Monday, November 28, 2016

Sermon November 26-27, 2016 1st Sunday in Advent

Title: Wake from sleep your salvation is here!
Text: Romans 13:11-14

11 Besides this you know the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

During the Revolutionary War, a loyalist spy appeared at the headquarters of Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall, carrying an urgent message. General George Washington and his Continental army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to the Hessian colonel, but because Rall was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington's army, Rall was still playing cards.

Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured. The battle occurred the day after Christmas, 1776, giving the colonists a late present--their first major victory of the war. 

Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 21.

Colonel Johann Rall needed to be alert and wake from sleep! 

Today we begin the Advent Season. Advent in the church year refers to the four Sundays before Christmas which is a time of prayer and fasting as we prepare to welcome the Christ child.

Advent in the general sense means - coming into being. So as we wait for the coming into being of the God/man Jesus Christ we also prayerfully consider this a time to wake from sleep ourselves, recognizing the coming King and the salvation that he brings.

Some of us are morning people and some evening people. It depends at times on habits and needs which one you are … and that also can change. As a young adult I was an evening person. I worked as a guitar teacher and largely finished work teaching at 9:00 pm in the evening. Some days after work, I went to the bar to play with my band getting home very late at 3:00 am. It wasn’t out of the question to get home and unwind, having a meal or watching a bit of TV. One morning at 5:30 am as I watched TV oblivious to the time my dad came down to leave for work. “What are you doing up so early?” He asked. “I haven’t been to bed yet was my reply.” You probably can imagine the look I got from him.

On the other hand, today I would see myself as a morning person. Not 5:00 am morning but up early and getting about the work of the day and by 11.00 pm I’m ready to go to sleep and rest having worked a full day. 

Your schedule may vary. It might depend on age, life style, work, family, friends, or a number of issues. In years past even changing the service time on Sunday at Peace during the summer caused hardship to some members who couldn’t make the schedule work for them … hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock and going back to sleep.

The apostle calls us to wake: It’s time to get up!

11 … the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. Paul says: “It’s here!”

So what does Paul want you to see and why is now the time to wake?

In the Roman army the centurion’s staff quietly roused the soldiers with the day at hand. Sleep must leave them and rest turn to action. The beginning of the day meant armor, attention and duty and with this the Roman Empire was built in conquest of its enemies.

Lutheran study Bible pg. 1905

Paul calls believers to wake from sleep as well. We are called to get up! We are not to be lulled back into the slumbers of sin, death and the devil … no snooze button for the Christian. Get up and get ready for action!

For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.

We can all be creatures of habit. We can all fall back into slothful ways. On that beautiful Friday only a little more than a week ago with 70 plus degrees … I bagged the rest of my leaves and cut the grass one last time mulching the remaining leaves as I went. Today you can still see the lawns of some homes filled with leaves that no rake has touched, no mower mulched or bagger has bagged. Some people feel I’m sure that it is God’s desire to blow those leaves from their yard to mine. I’m not buying it!

12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

As Christians we too need to be ready for action. Advent prepares us for the one who has already come as we look forward to celebrating the coming of the Christ child and his work on our behalf. But, also to be prepared for his promised glorious return.

We are bound to sin in this life by our sinful nature and we live as children of darkness sleeping the day away and leaving the leaves unraked if you will.

Luther says of natural sleep:

“The sleeper sees nothing about him; he is not sensitive to any of earth’s realities. In the midst of them he lies as one dead, useless; as without power or purpose. Though having life in himself he is practically dead to all outside. Moreover, his mind is occupied, not with realities, but with dreams, wherein he beholds mere images, vain forms, of the real; and he is foolish enough to think them true. But when he wakes, these illusions or dreams vanish. Then he begins to occupy himself with realities; phantoms are discarded.

But of Spiritual sleep he says:

“So it is in the spiritual life. The ungodly individual sleeps. He is in a sense dead in the sight of God. He does not recognize—is not sensitive to—the real spiritual blessings extended him through the Gospel; he regards them as valueless. For these blessings are only to be recognized by the believing heart; they are concealed from the natural man. The ungodly individual [the one falling victim to the lies of the devil] is occupied with temporal, transitory things, such as luxury and honor, which are to eternal life and joy as dream images are to flesh-and-blood creatures” 

Martin Luther, The Sermons of Martin Luther, vol 6 [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995], 11


Paul calls these temporal things orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarreling and jealousy telling us that 12 the night is far gone; the day is at hand. So … cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Paul builds on this later in the Letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 6 calling us to put on the whole armor of God.

… fastening on the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 … taking up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

… and calls us all to do as the Season of Advent reminds us:

18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

The full armor of God is put on when you put on Christ. As st. Paul says:

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

In him you have full protection. The one who comes in weakness and humility as a babe in the manger will come again in glory and power to judge the living and the dead. Through this time of Advent with prayer and fasting we daily remember that we have put on Christ in Baptism and that we never take him off. His armor is your armor; His forgiveness is your forgiveness; his peace is your peace; His Kingdom is your kingdom.

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

Amen

Sermon November 19-20, 2016

Title: True thanksgiving is in Christ’s forgiveness!
Text: Luke 23:27-43

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Martin Luther once gave a brief, simple, but expressive eulogy upon a pastor at Zwickau in 1522 named Nicholas Haussmann. He said, "What we preach, he lived," - Martin Luther.

It is also fitting with end of the church year upon us, that the end of sin and death also be proclaimed and heard in Christ’s cross of triumph. For what we preach, He lived and died for, so that:

True thanksgiving is found in Christ’s forgiveness!

The story of the cross is one of pain and suffering but also hope. As Jesus was led away following His trial towards his impending death,

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:32-33)

The cross of Christ is either death or life depending upon your perspective. Take the two criminals for instance:

One rebukes Jesus saying:

“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

The perspective of the first sees not the wages of sin and the death that sin brings. His call to Jesus is to save, not from the once and for all death that we all must endure, but his call is to save me from this temporal death now, that will at some point in the near future, for him, need to be paid again and in full.

No one will escape death in this life because sin has made sure of that. So, for thief number one, the cross of Jesus is a failure and of no great value for him because it leads only to death for Christ and Him.

Thief number two sees the cross of Christ through the eyes of hope and faith when he says:

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And recognizes that the condemnation is right and just when he says: 41 for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

The mirror of the Law, written on his heart, has shown him that his deeds are indeed the result of sin and that he is being rightly condemned but in Christ he finds hope when he repents saying:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Today too, the cross reflects either death or hope for you and me, and for all broken by sin in this corrupted world as well. The perspective of the cross from our sinful nature can only see the death that sin brings and a hopeless future bound to death like the bonds and ropes that bind all flesh to the wood of their own cross … void of hope.

Ill.

Timothy George writes in “Giving Thanks in Hitler’s Reich” of the life and death of German pastor, Paul Schneider, who preached the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1937 a sermon on Psalm 145:15-21, which says:

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

He began by acknowledging how (inconsistent or incompatible) it might seem to be giving thanks “in this year of our church’s hardship.” Yet this is precisely what the psalmist calls us to do—to give thanks for the material blessings of harvest and home and also for the generous gifts of God in Word, sacrament, and worship. Yet God’s Word does not come cheap, Schneider said. “Confessing Jesus will carry a price. For his sake we will come into much distress and danger, much shame and persecution; Happy the man who does not turn aside from these consequences.”

He was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp and on July 18, 1939 put to death for his proclamation of the word of the gospel. But while there, this Preacher of Buchenwald as he was known, “Wholly and without fear … bore witness of his Christian faith. He called the devil by his name: murderer, adulterer, unrighteous, monster and throughout this witness … he presented the grace of Christ together with a call to repentance.”

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/11/giving-thanks-in-hitlers-reich/timothy-george

And just like thief number two who cried:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

True thanksgiving is only found in Christ’s forgiveness!

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Paradise is not found in worldly wealth or in a pristine uninhabited Island. But it is found in the bloody cross of the God/ man Jesus Christ who willingly bore the sins of thief one and thief two on His cross placed between them.

And though one thief judged Jesus and his death as a failure and proof that the filthy rags of his own righteousness were the same rags and covering that Jesus wore, the second thief saw through repentant eyes the one true hope and victory over sin, death and the power of the devil.

Dear friends, hope in Christ is not only a thing of the past. It is not only a hope for those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus but it is the true and certain hope for you and for me too.

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

We live in the hope of the cross but also in the hope of the resurrection and of Christ’s future return in glory. As our epistle for today comforts us:

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

True thanksgiving is found in Christ’s forgiveness!

As you gather together to celebrate the Lord’s blessing of family and friends this Thanksgiving, joy in the eternal thanksgiving of Christ redeeming grace!

He will gather his church on the day of His return, raising the dead in Christ first and joining the physical body of his saints, incorruptible, forever, and forgiven in the blessed name of Jesus.

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13)

A truly happy and Blessed Thanksgiving indeed!

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

Amen

Sermon November 5-6, 2016

Title: You are blessed and have the Kingdom!
Text: Matt 5:1-12

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It’s almost over!

No, I’m not referencing the end of the Pentecost Season and the beginning of a new church year – though that is upon us. It is the election cycle which will culminate with our votes this Tuesday November 8th and the election of a new President.

I’ve almost finished reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, the first volume in a three volume biography by Edmund Morris of our 26th President. I am right at the point where Roosevelt – who is President of the New York Police Commission at this time – and is campaigning for William McKinley in hopes and ultimately being appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in McKinley’s first administration. He only served one year as assistant Secretary. He then leads the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War, becomes Governor of New York, and then is tapped for Vice President in McKinley’s second administration which ultimately leads to his ascent to the Presidency.
What you may ask is the point of all this? Well, we don’t ultimately know how the Lord will work in and through our elected officials, but we do know that all things are under God’s control. So I would ask at this time that we pray the Lord’s blessing:

Heavenly Father, we lift our needs and the freedoms we enjoy in this country to your blessed care. Give us not what we deserve for abandoning you in so much of our personal and public witness, but give us leaders that are most beneficial for our needs as we look to your blessed and continued care. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

5 Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them … 

It is a very common thing as we read the scriptures to see Jesus as teacher. Here in our lesson he sits to teach those who will hear. The word of God in our text is spoken by Jesus. It is proclaimed to those saints … those followers of Jesus who had gathered to hear him.

In the same way God’s word comes to us who have gathered together to hear his word as it is read, sung and proclaimed in the Divine Service. As you go through the parts of the liturgy in setting one you’ll see a scripture citation for each part. This is true with all our services. The liturgy and our services are built on the very word of God.

As we celebrate All Saints Day this weekend we celebrate those saints who from their labors rest with our Lord Jesus, being brought to faith in this life through that same word of God we hear and by the same working of the Holy Spirit. 

This year I’m reminded of dear friends and former Peace members, Joan Kitzman, Hilda Klein, Ed Blasius, Betty Buchanan, and Roy Kusnereit among others, who this year went to be with our Lord.

They too heard the same word of God - first connected to the waters of Holy Baptism as they were washed clean and made God’s child, but also here at Peace proclaimed in word and song, binding them to Christ for forgiveness - just as you and I are also bound to him in the same way.

We are all indeed poor in spirit being brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin though we are blessed, rescue by another, and given the Kingdom of Heaven.

As we mourn their passing and the passing of all blessed loved ones who have died in the faith we are promised the Lord’s comfort. The blessing of comfort turns tears of sadness into tears of joy. We live a life on earth of mourning … both as sinner and saint … and at the same time dead in trespass and sin and alive in the Spirit. Our comfort is not in Country’s and Presidents but in a Kingdom given and received through the gracious and merciful hand of God.

Ill.

On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn Germany, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, "I suppose all the great pianist who come here want to play on that piano."

The guard shook his head. "Padarewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here [once] and he said he wasn't worthy to touch it."

Source Unknown.

Meekness and humility are not part of our human condition tainted by sin. As we heard in the sermon for Reformation last week, true peace comes as it came to Martin Luther in the words of Romans 5:1

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

We inherit a new heaven and a new earth, Rev. 21:1 one without the taint of sin and death coming out of this life of tribulation having washed our robes white in the blood of the lamb. Rev. 7:14 Jesus, the true suffering servant who in true humility became man for us so that we might be satisfied. Though it is only through God’s working in us that we can hunger and thirst for righteousness. Left to our own evil desires … we only thirst for power, riches and the ways of the world.

It is very good news though that God is merciful. He gives us what we don’t deserve … Heaven and not what we do deserve … Hell. He sees you, his child, as you are in Christ.

Having been forgiven we too forgive. Having received mercy we also show mercy – these are fruits of faith.

Ill. 

The Pure of Heart shall see God. Bernard of Clairvaux in lamenting the loss of his brother he writes:
Through death’s jaws Gerard passed to his Fatherland safe and glad and exulting. When I reached his side, and he had finished the psalm, looking up to heaven, he said in a clear voice: “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then saying over again and again the word, “Father, Father,” he turned his joyful face to me and said: “What great kindness that God should be father to men! What glory for men to be sons of God and heirs of God!” So he rejoiced, till my grief was almost turned to a song of gladness.

Daily prayer Catechism The Lord will Answer CPH 2004 Pg. 428

God changes our hearts of stone to pure hearts so that we are blessed and see God through the eyes of faith. God makes us peacemakers as we are made his children called sons and daughters of God by his gracious and good work. Even through persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we received the blessed kingdom of heaven as a promise and a pledge through Christ’s merit.
It is through all these things that we can be and are truly blessed. As we will sing in verse 8 of For All the Saints:

From Earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: Alleluia! Alleluia!

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sermon October 29-30, 2016 Reformation

Title: The Jury says, Guilty but the Judge sets you Free!
Text: John 8:31-36

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 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.

Rev. Dr. Peter Marshall the 57th Chaplain of the United States Senate prayed this prayer before the U.S. Senate:

Lord Jesus, [you] who [are] the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please and do what is right.

Peter Marshall, Before the U.S. Senate.

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, begin a yearlong celebration leading up to the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 theses by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy that we who today benefit from this blessed freedom found in the Gospel message, will continue together with the whole church to reach the lost with this same gospel message.

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 – is one who accepts and acts in accordance with those words.

Martin Luther had this to say about discipleship in his lectures on the Psalms:

Ill.

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.
And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you 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.

Though the Jury says, Guilty … the Judge has set you Free!

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’?”

Once again from Luther:

“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

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 are 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 and you as well that:

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, the tomb and 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 because …

The Jury says, Guilty but the Judge sets you Free!

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sermon October 22-23, 2016

Title: With childlike faith there is salvation!
Text: Luke 18:9-17

17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Introduction

It has been said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Source Unknown.

Robert Fulghum wrote in the Kansas City Times, "Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.

"These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody . . . When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together … Unless you become like little children, you won't enter the kingdom of heaven."

Hugh Duncan.

So what is child like faith?

Well, Webster says of a child: It is an unborn or recently born person; a young person especially between infancy and youth; a childlike or childish person; a person not yet of age; a son or daughter of human parents; one strongly influenced by another or by a place, or state of affairs.

And about faith Webster says: It’s a strong belief or trust in someone or something; belief in the existence of God; strong religious feelings or beliefs; a system of religious beliefs; fidelity to one's promises; sincerity of intentions; belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust.

Ill.

So, picture if you will a young child standing on the side of a pool; not yet of age to swim and having not been taught how, but being strongly influenced by dad’s call to jump and that he will catch them.

The child too has strong feelings and beliefs, that if dad misses or drops me, “I will hit the water and I’m going to sink as fast as the stones I’ve dropped in the pool at the deep end!”

But dad has promised to catch them and so they place their trust his intentions … complete trust and loyalty in dad … though there is no proof. As the child jumps, dad catches … confirming their faith in the object of their safety - the one who will not let them fall.

It is true as well with our heavenly father. As St. Paul writes in our epistle lesson for today: 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. 2 Timothy 4:18

It is his promise.

So, where do we today place our trust? What is the object of faith for the Christian? Is it in our self? Is it in our parents? Is it in the church or religion as a whole? Is it society and political power? Is it strong or weak like a child?

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

Infants or babies can’t come to Jesus so “they” probable their parents or responsible adult were bringing them to him. Much like we continue to do with those gifts of God, those little boys and girls, who are brought as infants to the waters of Holy Baptism … where God himself marks them as his child.

As we compare this part of our reading with the earlier part dealing with the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We see the strength of the Pharisee, who standing in his own strength, might, and faith brags:

12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

Are you not God so pleased with me and all that I do and have done? He stands by himself, covered in his own righteousness and he calls out so that all can see and hear:

“… thank you … that I am not like other men ... extortioners, [those who get things through any way or any means that they can – sounds a bit like those running for office doesn’t it?] unjust, [the opposite of the truthful and fair are those who are unjust. Those who give you what you don’t deserve rather than what you do deserve, adulterers, [those who defile their marriage or live contrary to what God has commanded] or, even like this tax collector. [this poor tool of the government sent to extract all that is rightfully mine, we might suppose.]

Do we at times think the same? Are we at times not also, the Pharisee who looks at ourselves against the other Christian believers that we see, thinking how pleased God is with us and our good prayers, good works, and duty that we give to God? I know I have, and maybe you have too?

Oh … I hear a song coming on …

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

When you're perfect in every way.

I can't wait to look in the mirror.

Cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me.

I must be a hell of a man.

Oh Lord It's hard to be humble,

But I'm doing the best that I can.

Davis Mac - Oh Lord It's Hard To Be Humble Lyrics | MetroLyrics


Maybe you older folk remember Mac Davis and this little gem from 1980. I especially like and identify with the “to know me is to love me” part.

Well the truth is, that’s the Pharisee song with big faith in – me, myself and I. It’s humorous because we know there are people that do at times see themselves in that way … even when those people may be you and me.

Oh Lord I am a Pharisee

religious in every way.

I worship my God on the Sabbath,

and out in the public I pray.

I’m not like other sinners,

extortioners and the unjust.

Oh Lord I am a Pharisee,

and in myself I will trust.

The song that more clearly shows the child like faith that Jesus is talking about was written in the mid 1700’s by Henrietta L. von Hays.

I am Jesus little lamb, Ever glad at heart I am;

For my Shepherd gently guides me,

Knows my needs and well provides me,

Loves me every day the same,

Even calls me by my name.

Childlike faith clings to the savior as a child to his mother; Knowing that every need is provided for them by God daily, and that he lovingly calls each one of us by name.

Day by day, at home, away, Jesus is my staff and stay.

When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,

Into pleasant pastures feeds me;

When I thirst, he bids me go

where the quiet waters flow.

Every day our childlike faith is place in him. Whether hunger or thirst, we can find the pleasant pastures of rest in him as we daily remember the quiet waters of our own baptism of forgiveness where our sins have been washed away.

Who so happy as I am, Even now the shepherd’s lamb?

And when my short life is ended,

By his angel host attended,

He shall fold me to his breast,

There within his arms to rest.

Our joy with childlike faith is in the good shepherd Jesus who will, even as our life comes to a close and we look to him through the eyes of old age, comfort us all in his loving arms where we will rest with him in eternity.

Jesus says:

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:16b-17

It is by God’s Grace, Mercy and Spirit that we too can receive his Kingdom with that blessed childlike faith. May we, by that same Spirit, pray to always remain in the one true faith as a child who is Jesus’ little lamb.

Let us close by singing together, I am Jesus little lamb hymn # 740 in the Lutheran Service book.

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

Amen

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sermon October 15-16, 2016

Title: Truth is Truth!
Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Two men had an argument. To settle the matter, they went to a judge for arbitration. The plaintiff made his case. He was very eloquent and persuasive in his reasoning. When he finished, the judge nodded in approval and said, "That's right, that's right."

On hearing this, the defendant jumped up and said, "Wait a second, judge, you haven't even heard my side of the case yet." So the judge told the defendant to state his case. And he, too, was very persuasive and eloquent. When he finished, the judge said, "That's right, that's right."

When the clerk of court heard this, he jumped up and said, "Judge, they both can't be right." The judge looked at the clerk of court and said, "That's right, that's right."

Roger von Oech, Ph.D., A Whack on the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1983, p. 23.

Truth is Truth! "That's right, that's right."

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

It is interesting here how the apostle Paul writes Timothy – his son in the faith - to urge him to continue to believe the scriptures (the OT teaching) that he learned from his youth through his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) and from St. Paul himself.

How familiar that sounds especially for you mothers and grandmothers that I hear often urging their own children and grandchildren to continue in the truth of the faith and how you also share your sadness and grief when they seemingly fall away from that faith, turn a deaf ear to it, or act contrary to it.

There are many people in fact that believe and maintain that they are Christians - though they rarely if ever come to church or read the Bible - or even know much of what is believed, taught and confessed by Christians. We also see many children of Christians living together out of wedlock, not seeing or even understanding the sin they are committing. They assume that Love is Love or Sex is Love as it is presented by our civil society, not recognizing that there are desires and ways of life that are in conflict and opposed to the truth of God’s word.

As was presented in our Catechism Connection today and as God’s word tells us in the 6th Commandment about committing adultery – or leading a sexually pure and decent life – covering God’s definition of marriage with husband and wife … loving and honoring each other.

Ill.

In a recent poll, light is shed on the paradox of religiosity vs. decreased morality, or God’s truth vs. our actions and how we live. 

According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81% of the American people say they agree that "an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." (That truth is determined apart from God’s word and teaching in our case.) 

This interesting thought is key to the paradox that that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands … on behavior … or Christian values.
A woman named Sheila, interviewed for Bellah's poll, embodies this attitude. She says, "I believe in God. I can't remember the last time I went to church though, but my faith has carried me a long way. It's 'Sheila-ism.' Just my own little voice." 

Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy and us:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Truth - when it is God’s word - is Truth!

At times life and society tell us what truth is to be believed – whether marriage is between a man and a woman or whether we can celebrate this gift from God in any way we choose. Whether even,

27… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:27-28a

Today even gender is no longer a physical determination of male and female but a psychological determination as many see fit - and society in its many forms - in many ways has bought into that truth. How someone sees themselves, or feels about themselves, becomes the determining truth or reality.

Ill.

An interesting video that I saw on line has a white man of about 30 years of age and around 5’-8” in height on a college campus asking students what they would say if he told them that he is 6’-4” tall.
Most smile a bit and say: “Well who am I to disagree with your truth. If you see yourself as 6’-4” than I guess you are 6’-4”."

When he pushed it further and asked how they might react to him being 6’-4” and Chinese they smiled and said: “If that is your reality then who am I to argue against you?”

Finally, when he claimed to be a 6”-4” Chine woman, one student said: “Oh come on!” 

You see, if you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then truth is determined by the reality of the individual. If we believe that the child in the womb is just a bunch of cells then removing it is no different than removing a tumor that is benign or cancerous. 

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then there are many paths to the Father as some claim, and Jesus is not the savior and only way that he claimed to be.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then you might be a pretty good person from your perspective and not dead in trespass and sin as Paul writes the truth of our condition in Ephesians 2.
If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then everlasting life is given to all apart from faith in Christ and the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary and accomplished nothing.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then the rich man from our lesson a few weeks ago was not in torment in hell and he could have easily gone from death to life just by changing his reality.
If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead and you are dead in trespass and sin.

But truth is truth … when it is God’s word …

That is what Paul keeps telling young Pastor Timothy: Preach the Word.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

As Christians we have the truth and we know this by God’s gift of faith alone.

Jesus prays for his disciples in his high priestly prayer of John 17 when he prays to the Father:

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, [dear friends we’re here for the duration] but that you keep them from the evil one [from sin, death and the power of the devil]. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them [or keep them holy and separate from the world] in the truth; your word is truth.

We are kept in the truth, as we gather together to hear the truth of God’s word, as we receive the gift of forgiveness of sins in our Lord’s word and sacraments and then we go forth joyfully with that same word of comfort and peace to seek those who remain dead in trespass and sin.

For St. Timothy and for you and me all the road remains the same as Paul reminds him:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths [or lies of the evil one as the time now shows]. 5 As for you, as it was for Timothy, always be sober-minded, [clear headed and knowing that the truth is truth] endure suffering, [that is the reality for all who believe] do the work of an evangelist, [preach the word and comfort those in need the truth you have been comforted with] fulfill your ministry.
We have been blessed by faith with God truth may you all by that same faith be steadfast in receiving God word as truth for and always.

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

Amen

Sermon October 8-9, 2016

Title: Healed and thankful, in Christ!
Text: Luke 17:11-19 (Readings for Praise Band and Kim below)

17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Senator, Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called "House of Dying," where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful."

Beyond Hunger, Beals

In our gospel for today there is what is called the saddest text of the Bible. This is where Jesus says, “Where are the nine?” in Luke 17:17 and today we will examine that very text.

The story is told of Jesus traveling through the country side between Samaria and Galilee. And as we’ve discussed over the last number of weeks, Jesus, was on His way to Jerusalem and he was not taking a very direct rout. He was traveling between Galilee on the north and Samaria on the south heading south toward Jerusalem. The text tells us that as he entered a village he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance.

Leprosy is a disease that in Jesus’ time had no cure. Today the disease, which is also known as Hansen’s disease and is caused by a bacterial infection of the nervous system and upper respiratory tract, has over the last 20 years, through God’s blessing of modern medicine, seen over 15,000,000 people cured of this dreaded disease.

But for the 10 lepers in our story today there was little to no hope. They were to spend the rest of their lives in a colony with other Lepers, unable to share the joys of life with their families, confined to a living hell as it were until the time of their death. We all can only imagine how this might have been.

Now Jesus’ travel might have preceded him. The word of his coming having reached these in this dreadful condition, bringing them to faith by the Holy Spirit’s working and though they keep a distance as was mandated by the law, they all called out with a loud voice together. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” In some way this concerted call to Jesus, the Lord of life, to please have mercy on our dismal condition was an act of faith that this Jesus could in fact do something to cure this leprous condition they all faced together.

Either way, you see a call to Christ by faith from those who had no hope. This hopeless condition of the ten is a call of hope by faith in Him, Jesus our Lord, who is the only hope of life to a dying world.

Ill.

During the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God's provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour.

Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord's presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many. "Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way. Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day."

It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength. And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope. Are you facing a great trial? Take heart. Put yourself in God's hands. Wait for His timing:

Our Daily Bread, May 7, 1992.


Healed and thankful, in Christ!

What about your trials? What about your faith? Do you feel beat down at times in this life? I think we all could answer yes to that question. Is it a sickness or a death in your family, a broken marriage or a loss of a job? I think we can all attest to things in this life that have burdened both you and me. Is it a child that has fallen away.

The gift of faith and being connected to the faith and life everlasting is the hope for parents and for our church. Many in our church have fallen away from the faith. At times there are broken relationships in families as well, and you may experience bitterness towards others – even someone that you love and hold dear – they may have wronged you and are now living in sin and outside the faith.

Martin Luther had this to say about our text today:

“Christ heals ten lepers and he knew that only one would be grateful (Luke 17:1 1-19). This will also be our lot, and we should not on this account give up our eagerness to confer benefits on others.”

LW Vol. 3 Pg.183 CPH


Loving others is the call that every Christian is given in this life, to love thy neighbor as thyself, even though at times it’s really hard to love those who have wronged you. It’s hard to love those who have not been thankful for what you’ve done for them. But you can all be truly thankful that God is a God of mercy and that He gave up His life for the sins of the whole world … even though many in our world refuse that gift or remain unthankful for all that He has done. Jesus still went to the cross for the sins of those who will never repent or have fallen back into sin. Their sins have been paid for but the benefit and Good News of salvation in Christ they continue to reject, so they stay condemned in their sin and covered in their own righteousness. It is our hope and blessing to continue to share the Gospel and the love of Christ with those who reject Jesus, so that by God’s Holy Spirit working through his word of pardon and in His time, they may repent of their sin and turn to Christ in faith, receiving the forgiveness of sins won for them at the cross.

Remember dear friends that faith is a gift and that you are:

Healed and thankful, in Christ!

14 When Jesus saw the lepers and heard their cries he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” No on the spot healing … but by faith they went as was required by the law. It is suggested that had the priests known that Jesus was behind the healing that they might have refused to recognize the healing and release the lepers as cleansed so Jesus sent them on their way and as they went they were cleansed. Also note that this act of going was also an act of faith - in Christ - and his healing words trusting that as they showed themselves to the priests they would be healed.

15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.

Christ has washed these lepers clean by His word and He has washed you clean as well through the washing of regeneration by His word in baptism.

5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Christ Jesus has heard your cries too. He hears and His desire is to heal the biggest problem that you have and that is eternal separation from Him.

17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? The one who returned to offer thanks was a Samaritan, a foreigner just as you and I are foreigners graphed in to the vine so that we might bear good fruit. This good fruit is possible only because you have been given mercy.
You have been given mercy and this is nothing you deserve. Whether you return thanks or not Christ’s mercy is still yours because you can never thank Him enough. Your sins have been taken away and you, like the ten, have been cleansed. Your cleansing does not depend on your thanks but on God’s mercy and thankfulness is a fruit of your cleansing and the joy that lives in you by God’s Holy Spirit.

Healed and thankful, in Christ!

By faith, you can be faithful. All you do for the benefit of others is gifted you by our loving God who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 2:2)

Your faith in Him has made you well!

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