the shoulder of the road and little by little we move ourselves from the patch of following Jesus and somehow we end up off the road and in the ditch.

The gift of grace and faith becomes rejected and little by little the wedding garment is removed as you once again put on the filthy rags of your own self righteousness. Those rags unfortunately are so comfortable at times that you might not even notice the change. But the reality is there - reject God’s word, reject God’s gifts, return to the ways of the world and if not you or me … maybe it is someone we love.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’

The wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ. It is give to you by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. You are clothed with it in baptism and made Christ’s disciple and follower. The garment of Christ identifies you as one invited to attend the feast and your place is secure at the table.

You are seated there now … in Christ … you have on the wedding garment and by the work of the Holy Spirit he will bear fruit tin and through you.

Amen

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sermon October 7-8, 2017

Martin: The Man! Video series 5th Installment
Title: The Word, the Church, the Truth, and the World!
Text: Acts 4:19-21a; 5:27-29 (Readings below)


19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

As we conclude this video series we see God’s word coming out of hiding. As Luther is hidden away – in the Wartburg Castle - he works hard to make the word of God clear and available to the German people by translating the New Testament into the common language of the people.

The church had the power to keep the people subservient to what the church directed and wanted them to know … and we all know that control means power … for a few. Luther and the reformation returned the truth and the gospel to the people. The freedom of the gospel meant real forgiveness apart from the works of the Law. As the Lutheran church emerged it needed to see what this new freedom meant. Luther’s German mass was the beginning of what we understand as the Divine service along with the singing of hymns - another Luther gift and blessing - where we together sing together the one true faith into our hearts and live that faith out daily in love for God and our neighbor.

The Lord’s Supper is and has always been pure gift for us Lutherans who received the true body and blood of Christ in and with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins … nothing more and nothing less. The confessions of the Lutheran church contained in the Book of Concord makes our confession known. The Augsburg Confession in its unaltered state is what we as Missouri Synod Lutherans hold too.

Today the turmoil continues in our lives. It is not the same battle but it is the same fight. The world has become once more the arbiter of truth no matter the side you’re on as there is plenty of blame to go around. Marriage has been redefined and God’s word belittled. Respect is demanded … not earned. Traditional values are replaced with new ones and the family has been redefined. Children are aborted; lives are stilled in a shooting of mass proportions in Las Vegas and race relations are at an all time low. There is no place for that in the lives of Christians who see not the color of the skin but fellow sinners redeemed by grace.

As the gospel for today tells us in the words of Jesus:

38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
This son who was killed is the word of God made flesh Jesus Christ himself.

When the word is rejected, the Son is rejected. That which was not available to the people in Luther’s day – the word of God – has been available to you your whole life. For many in our day, in our life and even in our church it means little. “Take it away, they think, I live just fine without it.” But then we live according to the word of man and man at his core remains evil – as the Apostle Paul calls all born in sin to account in Romans 3.

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”


Sounds like today.
Sounds like the protests.
Sounds like our country.
Sounds like our world.

We need a return to the word of God. A reformation if you will again to the truths that God has revealed in and through his word and to the cure that he alone can bring to a dying world

“We are only beggars (before God), it’s true.”

Each day we work as if it all depends on us. We pray, we help, we care, we provide, we love, we forgive and we hope, knowing also that … everything depends on God alone.

Let us pray that just as Martin Luther was used by God to bring Reformation to the church that God also will reform each one of our lives so that we can be a voice of reform and restoration in our lives and in our world.

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

Amen


Video A Man named Martin part 5