Monday, November 19, 2018

Sermon November 17-18, 2018

Title: Be strong in the Lord!
Text: Mark 13:1-13

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.

During these final weeks in the church year at the end of the Pentecost season – the season of the church - speaks of the end times and the second coming of Christ. It is a time, where sinful eyes only see destruction, deception, and death. But for we who have been redeemed and made new in Baptism, we see through the eyes of faith … hope and delivery in our loving savior Jesus.

13 And as [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

The Temple mount in Jerusalem has not been rebuilt since it was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 AD.

The Jewish historian Josephus writes in the War of the Jews:

"...the rebels shortly after attacked the Romans again, and a clash followed between the guards of the sanctuary and the troops who were putting out the fire inside the inner court; the latter routed the Jews and followed in hot pursuit right up to the Temple itself. Then one of the soldiers, without awaiting any orders and with no dread of so momentous a deed, but urged on by some supernatural force, snatched a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier's back, hurled the flaming brand through a low golden window that gave access, on the north side, to the rooms that surrounded the sanctuary. As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes.

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/jewishtemple.htm

From the time of Christ until this very day we are in the End Times. This life and our world are vanishing, as it were, before our very eyes. Wars and rumors of war have come and gone and remain on the horizon, and having just observed Veterans Day, we too are reminded of the unrest and turmoil that has been and continues to be part of our lives.

8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

It hurts to see this. Intercity churches torn down, closed, or repurposed. Rural and suburban churches declining or struggling and Christians around the world persecuted for their faith and the aftermath of hurricanes and fires leave a path or destruction leaving us numb, hurting and questioning.

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

Leaders step up with the promise of hope - at times using fear to marbleize their base and to overcome their foes. Enemies are defined and labeled and some who speak up are shouted down or hunted and hounded out of the public eye.

Wars and earthquakes are but signs … the destruction of a way of life are justified some would say as and with the promise of a better life in a new world to come. The social divide in our country … continues.

Jesus says it will get worse … and personal:

12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.

A bleak world awaits us all. But there is a greater concern, as Jesus says:

5 … “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

The life of the church has been falling away for generations.

Nations and Kingdoms continue to rise against each other and this is only the birth pains we’re told. We’re not there yet. So, keep watch and be on your guard.

The disciples expected Jesus to make things alright in the world – to restore the Kingdom as they understood it - to Make Jerusalem great again - and we do too.

Ill.

Our church sees the signs too.

Average attendance in 2005 was at 160. Today it’s 73 for both services.

At our pastors meeting we are going through the Pastoral epistles of Paul to St. Timothy.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:8-13

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9
for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

I would love nothing better than to see our church vibrant and return to how it was when I first attended … where the church had overflow seating for Christmas and Easter and we seemed to be on an upward trend. But many of our once active members who had built this church and sustained it through the years have been called home, some have moved away or are unable to come, and others who once came … have fallen away.

These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

This is a harsh reality. It is a hard pill to swallow. It tears at the very fiber of every pastor, called worker, and lay servant of Christ who desires to see the church grow and prosper under their watch.

Jesus says to his disciples:

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

It is the witness … not the building;
It is the witness … not the numbers;
It is the Gospel … of Jesus Christ that changes the heart and brings to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit those called to believe.

10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

This has been going on since the church was founded on the day of Pentecost and will continue until the Lord returns. We must continue to proclaim the Good News and the truth of Christ Jesus in a world of sin and doubt to family, friends, and strangers. It has been going on for over 2000 years and will continue by the word of the gospel to call those who have fallen away back to faith and the arms of a loving savior.

And while buildings may fall and the stones may be torn down with nothing left standing; while some members may become apathetic and listen to the world, their own sinful flesh, and a devil that calls them away from the truth, God will continue to call them back by his word, through his Spirit, to an eternity that he has won for you and me at his cross.

Luther said in a sermon for the advent season:

The rejection of Christ does not happen only with [others] but also among us, for the high and mighty scorn us because of our gospel and sacraments. What folly [foolishness], they say, that I should let myself be baptized with water poured on my head, supposedly to be saved thereby; or that some poor parish preacher, barely able to put a coat on his back, should pronounce forgiveness and absolve me from my sins; or that by receiving bread and wine in the Sacrament I should be saved. On that basis they despise a Christ-preacher.

And he concludes:

But no one ought to despise Christ in that way, for he is our Saviour and seeks to give us everlasting life. It ought not faze us that he comes in poverty. He requires neither armor, nor mounted cavalry for his message; but simply proclaimed: "Whoever believes in me shall have everlasting life."

Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, House Postils I.35-36. Sermon for Advent I, 1534

It is the strength of the Lord that will sustain you and me and this church until the end. By God’s word and Spirit we who hear and follow will be saved because he promises that:

… the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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

Amen

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sermon November 10-11, 2018

Title: Rich and poor … in Christ
Text: Mark 12:38-44

44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Founding Father Patrick Henry once said:

"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not [Christ], and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."

Patrick Henry.


Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

No. This isn’t going to be a sermon on stewardship and giving. This will be though, about being given and receiving. You see our God is a jealous God. He wants it all!

4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4
Even those whom you and I would cast off … he desires!

Jesus says:

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,”

Beware of them!

They are seen publicly; they have the best seats in the house; and are honored at the feasts and gatherings.

No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians, though the image might be appropriate. Being seen, having the best seats and being honored is a desire we can all fall victim to. At times we see it play out in our lives. At Weddings, those guests of importance are placed at a table near the bride and groom, while those who are acquaintances are seated back in the corner and away from the action.

You might see it in black tie affairs or charity balls where the people with means pay a heavy price to be seen at the table of the well known … being seen and even well known maybe in their own right. Some, like Jesus suggests in the Gospel reading, may have gotten there:

40 [by devouring] widows' houses

Breaking the 7th commandment and stealing our neighbor's money or property, or getting them by false dealing … taking advantage of those less fortunate.

Jesus says, “They will receive the greater condemnation.”

But joyfully, it is Christ who has made you rich!

Ill,

There was a time that you purchased your seats at church. This may seem odd because we seem to have fewer and fewer sell outs here at Peace. But there was a time that churches paid the bills they had by selling the best seats in the house to those who were prominent and well to do and could pay for the best seats in church.

Today we might see it as those who sit courtside at a basketball game right next to the players and the other well-to-do’s being seen in the place of honor.

When Abraham Lincoln was first elected President it was customary to pay for the best seats in church and St. John Episcopal Church, near the White House, had been established as the “Church of the Presidents.” It vied for his attendance along with New York Ave. Presbyterian Church. Both had pew fees for the best seats so St. John offered to give President Lincoln the Presidents pew for no charge - seeing that it would be beneficial to them to have the President in attendance at their church. Instead, Lincoln, being the enigma that he was, paid the fee at New York Ave. Presbyterian Church and attended there - not wishing to be seen in the place of honor in the President’s Pew he chose a more humble seating arrangement.

41 [So Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

The one who is the true Temple sits down in the temple to watch. Remember Jesus saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:9, speaking of himself and his passion. Here Jesus sits … and watches … and he sees many rich people put in large sums.

That in of itself is not bad. The giving in support of the work of the church is good. God works through means as we Lutherans often say. We see it in God’s economy of word and sacrament working through pastors as jars of clay that dispense God’s gifts not from us … but through us.

It is God who works through means so your gifts and offering are not needed by God in of himself, as it is in fact all his anyway, but he gives to you and me so that we can be of service and serve the work of the church and our neighbor.

So the object lesson that Jesus here teaches brings to light a great truth.

42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

Certainly she was not rich by human standards. But she exhibited a sacrificial giving not out of earthly wealth but out of spiritual wealth.

Those who gave much were giving out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”

Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

You see … he wants you. He wants you to know him. He wants you to trust him, because he gave everything for you. His only begotten son Jesus Christ took of human flesh and humbled himself and became man so that he could be your substitute and stand in your place and give his life so that you might live.

Jesus gave up everything for you. The widow gave all she had as a testament to where her trust was placed. But how did Jesus know her faith against the others?

God’s all discerning eyes look at the heart and every life and every heart lie bare before him.

It is made all the more evident to me as I visit the shut-ins. Their desire is to give even when they can’t. Some can and do, and do so very generously, while others are barely able to make ends meet. I always remind them that it is the work of the church to bring Christ to them in their need as James chapter 1 reminds us:

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

“Many who live in abundance decline to give or give too little for fear that they will not have enough for the future” RH Lenski Mark Pg. 559

We cannot copy this widow’s act of giving and match the gold she gave in the Lord’s eyes, but by faith and placing your trust in the same Lord, Jesus Christ, you will have riches in heaven. The same riches she had and same Lord she trusted.

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

Amen

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sermon November 3-4, 2018

Title: We live to die … and die to live!
Text: 1 John 3:1-3

2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We live to die … and die to live.

For Lutherans the celebrating of the Reformation and All Saints Day are back to back on October 31 and November 1. This past week that occurred on Wednesday and Thursday. It has been our tradition here at Peace to celebrate these days on their observed weekends so the Reformation was celebrated last weekend and All Saints Day this weekend. In past years I’ve used the first reading in Revelation or the Gospel reading in St. Matthew for the sermon text but this year if was the Epistle reading in 1 John that caught my eye.

3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

As we think about the love of God, this love it is made known to us in the God man Christ Jesus our Lord, the perfect son, begotten of the Father from eternity. But it is not in the incarnation that our hope is found, though God becoming man put into history the perfection of God’s redemptive plan to restore all that had been lost and broken by the fall into sin.

Paul in writing to the church in Corinth laments:

22 For as in Adam all die, 1 Cor. 15:22a

The world and all people are brought forth in Adam. We are all brought forth in sin and death awaits us all. The life we live for good or bad gives us only what this life in Adam gives – life - for a time.

At times there is joy, and at times there is sorrow, and at times our hopes and dreams in this life culminate only in death and a separation from those we love and hold dear.

But, Paul doesn’t leave his hearers or us in despair for he concludes this verse with these comforting words:

… so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22b

We are made alive in Christ, not in Adam.

In Adam the sin of the fall clings to us from birth. We see it throughout our lives. We die, not to receive heaven, but because –

… the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23a
Paul loves to proclaim life eternal because it is what we are all guaranteed.

In Adam though that guarantee is an eternal life separated from a loving God.

This is NOT good news!

To die apart from Christ means that you will never see or hear the great multitude, 10 crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

But in Christ, Paul comforts the burdened heart saying:

But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23b

That life eternal begins not upon our death - but at our Baptism when we are born again from above!

In Baptism we are marked as God’s child and put on Christ through the washing of water and the word. Titus 3:5

By the working of the Holy Spirit in Baptism we believe in Jesus and our life in Adam is changed forever. We are no longer dead in sin but are made alive in Christ!

As the Apostle John writes in our epistle for today:

2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We shall see him - this Jesus - not as a terrible and wrathful judge ready to condemn us for our sin, but as only begotten son of the Father who sees us in through the veil of Christ and is well pleased. The favor of God on account of Christ is yours – not because you have lived a good life, but because Christ Jesus has lived, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead – for you and me and for all who hold this blessed hope.

All Saints Day brings to mind loss as well. We don’t have to look very far to see an empty space when a beloved member of Peace once sat. In life we are all destined to die and in death those who have gone before us leave a void in our own lives where they had been present.

We also think of our loving friends and family members who have departed this life for eternity, returning to their resting place as we wait together for the Lord’s return. In Adam we all die and we will all rise at the coming of the Lord but only in Christ are we to be with the Lord forever.

55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15 55b-56
While we mourn the passing of our beloved friends and family members we also joy that their promised eternity is in Christ!

We live to die
 
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

… and die to live.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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

Amen

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sermon October 27-28, 2018 Reformation

Title: Forgiven, Forever, and Free Indeed!
Text: John 8:31-36

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy found in the freedom of the Gospel message, and continue together with the whole church to proclaim that truth to reach the lost with this same blessed good news!

Jesus tells the believing Jews in our Gospel today who had been following Him that:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them [who hears the word with the intention of following] – or is one who accepts and acts in accordance with the word of God.

In our Gospel reading for today Jesus tells the Jews and you and me as well:

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This freedom and liberty of the gospel is what we celebrate today. It is what Luther searched for and why he became a monk – thinking that being locked inside the walls, devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimages, and frequent confession would keep him away from sin and the power of the devil.

He said:

"If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." He described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul."

But later he found peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:

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

Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin?

Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and Peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament?

Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Martin Luther writes:

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend--it must transcend all comprehension.”

He continues:

Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing (where he was going). He trusted himself to (God’s) knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey's end.

Behold, that end is the way of the cross.

You cannot find it yourself, so you must let (God) lead you as though you were a blind man. (So), it is not you, no man, (and) no living creature, but (Christ) Himself, who instructs you by word and Spirit in the way you should go.

Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire--that is the road you must take. To that, (Christ) calls you and in that (says) you must be my disciple.”

― Martin Luther

Saying in essence: Hear me! Listen to me! Abide in me!
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

The truth is we are all bound to sin and its cravings. We desire to do the will of our sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will and as a result you and I fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is: deep down we all get worse and worse.

The more you get to the core of who we are in our fallen human condition the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning by our first parents Adam and Eve.

But Jesus reminds His hearers: To Listen to him!

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom for the sinner is found only in Jesus. That was the joy that Luther found and what we celebrate in the Reformation. In Christ, true freedom from sin is possible and true liberty for we who are bound with the chains of guilt and despair is broken.

Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by his own binding.

The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place

The shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin

The death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty and the burial in a tomb meant for another …

In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid.

But, that tomb and that death WAS meant for you!

Jesus took your place,
He took your cross,
He took your death,
And He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't …

Life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness

Salvation is all of God and not of man. That is the message of the Reformation.

Luther restored the gospel truths about Christ and His merits that had been lost, covered by sin in the church and the focus on earthly rulers, once again by shinning the light of the gospel on Christ’s work, for you.

Because Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you … because of Christ and His merits … because the Son has set you free … you are free indeed!

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 22, 2018

Sermon October 20-21, 2018

Title: With God all things are possible!
Text: Mark 10:23-31

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

(Raising hand)

Who bought a Lotto ticket! Who wants to be a Billionaire?

We all can get caught up in that frenzy. I can put my hand down because it is my wife who does my dirty work! We see wealth as the answer to our problems but in reality with wealth come other problems and especially the ones that keep us from seeing the true joy in Jesus rather than the temporal joys of the world.

Last week we spoke of treasure in heaven and how so many people see their treasure here on earth in what they have or do. The rich young man in the gospel last week went away disappointed because he had great possessions instead of following Jesus and the eternal reward that is given. Many in this life also follow material gain while at the same time giving up the nourishment needed for spiritual feeding.

A friend of mine who makes his living teaching guitar always keeps Sunday as his day of rest where he doesn’t teach or play gigs … and the Lord knows that he could use the money. But instead he goes to church and focuses on his spiritual feeding and family time. He’s told me once,

“God always meets my needs … rarely early … but always on time!”

Jesus, in speaking to his disciples about those who trust in riches or wealth says:

“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

Remember the young man went away disappointed because he had great possessions. And Jesus then adds:

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

We all know how hard it is to just thread a needle don’t we? Have you ever sewn or tried to sew a button on? I have … it wasn’t good. Thankfully my wife is good at it.

So, then the image that Jesus is giving the disciples of entering the Kingdom of God by any means other than, 8 by grace … through faith is what we have to focus on.

Camel … eye of a needle … you get it. It is quite literally impossible!

So the things of this world and all of the accomplishments you and I achieve won’t measure up in God’s cup of salvation.

So the disciples ask:

“Then who can be saved?”
Who can meet the requirements?
Who can get through the eye of the needle?
Jesus tells them:

“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

We can’t do it.
We can’t achieve it.
We can’t buy it.
Heck … we can’t even steal it!

But … we can have it none the less.
In fact … we can have it all … because:

This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

But we want to boast don’t we? We always want to share the good news of our team winning don’t we? It seems that way with so many.

Working on Saturdays and Sundays for most of my adult life sucked all the interest out of football for me, both college and pro. I don’t have a favorite team and really I’m happy to see Michigan and Michigan State do well. I really don’t follow football much, and it is more likely that you’ll see Monica turning on the game than me. I must admit though that this Michigan / Michigan State football weekend looks to be an exciting one.

Our lives revolve around what we do, how we prepare, what advantages we find, and how we perform. Some struggle and some excel. Both Michigan and Michigan State have had great wins and hard loses. We live and die with the teams we follow and we see it in our own lives.

Success and failure is all part of our own game of life too. We live with the ups and downs of family and friends.

We try not to let the successes or failures define us.
We try not to get too high or too low.

Work hard, do your best, provide for your family, but see the greater gift – not in the success or things of this world - but what you have received that you could never earn, the gift of grace and faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”

Last week Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then Christ compelled him to come follow me.

But he went away in sorrow because he had great possessions.


Martin Luther in speaking in his lectures in Genesis says:

“Do not fear those, says Christ (Matt 10:28), who kill the body, house, and other things, what of it? These things have to be left behind in any case.”

He then continues:

“For neither Peter nor Paul even though they were saintly men, had better flesh than we have.” They too, were children of Adam, [broken in sin] just as we are. Paul sometimes glories and boasts as if he were already victorious over all evils. Sometimes he complains pitiable about fears within and fighting’s without (2Cor.7:5).

Where was that completely invincible hero, that victor over all hell, then?”

LW Am. Ed. Vol.5, Pg 27

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,

[And in this life] persecutions, and in the age to come [but they will also receive] eternal life.

We will have tribulations and persecutions but also, heaven … and eternal life. That is fully on account of God, in Christ, through the Spirit’s work.

The first will be last and the last first!

We have Christ’s assurance of eternal life and the word of Jesus is always trustworthy and true. Those who trust in him and follow him have what he has promised … eternal life.

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

Amen

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sermon October 13-14, 2018

Title: What we lack is found in Christ!
Text: Mark 10:17-22

20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

As I began my week last Monday I said half jokingly to Debbie our secretary at the church, "I just did a sermon this weekend, I can't believe I have to get another ready!" But, that is how it is for you and me. We receive the Lord's forgiveness in worship and them stumble through the week both dead in sin and forgiven in Christ and we need to come back and receive that forgiveness once again.

"I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto you all my sins and iniquities ...

Yes, that is who we are dead in sin. So we come back each week to hear the Good News and it is for that reason that I prepare a sermon each week that shows us our sin and also shows us our savior so that we can be forgiven, comforted, and renewed as we go back into this broken world for the week that lies ahead.

17 And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Isn’t that the question most ask? What must I do? What can I expect? What do you expect of me?

We ask it in all aspects of life. We ask it of parents, at school, with friends, or groups of friends. We ask it as we grow older, at work, and at times we rail against those expectations. They expect too much.

How can I measure up to that we think?

As a hockey fan I look forward to the Red Wings season. Some might say anything less than the Stanley Cup is a failure. But with a new team and so many young players hew can that be our goal?
For some fans only achieving the ultimate prize … makes it a successful season. The Tigers are done again this year and the Lions are new once again and just getting started.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The rich young man asks Jesus in our gospel lesson for today. As a rich young man he has achieved much success in his life.

Ill.

To give you some perspective, how many of you know the name Dustin Moskovitz … No one?

Well, he is a billionaire. On May 18th 2012 he became an instant billionaire. He was the third employee hired by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. He was in charge of their technology and was so excited to get involved that he taught himself computer code over a weekend. He left the company in 2008 to peruse other interests, but in May of 2012 when Facebook went public he received over 5 billion dollars for his shares in the company. Like the man in our gospel lesson today … he is a rich young man.

At 28 he became a billionaire … at 34 he is worth over 12 billion dollars.

So Jesus asks first: “Why do you call me good? And tells him, No one is good except God alone.”

Jesus here sets the stage for what God requires. No one is good except God alone. But trying to go a bit deeper with this young man Jesus lays it out.

19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness [or] defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

Jesus gives him half of the commandments. He says for a start, how do you do with these? And remember Jesus hasn’t asked him about the table of the law that deals with God.

You are to have no other Gods, do not misuse the name of the Lord your God and keep holy the Sabbath day.

Jesus just asks … how do you do with these interactions with your neighbor in the world?

The rich young man answers:

“Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

And I’m sure there are people who think that they measure up well. “I’m pretty good they think.”

The Red wings pre-season record was 6-1 six wins, and one losses. In the eyes of we who are fans that was an acceptable record. May be this year won’t be so bad? If they win the Stanley Cup, we as Red Wing fans would rejoice! As the season begins that are in last place in their division …

0 wins
2 loss
2 overtime loss

But perfection for God is so much more than what we as fans expect.

Winning the Stanley cup would be great but perfection in the Lord’s eyes requires no mistakes, no goals against, no injuries, no penalties, no overtime - in fact the other team can’t possess the puck at all - because if they have the puck you’ve missed the mark by not having the it. No missed shots because every shot has to go in the net.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Even as good as Miguel Cabrera is or has been, he makes an out almost 7 out of every ten times he comes to the plate and we revere him as a great hitter when our God would require 10 hits out of 10 at plate appearances.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Jesus loved this young man so it may seem a bit funny what he says next.

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

You only lack one thing. It’s your stuff. Jesus say, “Sell it all and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven!”

22 Disheartened [by what Jesus had said to him], he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The other part of the law, the part about this man’s relationship between his stuff … and his God … has now come to light.

He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

It is not sinful to have stuff … as long as your stuff doesn’t have you I heard a pastor once say.

Ill.

Guitars were my idol. I grew up wanting a better guitar. When I got that a nice acoustic guitar was next on the list on needs. After three my dad didn’t know how many I had. It was just a pile of cases in my room.

Joe Bonamassa is a guitarist. He is really good. I saw a meme on Facebook where he was standing on a stage with 20 or 30 guitars and it seemed as many amplifiers. The caption read: “Teach your children to love guitars and they won’t have money for drugs.”

It’s funny but true. My mom always knew where I was … down the basement with my band practicing. It kept me out of trouble but not focused on Jesus. My friend Rob, a great guitarist once said, “I use to worship the wood in my hands but now, by grace, I worship Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the wood of the cross, for me.”

By God’s Holy Spirit he takes our eyes off of self and points us to Jesus, his cross, and the salvation he won for us there and the glorious resurrection that followed.

Where is your treasure?

The possessions we have, the work we do, and the things we save and treasure … the guitars for instance … will not measure up in God’s eyes. It is after all already his and it has been given to you … and how you use it can certainly benefit those in need, physically and spiritually.

There is nothing to be earned, because it has all been given. There is nothing to do, because it has all been done. Because of Christ, the good teacher, you have received God’s favor. Not for what you have or what you have done but because of what Christ has done for you.

The treasures on earth pale in comparison to the treasure God has in heaven for you.

What we lack is found in Christ!

Jesus says: come, follow me!

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

Amen

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 6-7, 2018 LSB Setting I with Holy Communion
Title: The bride of Christ, the bridegroom of man!
Text: Mark 10:2-16

9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is when you agree to spend the rest of your life sleeping in a room that's too warm, right next to someone who's sleeping in a room that's too cold.

Contributed by E.J. Graff.

2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test [Jesus] asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Divorce has become all too common. It is all too common in the world and among Christians as well. The Pharisees were coming to test Jesus asking if it allowable for a man to divorce his wife? I spent many years in the sales business and one of the key teachings of sales is to: answer a question with a question.

So Jesus, being one of the best at it asks:

“What did Moses command you?”

And the Pharisees reply:

“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
What they are really asking Jesus in a roundabout way is this:

“Moses said that is lawful for a man to divorce his wife and send her away. What Jesus, do you say?”

In Creation God made all things good, even saying in our Old Testament lesson for today:

18 … “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Gen 2:18

So Jesus calls them out on their question because what God has made good sin has broken. Their hardness of heart is opposed to God and his design so that a law was given to allow divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness.

And Jesus answers them:

“Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

So the word of God is in conflict. The man and the woman shall become one flesh and the Law of Moses allows for a divorce for reason of unfaithfulness.

Not really … but "because of your hardness of heart," Jesus says.

One of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today is also perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

“Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/


We may think that.
We may know other Christians that are divorced.
It may even be you that has suffered a divorce.

During the 36 years of my marriage to Monica we have known someone, family, friend or acquaintance that

Is divorced,
Has been divorced,
Or is going through a divorce.

The brokenness of sin gets to the very core of who we are as sinners. Adam’s choice to sin has cast God’s perfect creation into the chaos of dead in sin – and dead to God.

God created marriage perfect.

Adam and Eve were created as a perfect couple – “a helper fit for him”, God says in Genesis. But where Creation gives way to corruption by the fall into sin all things – marriage too – have been broken.

If you think about it, unfaithfulness in a perfect creation is impossible, but in a corrupted and broken world it is all too common.
Jesus even says to his broken world disciples:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

The six commandment:

You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

It sounds good on paper but in a broken world it’s hard if not impossible to keep.

But Jesus came to restore all that was broken. The sin of separation from God has been restored and redeemed in Christ.

The idolatry of self in marriage just doesn’t work.

The two have now become one so that in all things - in marriage / in Christ - the focus is placed on this unity.

The article that I mentioned earlier about the statistical divorce rate among Christians being about the same as the world is wrong.

Here’s the truth…

People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

What appears intuitive is true. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes—attend church nearly every week, read their bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously …

Living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples—enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public, and unbelievers.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/

There is no guarantee of a divorce free married life but being in the word is a great help. You see, in Christ you are a new creation. Set apart as God’s child and fully forgiven in Christ. When two in Christ become one there is something bigger than the individual to unite them. They become one in marriage and one in Christ.

This oneness - sees the woman as bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
This oneness - becomes subject to her husband as unto Christ.
This oneness - loves his wife as Christ loves the church.
This oneness - is no longer two but one and in Christ.
This oneness - can endure the trials of sin, death and the power of the devil because …
Christ is the Lord of husband, of wife, and of family.

Many enter marriage with the hope of “A happily ever after!” – This is nothing more than a fairy tale apart from a unity in Christ.

The Marriage can even become an idol, made in the image of husband and wife where hopes and cares are placed in failed sinful beings rather than in Jesus Christ as Lord who came to restore all things in him.

Paul in speaking about idol worship in 1 Cor. 10:23 says,

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

This is also especially true with the neighbor we are united to, and in unity with, within our marriages.

While sin remains a part of our life and the world we live in … it is also true that in Christ all things have been made new; so when Christ rules your life and your marriage together, all things work better with Christ as the head.

love and cherish those blessed children God has given you.

Children are a blessing that results from the union of man and woman.
Children brought to Christ are welcomed by him.
Childlike faith receives the Kingdom of God.

With child like faith we all have entered the Lord’s courts let us together with Christ love and live as one in Him being received as his beloved children.

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

Amen