Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sermon Dec.31, 2013 New Years Eve

Title: Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!
Text: Romans 8:31-39

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.

“This past year, this year of years, how shall it tell upon my whole life! All has gone well in a worldly point of view, how is it in a spiritual? My God how? I fear I have lost ground. I fear I have had less of the spirit of piety this year than during the last; yet God’s goodness has been given more than usually to me this year. How ungrateful! What a poor return!

One year ago I had myself under a tolerable discipline [and yet] the many secret determinations to pursue a straightforward course of industry, diligence, virtue … how few of them have I kept. I am almost weary of making resolutions and feel more like giving myself to circumstances.”

Those words written on December 31, 1843 are an excerpted from the book Forgotten Valor – the Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox.

Robert Scott Editor

While General Willcox’s sentiments still sound very contemporary for a journal entry written 170 years ago; the tone seems to reflect the wisdom of a veteran of many New Year’s Eves rather than the 20 year old officer fresh out of West Pointe, that Willcox was at the time of the writing. His thoughts and his concerns mirror ours as we enter a New Year, with new resolutions and new uncertainty in the times we live.

Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!

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

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

Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!

How do you feel about New Years Eve? Do you look at it with joy for what lies ahead or are you glad to see all that baggage from last year left behind. I, probably like some, see a little of both. It was a joyful year as I began ministry here at Peace as pastor, looking forward to our 50th anniversary, confirmation, and retirement parties for Pastor Merrell and Jan Gallipo. I also looked forward to my son’s graduation from college though I didn’t really look with joy to moving him out of his college apartment or moving my daughter out of one apartment into another but at times new things can be fun.

With the passing of Monica’s mom and my dad, as well as many old and dear friends here at peace, the sadness as we all said our final goodbyes to these loved ones and friends could cause us to reflect that this last year is good to be rid of.

Paul asks:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

General Willcox looks optimistically at the new Year when he continues:

“Oh how can I but feel that God has been with me! How can I but determine again and; again that I will begin the New Year with a renewed heart, and lead a new and better life. But how weak am I, how incapable of carrying out such plans! Help, oh Thou who hast hitherto sustained me, that I may make a good improvement of the New Year. Not by living entirely to myself, but by preparing both mind & body for serving Thee as circumstances require.”

The truth is that resolutions we make are resolutions we break. It seems that no matter how many or how few we are guaranteed to fall short. So as well with our spiritual life as the Law of God is concerned; our ability is unable to keep the Law and our sinfulness continues to point to that reality. And too, just like you, I will fall short of the mark I set for myself with this past year and the one to come, this ministry and this church. But, blessed are you and blessed am I in the joy we share because:

Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!

Just prior to the text for today there is a very important passage:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30)

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

You have that same joy and that same blessing because you have the same faith and God who has made you His own. He has called you by the gospel to believe and has given you faith to trust in the promos of salvation and the forgiveness of sins in Him.

Because of Christ you have conquered death!

And because of Christ you are conquerors!

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

Amen


Sermon Dec. 25, 2013 Christmas Day

Title: Jesus became flesh for you!
Text: John 1:1-14
John 1:1-14 (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

An interesting map is on display in the British Museum in London. It's an old mariner's chart, drawn in 1525, outlining the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote: "Here be giants," "Here be fiery scorpions," and "Here be dragons." Eventually, the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: "Here is God."

Unknown.

Well, today as we celebrate the Christ child and the coming of Jesus and His incarnation we see in the manger, a baby and say: “Here is God!”

Jesus became flesh for you!

John 1:1-18 has been one of my favorite sections of scripture. It expresses the deity of Jesus Christ, His glory that he has with the father and the abundance of His name which is full of grace and truth.

Let us look at the significance of three words; “Word,” “Glory,” and “Name.

In the beginning, God, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit parallels in John 1:1 what is said by him in Genesis 1:1. As God, in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, so too we learn from John’s gospel that “in the beginning was the Word,” that the “Word was with God.” And that “the Word was God.”

What is evident in Genesis 1 is that God is a plurality as creator and that His Spirit hovered over the face of the waters and that God spoke and said, “Let there be light.”(Genesis 1:3) This is in John’s gospel elaborated, expanded and explained … as the Word, that from the beginning … was with God and that He was God and that through Him, through the “Word,” all things were made.

In Genesis the light that God set forth by His “Word” is the light of men and though the darkness cannot overcome it, this light of the “Word” continues to shines forth.

God’s light that shines forth in his Word and whom God is made known by, is revealed by the One who has seen God and is God and to whom his children believe and know his name. This name of the “Word” is the eternal name which John came to testify to, so that the world might recognize him … the eternal God.

YHWH, is the name by which the Word, from eternity, has been made known to the world and by revelation and by faith we know Him to be Jesus.

Jesus became flesh for you!

Not all see the “Glory” that is revealed by faith in the Christ child. Not all see salvation in him; but though not recognized, salvation is there none the less.

We’re told in the Hebrews text for today that this Christ child:

3 … 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,

He came in the flesh so that those who are unable … you and me … and the entire world can be made righteous, can be made new can be born again … from above … born of God … given new life in Him.
The world doesn’t want to hear and the world doesn’t want to see and that is what makes this child and this birth ever more amazing! Because he came anyway, despite the hatred and despite the sin, he came for you.

Ill.
When Einstein fled Nazi Germany; he came to America and bought an old two-story house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them issues as far ranging as physics to human rights.

But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was not, in the world’s eyes, an important person like his other guests. She was a ten-year-old girl named Emmy. Emmy heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. Since she was having trouble with her fifth-grade arithmetic, she decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help her with her problems. Einstein was very willing and explained everything to her so that she could understand it. He also told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help.

A few weeks later, one of the neighbors told Emmy’s mother that Emmy was often seen entering the house of the world-famous physicist. Horrified, she told her daughter that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was very valuable, and he couldn’t be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl. And then she rushed over to Einstein’s house, and when Einstein answered the door, she started trying to blurt out an apology for her daughter’s intrusion – for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, “She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime.”

Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2000, “It Is His Joy” http://www.geocities.com/palmercog/joydevo.html

And that’s how it is with God! From its very opening pages, all the way to the end of the book, the Bible is a story about how God has pursued us with an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to come to his house! And we do that in this life through prayer! It’s an amazing privilege.

Jesus became flesh for you!

The joy we feel today is reflected in Christ, the child in the manger that we celebrate today.  Though given as a gift there was a real price to be paid. This very son of God came to redeem the world by His life, death on the cross for you and his glorious resurrection assures that you will rise too!

Today you too need to see Jesus for who He is; the author and finisher of your faith. He is the one who has taken away the sins of the world and in Him you have life eternal. The good news is that through the working of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and through the means of grace, of word and sacrament, you are continually built up in Christ being made holy in Him, this beautiful child of Bethlehem that was prophesized long ago.

The truth that we are given in this Christ is not fiction. It is the true and blessed working of our Lord to redeem the lost, you and me. You have been forgiven and are found in him. Rejoice in this blessed gift of God!

Jesus became flesh for you!

Do not fear what this world gives but see what Sir John Franklin saw in looking at the map as he prepared to explore the world … Here, he said, in those uncharted places, is God!

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

Amen


Sermon Dec. 24, 2013 Christmas Eve

Title: Salvation is found in Christ alone!
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”


During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her wanting to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders.  She refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds what was required. When he asked someone why he couldn’t buy the supplies he needed, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood--the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely.

Our Daily Bread, October 11, 1992.

Our joy tonight, as we celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, is not a holiday joy of manmade origin that is merely here today and gone tomorrow but it is a joy in the truly divine gift of the God/man Himself, who at His incarnation, born of a virgin, became man so that through Him the forgiveness of sins and salvation might be freely given.

So the Gospel reading for tonight tells of the dilemma Joseph faced. His betrothed – or the one he was pledged to marry, had been found to be with child. Not through the course of natural events but by the Holy Spirit, Mary was pregnant.

Before a betrothed virgin was formally given in marriage, Mary had made a pledge and promise – a betrothal contract if you will, to marry Joseph to be faithful to him … and to be his wife.  There was no cohabitation during this betrothal period but the betrothed virgin would use this time to prepare and put all things in order at her father’s home for the upcoming wedding.

This contract was as binding as a marriage was and Joseph is also called “her husband.” The fact that a “divorce” was required to break the betrothal shows the seriousness of this legally binding contract. To be found guilty of adultery during the betrothal period would have caused Mary to be subject to the punishments that the moral law required.

Now Joseph, even in this tenuous situation …

being a just man and unwilling to put Mary to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

True love looks to the needs of another and Joseph, though he didn’t understand the situation … was still loving … towards Mary in how he thought he might dissolve the contract not causing he shame.

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 1:20)

Through this awkward betrothal, God Himself took on flesh and became man to endure the shame and guilt that you deserved, nailing your sins to His cross some 30 years after His blessed birth.

There was no other way because:

Salvation is found in Christ alone!

Shame is a difficult feeing to deal with.

Ill.
There was a teenager who didn’t want to be seen in public with her mother, because her mother’s arms were terribly disfigured. One day when her mother took her shopping and reached out her hand, a clerk looked horrified. Later, crying, the girl told her how embarrassed she was.

Understandably hurt, the mother waited an hour before going to her daughter’s room to tell her, for the first time, what happened.

"When you were a baby, she began; I woke up to a burning house. Your room was an inferno. Flames were everywhere. I could have gotten out the front door, but I decided I’d rather die with you than leave you to die alone. I ran through the fire and wrapped my arms around you. Then I went back through the flames, my arms on fire. When I got outside on the lawn, the pain was agonizing but when I looked at you, all I could do was rejoice that the flames hadn’t touched you."

Stunned, the girl looked at her mother through new eyes. Weeping in shame and gratitude, she kissed her mother’s marred hands and arms.

(Source: Randy Alcorn. From a sermon by Billy Ricks, Suffering, 2/27/2011)

Our loving God and savior Jesus Christ could have left you to the fires of Hell and damnation. It was not His sin for which you and I are condemned but the sins and falleness of this broken and corrupted world. The sin of rebellion is alive and well as seen daily in print, TV and online. Life is directed to self interests rather than to serving others and Christmas has become nothing more than a two month push and economic indicator of the retail wellbeing of our country.

The “Christmas spirit” we are told comes to life as people focus on the joys of giving gifts and celebrating family and friends and the love we share for and with one another. But, true love came down from heaven, in the form of a babe in a manger, born of the Virgin Mary who was called by God to this special task.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Christ comes to you and to each and every one of us, dear friends, not by our Christmas spirit but by the working of the Holy Spirit, who calls and gathers all who would believe to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord through faith in His blessed work.

Salvation is found in Christ alone!

Martin Luther had this to say about the human heart:

“Hearts are polluted with idolatries, vain thoughts about God, lust, and other vices which arise from the fact that they do not have a sound knowledge of God. All of this our fine bath attendants neglect; they are only concerned that their bodies and clothes should be clean. But, O God, cleanse Thou my heart, that I might acknowledge Thy will as it is, good and gracious, lest I be led away to wicked opinions by wild speculations about God.”

Martin Luther – LW Vol. 12 Selected Psalms 1 pg. 378

“Take a look at your own heart, and you will soon find out what has stuck to it and where your treasure is. It is easy to determine whether hearing the Word of God, living according to it, and achieving such a life gives you as much enjoyment and calls forth as much diligence from you as does accumulating and saving money and property.”

–Martin Luther

http://dailychristianquote.com/dcqluther.html

True joy is not found in the things you work to possess, but in that which you receive and which you are freely given that you could never work for or truly deserve.

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

And in this name, Jesus, your salvation is found in Him alone!

True joy, dear friends, is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord! This Christmas, may the joy of the Christ child, this beautiful babe of Bethlehem who came down from heaven to bring you himself, the divine gift of salvation, comfort and peace wrapped in the human flesh of Jesus our baby king.

As Theodore Roosevelt found out when Clara Barton refused to sell him the supplies he needed: He was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!"

Well, the Apostle John said much the same thing in our epistle reading for today:

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  (1 John 4:13-15)

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)

Confess it, say it and ask for it for salvation is found in Christ alone!

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God 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 Dec. 14-15, 2013

Title: The Coming of Jesus brings joy for all who are found in Him!
Text: Matt. 11:2-15

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

7000 Protestant youth from many denominations were asked whether they agreed with the following statements:

"The way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life." More than 60% agreed.

"God is satisfied if a person lives the best life he can." Almost 70% agreed.

"The main emphasis of the gospel is on God’s rules for right living." More than half agreed.

The study found that 34% of all Americans can be identified as born again--that is, they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, and say they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior. However, among those who have made a commitment to Christ, only 55 percent believe they will go to heaven because of faith in Christ. Most of those surveyed said they would go to heaven because of living a good life, or obeying the 10 commandments, or because all people will go to heaven. Others who said they believed Christ said they were unsure about what will happen to them after they die.

- Reported in Inland Northwest Christian News, March 1990, p. 3. 

There are times where you are unsure or doubt things in this life. You might feel unsure of how you’ll live up to other’s expectations. Or whether you can accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourselves. You might even doubt those you’ve place your trust in. But one thing you need not be unsure of is that:

The Coming of Jesus brings joy for all who are found in Him!

Doubt and being unsure was a problem for some of the disciples and followers of John the Baptist.
“They brought to John an account of Christ's work, of His preaching and its effect, of His miracles of healing and the astonishment of the people. John himself, filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth, having been a witness of the revelation of God and being thoroughly convinced of Christ's Messiahship, that He was the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, had no doubts concerning Christ and His mission. But the few disciples that were still clinging to him showed no inclination to leave him and follow the greater Teacher.

Therefore he sent them as a delegation with a definitely worded question: Art Thou the Coming One, or shall we expect another? The reference was clear to everyone that knew the Old Testament, Ps. 40:7, Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: and was intended to open the eyes of the questioners. "It is certain that John proposes the question for the sake of his disciples: for they did not yet think Christ to be He whom they should believe Him to be. And John had not come to draw disciples and the people to himself, but to prepare the way for Christ and bring all men to Christ, making them subject to Him ... But when Jesus began to perform miracles and was widely spoken of, then John thought he would dismiss his disciples from him and bring them to Christ, … so that all would cling to Christ and become Christians; and he sent them that they might learn, from Christ's words and works themselves, that He was the right man of whom John had spoken."

P. E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 Pg 61

John knew that the Lamb of God was Jesus and it was his intent to continue to point to Christ and though many of John’s disciples had begun to follow Jesus, others needed to be brought to Christ so that they might also believe.

What is different today? It is unbelief and unsureness, caused by sin which clouds understanding and reason in unbelievers and those who have been brought to faith but have fallen back in to unbelief.
The life of this corrupted world, filled with sin, death and the working of the devil can take the focus off of Christ and cause apathy or a lukewarm faith that is quickly turning cold and dead to Christ not recognizing Him for who He is … the savior of the world.

Ill.
There was once a flock of pelicans that happily fished off the coast of California.  One day, a fishing company began cleaning their catch at a nearby dock, where it was convenient for them to cast the discarded fish scraps into the water.  The pelicans, drawn to the daily ritual, soon gave up fishing for themselves and settled into a more domesticated existence.  Life was pretty good for these pelicans, at least until the fishermen discovered that there was a market for fish scraps.  Abruptly, the free meals ceased.
Despite this regrettable change of fortune, the pelicans continued to show up every day at meal-time, only to go away with empty stomachs.  It wasn’t long before the lack of sustenance began to take its toll.  The unsightly appearance of the emaciated birds eventually drew the public’s attention, and experts were called in to investigate the cause of their plight.  For some unknown reason, the pelicans no longer seemed able to access the abundance of food that teemed just below them in the sea.  After a thorough investigation, it was concluded that the pelicans were starving to death because they’d forgotten how to fish! Have you ever heard of anything so absurd?  Pelicans were made to fish.  But they had forgotten who they were and what they were made to do.

Sadly, there is a spiritual parallel to this, and it’s just as puzzling. It’s when a child of God forgets who they are and how they are to access the profound blessings teeming just below the surface of their everyday life. We suffer from spiritual amnesia when we allow our doubts and fears to rob us of the joy and fruitfulness that would naturally be ours. Believe what God says about you and you will thrive. You are His beloved child, fully accepted, and profoundly valued. You have been given great and eternal purposes to fulfill. Those who forget who they are in Christ waste away.

 Dr. Mitchell Dillon

The Coming of Jesus brings joy for all who are found in Him!

7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

John was sent to prepare the way so that you might rejoice in the coming of the one who would save you from your sins. But not only you, for Christ came to redeem the world corrupted by sin and to give, by the power of the Holy Spirit, faith to believe this blessed good news.

We rejoice today that God was not so callus that He walked away from our failing and sin filled life but has sent his son to be the very sacrifice that you and I could never be. He came in that manger; God joined to human flesh so that He might take your place and be both sacrifice for sin and savior for the world.
Rejoice that God did not forget you in your sin but sent his son.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation which means the turning away of (God’s) wrath by an offering- by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Rom. 3:23-25)

Rejoice that you are forgiven in Him.

The Coming of Jesus brings joy for all who are found in Him!

Living a good life is only important if it is done in Christ as a fruit of faith and for your neighbors. By God working in you, He has made you acceptable to the Father because when God sees you He sees Christ!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen