Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sermon Dec. 25, 2016 Christmas Day

Title: The radiance of the glory of God is given you in Christ!
Text: Hebrews 1:1-6

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Twenty years ago the question was posed in an email to me and other church members who were engaged in a bible study at a small church I attended.

It simple read: “Are there Prophets today?” The question was asked in regards to discussions that had arisen during the study. Some believed and had wondered if God still gave special revelation to people today – speaking to them directly – or in the same way that he had in the past? Many answered the email with thoughts, opinions and speculation.

After carefully thinking about this question I replied with the first 30 world of Hebrews 1.

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

In a grand way the letter to the Hebrews opens: In many and various ways God long ago, spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but at the end of these days spoke also to us in His Son.

He did not give the revelation of the salvation to come at one time and in its entirety, but bit by bit showing one fact concerning the coming Messiah and now another, revealing first the fact that He would be born of a woman, then that He would be of the seed of Abraham, then that Judah was to be His linage, and then that He was to be a son of David.

At other times, in this Son, we see his deepest humiliation, and then his highest triumph and exaltation. In many ways God spoke of old: through institutions, or sacrifice, sometimes by parable, or psalm and sometimes in a dream or vision. Thus God spoke in the times of long ago. But that was not His final speech or his revelation. And that is not to say that he is bound to never do that again.

But, he is bound to truth so those who claim to be speaking for God better be darn sure that they are speaking truth … whether heard by dream, vision or audible voice or speaking forth what God has already said in his word.

The son is his appointed heir. But as Luther states: Everything that is said of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation must be ascribed to Christ the man, for the divine nature can be neither humiliated nor exalted.

Jesus Christ, God’s son according to His humanity has been appointed Heir of all things. According to this humanity and God’s will, he should be Lord over all things created and the universe should be in subjection to Him.

He is the rightful Heir of the eternal God and all that is his. The worlds and all things were created through Him and everything as we know it came to be through His almighty power.

Jesus Christ, in his humility and in his divinity, the second person of the Trinity, distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit as to persons, is nevertheless one in essence with Father and Spirit, and Himself the Creator of the world.

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E Kretzmann NT Vol. II Pg 439

Ill.

Like many I took philosophy in college and had to read many philosophers at the seminary. To say it got a bit tedious would be an understatement. If I never had to read Immanuel Kant or RenĂ© Descartes again would be too soon. I apologize if you are a fan … though looking for meaning in self and what is known leads many Philosophers to unbelief and atheism.

One such Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, and being near the end of his life told Pierre Victor: "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God." 

His fellow philosopher, atheist, and long-time live-in companion Simone de Beauvoir retorted: "How should one explain the senile act of a turncoat?" 

HIS Magazine, April, 1983.

Certainly, we who have been brought to faith in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit know and understand the work of God in the sinner and an eternity that awaits you and me who believe. I hope to meet Jean-Paul Sartre in heaven and maybe, just maybe he will be able to enlighten me to the benefits and value of philosophy?

At Christmas the coming of the Christ child reveals what God had long ago and in various ways spoken by the prophets. Through God’s revelation in these last days we see the flesh and blood of his means to conquer sin, death and the devil born to a virgin in a lowly stable. What had been spoken of … is now here to see in a tangible way as God’s word reveals it to us.

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

This God, who in the beginning was the word, and this Word was with God, and was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God [and] 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

He upholds the universe because according to the word of God all things were made by and through him.

But it is not in his deity and in his power that he restores all things but in coming as a child, for you, and being what we are that he finishes and fulfills all that was spoken of him in times of old and by the profits.

After making purification for sins …

This child, this Jesus came to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin. He came to restore the relationship between God and man. He came to die in your place and rise for your justification; which means he came to be what you and I couldn’t be. God’s son, begotten of the Father, 6 … when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”

This child, this Jesus, this God/man came for you.

… and he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

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

Amen

Sermon Dec. 24, 2016 Christmas Eve

Title: Jesus became flesh for you!
Text: John 1:1-14
Readings - Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 1:1-14 (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Call to Worship: # 364 Away in a Manger
Sermon Hymn: # 361 O Little Town of Bethlehem

The early church leader St. Augustine was once [stopped] by a man who showed him his idol and said, “Here is my god; where is yours?”

Augustine replied, “I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show, but because you have no eyes to see Him.”

Source unknown

Today through the eyes of faith, and at His incarnation we see in the manger, a baby the Christ child and say: “Here is my God!”

Jesus became flesh for you!

John 1:1-18 has been one of my favorite sections of scripture. It expresses the deity of Jesus Christ, His glory that he has with the father and the abundance of His name which is full of grace and truth.

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

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

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

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

YHWH, is the name by which the Word, from eternity, has been made known to the world and by revelation and by faith we know Him to be Jesus.

Jesus became flesh for you!

Not all see the “Glory” that is only revealed by faith in the Christ. Not all see salvation in him; because it is made know by that same faith and working of the Holy Spirit. But though not recognized, salvation is there – in the child - none the less.

The Hebrews text from our epistle for today says that this Christ child:

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

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

The world doesn’t want to hear this, and the world doesn’t want to see this, and that is what makes this child and this birth ever more amazing!

Because he came anyway, despite the hatred … despite the sin, he came for you.

Ill.

This past year I was summoned to the bedside of dear member Joan Kitzman. More than eighty years of age, she was stricken with congestive heart that would prove her fatal illness. While her children were gathered in the room I came; she had been unresponsive but as I got there she brightened up. As we talked and prayed, knowing that God’s call home would be soon for her, she said: "Pastor, I want Psalm 100 at my funeral. I’m ready to go home … let it be joyful." The weakness of old age was on her, and the pain of sickness, but there was no gloom. It was light of Christ in her. "Pastor … Let it be joyful."

—James I. Vance, in Earnest Worker. [adapted to Joan Kitzman’s story]

Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

And that’s how it is with God! From its very opening pages, all the way to the end of the book, the Bible is a story about how God has pursued us with joyful love … an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to come home … to his house! And we do that in this life through the gift of grace by faith! It’s an amazing privilege.

Jesus became flesh for you!

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

Today you too need to see Jesus for who He is; the author and finisher of your faith. He is the one who has taken away the sins of the world and in Him you have life eternal – because his gift is perfect!

The good news is that through the working of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and through the means of grace, of word and sacrament, you are continually built up in Christ being made holy in Him, this beautiful child of Bethlehem that was prophesized long ago.

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

Jesus became flesh for you and is your salvation!

Do not fear what this world gives but see what God gave, in his child … in his manger.

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

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

Amen

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sermon December 17-18

Title: Do not fear; Christ has come for you!
Text: Matthew 1:18-25

19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

As the wild 1960’s ended many of the hippies and free spirits of that generation got married, had children, and moved to respectable neighborhoods. They didn't name their children normal names like Melissa or Robert. People in the mountains around Santa Cruz California grew accustomed to their children playing Frisbee with little Time Warp or Spring Fever. Musician Frank Zappa named his children Moon Unit and Dweezil. Eventually names like these along with, Earth, Love and Precious Promise all ended up in public school.

That's when the kindergarten teachers first met little Fruit Stand. Every fall, according to tradition, parents bravely apply name tags to their children, kiss them good-bye, and send them off to school on the bus. So it was for little Fruit Stand. The teachers thought the boy's name was odd, but they tried to make the best of it.

"Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?" they offered. And later, "Fruit Stand, how about a snack?" He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn't seem any stranger than Heather's or Ray's. 

At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. "Fruit Stand, do you know which one is your bus?"

He didn't answer. That wasn't strange. He hadn't answered them all day. Lots of children are shy on the first day of school. It didn't matter. The teachers had instructed the parents to write the names of their children's bus stops on the reverse side of their name tags. The teacher simply turned over the tag. There, neatly printed, was the word "Anthony."

Luanne Oleas in Salinas, Calif., Reader's Digest. [Modified]

So, what’s in a name? Well, much if you are a kindergartener and the teacher’s keep calling you Fruit Stand!

Names have meaning especially when it is our own name. But names too mean something. My name Russell means Red. Now, I’m not red headed and I’m not a Jr. so I must assume that my mom named me Russell because that was a name she liked and in the mid to late 50’s the name Russell was at its most popular. Some people that share my name are the actor Russell Crow, basketball star Russell Westbrook and even you might remember Russell Johnson – the Professor from Gillian’s Island. Today the name Russell has fallen out of favor to almost its lowest levels back around 1910.

Things change and names have meaning.

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

“Jesus” is the English translation of the Greek name Iesous. The Greek name is a translation of the Hebrew name Joshua. Joshua is a combination of the Hebrew word for salvation with Yahweh, the name of God. Thus Jesus means “The Lord is salvation or the Lord saves”

The angel told Joseph in verse 21 the reason Mary’s child was to be given this name. “He will save his people from their sins”. God’s Son therefore has this name because of who he is and what he came to do. The name of Jesus is both vocational and missional; it shows that his purpose is to be the Savior.

Rev. David I. Lewis II, STM, professor, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

My last name Tkac has meaning too. It means “weaver” in Slovak. Tkac’s were weavers just as Miller’s milled grain or Mason’s worked with stone or bricks to name a few. Jesus saves.

Why must this child save? Well, God’s people fell into sin. That brokenness required a means of restoration and a way back … a way to be reconciled or restored in the relationship … but sinners sin and grumble and so did Israel.

Regardless of how many blessings the Lord gave to them through his promise … protection … and word through his prophets … they sinned. Even the Kings fell short and wearied men and God.

22 All this took place [we’re told] to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophe [Isaiah]:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
which means, God with us.

God gives the sign through the prophet and then brings and fulfills that sign in Jesus – Immanuel – 
God with us – the Lord saves!

Ill.

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

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

So what does he do? Does he go see a doctor? No always. 

Musician Warren Zevon on David Letterman back in 2002 said: "I might have made a tactical error by not going to a physician for 20 years," 

Going to the doctor would be admitting that he’s sick and might die and he didn’t want to accept that.
If he doesn’t go to see the doctor – he thinks, then there’s no verdict that he will die. Therefore, he won’t die – he thinks and yes that’s the way some people reason in this life. His shortness of breath proved to be lung cancer that spread. There was no cure and he was dead within the year.

That’s how it is with sin.
God is the doctor.
Sin is the disease.

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

I have sinned.

It’s MY problem.
It’s MY guilt.
It’s MY shame
It's MY fault.

But there is a promise, there is a child, there is salvation, his name is
“The Lord is salvation or the Lord saves” His name is Jesus!

Martin Luther says of this gift:

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

Martin Luther, Daily Walk, May 5, 1992.

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

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

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

And the Angle spoke in a dream:

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

Do not fear; Christ has come for you!

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






Sermon Dec. 3-4, 2016

Title: Rejoice, O Gentiles, the Savior comes!
Text: Romans 15:4-13

8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”

10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

G.K. Chesterton writes in the Signs of the Times:
Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope is strength.
G.K. Chesterton, Signs of the Times, April 1993, p. 6. [edited]

And so it is in the story of self-made multi-millionaire Eugene Lang, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem [in 1981]. Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 61 sixth-graders. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would drop out of school [he was told]? He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Hispanic children even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. "Stay in school," he admonished, "and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. Said one student, "I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling." Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school and to college and to good and high paying jobs.

Parade Magazine.

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Hope is strength – as has been said - when everything is hopeless. In the former days Paul speaks of hope in the one to come. The Old Testament reading in Isaiah points to this – this shoot from the stump of Jesse – a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Isaiah goes on to say:

2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Jesus himself made this know in his hometown of Nazareth. As recounted in Luke Chapter 4 when he says:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty [or to free] those who are oppressed, Luke 4:18

With righteousness he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.

Christmas can be a dark time for many. Hope in the holidays nonexistent. It may be from a resent loss of a loved one or the remembrance of loved ones no longer around.

Ill.

I was online this past weekend and on my Youtube page saw the link to my ordination video some short 4 years ago. I clicked on the beginning of the service and the processional hymn “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” began. As I watched I was taken by the faces of those no longer with us I saw … Orville and Joan Kitzman near the isle, Hilda Klein near the organ, my friend from my former business Donna Kyle sitting near the back of the church and my own dad Al Tkac, sitting up front. There of course were many more faces and I didn’t watch much too the service … I felt a sense of sadness and loss as we all do.

Brokenness in the family too can bring a sense of hopelessness for many. We see on TV joyful faces on the Hallmark Channel movies around the Christmas tree or at the family meal and know our lives are somewhat different than that – maybe not even happy or joyful at all.

Paul, in our epistle today, deals with trial and hope too. Trial – in that he was writing from prison, not a good place to be but, also a time for
hope.

8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Wonderful good news! God is truthful and his promises are fulfilled as he would have so. Both to those who were given the promise, through the patriarchs and also we who are a far off might to have that hope.

Those early Christians that Paul is writing to new that they were in the midst of trial, both as Jew and Gentile, Christian and Roman, faithful and faithless, and aware of false teachers and the pressures to return to their old ways – back to Judaism and keeping the law, or back to the sinful brokenness of darkness that Paul touched in our lesson last week.

But just as the students in the 6th grade classroom were ready to turn off the old man about to address them, hope sprang forth from Eugene Lang’s words. Something that they couldn’t have hoped for was now theirs!

So too Paul reminds his readers and us what had been written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol [to praise highly and to glorify] him.”
12 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

Where is your hope placed? For some it is in the hope of their on making and in dark times – it is hope that can fade away. Is your hope in a happily ever after or a fairy tale? Because, we all know that life doesn’t promise you or me that. We are in this world though promised tribulation and we can all attest to that reality can’t we?

Is it a broken promise, or a lost job, a failed marriage or a life of hope that has turned sadly to illness and doubt?

God though does promise a gift, a savior and a means to know him. He has come as a child to redeem that which was lost and he sends the Comforter – the Holy Spirit - to make this known for you.

This knowledge, comfort and hope is found where you might expect it to be … in God’s word. The scriptures that God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul and others to write is here for you in the words of Holy Scripture. But it too is sung in the wonderful hymns based on those writings. It is proclaimed here for you to hear in readings and sermons based on these sacred texts and all by the working of the Holy Spirit is made to you who have been brought to faith in the root of Jesse which springs forth in our lives, understanding and faith.

Advent is hope because Advent points to Christ and in him when everything seems hopeless … he is our strength.

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


Monday, November 28, 2016

Sermon November 26-27, 2016

Title: Wake from sleep your salvation is here!
Text: Romans 13:11-14

11 Besides this you know the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

During the Revolutionary War, a loyalist spy appeared at the headquarters of Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall, carrying an urgent message. General George Washington and his Continental army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to the Hessian colonel, but because Rall was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington's army, Rall was still playing cards.

Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured. The battle occurred the day after Christmas, 1776, giving the colonists a late present--their first major victory of the war. 

Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 21.

Colonel Johann Rall needed to be alert and wake from sleep! 

Today we begin the Advent Season. Advent in the church year refers to the four Sundays before Christmas which is a time of prayer and fasting as we prepare to welcome the Christ child.

Advent in the general sense means - coming into being. So as we wait for the coming into being of the God/man Jesus Christ we also prayerfully consider this a time to wake from sleep ourselves, recognizing the coming King and the salvation that he brings.

Some of us are morning people and some evening people. It depends at times on habits and needs which one you are … and that also can change. As a young adult I was an evening person. I worked as a guitar teacher and largely finished work teaching at 9:00 pm in the evening. Some days after work, I went to the bar to play with my band getting home very late at 3:00 am. It wasn’t out of the question to get home and unwind, having a meal or watching a bit of TV. One morning at 5:30 am as I watched TV oblivious to the time my dad came down to leave for work. “What are you doing up so early?” He asked. “I haven’t been to bed yet was my reply.” You probably can imagine the look I got from him.

On the other hand, today I would see myself as a morning person. Not 5:00 am morning but up early and getting about the work of the day and by 11.00 pm I’m ready to go to sleep and rest having worked a full day. 

Your schedule may vary. It might depend on age, life style, work, family, friends, or a number of issues. In years past even changing the service time on Sunday at Peace during the summer caused hardship to some members who couldn’t make the schedule work for them … hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock and going back to sleep.

The apostle calls us to wake: It’s time to get up!

11 … the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. Paul says: “It’s here!”

So what does Paul want you to see and why is now the time to wake?

In the Roman army the centurion’s staff quietly roused the soldiers with the day at hand. Sleep must leave them and rest turn to action. The beginning of the day meant armor, attention and duty and with this the Roman Empire was built in conquest of its enemies.

Lutheran study Bible pg. 1905

Paul calls believers to wake from sleep as well. We are called to get up! We are not to be lulled back into the slumbers of sin, death and the devil … no snooze button for the Christian. Get up and get ready for action!

For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.

We can all be creatures of habit. We can all fall back into slothful ways. On that beautiful Friday only a little more than a week ago with 70 plus degrees … I bagged the rest of my leaves and cut the grass one last time mulching the remaining leaves as I went. Today you can still see the lawns of some homes filled with leaves that no rake has touched, no mower mulched or bagger has bagged. Some people feel I’m sure that it is God’s desire to blow those leaves from their yard to mine. I’m not buying it!

12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

As Christians we too need to be ready for action. Advent prepares us for the one who has already come as we look forward to celebrating the coming of the Christ child and his work on our behalf. But, also to be prepared for his promised glorious return.

We are bound to sin in this life by our sinful nature and we live as children of darkness sleeping the day away and leaving the leaves unraked if you will.

Luther says of natural sleep:

“The sleeper sees nothing about him; he is not sensitive to any of earth’s realities. In the midst of them he lies as one dead, useless; as without power or purpose. Though having life in himself he is practically dead to all outside. Moreover, his mind is occupied, not with realities, but with dreams, wherein he beholds mere images, vain forms, of the real; and he is foolish enough to think them true. But when he wakes, these illusions or dreams vanish. Then he begins to occupy himself with realities; phantoms are discarded.

But of Spiritual sleep he says:

“So it is in the spiritual life. The ungodly individual sleeps. He is in a sense dead in the sight of God. He does not recognize—is not sensitive to—the real spiritual blessings extended him through the Gospel; he regards them as valueless. For these blessings are only to be recognized by the believing heart; they are concealed from the natural man. The ungodly individual [the one falling victim to the lies of the devil] is occupied with temporal, transitory things, such as luxury and honor, which are to eternal life and joy as dream images are to flesh-and-blood creatures” 

Martin Luther, The Sermons of Martin Luther, vol 6 [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995], 11


Paul calls these temporal things orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarreling and jealousy telling us that 12 the night is far gone; the day is at hand. So … cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Paul builds on this later in the Letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 6 calling us to put on the whole armor of God.

… fastening on the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 … taking up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

… and calls us all to do as the Season of Advent reminds us:

18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

The full armor of God is put on when you put on Christ. As st. Paul says:

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

In him you have full protection. The one who comes in weakness and humility as a babe in the manger will come again in glory and power to judge the living and the dead. Through this time of Advent with prayer and fasting we daily remember that we have put on Christ in Baptism and that we never take him off. His armor is your armor; His forgiveness is your forgiveness; his peace is your peace; His Kingdom is your kingdom.

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

Amen

Sermon November 19-20, 2016

Title: True thanksgiving is in Christ’s forgiveness!
Text: Luke 23:27-43

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Martin Luther once gave a brief, simple, but expressive eulogy upon a pastor at Zwickau in 1522 named Nicholas Haussmann. He said, "What we preach, he lived," - Martin Luther.

It is also fitting with end of the church year upon us, that the end of sin and death also be proclaimed and heard in Christ’s cross of triumph. For what we preach, He lived and died for, so that:

True thanksgiving is found in Christ’s forgiveness!

The story of the cross is one of pain and suffering but also hope. As Jesus was led away following His trial towards his impending death,

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:32-33)

The cross of Christ is either death or life depending upon your perspective. Take the two criminals for instance:

One rebukes Jesus saying:

“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

The perspective of the first sees not the wages of sin and the death that sin brings. His call to Jesus is to save, not from the once and for all death that we all must endure, but his call is to save me from this temporal death now, that will at some point in the near future, for him, need to be paid again and in full.

No one will escape death in this life because sin has made sure of that. So, for thief number one, the cross of Jesus is a failure and of no great value for him because it leads only to death for Christ and Him.

Thief number two sees the cross of Christ through the eyes of hope and faith when he says:

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And recognizes that the condemnation is right and just when he says: 41 for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

The mirror of the Law, written on his heart, has shown him that his deeds are indeed the result of sin and that he is being rightly condemned but in Christ he finds hope when he repents saying:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Today too, the cross reflects either death or hope for you and me, and for all broken by sin in this corrupted world as well. The perspective of the cross from our sinful nature can only see the death that sin brings and a hopeless future bound to death like the bonds and ropes that bind all flesh to the wood of their own cross … void of hope.

Ill.

Timothy George writes in “Giving Thanks in Hitler’s Reich” of the life and death of German pastor, Paul Schneider, who preached the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1937 a sermon on Psalm 145:15-21, which says:

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

He began by acknowledging how (inconsistent or incompatible) it might seem to be giving thanks “in this year of our church’s hardship.” Yet this is precisely what the psalmist calls us to do—to give thanks for the material blessings of harvest and home and also for the generous gifts of God in Word, sacrament, and worship. Yet God’s Word does not come cheap, Schneider said. “Confessing Jesus will carry a price. For his sake we will come into much distress and danger, much shame and persecution; Happy the man who does not turn aside from these consequences.”

He was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp and on July 18, 1939 put to death for his proclamation of the word of the gospel. But while there, this Preacher of Buchenwald as he was known, “Wholly and without fear … bore witness of his Christian faith. He called the devil by his name: murderer, adulterer, unrighteous, monster and throughout this witness … he presented the grace of Christ together with a call to repentance.”

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/11/giving-thanks-in-hitlers-reich/timothy-george

And just like thief number two who cried:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

True thanksgiving is only found in Christ’s forgiveness!

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Paradise is not found in worldly wealth or in a pristine uninhabited Island. But it is found in the bloody cross of the God/ man Jesus Christ who willingly bore the sins of thief one and thief two on His cross placed between them.

And though one thief judged Jesus and his death as a failure and proof that the filthy rags of his own righteousness were the same rags and covering that Jesus wore, the second thief saw through repentant eyes the one true hope and victory over sin, death and the power of the devil.

Dear friends, hope in Christ is not only a thing of the past. It is not only a hope for those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus but it is the true and certain hope for you and for me too.

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

We live in the hope of the cross but also in the hope of the resurrection and of Christ’s future return in glory. As our epistle for today comforts us:

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

True thanksgiving is found in Christ’s forgiveness!

As you gather together to celebrate the Lord’s blessing of family and friends this Thanksgiving, joy in the eternal thanksgiving of Christ redeeming grace!

He will gather his church on the day of His return, raising the dead in Christ first and joining the physical body of his saints, incorruptible, forever, and forgiven in the blessed name of Jesus.

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13)

A truly happy and Blessed Thanksgiving indeed!

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

Amen

Sermon November 5-6, 2016

Title: You are blessed and have the Kingdom!
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.

It’s almost over!

No, I’m not referencing the end of the Pentecost Season and the beginning of a new church year – though that is upon us. It is the election cycle which will culminate with our votes this Tuesday November 8th and the election of a new President.

I’ve almost finished reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, the first volume in a three volume biography by Edmund Morris of our 26th President. I am right at the point where Roosevelt – who is President of the New York Police Commission at this time – and is campaigning for William McKinley in hopes and ultimately being appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in McKinley’s first administration. He only served one year as assistant Secretary. He then leads the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War, becomes Governor of New York, and then is tapped for Vice President in McKinley’s second administration which ultimately leads to his ascent to the Presidency.
What you may ask is the point of all this? Well, we don’t ultimately know how the Lord will work in and through our elected officials, but we do know that all things are under God’s control. So I would ask at this time that we pray the Lord’s blessing:

Heavenly Father, we lift our needs and the freedoms we enjoy in this country to your blessed care. Give us not what we deserve for abandoning you in so much of our personal and public witness, but give us leaders that are most beneficial for our needs as we look to your blessed and continued care. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

5 Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them … 

It is a very common thing as we read the scriptures to see Jesus as teacher. Here in our lesson he sits to teach those who will hear. The word of God in our text is spoken by Jesus. It is proclaimed to those saints … those followers of Jesus who had gathered to hear him.

In the same way God’s word comes to us who have gathered together to hear his word as it is read, sung and proclaimed in the Divine Service. As you go through the parts of the liturgy in setting one you’ll see a scripture citation for each part. This is true with all our services. The liturgy and our services are built on the very word of God.

As we celebrate All Saints Day this weekend we celebrate those saints who from their labors rest with our Lord Jesus, being brought to faith in this life through that same word of God we hear and by the same working of the Holy Spirit. 

This year I’m reminded of dear friends and former Peace members, Joan Kitzman, Hilda Klein, Ed Blasius, Betty Buchanan, and Roy Kusnereit among others, who this year went to be with our Lord.

They too heard the same word of God - first connected to the waters of Holy Baptism as they were washed clean and made God’s child, but also here at Peace proclaimed in word and song, binding them to Christ for forgiveness - just as you and I are also bound to him in the same way.

We are all indeed poor in spirit being brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin though we are blessed, rescue by another, and given the Kingdom of Heaven.

As we mourn their passing and the passing of all blessed loved ones who have died in the faith we are promised the Lord’s comfort. The blessing of comfort turns tears of sadness into tears of joy. We live a life on earth of mourning … both as sinner and saint … and at the same time dead in trespass and sin and alive in the Spirit. Our comfort is not in Country’s and Presidents but in a Kingdom given and received through the gracious and merciful hand of God.

Ill.

On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn Germany, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, "I suppose all the great pianist who come here want to play on that piano."

The guard shook his head. "Padarewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here [once] and he said he wasn't worthy to touch it."

Source Unknown.

Meekness and humility are not part of our human condition tainted by sin. As we heard in the sermon for Reformation last week, true peace comes as it came to Martin Luther in the words of Romans 5:1

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

We inherit a new heaven and a new earth, Rev. 21:1 one without the taint of sin and death coming out of this life of tribulation having washed our robes white in the blood of the lamb. Rev. 7:14 Jesus, the true suffering servant who in true humility became man for us so that we might be satisfied. Though it is only through God’s working in us that we can hunger and thirst for righteousness. Left to our own evil desires … we only thirst for power, riches and the ways of the world.

It is very good news though that God is merciful. He gives us what we don’t deserve … Heaven and not what we do deserve … Hell. He sees you, his child, as you are in Christ.

Having been forgiven we too forgive. Having received mercy we also show mercy – these are fruits of faith.

Ill. 

The Pure of Heart shall see God. Bernard of Clairvaux in lamenting the loss of his brother he writes:
Through death’s jaws Gerard passed to his Fatherland safe and glad and exulting. When I reached his side, and he had finished the psalm, looking up to heaven, he said in a clear voice: “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then saying over again and again the word, “Father, Father,” he turned his joyful face to me and said: “What great kindness that God should be father to men! What glory for men to be sons of God and heirs of God!” So he rejoiced, till my grief was almost turned to a song of gladness.

Daily prayer Catechism The Lord will Answer CPH 2004 Pg. 428

God changes our hearts of stone to pure hearts so that we are blessed and see God through the eyes of faith. God makes us peacemakers as we are made his children called sons and daughters of God by his gracious and good work. Even through persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we received the blessed kingdom of heaven as a promise and a pledge through Christ’s merit.
It is through all these things that we can be and are truly blessed. As we will sing in verse 8 of For All the Saints:

From Earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: Alleluia! Alleluia!

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sermon October 29-30, 2016 Reformation

Title: The Jury says, Guilty but the Judge sets you Free!
Text: John 8:31-36

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Rev. Dr. Peter Marshall the 57th Chaplain of the United States Senate prayed this prayer before the U.S. Senate:

Lord Jesus, [you] who [are] the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please and do what is right.

Peter Marshall, Before the U.S. Senate.

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, begin a yearlong celebration leading up to the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 theses 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.

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

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

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

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

Ill.

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.
And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you as well:

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

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

He said:

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

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

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

Though the Jury says, Guilty … the Judge has set you Free!

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

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

Once again from Luther:

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend--it must transcend all comprehension.”

He continues: Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing (where he was going). He trusted himself to (God’s) knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey's end.

Behold, that end is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let (God) lead you as though you were a blind man. (So), it is not you, no man, (and) no living creature, but (Christ) Himself, who instructs you by word and Spirit in the way you should go.

Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire--that is the road you must take. To that, (Christ) calls you and in that (says) you must be my disciple.”

― Martin Luther

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

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

But Jesus reminds His hearers and you as well that:

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

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

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

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

The Jury says, Guilty but the Judge sets you Free!

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

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

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sermon October 22-23, 2016

Title: With childlike faith there is salvation!
Text: Luke 18:9-17

17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Introduction

It has been said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Source Unknown.

Robert Fulghum wrote in the Kansas City Times, "Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.

"These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody . . . When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together … Unless you become like little children, you won't enter the kingdom of heaven."

Hugh Duncan.

So what is child like faith?

Well, Webster says of a child: It is an unborn or recently born person; a young person especially between infancy and youth; a childlike or childish person; a person not yet of age; a son or daughter of human parents; one strongly influenced by another or by a place, or state of affairs.

And about faith Webster says: It’s a strong belief or trust in someone or something; belief in the existence of God; strong religious feelings or beliefs; a system of religious beliefs; fidelity to one's promises; sincerity of intentions; belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust.

Ill.

So, picture if you will a young child standing on the side of a pool; not yet of age to swim and having not been taught how, but being strongly influenced by dad’s call to jump and that he will catch them.

The child too has strong feelings and beliefs, that if dad misses or drops me, “I will hit the water and I’m going to sink as fast as the stones I’ve dropped in the pool at the deep end!”

But dad has promised to catch them and so they place their trust his intentions … complete trust and loyalty in dad … though there is no proof. As the child jumps, dad catches … confirming their faith in the object of their safety - the one who will not let them fall.

It is true as well with our heavenly father. As St. Paul writes in our epistle lesson for today: 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. 2 Timothy 4:18

It is his promise.

So, where do we today place our trust? What is the object of faith for the Christian? Is it in our self? Is it in our parents? Is it in the church or religion as a whole? Is it society and political power? Is it strong or weak like a child?

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

Infants or babies can’t come to Jesus so “they” probable their parents or responsible adult were bringing them to him. Much like we continue to do with those gifts of God, those little boys and girls, who are brought as infants to the waters of Holy Baptism … where God himself marks them as his child.

As we compare this part of our reading with the earlier part dealing with the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We see the strength of the Pharisee, who standing in his own strength, might, and faith brags:

12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

Are you not God so pleased with me and all that I do and have done? He stands by himself, covered in his own righteousness and he calls out so that all can see and hear:

“… thank you … that I am not like other men ... extortioners, [those who get things through any way or any means that they can – sounds a bit like those running for office doesn’t it?] unjust, [the opposite of the truthful and fair are those who are unjust. Those who give you what you don’t deserve rather than what you do deserve, adulterers, [those who defile their marriage or live contrary to what God has commanded] or, even like this tax collector. [this poor tool of the government sent to extract all that is rightfully mine, we might suppose.]

Do we at times think the same? Are we at times not also, the Pharisee who looks at ourselves against the other Christian believers that we see, thinking how pleased God is with us and our good prayers, good works, and duty that we give to God? I know I have, and maybe you have too?

Oh … I hear a song coming on …

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

When you're perfect in every way.

I can't wait to look in the mirror.

Cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me.

I must be a hell of a man.

Oh Lord It's hard to be humble,

But I'm doing the best that I can.

Davis Mac - Oh Lord It's Hard To Be Humble Lyrics | MetroLyrics


Maybe you older folk remember Mac Davis and this little gem from 1980. I especially like and identify with the “to know me is to love me” part.

Well the truth is, that’s the Pharisee song with big faith in – me, myself and I. It’s humorous because we know there are people that do at times see themselves in that way … even when those people may be you and me.

Oh Lord I am a Pharisee

religious in every way.

I worship my God on the Sabbath,

and out in the public I pray.

I’m not like other sinners,

extortioners and the unjust.

Oh Lord I am a Pharisee,

and in myself I will trust.

The song that more clearly shows the child like faith that Jesus is talking about was written in the mid 1700’s by Henrietta L. von Hays.

I am Jesus little lamb, Ever glad at heart I am;

For my Shepherd gently guides me,

Knows my needs and well provides me,

Loves me every day the same,

Even calls me by my name.

Childlike faith clings to the savior as a child to his mother; Knowing that every need is provided for them by God daily, and that he lovingly calls each one of us by name.

Day by day, at home, away, Jesus is my staff and stay.

When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,

Into pleasant pastures feeds me;

When I thirst, he bids me go

where the quiet waters flow.

Every day our childlike faith is place in him. Whether hunger or thirst, we can find the pleasant pastures of rest in him as we daily remember the quiet waters of our own baptism of forgiveness where our sins have been washed away.

Who so happy as I am, Even now the shepherd’s lamb?

And when my short life is ended,

By his angel host attended,

He shall fold me to his breast,

There within his arms to rest.

Our joy with childlike faith is in the good shepherd Jesus who will, even as our life comes to a close and we look to him through the eyes of old age, comfort us all in his loving arms where we will rest with him in eternity.

Jesus says:

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:16b-17

It is by God’s Grace, Mercy and Spirit that we too can receive his Kingdom with that blessed childlike faith. May we, by that same Spirit, pray to always remain in the one true faith as a child who is Jesus’ little lamb.

Let us close by singing together, I am Jesus little lamb hymn # 740 in the Lutheran Service book.

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

Amen

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sermon October 15-16, 2016

Title: Truth is Truth!
Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Two men had an argument. To settle the matter, they went to a judge for arbitration. The plaintiff made his case. He was very eloquent and persuasive in his reasoning. When he finished, the judge nodded in approval and said, "That's right, that's right."

On hearing this, the defendant jumped up and said, "Wait a second, judge, you haven't even heard my side of the case yet." So the judge told the defendant to state his case. And he, too, was very persuasive and eloquent. When he finished, the judge said, "That's right, that's right."

When the clerk of court heard this, he jumped up and said, "Judge, they both can't be right." The judge looked at the clerk of court and said, "That's right, that's right."

Roger von Oech, Ph.D., A Whack on the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1983, p. 23.

Truth is Truth! "That's right, that's right."

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

It is interesting here how the apostle Paul writes Timothy – his son in the faith - to urge him to continue to believe the scriptures (the OT teaching) that he learned from his youth through his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) and from St. Paul himself.

How familiar that sounds especially for you mothers and grandmothers that I hear often urging their own children and grandchildren to continue in the truth of the faith and how you also share your sadness and grief when they seemingly fall away from that faith, turn a deaf ear to it, or act contrary to it.

There are many people in fact that believe and maintain that they are Christians - though they rarely if ever come to church or read the Bible - or even know much of what is believed, taught and confessed by Christians. We also see many children of Christians living together out of wedlock, not seeing or even understanding the sin they are committing. They assume that Love is Love or Sex is Love as it is presented by our civil society, not recognizing that there are desires and ways of life that are in conflict and opposed to the truth of God’s word.

As was presented in our Catechism Connection today and as God’s word tells us in the 6th Commandment about committing adultery – or leading a sexually pure and decent life – covering God’s definition of marriage with husband and wife … loving and honoring each other.

Ill.

In a recent poll, light is shed on the paradox of religiosity vs. decreased morality, or God’s truth vs. our actions and how we live. 

According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81% of the American people say they agree that "an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." (That truth is determined apart from God’s word and teaching in our case.) 

This interesting thought is key to the paradox that that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands … on behavior … or Christian values.
A woman named Sheila, interviewed for Bellah's poll, embodies this attitude. She says, "I believe in God. I can't remember the last time I went to church though, but my faith has carried me a long way. It's 'Sheila-ism.' Just my own little voice." 

Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy and us:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Truth - when it is God’s word - is Truth!

At times life and society tell us what truth is to be believed – whether marriage is between a man and a woman or whether we can celebrate this gift from God in any way we choose. Whether even,

27… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:27-28a

Today even gender is no longer a physical determination of male and female but a psychological determination as many see fit - and society in its many forms - in many ways has bought into that truth. How someone sees themselves, or feels about themselves, becomes the determining truth or reality.

Ill.

An interesting video that I saw on line has a white man of about 30 years of age and around 5’-8” in height on a college campus asking students what they would say if he told them that he is 6’-4” tall.
Most smile a bit and say: “Well who am I to disagree with your truth. If you see yourself as 6’-4” than I guess you are 6’-4”."

When he pushed it further and asked how they might react to him being 6’-4” and Chinese they smiled and said: “If that is your reality then who am I to argue against you?”

Finally, when he claimed to be a 6”-4” Chine woman, one student said: “Oh come on!” 

You see, if you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then truth is determined by the reality of the individual. If we believe that the child in the womb is just a bunch of cells then removing it is no different than removing a tumor that is benign or cancerous. 

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then there are many paths to the Father as some claim, and Jesus is not the savior and only way that he claimed to be.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then you might be a pretty good person from your perspective and not dead in trespass and sin as Paul writes the truth of our condition in Ephesians 2.
If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then everlasting life is given to all apart from faith in Christ and the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary and accomplished nothing.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then the rich man from our lesson a few weeks ago was not in torment in hell and he could have easily gone from death to life just by changing his reality.
If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead and you are dead in trespass and sin.

But truth is truth … when it is God’s word …

That is what Paul keeps telling young Pastor Timothy: Preach the Word.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

As Christians we have the truth and we know this by God’s gift of faith alone.

Jesus prays for his disciples in his high priestly prayer of John 17 when he prays to the Father:

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, [dear friends we’re here for the duration] but that you keep them from the evil one [from sin, death and the power of the devil]. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them [or keep them holy and separate from the world] in the truth; your word is truth.

We are kept in the truth, as we gather together to hear the truth of God’s word, as we receive the gift of forgiveness of sins in our Lord’s word and sacraments and then we go forth joyfully with that same word of comfort and peace to seek those who remain dead in trespass and sin.

For St. Timothy and for you and me all the road remains the same as Paul reminds him:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths [or lies of the evil one as the time now shows]. 5 As for you, as it was for Timothy, always be sober-minded, [clear headed and knowing that the truth is truth] endure suffering, [that is the reality for all who believe] do the work of an evangelist, [preach the word and comfort those in need the truth you have been comforted with] fulfill your ministry.
We have been blessed by faith with God truth may you all by that same faith be steadfast in receiving God word as truth for and always.

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

Amen

Sermon October 8-9, 2016

Title: Healed and thankful, in Christ!
Text: Luke 17:11-19 (Readings for Praise Band and Kim below)

17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Senator, Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called "House of Dying," where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful."

Beyond Hunger, Beals

In our gospel for today there is what is called the saddest text of the Bible. This is where Jesus says, “Where are the nine?” in Luke 17:17 and today we will examine that very text.

The story is told of Jesus traveling through the country side between Samaria and Galilee. And as we’ve discussed over the last number of weeks, Jesus, was on His way to Jerusalem and he was not taking a very direct rout. He was traveling between Galilee on the north and Samaria on the south heading south toward Jerusalem. The text tells us that as he entered a village he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance.

Leprosy is a disease that in Jesus’ time had no cure. Today the disease, which is also known as Hansen’s disease and is caused by a bacterial infection of the nervous system and upper respiratory tract, has over the last 20 years, through God’s blessing of modern medicine, seen over 15,000,000 people cured of this dreaded disease.

But for the 10 lepers in our story today there was little to no hope. They were to spend the rest of their lives in a colony with other Lepers, unable to share the joys of life with their families, confined to a living hell as it were until the time of their death. We all can only imagine how this might have been.

Now Jesus’ travel might have preceded him. The word of his coming having reached these in this dreadful condition, bringing them to faith by the Holy Spirit’s working and though they keep a distance as was mandated by the law, they all called out with a loud voice together. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” In some way this concerted call to Jesus, the Lord of life, to please have mercy on our dismal condition was an act of faith that this Jesus could in fact do something to cure this leprous condition they all faced together.

Either way, you see a call to Christ by faith from those who had no hope. This hopeless condition of the ten is a call of hope by faith in Him, Jesus our Lord, who is the only hope of life to a dying world.

Ill.

During the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God's provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour.

Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord's presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many. "Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way. Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day."

It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength. And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope. Are you facing a great trial? Take heart. Put yourself in God's hands. Wait for His timing:

Our Daily Bread, May 7, 1992.


Healed and thankful, in Christ!

What about your trials? What about your faith? Do you feel beat down at times in this life? I think we all could answer yes to that question. Is it a sickness or a death in your family, a broken marriage or a loss of a job? I think we can all attest to things in this life that have burdened both you and me. Is it a child that has fallen away.

The gift of faith and being connected to the faith and life everlasting is the hope for parents and for our church. Many in our church have fallen away from the faith. At times there are broken relationships in families as well, and you may experience bitterness towards others – even someone that you love and hold dear – they may have wronged you and are now living in sin and outside the faith.

Martin Luther had this to say about our text today:

“Christ heals ten lepers and he knew that only one would be grateful (Luke 17:1 1-19). This will also be our lot, and we should not on this account give up our eagerness to confer benefits on others.”

LW Vol. 3 Pg.183 CPH


Loving others is the call that every Christian is given in this life, to love thy neighbor as thyself, even though at times it’s really hard to love those who have wronged you. It’s hard to love those who have not been thankful for what you’ve done for them. But you can all be truly thankful that God is a God of mercy and that He gave up His life for the sins of the whole world … even though many in our world refuse that gift or remain unthankful for all that He has done. Jesus still went to the cross for the sins of those who will never repent or have fallen back into sin. Their sins have been paid for but the benefit and Good News of salvation in Christ they continue to reject, so they stay condemned in their sin and covered in their own righteousness. It is our hope and blessing to continue to share the Gospel and the love of Christ with those who reject Jesus, so that by God’s Holy Spirit working through his word of pardon and in His time, they may repent of their sin and turn to Christ in faith, receiving the forgiveness of sins won for them at the cross.

Remember dear friends that faith is a gift and that you are:

Healed and thankful, in Christ!

14 When Jesus saw the lepers and heard their cries he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” No on the spot healing … but by faith they went as was required by the law. It is suggested that had the priests known that Jesus was behind the healing that they might have refused to recognize the healing and release the lepers as cleansed so Jesus sent them on their way and as they went they were cleansed. Also note that this act of going was also an act of faith - in Christ - and his healing words trusting that as they showed themselves to the priests they would be healed.

15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.

Christ has washed these lepers clean by His word and He has washed you clean as well through the washing of regeneration by His word in baptism.

5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Christ Jesus has heard your cries too. He hears and His desire is to heal the biggest problem that you have and that is eternal separation from Him.

17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? The one who returned to offer thanks was a Samaritan, a foreigner just as you and I are foreigners graphed in to the vine so that we might bear good fruit. This good fruit is possible only because you have been given mercy.
You have been given mercy and this is nothing you deserve. Whether you return thanks or not Christ’s mercy is still yours because you can never thank Him enough. Your sins have been taken away and you, like the ten, have been cleansed. Your cleansing does not depend on your thanks but on God’s mercy and thankfulness is a fruit of your cleansing and the joy that lives in you by God’s Holy Spirit.

Healed and thankful, in Christ!

By faith, you can be faithful. All you do for the benefit of others is gifted you by our loving God who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 2:2)

Your faith in Him has made you well!

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

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

Sermon October 1-2, 2016

Title: Repentance and forgiveness are yours in Christ!
Text: Luke 17:1-20 LWML Weekend

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

One of the most tragic events during the Reagan Presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. Many of us can still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble.

A few days after the tragedy, [there was an] an extraordinary story. Marine Corps Commandant Paul Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors then in a Frankfurt, Germany, hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man; yet he survived.

As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper was but two words -- “Semper Fi” the Latin motto of the Marines meaning "forever faithful." With those two simple words Nashton spoke for the millions of Americans who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country -- those who have remained faithful.

J. Dobson & Gary Bauer, Children at Risk, Word, 1990, pp. 187-188.

Being faithful as followers of Christ and his Gospel also has obstacles and enemies. As Jesus says:

“Temptations to sin are sure to come,”

We all fall short in thought, word and deed - even at times allowing the things, and those that we love, to become a stumbling block – separation us from the love of God and getting in the way of the gift that is Christ Jesus our Lord.

Even the little ones, those who are new to the faith, child, teen, and adult alike can have those who lead them away through their own apathy for Christ and love for the world. Jesus gives a word picture of a millstone and sea as to what awaits those who lead away from him, becoming a stumbling block where unbelief results.

We too find temptations to sin and fall away all around. The needs of the body and the loves of life can draw us to inactivity. I just don’t have the time to get to worship. The kids have a game or are so busy. They’ve been confirmed … I’ve done my job.

I had the same problem. Work demanded much of my time … even working nights and weekends. As God drew me closer to him and as I read more of his word I saw that I needed to be the spiritual head of my family. 

“No way!” that’s hard. I have enough to do. I work long hours, care for the house and yard and besides Monica would be better at it than me!” She’s nicer.

But Jesus calls … through the word. “Russ … you need to do it.” Not, that Monica can’t teach and lead and support, but YOU are the one who needs to be the spiritual head of the family and mom’s need to encourage their husbands to that duty. “Semper Fi, Forever faithful to Jesus and his words!”

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

Even the apostle’s faith was struggling. They’re confused and until after the resurrection won’t really understand what Jesus is saying.

6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Duty can be summed up with these letters: LWML

This weekend we celebrate the work of the ladies of the LWML, better known as the Lutheran Woman’s Missionary League. You might think of them as the group with the little boxes or mites that are collected where pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters are put into mission work in our area and around the world.

You might think as well, “That little bit of money I give won’t even be noticed.” But the giving of mites and the small donations grow by the blessing of the Lord. So, your paper money is appreciated too!

Some of you may or may not know that I have been serving as the LWML pastor for the zone we are part of. I was involved also at the fall rally October 1st at St. Stephens yesterday. It is an honor to serve in a small way those who serve the Lord and his flock in so many and varied ways.

For instance the LWML is involved in a clean water and evangelism ministry, disaster response, cancer care packages, healthy families initiative, training teachers and leaders for service, helping hands initiative, Deaconess training, Lutheran Youth Corps, Hope for Detroit and so much more to the tune of over $1,400,000. Even St. Paul Pontiac, our own missions outreach, received a sizeable grant for continued mission work.

Duty is their middle name as these members of the body of Christ work for the benefit of our Lord’s kingdom.

Your heavenly Father knows your needs and also the needs throughout the world. These needs are met by God through means and one of those means that we contribute to is the LWML mites program and that money multiplied by God brings relief and service to a hurting world … not only for the needs of the body to be fulfilled but also for the needs of a world hopeless without Jesus.

Our local LWML and their mite collections are just a small snapshot of God’s greater work throughout the world. He lets us help much like a child with a plastic saw and hammer sees himself helping dad build the deck or finish the basement. We go through the motions and God does the real work.

10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Our duty is to believe on Jesus whom he has sent. Through faith as a gift we believe and serve our neighbors as his servants. May that be your comfort now and always.

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

Amen

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sermon September 24-25, 2016

Title: The true gift of the kingdom is not in this life!
Text: Luke 16:19-31

29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

James Packer writes in his book Your Father Loves You:

The New Testament always conceives of eternal punishment as consisting of an agonizing knowledge of one's own ill desert, of God's displeasure, of the good that one has lost, and of the irrevocable fixed state in which one now finds oneself. The doctrine of eternal punishment was taught in the synagogue even before our Lord took it up and enforced it in the Gospels. All the language that strikes terror into our hearts -- weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, the worm, the fire, gehenna, the great gulf fixed -- is all directly taken from our Lord's teaching. It is from Jesus Christ that we learn the doctrine of eternal punishment.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

The story that Jesus begins to tell picks up on the theme from last week that you can’t serve both God and money – where you will love the one and hate the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other - and also the week before where we learned that Jesus is the Good Shepherd that seeks the lost sheep leaving the 99 and that joy in heaven that is found when one sinner repents.

We see here a rich man, or one who has the blessings of this life and lives in an opulent manner and to the point that Jesus says that this he does every day.  Contrasted with this we find:

20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table.

Not a good life here.

Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The contrast of wealth and opulence and the poor and lowly of the world is not lost on the Pharisees, Scribes and teachers of the Law as Jesus said:

15 … “are those who justify yourselves before men, [the rich man] but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The true gift of the kingdom is not in this life!
It is not in this life – wealth, riches and temporal gifts but it is given in this life. Christ made known by the power of the Holy Spirit in the word of the Gospel and connected to the waters of Holy Baptism where God washes away our sin marking us his child.

Jesus continues the story abruptly,

22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment,

Both dead but two very different results; one carried to Abraham’s side the other in torment and a gulf (chasm) fixed between them.

Ill.

A story is told of:

A pig who ate his fill of acorns under an oak tree and then started to root around the tree. A crow remarked, "You shouldn’t do this. If you lay bare the roots, the tree will wither and die." "Let it die," said the pig. "Who cares as long as [I have] acorns?"

Bits & Pieces, February, 1990, p. 24.

It is interesting that Lazarus is called by name and that God knows him personally but a certain man neither knows God, nor is known by him, as a loving father knows a child. We at times can’t see the tree and the blessings of God that the acorns are, given as a gift. Just as the wealth and riches of this life are given and received from God, the true giver of life who gives all in Christ, in service to our neighbor and the needs of the body.

The call goes forth.

‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

The result of trusting in Christ versus trusting in riches is made clear. The temporal blessings of this age are for … but a time … but God’s eternal blessings given as a gift are forever. But also, the result of falling away into trusting those “idols” that draw us away from Christ.

A few weeks ago Jesus said:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

That even family can and does draw us away from the savior.

Two weeks ago it was:

’7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Repentant and forgiveness are God’s work through the Holy Spirit working through the word.

Last week it was Jesus speaking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money:

14 … “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
Today it is the consequence of a life apart from God.

1. Eternal torment as opposed to eternal life: both are real and both are forever.

2. Good and bad: The good can at times draw us away from Christ trusting in the things of this world where keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus can get us through the trials of this life with the focus of the blessings and riches in heaven.

3. A chasm [gulf] fixed: In some way the torment of hell is the knowledge of a life wasted not in service to God and neighbor but only to self. There is even the knowledge of those by name – Lazarus - who we could have helped but didn’t. Who is the Lazarus in your life?

4. The reality of those left behind: The desire of the rich man here is to awaken his brothers to the reality and importance of repentance and faith in Christ given for the forgiveness of sins and time still for a turning to God.

5. Moses and the Prophets: The means to faith is given and revealed in God’s means of word and sacraments. Moses and the Prophets, Law and Gospel, heard and received by the Holy Spirit or connected to the waters of Holy Baptism by the power of the holy Spirit. [Little Rose Pietrzak]

6. Sending Lazarus back from the dead:

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:8-10

The good news is that Christ Jesus died for you! Moses and the prophets testify to this so you and I are without excuse. We heed the working of the Holy Spirit who calls us to repentance or we continue to live as if it doesn’t matter. There will be no excuses or second chances in the life to come, but there will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth as the reality of a life rejecting faith in Christ tears at the very fabric of those in eternal torment ... for eternity.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

For you dear friends Christ calls, comforts and brings to faith by his Spirit. Just as in baptism you were made his. May this be your joy now and forever.

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