Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sermon Oct 25-26, 2014 Reformation

Title: You are free in Christ!
Text: John 8:31-36

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.”

Fredrick Douglas once said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet [deplore] agitation are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.”

Frederick Douglass.

Martin Luther certainly felt the thunder and lightning that he did not expect when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg castle church door on October 31, 1517. What he intended for theological debate and discussion caused turmoil, divided the Christian church in two, and marked the beginning of what we know today as the Lutheran Reformation. The freedom that we who name the name of Christ received is in the Son and because of His wonderful work:

You are free in Christ!

Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, began by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy that we who today benefit from this blessed freedom found in the Gospel message, and will continue together with the whole church to reach the lost with this same saving gospel.

Jesus tells the believing Jews in our Gospel today who had been following Him that:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them – is one who accepts and acts in accordance with those words.

Martin Luther had this to say about discipleship in his lectures on the Psalms:

Ill.

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own. We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.

And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you as well:

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This freedom and liberty of the gospel is what we celebrate today. It is what Luther searched for and why he became a monk – thinking that being locked inside the walls of the monastery and devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimages, and frequent confession would keep him away from sin and the power of the devil.

He said:

"If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." He described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul."

But later he found true peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

You too have that peace and are set free in Christ!

Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin? Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament? Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Once again from Luther:

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend--it must transcend all comprehension.”
Luther continues to say that "Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing [where he was going]. He trusted himself to [God’s] knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey's end."

"Behold, that end is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let [God] lead you as though you were a blind man. [So], it is not you, no man, [and] no living creature, but [Christ] Himself, who instructs you by word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire--that is the road you must take. To that, [Christ] calls you and in that [says] you must be my disciple.”

― Martin Luther

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

C.S. Lewis had wonderful insight about slavery. He says:

Ill.

"Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellow man. Aristotle [has said] that some people were only fit to be slaves [and in this] I do not contradict him, Lewis continues … but I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters."

C.S. Lewis in "Equality" from Present Concerns, quoted in Christianity Today, February 3, 1989, p. 31.

The truth is you are bound to sin and its cravings. You desire to do the will of your sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will, and as a result you fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is the deeper down you go the worse and worse we get. The more you get to the core of who we are, in our fallen human condition, the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning, by our first parents Adam and Eve.

But Jesus reminds His hearers and you as well that:

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom for the sinner is found only in Jesus. That was the joy that Luther found and what we celebrate in the Reformation. In Christ, true freedom from sin is possible and true liberty for we who are bound with the chains of guilt and despair is broken.

Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by His own binding. The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place, the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin, the death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty and the burial in a tomb meant for another.

In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid. But, the tomb and death was meant for you. Jesus took your place, He took your cross, He took your death and He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't … life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness.

Because … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

Salvation is all of God and not of man. That is the message of the Reformation. Luther restored the gospel truths about Christ and His merits that had been lost, covered by sin in the church and the focus on earthly rulers, once again by shinning the light of the gospel on Christ’s work, for you.

Because Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you … because of Christ and His merits … because the Son has set you free … you dear friends are free indeed!

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.

You are free in Christ!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Monday, October 20, 2014

Sermon Oct. 18-19, 2014

LSB Setting III with Holy Communion
Title: Christ has claimed you and made you His!
Text: Matt. 22:15-22

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away

When Sgt. Ray Baarz of the Midvale, Utah police department opened his wallet, he noticed his driver's license had expired. Embarrassed at having caught himself red-handed, he had no alternative. He calmly and deliberately pulled out his ticket book and wrote himself a citation. Then Baarz took the ticket to the city judge who issued the fine. "How could I give a ticket to anyone else for an expired license in the future if I didn't cite myself?" Baarz asked.

Source Unknown.

Holding yourself accountable is important as we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. We are compelled to live within that tension - between the spiritual and civil realm - every day of our lives. So daily we must remember that:

Christ has claimed you and made you His!

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his words.

The Chief priests and Pharisees had not been doing well with Jesus. Previously in the parables they had been thrown out of the vineyard, having had the vineyard given to other tenants (Matt. 21:33-44) and last week they had ignored the invitation of the King to attend the wedding feast, (Matt 22:1-14) and unless you are clothed with the proper wedding garment which is - not certainly the filthy sin stained rags of our own righteousness – but the righteousness that comes only by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord and His finished work.

To say that the Pharisees are not happy would be an understatement and they begin to plot and make plans to trap Jesus. They want to catch Him in something that they can then accuse him of and turn him over to the authorities to have Him tried and ultimately … have Him put to death. This way they are sure that they can get rid of him once and for all.

6 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians …

The disciples of the Pharisees went to Jesus and also brought some of the Herodians with them. The Herodians are only mentioned 6 time in the New Testament and there is some debate as to whether they were a political party distinct from the Pharisees and Sadducees and supporters of Herod Antipas, or were actually soldiers in Herod’s court. Either way … the Pharisees were bringing politicians or soldiers with them to Jesus, and that was neither meant as a way to get Jesus’ political support or to have him enlist!

… saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.
This is what might be called … painting a picture.

“Yea, yea … we believe everything you say because we know you’re telling the truth. You don’t care with other’s say … even if they are the religious leaders so why don’t you say it in front of these politicians or soldiers of … Herod … yea … and of course we mean you no disrespect!

So ... 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

So, speak up so these Herodians can hear you.

Ill.

A few weeks ago, Pastor Merrell and I attended a workshop dealing with issues relating to Church and State. Members Jim Rich and Sue Vogt were also in attendance. It brought to light some things that churches can do to protect the rights and conscience as it pertains to a changing culture. One thing that became very clear was the need to get as many Christians as possible to register to vote. The more true believers who take part in the process and exercise their right as citizens and vote, the more biblical and pleasing of an outcome we might have. But as was pointed out, as Christians we need to be informed voters.

The Pharisees and the Herodians – politics and soldiers - too had an agenda.

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” as if they didn’t know 21 They said, “Caesar's.”

You and I know the laws. We know what or whom has been placed over us whether it is the laws that are on the books, or the police officer that has just given you a ticket for an expired driver’s license, or political official who has just voted in a way that is contrary to your desire and even God’s desire.

We are all called to proclaim God’s truth in light of civil persecution. We are called to love those who persecute us. If the laws call us to do something contrary to God’s word we need to sand firm and use our ability as citizens to also exercise our rights to bring about change.

Ill.

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him joyfully, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?"

The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god."

When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night air.

When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you."

God answered, "Abraham … I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?"

Thomas Lindberg.

The things that in this life may grieve us as Christians grieve our loving God as well. But He who is righteous is long suffering.

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 2:9

God is slow with you and He is slow with me. Not giving up on us and our failings but calling and bringing us by the power of His Spirit to believe. God in Christ has suffered with us for some of us many years as we at times choose to fall away from His word looking to what society and the civil leaders tell us what to believe and do. He is long suffering towards us and we need to be long suffering to those we encounter that also don’t see things as we do.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

This image is very much simple to see. The question of should we pay tax is simple answered by Jesus give to Caesar or give to the State what it requires but then it becomes a bit harder. Give to God what is His.

You are called to respond to the call of the gospel. The Pharisees and Chief Priests had been called and they had refused to care for the vineyard and ignored the invitation to the wedding feast. We too look to things other than the things God’s desires and drift away from Him and his word. God’s desire is you and you fully trust in Him.

He has claimed you and made you His!

Despite the trials of this world God has sent His son to take the fullness of His wrath you deserve. It is finished Jesus said and you are no longer accountable. He has died for all flesh, heterosexual as well as homosexual and calls you to repentance. Broken as you are He restores, forgives and calls you to be his child forever. Your sin is never beyond his redemption.

Christ has claimed you and made you His!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Monday, October 13, 2014

Sermon Oct. 11-12, 2014

Title: Jesus has called and chosen you to attend the wedding feast!
Text: Matt. 22:1-14

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Former NFL head coach John McKay, tells a story illustrating the supreme confidence of former University of Alabama head football coach Bear Bryant: We were out shooting ducks one day he said, and finally, after about three hours, here comes one lonely duck. The Bear fires and that duck just keeps on flying as if nothing happened. But Bear, being the eternal optimist, just watches that duck flap away out of sight. He looked over and said, “John you are witnessing a genuine miracle. There flies a dead duck!”

John McKay, A Coach's Story.

At the wedding feast, the man with no wedding garment was a dead duck so to speak and the King had him bound hand and foot and cast out into utter darkness. So too all who are not covered with the righteousness of Christ but for we who believe and trust in him:

Jesus has called and chosen to attend the wedding feast!

22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.

So Jesus moves right from the master and the vineyard parable from last week to the parable of the wedding feast. The chief priests and the Pharisees had just realized that Jesus was talking about them as the ones who would be removed from the vineyard and it would be given to other tenants.

Now, with the wedding feast parable He once again paints the picture of those who will be welcomed at the feast.

4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’

Jesus calls all to come. He welcomes all who believe and trust in Him

5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

The chief priests and Pharisees are once again singled out as those who having abused the vineyard and the servants sent to get the master’s good grapes and now in this parable, they are the ones called to the feast but pay no attention or continue to abuse the servants.

 So like the master in the previous parable who will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants:

7 The king [too] was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

So He tells them to:

9 Go … to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Both … bad and good … those who, to human eyes appear to be worthy, and those who we might assume would never be invited, too are called.

It is very good news that:

Jesus has called and chosen you to attend the wedding feast!

Ill.

A story is told:

A man was headed home late from a wedding reception and had about a two hour drive when a friend said to me, "Remember that for every mile you drive there are two miles of ditch".

He said, “I was in the car before that really sunk in, and then it hit me, for every path we walk, there are two miles of ditch along the journey inviting us to veer off the road. There are twice as many chances to stray away from God.

Few of us ever intend to go into the ditch. No one just drives down the road and says "Hey I'm going to drive into the ditch" For most of us, it is simply hugging the shoulder of the road and little by little we move ourselves from the patch of following Jesus and somehow we end up off the road and in the ditch.

The gift of grace and faith becomes rejected and little by little the wedding garment is removed as you once again put on the filthy rags of your own self righteousness. Those rags unfortunately are so comfortable at times that you might not even notice the change. But the reality is there. You shun God’s word, reject God’s gifts, return to your old ways and if not you … maybe it is rejected by those you love.

Ill.

During WWI a young son of a prominent American family was led to the Lord.

He was in the service, but he showed the reality of his conversion by immediately professing Christ before the soldiers of his military company. The war ended. The day came when he was to return to his pre-war life in the wealthy suburb of a large American city.

He talked to his pastor about life with his family and expressed fear that he might soon slip back into his old habits. He was afraid that love for parents, brothers, sisters, and friends might turn him from following after Jesus Christ. The pastor told him that if he was careful to make public confession of his faith in Christ, he would not have to worry. He would not have to give improper friends up. They would give him up.

The soldier went home and almost immediately met a girl whom he had known socially. She was delighted to see him and asked how he was doing. He told her, "The greatest thing that could possibly happen to me has happened." "You're engaged to be married," she exclaimed. "No," he told her. "It's even better than that. I've taken the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior." The girls' expression froze. She mumbled a few polite words and went on her way.

A short time later he met a young man whom he had known before going into the service. "It's good to see you back," he declared. "We'll have some great parties now that you've returned." "I've just become a Christian," the soldier said. Again it was a case of a frozen smile and a quick change of conversation.

After this the same circumstances were repeated with a young couple and with other old friends. By this time word had got around, and soon some of his friends stopped seeing him. He had become peculiar, religious, and … even crazy in their eyes! The same confession that had aligned him with Christ had separated him from those who did not want Jesus Christ and who, in fact, did not even want to hear about Him.

J.M Boice, Christ's Call To Discipleship, Moody, 1986, p. 122-23.

It is a lonely way at times. But it leads to the wedding feast and a table and place prepared just for you because:

Jesus has called and chosen you to be his and to attend the wedding feast!

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’

The wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ. It is give to you by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. You are clothed with it in baptism and made Christ’s disciple and follower. The garment of Christ identifies you as one invited to attend the feast and your place is secure at the table.

You are seated there now … in Christ … you have on the wedding garment.

May you be comforted with His call and invitation that you have received because:

The Kingdom is Christ’s and He has called and chosen you to be his and to attend the wedding feast!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sermon Oct. 4-5, 2014

Sermon Title: The Kingdom is Christ’s and it is given to you!
Text:  Matt. 21:33-46

37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

"In Other Words," a publication of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, told a story about Sadie Sieker, who served for many years as a house-parent for missionaries' children in the Philippines. Sadie loved books. Though she gladly loaned out some, others she treasured in a footlocker under her bed. Once, in the quiet of the night, Sadie heard a faint gnawing sound. After searching all around her room, she discovered that the noise was coming from her footlocker. When she opened it, she found nothing but an enormous pile of dust. All the books she had kept to herself had been lost to termites. What we give away, we keep. What we hoard, we lose.

Larry Pennings.

That is the blessed good new that we share … because:

The Kingdom is Christ’s and it is given to you!

Following our lesson last week where the Chief Priests and elders questioned Jesus’ authority which ultimately caused Jesus to ask them a question about John the Baptist and whether his baptism was from God or man. To this they answered, “I don’t know” fearing both Jesus and the people. To this Jesus also refused to tell them where his authority came from.

Today we see also Christ’s continued teaching to the Chief Priests and elders with his use of parables. And we know that a parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels. As a pastor it is also important to use illustrations and stories as we proclaim God’s word so that you too can understand and have application in your lives.

[Jesus said]: 33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.

Jesus here begins with an image of a vineyard. You can imagine a beautiful vineyard contained within a fenced area and all within the vineyard is the masters and it is leased to the tenants. So too this world that God created he gave to the children of Israel who were to manage his creation and produce fruit.

34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

As the harvest approaches the master sends servants to get what is His. But they are mistreated, beat, stoned and one is killed. The message of John was to repent, to turn away from sin and to receive the washing of repentance. The Chief Priests and elders knew this, they had hardened their hearts. John was sent to prepare the way. He ultimately was killed.

Fearing Jesus and the crowds, Jesus shows the Chief Priests and elders that they too acted like the tenants treating the servants sent from God as despised and rejected. As those left to tend His vineyard they have fallen short.

36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37  [So],Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’

It is not a coincidence that the tenants kill the son for in keeping with the parable Jesus was showing the type of death he too would suffer.

39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Jesus too was led outside the city gates where the prisoners were taken to a small hill called Golgotha to be crucified, so the image of the master’s son being thrown out of the vineyard parallels the Lord’s own rejection. So Jesus asks this question …

40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

We’ll, the Chief Priests and elders answer for themselves:

41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

The Kingdom is Christ’s and it is given to you!

Ill.

This weekend we celebrate the work of the LWML. LWML does great work in our community and around the world. Those mite boxes and what seems like insignificant giving can be multiplied by our loving God and master of the vineyard to bring about His will and great things in the world.

St. Paul Community Lutheran Church, one of the mission’s we here at Peace support, received a three year commitment from the LWML convention totaling $65,559. This grant has enabled St. Paul to hire a secretary, hire two young musicians and continue to reach out to the community with VBS and other outreach opportunities.

Those mites enabled the LWML to to help 18 like minded work of bringing the gifts of Christ to a dying world to the tune of $1,830,000.00 in grant money.

Ill.

Richard Baxter, an English Puritan church leader once said:

It is a most lamentable thing to see how most people spend their time and their energy for trifles, while God is cast aside. He who is all … seems to them as nothing, and that which is nothing … seems to them as good as all. It is lamentable indeed, knowing that God has set mankind in such a race where heaven or hell is their certain end, that they should sit down and loiter, or run after the childish toys of the world, forgetting the prize they should run for.

Were it but possible for one of us to see this business as the all-seeing God does, and see what most men and women in the world are interested in and what they are doing every day, it would be the saddest sight imaginable. Oh, how we should marvel at their madness and lament their self-delusion! If God had never told them what they were sent into the world to do, or what was before them in another world, then there would have been some excuse. But it is His sealed word, and many profess to believe it.

Richard Baxter.

The point is, that those who had been given the vineyard as tenants to care for the master’s property thought more of the property than the master. Even His son they killed. The analogy of heaven and hell is a good one for Chief Priests and elders desired a heaven apart from Christ. And, a heaven apart from Christ … is hell.

43 Therefore [Jesus says] I tell you; the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

Because the Kingdom is Christ’s has been given to you.

Jason, you and your sons received the Kingdom today. You have been marked as Christ’s, redeemed by Christ the crucified. He has washed you, Jason and Jaxon clean and you have been given the Vineyard and heaven is your home.

He also has by his Holy Spirit called you to a joy in that good news and I am looking forward to seeing all that the Lord will do through you. May God bless you daily as you trust in Him.
But, that too is what we all who have been baptized in the name of Christ share as He works by His Spirit in us for His glory.

The Kingdom is Christ’s and it is given to you!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sermon Sept 27-28, 2014

Title: By Christ’s authority you are washed and set free!
Text: Matt 21:23-27

23 And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Following the Civil War, a dejected confederate soldier was sitting outside the grounds of the White House. A young boy approached him and inquired why he was so sad. The solider related how he had repeatedly tried to see President Lincoln to tell him how he was unjustly deprived of certain lands in the South following the war. On each occasion as he attempted to enter the White House, the guards crossed their bayoneted guns in front of the door and turned him away. The boy motioned to the old soldier to follow him. When they approached the entrance, the guards came to attention, stepped back and opened the door for the boy. He proceeded to the library where the President was resting and introduced the soldier to his father. The boy was Tad Lincoln. The soldier had gained an audience with the President through the President’s son who had authority to gain access.

Just like the confederate soldier, we are wounded by sin and live in misery. No matter how hard we try we are not able to gain access to God on our own merit.  But through the merit of the Son, we are ushered into fellowship with the Father.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Published: Abraham Lincoln as cited by Donald G. Barnhouse; "God's River" Grand Rapids; Erdmans 1958. p 39

By Christ’s authority you are washed and set free!

23 And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Who gave you this authority? This is the questioned asked of Jesus. By what authority are you doing these things? Authority has to come from some place.

Ill.

In 1981 and 69 days into his presidency Ronald Reagan was shot. In the aftermath and confusion there was a famous miscalculation by Alexander Haig, Reagan’s Secretary of State. He claimed, wrongly that – he was in charge of the government. Maybe it was just the inclination of a former general who had once been in charge, or as has been suggested, there was much jockeying for power between those in the cabinet. To this Defense Secretary, Casper Weinberger said: “He’s wrong! He doesn’t have such authority,” Reagan eventually signed over authority to George Bush his vice President, because he had the authority to do so.

Jesus replies to the question of his authority with a question of his own because He knows from where His authority comes.

24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”

This gets to the chief priests and elders as they know …

“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
A least Secretary Alexander Haig was man enough to take a stand in time of crisis even if he was wrong and misguided while the chief priests and elders both show their fear of Jesus and the crowds.

It is by Christ’s authority that you are washed and set free!

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee … 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 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.”

The authority of Jesus was given to the disciples who would build the church through Christ’s means of word and sacrament.

Article VII: Of the Augsburg Confession, concerning the Church says:

1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, such as, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

But where is the church? Is it in a boat on a lake communing with nature and thinking about God and his majesty? No. Is it in the better home and living provided for the family? No. Is it where the children want to go because they have fun and feel welcome? No. It is where Christ is and where his gifts are and where forgiveness of sins is found in His name. It is here … at Peace Lutheran Church and countless churches around the world where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered according to Christ’s institution.

As both saint and sinner the devil is quick to point our reason and understanding to other things. Yes, the sporting events the band camps the threat that is even imposed that should you miss a practice you don’t play the day of the game. The coach has that authority.

Here is a little cartoon that was posted on facebook by a fellow Lutheran pastor. It has the young boy who after practice tells his coach:

“Coach, I’m really sorry but I can’t play in the game Sunday morning. I’m signed up to serve as an acolyte.”

We all chuckle a bit but the reality of life impacting the church is real. It is real for families and real for kids too and we shouldn’t have to worry that Sunday mornings have to become and either or in life.

Truthfully I’ve heard it said from one parent that confirmation is more important than the sports related activity on Monday night so they worked their schedule around to be here. That is wonderful and a testament to the faith and working of God’s Spirit in the lives of this family.

It is something that I think about daily as I visit the elderly and those that are shut in and like Orville Kitzman who went to be with the Lord and was laid to rest last Thursday. Orville lived daily for Christ. He was made a child of God and Christ ruled in his life. He was comforted with a heavenly home that awaited him. It is important for me as a pastor to proclaim this blessed good news so that you and all who hear will see that reality in their lives now and forever.

It is by Christ’s authority that you are washed and set free!

God works through his means of grace to bring about his will. It is he who has the authority to forgive and retain sins and it is given to His church on earth for your benefit.

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy [Paul says] by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

You have received your forgiveness from the one who has authority to forgive, Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is by Christ’s authority that you are washed and set free now and forever!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Sept. 20-21, 2014

Title: Christ’s forgiveness … freely given!
Text: Matt. 20:1-16

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Over the triple doorways of the cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions spanning the splendid arches. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath it is the legend, "All that which pleases is but for a moment."

Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, "All that which troubles us is but for a moment."

But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, "That only is important … which is eternal."

If we always realize these three truths, we will not let trifles trouble us, not be interested so much in the passing pleasures of the hour. We should live for the permanent and the eternal.

Source Unknown.

As we think about the gift of faith and eternal life we also look at that which we could never earn, our salvation, but which is still given not as a merit or a wage but as a gift and that is,

Christ’s forgiveness … freely given!

In the gospel reading for today we see the work of daily labor compared to the Kingdom of heaven. In the story Jesus says that:

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

The master of the house sends laborers into the vineyard to work for the day. They agree to a denarius for the days wage and go to work. This continues on as throughout the day the master returns and hires more laborers at the third, sixth and ninth hour. At the eleventh hour he also hires laborers for his vineyard and agrees to pay the same denarius for their work.

Saying to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’

All who have been given work are happy and agree to the terms of their employment.

Finally the day is done.

8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’

Those who were hired last were paid first and receive the denarius promised. Those who had been hired first expect more than what they agreed too … as they had labored in the vineyard all day, twelve hours in all. But, they too receive a denarius.

11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

Death to life … Christ’s forgiveness … a gift freely given!

So if we look at this situation from a human and sinful perspective we see the inequity of the master. One worked twelve hours and one worked nine hours, another six hours others just three hours while some only worked one hour … yet they were all paid the same. Or … they received the same.

If we place this situation into the world and the court system one might expect a law suit to determine fair compensation, even though those who were hired first had agreed to the wage. In fact all agreed to the wage not knowing what the others had been hired for. The inequity seems large and is … as much as twelve times the wage for those who were hired last.

When you look at the story in perspective to work, yes it seems unfair, and I’m sure there would be a class action law suit directed at the master for unfair labor practices. But all agreed to the wage and when you put it in that perspective … as the master says:

Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?

Ill.

In a Berlin art gallery, there is a painting by German painter Adolf Menzel (1815-1905). It is only partially finished as he Intended to show Fredrick the Great speaking with some of his generals. Menzel painted the generals and background but left king until last. He put an outline of Fredrick in charcoal, but died prior to finishing his work.

Many Christians come to end of their life without ever having the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord brought to them by faith.

Karl Laney, Marching Orders, p. 45.

This is the real analogy here, where those who have been brought to faith and raised in the faith for their whole lives, having been baptized as infants as it were, and having the blessings of God, they may see it as unfair for those who were apart from faith in God … and are in fact our enemies of God for their whole lives, and even up to the last hour of their life, where they may then be brought to faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, even on their death beds; having been given the same gift of faith in Christ given the infant in baptism where they both receive the Kingdom of God for all eternity.

The master says …

I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Ill.

Last Sunday I went to serve the saints at Lakeland Place having received a last minute call that the pastor who was doing the service had to cancel because he had cataract surgery. We had a great time of fellowship and I even was blessed to have my friend Paul come to sing some hymns for the people. The last time I was there a man, younger than most of those in attendance came and sat in the back and when I was finished he slipped out before I could talk to him. This time he came as well and I had the opportunity to talk to him. He said his name is Jerry and asked if he could speak to me following the service.  He desired to know the peace of faith in Christ so I got to pray for him and with him and I hope and pray that we can joy in the working of the Holy Spirit in him as he continues to be in the word trusting God alone for his salvation.

As I concluded the prayers I also noticed a prayer request for Brother Chuck that he be brought to faith and given salvation.

Christ’s forgiveness for Jerry and Brother Chuck… freely given!

The truth of who is the active agent in salvation is real simple. It is God alone who moves and brings to faith. It is through the means of grace of word and sacrament that God turns us from God’s enemies and makes us His children by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 55:6-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The prophetic word is still alive today. It is proclaimed, it is taught and it is received and by the Spirit … Christ is made known; for some as infants and for others on their death beds but all receive the same promise of God’s Kingdom in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Christ’s Kingdom and Christ’s forgiveness … freely given!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Sept. 13-14, 2014

All God’s People Sing without Holy Communion /
Praise Sunday (Kim, readings below)
Title: Jesus is the mercy and peace of forgiveness!
Text: Matt. 18:21–35

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

In his book, Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.

Michael Williams.

“That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it.
And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them [and] in the same manner as He grieved and suffered in our sins … while we rejoice and glory in His righteousness.”

–Martin Luther, Werke (Weimar, 1883), 5: 608.

Martin Luther understood that:

Jesus … is the mercy and peace of forgiveness!

In the gospel reading for today Peter asks Jesus a probing question.

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? 
And then quickly answers that question himself.

As many as seven times?” 

It’s easy to see that Peter believes himself to be quite generous in his view of forgiveness. Maybe even thinking that at some point certainly after seven times, I’ll be able to just whack my brother and end this nonsense.

To this Jesus replies:

“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

It is not the Lord’s intent to show a definite number of times where forgiveness is to be delivered but that for God’s people who have been forgiven by grace, may understand that the content of their hearts should contain only … God given love and forgiveness.

But for we who are Christians, saved by the mercy and grace of our Lord, we live daily within that tension of being both saint and sinner. Both, brought forth in iniquity, and conceived in sin as Psalm 51:5 reminds us, yet justified by faith, receiving God’s peace through Christ’s work by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 5:1

We have received in essence, the favor of God on account of Christ through this blessed exchange, our sin … for Christ’s righteousness.

“The idea is not simply that we have been forgiven, and therefore ought to forgive [others], but that God Himself, in Christ, has forgiven us, and therefore our debt is truly incalculable. No matter how much has been done against us, it is little compared with the offense we have thrown in the face of our Lord. 

Yet God in Christ has forgiven us. If we know anything of [our own] forgiveness, if we have glimpsed anything of the magnitude of [our own sin] and the debt we owe to God … our forgiveness of others will not seem to be such a large leap.” 

–D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 80-1.

Ill.

20 years ago as I wrestled with the aftermath of leaving the church of my birth [Roman Catholic] and I was also confused at the time with some of the doctrines and teaching from the nondenominational church I was then attending [Heart of the Hills Christian church]. I happened upon the radio program, The while Horse Inn. May be you’ve heard of it? The program and its hosts discuss theological issues from a reformed and Lutheran understanding and perspective.

In the episode that I was listening to the hosts had their producer go around the hall of a Christian Booksellers Convention asking people in attendance;

It has been said:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
      there is no one who seeks God.  … not even one.”  Rom.3

To this the respondents replied:

“Gee that’s harsh!”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, I don’t believe it!”

One man even asked, “Who said that, a Neo orthodox theologian?”

To which the reporter replied, “The Apostle Paul in Romans 3.”

The radio went silent. “Oh … ?”

The truth is that as sinners we have a very high view of self and a very low of sin. To that end, the indebtedness that we owe to Christ for our rescue is devalued and you either see your sin as really not all that bad or … even worse … Christ’s forgiveness and rescue as really not all that good or necessary. 

But, apart from God’s action and working, every one of us would remain, dead in trespass and sin. And like Lazarus who was unable to free himself from the bonds of sin and death, and the tomb, until the voice of Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!” We too would remain entombed in our own sin, dead to God, forever separated from the love of Christ found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The wages of sin is death. Paul tells us in Romans 6. Rom. 6:23a

Whether it is in Syria or Iraq, Ferguson Missouri or by one’s own hand in suicide; whether it’s the senseless murder of a journalist on foreign soil, the shooting of an unarmed teen, or a 17 year old daughter of a Christian family … who in struggling to cope takes her own life. For all of these death is real.

23 but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23b
Christ’s mercy for we who deserve death is a pure gift. Even one sin would separate us from the love of God in Christ, not to mention our complete corruption from the fall for we who are born sinful and unclean.

But, because Jesus is the mercy and peace of forgiveness; we who have been given faith in Christ can joy in that forgiveness!

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 

God has had mercy upon us for the sake of Jesus, who paid the debt of our sin. He has [freed] us from the imprisonment we deserve and He has forgiven the debt. Therefore we have the obligation of gratitude resting upon us that [as you and I who have been forgiven] we gladly forgive our fellow-men what they have sinned against us. Even if such a [sin] great in the sight of men, it cannot come into consideration in comparison with the debt which God has mercifully forgiven [you and me].

Luther – Kretzmann NT pg. 103

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

May Christ Jesus’ bountiful mercy and peace comfort you, as you joy in the forgiveness won at the cross and given to you freely by faith in Him who was and is and is to come.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Sept. 6-7, 2014

 LSB Setting III with Holy Communion – Rally Day
Sermon Title: Turn, and become like children!
Text:  Matt. 18:1-20

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

C. S. Lewis once said: There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the [mere festive] character of Christmas or Easter. [A story is] told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.' This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and [festive] aspects of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental [or set apart]. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the [chocolate] eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweet. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life [of their own].

C. S. Lewis

But today in our lesson we learn of childlike faith and that to be a true Disciples of Christ one must first,

Turn, and become like children!

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Last week we talked about being a disciple of Jesus and picking up our crosses to follow Him. The bearing of one’s cross can a hardship in this life, and for some it has become even a sacrifice of life, or as Jesus said:

“but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

But, the disciples start talking among themselves wondering who, among them, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The work of Satan and their own sinful pride for sure were at work and had way to the pride of life. Though they had been discussing this privately Jesus knew what had been going on and in the gospel of St. Mark asks them specifically in chapter 9:

“What were you discussing on the way?” Mark 9:33b

So, Jesus, as has been his way teaches again the disciples an important lesson. He calls a little child to himself so as to illustrate the point in a very tangible way. St. Mark goes on to say that Jesus took the child in His arms [Mark 9:36] and we could understand the Lord’s comfort to this little one as he places the child in their midst saying,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Turn, and become like children!

 Sinful pride can become arrogance.

On one of my visits to the seminary I met Bob Scott who was beginning the SMP program a few years after me. He worked for GM for many years before retiring and following the Lord’s call into ministry. Bob also is an author and has written or edited a number of books on the Civil War. The first of his books was written in 1985 and was called “Into the Wilderness”

Ill.
And, during the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet [which is a low protective wall or earth defense along the top of a trench or place of concealment for troops], over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise … and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. "Nonsense," snapped the general. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--." And as his words fell silent … General Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.

Today in the Word, August 30, 1993.

How too our own sinful pride can drop us once again to the ground of dirt and sin back into our own filthy rags from which we have been washed clean and made righteous in the blood of the Lamb. Pride can cause us to look at who we are in the Kingdom, at what status we hold or even what we know as a means of prideful arrogance. Jesus says that:

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,

Those who trust Christ with simple faith have Jesus and to receive them in Christ’s name is to receive Jesus.

Luther says,

Consider Christ himself, how he draws little children to him, how urgently in Matthew 18 he commends them to us and praises the angles who wait upon them, in order to show us how great a service it is when we train the young properly.

LW Vol. 45 pg. 372

As we consider our own Rally Day today and the return to our regular worship we too get back to the good and holy work to,

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6

The responsibility even from the time of infancy calls parents of those who have been brought to faith in baptism to not let these little ones who believe in me to fall … back into the sinfulness they were born into … before being called to faith in Jesus Christ by the working and power of the Holy Spirit.

You have a Godly calling as a parent to raise your child in the faith, especially if they are baptized and to make sure that they are brought to God’s house for worship, where Christ gives his gifts of word and sacrament.

Also, the good work available in Sunday school and confirmation class is the responsibility of parents and guardians to see that they stay connected to Christ; for to not do so brings stern condemnation from the Lord saying:

it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

But this also refers to causing any who have childlike faith to stumble. If we as Christians profess Christ but live in such a way that is outside of the way Christ has called us to live, and as a result of our actions cause one with weak faith to fall away, we too bear the same condemnation.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:

27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:27-32

Turn, and become like children!

By childlike faith God in Christ has given you faith in Him and life! He has lifted you up as a little child giving you comfort and peace in Him. He has placed you in the midst of the world as His disciple to shine the light of Christ given you to those under your care and to those who are lost and dead in trespass and sin and by His word of promise, He will bring forth by faith for those who will believe on His name and confess as the church confesses … “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!”

May you be comforted as a child in the lap of the savior forever kept in His care until the day of His return.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Aug 30-31, 2014

Title: Christ Jesus, in him life is found!
Text: Matt 16:21-28

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

At one point early in Julius Caesar's political career, feelings ran so high against him that he thought it best to leave Rome. He sailed for the Aegean island of Rhodes, but en route the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The pirates demanded a ransom of 12,000 gold pieces, and Caesar's staff was sent away to arrange the payment. Caesar spent almost 40 days with his captors, jokingly telling the pirates on several occasions that he would someday capture and crucify them to a man. The kidnappers were greatly amused, but when the ransom was paid and Caesar was freed, the first thing he did was to gather a fleet and pursue the pirates. They were captured and crucified ... to a man! Such was the Romans' attitude toward crucifixion. It was to be reserved for the worst of criminals, a means of showing extreme contempt for the condemned. The suffering and humiliation of a Roman crucifixion were unequaled.

Today in the Word, November 23, 1992.

As we discussed Peter’s confession of faith last week, we also talked about Peter who did not fully grasp what Jesus must do in going to Jerusalem and dying for the sins of the world. Jesus taught the disciples about this but:

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. [Saying] “Never, Lord!” … “This shall never happen to you!”

To Peter’s call, the stern rebuke of the Lord returned and:

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

The church is built on Christ and His work and we, who are made His children by the working of the Holy Spirit, can say with confidence that

Christ Jesus is Lord and in him life is found!

Today’s lesson looks beyond the wonderful work of Christ at the cross to conquer sin, death and the power of the devil; and how this work and confession of faith changes  those called to faith; and what the cost of this discipleship truly is..

4 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

As a follower of Christ, the denial of self, of self-righteousness, of selfishness is buried with Christ in baptism, as we are made new with the washing of regeneration in the word (Titus 3:5) and marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. This discipling continues in the word as we learn about Christ and what God desires for and of His children and it continues in the lives of we who are brought to faith as we live out our Christian lives in service to our neighbors. This service has a cost we our told and for some even their very lives may be required. But to lose one’s life for Christ’s sake, we are promised, is to find life.

Many around the globe are being martyred for their faith … dying for the name of Jesus. The deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq as well as Africa have brought this persecution to our TV’s and internet feeds and we keep those persecuted in our hearts and prayers as some have been called to give their lives in sacrifice as Christ’s disciples. But for you and me, dying to self can also bring us hardship and joy as we live out our Christian faith in honor of God and service to others.

Ill.

Recently, I was given a movie to watch called Courageous. It speaks to the brokenness of the family and particularly the need and responsibility of fathers to be spiritual heads of their homes and families and to be involved specifically in the lives of their children.

Many years ago I to wrestled with my own faith and relationship with God and His call for me to be the spiritual leader of my family, I was not prepared. I remembered saying, “Lord, my wife would be so much better at this. Can’t you just give this responsibility to her and I’ll just continue to be the bread winner and go to work?” But, as I continued to read the Bible, God took what I didn’t want to do and what I didn’t feel prepared to do and He made it, not only something I embraced, but something that I found true joy in.

For some, it might be your children and grandchildren and letting go of things that take you away from spending time with them. It might bring you to forsake some of your hobbies, so you can be involved in theirs; or it might cause you to watch how your work can pull you away from spending time with those you love the most.

Ill.

A minister from a century ago, used to tell the story of two paddleboats.

They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail's pace of the other. Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South.

One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship's cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned up their cargo.

God has entrusted to you and me a precious cargo too: our children, spouses and friends. Yet, we sometimes can get our priorities messed up and our cargo is sacrificed in order to reach some temporal but unfulfilling goal? It is possible in life to reach the desired destination, but to lose one’s life and cargo along the way.

In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado Word Publishing, 1991, pp. 97-98.

In Jesus Christ our Lord true life is found!

As the apostle Paul reminds us in the epistle reading for today:

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Christ Jesus our Lord has overcome all things for you. He has made a way where there is no way. He has been lifted up so that you too might be lifted up in Him.  He has ascended on high so that knowing Him in whom you trust you might also ascend. He has given his life for you so that in Him you might take up your cross and follow Him.

Ill.

I’ve told this story a few years ago but it bears repeating.

There is a story about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her, “Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing.” To which the girl replied, “Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday School that whatever Jesus touches, He changes.”

You have been changed by the blood of the Lamb. You have been given newness of life in Him, you have been covered by a righteousness that is not your own. You have had you sins removed never to be thought of again by our Heavenly Father.

The cross you follow is Christ’s and you can follow Him because the one who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. May Christ’s cross be a source of strength and comfort to all of you as you take up your crosses daily to follow Him.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Aug 23-24, 2014

Title: By faith Christ Jesus is confessed!
Text: Matt. 16:13–20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Prussian king Frederick the Great was once touring a Berlin prison. The prisoners fell on their knees before him to proclaim their innocence -- except for one man, who remained silent. Frederick called to him, "Why are you here?" "Armed robbery, Your Majesty," was the reply. "And are you guilty?" "Yes indeed, Your Majesty, I deserve my punishment." Frederick then summoned the jailer and ordered him, "Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it."

Today in the Word, December 4, 1992.

To proclaim the truth of who Christ Jesus is and what he has done … you have to know the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done. This is made know to you by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the word so that you can by faith, trust and confess Jesus Christ.

15 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

From the region of Tyre and Sidon and the encounter with the Canaanite woman from last week, Jesus and the disciples move to the east and a bit south towards the area of Caesarea Philippi again working their way back towards Galilee. As noted last week the disciples missed some of Jesus’ teaching. They saw the 5000 fed; saw Jesus and Peter walk on the water and the wind and the waves calmed by Christ on the Sea of Galilee; saw steadfast faith from a woman who was not one of the Jews, God’s chosen children, which resulted in her receiving healing for her daughter’s oppression by a demon – immediately. Now, as they continue on in their journey Jesus asks the disciples a question.

13 … he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Jesus asks the disciples a question as a group. They all had been missing some of His teaching and what he had revealed about himself, even saying at one point “truly, you are the Son of God.” Matt. 14:33b. They, along with the people, had seen the signs and miracles done along the way and Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Well, the responses vary.  “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  The disciples had heard some of the talk among the people. They thought maybe that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead or that one of the prophets from long ago had returned.

Luke 1:17 tells us:

17 [John] will go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

The people got some of what was proclaimed understanding that John, Elijah and Jesus are connected in some way. So Jesus asks the disciples directly:

“But who do you say that I am?”

Now I want you to understand the importance of the question Jesus asks and the answer that Peter gives. It can’t be answered by human wisdom.

Ill.

If I asked you this same type of question about myself, “Well you might respond that some say you’re Russ their childhood friend they grew up with in Allen Park, or Russ their co-worker for many years at Evola Music in Bloomfield Hills. Some might say someone they attended St. John Lutheran Church in Rochester with while others might say a member of Peace Lutheran Church here in Waterford.

But to that same question directed to you all here, “But who do you say that I am?” One might speak for themselves, in answer for the group and say.

“You’re our pastor.”

The answer doesn’t mean that only one member in the church understands who I am and that I’m been called to serve as pastor here. But in some ways when the truth has been stated, the others know, understand and agree. If I asked what day is it today? Someone might respond that it is Sunday, the 24th of August. No one else would need to reply.

This though is known by human wisdom. But to the question Christ Jesus asked about himself, it is only known as it is revealed by the working of the Holy Spirit and by faith working through the word.
By faith Christ Jesus is confessed!

Today, [Sunday] the word of God, connected to the water of Holy Baptism brought to faith little Gibson Brown … and though he is unable to answer as Peter did, his confession is the same.
Some might say that the evidence of the confession – you are the Christ the Son of the living God - is the sign and the evidence of faith. It is, but we as Lutheran’s also trust the word of God and the promise.

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 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.” Matt 28:18-20

We are to follow Christ’s command and promise, and make disciples by baptizing and teaching.  Parents teach their children by singing hymns and songs to them or as we rock them to sleep and read them Bible stories and lessons. We then bring them to Sunday school and Church so they can be instructed and learn what this faith, that they have been given, means and so it doesn’t just die away from them from lack of feeding, or by our own sinfulness, the sinfulness of others and the working of the devil.

To grow big and strong, Gibson is going to need to be fed and cared for physically. And to know this Jesus in whom he trusts he’ll need to grow spiritually as well staying connected to him.
Luther says in his writing on, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, which is a big title that simply means the church held captive:

“For the word of God is powerful enough, when uttered [when spoken], to change even a godless heart, which is no less unresponsive than an infant.”

It is God who brings to faith and it is faith that says as Peter did:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus commends Peter!

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!

And he tells Peter where the source of this confession comes from:

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter [which means rock], and on this rock [which means the rock of Peter’s confession of faith] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus does not build His church on Peter’s person but on Peter’s confession which is your confession too and Peter faith is nothing more than your faith and little Gibson Brown’s faith, given by God through the word so that Jesus Christ will build His church and His kingdom against sin, death and the devil.

Finally Jesus is speaking to the disciples says:

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The keys are given to the church and administered by those called to serve in the place and by the command of Christ. That is why when the pastor says, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you can trust that you are forgiven as if Christ himself  were speaking the forgiveness to you directly.

Receive the forgiveness of the Lord. Joy in his word and sacraments which bring faith that trust is Christ and confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon Aug. 16-17, 2014

Title: You have received the gift of faith in Christ!
Text: Matt. 15:21-28

28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In 1853 when Hudson Taylor went to China, he made the voyage on a sailing vessel. As it neared the channel between the southern Malay Peninsula and the island of Sumatra, the missionary heard an urgent knock on his stateroom door. He opened it, and there stood the captain of the ship. "Mr. Taylor," he said, "we have no wind and a rapid current is carrying the ship toward some reefs and the situation is becoming dangerous.  I understand that you believe in God, Mr. Taylor and I want you to pray for wind." "All right, Captain, I will … but you must set the sail." "Why that's ridiculous! There's not even the slightest breeze. Besides, the sailors will think I'm crazy." But finally, because of Taylor's insistence, the captain agreed. Forty- five minutes later he returned and found the missionary still on his knees. "You can stop praying now," said the captain. "We've got more wind than we know what to do with!"

Unknown.

St. Augustine reminds us:

Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.

Augustine.

The very Good News is that:

You have received the gift of faith in Christ!

Last week we took a walk on the water with Jesus and Peter. If you remember, Peter had his eyes focused on Jesus and he asked Jesus to call him out of the boat so he could walk on the water to where Jesus was. Christ said “Come” and Peter walked on the water to Jesus but as the wind and the waves raged Peter lost focus … he took his eyes off of Christ and beginning to sink, cried “Lord save me!” Jesus took hold of Peter and when they both entered the boat and the wind and the waves ceased.

Today’s reading once again has Jesus looking for a place of rest. The people had been following Him relentlessly looking for maybe a free meal here and there, healing for their illnesses, and any manner of a miracle – but they were not terrible interested in the gospel message that had been being preached. Sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? Many in our own day look for temporal blessings instead of eternal security. So Jesus withdrew from the populated area of the Sea of Galilee and went up north to the region of Tyre and Sidon in the district of Phoenicia.

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

This woman knew about Jesus. Apparently His fame had spread beyond the region of Galilee. She also had been familiar with the books of the Jews and their coming Messiah, and by the working of the Holy Spirit came to believe that this Jesus was the one prophesied from long ago, calling him both “Lord” and “Son of David.”  Her request is also a petition for the Lord’s mercy upon her situation. Her focus is upon Jesus.

To this the Lord remains quiet. We’re told that he didn’t even say a word, continuing on with His business as if he hadn’t heard a thing.

Martin Luther says: “Christ nowhere in all the gospels is painted as being so hard as here.”

And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”

The disciples didn’t want the bother, didn’t want the problem, telling Jesus to send her away. “She isn’t one of us.” You can almost hear them say. Once again the disciples fail to have or show compassion. Just as with the feeding of the 5000 they were content to send them away … until Jesus says, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matt. 14:16

Ill.

Let’s look at what is dead faith. "It is that kind of faith which would lead a man to take a bottle of medicine from his medicine cabinet. Looking at the instructions on it, he says, 'I'm sure they're correct. I have all confidence in the source of the medicine. I know who wrote these directions. I believe everything about it. I know this will relieve my headache, if I just take it.' But then he takes the medicine bottle and puts it back on the shelf. He doesn't lose his headache. It continues on. Yet he can say I believe that medicine. I believe all about that medicine. But still he won't take it. That's dead faith.

James 2:20 - Dr. Harlan Roper, Tape on James, Dallas, Texas.

The disciples are an interesting lot. First they cry out in fear as they are tosses by the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee. They see a ghost which turns out to be Jesus. He calms their fears as he and Peter get into the boat and the sea is calmed. They all reply, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matt. 14:33b

Now, just as quickly, seeing someone else in distress, they want her sent away … they don’t want to be bothered.

The disciples are you … and they are me, if we are honest with ourselves. At times we don’t want to be bothered even though we have Jesus and His wonderful Good News and gift of faith. If there is a need, “Not me, I’ve done my time let someone else do it!” Or, we’re too quick to see all that we do ourselves and we want maybe others to recognize just how much we do and how hard we work for the church and for Christ. Both are wrong and both are sinful because you have Christ and His gift of faith which is to have you love others as Christ has loved you.

So Jesus says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

To this Luther says: “Christ was a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, as Paul wrote in Rom. 15:8, 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, But when [Christ] came he found many Samaritans and Sadducees, as there are many, [skeptics] still today, but he was supposed to preach in that land [of the Jews], and afterward he preached to the whole world through the apostles. Christ was therefore sent to the Jews in person because they had the promise of his person. The Gentiles didn’t have the promise but they had mercy. Rom. 15:9, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”

LW Vol.54. Pg. 451

To Jesus, this Canaanite woman replies: “Lord, help me.”

Here his words are stinging but true.

“It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

It is implied that the Gentile woman and all her family and people were not God’s chosen people as were the Israelites, that they could be considered in the eyes of God only as dogs, while the Jews were His children. That’s a pretty stern judgment which the Lord gave, in which there surely appeared not a glimmer of hope for the distressed mother.

As Luther writes, there was not an absolute denial of her request; there was still room for an argument. And, besides, Christ had not compared her people and her family to the street-dogs, but to the house-dogs that live with their masters in the home.

Kretzmann Popular Commentary on the Bible NT Vol. 1 pg 84-85

If you have ever had a house dog you know that in many cases they live with their owners very well and receive many times … food from the table.

The woman does not lose faith or take her eyes off Jesus but simply replies, 27 … “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

She says, yes sometimes even the dogs receive those crumbs, those blessings that she is looking for, because the dogs stay at the table. They are near the table and if your dogs are like my dogs … they don’t move … but sit waiting.

This woman would not be denied. She was keeping her eyes upon Jesus and knew by faith that He had the gift she needed, and the gift she wanted, both for herself and her daughter. To this Jesus says:

“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

You too have received the gift of faith in Christ!

Luther in his Table Talk discussions says:  That [Christ] didn’t speak to us, but about us, [We who are afar off.] He wished to test this woman’s faith, [just as our own faith is tested] and when she said, “Lord, it’s true, I don’t deserve it, and I know I didn’t have the promise,” he [Jesus] heard her prayer.

LW Vol. 54 pg. 451

“God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.”

Martin Luther.

Your prayers too are heard because you have faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ has had mercy upon you and has given you forgiveness of your sins. You are his child a member of his family grafted into the vine receiving all that is at His table.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen