Monday, April 29, 2013

Sermon April 27-28, 2013


Title: Truth by the Spirit leads to Christ!
Text: John 16:12-15

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


In the early 1900s George Riddell acquired the sensational London newspaper The News of the World. Meeting British journalist Frederick Greenwood one day, Riddell mentioned that he owned a newspaper, told Greenwood its name, and offered to send him a copy. The next time they met, Riddell asked Greenwood what he thought of The News.

"I looked at it and then I put it in the wastepaper basket," said Greenwood, "and then I thought, 'If I leave it there the cook may read it,' so I burned it." 

Today in the Word, November 3, 1993.

Error brings very little value to our lives but we can be comforted that:

Truth by the Spirit leads to Christ! 

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

There is so much that our Lord wishes to tell the disciples but they cannot, at this time, bear them. We can understand some of this from our human perspective as we dealt with the grief of the bombings in Boston and here as Jesus speaks to His disciples of his leaving them, how much more could they understand as they wrestled with the grief of knowing that Jesus would be leaving them?

But, the guiding for them and for us would be coming. Like the disciples, you too will have the benefit of the Spirit’s work as He guides you. Not speaking of his own authority, the work of the Spirit will be speaking by the authority of the eternal Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work will take what He hears in unity with the Father and the Son and declare it to you.

We continue in verse. 14-15:

14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

This wonderful Trinitarian language speaks not only of the persons in the Godhead but also of their work. Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God came to redeem those who are lost in sin, condemned to death and under the power of the devil in their lives and through the work of the Spirit, know, understand and our brought to faith by the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer.

Truth by the Spirit leads to Christ! 

ill.

While an estimated 74 percent of Americans strongly agree that "there is only one true God, who is holy and perfect, and who created the world and rules it today," an estimated 65 percent either strongly agree or somewhat agree with the assertion that "there is no such thing as absolute truth." 

Christianity Today, September 16, 1991, p. 48, from George Barna, The Barna Report: What Americans Believe, 1991.

So how can this be? The truth is … and I’m not sure that I can be absolutely certain about this or not … but many, who would identify themselves as Christian are in name only. Now, I don’t pretend to read into the minds of people who profess to be Christians and I’m certainly not judging them without first removing the log from my own eye. But, God’s word says: 

 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:4-6)

The truth is, that apart from God and His word by the work of the Spirit, it is impossible for those who strongly believe “that there is only one true God” to also say “that they strongly agree that there is no such thing as absolute truth.”

By the abiding work of the Spirit, through both the word proclaimed and also the work in and with Baptism, God creates faith. But faith unfed or undeveloped, will be weak and could even die if remaining unfed. Baptism cannot be undone – but the new life given in Baptism can be killed.1

1. The Baptism of your child CPH Pg 31 

Martin Luther says this in admonition:

“Remember, therefore, that it is no joke to take sides against the devil and not only to drive him away from the little child, but to burden the child with such a mighty and lifelong enemy. Remember, too, that it is very necessary to aid the poor child with all your heart and strong faith earnestly to intercede for him that God, in accordance with this prayer, would not only free him from the power of the devil, but also strengthen him, so that he may nobly resist the devil in life and in death. And I suspect that people turn out so badly after baptism because our concern for them has been so cold and careless; we at their baptism, interceded for them without zeal.”

Luther’s Works, vol. 53, p. 102 copyright 1965 Augsburg Fortress

Though it is the parents responsibility to feed the child both physically and spiritually we who comprise the church have a role to play as well as those who call, encourage and admonish and pray for those who fail to live up to this parental duty.

Truth by the Spirit leads to Christ!

“What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? 

The disciples were going to see Christ crucified and in a few days raised from the dead, but also his disciples were going to see Him crucified and raised and then ascended which makes a bit more sense in relation to going to the Father. The joy of the resurrection was only for a “little while” as they would soon see Christ no more. But the sorrow of the loss of seeing the savior would also bring and turn to joy?

As Jesus tells them in verse 20:

20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

The world will rejoice in falsehood and joy when absolute truth that is made a lie by the world.

ill.

Take for example Sunday mornings at Houston Oasis:

It may have the look and feel of a church, but there’s no cross, Bible, hymnal or stained glass depictions of Jesus. There’s also nary a trace of doctrine, dogma or theology.

But the 80 or so attendees at this new weekly gathering for nonbelievers come for many of the same reasons that others pack churches in this heavily Christian corner of the Bible Belt — a sense of community and an uplifting message that will help them tackle the challenges of the coming week, and, maybe, the rest of their lives.

“Just because you don’t believe in God does not mean you do not need to get together in community and draw strength from that,” said Mike Aus, a onetime Lutheran pastor who is now an atheist and founder of Houston Oasis.

“We are open to any message about life as long as no dogmatic claims are made.”
A banner taped to a window declared what might be called Houston Oasis’ creed. It pointedly says “we think,” not “we believe”:

“People are more important than beliefs.
Only human hands can solve human problems.
Reality is known through reason, not revelation.
Meaning comes from making a difference.
Labels are unimportant.  
Everyone should be accepted wherever they are as long as they are accepting in turn.”

http://www.religionnews.com/2013/04/16/atheists-find-a-sunday-morning-connection-with-other-nonbelievers/

While it may be interesting to look like a church, or even to act like a church, or that we love one another and do nice things that help others … apart from the work of the Spirit … whose job is to point us to Christ and bring us to the incarnate word, who is the way the truth and the life, Jesus Christ our Lord ... and hard as it may seem for us at times to understand, because our sinful human  nature and worldly ears, good works, not done in Christ and as a fruit of faith, is the work of the devil. 

St. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 11:14:

14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 
Truth by the Spirit points and leads to Christ!

You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Our sorrow has been turned to joy in Christ. As we have been born from above by the Spirit of truth who points and leads us to the absolute truth that “Jesus is the Christ” the Anointed One, the one called Messiah and that in Him you who were once dead in trespass and sin have been made alive in Christ by the Holy Spirit’s work in you. 

St Peter, in our first reading for today says it quite nicely when he says:

16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Truth by the Spirit leads to Christ!

Just as the newspaper in London many years ago needed to be burned because of the error it contained. Falsehood will also be burned by God’s all consuming fire that is the absolute truth of His word. You have received the gift of faith and believe because of the Holy Spirit’s work in you. Praise God for all his bountiful blessings to you.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sermon April 20-21, 2013


Title: Christ cares for the flock through His appointed means!
Text: Acts 20:28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile. Called "Christ of the Andes," the statue symbolizes a pledge between the two countries that as long as the statue stands, there will be peace between Chile and Argentina. Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted -- the statue had its back turned to Chile. Just when tempers were at their highest in Chile, a Chilean newspaperman saved the day. In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but made them laugh, it simply said, "The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans.”

Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.

Now, while this story has a good but somewhat funny ending we can all be comforted that:
Christ cares for the flock through His appointed means!

Paul in our lesson today makes a very important point. He says:

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, (Acts 20:28a)

Now, who might you think Paul is talking to when he says overseers? Well, let’s take a look at another text. This one comes from, (1Tim.3:1-7):

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim.3:1-7)

So, Paul here is calling those who have been made overseers of God’s church, his pastors, to pay careful attention to themselves first and then to the flock that they oversee.

Boy, from the perspective of one now charged with the duty of an overseer here at Peace it can cause you to pause and reflect. What is my responsibility? How do I exercise, as Paul says, “careful attention” and to what should I be attentive too?

Last Monday I came in early and spent five to six hours working on my sermon’s first draft. As I was looking up something on-line in the late afternoon I saw a note on Yahoo news about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. As information came in it became evident shortly thereafter that this was once again a senseless act set about to hurt and harm the innocent bystander who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next day, as Tuesday afternoon approached and as I got ready to leave to make some shut in calls, the man that comes to check the church for ants and pest control was coming in to make his monthly visit. As I was going out and he was coming in, I told him that I’d wait around for him to finish his work before heading out. He says to me, “So Pastor, what do you make of all the things that our going on in Boston?”

I thought about his question and said, “Just another example of the power of sin in our lives.”

In verse 29 Paul speaks that, wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

What can be possible, as was happening to the church in Ephesus, is that this act of terror that came down upon Boston, might have been done by someone … who at one time … had heard the Gospel … who had possibly been baptized  … and who might even have been confirmed.

Hard as it may seem to us but sin unchecked by God’s word and His gifts can fester and wolves inside and outside the church, can lead those unattended and unprotected away from Christ. It is my job as the shepherd here at Peace, who has been called to the faithful to my calling to protect the flock of Christ here as Christ’s under shepherd, to preach, to teach and to administer the sacraments according to God’s command, protecting the flock of Christ under my care.

Just as the lambs of the shepherd that have been gathered together in the sheepfold by the Good Shepherd who is Christ Jesus, who calls Himself the door or access to the sheepfold. So, too we, who gather together in fellowship here, are fed by the Good Shepherd and have access to Him through the preaching of His word but also as we receive the blessed gift of His precious body and blood in and with the bread and wine which is given and shed just for you.
Christ cares for the flock through His appointed means!

To understand the depth of sin is to understand that, left unchecked, each one of us is capable of the type of act done in Boston or Newtown or Colorado through the simple sin and disobedience that we all commit daily by thought word of deed.

In our bible study on Jonah Wednesday afternoon we were discussing the call to repentance by Jonah to the Ninevites. “40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” We found that the Hebrew word that is translated as overthrown can mean either, to be destroyed or to be radically changed.

As we discussed the effectiveness of Jonah and what he proclaimed we also made note of the fact that it was “God’s Word” that Jonah proclaimed and it did not return void. The Ninevites fasted, put on sackcloth and even the King sat in ashes as a sign of true repentance. The word of God proclaimed by Jonah caused true repentance in the lives of the Ninevites as they responded to the word of God and radically changed, who they were and the sin that reigned in their lives, to a Godly repentance and sorrow for their sin. Apart from God’s word proclaimed there would be no change or repentance and sin would continue to hold them captive to the power of evil, death and the work of the devil.

What might we conclude would happen to each one of us if we were left to our own sinfulness, the world and the devil? Might we fall away from what God had given us in our Baptisms? Might our faith be weakened if we fail to receive God’s forgiveness and His true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper? Might we, who are not connected to God’s word and his church, act upon those sinful thoughts of ours, rather than being brought to true Godly repentance by the word of God?

Christ cares for you who are His flock through His appointed means!

Again Paul reminds us:

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Worldly repentance grieves for those who lost their lives or were hurt and wounded in the heinous acts in Boston on Monday. Worldly repentance seeks comfort for you and me from the sinfulness of others, acted out in this way or in any of the terrible acts committed upon society which cause terror, grief and beg the question, “Where is God?”

Ill.
Paul W. Smith, in commenting on the radio about the Boston tragedy, gun control legislation and other related subjects, on Thursday Morning as I was driving to church asked this question, “Are we ready now to ban pressure cookers because they too can be used as a destructive weapon?” He continued, “It seems to me that is goes much deeper than that and we need to ask the bigger question, which affects all aspects of our lives, and that regards God’s removal from all aspects from society.”

But there is still Good News among the sadness of Boston. Christ was there as Christians brought help and service to their neighbor, whether through their calling as police officers, doctors, emergency personal or just regular people who jumped to the aid of those hurt and hurting. Christ will be there as many of the clergy of from the many Christian churches in Boston minister to the needs of those suffering physical and mental pain, because of this sin filled senseless act. Christ understands our suffering because He suffered what appeared to the world to be nothing more than the death of a good man that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But, we can also be comforted that in spite of the sins of sinful people and our own sinfulness, Gods word will bring us all to a Godly repentance, so that the sweet balm of the Gospel can comfort us with the Good news that in spite of our sin and the capability to do these sinful things, God has washed away our sin by the blood of the Lamb, the same blood that we will partake of shortly, and covered us with His blessed righteousness so that we can have comfort that in Christ we are secure and as a result bring forth fruit as engrafted branches of the true vine Jesus Christ towards our neighbor and those that need to hear this blessed Good News.

We are called to be His children and as such we listen to His word and we follow His teaching and are brought into fellowship with him and with one another.  Even though we miss the mark we know that He didn't  God by his loving work has made you His child and by understanding His teaching you know about all that He did for you. May the blessed gift of fellowship in Christ be a guide to Holy living in the one who came to free you from the power of sin, death and the devil.

The people of Chili and Argentina who expressed a desire to live in peace in the statue of “Christ in the Andes” is the same peace that the people of Waterford and the world at large need to have as well. The blessed gift of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit in you, will keep you in the one true faith in spite of this sinful world and the devil’s work seen this week in Boston, now and forever; as God comforts you with His precious Gospel message of forgiveness in Christ by the Holy Spirit’s work in you.

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

Amen

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sermon April 13-14, 2013 Confirmation Sunday


Title: Worthy is the Lamb and so too are all who are in Christ!

Text: Rev.5:8-14

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Pastor, A.W. Tozer once remarked, "The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him very long."

Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing, 1988, p. 33.

Life is all too short when you see it from the perspective of retirement and second careers. At least that is what it feels like to me at times. Last weekend I shared my sister’s email and thoughts concerning the 25th anniversary of my mother’s passing. Back in February we celebrated 50 years as a congregation here at Peace and were blessed to have some charter members still active in worship here. Pastor Merrell retired on January 6th after my ordination and installation as pastor here at Peace after 32 years of faithful service … I’m sure that seemed to go by way too fast?

And, today we confirm 8 of our young teen members into the Christian faith. Where has the time gone? I remember many of these students, who are today ready to be confirmed when I taught them in Sunday School as kindergartners  Can it really have gone by so quickly? We’ll I’m sure that for them it has seemed that they have been studying and have heard these truths of the Christian faith … like all of their lives.

Today we celebrate with them the joy of being confirmed in Christ. On confirming what God did in their baptism by the Holy Spirit, bringing them to faith and now being made members of his church here at Peace. May our Lord continue to bless and keep them in this one true faith now and forever because …

Worthy is the Lamb and so too are all who are in Christ!

The book of Revelation as was used as the sermon text for last week is so used today. Because of its imagery and symbolism it was early on questioned by theologians and even Martin Luther who said early on in his career:

… let everyone think of it as his own spirit leads him. My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it. But to teach Christ, this is the thing which an apostle is bound above all else to do; as Christ says in Acts 1, "You shall be my witnesses." Therefore I stick to the books which present Christ to me clearly and purely.

http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html

But, Luther would eventually change his thoughts on the book of Revelation, and some of our text today might suggest why:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

Jesus Christ, the worthy Lamb of God who was slain and has been raised for you.

Worthy is the Lamb and so too are all who are in Christ!

Confirmation! Today I have a bunch of mixed emotions. Wow, where has all the time gone. I remember so many of these students sine I began teaching Sunday school. Some I also look up to as they've grown so tall.

I have been blessed to serve here and now to be able to confirm what God had done in their baptisms that they too will confirm.

But, there can be a downside as well. So many once confirmed stop attending. I’ve see the effect hear a t Peace and it is a very common problem throughout our synod. Why you might ask? Well, there are a number of reasons. One might be because of a broken home. Living in two places for children can make it difficult at best to stay connected. In a broken home who takes the responsibility, mom or dad or both. Children can’t drive so for many it falls to friend or relatives. I thank the Lord for all of you who made it possible for these children to get here. Now, all the more, it is important to have them remain connected to God and His word.

At times too, different homes can mean different churches and this can also mean different faiths or beliefs within the Christian Church. This also can have a negative influence to staying connected. But even for those of us who remain married and have only one church to attend there still is an alarming loss of confirmed believers and active worship.

I can only conclude that the work of the sinful nature, the world and the devil continue to pull and try to tear you away from the church and the blessed forgiveness that God wants you to hear. Do not let it happen. Jesus reminds us in John 10:10:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. And I might add, to rip you away from God’s gifts of word and sacrament But Jesus says that: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Worthy is the Lamb and so too are all who are in Christ!

I was reminded by one of our Elder’s, I won’t say his name, (Jay Squanda), how many times in a row that we’ve had communion. We’ve had communion on the third Sunday of March and the next two were Palm Sunday and Easter then the first Sunday in April and now Confirmation. If you came to all the services that is five Sunday’s in a row; Praise God that we are free to receive his blessed body and blood for our forgiveness of sins and that these soon to be confirmed students will receive this blessed gift for the first time today as well. And so now I speak to these students directly:

As you are fed with the Lord’s true body and blood in and with the bread and wine today you are always reminded to remember what Christ Jesus’ did for you in His once and for all sacrifice over sin, death and the power of the devil for you.

It is my hope and prayer that you all, by God’s Holy Spirit, will be blessed to receive this gift for the strengthening of you faith.

As I think about confirmation today and these new confirmands I am reminded of my class work from John’s Gospel in Chapter 8 verses 31-32:

 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

As I made some final visits with gene Gidcumb and his family this week it really came to focus for me. The abiding that we do and can do is done in Christ. Because Jesus Christ has united Himself to flesh and, "who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man;" (From our Nicene Creed) we can and do abide as Jesus says - in my word.

It was made truly evident to me as I remember the visitations that I made to see Gene at the hospital and rehab centers over the last 10 months but most recently since being ordained in January. The true and abiding presence of Christ was brought to him in the little case containing the bread and wine and as I spoke Christ´s words of institution over the bread and wine and gave them to Gene saying; "Take eat, this is the true body of Christ given for you and, take drink, this is the true blood of Christ which was shed for the forgiveness of all your sins." Christ true abiding presence was there.

Because Jesus Christ came to abide in the incarnation and unite God and man forever in His person; because He took His abiding presence to the cross, we too abide in His suffering and are connected to his death and because He rose, as we celebrated the empty tomb and His resurrection on Easter Sunday, we too will rise and will abide with Him forever. This was the comfort that I was able to share with Gene and Erna and his family as I met with them at the hospital just hours before he went to be with the Lord.

The truth that we know and the truth that will set you free; is the truth that Jesus, and His abiding presence, will never leave you nor forsake you. His word, both incarnate and proclaimed will not return void. He will come to you and abide with you in the sacrament of the altar, offering you Christ´s true forgiveness that will set you free from sin, death and the power of the devil, so that you are assured of His abiding presence given and shed for you.

We, who have the blessed joy of standing in the stead and by the command of Christ, bring His abiding word of comfort and forgiveness to those gathered together in His name and also bring His true abiding presence to those unable to attend whether home bound or in hospital care. In the same way we remain in His word because He is the true and abiding word which remains for ever with us and in us until the end of the age.

Worthy is the Lamb and so too are all who are in Christ!

As Christ feeds these newly confirmed members of Peace Lutheran Church it is my hope and prayer that they will remain in the abiding presence of our Lord and continue to receive this blessed gift of word and sacrament for the strengthening of their faith now and forever.

God comfort you with this Good News by the Holy Spirit’s work in you.

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


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sermon April 6-7, 2013


Title: Worthy is the Lamb and so too are all who are in Christ!

Text: Rev.5. 5:18-21

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.


When he was the pastor of a church in Scarborough, William Sangster had an eccentric member who tried to be a zealous Christian. Unfortunately, the man was a bit mentally deficient and usually did the wrong thing. While working as a barber the man lathered up a customer for a shave, came at him with the poised razor, and asked in his best attempt to witness, "Are you prepared to meet your God?"  We, needless to say the frightened man fled with the lather still on his face!

W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers,  p. 215.

The question is a good one though. But for we who have been baptized into Christ’s death we can know for certain to:

Fear not! Christ is raised for you.

The Apostle John writing in the Book of Revelation writes about his encounter with our risen Lord. John writes:

 17” When I saw him”:

John had had a pretty loving relationship with Jesus during His earthly ministry. In fact, when Jesus refers to the disciple whom He loved - in John’s Gospel - it is commonly believed, though not specifically mentioned, that Jesus is referring to John. This makes it all the more interesting how John reacts to seeing the glorified Jesus.

“I fell at his feet as though dead.”

The sight of Jesus Christ in all his glory is too much even for one who Christ Jesus refers to the one He loved or even as - to my best friend. John can’t stand in His presence. He becomes overwhelmed and falls at his feet though dead. It seems that even though John knew what happened and saw the crucifixion of our Lord and then as he writes in John chapter 20 verse 6:

4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
Seeing the empty tomb and then the resurrected Lord; this encounter with the glorified Christ is more than John can bear. What was the vision that John saw that would make him react in this way? Well, let us read:

… and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

This is a pretty amazing description that we have here of Jesus Christ that John sees. Even when we consider that this type of writing is called apocalyptic literature and in many cases not to be taken in a literal sense, it is still a very powerful vision. We had a very in depth study of this a year or so ago and all the symbolism that is represented.

Jesus though, comes to John through the midst of fear and in an act of love lays His right hand on him:

…saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

In other words, Jesus is saying:

Fear not! I AM raised for you.

You and I too find ourselves at times covered by fear. Whether it is the situations we can control on the things that we can’t control at time we can all be consumed by fear.

The fear of our work situation and financial struggle can one of those times. It might be a housing situation or impending foreclosure that gets the best of us. You can also at times feel unable to cope and be driven to other means of coping. Sometimes you find help and your situation has a positive outcome and at other times you feel that you’ve been abandoned and that God either doesn't hear or care about you and your problems.

Death or the impending death of a loved one can also be one of those times. Does god hear, is He concerned with me and this life that is fading away? Even when we don’t hear the audible voice that John heard saying, “Fear not!” You can know that the word of the Lord in Psalm 55:22 says:

22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

Twenty five years ago on April 1st my mother passed away from cancer at 57 years of age. As I stand here today at 57, her death brings this loss for me into a different perspective. Maybe you have a similar story. My sister sent an email out to me and my two brothers. She was drawn to this loss again because she was very close to my mom, as we all were but for a daughter there might be an even tighter bond.

My sister Bonnie wrote in her email about my mother’s passing:

Ill.
“Well, it’s been 25 years since we lost Mom.  I wasn't expecting it to get to me so much. I’m thinking about how much do I remember of my life before I started kindergarten (age 5), so I feel like she’s been gone half my life.  It bothers me that I have a hard time remembering what her voice sounded like even though I know I talked to her every day.  I wish I had a voice mail message I could listen to, but I’m not sure we had answering machines then.  I usually never let the day she died get to me and I never want to focus on that day.

I have an envelope that she wrote my name on, that although tattered and old and falling apart, I hang on to because it’s her writing. I was going through a box of stuff that I’ve had in my closet forever – junior high and high school stuff, stuff from my first jobs, etc. and came across a bunch of cards signed Love, Mom and Dad (of course she signed them all) and I cried.”

I answered her email with:

“I thought about mom as I was doing Good Friday service. She died on April 1st but in 1988 that also happened to be Good Friday 25 years ago ... It kind of wrecked Easter for me that year, if I remember well. It was very hard on me too. But, today as I think about mom, I have a different feeling from the loss I felt then, as I know she trusted Jesus for her salvation because she told me so in the hospital and I know that she is in heaven with Him, so I have great comfort knowing that I will see her again – and you will too!”

Fear not! Christ is raised for you.

I’m sure you all can relate to the story of my sister’s pain and loss from her email. I did, and so did Jesus. When his friend Lazarus died, if you remember God’s word tells us that Jesus wept. (John 11:35) The same response my sister had thinking about the loss of her mother 25 years ago. That loss can bring even today the same reaction.

But, Christ has conquered death and because He lives those who trust in him will live too.

As Jesus made clear to the Apostle John:

I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Rev.1:18b)

Sin, death and the power of the Devil have all been triumphed over by the one who we celebrated here last week as He rose from the grave. He didn’t die so that death reigned over our lives but he died so that by His death we might be freed from our sin and just as he has been raised we will be too!

Fear not! Christ is raised for you and for all who trust in this Good News!

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

God calls all to come to faith through this Gospel message. That Jesus came to live the sinless life we couldn't and now promises to take us to the place that He has prepared for us. He also says:

7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

Those who reject Him will too see His second coming but their reaction will not be one of joy but they will wail on account of Him.

Thanks be to God that by faith in Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit in us, we will see Jesus and be welcomed into His everlasting home and that the fear of the tribulations of this life will all be swallowed up in the victory of the Lamb.

We will not have to fear the crazed barber who with the razor in hand might come and ask, “Are you are prepared to meet your God?”  Because we know that in Christ the answer is always, “Yes, I am prepared!”

God comfort you with this Good News by the Holy Spirit work in you.

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

Amen






Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sermon March 30-31, 2013 Easter


Title: Jesus lives The Victory’s Won!

Text: Luke 24:1-12

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

In a seminary mission’s class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push.

After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years. Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to life.

For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.

Unknown.

Jesus lives The Victory’s Won!

Today we celebrate the blessed resurrection of our Lord. For in time past the world languished in sin and death reigned supreme. The hope of the Messiah and his coming had been prophesied. As the writer to the Hebrews makes clear in chapter 1

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:1-4)

Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God came down for this very purpose. To humiliate Himself, to put on human flesh and become man; to cover or veil his divinity for the purpose of keeping the Law, which we could not keep, and then to stand in your place as the, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

For the 30 or so years of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry, the power of His divine nature was there with him all the time, perfectly united with His humanity so that He might accomplish the work that He was appointed to do  by putting His power to work  in His resurrection from the dead, for you.

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

This body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which took the scourging, the nails and the spear in his side and who truly died and breathed His last on the cross, was buried in a tomb, given for this purpose by Joseph of Aramathea, and then had the large stone rolled in place to cover and seal the tomb as a testament to the finality of death. Sealed, closed and finished. Jesus, himself used those last words of finality as He exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Death was not a maybe, but was a certainty, (on Good Friday), just three short days ago.

4 While they (the women) were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.”

The certainty of the grave and death has now been change forever. As Paul tells the Corinthians in our Epistle reading for today.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.21 For as by a man Adam came death, by a man Jesus Christ has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor15:20-22)

Jesus lives the Victory’s Won, for you!

The joy of the resurrection can be lost and clouded by the sinfulness of man. Your sin too, can cause you to let reason sway opinion on God’s word. What God had said and what had been established by his word is now in the court of public opinion being challenged and in a real way and being challenged in the secular courts as well.

We all see the definition of Biblical truths being debated in society, with the hope of trumping God and his word and removing or redefining His precepts which is defined as (a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action) and the religious liberty this country was founded on and that we have for so long enjoyed.

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, (Luke 24:6b-8a)

You may remember Peter’s response to Jesus when He told of His cross and death in Matthew 16:

22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God … but on the things of man.”

Always ask yourself this question: “Am I setting my mind on the things of God or the things of man?”

The things of man will corrupt the word of God all the time. It will call God’s truth a lie and the sin we cherish loving. But, in spite of our sinfulness and the corruption of the world there is one thing that we all can be assured of:

Jesus lives and for we who believe, the Victory is Won!

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,

But for the apostles:

11 these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

The Apostles didn’t believe even after the witness of the women!

As Pastor Merrell made very clear to me in one of our student / mentor discussions when serving here as Vicar; He said, “Vicar, Always, listen to the women.”

I had an opportunity to repay this advice just a short while later when the women, wanted a garbage disposal replaced that had broken. Pastor said, “Well, I’m not sure we really need it because we don’t do a lot with big meals and preparations anymore.” To which I said, “Pastor, remember your advice?”  To which he responded, “A garbage disposal would be nice.”

Recognizing his lack of judgment too: Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Jesus lives The Victory’s Won!

We live, because Jesus lives! By faith we have eternal life and this eternity begins at the moment we believe. The reality of heaven is a present reality for you and me, trusting by faith in Christ’s finished work. We have all the joys promised now, though we only get a foretaste or the future reality when we too will be given our glorious resurrected bodies. Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

Just like the old car that just needed that loose wire connected to have that engine come to life, you who have heard the word of truth need, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to believe, trusting in the life, death resurrection of the God/man Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

What is the work of God you might ask? Well, Jesus answers that question in John Chapter 6: To believe in Him whom He has sent! (John 6:28-29)

May the Love of God, the blessings of Christ and his resurrection this Easter, 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