Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sermon June 14-15, 2014 LSB

Title: The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father and the Son!
Text: Matthew 28:16-20

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

There’s a story told - and I take it to be a parable because I hope it’s not true - of a country church which had a creeping vine - perhaps an ivy plant - growing up by the porch doorway. Over the doorway was a text carved in stone, "We preach Christ crucified". Over the years the plant grew steadily and a branch gradually spread over the doorway. The first word of the text covered by the leaves of the plant was "crucified" which reduced the text to "We preach Christ". Well, we might think, that’s unfortunate but the essential part of our faith is still there. As time went on the branch spread further and covered over the word "Christ". Now, this was serious, but no-one seemed to notice, and the message of the church to the world outside was reduced to "We preach" - it had no message; the church was merely a talking shop. - Owen Bourgaize

Today we celebrate the work of our loving God - Father, Son + and Holy Spirit, the diversity of the Godhead and the unity of the Godhead. One God manifest or made known in three persons for the redemption of the world through the working of the Spirit until Christ Jesus returns.

The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father and the Son!

 Jesus had named a certain mountain in Galilee to His disciples, where He would meet them after His resurrection, but neither the time of this meeting nor the location of the mountain is known. It had been the Lord’s express command that they assemble there, and after they had received the confirmation of this word by the message of the women on Easter morning, they went to keep the appointment.

When He appeared before them, some of them fell down before Him in glad adoration, but others still were in doubt. They could neither believe the fact of His resurrection nor that it was actually their Lord who here appeared before them. Jesus therefore drew nearer that they might recognize Him. But He depended for the effect of His presence upon His words. The speech of Jesus was friendly and intended to take away all apprehension of whatever kind among them all.

His final commission is a wonderful bit of solemn oratory – marching orders if you will. As He stands before them, in His spiritual body, true man as ever during His earthly life, but no longer in humility and weakness: all power in heaven above and on earth beneath is given to Him. He is the almighty God, with unlimited authority. And since this is true, therefore they, in going forth, in doing the work of their apostolic mission, should make disciples of all nations. The whole earth should be their sphere of activity. And this discipling should be done by two means of grace.

First there is the means of making disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; into God’s name, as confessing the name which summarizes the entire Christian creed. The second means of making disciples is that of teaching them to observe closely all things which Jesus has committed to His disciples, to expound or to preach forth to them the counsel of God to their salvation. Not human notions - but the Word of the Gospel - the inspired Word of God shall be the content of all preaching in the Church of Jesus Christ, no more, no less. And if His commission is carried out in this manner, then His promise also will stand secure, that He will be with us all the days until the end of time. When this age comes to its close, when He Himself will usher in the new age by the dawn of His Judgment Day, then only will the work of the Church have come to an end.

Kretzmann Popular Commentary of the Bible NT vol. 1 Pg 162

The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father and the Son!

Just a bit of observation that I read which can be also applied to our congregation of Peace and its 50 years of mission and ministry in Waterford.

It is said:

Ill.
"The longer a church has been in existence, the more its resources go toward its own preservation rather than toward outreach and evangelism. Our tendency is to design ministries that meet our own needs as opposed to the needs of those who have not yet entered the kingdom." - Alan Nelson

If you’ve been in a budgeting meeting here at Peace you know this truth. It becomes evident real fast that the money needed to maintain this congregation and the basic costs of operation, take a greater portion of what is given than it used to, which leaves the mission and the ministry to those outside our church - who need to still hear the gospel message – unreached.

Sure, we send a good portion of what we have for mission to St. Paul’s in Pontiac and this is a good and faithful outreach, but what also about those in our community, how can we reach them and with what means?
The Great Commission is to 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is through the sending of the Holy Spirit that the Christian church was founded and begun on the day of Pentecost, that we celebrated last Sunday, and it is through His working that it will continue to grow.
Martin Luther had this to say about the working of the Holy Spirit:

Such great things have the Apostles declared to us, through the Holy Spirit, who descended upon them from heaven, as even the angels would gladly look into.  When this Spirit opens our eyes and makes us see what the Gospel is, we shall have an appetite for it and a joy in it, although we cannot behold it with bodily eyes, but must believe that we are partakers and fellow-heirs of the righteousness, truth, salvation, and all the blessings which God has to bestow.  For since He has given us His only Son, that highest good, He will also, through Him, give us all good things, riches and treasures, whereof the angels in heaven have all their joy, and of which they are most desirous.  All of this is offered to us through the Gospel, and if we believe we shall also have a similar desire for them.

Luther’s exposition of 1 Peter 1:12

The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father and the Son!

God has called us as His body of believers here at Peace and through His work to make disciples, to proclaim Christ and his gospel, to baptize and to teach.

Our VBS outreach is one way you can help and get involved in the mission of this church. Tell a family with children you know. Bring a child of a friend yourself. Serve as a teacher or helper. Put up flyers, spread the news and God, through His Spirit, will bring those to faith in His way and in His time.

Ill.

I was once again at Lakeland Place - a senior residence in Waterford -  last Sunday, sharing the word of the Lord with about 16 of the saints who are unable to get to church on their own. I enjoy this ministry and outreach greatly as I lead them in a few hymns, readings, prayers and a message of teaching. Usually I get to preach a bit longer as we don’t use our order of service or have as many responses. And when I asked the people to join with me in the Lord’s Prayer after our special prayers, it never ceases to amaze me how many and how strong they all are in praying this wonderful prayer together.

One man came up to me after the service and said, “Brother Russ, you’re not a typical Lutheran, are you?” To which I replied … “Well, I believe I am, what do you mean” “Well he said, Lutheran’s that I know seem more interested in keeping their faith to themselves but you seem pretty bold in proclaiming Christ.”

After a minute of thought I said, “The Lutherans I know proclaim Christ and Him crucified. That is what I preach and teach at my church and that is the joy that those whom I serve cling to as well.”

It did give me pause though … Have we let the vine cover the mission message over the door of our church … and over the door of our hearts? Do we have a zeal for the lost? Do we take the gospel to those outside our walls or do we go home to our lives content to just resume our day to day existence until the next Sunday comes … whether next week, next month or next year?

Jesus Christ is our righteousness. It is He to whom the Spirit points and gathers those who will believe. Even when we think we fall short in our words and actions the Spirit uses the gospel to achieve His goals.

Ill.

In an online devotion from the Rev. Scott Murray, he tells the story of a young woman who was invited to one of his Bible Studies from the people at church. This woman was from another denomination and was drawn to a greater understanding of God’s word.

Dr. Murray writes:

“She was deeply interested, first, because of the depth of the theology. There was none of the "lite-ness" that she despised from her experience. But she had an "ah-ha experience" when we spent some time in Article 3 of the Formula of Concord: "The Righteousness of Faith before God." She was flabbergasted that confessional Lutheran theology was so simple, that it taught that all our righteousness in the presence of God was through Christ and was conferred through faith. She asked: "Do you mean that Christianity is that easy?"

http://mail.aol.com/38584-416/aol-6/en-us/Suite.aspx

Our God, Father, Son + and Holy Spirit has seen to your redemption. God has called you by the gospel, given you faith to believe and by the Holy Spirit will keep you in the faith to your reward that awaits all who trust in Christ. Is Christianity easy? No, because it cost Christ everything. Is it that simple? Yes it is."

The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father and the Son, for you!

May the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you all now and forever!

Amen

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sermon June 7-8, 2014

Title: Christ gives living water to those who thirst!
Text: John 7:37-39

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

As we celebrate the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit, we begin with a short reading in the book of the Prophet Joel:

28  “And it shall come to pass afterward,
    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28

The Spirit has now been revealed as He that is sent to glorify Christ or to make Him known. We have a greater measure of His manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our day than the believers of the Old Testament had.

"At the time when Jesus preached, He promised the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit was not yet there - not that He was not in existence in His person, but that He was not fully manifested – or made known - in His revelation and in His work.

For that is the special work and office of the Holy Spirit that He reveal and glorify Christ, that He preach and give testimony concerning Him. That this office of the Holy Spirit was then not yet in active working and the office of glorifying Christ the Lord was not yet fully in use … that is, the preaching of the forgiveness of sins, and how one may be delivered from the power of sin, death, and the devil, and have comfort and joy in Christ.

All this was at the time of Christ, unheard of and not mentioned; that deliverance, salvation, righteousness, joy, and life should be given us through that man, Christ, whom people did not know."

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 Pg 452

Christ gives living water to those who thirst!

Ill.

Some years ago, two students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficiency of each was compensated for by the other. After their graduation, they planned to practice law together.

Gary Inrig, Life in His Body.

This is a wonderful story of gift giving and how two men gave in service to each other for the betterment of both. It is a wonderful story of love in service to ones neighbor with the gifts benefiting both giver and receiver. Should one leave though … the gift given to both would be lost.

Not so in the giving of the Holy Spirit.

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

It was on the last day of the feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, the "day of the great Hosannah,” which was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated God’s continued provision for them in their current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years of exodus they endured in the wilderness.

The leaves of the willows and the other branches that had been used for the building of the booths – or tabernacles - were shaken off and the palm branches were waved against the altar, when the priests went around the altar seven times in a procession of thankfulness, and when a priest was commissioned to get a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and then pour it out at the side of the altar. All these ceremonies had been introduced over time, and the Jewish teachers had explained some of them, especially the last, as a symbol which would find its fulfillment in the days of the Messiah.

The water of the pool of Siloam was considered living water, since it was replenished from time to time by means of a natural siphon from a spring in the rock. But, after all, it was only earthly water, which could quench the thirst for only a short while.

Here Jesus points to the work of the Holy Spirit and the revealing of the work of Christ himself when He says:

38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Not only with the Spirit bringing those to faith in Christ by His own working, but also by those who are brought to Christ and are used by God through the Spirit to bring Christ to others.
Christ gives living water to those who thirst!

Ill.

This past weekend was big for a number of families from our church as well as families in our area and around the country. Both, Waterford High Schools, Kettering and Mott, celebrated graduations at Oakland University while others were celebrated at Eastern Michigan and surrounding sites. Because graduating is an important time in the life of a student and their families, some of our members couldn’t be in worship last weekend as graduation was on Sunday.

It is important for parents to celebrate with their children this big event and there have been a number of videos online of dads, who had been serving in the military, surprising their children who were not expecting them to attend. Now, as the dad’s surprised their children, the emotional breakdown is quite touching and heartwarming for all to see. What had been thought to be missing … was really there and is now revealed to them. Parents and children reunited to celebrate this special day together.

It is with this in mind that we today recognize our graduates and celebrate their wonderful accomplishments!
Just like a parent, who it was thought was unable to attend a special occasion, the Spirit can at times be forgotten … as though He were afar off and not part of our daily lives. At the best of times, when things are going well, we have little need for Him. We can get consumed with things of this life that are going well and the abundance that at times God provides. But, other times … just as all seems well … your world can come crashing down. You can lose focus of Jesus, the one who redeemed you who were lost. The Spirit’s work can be resisted, while things of the world draw you away demanding your attention, and just when all seems well life can call your attention to all its frailties and trials … loss of life, loss of job, loss of security …

Ill.

I attended my good friend, Pastor Paul Monson’s, 50th birthday party at St. Augustine Lutheran Church last Sunday afternoon in Troy. It was a wonderful time of celebration with food, cake and a bit of roasting – or poking fun at the church’s pastor! However, the previous week, Pastor Monson suffered a heart attack. You might remember him as the one who preached at my ordination. I visited him in the hospital, and though He had no blockage, and his heart attack was caused by a little kink in a vein, the frailty of life once again was thrust in his face and mine. Just how long will the Lord tarry – or wait to return - and what has He prepared for me to do?

We can’t know what God has in store for us as he calls each one of us to faith and in service for Him through the Spirit’s work … but we can know, as Jesus said:

“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 Jesus said this, about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.

 I couldn't help thinking about, the heart … which thanks be to God, my friend Pastor Paul is still with us, but one day … it will stop for all of us and our work in the name of Christ will be finished.

I think of so many, who still need to hear the good news of the gospel and the joy of salvation found only in the name of Jesus. Yes and I feel, as my friend Paul Ruehl and I discussed at Pastor Monson’s birthday party, the urgency to allow God to work through us to reach the lost in service to Him, now!

Christ Jesus has given you and me, by His Spirit, an appeal to His work to reach those who are lost with the word of the gospel. That appeal comes to you through the Spirit and through His working in you feed on the word of God and by faith cling to that blessed hope.

Christ gives living water to those who thirst!

God in his mercy has had mercy on you. You have been washed clean of your sin and by faith in Christ have peace with God. The working of the Holy Spirit causes faith in you to believe the gospel message that in Christ forgiveness of sins is offered and by faith received.

Christ gives living water to those who thirst!

May the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you all now and forever!

Amen

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sermon May 31 –June 1, 2014

Title: To know Christ is to know God!
Text: John 17:1-11

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

General Douglas MacArthur, who recalled a strategy he carried out while at West Point, in trying to understand a very difficult text said:

In studying the time-space relationship later formulated by Einstein as his Theory of Relativity, “The text was complex and, being unable to comprehend it, I committed the pages to memory. When I was called upon to recite, I solemnly reeled off almost word for word what the book said. Our instructor, Colonel Fieberger, looked at me somewhat quizzically and asked, "Do you understand this theory?"

It was a bad moment for me, but I did not hesitate in replying, "No, sir." You could have heard a pin drop. I braced myself and waited.

And then the slow words of the professor: "Neither do I, Mr. MacArthur. Section dismissed."

It is wonderful to note that with the things of faith and scripture and our understanding of Jesus, we have one, the Holy Spirit, given from Christ who makes clear what god would have us know.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Reminiscences recalling a strategy he carried out while at West Point.

To know Christ is to know God!

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

These are the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples just before the reading in our Gospel for today where He says:

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Knowing Christ is critical to eternal life. In my seminary class, Mission and Ministry in Today's Pluralistic Context, we studied many faiths, religions and cults. Some even use the name of Jesus in ways that sound Christian. However, upon a deeper inspection, they have a different Jesus. This was most evident in the study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

God, in the LDS understanding, is not one divine essence and three distinct persons as confessed by the historical Christian church and the three Ecumenical Creeds - but is distinctly three Gods called Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and not one divine essence.

From their official publication, LDS Beliefs—A Doctrinal Reference, we read:

The Godhead consists of three personages: God the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ the Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost. [Joseph Smith] referred to these three as God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.

So far it doesn’t sound too different but then it continues:

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s…. These three are separate and distinct personages and beings. This understanding…stands in stark contrast to efforts on the part of traditional Christian thinkers to maintain the ontological oneness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (263)

Greg Koukl, "Is Mormonism Just Another Christian Denomination?" Stand to Reason (September/October 2012). http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/DigitalSG_0912-1.pdf; Internet accessed 14, May. 2014

It can also be noted that Christian’s do not see the Father as having “a body of flesh as tangible as man’s.” This error also confuses the person and work of Jesus Christ, as the God/man begotten of the Father from eternity, who took on human flesh at the incarnation, was born of the Virgin Mary and became man as confessed in the third article of the Augsburg Confession that deals with the Son of God and His work.  Mormons clearly have a different Jesus, one who is God the Father’s first born son in a godhead of three separate and unequal members.
  
This is important, not because, you’re planning on taking a world religions class, but because the name of Jesus means something very specific to the historic Christian faith, and to we as Lutheran Christians.
Jesus said:

4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus, here in speaking of the glory that He had before the world existed, He is speaking of his oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, before He was born of the Virgin Mary. He is speaking of the plurality of God that in the beginning … hovered over the surface of the deep and said “Let there be light.” The word made flesh that in the beginning was with God and was God! This is the Jesus that in lifting up His eyes to heaven and prays:

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

At the Doxology conference this past month we discussed the challenges facing the mission and ministry of the churches we serve and the purpose of continuing biblical education for those in the pews as well as those in the pulpit. And the importance of doctrine … which is the teaching of the faith, being the best way to achieve this. What was interesting was when the question was posed to the average church member of what they desired most to build their faith they said, “Teaching!” When asked what they wanted less of in the church … the answered, “Doctrine!”

When Jesus asked Peter in Matthew’s Gospel, “But, Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!” Matt16:15-16

Many Mormons would agree with that statement that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God but that understanding in their view is that Jesus is God’s Son … the first born of His creation.

Today as we too have confessed, in the Nicene Creed, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but our Christ is:

Begotten of the Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten not made,
Being of one substance with the father,
By whom all things were made

Ill.

Preacher and author, A. W. Tozer once said:

We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine or teaching in churches and expect nothing better. From some previously reliable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a mixture of Scripture, science, and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out. Little by little Christians these days are being brainwashed.

One evidence, Tozer continues: is the increasing numbers of people who are becoming ashamed to be found absolutely and completely on the side of truth. They say they believe, but their beliefs have been so diluted or mixed with falsehood so as to be impossible to find a clear definition. Moral power has always followed definite beliefs and the great saints of the past have always followed the teachings and doctrines of the church. We need a return to a gentle but unwavering teaching that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that lives and abides forever.

Tozer died over 50 years ago. His writing sounds very contemporary as we live within a society that has redefined marriage, embraces adultery, cohabitation and premarital sex, denied even the plausibility of who Jesus Christ claimed to be and has defined Truth as … whatever is true for you.
To know Christ is to know God!

Jesus says:

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Jesus is praying for you … you are His. He has called you by the Gospel, washed your sins away, and by the Holy Spirit, has made you His.

Psalm 27:3-5

3 Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
    and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in the shelter of his pavilion
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

That is the confidence that we all have in the name of great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gives us confidence when He says:

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

To know Christ is to know God! Blessed be His holy name!

May the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you all now and forever!

Amen