Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sermon March 29, 2013 Good Friday


Title: In Christ, it is finished and your redemption is secure!

Text: John19:29-30

29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Thomas Edison invented the microphone, the phonograph, the incandescent light, the storage battery, talking movies, and more than 1000 other things. December 1914 he had worked for 10 years on a storage battery. This had greatly strained his finances. This particular evening spontaneous combustion had broken out in the film room. Within minutes all the packing compounds, celluloid for records and film, and other flammable goods were in flames. Fire companies from eight surrounding towns arrived, but the heat was so intense and the water pressure so low that the attempt to douse the flames was futile. Everything was destroyed. Edison was 67. With all his assets going up in a whoosh (although the damage exceeded two million dollars, the buildings were only insured for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof), would his spirit be broken?

The inventor's 24-year old son, Charles, searched frantically for his father. He finally found him, calmly watching the fire, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind. "My heart ached for him," said Charles. "He was 67--no longer a young man--and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, 'Charles, where's your mother?' When I told him I didn't know, he said, 'Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.'" The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew." Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver the first phonograph.

Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick, Thomas Nelson, 1978, pp. 82-3, and Bits and Pieces, November, 1989, p. 12.

In Christ, it is finished and your redemption is secure!

17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on both side, and Jesus between them.

As our opening illustration pointed out … there can be great value in disaster. For the followers of Jesus this was to for a time, a disaster of great proportions.

The one in whom they had trusted and believed, who they had thought was the one, the Messiah, was now tried, crucified, and in a manner that would be in keeping with that of a common criminal.

“But how can it be?” they might think. “In Him we we’re sure that the Kingdom would be restored and the power of the Romans broken. Now, we see only the one in whom we placed our hope gone; killed by the raging of the Jewish leaders, the scourging of the Roman guards and the cross of humiliating crucifixion.”
Even Pilate got his digs in for he wrote:

… an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Those responsible for turning Jesus over to Pilate cried:

“Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” “But Pilate had written what he had written and in the languages of Aramaic, Latin, and Greek so there was no mistaking what was said of him.”

“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The dead King of the Jews may have been the response that they all felt.

 In Christ, it is finished and your redemption is secure!

The world that we live in today too mocks this Jesus.

There was a story last week of a Florida Atlantic University student who says he ended up suspended because he refused to stomp on a piece of paper bearing the word “JESUS”.

Jr. Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, says he was booted from class after he told an FAU school official that the Jesus-stomping assignment made him uncomfortable.

This was supposedly an exercise in a class entitled: “Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.”

The exercise goes on to say:

 “This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/03/23/update-florida-atlantic-university-apologizes-for-jesus-stomping-101/#ixzz2Oad1saYG

In Christ, it is finished and your redemption is secure!

With these words:

We sincerely apologize for any offense this has caused,”

“Florida Atlantic University apologized and said that they, “respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”

The name of Jesus and the cross is an offense. Why? Well, what if it is true? What if this Jesus is God and we are sinners as the bible says and what if there is no hope apart from trust in him? What if there is really a place called Hell and when we reject Him and His love we receive the eternal separation and torment promised?

These and many other questions about Jesus and the cross cause the anger to boil over because it bring the sinners sins to light and the law, as the Confirmation class learns in class, shows us our sins.

Tell someone that the Moon is made of cheese and that Moon Men are coming to save us all and if you just believe, they will show themselves to you and have a place prepared for you on the Moon where you can live forever in peace. Say this and you’ll get laughed at, ignored, evaluated by a psychiatrist and in a short while forgot about.

But when Jesus says in John 14:6:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The reaction is one of anger as you are called unloving, intolerant, and bigoted and may be you just need to be a bit more progressive and get with the times … but you aren't ignored or forgot about. Why? What if what you believe is true?

In Christ, it is finished and your redemption is secure!

The Rev. Scott Murray who sends out a devotion through the email each weekday wrote:

The One who need not have been bound by chains and cords was bound by men who sought His death. The One who was the power of God, refused to let that power bring Him rescue. The One who had no fear of death became subject to death. The One who had no vices wrapped Himself in ours that He might free us from them. The One who is the triumphant King suffered His own skin to be nailed upon the stake as the trophy of His triumph over death. The One who hunted down death, allowed Himself to be devoured by it. He was pierced through that we might be made whole. The wood upon which He was set adrift under the storming wrath of God He fashions into the ship of our salvation. It is our cross too, but not a cross of punishment for us. Rather, He makes it the cross of salvation.

The One who was bound by the nails is bound that He might bind us to Himself through faith in Him. We, who might be bound to Him by force, are bound rather by His love for us; and that binding is the more powerful because it is His. Bound to Him by His passionate and bloody embrace, we no longer fear the bonds of death in our own lives.

Punishment cannot hold us, for He long ago took our punishment. Suffering cannot overwhelm us, because He suffered for us on the tree. Fear cannot defeat us, for there is nothing to fear that can harm us. The cross is the instrument of His death, and the source of our life. Come, blessed cross!

In Christ, it is finished and your redemption is secure!

As we today remember the cross let us look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

May the Love of God the blessings of Christ 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


Sermon March 28, 2013 Maundy Thursday


Title: Christ gives Himself as His gift to you!

Text: Luke 22:13

13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 "famous and exceptionally gifted people" called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people's lives.

Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 134.

This is and has been never more evident than in the story of Jesus and Holy Week. That God in Christ would become man for our sake, born of the Virgin Mary and without sin and grow as a man who being obedient to the Law … something that we could not do, celebrated His triumphant ride into Jerusalem as our humble King last Sunday to now overcome the very difficult obstacles that would free the world from the power of sin, death and the Devil in the lives of each one of us who believe by faith in His finished work.

Christ gives Himself as His gift to you!

Now, the culmination of Jesus coming; His work to accomplish what He came to do this Holy Week begins.
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”

Jesus sent Peter and John to get things ready for the Passover. Last Weekend for the alternate Gospel reading for Palm Sunday we read in Matthew 21:1-2

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2  saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her.

These two disciples are not named. It could be the same two that he now sends, Peter and John; it could be two others of the twelve. We don’t know.

What I find interesting here is not that those who got the Donkey for Jesus didn’t matter, they most certainly did but that for … The Passover … Jesus sent Peter and John and they ask a question:

9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?”

It had been the custom for Jesus and with others of the Jewish people to celebrate the Feast of the Passover in remembrance of their delivery out of slavery and bondage in Egypt and Jesus gives them specific instructions:

10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.”

It sounds very similar and very specific also to the reading again from last Sunday:

2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”

Both of our readings conclude in a similar fashion with the two disciples finding the colt or donkey and Peter and John finding it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

Ill. Kretzmann Commentary

Coming into the city from Bethany, very likely through the Sheep Gate, they would meet a man coming toward them bearing a vessel, a jug, or pitcher, of water; this man they should follow to the house into which he would enter.

To the master of that house they should make known their wants, asking him for the location of the guest-chamber, the dining-room, where Jesus might eat the Passover-meal with His disciples. The man of the house would then show them an upper room, a flight of stairs up, all furnished with sofas and pillows for such a meal: and it is here that they should prepare the Passover. It is generally assumed by many commentators that the owner of the house had been a friend, a believer or even a disciple of Jesus.

Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, NT vol. II CPH St. Louis 1923, Pg 383 

We see in this description, as also in our Palm Sunday lesson, both the authority of Jesus in directing His disciples and specifically Peter and John, but also His divine omniscience or the all knowing attribute of God/man Jesus Christ.

Christ gives Himself as His gift to you!

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

It is very likely that Peter and John entered the city through the Sheep Gate to find the man carrying a jar of water that would lead them to the house where they would eat the Passover meal with the very Lamb of God Himself. The task for which Jesus came who be very shortly realized and He who takes away the sins of the world who be fulfilled.

In a short while, we too, will realize this same true revelation from Jesus as to the very nature of the Passover now being instituted in the Gospel reading for the disciples but becoming so much more for us as Christ himself institutes the Lord’s Supper.

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

What had been celebrated then is celebrated today as we receive the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. This unfortunately for many of Christ’s followers today and we as Lutherans becomes a place of conflict, confusion and tension. What is the Lord’s Supper and who should partake?

For some of our Christian friends and those of other denominations the bread is just bread, and the wine is just wine. We remember what Christ did at the cross and we don’t give too much thought beyond that. Because, they would say: “Jesus is in Heaven and not able to be here and in the sacrament.”

The Roman Catholic Church, of which I was raised in would go further than Jesus by defining the moment that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ and the bread and wine no longer exist. We see bread and wine but they have been transubstantiated and now are only the body and blood of Christ.

As Lutherans we take Jesus and His words for what they are, not reading more into them than what He said or believing less than what He meant. In a real sense the Real Presence and our understanding of Jesus and the sacrament are truly profound but also very simple. Or, maybe it is just as Lutherans we like to Scripture interpret Scripture.

As St Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 11:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

But Paul adds this important bit of information:

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

So what is an unworthy manner? We’ll you aren’t found guilty, as St. Paul states, against the bread and the wine, but guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. St. Paul reminds us to examine ourselves, are we repentant of our sins, do we discern the true body and blood of the Lord, present in and with the bread and wine, in a miraculous way? The theologians and professors in our church refer to this, as Christ’s sacramental presence.

In this blessed gift we hear the words of institution and the elements are consecrated, we receive the bread and the wine by are mouth but in a mysterious way, that we can’t fully comprehend, we receive the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in and with the bread and the wine, not because we fully understand but because Jesus and His word says so.

Martin Luther says this in his Small Catechism about the Lord’s Supper:

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.

And then he concludes with this question:

Who receives this sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.

Christ gives Himself as His gift to you!

Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper for you and for me so that we can receive Him and his forgiveness today and for all time until his return. Christ gives you as His child the blessed gift of His true body and blood so that you are connected to him and he to you in this blessed way.

The obstacle of sin was place in the way between God and man. There was no way for man to get out of this predicament. God in Christ can to restore this relationship and the original righteousness that man was created within his reflecting the image of God. In the sacrament you receive a foretaste of the joy and restoration that you have now but that which will be fully enjoyed in Heaven one day.

Christ gives Himself and is the gift that keeps on giving, for you!

May the Love of God the blessings of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

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

Amen

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sermon March 23-24, 2013 Psalm Sunday


Title: Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

Text: Deut. 32:36-39 Alt. Gospel reading: Matt 21:1-11

36 For the LORD will vindicate his people
    and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
    and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
    the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices
    and drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you;
    let them be your protection!
39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
    and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

There is a story that’s told about several cotton farmers were whiling away a winter afternoon around the potbellied stove. They soon became entangled in a heated discussion on the merits of their respective religions. The eldest of the farmers had been sitting quietly, just listening, when the group turned to him and demanded, "Who's right, old Jim? Which one of these religions is the right one?"

"Well," said Jim thoughtfully, "you know there are three ways to get from here to the cotton gin. You can go right over the big hill. That's shorter but it's a powerful climb. You can go around the east side of the hill. That's not too far, but the road is rougher'n tarnation. Or you can go around the west side of the hill, which is the longest way, but the easiest.

"But you know," he said, looking them squarely in the eye, "when you get there, the man minding the cotton gin don't ask you how you come. He just asks, 'Man, how good is your cotton?'"

Los Angeles Times Syndicate - Beulah Collins

Or in that day … who is you savior? Where did you place you trust?

On this Psalm Sunday weekend we rejoice in the truth that we have a savior where we can truly place our trust. And that the very Son of God will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, being just and possessing the requirement of our freedom from sin, death and the devil by bearing and carrying our salvation with Him which the Lord had planned.

This humble servant who came down from heaven was not in the form of your everyday earthly King. This King and Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, would rise through lowliness and suffering to the strength and glory which was hidden in Him in the state of His humiliation, and which now is leading, in one short week, to His trial and crucifixion at the cross.

37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
    the rock in which they took refuge,
when he sees that their power is gone
    and there is none remaining, bond or free.

The ways of the world and its Kingdoms are built by the power and the sword. The reach of man’s conquests is stretched into territories of his choosing. The rulers of the world come down on the unsuspecting to the glory of the one wielding power. Power in might is brought to bear over people places and things by the gods, Kings and rulers of our earthly Kingdoms…

 … Hugo Chavez, the now deceased President of Venezuela, comes to mind, who will now forever be embalmed and kept for his subjects to see and worship in a glass case … and many of the world’s religions have hope in their false gods where they mistakenly place their trust.

In our day and age we too see the power of the sword wielded upon others. Most recently the religious liberty of a free people has come under attack and in a real sense the Christian church in all it denominational or non-denominational forms is the target. Real persecution comes to the Christian church daily around the world but with many of us its inactivity, non-involvement and quietly keeping our Christian worldview to ourselves. To profess and publicly acknowledge God - is fine and encouraged - as long as He doesn't have a name; and that name better not be Jesus! Once His name is mentioned you are politically incorrect because you proclaim with all Christians from all time:

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:10)

The truth is that words can be manipulated.”

Eric Metaxas recently, in his speech on March 16th on religious freedom, brought this point our clearly.”

Ill.
 [“Okay, so where are the threats to Religious Freedom in America today? Well, for one thing, understand we are not talking about Freedom of Worship. In a speech 18 months ago, Hillary Clinton replaced the phrase Freedom of Religion with Freedom of Worship — and my hero and friend Chuck Colson noticed and was disturbed by it.  Why? Because these are radically different things. They have Freedom of Worship in China. But what exactly is Freedom of Worship?

In my book Bonhoeffer I talk about a meeting between Bonhoeffer’s friend, the Rev. Martin Niemoller, who early on in the Third Reich was one of those fooled by Hitler.  And in that meeting he says something to Hitler about how he, Niemoller, cares about Germany and Third Reich — and Hitler cuts him off and says “I built the Third Reich. You just worry about your sermons!”

There in a few words you have the idea of Freedom of Worship.  Freedom of Worship says you can have your little strange rituals and say whatever you like in your little religious buildings for an hour or two on Sundays, but once you leave that building you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state! We will tell you what to think on the big and important questions. Questions like when life begins and who gets to decide when to end it and what marriage is…  And if you don’t like it, tough luck! That’s Freedom of Worship and that have that in China and they had it in Germany in Bonhoeffer’s day…]

http://www.ericmetaxas.com/writing/essays/cpac-2013-speech-on-religious-freedom/

But we who worship the true God Jesus Christ know that:

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
    and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and there is none that can deliver out of my hand

This humble King, Jesus Christ, by his very death and resurrection will bring peace, He kills sin and makes us alive through Baptism, He wounds and heals and though we are dead he gives us life and the peace that passes all human understanding to the very ends on the Earth.

The reaction to this message of peace for many is the catalyst for anger and an erosion of religious distinctions. Recently I read an article about an interfaith service planned in Fort Wayne where my Seminary is located.

The headline read: Mayor endorses event to celebrate all faiths

The idea of gathering all faith to pray is not new but has become more accepted in the civic realm. It reminds me of the secular orthodoxy that has become so prevalent in our culture. But Jesus said that:

6  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Peace only comes by the way of truth and Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life.

C.S. Lewis has said:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort; if you look for comfort you will find neither, and in the end you will only find despair.

C. S. Lewis

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

It’s not that Christianity and our beliefs have changed but our culture’s tolerance and understanding of them certainly has.

Our Gospel text for today reminds us:

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

God has set you free from the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. As our triumphant King Jesus Christ rides today into Jerusalem. His path to the cross from His baptism, where He was marked as the chief of sinners for you, also points to His ride today as a triumphant ride that is unique and different from every other faith tradition because in a short while Jesus Christ will accomplish the true freedom at the cross for you and for all sinners of all time.

You are set free from your sin because Jesus came for sinners! He came to set you free. He came for you! He gave His life at the cross to pay the price God demands to satisfy His justice and you are free. You are truly free!

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

“Man,” the man at the cotton gin asks, “How good is your cotton?”

Or, Man, who is your God and in whom do you trust? Our God is Jesus Christ the spotless Lamb of God who did no sin, being pure and holy and bringing salvation to sinners who trust in Him.

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

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

Amen

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sermon March 20, 2013 Lent Mid-Week


Title: Knowing Christ by faith is the prize of eternal life!

Text: Phil 3:8-14 Pew Bible Pg. #1018 NKJV

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

All anybody needs to know about prizes is that Mozart never won one. 
Henry Mitchel in Washington Post, Reader's Digest, May 1980.

Knowing Christ by faith is the prize of eternal life!

Many of you might be familiar with the prizes that consume the lives of we who are consumers. It may be American Idol and the talent that God has bestowed upon some with the desire to become famous and rich because of it. 
Or, it may be the prize of a Lottery win that takes the cares and trials of this world and removes them with the knowledge that with thiese winnings I can take care of all my troubles.

For some it is the prize of love and the hope of marriage and a happily-ever-after of wedded bliss or the prize of that new job or promotion that will now make a better life possible. But in our epistle for today the Apostle Paul has a different take on what is the hope and prize for his life.

He begins:  

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Paul was one who lived and loved life. But, after his conversion on the Damascus road, the focus of his life was different:

2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  (1 Cor. 2:2)

As we can see, Paul had been changed. His change took the focus off the things of this world … for he says: For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and placed them at the foot of the cross.

Paul Kretzmann, in his commentary on the bible, expounds it in this way as to the change of the Apostles Paul’s life:

“Formerly Paul had held it to be of great gain to be high in the councils of the Pharisees and to have honor before men.”

But now he considers …

“ All these external advantages of which the apostle might have boasted with much greater right than his opponents, the entire class of things which, including anything and everything, as ground of reliance other than Christ, he now disregards: But what was to me gain, this I hold, for the sake of Christ, a detriment.”

Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, NT vol. II CPH St. Louis 1923, Pg 309 
… a detriment? 

Knowing Christ by faith is the prize of eternal life!

So, Paul was not looking to be the next American Idol … Jewish Idol … Christian Idol or looking towards any Idol for that matter. When you think of an Idol it is and remains that in which you place you highest trust.

So, the hope of wealth, while not bad in and of itself, can lead you away from Christ. Or, the focus on the things of this world … if I only had a better job, house, car or you name whatever can be a focus of life, can and does pull us away from the cross and what Jesus won for us.

The interesting reality is that, the prize that we should focus on and that which we hope to attain is a prize that we cannot win and is a prize that has been won for us. It is a prize that has been truly won and then is given to you. 

Paul continues to explain his hope:

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Fellow member, Sandy Krueger, went to be with the Lord last Sunday evening. I was home and at around 6:30 and received a call from her husband Bill from St. Joseph’s that she was in distress and having emergency surgery. I reached the hospital around 7:15 and was able to pray with the family and we received the new of her passing around 20 minutes later.

Well, you can imagine the shock that overcame them. Saturday she had had a great day with Bill and had a visit from a family friend until about 10:30 in the evening.

Sunday, however what developed was a different story which led to an ambulance call, ride to the hospital, getting Sandy stabilized and finally the realization that there was a need to move quickly and emergency surgery if there was hope to save her life.

Unfortunately, even though the hospital used all the talents at its disposal, and the advances in medical science and techniques available to them, Sandy passed away from her loved ones and this life.

Knowing Christ by faith is the prize of eternal life!

What the Apostle Paul states and what Sandy Krueger knew for a fact is that:
… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I had an opportunity to bring the Lord’s Supper to Sandy over the last few months in her home. And found a wonderful lady who loved life, her children and especially her grand children. She was as she told me, “So blessed.”

And though Sandy had a lot of health issues she looked at the blessings of her life. One of those blessings was her faith in Christ and the prize that was won for her at the cross. The prize of her salvation; given and shed by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of, not just her sins, but the sins of the whole world, paid the price and won the prize for Sandy and for each one of us. It is the prize that we could never win but is given to each of us by faith in Christ’s finished work.

Tomorrow we will say good bye to Sandy and the grief that will fill all of us who knew her with loss and sorrow will one day be replaced with the joy of reunion in heaven. God will wipe away every tear of sorrow and in that day replace them with tears of joy as we together rejoice in Heaven with our resurrected Lord who has come to conquer sin, death and the power of the Devil for you and for me.

In Christ, death is for we who cling to the blessed hope of reunion in Heaven one day, only a time apart. 

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor 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.

Knowing Christ by faith is the prize of eternal life!

So we who remain live in this blessed hope.

The Apostle Paul states and I paraphrase:

12 Not that we have already obtained this or are already perfect, but we … you and I … press on to make Heaven our own, because we have the blessed assurance that Christ Jesus has made you and me his own.

This is the joy that we await during Lent and Holy Week and the resurrection to life.

Knowing Christ by faith is the prize of eternal life!

Though Mozart never won a prize and may be you won’t either, however, the greatest prize of all, eternal life, has been won for you and you who are in Christ, have been given it now and will celebrate that blessed victory won over sin, death and the Devil now and forever.

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

Amen



Monday, March 18, 2013

Sermon March 16-17, 2013


Title: Christ is the heir but in Him you are adopted!

Text: Luke 20:13-15

13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field.

"Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that."
Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.  "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had."

Focus on the Family letter, September 1992, Page 14.

We too who have spent some years of life to may be many years of life as Christians at times miss important lessons that God wants us to learn. In our Gospel lesson today we hear of the vineyard and the owner of the vineyard.

9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.

In this parable, Jesus tells a story. It is a very clear story for those who were gathered to listen in His presence. The picture Jesus tells of the vineyard would have been very familiar to them. Here too they would have made the connection as to the point that Jesus was making.

In chapter 5 of the book of Isaiah, God had told a story of a vineyard that He had built and how he had taken care of it looking for a yield of grapes.

The vineyard was on a very fertile hill. It was dug and cleared of stones, and planted with choice vines; a watchtower was in the midst of it, as was a wine vat and the owner of the vineyard looked for it to yield grapes … but it only yielded wild grapes.

What else could I do he asks? “I gave the vineyard everything and it only yielded wild grapes!”

So He makes this statement. “I will remove the hedge from my vineyard and let it be overrun. I will break down its wall allowing it to be trampled becoming waste. No longer will I pruned or hoe it and briers and thorns shall overtake it and rain will no longer fall on it.” (Isaiah 5:1-6 paraphrased)

The leaders in Israel who were listening to Him and who would have known the reference to the parable of the vineyard, were the ones who had just questioned Jesus when they said to him: “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”  (John 20:2)

God had come to Israel as His chosen people but had been rejected. Time and time again God’s messengers, His Prophets, proclaimed God’s word to those chosen by God, hoping they would bring fourth good fruit, but were rejected and cast out.

As Jesus continued:

13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’

This is obvious that Jesus is speaking about Himself in this parable and of His coming as the very Messiah proclaimed and prophesied about in the Old Testament. You might remember from our lesson reading from a few weeks ago when Jesus laments:

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

You and I too are without excuse. Those of us who have been brought to faith by God’s Holy Spirit to faith in Christ but have fallen away from the joy that has been given us by God are also under His condemnation.
Here is an interesting analogy:

Ill.

Had Adam and Eve retained their original state, they never would have died. But Eve and then Adam yielded to the serpent's temptation, and death came into the world. Before that moment, they were in a beautiful, pristine state. They existed on a level far above the present condition of the human race. It is difficult to imagine what man was like then by viewing him as he is now. It would require something like trying to reconstruct the original version of an aircraft from its wreckage. If we knew nothing of flying, we would hardly suspect that it had once soared above the earth. The material would be the same; the capability of flight, however, would be lost.

But, we who have been given faith know the truth of Christ and His victory over sin, death and the power of the Devil. So too we are under the same condemnation as those in Israel; who refused to recognize the Messiah, the anointed one sent to Israel, Jesus Christ.

14 But when the tenants those in Israel saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’

They recognized Jesus as the Messiah, which is all the more, heinous. This was not an imposter that they crucified but the very Son of God, the heir of the vineyard.

15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

There is the death of the Son but:

Christ is the heir and in Him you are adopted!

Christ Jesus is the heir. He is the beloved Son of God. He is pointing to the work of adoption that He will accomplish, for you.

Ill.

Adoption is a special gift. That’s the way many people involved in an adoption see it. They believe and see adoption as God’s gift to the parents, child, and even to the people around them. One mother said, “When I look at my daughters, I see God’s work, I know God bought us all together.” She believes God knew what he was doing when he chose each person for their family. “It’s a perfect fit,” she added.

When strangers comment how much her daughter looks like her or how her other daughter looks like her husband? She just smiles and says “thank you.” Sometimes she tells them her children are adopted so she can amaze them. One elderly lady once responded, “Well, what they say must be true. If you feed ‘em long enough they start looking like you.”

My friend Bud, has a daughter that he adopted when she was very young. They looked, acted and became so close that it was hard for me, who knew that she was adopted, to almost believe it. Whatever it is, the fact remains, that many times adoptive children resemble their adoptive parents.

So what does that say about you as God’s adoptive child?

Adapted from http://www.examiner.com/article/adoption-god-s-special-gift

Christ is the heir but in Him you are adopted!

God has made you His own. In Him you have been adopted and have been given a new name. Your birth father, the Devil, brought you fourth in the sin of his corruption of this world and you have been washed clean and made a child of God. By Christ and his saving act, you are covered with his righteousness, being conformed into His image. You look to me the same as the Father sees you. When God the Father sees you … you look to Him just like His Son. You are adopted and reflect the look of your adoptive family. When God sees you, He sees Christ Jesus. What an awesome and blessed gift.

Frank Lloyd Wright determined not to miss all of the things that this life had to offer like his uncle that just moved from point A to point B not seeing all the blessings this life had to offer.

Jesus has given you faith by his Holy Spirit in you so that you can see the blessing of the cross for you. Through the cross of Christ you see redemption, love, fullness and life eternal, in Him. In Jesus and by His Spirit you know that God’s love for you is so deep that:

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:5-14)

Christ is the heir … but in Him you are adopted!

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

Amen

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sermon March 13, 2013 Mid-week Lent


Title: In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!

Text: Isaiah 12:1-6

12 And in that day you will say:
“O LORD, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
2 Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’”
3 Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
4 And in that day you will say:
“Praise the LORD, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
5 Sing to the LORD,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth.
6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”

One day, when Vice President Calvin Coolidge was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go "straight to hell". The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Cal looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate. "I've been looking through the rule book," he said. "you don't have to go."

Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 16.

In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!

12 And in that day you will say,

“O LORD, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
In the day of salvation, praise will be heaped upon the Lord who has the keys of Heaven and Hell. You who have been given faith in Christ will sing praises to the Lord. Though your sin had separated you from the father your tears will be washed away and in Christ, the Father’s anger will be appeased and turned away and you will be comforted.

Ill.

Once during Queen Victoria's reign, she heard that the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So she called on the bereaved woman one day and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said. "Nothing," replied the grieving mother. "She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together."

Source Unknown.

The weeping for the Loss of a child we can all feel. God the Father too knows the feeling of the loss of a child, His only begotten Son, at the hands of those he came to redeem.

2 Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’”

In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!

God in Christ is your savior. Though you deserve death He has redeemed you. By faith you hold and trust in His finished work. Fear is swallowed up in the victory of God’s Son for you. He – Jesus Christ the righteous one – is the strength that you walk in and the song that you sing is of His redemption.

9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

The eternal Son, who was and is and is to come is the King of Glory and the song that is sung, is the song of we who have been freed from sin sing unto the Lamb who was slain.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”
(Rev 4:13b NIV)

In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!

3 Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
4 And in that day you will say:
“Praise the LORD, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.

The desert of sin and has been flooded for you by the waters of Baptism. God brings you into His family and into relationship with Him through the redemptive and saving work on the son. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, causes you to in that day, sing praise unto Him.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians says:

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The joyful waters of salvation have been given to you. As you live out your Christian lives the joy of Christ should be reflected in you but so often you fall short and miss the mark. Sin continues to corrupt everything.
But, in spite of your failings God has called you to be His own. He has made you His child and continues to shape you into His image. By the Holy Spirit you are pointed to and receive the blessed Good News that you are free of the sin and no longer have to live with the guilt of sin in your life. As a result of this gift you are able to sing.

5 Sing to the LORD,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth.

In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!

Jesus Christ has lived suffered, died and rose again just for you. He has made you a home for you in Heaven with him. This joy is the song we sing and it is the praise we can all know and be joyful in Him.

6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”

We who are” Spiritual Israel” ( the church of God in Christ) sing and shout for the joy we know, and we live out this joy that God has given us bringing Christ to those who need to hear the same saving Gospel message that we’ve heard and now proclaim.

Ill.

The great composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) lived much of his life in fear of deafness. He was concerned because he felt the sense of hearing was essential to creating music of lasting value.

When Beethoven discovered that the thing he feared most was coming rapidly upon him, he was almost frantic with anxiety. He consulted doctors and tried every possible remedy. But the deafness increased until at last all hearing was gone.

Beethoven finally found the strength he needed to go on despite his great loss. To everyone's amazement, he wrote some of his grandest music after he became totally deaf. With all distractions shut out, melodies flooded in on him as fast as his pen could write them down. His deafness became a great asset.

Daily Walk, August 9, 1993

In this life we at times will receive the blessings that life affords and at other times we feel consumed by the cares of life. God though has made a way to Heaven for each one of us in Christ. By Christ’s death on the cross for you, though we suffer through trials in this life we are free to joy in the salvation He has won for us at the cross.

In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!

May the Love of God the blessings of Christ 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

Sermon March 9-10, 2013


 Title: Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

Text: 2 Cor. 5:18-21

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 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.

A group of expectant fathers were in a waiting room, while their wives were in the process of delivering babies. A nurse came in and announced to one man that his wife had just given birth to twins. "That's quite a coincidence" he responded, "I play for the Minnesota Twins!" A few minutes later another nurse came in and announced to another man that he was the father of triplets. "That's amazing," he exclaimed, "I work for the 3M Company." At that point, a third man slipped off his chair and laid down on the floor. Somebody asked him if he was feeling ill. "Oh no," he responded, "I just work for 7-up!"

Source Unknown.

Regardless of the number of children you may have or what company you might work for:
Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

Paul speaks in our Epistle lesson today about being a new creation. The old has gone away and the new has emerged. No longer will they be regarded according to the flesh. Even though Jesus Christ was once regarded as the man, according to the flesh – His human nature – he has now been raised and is no longer in His state of humiliation but has been raised and is seated at the right hand of the father.

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

It is not always evident though.

Sin permeates our very being; which means to spread or flow throughout or to penetrate something. Sin is not just an act of disobedience. It is not just the act of doing something or saying something wrong or not doing what we should. It is in fact who we are.

Paul speaks of Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. His once for all sacrifice for sin pays the price for the Corinthians and Paul explains that:

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

The Civil War was carnage beyond belief. Jefferson Davis, who was the President of the Confederacy died and eventually commanding United States  General, Ulysses S. Grant of the Union died. Their widows, Varina Davis and Julia Grant, settled near each other in New York.  Both were writers as Varina wrote her husband’s autobiography, publishing it as Jefferson Davis, Memoir in 1890. Julia Grant too was a writer, though she was unable to find a publisher for her own personal memoir for many years. Though they had been on different sides of the conflict during the Civil War they became the closest of friends.

Source Unknown.

Even in the worst of human endeavors reconciliation is possible. At times even at church separation occurs. I was doing a home visit with a shut in whose daughter had been a member of Peace many years ago and for quite some time as well. In talking about her past affiliation with the church, she reminisced about all the good times and pastors, her children’s baptisms and true joy in being here. But at sometime in the past there was conflict between her and another member family. I don’t know the problem, the family, if they are still members here or even still alive. You can see that in this sin … which has separated two families, the church, people they love from being built up and sustained by our loving God …

20 Therefore, Paul says: we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, give up these petty arguments and whatever separates you from fellow believers and be reconciled to God.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Martin Luther reminds us in the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer from our Small Catechism.

-We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely-

So too we who have been separated from God by sin can be brought back to His loving arms by Christ who desires that all will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

But do we? Are we? The cost of peace between God and man required the life of Jesus. The very Son of God came to be your substitute and took the sin of the world, your sins upon Himself so that you might be his child by faith.

Paul continues:

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.

Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

The very Son of God, Paul tells the Corinthians, came down to live, suffer, die and rise again just for them. So too we, who have been brought to faith by God’s Holy Spirit giving faith to both you and me in Christ’s finished work and reconciling us to God through this same faith in Him.

In this one sentence, Paul tells us that we have the entire essence of God’s work in Christ for the forgiveness of sins in the world.

Just as God’s great Gospel message from blessed John 3:16 tells us:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Paul tells us how that will happen, because:

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.

This is the eternal hope for you and for me.

That:

Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

(Today / Yesterday) my mother-n-law, Jeanne Comins was remembered in a memorial service at her church and we gathered as family and friend to mourn, remember and to celebrate her 89 years devoted to her children, grandchildren, family and friends. That is a joyful life for sure.

But, the true blessed joy for us all is that we will all be reunited in Him, in Christ, because Jeanne held to the blessed hope of reunion in heaven one day and just as Jesus was raised, so too she and all who believe, will be raised spending eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ our Lord and all who in faith have been brought to this blessed reconciliation in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

The joy of the birth of a child, twins, and triplets or no matter how many children you have or are blessed with pales in comparison to the blessed hope and rebirth that we are given in Christ.

God who has made Christ our substitute, brings us to faith in Him washing us clean in our baptisms and making us holy, by the once for all sacrifice for sin at the cross that Jesus won over sin, death and the Devil.
We who are in Christ are reconciled to Him by His all sufficient sacrifice for sin in our place. This is the joy that we all can have peace in. Christ has been raised and so will you be raised too.

May this blessed good news comfort you by his Spirit now and forever.

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

Amen


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sermon March 6, 2013 Mid-week Lent


Title: Jesus Christ reconciles the word unto himself!

Text: Luke 13:6-9

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Alexander the Great, seeing Diogenes looking attentively at a parcel of human bones, asked the philosopher what he was looking for. Diogenes' reply: "That which I cannot find--the difference between your father's bones and those of his slaves."

Plutarch.

Jesus Christ reconciles the word unto himself!

The question or the degree of value that we put on human life differs depending on age and perspective. It seems that for many those who are least able to take care of themselves are the ones most marginalized.
The child in the womb or the elderly in the bed of a nursing home both rely on the care of someone else for their earthly existence. But what really is the difference?

In our gospel lesson in Luke we read:

13 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?

Neither, the child waiting to be born or the elderly person, waiting to be called to the slumbers of death, can do much about the situation they are both in at this point. Both are at the mercy of God as they wait for either birth or death.

The truth of these two examples though is that both are under the curse of sin. Should the child be born to life and rise to great stature or die from a miscarriage or be aborted does not enhance or diminish their value in the eyes of the Lord.

In the same way the elderly who remains healthy and productive for their entire life or spend many years in the care of others has no greater or lesser significance in the eyes of the Lord.

You and I who are alive too have value to our loving God … but not because of whom we are or what we do.

The Gospel reading continues:

4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?

Both of these examples that are given by Luke, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, conclude with the same words.

5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

These words are meant to be frightening to the person, of any age, who remains comfortable in their sin. The reality of death, from womb to grave and all of life in between, is real and so is the reality of an eternity separated from God and His love for those who resist God’s call to repentance and continue on their own path covered in their own righteousness.

But those who have been called to faith cal joy in the knowledge that:

Jesus Christ reconciles the word unto himself!

Jesus then tells a parable about a fig tree and a man who had planted it. The idea here is that this man had planted it to … bear fruit. He wanted figs and he had found none.

Ill.
I have a Silver Maple shade tree in my backyard which had provided great shade to my house in the summer. It stopped producing leaves and the shade that had kept us cool in the summer was gone. The tree had died and was of no value.

Prior to the trees death, we had had a few signs. One fall the leaves became a beautiful deep red. We thought it was a good sign but later learned that this was a sign of distress. I took special food and tried to do what I could to help the tree survive. An arborist, who I had come and look at the tree, said that these trees, in a very common way, suffer from a girdled root syndrome which spins a root around itself, eventually choking itself and its food supply, leading to death. There isn’t much you can do about it. But, I said: “Lets leave it alone this year and I’ll feed and water around it and put fertilizer on it and if it doesn’t produce leaves and shade next year … I’ll cut it down.”

Trees that do not bear fruit are of little value to the owner of the property where they are planted.
The truth of this parable though is using only trees and fruit as an example to bring to mind the greater problem and the need of producing fruit in the lives of believers.

Jesus Christ has reconciled the word unto Himself and has called you to faith. But faith that is not fed nourished and strengthened eventually dies and like the fig tree in the parable, without figs, the fig tree is of little value.

You though are of great value.

Jesus Christ reconciles the word unto himself!

He calls you to repentance by his word of Law that shows you your sin. Have you sin which you fall back into daily? Is it great or small? The truth is as we read from our Lord’s lips:
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?

Do you at times marginalize your sin? Do you at times, like me too, see the sin of homosexuality as grievous to the Lord but the sin of gossip tolerable?

Christ will not give up on you. He will dig around you and metaphorically put the manure of spiritual food around you so that you can feed and be filled and produce the fruit that leads to repentance and eternal life.

Ill.
There is a story of uncertain origin that is a perfect focus for us during Lent and in our spiritual life in this world:

A certain medieval monk announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on "The Love of God." As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lighted a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing else to say.

Source Unknown.

Jesus Christ reconciles the word unto himself!

By the wounds that Jesus took upon Himself at the cross and because of His sinless life and death in your place you are forgiven. Though you die yet you will live. Whether productive or incapacitated, God has called you to faith and will sustain you through the trials of this world.

His love for you will continue to draw you by His Holy Spirit to look to his finished work producing faith that bears fruit in your life as God’s love in Christ produces fruit in you leading to your continued spiritual growth. Christ will feed you through his word and sacraments to life eternal in Him.

Though our bones, like the bones of all born in sin remain the same we have been given eternal life and the true and blessed hope of resurrection one day. We who believe will rise just as Jesus did on Easter Sunday and as Job has said, in chapter 19 vs 26:

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,

He is risen and so you too will rise in Him because:

Jesus Christ has reconciles the word unto himself!

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

Amen

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sermon March 2-3, 2013


Title: Christ is faithful and will provide you a way!

Text: 1 Cor. 10:12-13

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

On January 30, 1925, Floyd Collins was exploring Sand Cave on his family’s property to see if it might have tourist potential. Suddenly, his lantern failed. Crawling through the darkness, Collin's foot hit a seven-ton boulder. It fell on his leg, trapping him in the coffin-like narrowness of a dark, subterranean straitjacket. For days Collins was trapped 125 feet below ground in an ice-cold space 8 inches high and 12 feet long. In the meantime, his plight became a national sensation. As the rescue attempt wore on, some 50,000 tourists bought hot dogs, balloons, and soft drinks from vendors at the cave in Kentucky. But in the end, Floyd Collins died alone in the icy darkness. The rescuers dug a shaft and lateral tunnel to reach Floyd. On February 17th, they found his lifeless body.

Today in the Word, Sept 20, 1990.

Though we are dead in sin and give at times give in to temptation, we are also made alive in Christ and:

Christ is faithful and will provide you a way! 

In the epistle to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of the reality of God’s work in the lives of the Israelites in the desert. Connecting the past working of God in the book of Exodus to those in the Corinthian New Testament church, Paul points to the reality that God was present and went before them in the pillar of cloud by day and also allowed them to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground.

God’s seal and pledge of his promises and care were evident to the Israelites and through the cloud and sea God saved his people from the evil bondage experienced under Pharaoh leading them to freedom.

Paul talks about those ancient Biblical texts and those being baptized into Moses through the cloud and sea which are types of our sacrament of Baptism; where God, through His means, washes us clean from the filth of sin, rescuing us from sin, death and the Devil and making us his children.
God, just as he delivered them, delivers us today and transfers us from the power of Satan into His glorious kingdom, free and marked as redeemed by Christ the crucified. Today we saw, in the baptism of Brianna, the blessed freedom still at work by our loving God in the lives of his children as he washes away sin and covers His children with his righteousness.

But, Paul continues:

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 
Now, some of the Israelites, who had been with Moses in the desert, Paul says that God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness:

… for in the desert they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

These were examples Paul says, for the Corinthians and for us. Be on you guard because temptation will come upon you and Satan will find a subtle way to draw you back to his realm.

8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 

The call here is to honor what God has given for our own good in the 6th commandment:

Thou shall not commit adultery or as Luther says in the catechism:

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

Paul continues:

9 We must not put Chris to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 

Maybe you remember the story of the fiery serpents that came into the camp and their bite caused death. God provided a way out and instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole and lift it in the center of the camp for all to see … and all who looked upon the serpent on the pole would be healed and live. But, some didn’t believe and continued to look away …

10 or grumbled, and some of them were destroyed by the Destroyer.
But when temptation strikes like a fiery serpent we can trust that:

Christ is faithful and will provide you a way!

We too, give in even to temptation even after a seeing beautiful gift like the one we just saw given to little Brianna. She will fall, as we all do, she will sin, she will be tempted to fall away just as we all are. But, God has sent His Holy Spirit to be with us and in us and point us to Christ Jesus and his finished word for Brianna, you and me.

So how do we stay protected?

Ill.

Charles Francis Adams, 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: "Went fishing with my son today--a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: "Went fishing with my father--the most wonderful day of my life!" The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time. The only way to tell the difference between wasting and investing is your perspective.

Silas Shotwell, in Homemade, Sept, 1987.

Satan wants you to believe that spending time in worship, praising God through the good times and the bad and fighting against the temptation of the world, which is to say, the temptation that points you away from Christ and His work and love for you is, as Charles Francis Adams said – a day wasted.

God, on the other hand, will use this time to equip you, to sustain you, to keep you grounded when things go good and He will continue to build you up, at those times, when things go bad. Giving you the joy of the Spirit in all you do, trusting in Christ to provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Paul cautions the Corinthians:

7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 

The Lottery can be a trial and a temptation. Money is called the root of all evil. But really it is the love of money that is the root of all evil.

Take the story of Mark and Cindy Hill for example. They are so far the exact opposite of what lottery winners are. They, you may remember, won $136.5 million dollars, take home, after taxes to do what they want.

Well, we all know too well the stories of those past lottery winners who got sucked into the temptation to lie and be of the world and all it has to offer. 
To spend and to indulge and in the end to burn out, return to having no riches in the world, or even death as happened last year to Urooj Khan, who died just two months after winning $1 million in the Illinois lottery. 

But, Mark and Cindy Hill, a Christian couple, are so far a bit different. They are building their little town a new fire station, and moving the ball field to a safer place for the teams to play and have given $50,000 to buy land so the town and build a new waste treatment plant so that all the residents can get off the old septic system. Mark was going to treat himself to a new Chevy Camaro but instead bought himself a new truck which was a more practical choice in his mind. The point is they are taking the opportunity to make a difference and to show Christian love to those that are in their community.
From what they friends say, it is right in line to the Christian beliefs that they live and practice. Love of God and of thy neighbor.

They had said that they would take care of their children and give most of the rest away and they seem to be doing just that. But, if temptation does raise its ugly head, they will once again turn to into the word and to Jesus Christ the word made flesh for their strength and comfort.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/missouri-powerball-winner_n_2749795.html?1361825691&ncid=webmail17

Christ is faithful and will provide you a way!

God’s provision is faith and it is that gift that He has given you through the Gospel. Both is word and sacrament God gives the Holy Spirit to draw you to faith in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for each one of us.

God, through those means that he has given, will keep those through those same means by hearing it proclaimed, reading and meditating on the word keep you in His blessed will which is to keep you, in Him, in Christ and to see that you have a way out of the temptations that plague us all and are common to us all.

Christ is faithful and will provide you a way!

Floyd Collins in 1925 got stuck in the sand cave on his property, and in this life we all can get stuck, through our own evil desires, in our own caves of sin and temptation. 

Floyd’s joy was to explore underground and to see if this cave on his property could be used as a means to sustain his life, but ultimately in the end it became the cause of the end of his life. 

Christ Jesus and his word are and will always be a way out of the temptations you face. He will comfort you in times of trouble when you feel stuck by sin and its consequences and can’t get away to safety; but also when the windfall of lottery winnings, so to speak, bring the temptation of joy and prosperity in this life God, through His word, will bring a word of caution and grounding at this time too. Be comforted with this blessed news that:

Christ is faithful and will provide you a way!

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