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