Monday, March 11, 2019

Sermon March 9-10, 2019 - First Sunday in Lent

Title: Confession and belief are God’s gifts to you!
Text: Romans 10:8b-13

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

In Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer attempts to reconcile the seemingly contradictory beliefs of God's sovereignty and man's free will:

"An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

"On board the liner are scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

"Both freedom and sovereignty are present here, and they do not contradict. So it is, I believe, with man's freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God's sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history."

As we think about freedom most of you know what it is. Some of you here and quite a few in our church fought for the freedom that we in the United States today enjoy. Most, I believe, would say that freedom isn’t free but came at a great cost. Yet, many in regards to salvation and our coming to faith believe that the cost of Christ’s death didn’t procure it but that our decision does.

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim;

Paul Asks this question to those who will read his letter and it is also applied to you and me as well.

“Faith and confession are here mentioned as the two requisites for salvation. So near is the redemption of Jesus to every person in the world, in the Word of the Gospel-message, that it is necessary only to believe with the heart and to confess with the mouth in order to become a partaker of all its blessings. If any person believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is the Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead, then he has the faith which will give him salvation.”

Kretzmann NT Vol. II Pg 55

For you and me we must ask ourselves this question: Is Jesus the savior of the word or did he just make a path that we must choose?

Is Christ’s work sufficient?

Martin Luther in his book, The Bondage of the will, speaks of man’s free will and his ability to choose where he says:

—"It would be ridiculous to say to a man standing in a place where two ways met, [You see] two roads, go by which [ever road you choose], when one only way was open."— (99 of 283) [12/12/2002 11:41:13 PM

The path to faith is closed except through the working of the Holy Spirit.

As the Spirit works through the Gospel faith emerges in those apart from Christ … and they believe. To paraphrase Luther, the road that had been close has now been open by God’s Spirit and by the gift of faith in Christ’s work you now believe and are directed down the way to everlasting life that God has ordained from the foundation of the world.


St. Augustine had this to say:

God's mercy ... goes before the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing to make his will effectual.

Augustine of Hippo, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love.

Why some and not others? We may ask.

It is through our own sinful eyes that we at times determine who is saved and who is lost … not knowing for sure.


Some time ago, I was asked to do a funeral for a man I didn’t know. I talked with his wife and she was looking for a Lutheran pastor because he had been baptized and raised in a Missouri Synod church until he went into the service. He served in WWII and Korea and for the remainder of his life looked to those who knew him to be not a religious man.

He was Baptized and raised in the faith and to you and me he may have looked to have departed from it.

But, the promise of the Lord is that:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28

It is certainly within the realm of possibility that the Lord by his Spirit, as this man looked at the certainty of his death repented, asked for forgiveness and was saved.

It is the blessed hope and sufficient working of our loving God by his Spirit that I proclaimed at his funeral the means of grace … word and sacrament, that at his baptism he was marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Earlier in Romans 9 Paul made this gift clear:

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

God who in mercy has called you will now bring about the means for your belief.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9

God’s gift of grace in Christ is brought about by His gift of faith in this same Jesus so that you may believe.

God is both the cause and the means by which belief is secured.

So when you confess with the mouth and believe in the heart …

God has brought about your conversion and has secured your salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Confession and belief are God’s gifts to you!

Christ is the one who conquered sin, death and Devil for you. He took all the Devil could give and though tempted was without sin. This brings peace to you and me as we think about his sinless life and atoning death, given for the forgiveness of sins for the whole world as we walk his way during Lent.

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


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sermon March 6, 2019 - Ash Wednesday

Title: Christ reconciles the word unto himself!
Text: 2 Cor. 5:20b-6:10

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

When we look at a new born baby we might have a difficult time recognizing the corruption of sin upon this beautiful creation of God. How - we might think - can this be a sin bearer and God’s enemy? The truth is that sin like life happens at conception.

We inherit many things from our parents. Some things determine our looks, demeanor, walk, hair and eye color, intellect, intelligence, height and health concerns. One thing we also inherit is sin.

Paul writes:

We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

As a pastor to the congregation in Corinth, Paul’s words are passionate and direct. He implores those that are either apathetic, which means: (showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern) but living a mere outward type of holiness to be reconciled [or returned to right relationship] to God.

In his first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul had been strong in his rebuke of them in how they were dealing with sin in their midst. Paul had written them:
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, (someone inside the church) who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

Paul’s rebuke is strong, as it should be. But after the Corinthian’s come to repentance, the sweet comfort of the gospel must be applied. For there is no joy for Paul in leaving a repentant sinner terrified of their sin, that Christ Jesus has carried upon Himself to the cross forever burying it in the grave by his all sufficient sacrifice.

Paul now pleads to the repentant sinner as workers together with Him … not to receive the grace of God in vain.

2 For [God] says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,

And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

The help for the sinner is our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus who became sin for us that we might be reconciled to God receiving again the original righteousness that had been lost and broken in the fall in to sin.

The sin of the world, your sin and mine … God wept over. But do you? Do you feel the anguish of falling short daily? Are you in prayerful repentance sorry for your sin and asking for forgiveness? Or, is sin your master?

It could be indifference, greed, jealousy, cohabitation, adultery - which Paul speaks of as being sexually immoral; gossip, or simple unkindness … does it cause you to break down in guilt and repent of your sin which really is simply to ask for forgiveness and turn away from sin.

In the epistle reading Paul brings Good News to those who are broken and repentant.

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2b)

Friends, now is the time to receive forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday is the name given to the first day of the season of Lent, in which ashes are applied to the foreheads of Christian’s signifying an inner repentance. This repentance continues throughout Lent as we remember the suffering that our Lord endured at the cross for the sins of the whole world – yours and mine - as we wait in anticipation of Christ’s glorious Easter resurrection.

The work of the ministry is to call sinners to repentance so that the work of God’s Law can bring about a true repentance for sin and the Gospel of salvation a glorious comfort that on account of Christ you are forgiven!

Paul tells the Corinthians and us what the true work of the ministry is commending ourselves as ministers of God:

... in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,

8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Christ through his ministers today as then absolves the repentant. This gift He gives through his church, so that comfort is given to those broken by sin so that they might be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit working in them to a newness of life over sin, death and the power of the Devil.


Visitation to those who are unable to come brings Christ and his forgiveness to those unable to come. Whether Deb Trosin, Carol Chapman, Duane and Eleanor Brown, Dick Rutz or Carolyn Wilson all get the same forgiveness you receive in word and sacrament.

As I continue to visit those who are unable to be at church or those who are confused at times by dementia, I am constantly lifted up as together we pray and remember God’s, loving forgiveness in Christ. And though they at times may not remember me, they always remember Jesus who is the one who has freed them from sin and this broken world giving them the assurance that in Christ they have true forgiveness, peace and comfort and a place in the house of the Lord forever.

Christ reconciles the word unto himself!

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Please join me in prayer:

We can all be comforted to know that in Christ we are forgiven and that by His stripes we are truly healed!

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


Monday, March 4, 2019

Sermon March 2-3, 2019 - Transfiguration

Title: Jesus Christ is the chosen one, for you!
Text: Luke 9:35-36

35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

C.S. Lewis says:

When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over. And what he means is that God is going to invade [our world]; but what is the good of saying you are on God’s side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else comes crashing in?

This time it will be God without disguise; [no covering - no veil] something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. [It will be too late then. The time to believe will be over.]

It will be the time when we discover [whether eternal life or eternal damnation awaits]. [The sheep and goats, the wheat and tares] Now, today, this [very] moment, [is the time for faith and belief].

C.S. Lewis.

Last weekend as we concluded our Stewardship Series we heard from St. Peter in his second epistle about the destruction of the heavens and the earth by fire saying:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

But he also promises:

13 … a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

And councils:

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him,

Our gospel reading begins:

28 Now about eight days after these sayings [Jesus] took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.

The transfiguration account in Luke today brings about a change in how Christ is seen. Prior to our text today Jesus had made clear his mission to his disciples when he asked them “But who do you say that I am?” To which Peter answer’s “The Christ of God.” And then Jesus explains his mission and work, that the son of man must suffer, be rejected by the people, the elders and chief priests and be killed and on the third day be raised from the dead. Jesus speaks about denying self, following him and that anyone who loses his life for his will … save it.

And he concludes:

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Martin Luther once wrote:

And if [you are] not in the kingdom of Christ, it is certain that [you] belonged to the kingdom of Satan, which is this evil world.

Martin Luther - in Who Said That? by George Sweeting, p. 288

Demons, sickness, and death Jesus had been casting out. [in our Act’s Bible Study we see his disciples doing this very same thing in the name of Jesus.] He is now ascending the mountain with his disciples to pray. The questions had been, “What is this word?” and “Where did he get this authority?” and “Isn’t this the carpenters son?” Now … the veil of his divinity is clearly seen in a transfigured Jesus – brilliant white - shown with Moses and Elijah the Law and the Prophets breaking forth on the top of the mountain and fulfilled in Jesus.

Life is real and death is real. We see the two realities separately. As one ends the other begins. There is either life or there is death but the truth of our existence is that life continues. We live fallen or redeemed and the moment of death is the transition, the point of revealing, and the point of understanding, what truth is our eternity?

In the incarnation, Christ was veiled – transfigured if you will – to hide the truth of his identity so that he might be revealed at the proper time. Even the demons exclaimed, “I know who you are Jesus of Nazareth – the Holy one of God!” To this Christ shuts their mouths. But here, on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus is seen by Peter, James and John, for who he is; the Christ, the son of the living God.

This Jesus Christ is the chosen one, for you and for me as well!

The glimpse of heaven, the glorified Jesus with Moses and Elijah, shows for you and me the reality of bodily communion with the living God. Moses died and Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind but here they both are with Jesus and are known by those who, in their sinful flesh and with their own eyes see them together.

It is hard to understand this. Peter is confuse but senses that, “it is good that we are here.” He too wants to keep this glorified Jesus with Moses and Elijah in tents for themselves, much like the people in Capernaum wanted to keep this healing from Jesus for themselves, so that the reality of death might be removed.

But death is real.

It is the means of transfiguration for you and for me and through it we are changed.

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The reality is that,

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.

Jesus Christ is your victory!

The glorified Christ is your Christ but so is the Christ who took on human flesh.

He is the one who in humility became man and stood in your place and mine and served the needs of we who in sin were dead and had no hope. But he is also the one who sits exalted awaiting your own transfiguration from this life to the life eternal and an eternity with him

The voice of God testifies,

35 “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.

But you dear friends are never alone, though the glimpse of heaven and Jesus transfigured was once again veiled by his humanity, your transfiguration is secured.

Because Jesus came to finish his course for you

He came go where you couldn’t go and to do what you couldn’t do

So that, in him – in Jesus - the Father is well pleased … with you

The glorified Christ is yours by grace through faith, and though we wait for a time, God has given you the means of word and sacrament to bring the reality of your transfiguration from death to life to you.

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


Monday, February 25, 2019

Sermon Stewardship Series: February 23-24, 2019

Title: God’s Stewards: Living in the Present, Looking to the Future!
Text: 1 Timothy 6:17–19; 2 Peter 3:8–13, 17–18; Matthew 6:19–21

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Mt 6:19–21

I. We Christians are dual citizens—of here and hereafter.
II. We too easily get focused on here—on stuff.
III. Let us instead live not for the here and now only, but also for hereafter.
IV. God gives us ways to do that, which keep on blessing.

Rev. Rexford E. Umbenhaur III, pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, California

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sermon Stewardship Series: February 16-17, 2019

Title: God’s Stewards: Served and Serving!
Text: Isaiah 58:1–12; Philippians 2:1–8; John 13:3–5, 12–17

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” Phil 2:5–8

I. God in Christ expresses himself as the perfect, humble Suffering Servant.
II. Our expression of God-given faith, then, is also being a humble, loving servant.
III. That means using all with which the Lord has blessed us in service to others.

Rev. Rexford E. Umbenhaur III, pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, California

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sermon Stewardship Series: February 9-10, 2019

Title: God’s Stewards: Loved and Loving!
Text: Deuteronomy 7:7–11; 1 John 3:16–18; John 15:5–6, 9–16a

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” Deut 7:7–9

I. We are here because of God’s love.
II. His kind of love is always action toward the neighbor.
III. So the only motivation for our loving actions is his love to us.

Rev. Rexford E. Umbenhaur III, pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, California

Monday, February 4, 2019

Sermon Stewardship Series: February 2-3, 2019

Title: God’s Stewards: In the World but Not of the World!
Text: Genesis 12:1–3; Romans 12:2; John 17:15–18

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Rom 12:2

I. God has called you out of this world.
II. Yet God has left you in this world to be a steward, a witness, to others.
III. For his right reasons, therefore, you live differently from world.

Rev. Rexford E. Umbenhaur III, pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, California