Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sermon July 31, 2011

Title: Our Compassionate Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Theme: JESUS HAS COMPASSION, SO THAT SINNERS ARE SATISFIED!

Matthew 14:13-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."17They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." 18And he said, "Bring them here to me." 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Dear friends in Christ,

The passengers were sitting quietly in the subway car, when a man entered with children who were extremely noisy and active. To the passenger’s surprise, the man (who was obviously the father) sat down and closed his eyes, ignoring the loud and rambunctious children. He sat as though he were oblivious to them! The subway car was ringing with chaotic noise. The children's behavior was way out of line, and everyone was getting agitated - except the father.

Finally, a passenger leaned over and spoke to the man about his children. The father opened his eyes and seemed to finally grasp the situation.

"Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either."

Many times we too become agitated before we show compassion.

Thankfully:

JESUS HAS COMPASSION, SO THAT SINNERS ARE SATISFIED!

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. (Matt. 14:13a)

The news that His disciples brought to Jesus in the verses preceding this text was the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod. Hard news for anyone to hear especially if the news involves someone we know or are close to that has lost their life.

Jesus needed to get away to grieve. So He gets into a boat and goes across the lake to a place that is quite to be by Himself – to a place that is desolate.

But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. (Matt. 14:13b)

When you think of desolate you might think of a place devoid of inhabitants and deserted. A place that is joyless and sorrowful - as if separated from a loved one. A place showing signs of abandonment, dilapidated, devoid of warmth, comfort or hope. But what does Jesus find?

14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, (Matt. 14:14a)

He went to get away; to be by Himself; to collect His thoughts; to pray and here he finds not a desolate place at all, but one filled with a very large crowd of followers. I believe that even this crowd would have given Jesus a pass had he became agitated. But what does Jesus do?

…and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matt. 14:14b)

JESUS HAS COMPASSION, SO THAT SINNERS ARE SATISFIED!

We too fail to see and reflect God’s compassion in our daily lives. Many times agitation - seen through the eyes of sin - become the first reaction we have before – by the power of the Holy Spirit – we see through the compassionate eyes of faith given to us by our loving savior Jesus.
Compassion would show for a Christian the wonderful evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. To think of someone else and their needs first and foremost is a Christ-like virtue.

Ill.
There is a story of great compassion in the face of tragedy from this past week’s news.
What started as a family camping trip turned into a tragic tale of loss and heroism for one of mixed martial arts’ own.

Dr. Alex Constantinides (Con-stan-tin-i-des) has been a ringside physician and active in the mixed martial arts community, primarily in Colorado, for several years.

He, his wife, and their three adopted daughters were on a camping trip recently in Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming. They were evacuated from their campsite when heavy rains poured down in the area.

As they drove away, their van plunged into a nine-foot-deep chasm in the road and into a rising creek. Alex’s wife, Laurel, and their daughters, Hannah, 8, Zoey, 5, and Lucia, 2, did not survive.

Somehow, Dr. Alex Constantinides escaped the raging waters.

Making his way back up the creek, he came across Saratoga, Wyo., Mayor John Zeiger, whose truck fell into the same chasm in the road, landing in the creek.

Constantinides, just shortly after losing his own family, pulled Zeiger out of the truck to safety, likely saving his life.

The Colorado MMA community has rallied around Constantinides, who remains in Wyoming with family.

“I am surrounded by family and friends, Constantinides said. I am safe. Your prayers are felt and appreciated. Please continue to pray for my four angles that they find peace in God’s presence.”

In spite of the tragedy of losing his family in this sad and unexpected accident, Dr. Alex Constantinides was able to show compassion and help save another from a similar fate. He thought of another, in a time of need, just as Jesus did in our text today.

JESUS HAS COMPASSION, SO THAT SINNERS ARE SATISFIED!

Jesus’ showed compassion to the crowd of people gathered at this place and His compassion extended to their physical need as well. These five thousand men, women and children hungered and were fed in a miraculous way by Jesus, but the miracle was probably not even something they were aware of. God’s great blessing filled their hunger and showed the disciples the compassion and power with which Jesus was sending them out with. Each had a basketful of leftovers to testify to what Jesus has done and will continue to do through them.

God would be with them as they went forth. His miraculous work would be worked through them.
Jesus would speak as they spoke. All that Jesus is and does would be with them as they walked in His place with His word, bringing freedom to those in need of the saving knowledge of Christ in a fallen world. The compassion that Jesus has would be the compassion they share with sinners so that they are healed of their sin, fed by our precious Lord’s word and satisfied of all their wants and needs.

Jesus has compassion. 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)

His compassion is extended to all sinners who are lost and in need of salvation.

Jesus has compassion. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

His compassion comes to us through the free gift of the gospel for the salvation of all who believe.

Jesus has compassion. 8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

His compassion comes to us even though we are sinners. He took our sin upon Himself at the cross and by grace through faith in His finished work we are free of sin and covered by his righteousness.

Jesus has compassion. 9Because, by the power of the Holy Spirit in you, 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. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Rom. 10:9-10)

His compassion allows us by the power of the Holy Spirit to confess the truth of this good news for ourselves and to share this with others.

Jesus has compassion … on you! 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom. 10:13)

He heals your sin and covers you with His righteousness so that you are by faith, free of your bondage to sin, fed by his holy word, as well as His very Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper given and shed for you and for all who are satisfied and found in Him.

This, your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives you simply out of His Grace, mercy and love for you and with gratitude you are able to be compassionate and show compassion to others.

JESUS HAS COMPASSION, SO THAT SINNERS ARE SATISFIED!

Finally, I leave you with a few of the wonderful words from our Sermon Hymn today.

God Loved the World So That He Gave

God loved the world so that He gave
His only Son the lost to save
That all who would in Him believe
Should everlasting life receive.

God would not have the sinner die,
His Son with saving grace is nigh,
His Spirit in the Word declares
How we in Christ are heaven’s heirs.

Glory to God the Father, Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One!
To Thee, O blessèd Trinity,
Be praise now and eternally!

JESUS HAS COMPASSION, SO THAT SINNERS ARE SATISFIED IN HIM!

May the Love of God the Father who made us, the Compassion of Christ our Lord who redeemed us and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit who sustains us be and abide with us now and forever more.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

Funeral Sermon

Title: Loved, Forgiven, Forever!

Theme: CHRIST CONQUERED SIN AND DEATH, SO THAT THROUGH HIM WE ARE FORGIVEN - FOREVER!

Romans 8:28-39
English Standard Version (ESV)

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the daylong;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ,

Each morning during the week, after I say a few prayers and read a short devotion, I like to get a cup of coffee and sit and read the paper.

If you’re like me, I read the headlines and then I look over the sports to see how the teams are doing and before long … I’m reading through the obituaries.

As I look over this section, I find much more in common with the people on these pages than I use to … especially their age. Sure, there are some that are many years older than me and some, unfortunately, quite a bit younger. But, quite a few around my age and it causes me to think - as it must for many of you - that life is a lot shorter then we care to think about. But as we think about death today with the loss of our beloved Grace we can have confidence that:

CHRIST CONQUERED SIN AND DEATH, SO THAT THROUGH HIM WE ARE FORGIVEN - FOREVER!

The epistle lesson today speaks of trial and comfort. These believers in Rome were being persecuted for their faith and the Apostle offers assurance to them that no matter the trial whether, tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Rom. 8:35) that we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8-28)

The world, the flesh and the Devil continued to bring these believers to doubt that there salvation was secure. Paul comforts them with the assurance that no matter whether trial, persecution in this life or even death that God has redeemed them and bought them with the precious blood of His only Son and in Christ they cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)

Death brings about a separation from our loved ones for a time in this life. It is a consequence of sin and a corruption of this perfect creation of our loving God. We all see the evidence in our life. At times, it is wonderful to grow older, to look forward to getting your driver’s license or graduating from High School … going to college, falling in love, getting married … starting a family. All the while you’re thinking very little of this sinful condition in a corrupted world and time that is slipping away.

Before long, the kids are grown and out of the house … or … maybe not … because this life corrupted by sin can throw a wrench in the plans you made, a job lost or a marriage that you thought would last forever.

Some of the pain of sin we cause; some is thrust upon us by the sin of others; and some, could have been avoided had we only been a little less self-centered and bit more loving.

But death, none the less, makes you look at the reality that at some point we’re all going to die. For some sooner and for some later, the sin of Adam and Eve that we are all born into comes knocking and as much as we try, we all will eventually answer that door and leave this life.

CHRIST CONQUERED SIN AND DEATH, SO THAT THROUGH HIM WE ARE FORGIVEN - FOREVER!

So, what is God’s purpose and hope for us? Well, we learn again from our epistle lesson that:
29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God foreknew – or knew beforehand - these believers in Rome before the foundations of the world. He predestined – determined or decreed – that they would bear the image of His son; that they would be covered by the righteous, royal robes of the God/man Jesus Christ. He called them by name to believe the Good News of the Gospel and justified them through saving faith in the blessed Gospel that they too, like the Son, would be glorified, forgiven in Christ and with Him forever in heaven.

God called Grace by name as well and she knew her savior and his call to faith. As I sat with her in her hospital room and watched her body getting ravaged by cancer we talked and she shared the loss she felt at not being able to see her grandchildren grow up. I too felt a profound loss for Grace and these children who would be missing out on the wonderful, loving grandmother she was and would have continued to be. But her hope was in her Lord and savior Jesus and the reunion she knew was waiting her in heaven.

Because 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32) Because of Jesus’ death on the cross Grace knew her sins were forgiven. Because He rose from the dead, she knew that she would too. Because of Christ, Grace knew that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

Heaven is her home and Jesus has prepared a place for her, so that even with the veil of death lurking at the door and waiting to cover her, Grace had hope in a blessed reunion forever with Jesus.

You too can have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins - is the wonderful Gospel message you can trust. Jesus has forgiven your sin and has called you to by the Gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, and has given you faith to believe in Christ’s saving work. There is a place prepared for you and for all who believe this Good News. You are forgiven in Christ and will spend forever with our Lord and savior Jesus in Heaven and that neither death nor life, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)

CHRIST CONQUERED SIN AND DEATH, SO THAT THROUGH HIM WE ARE FORGIVEN - FOREVER!

May our Lord comfort you at this time of loss with this precious Good News that in Christ we are all loved by God, forgiven in Christ and together live forever with Him!

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, July 16, 2011

Sermon July 17, 2011

GOD OBLIDERATED SIN, SO THAT WE ARE FREE AND ADOPTED AS HIS BELOVED CHILDREN!

Text: Romans 8:18-27

English Standard Version (ESV)

Future Glory

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Dear friends in Christ,

On July 3l, 1838 on the Island of Jamaica, a man named William Knibbs, gathered 10,000 slaves for a great praise gathering. They were celebrating the New Emancipation Proclamation Act that would abolish slavery on the island. They had built an immense coffin and into it were placed whips, branding irons, chains, fetters of all kinds, slave garments and all the things that represented the terrible slavery system that was now coming to a welcome end.

At the first stroke of the midnight bell, Knibbs shouted out, "The monster is dying." At each stroke of the bell that followed this cry was repeated and the great crowd began to join in the cry. At the twelfth stoke 10,000 voices cried out, "The monster is dead, the monster is dead, let us bury him." They then screwed the coffin lid down and lowered it into a huge grave and covered it up. That night, every heart rejoiced and 10,000 voices grew hoarse, shouting and crying with joy. Once they were in bondage to slavery, but now they were free.

Suffering, longing, subjected to futility and groaning together, were the feeling these slaves felt who were in bondage before being emancipated and set free … and in our Epistle lesson today, the Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Rome, will use those same words to offer hope to a people suffering in this life for their faith.

GOD OBLIDERATED SIN, SO THAT WE ARE FREE AND ADOPTED AS HIS BELOVED CHILDREN!

It was probably during Saint Paul’s third missionary journey; while in Corinth, that he sat down to write this epistle to the Romans. The church in Rome had most likely been started by some Jewish inhabitants who were present in Jerusalem on the great day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out in the books of acts, and may have been part of the three thousand who were baptized and added to the number of believers on that day. (Acts 2:41)

As we were told in (Acts 2:9-10):

9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,

Paul appeals to these believers in Rome to consider their sufferings, just as the entire creation also waits for the freedom from the bondage that sin placed it in. Every aspect of creation has been touched by the fall of Adam and Eve into sin and is subject to its consequences.

Creation even has been groaning, along with these Christians in Rome, as a slave might, who is held fast by shackles and fetters, which are the leg irons, of sin. Crying out for the freedom that they long to see and waiting patiently to shed the slave clothes and filthy rags of this life for the freedom that awaits; where sin, death and the Devil no longer hold power over them.

We too, look to the day when we will be free from the bonds of sin. I’m sure many of you notice, as I do, when I look in the mirror in the morning and see the reality of this corrupted world in the lines on my face and the shape of my body. The reality of the consequence of sin is evident.
We are all getting older. Some things we use to eat we can’t now – at least that is what the doctors tell us. Getting up off the ground causes much more pain in my knees and I’m sure in many of yours then it use to. And, it all came to a head for me when I was at work. Many of you know that I work in the piano business and I went to help one of our drivers lift a piano and place it on a furniture dolly …

I couldn’t lift my end. I’ve always lifted my end. This was a reality check for me. A consequence of sin is death and we all are getting closer to this reality daily.

The reality of sin is something all of us see, hear or read about daily. Just a little over a week ago, an ex-convict went on a deadly shooting spree in Grand Rapids, targeting two ex-girlfriends, fatally shooting both of them and five members of their families, including his own 12-year-old daughter.

22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:22, 23)

Does your sinful flesh long with all creation for heaven? Or, are you tied to the things of the flesh?

GOD OBLIDERATED SIN, SO THAT WE ARE FREE AND ADOPTED AS HIS BELOVED CHILDREN!

The truth is that just like those slaves that put the remnants of their slavery in a large box and buried it. The remnants of your slavery to sin have been taken upon the very body of Jesus Christ. The whips, chains and leg irons, the sufferings, longing and groaning of the sins of the whole world have been laid upon Him at the cross. He died and was buried as a sacrifice for sin but He was not left in the grave. He rose on the third day and the blessed Good News of the hope that all believers share was what those first Christians in Rome hoped for.

The Holy Spirit, in those first believers, interceded for them with groaning too deep for words. (Rom. 8:26) God’s redemption in Christ is their redemption, as they waited patiently for the Glory that would be revealed in them. (Rom. 8-18)

God gave them hope and He sustains that hope through the working of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is that He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:27) And what was that will? - To point them to the finished work of Jesus Christ. God has freed them from their slavery and bondage to sin and has adopted them as His children. The Holy Spirit confirmed to those believes in Rome and comforted them in their affliction and suffering as they waited for the blessed hope by faith in Christ’s finished work.

Martin Luther put it this way:

Your righteousness cannot be seen, cannot be felt; rather you must hope that it will be revealed in due time. This is why you must not judge by the feelings of sin, which troubles and terrifies you, but by the promise and teaching of faith, by which Christ is promised, who is your perfect everlasting righteousness.

Christ has set you free from the bonds of sin too. He has taken your sin upon Himself satisfying God’s justice at the cross by giving His own life for you. He takes your filthy rags of sin upon Himself and covers you with His royal righteous robes - free from sin - a righteousness He secured for you by the sinless life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God the Holy Spirit will continue to intercede for you as you wait to be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom. 8:21)
Freedom always has a cost but God has paid the price for your freedom from sin, death and the Devil. He has finished your redemption and the Holy Spirit in you confirms this Good News by faith. God has given you a new nature in the Spirit, being born again in your baptism in wait-full anticipation, along with creation to see Jesus Christ glorified - adopted as Son's of the Living God, who you are, to be raised to sinless glory, from corruption to incorruption, from bondage to freedom from decay, age, sin and death, and for the first time, you will live complete, in a glory that you cannot imagine.

Saint Paul tells us in: 1 Corinthians 2:9

9But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"—

Our Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed you by His blood on the cross and has called us all, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to believe the Good News of the Gospel. That on account of Christ’s merits you are free from all sin and guilt. The Holy Spirit has created faith in you to believe this Good News and will continue to conform into the image of Christ and sustain you in the one true faith.

GOD OBLIDERATED SIN, SO THAT YOU ARE FREE AND ADOPTED AS HIS BELOVED CHILD!

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sermon July 10, 2011

JESUS SEEDS OUR HEARTS; SO THAT THROUGH THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE HEAR, BELIEVE AND BRING FORTH GOOD FRUIT!

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

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

English Standard Version (ESV)

Matthew 13

The Parable of the Sower

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 "Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

Dear friends,

Outside the church, in the area between the garage and the pavilion, there is a garden growing. It’s not a large garden. This spring we had a number of raised areas within the garden that were up for adoption by congregation members. Soil was prepared, seed was planted and now there are quite a variety of vegetables growing!

One thing that I also noticed was the variety and amount of weeds among the plants. Each member who has a plot of land planted, also has taken on the responsibility of weekly tending to their garden. Watering is certainly necessary to maintain growth, but also the work of keeping the weeds in check requires each member who wants their garden healthy to weekly spend some time in the garden. If you’ve ever had a garden I’m sure you know and hear what I’m saying.

JESUS SEEDS OUR HEARTS; SO THAT THROUGH THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE HEAR, BELIEVE AND BRING FORTH GOOD FRUIT!

Jesus spoke in a parable in the Gospel lesson today. Parables are stories to illustrate important points our Lord is making and the Parable of the Sower is an interesting one. Surly, those who were there listening on the shore, could relate to sowing seed as Jesus spoke to them from a boat just out from the shore that created a natural amphitheatre as such. Many of those who were listening we’re farmers or had experience with planting and growing. They were listening well enough. But some heard while others didn’t.

The seed that Christ refers to as being planted is the word of God. God in Christ was either directly sowing the seed of the word, or through his chosen instruments - his twelve disciples - the word was being sown in His place.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that seed doesn’t grow on a path and the word doesn’t grow in a heart opposed to understanding. Jesus explains that the Evil One is waiting to remove any part of the word planted. His hope is to snatch them away from the kingdom. For those with a heart that is like rocky ground the seed of the word may sprout for a time and be received with great joy but the troubles of this life and persecution can kill its growth and cause an apathetic view of the work of the Holy Spirit. Thorns, in a garden, like a heart focused on prosperity and riches, can cause the word to be choked out as one searches for carnal gratification in things of the world.

You too can be affected by this life and fall victim to the work of the Devil. Your own level of prosperity can draw you away from the word of God which is Christ, leaving your heart unattended and infested with weeds. Many who attend church regularly hear the word but quickly forget it, allowing it to be snatched away from them, as they occupy their time with more interesting endeavors. As trouble begins, our own level of resolve can be compromised.

I have a friend who is a musician and producer in Nashville. As we talked he told me about one of his closest friends, a guitar player that has had much success in the music business. He said to me, “Russ, I’ve had many opportunities to share Christ with Jimmy, but the problem as I see it is that things are just going too good for him. He would have to give up some things and right now he just sees no need for Jesus.”

Remember how Jesus’ explained it:

22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Many, like Jimmy, get drawn away by their finances, wealth, lifestyle and the pursuit of happiness that their heart is like seed being sown among the thorns. It gets choked off and can’t grow.

For many others, the state of our economic situation in Michigan fills our hearts and minds with concern. Some have had to live on less and sadly many seek comfort in pleasures that fade away instead of the pleasure of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s invitation to come from Matthew 11, in last Sunday’s Gospel reading:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

JESUS SEEDS OUR HEARTS; SO THAT THROUGH THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE HEAR, BELIEVE AND BRING FORTH GOOD FRUIT!

8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."

Jesus opens the hearts of the ones with ears to hear. The good soil is found only in Christ. Where His word has taken root, by the work of the Holy Spirit, He is fully present and so is the good soil that begins producing a harvest of thirty, sixty and even a hundred fold. This is an unbelievable return Jesus promises his hearers.

Jesus’ word of comfort and rest, for those who heard the word of truth and believed, produced growth and good fruit in them.

God tells us in the words of Isaiah the Prophet:

…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Jesus has promised that the Good News will not return void and will, by faith in Him, accomplish that which He wills.

The good word of God grew then producing the fruit of faith through the word of Christ by the spirits power and still today…

JESUS SEEDS OUR HEARTS; SO THAT THROUGH THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE HEAR, BELIEVE AND BRING FORTH GOOD FRUIT!

It’s His good and gracious will for you too. He has planted this seed of the word in you. The soil of your heart has been planted with the word of God and watered with your baptism. God in Christ daily causes you to remember your baptism and through the word of His promise, will continue to grow the seed of the word planted in you.

Jesus richly tends to your soil and feeds and nourishes you through word and sacrament. He causes the cover of His righteousness to shade you, from the worries of this hot and hostile world, bringing rest and peace in Him who is the living waters He so richly gives to all who believe.

As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:10-13:

10 “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Christ will always bring living waters to tend your garden. He will feed you and produce a great harvest through the word in you as you continue to feed and drink of Him. The word of His promise will not return void and by the power of the Holy Spirit the word of God will be made known to those with ears to hear.

May the word of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit and the Love of God continue to comfort, grow and keep you in His love as you hear believe and bring forth good fruit, now and forever.

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sermon July 3, 2011

GOD CONFOUNDS THE WISE; SO THAT WE CAN LIKE BABIES, REST IN CHRIST!

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

Text: Matthew 11:25-30

English Standard Version (ESV)

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Dear friends,

There is a scene in the movie “Annie Hall” where Wood Allen’s character is standing in line to at a movie theatre and the man behind him is talking to a lady about the influence of TV and media on society. He’s speaking about Marshall McLuhan – an English professor who wrote an important book on the subject called, “On the Media.”

Woody Allen continues to look and speak to the camera when he says: “What can you do when you get stuck on a movie line with a guy like this behind you?”

He turns and speaks to the man directly: “You don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's work”— to which the man replies: “Really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture, so I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity.”

Woody then does a really funny and insightful thing. He says, “I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. Come over here for a second?” He brings the man out of the movie line where Mr. McLuhan is standing and says to him: “Tell him.” So Marshall McLuhan looks at the man and says: “I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.”

The scene ends with Woody Allen looking straight at the camera and us and saying: “Boy, if life were only like this.”

Sometimes man’s wisdom can cause him to trust in his own reason and understanding, leaving little room for anything but an idol made out of his own self-serving image so:

GOD CONFOUNDS THE WISE; SO THAT WE CAN LIKE BABIES, REST IN CHRIST!

The people needed to be compelled. Jesus calls - “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt: 11:28)

There were some who, through their own wisdom, reason and efforts thought that they could find their way and make peace with God. They would be confounded in their efforts. God keeps Himself hidden. He conceals himself from them. No amount of human effort, by the wise and learned of their day, can find Him and that is why God is so confounding to them. To confound is an interesting verb. It causes one to become confused or perplexed, to fail to distinguish and to mix up, to make something bad … worse, to frustrate or even to damn.

The scribes and the Pharisees of Israel saw themselves as the caretakers of the wisdom and understanding of God’s Law. The Law showed them all God demanded and what He required. The Gospel remained hidden from them because it is only found in the finished work of the God/man Jesus Christ.

(Matt. 11:27) tells us:
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Those who were seeking the Father on their terms didn’t find him. The Father and Son know each other intimately. To know the Father they must know the Son and the Father can only be accessed through the Son by His revealing. (Matt. 11:27)

We too can find ourselves looking for God apart from His revelation. We too need to be compelled to cast all our cares on Him. But we too can fall short as we, through our own reason and understanding, seek to make peace with God and know the father on our terms.

You must accept the Son just as a little child does. Through the waters of Baptism the fullness of the Father is known through His revelation in Jesus Christ, His Son our Lord. Belief is not attained through reason or effort but only through faith by God’s gracious will. Many today still fight against this.

We who celebrate our independence this weekend can attest to the blessings of freedom won through the reason, effort, lives and death of many men and women who sacrificed so much, so that you and I can live in a free society and have a voice in determining our future and the future of our country.

Many unfortunately though hope to direct God through their own wisdom in choosing what part of His word applies to them today. Many question the working of God even in the baptizing of an infant because it doesn’t fit their understanding of freedom won (a decision or work we do) as opposed to freedom given (a gift received).

Many still want their vote to count and to find God on their terms! Those who do, through their own wisdom, might hear God say something similar to Mr. McLuhan: “I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. Why you ever thought you could reach me through your own reason and efforts is totally amazing.”

GOD CONFOUNDS THE WISE; SO THAT WE CAN LIKE BABIES, REST IN CHRIST!

Jesus thanks the Father for drawing those by childlike faith, through no wisdom or effort of their own, to find rest in Him and his Cross. (Matt. 11:25) His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30) because He has carried all of the world’s sins upon Himself to the cross of Calvary and left them there. Eternal rest for the souls of those who labor and are heavy laden (Matt. 11:28) is found only in Christ, where by the call of the Gospel those with the faith of a little child believe, casting all their cares upon Him who is the one who truly brings real peace.

God gives faith to those who being in need rely on Him who was and is and will forever be God’s Son, the man Christ Jesus. No mere man could have offered words so full of heavenly majesty and divine comfort. He is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form the image of the invisible God as Col.2:9-12 makes clear.

9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

He gives divine comfort to all who by faith believe this good news that peace with God is found only in Jesus Christ and that spiritual rest can truly be realized only through him and His cross alone.

Jesus comforts you too. His peace is your peace when by the power of the Holy Spirit you believe the Good News. Christ, through your baptism has washed you clean and you can remember this Good News daily by faith.

God has promised that your comfort and spiritual rest is ongoing because through faith in Him you have received the blessing revealed to the little children in our Gospel reading today and like them, you to believe.

Christ’s yoke is easy because He has carried it for you. He brings Peace because He is the very Prince of Peace. Because Christ has cast his vote for you – you can rest from your worry, wisdom, reason and efforts knowing that He has secured God’s peace for you and gives it to you freely by faith in Him.

The Father is revealed through the Son and the Son has, by grace through faith, revealed the Father to you. This is the comfort that little children and you receive and the same revelation that confounds and perplexes the wise of this world.

(Matt. 11:25)
25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; Yes:

GOD CONFOUNDS THE WISE; SO THAT WE CAN LIKE BABIES, REST IN CHRIST!

As we consider the peace we enjoy in the United States this Independence Day, consider also what Martin Luther said about temporal peace and where it comes from when he writes:

How many citizens or people do you suppose have ever once in their lifetime thought that their protection and safety in the city are a gift of God? …Ah, what a great gift of God it is that a man may eat his bit of bread and drink his draught of water in security and peace!

May you be blessed as you remember on this Independence Day the freedom you enjoy; that God has come to you by the working of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ Jesus and the Father through Him to you giving you true freedom from the world, the flesh and the Devil.

Jesus was, is and will forever be your peace, comfort and rest now and forever by faith.

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