Monday, December 29, 2014

Sermon Dec. 27-28, 2014

Title: Depart in peace according to your word!
Text: Luke 2:22-40

29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said:

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."

God has indeed made us, and has remade us in Christ and as a result you can:

Depart in peace according to your word!

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

St. Luke finds it necessary to explain to his gentile audience the rites connected with the purification because they were not familiar with Jewish laws. The mother was unclean, according to the ordinances of Moses, for seven days after the birth of a son, and must then remain separate for a matter of another thirty-three days. These forty days denoted the days of the cleansing, or purification, from Lev. 12. At the close of this period the parents went up to Jerusalem with the Child to present Him to the Lord, for the firstborn of man and beast belonged to the Lord, (Ex. 13:2) and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice.

Popular Commentary of the Bible PE Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 Pg 274

So Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And while there, to do as the Law required, they run into a man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

You may get a feel for this as we here at Peace too see when a baby is brought into the Lord’s house and all the people come and gather around wanting to hold the baby with smiles and joy on their faces. But this brings a bit of a different reaction:

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

The joy of seeing this child, this Jesus brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. The joy in Simeon’s song is, and will be once again sung by this congregation following the reception of the Lord’s Supper, as we too will sing in joy with Simeon what the Lord has given for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.

Isaiah 61:10English Standard Version (ESV) OT lesson

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Sin and its brokenness, brings death. That is what sin does. We who are born in sin will die. It is at that time when many of us who get older contemplate our life. Things we’ve done and things we wish we would have done and we look at our finite lives and the eternity that continues after death wondering what will be.

If you think about measuring up and being good enough, how good will you need to be? But, it’s bigger than that. It’s who we are. As those born in sin we come to this life separated from God. Hard as it may seem to us we are born God’s enemies and apart from God’s work we are condemned.
Simeon had,

26 [it] revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

He had great joy in the Good News that a savior – this baby - would be the reconciliation and the peace of Israel but not just the chosen people but for all whom the Lord would call tom himself. Even you and me can joy in the child that would be the peace between God and man.

Depart in peace according to your word!

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News. As we lose loved ones and think about this frail existence we inhabit here in this world we can have peace. Not on our feeling but on God’s word of promiss.
Luther in his poem, The Unchanging word says:

“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,
HIS WORD SHALL STAND FOREVER!”  ― Martin Luther

Comfort and peace is in Christ, The Word of God, who has come to rescue you.
Comfort and peace knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life.

Comfort and peace is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter by Jesus himself.

“[Who is] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him].
Dear friends, you have access to the father through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for each one of you and will give you true peace, the perfect peace, found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave His life for you. Because of his peace:

You rest beneath the Almighty's shade,
Your grief expires, your troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom your soul is stayed,
Will keep you still in perfect peace.

Charles Wesley.

So when the trials of life burden you and the storms of life rage you can rest in the peace of Christ and in the loving hands of the savior who reminds us in the gospel of John:

7 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

That child, that babe that brought Simeon great joy is your joy as well. In him true peace is found.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sermon Dec. 25, 2014 Christmas Day

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

Readings - Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 1:1-14 (ESV)

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

Albert Einstein once said:

He who can no longer pause to wonder, is as good as dead.

To this Madeleine L'Engle a writer of young adult fiction wrote in reply:

“I share Einstein's affirmation that anyone who is not lost on the rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind … behind the universe … is as good as a burnt out candle."

Well, today as we celebrate that working of that mind behind the universe and the coming of the Christ child and His incarnation, where we see in the manger, a baby and say in awe: “Here is God!”
Jesus became flesh for you!

John 1:1-18 has been one of my favorite sections of scripture. It expresses the deity of Jesus Christ, His glory that he has with the father and the abundance of His name which is full of grace and truth.
Let us look at the significance of three words; “Word,” “Glory,” and “Name.

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

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

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

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

Jesus became flesh for you!

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

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

3 … is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

He came in the flesh so that those who are unable … you and me … and that the entire world can be made righteous, can be made new and can be born again … from above … born of God … given new life in Him.

The world doesn't want to hear this, and the world doesn't want to see this, and that is what makes this child, Jesus, and his birth ever more amazing! Because he came anyway, despite the hatred and despite the sin, he came for you.

Ill.

Pres. Teddy Roosevelt once told of a very interesting incident in his own life. He wrote, "On the beautiful little island of Islamorada, there are several hundred homes that belong to people who come to stay for the summer. He says, “I fell in love with that island and spent four summers up there."

"I had often heard of a salty ‘down easter’ who lived up there & was called ‘Uncle John’ by everyone. He was so quaint & such a character that he was a welcome guest in the homes of all the prominent families. Once when I went to visit in one of those homes, I was asked if I had ever met Uncle John & I told them, ‘No, but I've been wanting to meet him.’ ‘Well, he’s in our kitchen right now. Come on out.’

"They introduced us & we liked each other right off, so we sat & chatted for nearly an hour. When I got up to leave, I held out my hand & said, ‘Uncle John, I surely am glad I got to meet you. If ever I can do you a favor, I want you to feel free to call on me. Will you?’

"He answered, ‘I certainly will, Mr. President. In fact, there is a favor I would ask of you right now, something that you can do & I so wish that you would do it.’ Then Uncle John smiled. ‘Look,’ he said, & he pointed to a little white church up on the hill. ‘Pres. Roosevelt, you’re a Christian, but I haven’t seen you up there at church. If you, the President of the U.S., would come up there to church, all of the people on this island would flock up there. [There they would hear God's word and by God's Holy Spirit they would believe and God would work in them.]

Teddy Roosevelt wrote, "I hung my head in shame & told him, ‘I’ll be there this Sunday.’ Sure enough, there was standing room only in that church the next Sunday. The President never missed another Sunday in that little white church while he stayed up there. He wrote, “I was ashamed of myself before my Heavenly Father that I had been such a poor witness for Him."

MELVIN NEWLAND Ridge Chapel

And just like Uncle John that’s how it is with God! From the very beginning, the word of God tells a story about how God has pursued us with an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to be his! And he has made a way through the sending of his son who came to reconcile you to the Father.

Jesus Christ his son became flesh for you!

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

(Page 4)

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

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

Jesus became flesh for you!

Do not fear what this world gives but see the rapturous awe and the power and glory of the mind … behind the universe … Who came in the flesh as the babe in Bethlehem – God with us!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen


Sermon Dec. 24, 2014 Christmas Eve

Title: In Christ alone your salvation is found!
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Readings - Isaiah 7:10-14, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

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

Although out of pure grace God does not impute our sins to us, He nonetheless did not want to do this until complete and ample satisfaction of His law and His righteousness had been made. Since this was impossible for us, God ordained for us, in our place, One who took upon Himself all the punishment we deserve. He fulfilled the law for us. He averted the judgment of God from us and appeased God's wrath. Grace, therefore, costs us nothing, but it cost another much to get it for us. Grace was purchased with an incalculable, infinite treasure, the Son of God Himself."

Martin Luther, Daily Walk, May 5, 1992.

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

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

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

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

Now Joseph, even in this tenuous situation …

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

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

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

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

There was no other way because:

 In Christ alone your salvation is found!

Shame is a difficult feeing to deal with.

Ill.

The Bible is very blunt about sin – it doesn't matter how YOU grade your sin, if you don’t accept that you’ve sinned… you can’t fix the problem.

It’s like a man having a deadly disease. He experiencing distressing physical problems but doesn't KNOW he’s going to die ... he’s just afraid that might be the outcome.

So what does he do? Does he go see a doctor. Noooo. Going to the doctor would be admitting that he might die and he refuses to accept that.

If he doesn't go see the doctor, then there’s no verdict that he will die. Therefore, he won’t die. And yes, that’s the way some people reason.

But since this ailing man refuses to see a doctor, he can’t fix what’s wrong in his life.

And so ... he dies.
And so it is with sin.
God is the doctor.
Sin is the disease.

Dr. Karl Menninger once noted: "The word SIN… has an 'I' in the middle." 

I have sinned.
It’s MY fault.
MY problem.
MY guilt.
MY shame

Psalm 85 tells us:

 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin.  

And God has done this in the sending of his son.

Jeff Strite Church of Christ at Logansport

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

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

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

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

In Christ alone your salvation is found!

Martin Luther had this to say about the human heart:

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

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

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

Martin Luther http://dailychristianquote.com/dcqluther.html

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

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

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

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

In Christ alone your salvation is found!

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

God himself has paid the price for your salvation with a gift of priceless worth … his only begotten son.

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Sermon Dec. 20-21, 2014

Title: Jesus is the name above all names!
Text: Luke 1:26-38

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

In 1884 a young man died, and after the funeral his grieving parents decided to establish a memorial to him. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked what he could do. After they expressed their desire to fund a memorial, Eliot impatiently said, "Perhaps you have in mind a scholarship." "We were thinking of something more substantial than that... perhaps a building," the woman replied. In a patronizing tone, Eliot brushed aside the idea as being too expensive and the couple departed. The next year, Eliot learned that this plain pair had gone elsewhere and established a $26 million memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford!

Today in the Word, June 11, 1992.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.

In our reading today, we hear of an unpretentious young woman, a virgin named Mary, who has a visit from an angel. What started in this small town of Nazareth would lead to a manger in Bethlehem where a baby is born who will be called holy—the Son of God.

Jesus is that name above all names!

The traditional text of the Annunciation of Mary by the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 speaks of the conception of our Lord which is usually celebrated in the church year on March 25 nine months before the birth of Christ on Christmas day.

This announcement from the angel calling Mary the favored one, and telling her that the Lord is with you!  You can understand that this visit was very troubling to Mary. Even to the point of the angel saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Do not be afraid. Fear not. You have … favor with God.

So too we who fear and are afraid with the struggles of our daily lives which can cause fear. Whether, that fear is in the brokenness of the family … a loss of a Job … or … and being alone for the holidays. There can be this sense where, in fear, we too question how can this be?

And though you don’t hear the announcement from the angel, as Mary did that 31 [she] will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus. You can have the same comfort in the child who she will give birth to, 32 … will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and is your Lord.

[And he has been given] the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Yet, we too hear the blessed result just as true as if the angel had visited us with the same good news as we read in our epistle lesson for today:

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— Romans 16:25-26

It is through that same word of the Lord brought to Mary that brings comfort and peace for you and me. God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord’s presence overshadowed the temple of Israel. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

God has called you too, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to a special purpose by faith in his son, and through this he called you and has made you his child by this same faith. And by faith you are brought into fellowship with the creator of the universe and have peace with God.

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his salutation, but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is hypocrisy. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man is to be put off. Similarly, when lightning strikes a tree or a man it does two things at the same time; it rends the tree and swiftly slays the man, but it also turns the face of the dead man and the broken tree towards heaven. So the grace of God terrifies, pursues, and drives a man and turns him towards God.”

Luther’s works Vol. 32. Pg 40 Fortress Press

True repentance brings sorrow for sin that only the comfort of the good news of the gospel can cure. It cannot just be an appearance of repentance because appearances can be deceiving, but must be a true repentance and brokenness that turns away from sin.

Ill.

There’s a story that during one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"

"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."

Bits & Pieces, November 12, 1992, pp. 19-20.

It’s the appearance of work, versus real work or the appearance of repentance, versus true repentance? It’s like those times when the children say “Mom … I’m not feeling well. Can I stay home from school?”

The statement and the truth of its meaning may not tell the whole story.

Mary though hears the truth of the angel’s words after she asks:

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
Luther says through the word of the angel, which is the word of God brought from his messenger, Mary conceives:

“ … that the Holy Spirit will overshadow Mary, that he will touch her, take her blood …, so that the Lord  is described as “conceived by the Holy Ghost.” L

W Vol. 15. Pg 275

“ … Mary, the pure virgin, had to contribute of her seed and of the natural blood that coursed from her heart. From her [Christ] derived everything except sin that a child naturally and normally receives from its mother. [If] he is not a real and natural man, born of Mary, then he is not of our flesh and blood. Then he has nothing in common with us; then we can derive no comfort from him.”

LW Vol. 22 pg. 23

Jesus is the name above all names!

For in him God saves his people from their sin. The power of the most high, the Father, through the Holy Spirit, conceives Jesus the son in Mary. The whole Godhead is involved though only Christ takes on human flesh.

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ. Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived you hear the word of God through his appointed means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit believe.  When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

Because Jesus’ name means savior you have salvation in him. And by him and his work receive the forgiveness he won for you.

What looked ordinary, a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger was very substantial. God himself has come down, becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sermon Dec. 17, 2014 Mid-week Advent Service

Title: The Spirit’s love points us.
Luther’s Small Catechism the Apostles Creed Third article w/ explanation
Text: Psalm 126

126 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”

The Creed

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT
IN A SIMPLE WAY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD

The Third Article

SANCTIFICATION

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

This is most certainly true.

If you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

C.S. Lewis

So, the words of C.S. Lewis tell us how God works, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to turn those who have gone astray back to him.

126 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.

The psalmist tells of the working of the Lord to bring his children to the Promised Land, and how the Lord would restore them from out of the exile of the wilderness that they would walk in for some 40 years. Though dream like, the joy was real for those rescued, and set apart, and given the promise.

So too the gift of God in Christ Jesus is promised and delivered. By God’s working and sending the promised messiah comes in a form not expected, a child in a manger, helpless and in need. Through this true word made flesh, Jesus Christ, which came down from heaven, how might he truly be made known? How might those who need this rescue know that salvation is found in Christ alone this baby King, this child in a manger?

By the means that God has provided. Through his gift of word and sacrament, God is made known and we come to faith through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Ill.

Faith honors God and God honors faith! And so life of missionaries Robert and Mary Moffat illustrates this truth.

For 10 years this couple labored faithfully in Botswana, right in the center of the southern tip of Africa, without one ray of encouragement to brighten their way. They could not report a single convert. Finally the directors of their mission board began to question the wisdom of continuing the work.

The thought of leaving their post, however, brought great grief to this devoted couple, for they felt sure that God was in their labors, and that they would see people turn to Christ in due season. They stayed; and for a year or two longer, darkness reigned. Then one day a friend in England sent word to the Moffats that she wanted to mail them a gift and asked what they would like. Trusting that in time the Lord would bless their work, Mrs. Moffat replied, "Send us a communion set; I am sure it will soon be needed." God honored that dear woman's faith. The Holy Spirit moved upon the hearts of the villagers, and soon a little group of six converts was united to form the first Christian church in that land. The communion set from England was delayed in the mail; but on the very day before the first celebration of the Lord's super in Botswana, the set arrived.

Unknown.

For 10 years their labor seemed fruitless and for 10 years they saw no result. This can sound all too familiar to you and to me as we pray, witness, and share the love of Christ with those who need to hear. At times this work is with those that we live with, love, and care about. It seems like the word of God for the longest time is of no effect.

One dear friend tells of the years of prayer and witness in the hopes that her husband would attend church with her and joy in their faith together. It seemed hopeless but today they attend regularly and celebrate their faith in Christ together. Another whose children went their separate ways now is comforted by the reconnecting of these children to God’s word and worship even though at different churches. Others may not be privileged to see the result of the Lord’s work in this life but still continue to pray and wait on him, that by the working of the Holy Spirit, all might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Martin Luther says in the Freedom of the Christian:

No other work makes a Christian. Thus when the Jews asked Christ, as related in John 6:28, what they must do “to be doing the work of God,” he brushed aside the multitude of works which he saw they did in great profusion and suggested one work, saying, : this is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:29; “for on him has God the Father set his seal.” John 6:27.

And Luther continues:

Therefore true faith in Christ is a treasure beyond comparison which brings with it complete salvation and saves man from every evil, as Christ says in Mark 16:16a: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”

Three Treatises, Martin Luther, the Freedom of the Christian, pg. 281

As psalm 126 reminds us:

2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;

By God’s Holy Spirit we now know God as a loving Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. By God Holy Spirit we trust in Christ as our Lord and savior who redeemed us back into relationship with our heavenly Father. By God’s Holy Spirit we too share the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord with those who need to hear. And … by God’s Holy Spirit … he brings to faith all whom the Father has called to believe in this Jesus, his Son, this Christ sent as a child in a manger to bring peace between God and man.

Ill.

You might remember the story of the Nigerian sailor, from the summer of 2013, who was rescued from his capsized boat which had sunk 30 meters below the surface of the waves kept alive by a four foot air pocket.

He says:

"All around me was just black, and noisy. I was crying and calling on Jesus to rescue me, I prayed so hard. I was so hungry and thirsty and cold and I was just praying to see some kind of light."

He had been underwater for almost 60 hours when he heard a hammering on the deck. A team of South African divers scouring the waters on a presumed body recovery operation were shocked to hear faint hammering in reply.

As a diver's light approached, Okene hesitated to swim outside the air pocket in case the startled diver might use a jack-knife on him. "I went to the water and touched the diver. He himself shivered from fear. So I stepped back and just held my hand in the waters and waved it in front of his camera so they would see the images above deck."

"The diver walked in and at the back there was an air pocket he was sitting in," Paul MacDonald, an officer on the support vessel wrote on Facebook. "How it wasn't full of water is anyone's guess. I would say someone was looking after him."

It is through the Father’s love for you, that His only begotten Son Jesus Christ is sent as a babe in the manger to redeem you, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit in you, you are pointed to this Christ child who is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!

then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”

And for you!

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

Amen

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sermon Dec. 13-14, 2014

Title: The witness of Christ’s coming redeems you!
Text: John 1:1-6, 19-28

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

In our Men’s Breakfast Bible Study this month we were having a talk about Psalm 66: Vs 1-4 which reads:

66 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2     sing the glory of his name;
    give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
4 All the earth worships you
    and sings praises to you;
    they sing praises to your name.”

The topic was the times in our lives when we shouted for joy to the Lord! And we all had times that we thanked the Lord for healing and peace and blessings in our lives. I related a story of a dear friend that was putting on a concert of his own music with a number of very skilled musicians and had a packed house at the Unitarian church where the concert was being held. I had been witnessing to him for a number of years and just before the concert he came up to me and said, “I’m going to thank God … for my music gift and blessings!” I looked at him I said, “That’s nice but … God has a name.”

For him it was enough to thank God, but for those gathered who may trust in other gods, all gods or no god, having a distinction is important.

And it is in that name of Jesus that we indeed find salvation, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

The witness of Christ and his coming redeems you!

Last week we looked at John the Baptist, who was the messenger sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Today, in the gospel reading, John is a witness to the priests and Levites sent from the Jews who asked him:

 “Who are you?”  The religious elite want to know who he is, why is he baptizing and if he’s a prophet?

John confesses that he is, “Not the Christ,” not Elijah and not even a prophet but he does confess to who he is:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” He is the one prophesied about in Isaiah, who would herald the one who would follow him, but be greater than him and whose sandals, John … was not even worthy to untie.

The Jews expected the Messiah and John tells the truth in his interrogation and nothing but the truth when he says that he is not the one they expect, but is the one who makes straight the way of the Lord. He calls all to repentance, so that they might turn from their sin and place their trust in the one coming after him, who he calls the light of the world that John bore witness to.

We too fail to bear witness to the light of the world Jesus Christ.

This past Sunday a small group from the church bore witness in song to some of our shut-ins as we sang Christmas Carols and delivered fruit baskets. Many of our visits were to places with names like, The Pines of Clarkston, Pine Tree Place and Lockwood Senior Living; places not religious in name or Christian in focus. We sang some traditional secular favorites but mostly Christmas hymns, “Away in a Manger”, “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World” and “The First Noel”. It was a witness in song to whom we serve, for whom we wait, and why we care. Others heard the singing and the witness too.
Bearing witness in the years to come, in the public sphere might become more difficult as the focus of religious freedom and those who oppose it tries to limit our freedom to speak the truth in love and may limit us to no farther than the door of the church you exit.

22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us.

Ill.

In his book Dare to be Like Jesus, Leslie B. Flynn tells a story of a Christian baroness, living in the highlands of Nairobi, Kenya, and a young Kenyan national who was employed as her houseboy.
After three months he asked the baroness to give him a letter of reference to a friendly sheik some miles away. The baroness, not wishing the houseboy to leave just when he had learned the routine of the household, offered to increase his pay. The boy replied that he was not leaving for higher pay. Rather, he had decided he would become either a Christian or a Moslem. This was why he had come to work for the baroness for three months. He had wished to see how Christians acted. Now he wanted to work for three months for the sheik to observe the ways of the Moslems. Then he would decide which way of life he would follow. The baroness was stunned as she recalled her many blemishes in her dealings with the houseboy. She could only exclaim, "Why didn't you tell me at the beginning!"

Leslie B. Flynn, Dare to Care Like Jesus.

Isn't that just how you and I feel at times when our witness as Christians falls short? We know we missed the mark as witnesses to Christ. Do others see in us Christ … or the sinfulness we are bound to? And if only we had known what they were looking for in us we might have acted in a more Christ like way.

John came as a witness and to call to repentance those who like you and me are born sinful and unclean. He came to prepare the way for the one who would “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

It is this one who came, begotten of the Father, who would take on human flesh so that all separation from God, whether mountains or valleys would be made smooth. That by his birth, born of a Virgin and made man, that he might restore what had been broken by sin.

So too you, who have been brought to faith by that same light of the world, Jesus Christ, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and by faith believe.

For the LORD loves justice;
    and hates robbery and wrong;
He will faithfully make restitution,
    through his everlasting covenant with you.
9 Those who are his shall be known among the nations,
    and their descendants, who are you and me;
shall be acknowledge,
    as the LORD’S children and blessed.
10 You will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
    and your soul shall exult in God,
for he has clothed you with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered you with the robe of righteousness, [which is Christ]
and as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to grow,
so to the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
    to grow before all the nations.

It is that witness and light that shines forth in you that brings god’s word to those who need to hear. It is that peace and comfort that you have received and also proclaim to others and it is that witness of Christ that binds up those broken by sin, releases those who are captive and brings good news to the poor. As we joy in his first coming and rejoice at this babe born in a manger we too wait for his second coming when he will gather his children to himself.

The witness of Christ’s coming redeems you!

To this we all shout for joy! And just as the men learned in our Breakfast Bible study you too can know peace in all circumstances knowing you will be kept blameless in Christ.

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

Amen

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sermon Dec. 10, 2014 Mid-week Advent Service

Title: The Son’s love redeems us.
Luther’s Small Catechism the Apostles Creed Second article w/ explanation
Text: Psalm 85

2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin.

4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,

7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
    and grant us your salvation.

13 Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

The Creed

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT
IN A SIMPLE WAY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD

The Second Article

REDEMPTION

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.

This is most certainly true.

The Son’s love redeems us.

The redeemed are dependent of God for all. All that we have-- wisdom, the pardon of sin, deliverance, acceptance in God's favor, grace, holiness, true comfort and happiness, eternal life and glory--we have from God by a Mediator; and this Mediator is God. God not only gives us the Mediator, and accepts His mediation, and of His power and grace bestows the things purchased by the Mediator, but He is the Mediator. Our blessings are what we have by purchase; and the purchase is made of God; the blessings are purchased of Him; and not only so, but God is the purchaser. Yes, God is both the purchaser and the price; for Christ, who is God, purchased these blessings by offering Himself as the price of our salvation.

Jonathan Edwards, Closer Walk, July, 1988, p. 15.

So these words of preacher Jonathan Edwards remind us that it is the Son who redeems us. It is Jesus who saves and it is this salvation that we – during this Advent season - wait for.

2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin, the psalmist says.

Temple sacrifices had atoned for the sins of the people and had appeased God’s wrath for the people as the priest made satisfaction for the sins of the people.

Our pastor’s circuit meeting in November had a bible study that looked at the word and meaning of propitiation, which is a big word that means to appease or to make favorable and this brings about a change in God. The sacrifice for sin in the temple, atoned for the sins of the people and God was appeased and the people were forgiven.

This brought about a change in God because the animal was a substitute in the sacrifice for sin.
20 Thus shall he do with the bull. As he did with the bull of the sin offering, so shall he do with this. And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. Lev. 4:20

These sacrifices in the Old Testament paid the price for sin and this atonement, appeased God. But sin continued both by the acts of the people and also because of the nature of the people. We are sinners in thought, word and deed both by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,

The call of the psalmist to be restored back to God continued throughout the temple sacrifices as these sacrifices covered the sins of the people. For this restoration, God himself was an integral part.

As Luther writes in his Commentary on Galatians in 1535:

"I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us." This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable [joy], mercy and love of God.

When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through the Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him "Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You … pay and make satisfaction for them."

Now the Law comes and says: "I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!" And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated [which is to be forgiven and to have all guilt removed] from our sins, and thus [you are] set free from death and from every evil.'
We, you and I stand in the blessed joy of what God has done for us in Christ. God became what we are. At the coming of the Christ child he took on human flesh, was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  It is this union of God and man in Christ that makes your reconciliation possible.

Dr. Kenneth Hagen writes that if you look up atonement in the American Edition of Luther’s Works:
“The words that are indexed to atonement include sacrifice, mediate forgiveness, satisfaction, reconciliation, ransom, forgiveness, merit of His blood, and reconciled.”

This is what the Christ child came to do. This is what he did. This is why we are saved and this is why we wait and celebrate his coming and birth.

The Son’s love redeems us because by his coming, by his life and by his death he makes right what had been broken and restores God and man.

7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
    and grant us your salvation.

In the Christ child we see the steadfast love of the Father and through Jesus we are given salvation.

The Lutheran Hymnal in Savior of the Nations Come puts it this way:

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child; Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned, Still to be in heaven enthroned.
From the Father forth He came; And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell; High the song of triumph swell!
Thou, the Father’s only Son; Hast over sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be; When shall we all its glories see?

This advent season, may the coming of the Christ bring peace to you as you wait upon his glorious birth.

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

Amen

Sermon Dec. 6- 7, 2014

Title: Prepare as you wait for the Lord’s Christ
Text: Mark 1:1-8

2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

Dr. Alistair Brown tells a story of walking through a park where he passed a massive oak tree. A vine had grown up along its trunk. The vine started small--nothing to bother about. But over the years the vine had gotten taller and taller. By the time he passed, the entire lower half of the tree was covered by the vine's creepers. The mass of tiny feelers was so thick that the tree looked as though it had an uncountable number of birds' nests in it.

Now the tree was in danger. This huge, solid oak was quite literally being taken over; the life was being squeezed from it. But the gardeners in that park had seen the danger. They had taken a saw and severed the trunk of the vine--one neat cut across the middle. The tangled mass of the vine's branches still clung to the oak, but the vine was now dead. That would gradually become plain as weeks passed and the creepers began to die and fall away from the tree. How easy it is for sin, which begins so small and seemingly insignificant, to grow until it has a strangling grip on our lives.

And yet, Christ's death has cut the power of sin. Yes, the "creepers" of sin still cling and have effect [on us]. But sin's power is severed by Christ, [and through him, we are given new life.]  

J. Alistair Brown.

As we wait for the birth of Christ and also his second coming we joy in our new life given us in him as we together,

Prepare for the Lord’s Christ

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

The sending of the messenger to herald the arrival of the messiah had been foretold in the prophet Isaiah. One would come and prepare the way. This messenger is John the Baptist.

John arrives in the beginning of the Gospel of Mark in the wilderness and looking a bit unusual. Dressed in camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, he was certainly not one that the religious leaders would have gone out to see, but one that they probably would have shunned. But John brings a message, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and that is usually what messengers do. John was no different in that respect.

5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John’s baptism was, just as he was, a forerunner of the baptism that we today joy in and remember daily. He called sinners to repentance in preparation for the baptism that Jesus would institute, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, where he calls his disciples to go and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matt 28:19

John prepared what Jesus would fulfill.

In this season of Advent that we celebrate and joy in, we also wait … in preparation for the coming of God who would take on human flesh, becoming as we are yet without sin. In Mark’s gospel, just following our reading for today, you may remember that Jesus comes to John to be baptized himself, to enter into the Jordan to be baptized by John and to be marked as the chief of sinners that Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.

That is the child that we wait for this Advent season;

And that is the child who will be born on Christmas day;
And that is the one on whom God’s favor rests;
And that is where our salvation is found by faith in his finished work;
And that is Christ, in whom we also wait for his glorious return.

In contrast to John, who lived a simple lifestyle eating locusts and wild honey, and dressed most probably in that same camel’s hair coat and leather belt day after day; we also wait … in line … for deals … that we can’t live without.

The season of the day has become so retail focused that Thanksgiving hasn't even ended before the stores are open and the selling begins. Black Friday has now been extended to the entire weekend … and continues on to the internet deals of Cyber Monday in a way to maximize … all the potential that you and I can fulfill as consumers.

And Christ can wait … because we know he will not arrive for another 18 days or so.
Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. At least that is how John calls sinners to repentance in Matthew’s gospel. And it is how we all should spend some of our time this Advent season as we continue to wait and focus and prepare … for the coming messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ill.

Pastor David Roper in his book The Strength of Man says:

The Bible defines worldliness by centering morality where we intuitively know it should be. Worldliness is the lust of the flesh (a passion for sensual satisfaction), the lust of the eyes (an inordinate desire for the finer things of life), and the pride of life (self-satisfaction in who we are, what we have, and what we have done).  Worldliness, then, is a preoccupation with ease and affluence. It elevates creature comfort to the point of idolatry; [these things become our god]; large salaries and comfortable life-styles become necessities of life.

He goes on to say …

Worldliness is reading magazines about people who live [their] lives [for the pursuit of pleasure] and spend too much money on themselves … and wanting to be like them. But more importantly, [he says] worldliness is simply pride and selfishness in disguise.

It's being resentful when someone snubs us or patronizes us or shows off. It means [getting mad] under every slight, challenging every word spoken against us, cringing when another is preferred before us. Worldliness is harboring grudges, nursing grievance, and wallowing in self-pity. These are the ways in which we are most like the world.

David Roper, The Strength of a Man, quoted in Family Survival in the American Jungle, Steve Farrar, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 68.

Wow, does that sound like today, if you’ve been to one of the major stores, and someone has treated you as an obstacle, in the way of what they want to buy, a parking space they desire, or even cringing because you have a place in the checkout line before them.

Or maybe it’s you, or me … that cringe at those, in line before us?

As sinners we all fall short, we all miss the mark, and we all need to repent, clinging to that blessed hope, Jesus Christ our Lord, and in his coming as the child who,

“will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

This proclamation in Luke’s gospel is heralded by John as 7 … he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Prepare … as you wait for the Lord’s Christ

This messenger proclaims Christ. This herald calls sinners to repentance, and we who are baptized, in the name of the Father and of the + Son and on the Holy Spirit are brought to faith, given the Holy Spirit and are made right with God, forgiven our sins on account of Christ and no longer servants but children of our heavenly Father.

Though you are unworthy to stoop down, like John, to untie the sandals of the Lord, Christ has stooped down - in humility - to be as you are, and for your salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. Nicene Creed

This is he who is the gift begotten of the Father. This is the peace between God and man and the sign that is promised in Isaiah 7

14 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14b
Christ is the comfort of Isaiah 40, our Old Testament reading, to which John is a herald and Christ the means … for which:

Every valley shall be lifted up,
   and every mountain and hill be made low; Isaiah 40:4a

And it is Christ who tends his flock like a shepherd; and gathers the lambs in his arms; and carries them in his bosom, gently leading them until he returns in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Prepare as you wait for the Lord’s Christ

Because just like that Oak tree entangled with the vine that would continue to strangle and choke the tree unless cut away. So too sin has been cut away and laid upon Christ who takes away the sin of the world burying it with him in the tomb so that you are set free, buried with Christ in baptism, and risen to newness of life covered in the righteous robes of Jesus.

Prepared as you wait for the Lord Christ’s return

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

Amen

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sermon Dec. 3, 2014 Mid-week Advent Service

Title: The Father’s love restores us.
Luther’s Small Catechism the Apostles Creed First article w/explanation
Text: Psalm 80:1-7

80 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! 4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors and our enemies laugh among themselves. 7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The Creed

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN A SIMPLE WAY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD

The First Article

CREATION

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given
me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.

He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.

He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.
All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

This is most certainly true

"I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here: and this idea of a creating hand refers to God."

http://atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com/2012/07/sartres-conversion.html

These are the words of French philosopher, author, playwright and atheist John-Paul Sartre near the end of his life.  He was reviled by his mistress and fellow atheist as a senile traitor.

As we wait in anticipation this Advent season for the coming of the Christ child, we look to our loving Father who created us in his image. Who with his all powerful word brought forth all things and who commands us:

That you shall have no other Gods in the 1st commandment.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther writes that if you were to ask a child:

“My dear what sort of God do you have? What do you know about him? The child would say, “This is my God: first, the Father, who created heaven and earth. Besides this One only, I regard nothing else as God; for there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.”

Readers Ed. The Book of Concord pg 399 CPH

To this God the psalmist cries: 80 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel.

Here, the shepherd of the flock of God’s people who created them and all things is called upon. As the shepherd of the flock God, he himself cares and leads his people Israel.  

You [heavenly Father] who lead Joseph [who truly are all of your children who trust in you] like a flock [just as a shepherd leads].

But what God created perfect, and what he saw as good, and what after his work of creating he rested from, that same work has been broken. It is this break and fall into sin from our first parents Adam and Eve that the psalmist calls to the one true God who is:

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, [and calling him to] shine forth.

Just as in the benediction we call upon God to make his face shine on us and to be gracious unto us.To once again bring forth the rescue needed for fallen man and to make a way where there is no way. 3 Restore us, O God; [with the original righteousness that was given to us in creation to] let your face shine, [which is your gracious favor upon us once again] that we, who are broken by sin, may be saved!

Who among you doesn’t know the falleness of man? Who among you has not seen the broken creation and its effects on their own life and the lives of their loved ones as Paul says in Romans 6 vs. 23:

23 For the wages of sin is death,

Who among you knows that this death is not normal, not ordained by God, and not in his plan?
For this creation has been broken by sin, just as a river which is polluted has no part of it which is not affected, broken and polluted, so too you and this life we share is lost to the corruption that has fallen upon it.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?

5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.

A storekeeper in Maine refused to buy a salesman's wares. "You must remember, young fellow," he said, "that in this part of the country every want ain't a need."

Source Unknown.

The wants of this created world can be many. The desires that we seek can point us all away from the need that is of most importance. The condition of our standing before God and whether we stand condemned or restored is what the joy of Advent brings.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The Father’s love does indeed restore us.

So we cry forth with the psalmist:

7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The shinning face of the Father is turned towards his children in Jesus Christ our Lord who he sends to bring about our redemption. The restoration of life, in this babe in a manger, is what we wait for, and it is this love that the Father has for us … that he gives and showers upon us.

And while the wages of sin is death, as the Law of God condemns you and me, the good news is made clear in the second half of Romans 6:23:

But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Author and evangelist Dr. J. Allen Peterson tells a story about a small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever.

His mother met him at the door and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father's full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed.

The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, "All my life I've known what God is like by what my father did that night."

J. Allan Peterson.

The Father sends the son to restore the world broken by sin. He in love comes in the person of the Christ child in a manger to be a substitute for what man could not do. He comes to make right what had been made wrong by sin and to 3 restore us, O God.

There is a wonderful story about Katherine and Martin Luther:

At family devotions one morning, Luther read Genesis 22 and talked about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

[As he finished, his wife Katherine said,]“I do not believe it! God would not have treated his son like that.”

"But, Katie," Luther quietly replied, "He did."

50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Spiritual Giants by By Warren W. Wiersbe pg. 14

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

Amen


Sermon Nov. 29-30, 2014 First Sunday in Advent

Title: Christ Jesus, in him life is found!
Text: 1 Cor. 1:3-9

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hudson Taylor spent 51 years as missionary to China back in the mid 19th century and when he was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for the mission field.

On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations for service. "And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?" he asked one. "I want to go because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," was the reply. Another said, "I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ." Others gave different answers. Then Hudson Taylor said, "All of these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testing’s, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, God’s love for you in Christ."

Source Unknown.

That is where true peace truly comes from.

In Christ Jesus, because in him life is found!

On this first Sunday in Advent we too joy in the blessed word of God and the coming of that word made flesh in the Christ child, Jesus Christ our Lord. During Advent we wait and prepare for the gift that comes with his birth on Christmas morning. The grace and peace that came down from heaven is given for the salvation of the world from our loving Father in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Advent is not only a time of waiting but also a time to focus, and for we who call ourselves Christians, to focus on the gift given in a manger, for the reconciling of the world back to God.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians begins with thanks. Thanks for the grace of God given these Christians in Corinth.

5 that in every way you were enriched in [Christ] in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

They had been enabled and enriched in speech and knowledge as God gives these gracious gift in Christ. But many in the church had become divided; there were factions some following Paul some, some Apollos, some Cephas who is Peter and even some say they follow Christ. to which Paul asks a rhetorical question. 13“Is Christ divided?” Certainly the answer is no! To which Paul says: Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Factions divide, churches, families, and friends. When the focus is not on the gift but the receiver the devil begins to work to split the seam as a split in a piece of wood continues on its course until a small hole is drill in its path to stop the split from continuing.

Martin Luther says in his commentary on First Corinthians:

“In this epistle St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be one in faith and love, and to see to it that they learn well the chief thing, namely, that Christ is our salvation, the thing over which all reason and wisdom stumbles.”

“Preface to the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians” (LW35:380)

Ill.

There is a story of a missionary in Africa who gave a Bible to one of the African men. When it was given to him, the man hugged it close & expressed great appreciation for the precious gift of God’s Word that the missionary had given him.

But when the missionary saw him a few days later he noticed, much to his dismay, that the Bible looked like it was already falling apart, & that many of its pages were missing. The missionary asked him, "What happened? What did you do to your Bible? When I gave it to you I thought you considered it to be a treasured possession."

The man replied. "Indeed, it is a very precious possession. It is the finest gift I have ever received. It is so precious that when I returned to my village I very carefully chose a page & tore it out & gave it to my mother. Then I tore out another page & gave it to my father. And I tore out another page & gave it to my wife. Finally, I gave a page of God’s Word to everybody who lives in my village."

Melvin Newland Ridge Chapel

We may smile at that, but what a testimony or, as Paul says:

6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.

The message of God’s Word was so wonderful to this man given the Bible that he wanted to share it with everyone he knew! How different it is for you and me today where the word of God is mocked, neglected, put on a shelf and for some never even read or heard – and these may be those who claim to be Christian or even members of this church.

The word of God and the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, are not the chief things that we naturally cling to, but that which we, with our own reason, wisdom, and understanding stumbles over.  If you've stumbled and fallen you know how foolish you feel and look. You know that what you thought you were going to do … but instead did what you did not expect. Those who stumble need help to bet back on their feet; they need help at time to do what they intended and even help to see that what they did so they can better focus for the right outcome.

Advent is that time.

7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s comfort to the Corinthians is your comfort and it’s the comfort for all who wait for his coming … this Baby King, born of a Virgin for the salvation of the world.

It is this child who became man and who took the sins of the world upon himself as he went to Jerusalem on the untied colt because the Lord Jesus had need of it. It is he who entered in, as many spread their cloaks on the road as well as branches they had cut from the field shouting …

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9b-10)

How quickly those joyful shouts changed just one week later to crucify him! Crucify him!

Ill.

If left to our own devices we might all act like the Salesman I read about. He was waiting to see the Purchasing Agent so he could submit his Company’s bid. While he was waiting, he couldn't help but notice that his Competitor’s bid was sitting on the Purchasing Agent’s desk. Unfortunately, the actual figure for the Competitor’s bid was covered by a coke can. He got to thinking: “How could it hurt if I just took a quick look? No one would ever need to know.” So he reached over and lifted the coke can. But his heart sank as he watched hundred’s of BB’s pour out from the bottomless can and scatter across the desktop.

It was a test set up by the Purchasing Agent … and he failed it.

K. Edward Skidmore Castle Hills Christian Church

We have all failed what God requires and have fallen short  … missing the mark … not just by what we have done but by who we are as those born in sin … and bound to sin. It is through our nature as sinners that we are separated from our loving God, and also it is also by his work and who we wait for this Advent season that we are reconciled back to God in Christ.

Because Jesus came as true God and true man and he knows your every need. Though tempted by sin he knows your weakness too but he was able to keep the Law perfect for you as only God could. Because he died in your place and rose from the dead, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and will rise too.

And because this God came down and humbled himself on your behalf, you can have what you could never have; fellowship with God again, by faith in the blessed life and death of his son who was raised to newness of life for you and for all who trust in his coming.

In Christ Jesus, life is found … for you!

Just as that man in Africa was given a Bible and the gifting of God’s grace by his holy word was shared with all whom he came in contact with. So to, by God’s word, we are brought to faith and by the same word of God and we too are saved. May this waiting during Advent bring you the joy of God in Christ and may his glorious word comfort you in his peace.

Because in Christ Jesus life is found!

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

Amen