Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sermon June 26, 2011

Theme:

JESUS DIVIDES THE WORLD, SO THAT WE, WHO ARE IN CHRIST, DIE TO SELF AND LIVE!

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord

Text: Matthew 10:34-42 English Standard Version (ESV)

Not Peace, but a Sword

34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Rewards

40 "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."
Dear friends in Christ,

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus makes some hard statements to his disciples. Jesus has been called and is the very “Prince of Peace” and yet He says, in the beginning of our text today, that He did not come to bring peace? He came to bring a sword? He came to divide the disciple’s families and those that they will be bringing Good News too? If they find their life they will lose it and lose their life they’ll find it? What on Earth is Jesus getting at?

Earlier in the Tenth chapter of Matthew Jesus commissioned the twelve to go out. He gave them power and authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal disease. He sent them not to the Gentiles or Samaritans but only to the lost sheep of Israel. He warns them in Vs 16 and 17:

16 "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

The truth of our message today is:

JESUS DIVIDES THE WORLD, SO THAT WE, WHO ARE IN CHRIST, DIE TO SELF AND LIVE!

There is the great truth that Jesus came to fulfill the requirements of the Law, appease the wrath of God and to reconcile the relationship between God and man and He has done that, but also this work that Christ accomplished will have two different and distinct effects in the world. The word of Christ will also divide the world as it will brings many by the gospel, to faith, while others who hear this message reject it remaining in their sin.

It gets very personal for the disciples too as they go forth, pitting father against son, mother against daughter and mother-n-law against daughter-n-law. I can imagine one of the twelve speaking to a family the Good News about Jesus and seeing joy on the face of a father as he receives the Gospel by faith while his grown son walks away dismayed. Or a family that has the son and daughter joy in the blessings of Christ as father and mother complain that the old religion and customs were good enough for them. But then Jesus will bring his message extremely close to home for these twelve as well:

36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

To be a follower of Christ will require much sacrifice on the part of the disciples. These first pastors must take up their cross to follow Him as Jesus will also, as He prepares them for the ultimate sacrifice that He would make, when He picks up His cross and goes to the Mount of Calvary to suffer and die for the sins of the world. These disciples and ultimately all who come to faith will be asked to bear our cross.

We too can feel for the disciples as they go forth. Many of you today see the same divisions in your families. Father and son can see eye to eye when rooting for the home team or discussing where to take the family on vacation but when it comes to Jesus and discipleship … well we might see things differently. Moms and daughters can talk like sisters about, life, love and fashion but as one gets ready to go to service on Sunday, the other might think it foolish to get up for church, when it would be better to sleep in after a late night out. The truth of what it means to follow Christ will require each one of us to take up our cross, placing all our trust in Him who calls us to be His followers over the call of the world, the flesh and the Devil.

But what cross and what cost is Jesus speaking about? Christ is talking to you and me when He says:

34I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

But the peace that the world wants and the peace that many of us give in to is to compromise God’s truth for the sake of peace, our peace. To water down God’s word or to turn our backs to sin, for the sake of the world, so as to be looked upon as loving in the eyes of those opposed to Christ, is the compromise the world desires.

Paul Kretzmann in his popular commentary on the Bible puts it this way:
There is no more bitter hatred and strife than that due to religious differences. It estranges the closest of friends, it disrupts families and it causes lasting enmity between members of the same household. These features will accompany the propagation of the new religion. To stand firm on the side of Christ demands the utmost fearlessness.

But who among us is fearless and what is this fearlessness? The disciples were given the answer from Jesus in verse 39.

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Christ is the peace that truly passes all understanding. He is the strength and fearlessness that goes out into the world proclaiming the Good News. In the face of rejection and fear He will keep these twelve strong so that while they stand against adversity it will be in him that they stand. Jesus has guaranteed that they will have life forever with Him because He will keep them in Him even in the face of persecution and death.

Jesus comforts them:

40 "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

Jesus Christ will go to the ends of the Earth bringing Good News to those in sin and in need of forgiveness through these twelve ambassadors. Because Christ came to live, suffer, die and rise again for the sins of the world many, who hear this Good News proclaimed, will come to faith in Him. They will receive Christ by receiving those who stand in the place and by the command of Jesus and in so doing receive the Father who sent him. Jesus Christ will continue to stand for these little ones who bring His saving message to the lost and all who receive them receive Him who sent them and the blessing of life in Him awaits all who by faith receive this Good News.

We too are promised the same reward as those who first heard the Good News proclaimed from the mouths of the twelve that went out. The reward of a prophet (who proclaims God’s word) and a righteous person (who is covered by the righteousness of Christ) you receive when you, by Faith believe the Good News. The Holy Spirit confirms your place in the household of God when you, through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith, reject the compromises that the world demands but cling instead to Christ and His precious word for your eternal wellbeing and true peace.
Martin Luther put it this way in speaking of true spiritual peace:

Therefore if sin presses you, if death or hell or danger of any sort or a temptation of the devil distresses you, you must turn your eyes away from the evil that is afflicting you and direct yourself with all your might to the promise of God. For in them you find rest and peace and joy of soul which all hell is unable to take away from you.

Dear friends, true peace comes from God and it has been given you who believe and cling to Jesus and His cross by faith. Rejoice that in Him you to will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, endure the trials of this world confident in the promise of Christ. Proclaim this Good News to friends and family alike, knowing that it is the will of God that all would come to a knowledge of the truth by the working of the Spirit. Let the word of God comfort you in the difficulties you face in this life, because they are only temporary because the blessing and promise of being with Christ in Heaven is eternal.

Jesus will always keep you in His grace and truth and love. The Holy Spirit has gathered you to the foot of the cross and caused faith in you to believe that you are forgiven and redeemed by Christ the crucified! Rejoice in the truth that your home awaits you in Heaven where Jesus has prepared a place for you and for all who by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit believe and are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit because:

JESUS DIVIDES THE WORLD, SO THAT WE, WHO ARE IN CHRIST, DIE TO SELF AND LIVE!

Amen.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever.

Amen

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sermon June 19, 2011

Theme:

GOD WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD HIS CHURCH, SO THAT WE WHO HAVE BEEN REDEEMED CAN SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH OTHERS!

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Text: Matthew 28:16-20 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Great Commission

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Dear friends in Christ,

Earlier this month we dedicated our new pavilion to the Lord and celebrated Pastor Merrell’s 40th year in ministry. The Lord blessed us with beautiful weather and it was a wonderful time of fellowship for all.

The building of the pavilion was a long process. Many were unsure and doubted whether if it would ever get built at all. It took years of giving and careful stewardship of God’s gifts as well as the process, planning and building requirements of the township. We then had to hire a builder, make revisions, deal with completion dates and finally put off the finishing touch of the new cement floor until spring.

Building anything can be hard work but we can all thank the Lord for the completed project and the wonderful use it will bring to our church and our outreach endeavors in the years to come that will make it all worthwhile. Building a pavilion is good but another building - the church - is being built daily on the foundation of our faith, which is Christ Jesus our Lord. And we know that:

GOD WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD HIS CHURCH, SO THAT WE WHO HAVE BEEN REDEEMED CAN SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH OTHERS!

In our text today we read that: the disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

It is unclear in the text what some doubted. It could have been that some were unsure if the resurrection really took place or whether it was truly Jesus standing before them now. Many of Jesus’ followers were scattered after his trial, crucifixion and death and some, like Thomas, were still doubtful that the man Jesus that they had followed and had hoped in, could be the one who would redeem and restore Israel and was the very same Jesus that was standing before them now.

Many believed but some doubted. Doubt about our resurrected Lord? It was evident then that some of the disciples were looking for something other than God’s plan to redeem and save the lost and after 2000 years of church history it is still evident today.

At times, we too can be blinded to the truth of God’s word, by the working of our sinful nature. This can cause doubt and keep us from the blessed Good News that on account of Jesus’ sinless life, death on the cross, burial and resurrection on the third day, that you too are free of the guilt of your sin and covered by the righteousness of Christ.

Sometimes there is a need to rebuild in life, as we have seen in the last month by the devastation from the tornados in and around Joplin, Missouri and the flooding that had displaced many around the banks of the Mississippi river. It is truly heartbreaking to see this loss of life, livelihood and living conditions for many believers and non-believers alike.

Faith in Christ does not make you immune from the world or life’s problems as we have seen over the last few years here in Michigan, as many members of our church family have had to move or relocate because of job loss or economic conditions. Some have lost their homes to foreclosure while others have needed to find additional work, just to keep above water in these trying times.

These and many things can cause doubt today. Professors with a liberal world view at college can draw our children into doubt of the truth of Christ’s teaching. Popular TV hosts can announce that all paths lead to God and many of their viewers will follow after them down the path that leads to destruction. You too may be led into doubting your own baptism by good intended Christian friends that turn the blessing of baptism into a work we do. They’ll tell you that baptism is only for those that can truly make a decision for Christ but the truth of God’s word, in our Gospel lesson today, is that Jesus Christ has made a decision for you and builds His church through the word of His promise.

This word of His promise is clear in the text of the Great Commission:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Yes, Jesus promised the disciples to be with them always. This was very Good News indeed and a great comfort for them as they shared the Gospel with all who would hear. The making of disciples –or followers of Christ – is how God builds His church. Jesus proclaims to His disciples here, this Good News and these disciples were commissioned to take this message of God’s forgiveness in Christ to the very ends of the Earth. It is how the early church was built and how God continues to build His church.

The joy of this Good News for those first followers of Jesus could not be kept silent. By proclamation of God’s word and in sacrament, by the baptizing of all nations, followers of Christ were made by the power of the Holy Spirit and the building of God’s church began, has continued to be built, and will continue to be built until our Lord returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The joy of seeing the church, the household of God grow gave the disciples the opportunity to participate in God’s work and God continues to build his church through the proclamation of the word and by the sacrament of Baptism still today.

There are many in our midst that are lost, hurting and in need or are complacent and comfortable in the grip of sin. When you share the love of Christ and proclaim the Good News with those in need you experience the joy that God does in building his church, just as the first disciples did going forth from that mountain into all the world!

The blessing of God’s Good News and promise connected to the water in Holy Baptism, applied in the name of the Triune God of Father, Son + and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of your sins is commanded by Christ in the Great Commission of our Gospel reading today and applied by pastors around the world in the place and by the command of Christ to build God’s church.

This Baptism is not a symbolic washing or a work on the part of the individual to make a decision for Christ. This is the very word and promise of Christ, connected to the water and applied by God’s under shepherd for you, where the Holy Spirit is given and faith is created in Christ’s finished work and those that have been baptized believe.

God knows your problems and He cares. He has also built a foundation for your salvation that will stand forever against the attacks of the world, the flesh and the Devil that will never need to be rebuilt. Because, He sent His only Son our Lord to stand in your place, to take upon Himself the guilt of your sin and to nail it to the cross, once and for all for you, never to be thought of again.

This is the blessed Good News! This is the blessed hope that you too can share with others if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior. That while in this life, even though you will still be affected by the consequence of sin, you can know and hold fast to the Good News that Jesus died for you! Your sins have been paid for and our Heavenly Father sees you through the blessed veil of Christ. That also by the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, He will keep you in the one true faith handed down once and for all through the church for time and eternity by word and sacrament.

On this Festival of the Holy Trinity we celebrate the unique character of God who after having revealed Himself in the words of Holy Scripture as Father, Son + and Holy Spirit worked to redeem the lost and to build the family of God through His means of grace of word and sacrament. He was at work then and is at work now and Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples of all Nations has been completed in you, who by the power of the Holy Spirit have been given faith to believe.

GOD WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD HIS CHURCH SO THAT WE WHO HAVE BEEN REDEEMED CAN SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH OTHERS!

May you always remain steadfast in the truth of the word of our Father, Son + and Holy Spirit, for the peace and comfort of your soul, now and forevermore.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever.
Amen