Monday, December 28, 2015

Sermon Dec. 26-27, 2015

Title:  Christ brings access to the Father’s House for you!
Text: Luke 2:41-52

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.”

Missionary Don Richardson who served for many years among the primitive tribes in Papua New Guinea wrote a book entitled “The Peace Child.” He tells the story of two tribes in Papua New Guinea who maintained a blood feud between themselves for several generations. Each generation fought and nursed their wounds only to fight again killing and maiming more and more people.

After years of struggle the two tribes realized that they must stop fighting or nothing would be left of their peoples. But what could they do to end years of warring between the two tribes? The chiefs of the two tribes came together and brought with them a child they called “The Peace Child” This child was the son of one of the chiefs which was adopted into the family of the opposing chief. As long as that child lived the two chiefs promised to cease their fighting so that all could live.

Lou Nicholes - Missionary/Author

The perfect picture of peace is God’s love for us in the sending of his Son, the Prince of Peace.
Peace can take on the many different looks, from the baby Jesus being brought into the temple … to the man Christ Jesus hanging on a cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

But the everlasting joy and peace we have is because:

Christ brings access to the Father’s House for you!

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 Levitical cleansing, or purification, 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 or for a baptism, 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 see the Christ. The joy in Simeon’s song is sung by this congregation following the reception of the Lord’s Supper as we too sing in joy with Simeon at what the Lord has given for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.

Christ brings access to the Father’s House for you!

Brokenness is a reality in this life. If it is not evident to us all the time there are times when we have our eyes opened. Sickness has a way of causing you and me to slow down and to look at our lives and what really matters.  Speaking to those in the hospital has recently brought this to the forefront for some, as they reevaluate their own lives and what is important.

As we look at the close of another year may we all refocus our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and the gift of forgiveness won at the cross for you and me. May life in him bring joy and peace no matter the circumstance we face bringing God’s love and comfort when it is most needed.

Christ brings access to the Father’s House for you!

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 or think about this frail existence we inhabit here in this world we can have peace.

Ill.

There is an old proverb that says, “When there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty of character. When there is beauty of character, there is honor in the home. When there is honor in the home, there is order in society. And when there is order in society, there is peace in the world.”

Lou Nicholes - Missionary/Author

Maybe that explains a bit of the struggle we see in life and in the world.

Comfort and peace is found only in Christ Jesus 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.

For Jesus Himself says that:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Dear friends, you have access to the father through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you and will give you true peace found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave His life for you.

Christ brings access to the Father’s House for you!

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

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.  (John 10:27-28)

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

Amen

Sermon Dec. 24, 2015 Christmas Eve

Title:  The blessed hope has come in Jesus!
Text: Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Many of you like me, I’m sure, remember the day your children were born. For me there was the time of Monica’s pregnancy, the doctor’s visits, anticipation, worry, anxiety, excitement and many other feelings associated with the coming of a child.

This was especially true with our first born. What would it be, a boy or a girl? At that time, we could have been told to a relatively high degree of certainty but we chose to wait happy to accept what the Lord would bless us with.

On the day of Monica’s last doctor’s visit she was already dilated and we hurried over to the Hospital. As the time of the birth neared and the head of the baby began to emerge; Dr. Dorfman looked up and said, “Top half’s a boy … and as the baby was born … bottom half’s a girl!”
The excitement and joy of this birth blessed our family as only God’s gift of children can, and now with the Christ child we can all celebrate today that:

The blessed hope has come in Jesus!

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

What had been anticipated during Advent has now appeared. God’s salvation for all people has come in a means most peculiar … a baby boy wrapped in cloths … lying in a manger.
This good news when proclaimed by an angel to the shepherds in the fields brought great fear.

10 [But] the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2: 10, 13, 14

God in Christ has brought peace between God and man and all who are found in Christ have God’s favor on account of this child of lowly birth.

The blessed hope who is Jesus!

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,
12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

What you and I are called to do … we can’t. We miss the mark and fall daily into the sinful desires of a sinful people. But Jesus has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has humbled himself to be our substitute, yours and mine, and to make a way where there is no way.

God’s child has renounced ungodliness and the passions of this world and has lived the God pleasing life according to the Law of God and fulfilling every requirement in this present evil age – for you. He has done what you and I could not and he has given this all to you. This grace of God appearing in this child for you has been made know by the power of the Holy Spirit working in you to believe.

But now it is this child, this babe, this baby King in a manger who looks to be for many who see him … not a King … not the Lord … and certainly not the savior of the world, but only a child and a baby in weakness.

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
In weakness he came but in glory he will come again. God’s creation fallen into sin waited for this day. This day when God would come, the blessed hope of salvation in Jesus name, in this Christ child, because he is the one who will be the one to redeem his people from their sin.

We celebrate his coming today too in the joy and peace he has won for us at the cross – by his death and resurrection.

Because:

14 [He] gave himself for us, to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous [or have great zeal and joy] for good works.

And you might ask, “What are these good works?”

Those who were following Jesus asked him:

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 [And he] answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6: 27-29

Jesus - this baby - is the sent one,

Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
born in a manger … for you.

This God who came in weakness lived a sinless life … for you.

This God who came in weakness was handed over, tried, convicted and nailed to a cross … for you.

This God who came in weakness was buried and three days later rose from the dead … for you.

This God who came in weakness showed himself to his disciples and to more than 500 others … for you.

This God who came in weakness ascended to the right hand of God and he intercedes … for you.

He will come again in glory at the appointed time to take you to where he is because in Christ you are seen through the veil … which is Jesus Christ the righteous one, and in him you are forgiven, redeemed and adopted into God family!

The blessed hope has come in Jesus … for you!

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

Unknown.

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

The blessed hope has come in Jesus for you! May you joy together with the church of God as we celebrate his coming and all he came to do for you and me and all who are a far off … all whom the Lord our God will call to faith.

A Merry and blessed Christmas to you!

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


Monday, December 21, 2015

Sermon Dec. 19-20, 2015

Title:  God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!
Text: Luke 1:39-45

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

A few years ago in adult Bible Study we learned that Bethlehem Ephrathah means “the house of bread.” It will play a special role in God’s plan as the prophet Micah records in our Old Testament reading for today:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

This “house of bread”, Bethlehem, would become the place where the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior would come down to save His people from the power of sin, death and the Devil’s working in their lives. From this tiny town the salvation of the world would emerge.

Mary, who just a little bit earlier in Luke’s gospel reading, would have a visitation from the Angel Gabriel, announcing that she would have a very special role as well to play in God’s plan for restoring the gulf that was fixed by sin between God and man and we also have heard these past two weeks how John the Baptist would be used by God to prepare the way.

Today our Gospel reading moves back a bit in the story, some 30 plus years, to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, another women used by God for a very important role. She would bear the prophet, John, who would be the greatest of all prophets as Jesus said in our Gospel reading from last week,

28 I tell you … among those born of women none is greater than John.

But this visit of Mary to Elizabeth was a bit different.

Mary with joyful energy and as the text says, “Arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,” and came to the house of Zachariah, where she greeted Elisabeth, just as you or I might great a relative or dear friend. But then God performed a miracle. By the working of the Holy Spirit this unborn son of Elisabeth, at hearing Mary’s voice, was filled with the Holy Spirit. And so too Elisabeth, by this same Spirit acting in a miraculous way, also filled her as she spoke:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord (by special gifting of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth was given the knowledge and trusting faith to know who this child Mary was carrying truly was) should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:42b-44)

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

So what does the knowledge given you by the Holy Spirit about Jesus bring you? Is it an unstoppable kind of joy that might even cause you to leap?  If you’re like me, I joy in Christ … that he has given me freedom from sin … but the Christmas season can be a drag at times too. Having worked in retail sales for most of my adult life I have found it hard to get joyful working extra hard and being consumed with all that needs to be done – during the holidays. But, this year I get to add just a bit more work as … orderly … at home. Monica calls me nurse … but I remember the old Jerry Lewis movie from the early 60’s: The Disorderly, Orderly, and that’s me.

Now, add to all of this the fact that this child, this babe from Bethlehem, would become, one who is an offence to many. He is an offense in our world for sure so much so that Merry Christmas has become Happy Holidays – handed down as corporate policy from the board rooms of many companies and the true blessed meaning of Christmas has been neutered into just another sale. Sound familiar? But I did have a joyful reprieve just the other day. I stopped into CVS for a small purchase after Confirmation class on my way home and after paying the cashier said, Merry Christmas with a big smile … it made my day.

As did the visit I made to Loreda in hospice care. She was able to smile and recite the Lord’s Prayer and receive the Lord’s Supper. It was of great comfort to me to see the faith of this Christian Woman and her hope hope that is in Christ Jesus her Lord. As I continued on to church, I stopped at Burger King for a burger. I was in the drive through and there was quite a few cars in line. As I got to the window to pay the young man handed me my burger and said, “The man in front of you paid for your meal and said to have a Merry Christmas.” Wow … another smile to my face. He then asked, “Would you like to pay it forward?  “Absolutely, I said … and tell them Merry Christmas too!”

The message of who Jesus is, who this child is that we wait for this Advent season … the one who caused the child in the womb of Elizabeth to jump for joy, this child Jesus Christ, came to conquer the power of evil and brokenness in this world, for you and for me.

Merry Christmas, Brought a real smile to my face this past Monday! Don’t let the season be defined by the ways of the world.

At an elementary school in Florida Baby Jesus has been put back in a closet:

The principal of the school told a television station that after a visit from the Department of Education:

“In an attempt to be fair to everyone, the principal said, “We decided that we would just not put the Nativity scene out on campus.”

“There are people in the community that are threatening to sue the school board and it costs a tremendous amount of money to defend something you know you will lose,”

It is after all the law. But, is it really just a church and state issue?

In a funny twist to the story, a business across the street put the schools Nativity on their property so those in the community could still enjoy it. Needless to say the happy Atheist who threatened the school was not too happy … “They’re acting like they’re beating the system by doing it … but they’re not. They’re perfectly within their rights to do this and no one will tell them to remove it.”

Via: Atheist Lutheran

… At least … not yet. Is this really just a church and state issue? No, if you look into these situations, it’s always about those who are offended, usually an unbeliever or one from a different faith tradition not wanting this,
unbelievably offensive, and unbelievable Christ child, in their face.

And while they seem to be okay with the nativity across the street from the school, they’re really not, because they believe that the school thinks that they’re beating the system and if they could make it illegal to have a nativity everywhere … they would.

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

For John in the womb and Elizabeth, the joy that is the Christ child came in a miraculous and unexpected way through Mary’s visit. We too receive the joy that is Jesus Christ our Lord when He calls us to gather together in His name; where we receive his word and his sacraments giving us both faith and joy in this Christ child who came to free sinners, like you and me, from the enemy of our sin, from the death that it has brought to all who are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, (Psalm 51.5) and finally to join us to Him who is God in the flesh for all eternity!

Our Joy is in the Christ child and that is for whom we await. He came for you and by the power of the Holy Spirit he gives you faith to leap for joy from the womb of death that you are born into, and by that same Spirit He lifts you into his loving arms never to let sin, death or the Devil pull you from the eternal life he gives.

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sermon Dec. 9, 2015 Advent Midweek 2

 Title:  The Lord purifies and refines you!
Text: Mal. 3:1-7b

And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

To refine is to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities: It is during Advent that we wait for the one who would come to purify and refine us by his blood, shed at the cross.

In this …

The Lord purifies and refines you!

3 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.

In Malachi we learn that God prepares the way. In our lesson from this past weekend and for today, it is through his messenger John the Baptist that God’s way is prepared. The herald is the one who would call to those who heard to repentance.

Just prior to our reading in Malachi God had said:

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words.

Ill.

I don’t know about the Lord who is slow to anger, but I do know I have wearied people in my life. My boss of many years had a hard job. When I began working with him he was 23 and I was 25. We worked side by side for his dad. We were coworkers, piers and friends. This relationship lasted for over 20 years. Eventually he bought the company from his dad and became the boss. At one point he asked me to be a signer on the company checking account and again placed his trust in me. But now he was the boss and I the worker. I still had great respect for him and he as well for me. But … I was an employee.

We had performance reviews each year at the company and at one review, the boss was pointing out an error that had occurred with a customer and me and something I said or did that offended the customer. My perspective was different than his because he only had heard the customer’s side. It was minor, I thought our conversation had ended and walked away and they thought I just walked away but … and here’s the point. I brought up a similar incident that had occurred where he was the offending party and the customer had come to me as the manager of the store to complain.

My boss said, “Russ, this is hard enough for me and you just need to listen and let me be the boss.” I listened and I apologized and was mindful of his position as owner of the store.

The children of Israel didn’t hear, listen or get it.

But you say, “How have we wearied him?” [And the Lord answers through the prophet] By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

The people wanted justice against those “others” who have offended and wearied the Lord. But for them … they tell God, “Leave my sin alone.  It’s not that bad … in fact … let’s call it good.”
And these were God’s priests too who were not honoring the Lord’s name, as well as the people of Judah who had a broken faith, desecrating the sanctuary of the Lord by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. Mal.2:11

The Lord purifies and refines you!

Our own blemishes and brokenness are made clear daily. With my own boss I wanted justice - just not against me. Don’t point out my fault, I thought … because your faults are know too. We all stumble and from my perspective, his was a greater fault where mine was merely a misunderstanding. And true as that may be from my point of view … it didn’t matter. Because, he was the boss … not me, it was his business … not mine, and really it was a review and he had a right to point out my error. It wasn’t even a grave mistake it was just that he was the one who held the place to judge me saying, “Be aware of this, and avoid this for your own good and the good of the company.”

I learned a great lesson and our reviews from then on … even if I didn’t agree with him, went well. I listened, paid attention and obeyed.

But judgment will come swiftly, against the sorcerers [false gods and idol worship], against the adulterers [worship of self], against those who swear falsely [Having other God’s and using the Lord’s name in vein], against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages [coveting that which is theirs], the widow and the fatherless [those who need support], against those who thrust aside the sojourner [not loving neighbor as thy self] , and do not fear me [having no reverence and respect for the creator of heaven and earth], says the LORD of hosts.

The Lord purifies and refines you!

So who can stand, and who can endure this judgment and this Judge? Must we be consumed in the wrath to come?

Malachi speaks for the Lord when he says:

For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

Ill.

Some time ago, a few ladies met in a bible study to read the scriptures and make God’s word the subject of their conversation. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse.  ”And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

One lady’s opinion was that it was intended to convey the view of the sanctifying and refining influence of the grace of Christ, working in them. Then she proposed to visit a silversmith and report to the study group what he said on the subject. She went accordingly and without telling him the object of her errand, begged to know the process of refining silver, which the silversmith fully described to her.

“But Sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes madam,” replied the silversmith, “I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”

The lady at once saw the beauty, and comfort too, of the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Christ sees it needful to put His children into a furnace. His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back, and said he had still further to mention, that he only knows when the process of purifying was complete, by seeing his own image reflected in the silver.

Author Unknown

The Lord purifies and refines you!

God in Christ has redeemed you and marked you as his own he purifies you as he make you in his image sanctifying you making you holy and set apart as God’s chosen child. One redeemed by this Christ child that we wait for who has given his life for you and who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and to you he will say,

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matt. 25:23

The Lord purifies and refines you!

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

Amen


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sermon Dec. 2, 2015 Advent Midweek 1

Title:  The Lord is our righteousness!
Text: Jer. 33:14-16

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

In 1846 former president John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke. Although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. Daniel Webster described his last meeting with Adams: He said, "Someone, a friend of his, came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, 'I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.'"

Today in the Word, April 11, 1992.

In dealing with the battering winds:

[Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39

We also struggle with the trials and storms of this life knowing that the day is coming when the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, returns in glory for His bride, the church; and for that we wait. We also prepare during this Advent season to welcome the babe in the manger who came to fulfill all righteousness and is … our righteousness, because:

The Lord is our righteousness!

Jeremiah’s text for today also brings with it the Lord’s promise of restoration; both the restoration of the divided kingdom as well as the fullness of restoration. Previously the Lord had said:

10 “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. Jer. 29:10

And now says:

15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Justice and righteousness, God will both condemn sin and forgive and set free.

Jeremiah had a tough job. As the court prophet for King Zedekiah he brought God’s word to the King. At times God’s word through Jeremiah could proclaim blessing and joy and at other times it could proclaim judgment and sorrow.

Judah was in bad shape. They had been falling away from God and His word and trusting in their own righteousness. Even Zedekiah’s name in Hebrew means “Just” and “Righteous,” though he was anything but.

David was anointed to be King called by God as one after God’s own heart. But King Zedekiah was hearing judgment from God through Jeremiah’s proclaimation and it was only a matter of time before God’s judgment would come, in the form of King Nebuchadnezzar and the entire Babylonian Army, carrying the entire nation away into exile.

So what do you do if you’re the King and you don’t like what God’s word says? You continue to trust in your own righteousness and your own reason and understanding and lock God’s prophet up in prison of the palace so you don’t have to hear it.

It’s what Zedekiah did and at times it’s what we do. But the joy that our lesson today proclaims … and the blessing we wait in anticipation for this Advent season is that:

The Lord is our righteousness!

Don’t you too at times shut up God’s word in your own prison of indifference or rejection? When God’s word condemns your sin, it is often easier to reject the truth God’s word points out than to turn in repentance, asking for forgiveness and receiving the forgiveness and absolution God so desires to give you and for you to hear.

For Zedekiah the judgment of God would come through the Babylonian Army. Where might your judgment come from? For you and for me and through the ages, the Army that many times caries us away is found in our own wisdom, understanding and reason. What God’s word says and that which we can’t understand or wrap our arms around we often reject as foolish or only intended for a certain place and at a certain time.

We set ourselves up as God’s judge and determine what is and what is not relevant to me. Our society, or Kingdom if you will, is being judged by God’s word. The truth is we are falling short as a nation. We are all going our own way, as Israel did in the  Book of Judges, having everyman doing what was right in his own eyes so that only a generation or two later … they neither knew the Lord or what He had done for them. How or when we get carried away into our own exile as a nation remains to be seen. But, understanding and reason is a constant battleground.

As Martin Luther stated in one of his Table Talks:

He said:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against [God’s] divine Word, treating with contempt all that [comes] from God.”

—Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.

But even though we fall short there is still reason to rejoice because:

The Lord is our righteousness!

In those days, as also today, God’s word brought judgment and blessing and for those who needed to hear, just as we need to hear, listen:

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

The promise of a savior, Christ the Lord, would spring forth from the righteous branch of King David. He, Jesus, would execute justice, fulfilling at the cross God’s work of redeeming mankind from sin and the works of the Law which cause many to stumble and fall short, trusting in their own works and own righteousness but you … are FREE!

By the power of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and trust in a foreign righteousness, one outside yourself, and by that same Spirit you cling to Christ and the eternal hope for which He came.

The Lord is our righteousness!

16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

The Lord is our righteousness indeed! He has come for you and as we wait in joyful anticipation this Advent season for the coming of the babe in the manger … which is Christ the Lord, we know that He came for you and me.

But how, you might say, can I know and be sure that he came for me?

By faith through baptism and the preaching of the gospel, God has called you to believe and be His child.

As the Apostle Paul put it in 2 Cor.5:17-21:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (in Christ) we might become the righteousness of God.

In Christ the promise of righteousness is fulfilled for you!

The Lord is our righteousness … that we might become the righteousness of God!

So, the tent of our earthly existence continues to fade away. But, Christ has come in the flesh … in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior, who having redeemed you from sin, death and the power of the Devil now clothes you with His righteousness now and forever more.

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

Amen




Monday, November 30, 2015

Sermon Nov. 28-29, 2015 - First Sunday in Advent

Title: Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!
Text: Luke 19:28-40

“37b… the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

The Advent season is here! It is a time of beginnings or beginning again. We all need those times to begin again and Advent gives us that time. It is the new church year where we once again anticipate the coming Christ and the salvation that he would bring. It is a time to look at the beginning of his coming and the hope that his incarnation, or his becoming man brings. As we ponder these beginnings I want to share a few beginnings with you.

The first electric light was so dim that a candle was needed to see its socket. One of the first steamboats took 32 hours to chug its way from New York City to Albany, a distance of 150 miles. Wilbur and Orville Wright's first airplane flight lasted only 12 seconds. And the first automobiles traveled 2 to 4 miles per hour and broke down often. Carriages would pass them with their passengers shouting, "Get a horse!"

Source Unknown.

It is not surprising that our salvation and the coming of the Christ child began in a way that was most unexpected.

Luke tells us in Chapter 1 of his gospel:

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.

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.

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.”

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

Our gospel today speaks of the triumphal entry of Jesus, the man, riding into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey – because he has need of it. These too bookend accounts … the announcement to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son who would be called holy … and the son of God, this Jesus, who would ride into to Jerusalem to the cries of the people:

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

This Jesus … who we wait for at Advent as the coming King – this babe in a manger - comes to us as the King eternal in our daily lives, as we remember our baptisms and receive his true body and blood with the bread and wine – for the forgiveness of our sins.

This Jesus we also anticipate in his return - who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11b

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

But how blessed is this coming - this Jesus - for you? Is it an anticipation of what God blesses you and me with daily or is it just another season in the year? Do the troubles in our day lead us to this coming king or away from the king of glory into self pity and doubt?

For many are leads away. Only you know how your relationship with Christ is affected with the troubles of this life. It is though the devils delight to cause you to fall away from the faith. It is his delight to have you see Christmas in a secular way and not through the lens of Jesus as the coming savior. It is the sinful flesh that we all enjoy and give in to that makes a mockery of his death and life eternal won at the cross. It is the mask of our own brokenness that we at times hide behind, showing a peaceful exterior where a sinful burden hides.

Ill.

In Basel, Switzerland each year the good protestant townspeople have a festival in which they all don masks and go through the city doing things and going placed they would never consider doing/going under normal circumstances. The mask, which veiled their identity emboldened them to do these things. One year, the Salvation Army, concerned about the abandonment of moral standards, put up signs all over the city, which read, "God sees behind the mask."

Dr. Kenneth Gangel, Scofield Memorial Church, May 22, 1983.

Whether a wanton sinful behavior or a brokenness of heart. The coming Christ child brings peace. This peace passes all human understanding and is brought to you through God’s word of forgiveness on account of Jesus … this coming King and savior  … born in a manger.

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence as she carries the child to Bethlehem. 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

For in the Christ child 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 looks so ordinary … a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger … is very substantial. God himself has come down, humbled himself by becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation in him.

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

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

Amen


Monday, November 23, 2015

Sermon Nov. 21-22, 2015 - Thanksgiving

Title: By God’s mercy you are found blameless!
Text: Jude 20-25

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time. Families get together to celebrate, have a meal and for some watch football. My family will be celebrating our Thanksgiving this afternoon as my wife Monica is scheduled for surgery on Monday and will probably be in the hospital until after the holiday.

Her cancer has caused us as a family to reflect on what we are truly thankful for. Certainly the gift of life from our loving God is a gift that we enjoy daily and with illness the gift of life is compromised. We then also think of the gift of newness of life and the rebirth we have been given in Christ in our baptisms. Apart from this, I’m not sure how many of us could get through the illness part, but in Christ we have the hope of an eternity with him, a life eternal that never ends, and a bodily resurrection free from death and the wages of sin.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!
Our epistle reading for today from the book of Jude begins:

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

There is a statement of purpose:

20 But you, beloved.

Those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to believe are given faith in Christ and are loved by God. That too is you and me. This love is not earned, but it is freely given in the one who is righteous and the one who is righteous is Jesus. He has taken our sins and the sins of the whole world upon himself and we receive what he has earned by faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph. 2:8b-9

There is also a call to action:

building yourselves up in your most holy faith – Or, “on your most holy faith,” not listening to the lie of those who would pervert the faith 3b I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (truth and doctrine Jude vs 3b) This is done by means of the holy Gospel.

praying in the Holy Spirit - the Holy Spirit is the means by which you can pray rightly. Apart from him coming first to you we cannot know God or his love for us. All we can know is his Law and wrath. But here the Holy Spirit causes and invites us to pray to the one who has made peace with God and intercedes for us and thus this faith in Christ Jesus builds us up, you and me … his saints.

keep yourselves in the love of God –This is God’s love not our love so we look always outside ourselves to what he has done for us in Jesus. God’s love is only for those who believe in him leaving those outside the church outside God’s love in Christ because they have and are placing their trust in the filthy rags of their own righteousness. It is with that in mind that we together call those outside to come. This is through the good news of the gospel and by the working of the Holy Spirit so that they too might be Christ’s own and receive all that he has earned for them.

waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. – This can also be translated as “expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.”  R.H. Lenski commentary Vol. 11 Jude Pg. 646

Here we see that all the things Jude called us to do is done in us and for us by the Holy Spirit.

God’s mercy leads to eternal life, and for that we wait, expecting God to keep us in his Love by the Holy Spirit who calls us to pray in this most holy faith and by that we are blessed and built up by the Spirit’s work in us.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!

22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Ill.

A story posted on line about the tragedy in Paris told of a man, Ludo Boumbas who while at a restaurant café celebrating the birthday of a waitress friend dove in front of one of the gunman who was shooting into the crowd in the outside café’ taking a bullet that was intended for another girl. She was hit but is in the hospital and expected to survive. His friend, Huda Saadi who was celebrating her 35th birthday and her sister Halima both died along with Ludo and 16 others in this senseless act. Ludo sacrificed himself in the hope that another might live.

One man who could not make sense out of the carnage said, “I am making prayers for them even though I don’t know if religion is true.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3319334/Hero-La-Belle-Equipe-Frenchman-died-throwing-bullet-save-woman-s-life-massacre.html#i-c5b7979eb7b7b497

22 And have mercy on those who doubt;

Those who doubt are in danger of everlasting damnation. We must continue to be light in a dark world with the gospel of truth. Some are snatched from the fire itself by the work of the Holy Spirit even through you and me and God’s word we speak and share. Others we pity as they continue to cling to the garment of sin in their life while they reject the good news and fall further away. It is like calling some to come into your home or pavilion of rest in the midst of the storm but they continue on their way only to be consumed by the elements of this life … a life apart from Christ with no hope for tomorrow.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!

But God in his mercy does not leave us hopeless.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Jesus has made the rough ways smooth and the crooked ways straight. He will keep you strong in the faith. He does it through his means. It may at times seem trite … word and sacrament. But God uses the weak to confound the strong, the ordinary to do extra ordinary things.

24 Now to him who is able, Christ is able … all things are possible with God.

to keep you from stumbling, those who desire to lead you a stray and to preach a gospel different than the one we preached – Paul says to the Galatians. He warns that there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Here the Holy Spirit through the word will keep you safe. If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

By God’s working in you by his Spirit you will be protected from the wiles of the devil. This good news will remain and go forth until Jesus returns.

This Thanksgiving, make God and his gifts to you the center of your thanks and joy as you gather with family and friends. Lift him and the one who supplies all your needs and by his working in you, you can know true thanksgiving, life and peace in his name.

By God’s mercy you are found blameless!

25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen


Monday, November 16, 2015

Sermon Nov. 14-15, 2015

Title: The one who endures in Christ is saved!
Text: Mark 13:1-13

This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

13 As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him:

“Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

The reality of this became a bit clearer to me a few years ago. As I do sometimes, and you may do as well, I looked at a place of my youth to see what it was like today. Growing up as a young boy in Pennsylvania I searched a bit about the church that I had been baptized in and that my family attended. It was Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. It was made up largely of Slovaks who had immigrated to the McKeesport area to work in the mills.

The church was founded in 1892 in a former Jewish Synagogue of all things and the building I was baptized in had been built in 1911. It was a beautiful and big church with two towers and steeples in the front and some of the most beautiful stained glass you could imagine. It was often packed with worshipers in their Sunday best when I was a child, and even when we visited on vacations after moving to Michigan in 1960.

I found a site on the internet that had some beautiful pictures of Christmas and other services that took place in the church and information about the merging of Holy Trinity with two other Catholic churches into one parish family in 1993. The most beautiful feature of the church was a painting in the dome area above the altar where two figures sat on thrones with ministering angels around them. The older had gray hair and a long beard represented the Father while the younger had brown hair and represented the Son! Between them were two letters from the Greek alphabet the alpha and the omega, though I didn’t understand what that meant at the time. The dove as the Holy Spirit was painted above them and rays of light shown down on the Cross of Jesus below showing the fullness of God’s involvement in bringing about our salvation.

Looking through these beautiful pictures brought back wonderful memories and I even thought about taking a trip back to visit and maybe even attend a service again there. When I got to page two of the picture page all that changed for me as this once beautiful church was turned to rubble … not one stone left upon another … just a pile of debris – even the two steeples of this beautiful church were thrown down.

As is the case with many churches in the intercity as the population moves away the churches that at one time had flourished are now closed and many unfortunately see that same fate as the property is cleared and repurposed.

The one who endures to the end in Christ will be saved!

3 And [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”

The disciples wanted to know when the end of the age would be. We might also want to know.  Jesus says that there will be signs and don’t be led astray. Some will claim to be him and the second coming and there will be wars and rumors of wars – we’ve seen them – both foreign and domestic. The attacks in Paris this weekend bring to light the brokenness of this world.

To quote the Buffalo Springfield song from a sermon a few weeks ago:

“There’s battle lines being drawn.”

Stephen stills – For What It’s Worth 1967

Nations and Kingdoms will rise against each other and this will only be the birth pains. We’re not there yet. So, keep watch and be on your guard. The disciples expected Jesus to make things alright in the world and we do too.

Ill.

Our Elders meetings have been difficult. We see the signs too. Average attendance in 2005 was 160 and in September of this year it was 76. The households that haven’t attended Peace in at least 5 years is large while many have been inactive over 10 years.  I would love nothing better than to see our church return to how it was when I first attended … where the church had overflow seating for Christmas and Easter. We also had an active pre-school and were looking to add an additional staff worker. Many of our once active members who had built this church have been called home, some have moved and others have fallen away.

These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

This is a harsh reality. It is a hard pill to swallow. It tears at the very fiber of every pastor, called worker and lay servant of Christ who desires to see the church grow under their watch.

Jesus says though:

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

The one who endures in Christ is saved!

It is the witness … not the building; it is the witness … not the numbers; it is the Gospel … of Jesus Christ that changes the heart and brings to faith by the Holy Spirit.

10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

This has been going on since the church was founded on the day of Pentecost and will continue until the Lord returns. We must continue to proclaim the Good News and the truth of Christ Jesus in a world of sin and doubt to family, friends and strangers. It has been going on for over 2000 years and will continue so that the Gospel can go forth into the entire world.

And while buildings may fall and the stones may be torn down and not left standing; while some members may become apathetic and listen to the world, their own sinful flesh and a devil that calls them away from the truth, God will continue to call them back by his word through his Spirit to an eternity that he has won for you and me at his cross.

Luther sais in a sermon for the advent season:

The rejection of Christ does not happen only with [others] but also among us, for the high and mighty scorn us because of our gospel and sacraments. What folly [foolishness], they say, that I should let myself be baptised with water poured on my head, supposedly to be saved thereby; or that some poor parish preacher, barely able to put a coat on his back, should pronounce forgiveness and absolve me from my sins; or that by receiving bread and wine in the Sacrament I should be saved. On that basis they despise a Christ-preacher.

And he concludes:

But no one ought to despise Christ in that way, for he is our Saviour and seeks to give us everlasting life. It ought not faze us that he comes in poverty. He requires neither armour nor mounted cavalry for his message; but simply proclaimed: "Whoever believes in me shall have everlasting life."
Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, House Postils I.35-36. Sermon for Advent I, 1534

The one who endures in Christ is saved!

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

Holy Trinity McKeesport Pa. 1911-2011 The church of my youth. The church though is not the building but is made up of those brought to faith in Christ!

Holy Trinity

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sermon Nov 7-8, 2015

Title: Christ has made you rich in him!
Text: Mark 12:38-44

3 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not [Christ], and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."

Patrick Henry.

Those are the words of Founding Father Patrick Henry. Certainly his words resonate for we who as Christians desire to see our love ones receive that same gift that has been given to us – faith in Christ.

And it is through that gift of faith that:

Christ has made you rich in him!

Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

No. This isn’t going to be a sermon on stewardship and giving. This will be though, about being given and receiving. You see our God is a jealous God. He wants it all!

4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4

Even those whom you and I would cast off … he desires!

Jesus says:

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,”

Beware of them!

They are seen publicly; they have the best seats in the house; and are honored at the feasts and gatherings.

No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians, though the image might be appropriate. Being seen, having the best seats and being honored is a desire we can all fall victim to. At times we see it play out in our lives. At Weddings, those guests of importance are placed at a table near the bride and groom, while those who are acquaintances are seated back in the corner and away from the action.

You might see it in black tie affairs or charity balls where the people with means pay a heavy price to be seen at the table of the well known … being seen and even well known maybe in their own right. Some, like Jesus suggests in the Gospel reading, may have gotten there:

 40 [by devouring] widows' houses

Breaking the 7th commandment and stealing our neighbor's money or property, or getting them by false dealing … taking advantage of those less fortunate.

Jesus says, “They will receive the greater condemnation.”

But joyfully, it is Christ who has made you rich!

Ill,

There was a time that you purchased your seats at church. This may seem odd because we seem to have fewer and fewer sell outs here at Peace. But there was a time that churches paid the bills they had by selling the best seats in the house to those who were prominent and well to do and could pay for the best seats in church.

Today we might see it as those who sit courtside at a basketball game right next to the players and the other well-to-do’s being seen in the place of honor.

When Abraham Lincoln was first elected President it was customary to pay for the best seats in church and St. John Episcopal Church, near the White House, had been established as the “Church of the Presidents.”  It vied for his attendance along with New York Ave. Presbyterian Church. Both had pew fees for the best seats so St. John offered to give President Lincoln the Presidents pew for no charge - seeing that it would be beneficial to them to have the President in attendance at their church. Instead, Lincoln, being the enigma that he was, paid the fee at New York Ave. Presbyterian Church and attended there - not wishing to be seen in the place of honor in the President’s Pew he chose a more humble seating arrangement.

41 [So Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

The one who is the true Temple sits down in the temple to watch. Remember Jesus saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  John 2:9, speaking of himself and his passion. Here Jesus sits … and watches … and he sees many rich people put in large sums.

That in of itself is not bad. The giving in support of the work of the church is good. God works through means as we Lutherans often say. We see it in God’s economy of word and sacrament working through pastors as jars of clay that dispense God’s gifts not from us … but through us.

It is God who works through means so your gifts and offering are not needed by God in of himself, as it is in fact all his anyway, but he gives to you and me so that we can be of service and serve the work of the church and our neighbor.

So the object lesson that Jesus here teaches brings to light a great truth.

42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

Certainly she was not rich by human standards. But she exhibited a sacrificial giving not out of earthly wealth but out of spiritual wealth.

Those who gave much were giving out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”

Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

You see … he wants you. He wants you to know him. He wants you to trust him. Because he gave everything for you. His only begotten son Jesus Christ took of human flesh and humbled himself and became man so that he could be your substitute and stand in your place and give his life so that you might live.

Jesus gave up everything for you. The widow gave all she had as a testament to where her trust was placed. But how did Jesus know her faith against the others?

God’s all discerning eyes look at the heart and every life and every heart lie bare before him.

It is made all the more evident to me as I visit the shut-ins. Their desire is to give even when they can’t. Some can and do, and do so very generously, while others are barely able to make ends meet. I always remind them that it is the work of the church to bring Christ to them in their need as James chapter 1 reminds us:

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

“Many who live in abundance decline to give or give too little for fear that they will not have enough for the future” RH Lenski Mark Pg. 559

We cannot copy this widow’s act of giving and match the gold she gave in the Lord’s eyes, but by faith and placing your trust in the same Lord, Jesus Christ, you will have riches in heaven. The same riches she had and same Lord she trusted.

Christ has made you rich in him!

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sermon Oct 31, Nov 1, 2015 All Saints Day


Title:  Blessed are you … in Christ!
Text: Matt. 5:1-12

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Archaeologists digging in the remains of a … school in Rome found a picture dating from the third century. It shows a boy standing, his hand raised, worshiping a figure on a cross, a figure that looks like a man with the head of an [donkey]. Scrawled in the writing of a young person are the words, "Alexamenos worships his God." Nearby in a second inscription: [It reads] "Alexamenos is faithful."
Apparently, a young man who was a Christian was being mocked by his schoolmates for his faithful witness. But he was not ashamed; he was faithful.

Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, 1977, David C. Cook Publishing Co., p. 78.

Blessed are you … in Christ!

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The followers of Jesus were drawn to him.

Today [this weekend] we celebrate All Saints Day. The Saints, those who have followed Christ - you and me - who have been made Saints … not as in some earthly human rite where we are declared a saint by the church because of the life we’ve led or the things we have done but a Saint as in a disciple … a follower of Jesus.

Alexamenos was reviled by his classmates in ancient Rome for being a Saint. You and I might have times in our lives where we have been persecuted for our faith and for you and me it most probably like Alexamenos, being teased or made fun at for being a Christian. Real persecution goes way beyond that and Christians around the world know that all too well. We though, also see growing persecution in our day whether it is job, community, or societal and political persecution and pressure. What had been only teasing in my life has now real consequences for all who name Christ as there Lord and savior.

Jesus addresses those Saints who were following him:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The psalmist begins in Psalm 1 with this proclamation:

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed for those connected to Christ means joy because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. We see this joy in our reading from Revelation today.

This heavenly picture has some wonderful and awesome truths depicted as well. There is an uncountable multitude – more than you can even imagine. This multitude is made up of people like you and me … real flesh and blood people. And they come from every nation and tribe – people from around the world – dressed not in the rags of their own unrighteousness but covered in white robes, the robes of Christ’s righteousness … and carrying palm branches!

Wow! It sounds like Heaven is a very tangible place too. Because to speak of palm branches … we might reasonably assume palm trees, but the image that also comes to my mind is the glorious ride of Christ into Jerusalem and the waving of palm branches by the people:

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

And blessed are you … in Christ!

In this life we do have trials that can block our joy. In the midst of the trial it seems insurmountable that joy can result. But with God all things are possible.

[Michelle's story of the loss of her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident.]

He promises to hear our prayers and to be with us and never forsake us so that even we who mourn will be comforted.

Certainly in life we mourn for those who have gone from this life to their eternal home but we also mourn for ourselves as sinners in need of a savior. It is what we proclaimed as we celebrated the Reformation last weekend. Being a sinner caught between God and the Devil being both condemned by God and tormented by Satan. But through Christ’s substitutionary work we have peace with God and are comforted.

Ill.

Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, [and] made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the [pilot], at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the [man watching] and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well."

Robert Louis Stevenson.

It is the pilot of our life Jesus Christ who guides us through this life as the hymn Jesus Savior Pilot Me says:

1. Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal;
Chart and compass come from Thee:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
Blessed are you … in Christ!

Blessed are the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because you will inherit the earth and be satisfied.

In Psalm 37 King David writes:

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

As we together hunger and thirst for just a bit more sanctification … being conformed into the image of Christ … we can know that we indeed are being sanctified.

Ill.

There was a video posted online and the caption reads “Sanctification.” There was an old man standing at the foot of an escalator. And there is an age where old men should not wear shorts. In one hand was a satchel and his other grabbed the handrail. As he prepared to step on the escalator the step caught his feet. He started to fall slowly backward, holding the handrail as his feet went before him. Slowly he was upside down slowly spinning as he headed to the next floor turning on his side until he was on his rear end on a step reaching the next floor backwards … no thanks to himself.

You see, the work of Justification [making us right with God as Luther found] and the work of Sanctification [conforming us to Christ] is all of God’s work. We’ll get there – flipping and turning and even going backwards – but God will get us there.

Blessed are you … in Christ!

Those who are merciful receive God’s mercy and those with pure hearts will see God.
“Luther says well that in all the beatitudes faith is presupposed as the tree on which all the fruit of blessedness grows.” It is not mere natural mercy as it is occasionally found among men generally [but grows out of personally experiencing God’s mercy of forgiveness in our lives, being pure in heart, by the working of the Holy Spirit and seeing God.]

God’s mercy makes his you and me, his Saints, merciful too.

R.H. Lenski, Gospel of St. Matthew Pg. 191

Finally, through Christ, in the battle of persecution that rages, we become peacemakers showing forth the son ship given us called the sons of God, and children of our heavenly Father.

Though persecuted, poor in spirit, mourning, and meek; though hungry for righteousness God’s mercy shows fourth in us as we remain pure in heart, being his sons by his gift of faith … in Christ, working through the Holy Spirit in us, giving us the great reward his won by his Son Jesus on our behalf.

Heaven … our eternal home!

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

Amen


Monday, October 26, 2015

Sermon Oct 24-25, 2015 - Reformation

Title: You are free in Christ!
Text: Romans 3:19-28

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Fredrick Douglas once said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate [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, will continue together with the whole church to reach the lost with this same gospel message.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law … 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

This was the crux of Luther’s struggle. How could a sinful man stand before a holy God? He would ask himself, “Must God condemn sin? Yes. Am I a sinner? Yes. Must God condemn me? Yes!”

This struggle and torment tore at Luther as he tried to understand the depth of the fall into sin and the rescue that was enacted on our behalf in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As one myself who came to Lutheranism as an adult, and also as one who struggled to find peace with God, I came to identify a great deal with Luther. One book that was important in my transition to Lutheranism was Heiko Oberman’s, Luther: Man between God and the Devil. It was not only a history of Luther and the reformation but it also was a perfect picture of where Luther stood … between God and the Devil. On the one hand judged and condemned as a sinner by God and on the other hand tempted and taunted by the Devil. Luther thought, “Where can peace be found in this life let alone the life to come?”

For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. 3:22b-24

You are free in Christ!

While verse 24 says pretty much the same thing it was Chapter 5 and verse 1 that gave Luther what he was looking for … peace.

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

Grace was God’s gift but the means that Luther now understood was through the instrument of faith. This gift of Grace and Faith gave Luther hope and peace in a God, not of wrath but of love.

25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

[The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.]

http://www.gotquestions.org/propitiation.html

So not only is God no longer angry because Jesus has accepted all of God’s wrathful anger in a once and for all sacrifice at the cross, but in Christ by faith you receive what Christ received … God’s favor … on account of that same sacrifice.

Luther was free and the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t be the same.
Not that Luther was trying to topple or rebel against the Roman Church but just to reform it. It’s a little like a student finding an error that the teacher wrote on the blackboard. The student points out the error not to show up the teacher but to show that he was paying so close attention that this error jumped out at him. The proper response from the teacher is to thank the student and move on. That’s what Luther thought would happen, that his propositions in his 95 theses posted on the door of the Castle Church would bring theological debate and he felt confident that he could prove that his thinking was right by the word of God.

You are free in Christ!

I was born on April 18, 1955 and baptized in May of that year. My first remembrance of Church was at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, in McKeesport Pennsylvania. The services were in Latin … and I didn’t understand a word. Not much different for the Church members in Luther’s day. Remember the only thing they knew about God was what the Church told them. The Bible was in Latin and they, if they didn’t read Latin were in the dark.

Ill.

One movie that I show to my confirmation students is a film called Martin Luther Heretic. The title says a lot about how the church viewed Luther … as one who taught falsehood. One scene that is especially poignant has Luther teaching his students the difference between the scripture in Latin and what he found in the ancient Greek. He points out that in the Latin it reads, do penance but in the Greek is reads, change heart. Luther saw that the Latin was a mistranslation of change heart. The changing of our heart from being God’s enemies to being at peace with God is all God’s work.

This set Luther free to preach the freedom of the Christian who at birth is bound to sin, just like you and me, but who is freed from sin, death and the power of the Devil by God’s gift of Grace through faith and this is not of your doing, not a result of works (doing penance) so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9

This led Luther to the Diet of Worms, in Germany to hear the charges of heresy, in front of the Emperor Charles the V, which were brought against him and to give a defense for what he believed, taught and confessed. This happened on April 18, 1521, 434 years to the day of my own birth, so I felt a certain kinship with Luther as I wrestled with my own religious upbringing.

You are free in Christ!

To those inside and outside the church the Lutheran liturgy and Roman Catholic liturgy look similar. We have many of the same elements, invocation, confession of sins, the creeds, and even the readings for the day are the same coming from the historic lectionary. We baptize infant, instruct our youth, have confirmation and receive the Lord’s body and blood in the sacrament of the Altar. So why was there the battle in 1521 and why does it still rage today? In a word … it’s the gospel.

Lutherans believe that we are saved by grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, and that we know this by the means of Scripture alone. No works, no penance, no merit Luther knew as those bound in sin from birth that, “the only thing we contribute to our salvation … is sin.”

In Augsburg Germany on June 25, 1530 the public reading of the Augsburg Confession first took place.

[Chancellor Christian Beyer, a member of the government of Duke John, elector of Saxony, read before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and a gathering of princes (a “Diet”) in the city of Augsburg, Germany, a confession of faith signed by seven princes and two city councils in whose lands the teachings of Luther and the Wittenberg reformers had taken root in the previous decade. Luther’s colleague, Philip Melanchthon, is the principal author, though he used several previous documents in the preparation.]

http://wmltblog.org/2013/06/june-25-the-presentation-of-the-augsburg-confession/

Justification … how are men saved continues to divide the church.

Lutherans say in article IV of the Augsburg Confession:

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

The Roman Church counters in Canon 9 of the council of Trent:

If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

It is either all of Christ or we do something. It hasn’t changed in almost 500 years. There are many similarities and big differences still between Lutherans and Catholics.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate [deplore] agitation are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.” Fredrick Douglas
Luther brought the thunder and lightning but not to be a agitator but to restore the Gospel. To give the peace of God to we who are bound in sin. To bring true freedom to those bound by the Devils lies that we can do anything to merit forgiveness.
Let it be proclaimed!

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

You are free in Christ!

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

Amen



Monday, October 19, 2015

Sermon Oct. 17-18, 2015

Title: The first will be last and the last first!
Text: Mark 10:23-31

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

As a hundred thousand fans watched, Richard Petty ended his 45 race losing streak and picked up stockcar racing's biggest purse at the time: $73,500. It all happened at the Daytona 500. Petty's win, however, was a complete surprise. Going into the last lap, he was running 30 seconds behind the two leaders. All at once the car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 man on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and force the challenger onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control.

What happened next was incredible. The offended driver pulled his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place Petty cruised by for the win.

Source Unknown.

The first will be last and the last first!

Last week we spoke of treasure in heaven and how so many people see their treasure here on earth in what they have or do. The rich young man in the gospel last week went away disappointed because he had great possessions instead of following Jesus. Many in this life also follow material gain while at the same time giving up the need for spiritual feeding.

A friend of mine who makes his living teaching guitar always keeps Sunday as his day of rest where he doesn’t teach or play gigs … and the Lord knows that  he needs the money. But instead he goes to church and focuses on his spiritual feeding and family time.  He’s told me once, “God always meets my needs … rarely early … but always on time!”

Jesus, in speaking to his disciples about those who trust in riches or wealth says:

“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! Remember the young man went away disappointed because he had great possessions. And Jesus then adds:

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

We all know how hard it is to just thread a needle don’t we? Have you ever sewn or tried to sew a button on? I have … it wasn’t good. The picture on the bulletin cover gives a pretty strong idea of how difficult it is.

So, the image of entering the Kingdom of God by any means other than,

8 by grace … through faith and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

So the things of this world and all of the accomplishments you achieve won’t measure up in God’s cup of salvation. It is all gift … both grace and faith. The disciples ask:

“Then who can be saved?” Who can meet the requirements? Who can get through the eye of the needle? Jesus tells them: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

The first will be last and the last first!

Maybe that is good news for the Lions? It’s funny … because I’m not a big football fan. Working on Saturdays and Sundays for most of my life sucked all the interest out of me for football, both college and pro. I don’t have a favorite team and really I’m happy to see Michigan and Michigan State do well … so it is a bit odd for me to have sports illustrations these last two weekends. I really don’t follow football much, and it is more likely that you’ll see Monica turning on the game than me. I must admit that this Michigan / Michigan State game even woke me out of my football sleep a bit.

Our lives revolve around what we do. How we prepare, what  advantages we find, and how we perform. Some struggle and some excel. The Lions are self evident. We see it in the teams we follow and we see it in our own lives. As my guitar playing friend once told me:
“I use to worship the wood in my hands but now, by grace, I worship Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the wood of the cross.”

Work hard, do your best, provide for your family, but see the greater gift in what you have received that you could never earn.

28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”

Last week Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then Christ compelled him to come follow me. But he went away in sorrow because he had great possessions.

Martin Luther in speaking in his lectures in Genesis says:

“Do not fear those, says Christ (Matt 10:28), who kill the body, house, and other things, what of it? These things have to be left behind in any case.”

He then continues:

“For neither Peter nor Paul even though they were saintly men, had better flesh than we have.” They too, were children of Adam, [broken in sin] just as we are. Paul sometimes glories and boasts as if he were already victorious over all evils. Sometimes he complains pitiable about fears within and fighting’s without (2Cor.7:5). Where was that completely invincible hero, that victor over all hell, then?”

LW Am. Ed. Vol.5, Pg 27

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,

[And in this life] persecutions, and in the age to come [but they will also receive] eternal life.

We will have tribulations and persecutions but also, heaven … and eternal life. That is fully on account of God, in Christ, through the Spirit’s work.

The first will be last and the last first!

We have Christ’s assurance of eternal life and the word of Jesus is always trustworthy and true. Those who trust in him and follow him have what he has promised … eternal life.

And just as Richard Petty crossed the finished line as the battle still raged on the track you too will be given the winners crown … the crown of life eternal in the precious name of Jesus.

The first will be last and the last first!

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

Amen


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon Oct. 10-11, 2015

Title: Your treasure is in heaven!
Text: Mark 10:17-22

20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The body of David Livingstone was buried in England where he was born, but his heart was buried in the Africa he loved. At the foot of a tall tree in a small African village the natives dug a hole and placed in it, the heart of this man who they loved and respected. If your heart were to be buried in the place you loved most during life, where would it be? Would it be in your wallet; in an appropriate space down at the office; or maybe at the soccer field, or cottage, maybe up north; or even at the ballpark?

Where is your heart? Where is your treasure?

Source Unknown.

Your treasure is in heaven!

17 And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Isn’t that the question most ask? What must I do? What can I expect? What do you expect of me? We ask it in all aspects of life. We ask it of parents, at school, with friends, or groups of friends. We ask it as we grow older, at work, and at times we rail against those expectations. They expect too much. How can I measure up to that we think?

As a hockey fan I look forward to the Red Wings season. Some might say anything less than the Stanly Cup is a failure, even though the Wings have made the playoffs for 24 consecutive years. For some fans only achieving the ultimate prize … makes it a successful season. The Tigers are done and the Lions can’t even get started.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich young man asks Jesus in our gospel lesson for today. As a rich young man he has achieved much success in his life.

Ill.

To give you some perspective, how many of you know the name Dustin Moskovitz … No one? Well, he is the youngest billionaire in the world. On May 18th 2012 he became an instant billionaire. He was the third employee hired by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. He was in charge of their technology and instead of pay when they began; he received a 6% share of the company. In May of 2012 when Facebook went public he received over 5 billion dollars. He like the man in our gospel lesson today … at 27 … is a rich young man.

So Jesus asks first: “Why do you call me good? And tells him, No one is good except God alone.”

Jesus here sets the stage for what God requires. No one is good except God alone. But trying to go a bit deeper with this young man Jesus lays it out.

19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness [or] defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

Jesus gives him half of the commandments. He says for a start, how do you do with these? And remember Jesus hasn’t asked him about the table of the law that deals with God.

You are to have no other Gods, do not misuse the name of the Lord your God and keep holy the Sabbath day.

Jesus just asks … how do you do with these interactions with your neighbor in the world? The rich young man answers:

“Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And I’m sure there are people who think that they measure up well. “I’m pretty good they think.”

Your treasure is not here but in heaven!

The Red wings pre-season record was 6-0 and 2 … six wins, no losses and two overtime losses. In the eyes of we who are fans that was an acceptable record. Their only losses were in overtime. If they win the Stanly Cup, we as Red Wing fans would rejoice!

But perfection for God is so much more than what we as fans expect. Winning the Stanly cup would be great but perfection in the Lord’s eyes requires no mistakes, no goals against, no injuries, no penalties, no overtime - in fact the other team can’t possess the puck at all - because if they have the puck you’ve missed the mark by not having the it. No missed shots because every shot has to go in the net.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Even Miguel Cabrera, the rich young batting champion from the Detroit Tigers makes an out almost 7 out of every ten times he comes to the plate and we revere him as super human with the bat when our God would require 10 hits out of 10 at plate appearances.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Your treasure is in heaven!

Jesus loved this young man so it may seem a bit funny what he says next.

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

You only lack one thing. It’s your stuff. Jesus say, “Sell it all and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven!”

22 Disheartened [by what Jesus had said to him], he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Your treasure is in heaven!

The other part of the law, the part about this man’s relationship between his stuff … and his God … has now come to light.

He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

It is not sinful to have stuff … as long as your stuff doesn’t have you I heard a pastor once say.

Ill.

In 1978 I bought a bike, a Schwinn Varsity. It’s hung in my garage for the last 30 years. I pulled it down to ride a bit and get a bit of exercise. The tires were original and at 37 years old well dry rotted, so I bought tires and tubes and fixed the bike. I got enthused about biking and as can happen started looking and reading about bikes.

I never thought that my bike was too heavy, but when I found a like new 1977 Schwinn Le Tour that was only 30 pounds rather than the 40 pounds of my Varsity I bought it. After all it was only $100.00 and was a beautiful pearl orange and looked and rode like new. Monica asked why I needed another bike after I just fixed up mine … and being 25% lighter just wasn’t cutting it.

So, as good fortune would have it, a beautiful Trek bike, which is a very high quality American made brand, came on the market for $100.00 and it was right here in Waterford. I just had to take a look ... didn’t I? The 25 year old owner had lost interest in biking after taking up drums so I asked him, “Would you take $80.00 for it?” Well, to my surprise he did.
Now, I didn’t need the Trek bike but it was in such nice shape and at the very least I thought, I could sell it in the spring for more if … I wanted to.

When Monica saw the bright red Trek bike she said, “Another one?” You see, this one was lighter too at only 23 pounds and it was a really good deal … but she didn’t seem very interested in hearing about it.

And … I won’t even tell you about the Ladies Schwinn Le Tour I found for $20.00 and fixed up for my daughter Amy. My son told me … “I don’t need a bike dad.”

“Stop looking in the classifieds!” was my wife’s suggestion for what she thought was my bike problem.

Where is your treasure?

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Others have asked that question too. When Jesus had fed the multitude and they followed him and said:

28  “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God … that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  John 6:28-29

[They were seeking him, not because they saw the signs Christ did, but because they ate their fill of the loaves.] Jesus said to them, 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, the wealth and things of this life but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. John 6:27

The possessions we have, the work we do, and the things we treasure … the bikes in the garage … will not measure up in God’s eyes. It is after all already his and it has been given to you … and how you use it … can certainly benefit those in need, physically and spiritually.

There is nothing to be earned, because it has all been given. There is nothing to do, because it has all been done. Because of Christ, the good teacher, you have received God’s favor. Not for what you have or what you have done but because of what Christ has done for you.

The treasures on earth pale in comparison to the treasure God has in heaven for you.

Jesus says, come, follow me!

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

Amen