Monday, May 15, 2017

Sermon May 13-14, 2017

Title: The way of Jesus leads to life eternal!
Text: John 14:1-14

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

It is a joy to celebrate the blessings that come to us through our mothers and a blessed mother’s day to all. Many of you joy in the mother’s you still have and some, I’m sure long for the mother’s they once had. Some were blessed with godly step mothers and others had mothers that missed the mark of what good mothering should be.

As a pastor for the short time of only 4 ½ years I’ve done a number of funerals; some for mothers, and some fathers and uncles and dear friends. Funerals are a place of grief. Death is not something any of us wants to think about or deal with but as was shared in my message from last weekend … it comes unexpectedly, as it did with my own mother.

For us death is who we are. We are born dead in trespass and sin. The wages of sin is death. On Ash Wednesday as the ashes are placed upon our forehead in the sign of the cross we hear these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Death at times pretends to be comforting. You may hear at a funeral, “He’s in a better place.” Or, “Well, she’s not suffering anymore.” I assume it is how we who remain deal with the loss of a loved one. But the reality is that death is not a good thing. It is the consequence for we who are born in sin.

It is what awaits you are me. It is with that in mind that I remember some of our dear Peace loving mother's who have gone to be with the Lord: Hilda Klein, Joan Kitzman, Lucille Schreiner, Betty Gedeon, Betty Buchannan, Carlene Constable, Marge Goit, Dorothy Blackerby, Eleanor Young, Maude Lewis, Frieda Fleaner, and Sandy Krueger.

In our gospel today Jesus said to his disciples:

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

This text is often used at funerals. It is for comfort and hope. Death is real but so is Christ’s rescue.

What also is interesting is the context of the hope that Jesus gives here in the beginning of chapter 14 with the last line of verse that he says in Chapter 13 where he turns to St. Peter and says,

“I tell you the truth, [truly, truly] before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

Not only then but now as well. We disown the savior daily and not just three times. It is daily. It is willful, and it is often, day in and day out until we die.

It is in that context that Christ’s  - Let not your hearts be troubled - is truly good news and why it is so important that it be shared at times of great grief and suffering. Peter was standing tall … thinking he knew all:

When Jesus washed the disciples feet Peter asked:

“Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Then Peter said:

“You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have [no part of] me.”

[He tells them] 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. He tells them to love one another, to serve one another, to care for one another … because where he is going they cannot come.

Not in their own strength at least.

And Peter in his own strength says: Lord, why can’t I follow you? I’ll lay down my life for you. But in reality that’s you and that’s me. We think we can stand. In the midst of trial, in the midst of temptation, in the midst of sin … we fall … denying the Lord and the rooster crows that reality in our own lives.

I thought about this with confirmation last Sunday … right in the middle of the Rite of confirmation as I am going through the Rite with the confirmands I say:

“Do you in tend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?

Do you intend to live according to the word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?

And finally:

Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?

To all of this they answer, “I do.”

In a sense saying like St. Peter: I’ll lay down my life for you!

But, the confirmands add to their “I do.” These words: “By the grace of God.”
That is what Peter missed. His strength and our strength, as it is connected to faith, life, and eternal life … is in God’s hands and by his grace.

As I wrestle with so many who are confirmed and no longer come to church regularly … I remind myself of the old pastor’s proverb:

Jesus is God and I am not!

In chapter 13 Peter is confused and asks Jesus, “Lord where are you going?”

Thomas in chapter 14 asks:

5 … “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

To this Jesus answers:

6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It is really good news to hear that God has washed you and he has washed our confirmation students as well. They like we have been made partakers of eternal life. It is God who through the means he has provided of Word and Sacrament will keep them and us in the one true faith.

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

That is good news for pastors ... for you dear members and for ... mothers!

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

Amen

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sermon May 6-7, 2017 Confirmation

Title: In Christ the good Shepherd is made known to the sheep!
Text: John 10:1-10

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: 

"James Butler Bonham--no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom." 

No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of His true followers. 

Bill Morgan.

That is the joy that we celebrate today as we receive new members – Olivia Fisher and Brianna Squanda through First Communion, and Loren Robar and Logan Thompson through Confirmation. They have entered the sheepfold through the door which is Christ and know the voice of the Good Shepherd.

To be in the sheepfold of Christ is to be in his care. This happens by Christ’s work. Through word and sacrament God makes us his. Though dead in sin he makes us alive in Christ and calls us to rise from the death of sin to eternal life. All of these children have been brought from death to life through the water’s of Holy Baptism.

There are many thieves and robbers. They point us away from the door of the sheepfold and direct us in other ways to enter. “Come over here or climb over here!” They call. But sheep know the voice of the shepherd and it is him only that they hear and listen too.

Do sheep ever stumble and get led away?

Ill.

Dr. Andrew Bonar tells ho

In the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. 

"Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" I asked. "Ah!" He said, "they are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!" And that is the way with men; they won't go back to God till they have [reached bottom], have no friends, and have lost everything. 

If you are a wanderer - the Good Shepherd will bring you back [by the power of the Holy Spirit. But more importantly God will never leave you nor forsake you but will be with you and by his Spirit point you to Jesus and his cross and salvation in his name.]

Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 70-71.

We all get enticed to go our own way. I’m finished with Confirmation! That may be the start. Then we stop attending worship or come only occasionally. We think that other things are more important. We focus on the sweetness of the tall grass so to speak. 

For me it was guitars. I loved the way they looked. I loved the way they sounded. Life focused on attaining a good one … then another … and another. Rock bands and music became my god. I worshiped at the altar of self. Christ fell into obscurity. Why wouldn’t he … I skipped church to go to breakfast. I fed my belly and not my spirit.

Then death came … unexpectedly. 

My world was broken. My mother got cancer … and she died.

Life didn’t seem as joyful. The wages of sin came crashing down on me too.

My future was changed. A grandmother for my children was taken from me and from them. Where was hope?

As I sat in the quiet of my own ledge – sitting in my chair in the basement - and having fed on all the tall grass of life of music, of guitars and the hope of things being good, successful, and going my way, I was left with the reality of what awaits us all … death, and at some point we all die.

What awaits me, I thought? What awaits you?

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

I’d been listening to thieves and robbers. I’ve been worshiping wood, fashioned into the shape of a guitar that was my hope instead of the wood of the cross where Jesus died for my sin and the sin of the whole world. It is not in the wood but in the one who came to be my hope and to give me hope that I find true peace. My mother died and I lost much but what I found was that Jesus found me. In fact he never left me but was with me when I when away calling me back. By the Holy Spirit he continued to point me to the cross, even when I fought against it thinking I didn’t need church. I can do this myself. But Jesus says:

9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
The door of Holy Baptism has brought you to this place. You cave been buried with Christ and raised to newness of life and now you confirm that

YES, Jesus has rescued me! The door that is Jesus Christ himself has promised me eternal life and I now confirm this, in the presence of these witnesses, that I am … Jesus Little Lamb!

A child’s song; Yes! But it is through child like faith that we believe, receive and have all that God has promised.

Jesus says:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. [But] I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Let us joyfully together sing the Hymn; I am Jesus’ Little Lamb. It is in a bulletin insert with a fourth confirmation verse for us all.

You are all his little lamb, Christ is the door and the sheepfold is his church where he forgives our sins, feeds us his true body and blood and strengthens our faith now and for eternity!

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

Amen

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sermon April 29-30, 2017

Title: With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!
Text: Luke 24:13-35

32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.

It is interesting to me how life has changed. Years ago, when I was young spending time with cousins and aunts that lived in other states was limited to a week or two vacation with the family and a trip to visit. There was then the longing and wishing that we could see each other more often. I tried writing letters and being a pen pal with a few cousins but it didn’t work for very long.

Today though, I’ve reconnected with cousins, aunts and other relatives that live out of state. We do it through email but more and more frequently through Facebook and messenger. That can be a very wonderful medium. It is nice to have instant connectivity with friends and loved ones. Much of what we do is to share memories, pictures and events in our lives and remember good times and celebrate special events like, graduations, weddings and retirements. Facebook provides a place to connect, reconnect and stay in touch. Important news – like my Suzuki motorcycle and passing my riding test - needs to be celebrated and shared!

In the Gospel today we read of two followers of Jesus on the Emmaus Road.

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself … came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

Remember this:

Now what they were discussing was the very hope they had … that this Jesus … was the promised Messiah. But, He had just been tried, and was crucified, dead and buried, and they heard something about being raised from the dead? They were distraught as they walked away from Jerusalem towards village of Emmaus, all hope seemed lost. If they had facebook you can imaging the their post of a sad death.

But they were kept from recognizing the resurrected Lord.

We all are kept from recognizing our Lord and savior too. It is only by a gift of God’s grace, through faith that we can see … who Jesus is and what he has done. It doesn’t come from our own reason and understanding, so that is why our children are taught from little children to hear God’s word and learn about Jesus and to be in worship … so they, like we, can recognize HIM! 

It is also why the responsibility for their continued involvement in church is so important and is the responsibility of their … parents and grandparents, guardians and friends. So, they too can know Jesus.

John’s gospel tells us so.

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

This Gospel truth gives faith to those who hear by the working of the Holy Spirit. This faith points back to Jesus, and tells us who he is as both God and man and what He came to do – for you and me. So that our eyes are opened and that we see and recognize Christ!

As the disciples continued walking:

25 Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Much like Jesus, those who bring God’s word to those who need to be taught, do the very same thing. They explain in the scriptures the work of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ and how through the entire word of God, both Old and New testaments, all that Jesus came to do. Social media too is a way for the message to be shared both individually as Christians and by our church as we share our faith and proclaim God’s blessings in Christ. It is a way for the cloud of unbelief to be lifted by God’s word and working.

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Cor. 10:1-4)

The reality of Jesus as both God and man is not one way of many ways to the Father, but he is THE only way. He is the way the trust and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus scripture teaches.

Social media is one place to shine the light of Christ in your life. When I worked in the piano business I had my Confirmation cross on my wall behind me as a silent witness to who I am and what I believe for all to see and our confirmands, Lauren Robar and Logan Thompson will confess their faith and trust in Jesus … in whom they have been taught next Sunday. They have been found prepared and are ready to confess their faith and for that we thank those who made sure they got to class each week.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Now pay close attention to this:

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

Next week too, we will have Olivia Fisher and Breanna Squanda make their first communion at Peace Lutheran Church and they will be fed in a miraculous way the same body and blood of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ when they receive the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins.

It is comforting to know that by faith their eyes will be opened to Christ and His forgiveness through this same blessed gift. This very same gift that is here for you and me today and always … is for all who have been instructed and who receive, not only the bread and wine but the very body and blood of Jesus, and believing and trusting God’s word … also receive forgiveness, comfort, peace and the strengthening of their faith.

With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!

32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

It is my hope and prayer that God by his means of grace, through word and sacrament, will keep all who receive the Lord’s gifts connected to Jesus and recognizing Him. May we all continue to grow in faith and in service to neighbor as we remain an important part of Christ’s body his church.

We look forward to these new members … as fellow saints … not Junior members, but fully an important part of this body of believers here at Peace and we keep them in prayer and love as they grow into those who will one day lead the church of Christ for many years to come.

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

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

Amen

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sermon April 22-23, 2017

Title: Praise, proclaim, and rejoice in the Lord!
Text: Acts 5:29-42

41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

At the Council of Nicea, which was an important church meeting in the 4th century and also the place where the Nicene Creed is named after there were 318 delegates that attended. Of that number fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith.

Vance Havner

Martin Luther writes:

If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: "O, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!"

Martin Luther

In our first reading for today in the Book of Acts things are not going well for the apostles. This is a bit further in our timeline than where we are in our gospel reading for today where the disciples are locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews … but as you see not much is different.

Jesus has been killed and raised from the dead but fear and uncertainty abounds. Thomas won’t believe unless he has proof and for this is better be tangible … fingers in the nail holes and hand in the side kind of stuff. 

But in our reading from Acts chapter 5 it is the Apostles who are receiving the wrath of the Jews from the Sanhedrin – the council of the Pharisees and Sadducees – for preaching the name of Jesus and performing miraculous signs wonders and healings in his name. It fills the high Priest and those with him with jealousy so much so that they had the apostles arrested and put in jail … unfortunately a fairly common place for those proclaiming Christ than and even now.

But during the night the angle of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out of the jail, told them to stand in the Temple courts and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and his life, death and glorious resurrection for the sins of the world! 

So they went and did all that the lord commanded them.

Giving Praise, proclaiming the good news, and rejoicing in the Lord!

What a surprise as they send for the apostles and they are not there – even though the doors are still locked and the guards posted. They report their finding and look they are back preaching about Jesus. So they go and get them again and bring them to the High Priest and the whole Council saying in a sense

“We told you to stop teaching in this name … this name of Jesus.”

But Peter says:

“We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Ill.

“This past Palm Sunday was a dark day in Egypt. Suicide bombings at two Coptic Christian churches, one in Alexandria and the other in Tanta left 45 people dead and many more wounded. Although there has been an uptick in violence against Christians in the region, Egypt is hardly alone in a long list of countries -- many in the Middle East -- that are violently hostile towards Christians.

Persecution averaged at 90,000 a year over a 10 year period from 2005-2015.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

Not a good sign … but why so much hatred against Christians?

Gamaliel may be a good source for our understanding. Being a teacher of the Law and held in honor by the people … even being the Apostle Paul’s teacher. He stood up saying:

“Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

The truth that we are sinners in need of a savior causes many to rise up in opposition just as it did in the time of Jesus as the Pharisees met.

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

People rise up in our day too and want to do away with this Good News that is the gospel. God’s word brings one of two responses repentance or anger. Repentance hears the word and turns away from sin and back to God while anger hears the repentance call and says,

“How dare you judge me! Who are you to judge me? What an unloving thing to do!”

But in reality it is the thought of:

“What if it’s true? What if eternity apart from Christ is damnation? What if it is just the lies of the devil that I’m hearing?”

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” NIV

If Christ is God in the flesh than apart from him we are dead in trespass and sin or buy god’s Holy Spirit’s work we repent, turn back to him and our saved. This turning also though turns us away from the sin we are broken by and we desire the things of God; his word, his gifts his forgiveness.

Do you desire to be in his house? Do you know God’s desire for you?

St. Peter in his first epistle reminds us.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

God will guard his children through the work of the devil which at times seems overwhelming. And this is my hope as I felt down following Easter services so hoping to see those who come at Easter … to see them desire to be in God’s house each week to receive his gifts.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

It is God who wills and works in you and in me. May he continue to work to bring joy, peace, and salvation to all of those he gives faith to in his time and in his way.

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

Amen

Sermon April 16, 2017 Easter!

Title: Created, Redeemed and Called!
Text: Colossians 3:1-4

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

A gathering of friends at an English estate nearly turned to tragedy when one of the children strayed into deep water. The gardener heard the cries for help, plunged in, and rescued the drowning child. That youngster's name was Winston Churchill. His grateful parents asked the gardener what they could do to reward him. He hesitated, then said, "I wish my son could go to college someday and become a doctor." "We'll see to it," Churchill's parents promised. 

Years later, while Sir Winston was prime minister of England, he was stricken with pneumonia. The country's best physician was summoned. His name was Dr. Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered and developed penicillin. He was also the son of that gardener who had saved young Winston from drowning. Later Churchill remarked, "Rarely has one man owed his life twice to the same person."

Ron Hutchcraft, Wake Up Calls, Moody, 1990, p. 22.

Today we celebrate the blessed resurrection of our Lord. For in time past the world languished in sin and death reigned supreme. The hope of the Messiah and his coming had been prophesied.

Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God came down for this very purpose. To humiliate Himself, to put on human flesh and become man; to cover or veil his divinity for the purpose of keeping the Law, which we could not keep, and then to stand in your place as the, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

For the 30 or so years of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry, the power of His divine nature was there with him all the time, perfectly united with His humanity so that He might accomplish the work that He was appointed to do by putting His power to work in His resurrection from the dead, for you.

This body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which took the scourging, the nails and the spear in his side and who truly died and breathed His last on the cross, was buried in a tomb, given for this purpose by Joseph of Aramathea, and then had the large stone rolled in place to cover and seal the tomb as a testament to the finality of death. Sealed, closed and finished. Jesus, himself used those last words of finality as He exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Death was not a maybe, but was a certainty, (on Good Friday), just three short days ago.

The certainty of the grave and death has now been change forever. As Paul tells the Colossians in our Epistle reading for today.

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)

Created, Redeemed and Called!

What joy! This week, Holy Week has been changed forever for you and me. 

By Jesus and his death and resurrection we too can know that we will rise. Psalm 100 has become one of my favorite Psalms. Last year it was read at Joan Kitzman’s funeral during Holy Week. What joy in the life of a believer!

100 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Know the joy now that was recorded long ago in Psalm 118.

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

Jesus lives and for we, who believe, the Victory is Won!

Created, Redeemed and Called to be his child!

5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

We live, because Jesus lives! By faith we have eternal life and this eternity begins at the moment we believe. The reality of heaven is a present reality for you and me, trusting by faith in Christ’s finished work. We have all the joys promised now, though we only get a foretaste or the future reality when we too will be given our glorious resurrected bodies.

Christos Aneste Χριστός Ανέστη

Alithos Anesti Αληθώς Ανέστη

Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

May the Love of God, the blessings of Christ and his resurrection this Easter, 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

Sermon April 14, 2017 Good Friday!

Title: Stricken smitten by God, and afflicted for you!
Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Heb 4:14-16,5 :7-9, John 19:17-30


4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

I just don’t know why it happened to me?

When Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II, he was stripped of everything--property, family, possessions. He had spent years researching and writing a book on the importance of finding meaning in life and when he arrived in Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp, even his manuscript, which he had hidden in the lining of his coat, was taken away.

"Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me, he thought; I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
He was still wrestling with that question a few days later when the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up their clothes.

"I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber, Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)

"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence” he thought?

Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book Man's search for Meaning:

"There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life . . .'He who has a why to live for … can bear almost any how.'"

Unknown.

Good Friday is an unlikely source for the answer.

When confronted with the whys of our own life we, in many cases turn to despair. So many in our church live with sickness and the knowledge of continued suffering; some lose loving parents and find it hard to go on without them daily in their lives; some just wish to depart this life and to have the suffering they endure … end. It is with Good Friday and the suffering of Christ that we too can call out with persistent cries, “why?” 

Jesus’ life was service and healing not crime. He turned no one away. He gave sight to those who were blind, raised the dead and told the woman caught in adultery; “Neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11

As Isaiah says:

… he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows

… was afflicted, pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

He was oppressed, he opened not his mouth, he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people and they made his grave with the wicked

Though he had done no violence and no deceit was in his mouth.

Through suffering God declares his love.

Isaiah call the Suffering Servant oppressed, and like sheep being led to the slaughter he was silent. Yet, there was a purpose for his suffering. It was for the transgressions of my people. For sin, he would die, be cut off and make his grave for the wicked.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

Through suffering God will bring peace to Israel through His servant. God promises good news, peace, happiness and salvation to His people Israel. It is also made known that God chooses to be the God of all people and that the way he will accomplish this is through his servant. The Lord will be the one who brings salvation to all the earth.

Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2 when he says:

… though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus was lifted up though many were appalled at his appearance. He was disfigured almost to the point of not being recognized as human. Sin needed an atoning sacrifice that was acceptable to appease God’s wrath. God provided the sacrifice in His Son who was the spotless Lamb of God. The price of the servant’s sinless life and death brought peace for you and for me.

Through suffering we have peace and healing.
he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
When you suffer you are connected to Christ Jesus the Suffering Servant. By being connected to this when we too suffer we can know God’s true love for us as he endured all for you and for me … even death.

Christ’s model our victory.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 

Because of Christ’s death we know that death has been conquered by him once and for all. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

Because of his sinless life and his substitutionary atonement we have received what he earned … our forgiveness and salvation. He didn’t do it for himself … he did it for you!

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus suffered we can understand suffering as it pertains to sin and brokenness in this world. Not as something from God but as a result of the corrupted world broken by sin.

Christ’s victory is you victory! Christ’s forgiveness is your forgiveness! By his death you receive eternal life in his name!

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

Amen

Sermon April 13, 2017 Maundy Thursday

Title: The Lord’s time is at hand and we receive his blessing!
Text: Matt 26:17-30
Readings Exodus 24:3-11, Heb 9:11-22, Matt 26:17-30

18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

There are things in this life that we can teach our children and there are things in this life that we can give to them. 

Some things are left as an inheritance from parent to child and may bring temporal blessings for a time. But the true joy we hope to leave them is faith in Christ, and this can only be given through the proclamation of the gospel and the bestowing of faith by the working of the Holy Spirit. We continue to pray that the Lord in his time and in his way will accomplish this salvation.

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

A few times in the past we’ve hosted Jews for Jesus and their presentation, Christ in the Passover. If you were able to come you saw and heard about a Passover Seder, this Feast of Unleavened Bread which is a seven–day feast that coincides with Passover, during which no leaven is to be eaten.
Now today we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper and begin the culmination of Jesus coming and his work as we walk to the cross with him. At the cross he will finish his work and free the world from sin, death and the power of the devil for you and for me.

It had been the custom for Jesus and the Jewish people to celebrate the Feast of the Passover in remembrance of their delivery out of slavery and bondage in Egypt and Jesus gives them specific instructions:

18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

Two of the disciples, Peter and John, were commissioned to attend to this work, Jesus giving them another bit of evidence as to His omniscient (all knowing) power. They were to go to a certain place, which Christ designated very exactly, to a man whom He also described to them, and give him a message. 

The Lord's time was near, even at hand, the time when He would be taken up into glory through suffering and death. With him, in this certain man's house, He would celebrate the Passover with His disciples. It is likely, as has been suggested, that this man was a disciple of Jesus in secret, just as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were. The disciples carried out the wishes of Jesus, acting as his representatives to the householder in making all arrangements for the evening.

18[ Jesus] said, “Go!” The Lord gave instructions and they were followed by the disciples. We though, as Christ’s followers, fall short of what he expects by not doing what God calls us to do because of our sinful flesh. We are not strong in faith, or evangelism, or outreach, or prayer, or devotion or love toward neighbor. It is who we are as sinners … but that is no excuse. We also know what God demands of us and in repentance we turn from sin.

C.S. Lewis put it this way: 

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis.

Far too easily pleased; are you? Do you seek in prayer what are the desires of your heart believing that God too desires to give them to you? And what is the desire of your heart? That in of itself says quite a bit about you and me. 

Do we seek things temporal or things eternal? Is it selfish gain or blessings for those who are truly in need? The Lord knows your true need … and it is this that He desires to give you.

21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

We understand Judas’ betrayal. Jesus says it would be better that he had not been born. That says something about life, death and eternal punishment. But do you and do I betray the Lord? Do we not do what He has called us to do in giving others what has been given to us? Namely, the Good News; is there a time that you remember an opportunity presented that you missed in sharing the gospel? 

I do.

Ill.

As a pastor who does hospital visitation I can think of one time in particular where I missed an opportunity. Leaving a visit at St. Joes, as I waited for the elevator door to open, a lady chaplain walked by, as we looked at each other, she saw my collar and I saw someone of Indian descent. It was quick and very brief, I was thinking of my next call or business to attend to. She said, “How are you?” I answered, “Very well, thank you and how are you?” 

As she answered the door opened and as is habit, I got on the elevator smiling as we parted. As I descended to the lobby I thought to myself … Why didn’t I remember to ask a few questions? Could I have asked how long she had been a Chaplin, what was the hardest part of her job? Does the hospital use volunteer Chaplains? What comfort does she offer patients? Anything … but I didn’t. 

Instantly I fell short and it was brought to my attention by the Holy Spirit. 

Sure I’ve done the opposite many times where I’ve shared my faith … I just don’t remember those as vividly as I do the times I fall short … and that is good. It is the Lord’s work. 

But Jesus’ work was coming to a close - like the Passover - and soon He would go to the cross. Giving us new this gift – the Lord’s Supper - that he left for us until his glorious return that we celebrate tonight because:

The Lord’s time is at hand and we receive his blessing!

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”

Jesus gave His body and blood as a gift for his disciples. He continues to give this same gift for we who as his followers continue to need to have our faith strengthened as we struggle with our own sinfulness in this life.

"We Christians confess and believe that the Sacrament of the Altar is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself. 

We cannot understand how Jesus at that time, while standing in visible form before His disciples, could give them His body, His blood to eat and to drink, nor how the risen Christ, though in heaven, can be present everywhere on earth with His body and blood, wherever this meal is celebrated according to His institution. 

But the word of Christ is clear and true, and we also know from the scriptures that the body of Christ, had a higher, form of being, even in the days of His humility, in addition the risen Christ is not locked up in heaven. As Luther said, we take our reason captive to the word of God and thank him for the great blessing of this Blessed Sacrament. From it we gain the knowledge and certainty of our forgiveness of our sins. 

In guaranteeing to us his grace this sacrament points forward, just like the Passover meal, to the end of the journey, to the meal of eternity, when the Lord will drink it with us in His Father's kingdom." 

Kretzmann NT Vol 1 pg146

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

Amen