Monday, March 30, 2015

Sermon Mar. 28-29, 2015 Palm Sunday

Title: Fear not dear Christian for your King has come for you!
Text: John 12:12-19

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey's colt!”

A little boy was waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery store. As he waited, he was approached by a man who asked, "good morning young man, can you tell me where the Post Office is?"
The little boy replied, "Sure! Just go straight down this street a coupla blocks and turn to your right."
The man thanked the boy kindly and said, "I'm the new pastor in town. I'd like for you to come to church on Sunday...I'll show you how to get to Heaven."
The little boy replied with a chuckle. "You're kidding me, right?
......You don't even know the way to the Post Office!”

We’ll the good news that I bring to you this Palm Sunday is that we don’t have to find the way to heaven. Because, it is God himself who seeks and saves the lost, and it is he who finds us so that we can have great comfort and:
Fear not dear Christian for your King has come for you!

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

Christ had been followed by the crowds for some time now and the crowds were growing. Here we hear of a large crowd. Some of them came because Jesus had fed them with the loaves and fish; some had healings and some had been healed by having demons cast out. But also some, were believing followers who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead [and] continued to bear witness.

Those who had seen this sign, had witnessed Lazarus risen from the dead by Jesus, were now proclaiming the truth of Jesus, seeing him as the Messiah, the promised King of Israel.

John even tells us that:

18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.

So the people are overjoyed. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the one spoken about in the Prophet Zechariah:

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jerusalem … your King is here!

13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

There were others who were not overjoyed. Namely the Chief Priests and in the two verses that precede our reading for today we understand their plot.

10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Many … were going away and believing in Jesus.

The signs that had been done; The feeding of the 5000, the casting out of demons, the walking on the water, the calming of the storms … raising Lazarus from the dead, had been done so that some might believe.

In John 10, Jesus said:

37 If I am not doing the works [performing the deeds] of My Father, then do not believe Me [do not adhere to Me and trust Me and rely on Me].
38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe Me or have faith in Me, [at least] believe the works and have faith in what I do, in order that you may know and understand [clearly] that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father [One with Him]. AMP

Ill.

Some years ago I was having a conversation with a co-worker who was a Christian. As we discussed our faith I asked him, “As one who was not born into a Christian family or raised in the faith, how did you come to faith and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?”

He said that when he was little he was raised in a pretty dysfunctional family and his dad had been an alcoholic and drug dealer. He was not a loving father, was a womanizer and just a bad person all around. He said that his mom – who was not much better - was brought to faith in the Lord first by the witness of some friends and it was his mom who witnessed to her husband. Over time his dad too came to faith too and the Lord even called him into ministry and he now is pastor of a church in Pontiac.

He then said, “Seeing that change in my dad was miracle enough for me to believe!”

The word of God that had been proclaimed in services his mom had taken him to, took seed in his heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, and God used his word and the drawing of his father to faith to confirm his presence in the lives of his children.
Though unbelief may still be present in your families, remember that God’s word is active and alive and will not return void. God will continue to search to save the lost that by his working through the Spirit through the word, all who [are] appointed to eternal life [will believe]. Acts 13:48

Fear not dear Christian for your King has come for you!

14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. The joy of this Messiah, the King of Israel, come in the flesh, brought the crowds to their feet 13 [taking] branches of palm trees and [going] out to meet him, [they cried] out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

The joy of the King’s coming for a moment rejoiced the people and causing

19 … the Pharisees [to say] to one another, “Look, the world has gone after him.”

Fear not dear Christian for your King has come for you!

Ill.

I received this email from a dear friend that I worked with for 20 years and had the pleasure to witness to over that time. God at times gives us a glimpse of how he uses us to bring Christ to others.

“I hope all has been going well with you
Things have been going pretty well with us over here.
Lately I've been thanking the Lord for the good years I've had.
If anything were to happen to me today... I am only more than grateful for what I've been given... the wonderful gift of this life.. and the good years I've had.   Not that they have all been comfy baby sweet years.. but not a one has been empty of life, discovery, pain, pleasure, joy, sorrow and so very much more.

I also am grateful for our friendship.

Admittedly, until I met you and we shared our good talks, it was easy for me to discount faith, the gift of salvation and forgiveness (not that it's so easy for me to forgive myself but it does make my life a wee bit more pleasant knowing that if my heart is sincere in my asking that I really am forgiven.)
It was your good testimony that brought me to a keener focus on what Christ has given us.

I know you don't like to accept credit for that...    Ha!  That's your problem.

My father used to tell me about when my grandfather died. (might have told you this before...) and Max goes before God  and God says to Max "Max, you've been a good man, husband and father.  What can I offer you here?"   Max thinks for a moment and says "I'd like a bagel if that would be all right."   God says back; "Max surely you want more that!"  And Max looks shyly up towards God and asks "Can I have a little cream cheese with that?"

If I am offered such an opportunity I would ask that God bless your church, your health and to make your life a wee bit easier all around.

On this Psalm Sunday weekend we rejoice in the truth that we have a savior where we can truly place our trust. And that the very Son of God will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, being just and possessing the requirement of our freedom from sin, death and the devil by bearing and carrying our salvation with Him which the Lord had planned.

This humble servant who came down from heaven was not in the form of your everyday earthly King. This King and Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, would rise through lowliness and suffering to the strength and glory which was hidden in Him in the state of His humiliation, and which now is leading, in one short week, to His trial and crucifixion at the cross.

This humble King, Jesus Christ, by his very death and resurrection will bring peace, He kills sin and makes us alive through Baptism, He wounds and heals and though we are dead he gives us life and the peace that passes all human understanding to the very ends on the Earth.

God has set you free from the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. As our triumphant King Jesus Christ rides today into Jerusalem. His path to the cross from His baptism, where He was marked as the chief of sinners for you, also points to His ride today as a triumphant ride that is unique and different from every other faith tradition because in a short while Jesus Christ will accomplish the true freedom at the cross for you and for all sinners of all time.

You are set free from your sin because Jesus came for sinners! He came to set you free. He came for you! He gave His life at the cross to pay the price God demands to satisfy His justice and by his stripes you are free. You are truly free, indeed!

Fear not dear Christian for your King has come for you!

You do not have to find your way to heaven. God in Christ has made the way for you and he will bring you to his side by his means. He will call you, he will draw you, and he has given you faith in his Son Jesus to believe and by his work he will sustain you until his return or until he calls you to your eternal rest in Jesus.

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

Amen

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sermon Mar. 25, 2015 Mid-Week Lent

Title: Christ Jesus has forgiven you so that you too forgive!
The Lord’s Prayer: Fifth petition.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Text: Psalm 119:1-8

119 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!

In the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer we read:

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.

Heavenly Father, it is during this season of Lent that we ask that you would bring we, who are sinful and unclean to repentance so that by your Holy Spirit we might forgive other as we have been forgiven.

Christ Jesus has forgiven you so that you too forgive!

Ill.

A story is told in Ernest Gordon's Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened. A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point. The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers. When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, [who looked like] human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: "No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness."

Sacrificial love has transforming power.

Don Ratzlaff, "The Christian Leader".

119 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,

Forgiveness is a blessed gift. It transforms lives and restores peace. To be blameless though had a price and that price was the very life of the Son of God.
Jesus walked blameless in the ways of the Lord and kept perfect what we could not do. He did for us what we were unable to do and calls you and me, who have been forgiven to forgive other.
Christ Jesus has forgiven you so that you too forgive!

Oh how the old Adam rails.

Luther writes of this petition:

86] This part now relates to our poor miserable life, which, although we have and believe the Word of God, and do and submit to His will, and are supported by His gifts and blessings, is nevertheless not without sin. For we still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among men who do us much harm and give us cause for impatience, anger, revenge, etc. 87] Besides, we have Satan at our back, who sets upon us on every side, and fights (as we have heard) against all the foregoing petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a persistent conflict.

It is easy to see our own failings. At times we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive.

Ill.

“I’ll never forgive him - never!”

“Never is a hard word, John,” said the sweet faced wife of John Locke, as she looked up a moment from her sewing.

“He is a mean, dastardly fellow, and upon this Holy Bible, I” –

“Stop husband! - John! Remember he is my brother, and by the love you bear me, [please do not] curse him. He has done you wrong, I allow; but oh! He is very young and very sorry. The momentary shame you felt yesterday will hardly be wiped out with a curse. It will only injure yourself, - O, please don’t say anything dreadful!”

The sweet face women prevailed – the curse that hung upon the lips of the angry man was not spoken; but he still said, “I will never forgive him – he has done me a deadly wrong.”

The young man who had provoked this bitterness, humbled and repentant, sought in vain for forgiveness from him, whom in a moment of passion he had injured, almost beyond reparation. John Locke steeled his heart against him.
Christian Treasury, Vol. 12 Pen illustrations from the Lord’s Prayer Pg 365

This can sound all too familiar many people. Anger boils in to fighting words, a slight of one’s dignity must be avenged … at any cost … even to the point of not forgiving.

3 who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!

Though we fall short daily God forgives us our sins and has paid the price to redeem us so that we can be spotless in his eyes and precious children.

4 You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.

And though we continue to not do diligently what you have commanded, because you see us in Christ we receive the favor of God on Christ’s account.

5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!

In you Heavenly Father, by the power of your Spirit, we can remain fix on Jesus, so that all of your statutes are kept by his perfect obedience for our benefit.

Christ Jesus has forgiven you so that you too forgive!

6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
    when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
    do not utterly forsake me!

Dear friends,

You are not put to shame because of Jesus Christ! Having your eyes fixed on Jesus fulfills the Law – because Jesus came to be what you are not and in Christ his merit is yours! This allows a joyful heart that praises his righteous rules because you are not forsaken in Christ but made new.

Christ Jesus has forgiven you so that you too forgive!

Sacrificial love has transforming power.

The apostle John sums up Christ sacrificial love in his Gospel with the words of Jesus himself.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:12-15

Christ Jesus has forgiven you so that you too forgive!

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

Amen

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sermon Mar. 21-22, 2015

Title: Christ came to serve your needs unto salvation!
Text: Mark 10:35-45

43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Dear friends,

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter's magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target. But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter's immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.

And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. "Perhaps most remarkable," writes Jaroff, "those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.'" The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going, [lasting 31 years before going dead in 2003 8 billion miles from earth]. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.

So it is when we [are brought to faith and called] to serve the Lord. God can work even through [you and me and our] 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who remains silent.

 Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: the Strength to Stand and to Stay, Bethany.

Christ came to serve your needs unto salvation!

James and John, the so called “Son’s of Thunder” by Jesus in Mark 3:17 show a bit here why Jesus had given them this name designation saying:

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Seemingly even as a spoiled child might ask for that which they know they don’t deserve or shouldn't expect to get.

This same James and John in another memorable gospel moment in Luke Chapter 9 had inquired of Jesus:

“Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

This after the Samaritan village had not received Jesus seeing that he was steadfast set to go to Jerusalem. The Lord’s, all knowing mind, seems to have given James and John a proper title – for they were these young followers and disciples of Jesus who had left their fathers boat and work to go and follow him.

But here too we see where they are focused.

“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Or, in Matthew’s gospel in your Glory is translated as in your Kingdom, spoken by their mother, Salome the wife of Zebedee who intercedes for her two boys who quickly seconded her request. The disciples here didn't understand Christ’s mission, work or glory but were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom and an earthy ruler and a place of honor for themselves.

Christ came to serve your needs unto salvation!

Humility and servant hood is hard for you and me as well. We too look for the choice seats, to be recognized and to be rewarded. But to be a true servant is to model Christ.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 2:1-2

But can we run the race, can we remain faithful until the end, can we endure the trials in this life? For we too like James and John don’t know what we are asking.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus said.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians brings peace when he writes:

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

As parents of new born children we bring those who are unable to bring themselves to the Lord. In humility we consider them more significant, than ourselves and with life, given into our care, we look to their well being, more than our own - giving them to the Lord - and promising to be the ones who raise them in the faith and instruction of the Lord.

We all fall short to be sure, but just as we wouldn't feed a child once and leave them to fend for themselves; faith also requires an active parental role to keep these precious gifts of God in their baptismal grace, so that they too might grow to know him, Jesus Christ both as Lord and Savior who

“came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Christ came to serve your needs unto salvation!

James and John were looking for the earthly glory that a Kingdom of this world provides. They received much more that they or their mother had asked for.

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus asks. 39 And they said to him, “We are able.”

Herod had James put to death by the sword as the early church was persecuted remaining focused on Christ by that Holy Spirit he received from Christ in the upper room following the resurrection.

John would remain and live to an old age leaving his thunderous youth behind to become the apostle of love, writing his Gospel and letters in exile on the island of Patmos, and giving a glimpse of the end of the age from visions given in the book of Revelation.

Heeding Christ's command: But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

Christ came to serve your needs unto salvation!

Ill.

The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to city of Genoa Italy on condition that it must never be played. The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly, but set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini's lovely violin has today become worm-eaten and useless [it lives only] as a relic.

J.K. Laney, Marching Orders, p. 34.

Thank the Lord that God has not left us alone but has given us the means of grace – his word and sacraments - for us to be brought to faith and given life in his name so that we in love can and humility serve the needs of others.

It is not always easy to give up ones seat at the table, or to allow another a place in line ahead of you. It is not always easy to see to it that the light of Christ shines forth into a dark world that gets darker every day. It is not always east to stand firm when the even the fabric of our own faith seems weak and unable to endure.

But Christ who is the one who will never leave you nor forsake you, has stood in your place and he has completed the course for you. In him you have everything that you could not earn because he humbled himself for you.

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Christ came to serve your needs unto salvation!

A man made satellite with 8 watts of power did then what seemed impossible, traveling over 8 billion miles over 31 years.

We might too ask:

How can water do such great things? Luther in our small catechism reminds us.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

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

Amen


Monday, March 16, 2015

Sermon Mar. 14-15, 2015

Title: Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!
Text: Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14;

8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Dear friends,

A number of years ago I was interviewing a gentleman for a job with the store I worked at and managed. He had been in the appliance business for about fifteen years in the Brighton area, working for a family run business, much like the family run business I worked at.

Well, as he considered his situation, he looked at what he had and the prospect for advancement and decided to leave his company for greener pastures at another company across town. As we talked, and I told him of all the opportunities and benefits my company provided I saw a look of real sadness come over his face.

“Boy, he said, I really didn't know how good I had it. All the benefits you mentioned, I already had with my previous job and I was skilled and good at what I did. Now, I’m out of work and hoping I can find a job as good as the one I left.”

The blessings we have often seem ordinary and mundane and we take them for granted or complain about them.  God’s people, in our Old Testament lesson for today, saw their blessings as a curse and murmured against the one who was their provider, protector and sustainer of Israel. In their affliction and also in our sinful condition we can have joy that:

Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

God had been the protector of Israel for 40 years. He had guarded them throughout all their trials and provided for them in the wilderness as they made their way to the Promised Land. He brought them through the waters of the Red sea on to dry ground and also provided manna from heaven for their sustenance … and still they grumbled.

5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

It was noted that this manna was rich in nutrients by one scholar as they were able to march through this wilderness and not have their feet swell so that they were not lacking anything. God’s provisions were complete, full and rich.

Yet, they murmured eight times against God over these forty years. This, the final murmuring against the Lord had happened just after God had provided water from a rock and now he brought fiery serpents that up to this time had been plentiful in the area, but for some reason had left them alone.

6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

These serpents, which it is believed received their name because of their color and the fact that their bite produced venom that caused great swelling and burning bit the Israelites causing death to many. In their distress they once again turn to Moses in repentance to intercede for them and pray to the Lord to take the serpents away.

So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

We too find our blessings at time mundane and boring and grumble about what we don’t have instead of looking to all we do have. Something as simple to you and me as water … running water … hot and cold … in our house …

We all can imagine how different our life would be without this blessing but still we grumble … so too with our faith and our God. At times when we need to trust in Him for whatever our condition in life is, we fall back to our sinful ways. When the promotion at work goes to another or we lose our job in a bad economy many times God gets blamed. “Why Lord, did you let that idiot get that promotion instead of me!” we all might cry not knowing the mind of God and his plan for our life. Instead, he just might be taking us on our way around one battle toward a greater battle with better reward. Or, it might be his protection against certain doom.

One gentleman I know, who had been a loyal member of a particular company for 20 plus years had a job offer from a competitive company. He really didn’t want to take it. He would have preferred to stay in his comfort zone where he was. As it happened to turned out, the company he was at closed a little over a year after he left. In our day to day existence we have no guarantee of continued blessings in fact one of God’s promises tell us:

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John16:33)

God's healing cure for the bite of the fiery serpents was faith in His word of promise.  He directed Moses to make a serpent in the likeness of the ones that caused death. To make it out of bronze and to place it on a pole and when anyone looks at it they will be healed. Our text concludes with:

9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
A simple act of faith in God’s word brings the cure.
Luther had this to say about the cure:

It might have been expected that the Jews who had been bitten by the serpents would shun this cure, for it is only natural for us to shy away from anything that has harmed us. Even to see a picture of it fills us with sadness and abhorrence.

But Moses calmly proceeded, molded a serpent with the form and figure of the live fiery ones, and suspended it before their eyes.

Thus those who are bitten by fiery serpents – that is to say, those who are cast into sin, death and eternal damnation by the devil – must look at this bronze serpent, that is believe in Christ; and they will be guaranteed righteousness, life, and salvation. Faith in Christ, the Son of God and true man, will do this.

LW 22, pg. 341

Jesus pointed to His being lifted up just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness. Just as the serpent Moses lifted up in the desert was not the one biting and causing death, so to our Lord Jesus Christ was not the sinner or cause of sin but became the sin-bearer that took the sins of the whole world upon Himself that He crucified sin in His body on the cross for you.

This lifting of the serpent and trusting in God’s word of promise did bring about their healing. Just so all who trust in Christ also trust in God’s word and His promise that by faith in Christ’s sacrifice we too are freed from sin, death and the power of the Devil.

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

Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

God’s word of promise is for you and for all who will be brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is said that the brazen image of the serpent was taken by the Israelites to Canaan, and preserved till the time of Hezekiah, who had it broken in pieces, because the idolatrous people had presented incense-offerings to this holy relic. (2Ki_18:4).

God has given us His word of promise and the means of grace that in Baptism He creates faith by the power of the Holy Spirit connected to the water so that we believe. He has promised that in the bread and wine He is present and that by our eating and drinking we receive Him and our faith is strengthened. He has promised that when two or more are gathered in His name that He is there too.

He has promised:

38 … that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans (8:38-39)

Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

Whatever your place in life is, whatever you are or hope to become, whatever your successes or failures are, know that God is with you. He will be there through the good and the bad with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has suffered the scorn of the cross - for you - and has taken your sin upon Himself and has exchanged it with the royal robes of His righteousness – for you.

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

Amen

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sermon Mar. 7- 8, 2015

Title: Christ is consumed with his zeal for you!
Text: John 2:13-22

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

We have seen the rebirth of the State of Israel and continue to witness the ingathering of the [Jews], exiles from the four corners of the world. For the first time in centuries Jerusalem is in Jewish hands, yet once a year, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, Jews fast, cry and mourn for the destruction of [their] Holy Temple … a building that was destroyed 2,000 years ago.

This article was posted on the website “Breaking Israel News” In August of last year – titled “We’re ready to rebuild the Temple.”

[For the Jews] the absence of the Temple [is important and] is seen in the stories reported on the nightly news and its void adversely affects [they believe] nations, geo-politics and global peace.
Director of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, Rabbi Chaim Richman explains that the 9th of Av “is not about bemoaning the Temple. It’s about bemoaning the world without the Temple; a world that has lost its light, [lost] its color and [lost] its direction.”

Indeed, there is a growing “Temple Movement” in Israel today with thousands of Jews working to rebuild the Temple. According to a poll taken last year in a leading newspaper, one third of Israelis believe that Israel should erect the Temple on the Temple Mount. Israel’s Housing Minister called publicly for the rebuilding of the Temple, “We've built many little, little temples,” Uri Ariel said, referring to synagogues, “but we need to build a real Temple on the Temple Mount.”

http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/19539/ready-rebuild-temple/#K6mlI3UlXw6oqYSJ.97

In our gospel reading for today we move to the book of John. As we looked at our gospel lesson in Mark last week, Jesus explained that he must suffer, be rejected by the Elders, Chief priests and the scribes, be killed and after three day, rise from the dead. Mark 8:31

Jesus was zealous both for his Father’s House in driving out those who had made it a house of trade selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, [along with] the money-changers [who were] sitting there, just as he was with Peter last week, rebuking him for “not setting his mind on the things of God.”

The Jews now ask Jesus – what is the evidence that you can give us as to your authority for doing such things, by casting those out of the temple?

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, Paul tells the Corinthians in our epistle lesson for today.

So Jesus tells them,

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

As you can imagine, the Jews that Jesus is talking to believe he is talking about “The Temple” the building that had taken 46 years to build, where all the daily sacrifices had taken place … the place where God dwells … where sin is atoned for.

You can see that not much has changed in the nearly 2000 years since the cross of our Lord. The Jews are still rebuilding the Temple … and the cross is still as Paul says:

23  … a stumbling block to Jews and folly [or foolishness] to Gentiles,

But we who have been blessed to be brought to the foot of the cross to see the savior and to trust in his work – where true temple worship is in the once and for all sacrifice for sin - by the working of the Holy Spirit in us

 24 … are called, both Jews and Greeks, [to see] Christ [as] the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Because, Christ is consumed with his zeal for you!

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

But many fall short. For some the stumbling … or foolishness, is just plain stubbornness.

Ill.

In 1937 architect Frank Lloyd Wright built a house for industrialist Hibbard Johnson. One rainy evening Johnson was entertaining distinguished guests for dinner when the roof began to leak. The water seeped through directly above Johnson himself, dripping steadily onto his bald head. Irate, he called Wright in Phoenix, Arizona. "Frank," he said, "you built this beautiful house for me and we enjoy it very much. But I have told you the roof leaks, and right now I am with some friends and distinguished guests and it is leaking right on top of my head." Wright's reply was heard by all of the guests. "Well, Hib, why don't you move your chair?"

Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, Jan, 1992, p.14.

A stumbling block or foolishness, Christ body is the Temple that has been destroyed and has also, after three days, been raised. It remains a problem for many still today. For the Jews the Temple remains something to be rebuilt and for many who are Gentiles the Cross of Christ remains folly, something to be seen as weakness and not the power of God.

The cross is an offence, so at times we shy away from it, especially in the midst of the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book: Life together writes,

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered [or monastic] life but in the thick of foes [and enemies]. There is his commission and his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people."

To this he adds this quote from Luther:

"O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther).”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Christ is consumed with his zeal for you!

21 But [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

In spite of our weakness and in spite of our failings God in Christ was focused on the cross for you. The Temple of his body that was destroyed for you is victory! It is victory because the full wrath of God was poured out on Jesus and as a result you have no fear of standing before our holy God.
God in Christ has taken your sin upon himself and has given you his righteousness in exchange for it – what wonderful good news – and as a result you are free of the bonds of sin, death and the devil and covered by Christ and made his child by faith.

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Christ is consumed with his zeal for you and just as he has been raised you too will rise!

May our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you, and called you through the power of the Holy Spirit to faith, complete this blessed good work in you now and forever!

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

Amen

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sermon Feb. 28- March 1, 2015

Title: To lose your life in Christ is to save it!
Text: Mark 8: 27-38

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Sir Thomas Beecham, [who was a renowned British conductor during the first half of the 20th century], once saw a distinguished-looking woman in a hotel foyer. Believing he knew her, but being unable to remember her name, he paused to talk with her. As the two chatted, he vaguely recollected that she had a brother. Hoping for a clue, he asked how her brother was and whether he was still working at the same job. "Oh, he's very well," she said, "And he’s still king."

Source Unknown.

There are times where we've all been embarrassed, at things we've done or not done. At times we may be embarrassed at others, or they at us, but to be ashamed would be quite another thing.

Embarrassed: To cause confusion; to make uncomfortably self-conscious;

Ashamed: Takes embarrassment and adds guilt, because of one's actions, characteristics, or associations.

Jesus asks the disciples:

“Who do people say that I am?” And then wants to know, “but who do you say that I am?”
And we know that the disciples say that the people think that Jesus is “John the Baptist; [some] say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

And this all climaxes with Peter speaking for the disciples when he says, “You are the Christ.”
Following this confession by Peter of who Jesus is we see Jesus begin to teach them everything he is now prepared to do.

Jesus says that the Son of Man:

Must suffer
Must be rejected – by the elders, chief priests and scribes
Must be killed
And after three days must rise from the dead

As the one who made confession for the disciples, Peter, didn't really understand Jesus and his work for the salvation of the world at this time. His rebuke of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:22,
“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is met by Jesus’ full rebuke, which is focused not on Peter the man but on Satan as the deceiver and the father of lies.

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

To be opposed to Christ is to be in harmony with the devil.

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!

Jesus says …

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Ill.
When Pastor William Sangster was told he was dying of progressive muscular atrophy, he made four resolutions and faithfully kept them:
1) I will never complain;
2) I will keep the home bright;
3) I will count my blessings;
4) I will try to turn it to gain.

W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 215.

If we compare what Christ faced to these four resolutions we see that:

1. The Christ must suffer – but he never complained.
2. He was rejected by the many, but remained the light of the world.
3. He gave his life in death and for that we are all blessed.
4. He was raised from the dead, so that his sacrifice is our gain.

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!

For many, though, this is not a cross they wish to bear. We avoid conflict in proclaiming Christ because we want to get along and be liked. Following Jesus as example is good but being hated and despised on account of Christ … we all would like to take a pass.

It is a common battle the pastors have to face by remaining faithful to their call ... and this can be unpopular at times.

Jesus had given the disciples a summary of His work and he now gives a summary of the demands of true discipleship. He does not show here how one becomes a disciple through the working of the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ and by the washing of regeneration in the word through baptism. But, here Jesus also tells us all how we show the evidence of this gift of faith in Christ by Denying self; taking up the cross we must bear; and by following Christ.

It can be summarized as this.

“If anyone wants to save his life, have the full enjoyment of this life and all that it may offer in this world, he will lose the true life in Christ the Savior. But if anyone will regard this life, the world and all it has to offer, as nothing, give it all up for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel, he will find the true life, the true joy and [true] happiness in Him.”

Popular commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 pg. 209

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!

Ill.

In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at as local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. "Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king." "I understand," said Henry, "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you." "Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you."

When King Henry died, a statement was written: "The King learned to rule by being obedient." When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us … and when he returns, [we will receive the crown of life and hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant!”].

Steve Brown.

As we faithfully serve as God has called us and shine the light of Christ in our vocations we lose our life for Christ’s sake and the gospel and will ultimately save our lives for eternity.

May our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you, and called you through the power of the Holy Spirit to faith, complete this blessed good work in you now and forever!

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

Amen