Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sermon Dec. 25, 2017 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 that 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, and it better be in accord with the truths of scripture.

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, + of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Amen


Sermon Dec. 24, 2017 Christmas Eve

Title: The Father’s Love, Begotten in his Son Jesus … for you!
Text: 1 John 4:7-16
Readings - Isaiah 7:10-14, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Of the Father’s love begotten, Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!


The Father’s love is made known to us – you and me - in the sending of his son Jesus the promised incarnate son of God from eternity past the Alpha and Omega the first and the last.

In the beginning when God spoke all things came to be. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. God’s Christ – begotten of the father – born of a Virgin for you!

O that birth forever blessed, When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

We hear this Good News in the words of our gospel tonight.

“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.”

The fall into sin brought death. All are born in death and live a life of death. You and I apart from Jesus and faith created by the Holy Spirit - have no hope. But that is the Good News of a savior who saves, redeems and calls from death to life. It is Good news tonight; it is good News tomorrow; it is good News because it is redemption, restoration and resurrection from death to life eternal.

This is He Whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected, Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!


In the past God spoke through the prophets of old as the writer to the Hebrews says but in these last days he has spoken through his Son.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (God with us)

God’s word made flesh, Jesus Christ, was spoken of, was prophesized and foretold, that the plan of redemption would come in God’s time and in God’s way. But who is this Jesus … and more importantly … as Jesus asked his disciples … who do you say that I am?

Your answer to this question determines quite literally life and death. 

This humble child that now lies in a manger is truly the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whether he is your King and your Lord depends on faith in him, this Jesus who created the heavens and the Earth, lived, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead for you … to bring peace to this broken world.

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!


Dear friends we speak of heaven, of angels singing, and of all bowing before the King, no silent throng but mighty voices. It is impossible to imagine the perfection of heaven but we can get a glimpse … in this child in the manger – the Jesus. The Perfection of God’s only begotten son sent down from Heaven and wrapped in swaddling clothes … would grow into the man Christ Jesus.

That God would become man shows the value of his life for you and your life in him.

Since the incarnation when God, born of a virgin, became man - no longer is God separate from you on a mountain, or speaking to a prophet for you. Now in his flesh he has come to unite his death, with your death, and his life, with your life, so that in him we are made righteous by the power of the Holy Spirit by faith.

John’s epistle confirms this when he writes:

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

God remains hidden. He reveals himself by his Spirit through the word. If you wish to know him don’t look into the heavens as the angles told the disciples as they looked up as he ascended before them.

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

The ascension is not the end.

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!


The eternal victory is found in Christ’s glorious return to judge the living and the dead. Death is no escape. All will be judged. Some will depart to be with the Lord and others cast into … a hell of their own choosing.

The good news though is that the Lord is on his throne and he still calls those who have ears to hear. Listen, come, and drink the living water for the river of life that is Jesus.

As my Professor Peter Scare wrote on his timeline on facebook:

Cain lives in every heart and each of us must die. Who then can raise the brother slain? Christ alone is Able.

He is Able in the real sense and in the figurative sense. Unjustly killed Christ overcomes sin, death, and the devil for you. He is able to raise you up by the power of the simple things … water and word, bread and wine … for you and he continues through his church to make disciples.

Let the little children come to me he calls and as a little child born in a manger he came to be the savior of the world. And as the God/man in death he fulfilled all righteousness for you so that you too might be righteous.

As our epistle reading ends:

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment,

Have no fear for in Christ you are forgiven and he has a place of everlasting comfort for you that awaits all who believe and trust in Christ.

Because as [Jesus] is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

But you are perfect in him … evermore and evermore!

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


Sermon Dec. 23-24, 2017

Title: The Holy one of God came for you!
Text: Luke 1:26-38

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

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

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

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

So too we who are afraid with the struggles of our daily lives which can cause fear, can find comfort.

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

And though you don’t hear the announcement from the angel as Mary did:

31 That she … will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus. You can have the same comfort in the child who she will give birth to, 32 … will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and is your Lord.

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

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

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

It is through that same word of the Lord brought to Mary that brings comfort and peace for you and me.

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord’s presence overshadowed the temple of Israel. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

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

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his [greeting], but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is [silly]. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man [our sinfulness] is to be put off.

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luther says through the word of the angel, which is the word of God brought from his messenger, Mary conceives:

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

LW Vol. 22 pg. 23

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

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ.

Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived … you hear the word of God through his means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit you believe.

When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

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

What looked ordinary, a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger was very substantial. God himself has come down, becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation.

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

Amen

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sermon Dec. 16-17, 2017 3rd Advent Service

Title: The witness of Christ is in you, rejoice!
Text: John 1:6-8

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

The Definition of a witness:

A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen, and heard … without being deterred by the consequences of his action. 

S. Briscoe, Getting Into God, p. 76.

Being a witness of the Love of God in your life can be difficult. It is hard to articulate, at times, what God has done for us – in Christ. Sharing your faith joyfully can be a challenge in the world and in the lives we lead.

I spent many years witnessing to a friend at work. It must have been 10 years before he came to me one morning with a smile on his face and said: “Russ … yesterday I got on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and I received him as my Lord and savior!” What a joy to hear and what a blessing it is to have an impact in the lives of friends, family, and loved ones.

My friend Mark is a gifted musician and composer as well as a skilled woodworker and before he made that revelation about his own faith in Jesus, he was putting on a concert of his music with a number of very skilled musicians and had a packed house at the Unitarian church in Birmingham where the concert was being held.

I had been witnessing to him at that time for a number of years and just before the concert he came up to me with a smile on his face and said, “I’m going to thank God … for my musical gifts and blessings in front of the crowd tonight!”

I knew it was a stretch for Mark to do this but:

I looked at him I said, “That’s nice Mark … but God has a name.”

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

At the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies 20 years ago Richie Furay a member of the hall inducted in as a member of the Buffalo Springfield and a pastor since 1974 thanked his wife of 30 years at the time, family, friends, and band members … but then said his thanks … “to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!” It was bold and there was no mistaking whom he worshiped.

A bit later in the program, Graham Nash who was also being inducted as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in mocking sarcasm, as only someone being led by a different spirit said:

“I also want to thank god … because I think she’s great!”

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

The witness of Christ thankfully is in you, so rejoice!

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

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

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

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He is the one prophesied and spoken of in Isaiah, who would herald and proclaim the one who would follow him, but who would also be greater than he and whose sandals, John … was not even worthy to untie.

The Jews expected the Messiah of power and John tells the truth in his interrogation and nothing but the truth – so help me God - when he says that he is not the one they expect, but is the one who makes the way, making straight the way of the Lord.

He calls all to repentance, so that they might turn from their sin and place their trust in the one coming after him, who he calls the light of the world. That is who John bore witness to.

We all fall short and fail to bear witness to the light of the world that is Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior.

Ill.

This past Sunday we had our Christmas program. The children bore witness in a real, though humorous, way to the truth of the biblical story. That this child born in a manger, is human and born of Mary, but also that this child is something more … that this child is “Christ the Lord” the savior of the world.

Bearing witness in the years to come, in the public square might become more difficult as the focus of religious freedom and those who oppose it will try to limit our freedom to speak the truth in love and may limit us to no farther than the door of the church you exit.

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

Ill.

In The Mask Behind the Mask, [author and] biographer Peter Evans says that actor Peter Sellers played so many roles … he sometimes was not sure of his own identity. He was approached once by a fan who asked him, "Are you Peter Sellers?" [To which he answered], "Not today," and walked on.
Today in the Word, July 24, 1993.

As we struggle daily as both saint and sinner, both born again and born in sin, we might wrestle with that distinction at times when our Christian witness falls short.

We know we’ve missed the mark as, a witness to Christ in our life by are actions. Do others see in us Christ … or the sinfulness we are bound to? It’s probably both? But, if only we had known we were being watched we might have acted in a more Christ like way.

Or, like the story of Peter Sellers, when someone sees us in our daily live and wonders, “Are they a Christian?” Would we answer by are actions or lack thereof … “Not today!”

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

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

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

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thess. 5:16-18

It is that witness and light that shines forth in you as you joyfully bring God’s word to those who need to hear. It is that peace and comfort that you have received and also proclaim to others and it is that witness of Christ that as Isaiah proclaims binds up those broken by sin, releases those who are captive, and brings good news to the poor.

As we joy in Christ’s first coming and rejoice at this babe born in a manger, we too wait … for his second coming when he will gather his children, you and me, and all who are brought to faith to himself.

The witness of Christ is in you, rejoice!

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sermon Dec. 9-10, 2017 Advent 2

Title: Jesus has come and will come again!
Text: 2 Peter 3:8-14

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

"Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind."

Leonardo da Vinci.

My dog Abby is a big girl. She is a Rottweiler and close to 100 lbs. Patience is not something she thinks about or is interested much in. when I go to put her out in the backyard she waits, just long enough for the door to open before bolting out to play. She understands wait but is not much interested in it. And while we tell her to wait … she does so … but just enough to show that she hears us and is listening. But in reality she is ready to bolt at the slightest hint of Okay.

In his second epistle the Apostle Peter writes to fellow believers to be patient, to make ones calling and election sure by living Godly lives;

5 … [by] add[ing] to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

He assures his readers that he and those whom God called to be prophets and Apostles were not following cleverly invented stores but were eye witnesses of Christ’s majesty and by the Holy Spirit they spoke as God directed them.

He warns of false prophets who teach falsely and will bring destructive heresies that lead many away into blackest darkness which is the realm of the devil.

18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

We might ask: What has mastered you … or me?

And certainly we see this leading astray in our day as false teachers, in the church and in the world, support lifestyles and choices contrary to scripture - twisting the word of God to champion abortion rights, Euthanasia and the homosexual lifestyle in all its forms.

3 Above all, you must understand [Saint Peter continues] that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?

And certainly many over the last 2000 years have asked this same question causing some to predict when Christ would return contrary to the teachings of Holy Scripture.

The doubting of the word of God had occurred in Peter’s day - and has been occurring since sin came into the world - and we see it today and live it daily in our lives – for though forgiven we still sin daily. Peter’s hope in his epistle is to leave an enduring hope in Christ through his writing to his readers … and to you and me. That hope is still a blessed hope because it is in Christ, the word made flesh, that he was an eyewitness to. His word is not made up from stories but is real and foundational and shows that the Lord is not slow but patient …

8… toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The Advent season lets us all watch and wait for the blessed gift that is the child Christ Jesus – God with us – whom Peter saw and heard and was called into following and made an Apostle so that by the call of Christ he might feed the Lord’s sheep. It is the call of every pastor also to lead and feed the sheep given under his care and as under shepherds of the Lord’s flock to also bring the truth of God’s word to each and every hearer so that all might come to repentance.

As the gospel reading for the day attests:

2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” —
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

It was John who came out of the wilderness to prepare the way, to bring a baptism of repentance that would find its fullness in the words of our Lord Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

George Gallop wrote some 30 years ago: “There's little difference in ethical behavior between the churched and the unchurched. There's as much [stealing] and dishonesty among the churched as the unchurched. And I'm afraid that applies pretty much across the board: religion, per se, is not really life changing. People cite it as important, for instance, in overcoming depression--but it doesn't have primacy in determining behavior.” 

George H. Gallup, "Vital Signs," Leadership, Fall 1987, p. 17.

In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church's integrity problem is in the misconception "that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior." He goes on to say, "It is revival without reformation, without repentance." 

Quoted by C. Swindoll, John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, p. 16.

We as Lutherans understand the Saint / Sinner distinction that though forgiven we sill sin and by God’s Spirit we desire to be more holy and sanctified by God’s work in us. Though we daily fall short we remember also daily that we are baptized and marked as God’s child and return to God’s house to hear the blessed absolution each week in the divine service. 

During Advent we wait and we watch but we too are seen and heard. We are called to repentance by God’s Holy Spirit and are also call to faith by that same Spirit so that Goodness, Godliness, self-control and love as St. Peter says should be evident in our lives.

8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you wait and watch - and hear and receive – God will increase in you the blessed hope that is Jesus, and bring you to true repentance and joy, so that in him you receive the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.

By his work you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with that blessed hope wait and watch for a new heaven and new earth that are promised and will be brought to bear by our loving God no matter how long it takes – just as he has brought you into the loving arms of the savior and has forgiven you all your sins.

In the season of advent we know that Jesus is coming. But we also know that Jesus has come, and will come again!

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

Amen

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sermon Dec. 2-3, 2017 Advent 1

Title: Rejoice, and be glad, for in Christ, the King of glory comes!
Text: 1 Cor. 1:3-9

9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Peace is such a precious jewel, that I would give anything for it but truth.

Matthew Henry

On this first Sunday in Advent we too joy in the blessed word of God and the truth that it shines of the coming of that word made flesh, in the Christ child, Jesus our Lord.

During Advent we wait and prepare for the gift that comes with his birth on Christmas morning. The grace and peace that Paul speaks of to the Corinthian church came down from heaven and is given for the salvation of the world by our loving Father in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Advent is not only a time of waiting but also a time to focus, and for we who call ourselves Christians, to focus on the gift given in a manger, for the reconciling of the world back to God.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians begins with thanks. Thanks for the grace of God given these Christians in Corinth.

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

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

But Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is dealing with factions and factions divide, churches, families, and friends. When the focus is not on the gift but the receiver the devil begins to work to split the seam as a split in a piece of wood continues on its course until a small hole is drilled in its path to stop the split from continuing.

Martin Luther says in his commentary on First Corinthians:

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

Melvin Newland Ridge Chapel

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

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

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

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

Advent is that time.

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

K. Edward Skidmore Castle Hills Christian Church


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

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

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

Rejoice, and be glad, for in Christ, the King of glory comes – for you!

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

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

Amen

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sermon November 25-26, 2017

Title: Come; inherit the kingdom prepared for you!
Text: Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

I never worry about what I will do if I win a battle, but I always know exactly what I will do if I lose one. 

Napoleon, quoted in Bits & Pieces, August, 1989.

Winners and losers … we all know how it feels to be on both sides of the spectrum. Recently I was reading a story online about Tyler White, the first basemen of the Houston Astros, who after winning the World Series had much to celebrate. High school teacher James Yasko – a huge Astos fan – had much to celebrate too. His team had just won the World Series. His students however … were rooting for the Texas Rangers and had little to celebrate with Houston’s win. To give his students something to hope for, James offered to throw a Pizza Party for his students if the Astros won the series and in a turn of events Tyler White heard about it and offered to pay for the party - not only for the class in question but for all of James’ students in his other classes as well. The students who were losers … were now winners - in a real and personal way. But there was an interesting thing that I noticed that Tyler White said as I read the article, something that I guess I knew but really didn’t and don’t really think about. 

Every team in baseball and I guess ever other sport as well ends their season with a loss and only one team ends their season and goes into the off season with a win. 

They all begin hopeful and all but one end as losers.

In our text for today we have Jesus – Christ the King – coming in his glory to fulfill all that God has promised. He is accompanied by Angels and is seated on his glorious throne. The picture on the bulletin cover is joyful, wonderful, and filled with majesty.

Contrast this with the first coming of the Lord. In humility this baby Jesus comes, born in a manger and obedient unto death – he would live his life to accomplish this death – his death - for you, on a cross, for the sins of the whole world.

The reality of death is real. We see it and face it on TV, in the press, and in our lives. People die, dear friends die, strangers die, and our pets die. Death has an end and in this life we see them no more. Other things as well seem like death as well … divorce, job loss, moving, changing churches.

But in our reading for today death has a new beginning and a very different end.

33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

The sheep, those who have faith and our blessed of the Father, will inherit the kingdom. They didn’t earn it or deserve it but none the less they inherit it. It is theirs, it is a reality, and whether dead and in the grave or alive and in the world upon Christ’s return they, and we among them, will hear those wonderful words - inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. They will live for eternity with Christ the king! They won! They have finished the race! The prize is theirs!

In 2006 the Tigers made it to the World Series. It was wonderful to get there and it seemed like destiny was on their side. New coach and young players like Justin Verlander got them there along with the veterans like Kenny Rodgers who pitched with a rejuvenated purpose. But the reality ended in loss and if you’re like me, sadness and disappointment. A decade later I still think … what a missed opportunity.

I’m glad Verlander won the series this year … but … it was with Houston and it doesn’t do anything for me.

Loss is real. Take those on the left when Christ returns.

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Real loss is theirs. They will live for eternity without Christ the king! They’ve lost everything! The race is over and they will live forever in torment with no hope and the knowledge that they blew it! They won’t be traded and find success on another team. They are done.

It is interesting that the two groups, the sheep and goats – the winners and the losers - are both under the Lordship of the King who comes to judge and also they hear both similar but opposite statements.

Jesus tells the sheep:

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

Contrasted with what he tells the goats:

42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

The gift of faith brings forth fruit. Motivated by God’s gifts to each one of us we move. For some it’s service and for others it’s giving. For some it’s praying and for others it’s doing. At time we have need and receive, and at other times we meet the needs of those less fortunate. What has God placed on your heart? Where does God desire you to serve and in what way? How can you meet the needs of those who have need? And how can we as God’s church here at Peace be focused outward in love and compassion?

Remember as the Lord says, when we do it or don’t do it to the least of these it is as we are doing it or not doing it unto the Lord.

Death is not a reality in the judgment. It is swallowed up in Christ’s victory. What remains is an eternity of joy or sorrow. One of life forever with Christ or separated from him for all eternity and a real knowledge that it will never end.

As the rich man called out in Luke 16:24

24 … ‘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.’

Our reality as sheep, blessed of the father, is gifted by faith in Jesus Christ his only begotten son but also with the knowledge the opportunity to be used to light the way in a dark world.

Both the sheep and the goats reply, “When did we see you and do this for you or not do this for you?” And you and I might ask the same question.

To this the Lord replies that when you did it, or did not do it, to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The Spirit moves us to love and by faith we serve. Feeding, helping, welcoming, clothing or visiting in God’s way as we serve others we serve the Lord.

May the Lord of life bess you now and always as you serve where and when he calls.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever. Amen

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sermon November 18-19, 2017

Title: God’s joy is your joy in Christ!
Text: Matthew 25:14-30

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

As we prepare for Thanksgiving there is much to be thankful for. For me personally this past year has brought great joy with my son Jonathan and Elizabeth Nold getting married. Also, Monica's good reports for continued healing from cancer has been a great blessing of which I am especially grateful. For many though the Thanksgiving holiday is passed over and we are already in the Christmas season and all that come with it in giving and receiving gifts. The Hallmark Channel is going full tilt and if one wasn’t enough there are two for your viewing enjoyment. The shopping network is ready with deal on many of the needed items and – no use waiting for black Friday – it’s here, having died the death of bargain prices earlier and earlier in the season. Christmas has been commercialized but that happened a long time ago. Christmas is on full display yet we haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving, the end of days, or Advent, but gifts are being bought and thoughts of joy and the Christmas season are on our minds.

Giving is a wonderful thing but what if the gift is neglected or wasted? It certainly wouldn’t be looked upon as a good thing. We have all been gifted according to our own ability and God also wants to see that gift used in proportion to that ability. Whatever your gift is and whatever you have been given you have the joy of serving Christ because of his gift to you and his mission to reach the lost with the saving gospel.

With these last two weeks in the church year we hear the really good news that all believers long to hear:

Enter into the joy of your master and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you!

Both of these sayings are really good news for those who are prepared, with lamps full of oil just like the wise virgins from last week’s lesson. But just like last week, there too are those who are foolish and who are ill prepared for the coming of the master, and who also when Christ returns, will find themselves hearing words of rejection, terror and judgment.

Jesus in preparation for his passion and the time of his departing tells a parable about a man going on a journey. Who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. And then he gives them a potion of his property to manage according to their ability.

15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

According to New Nave's Topical Bible, one who possessed five talents of gold or silver was a multimillionaire by today's standards. Some calculate the talent in the parables to be equivalent to 20 years of wages for the common worker. Other scholars estimate more conservatively, valuing the New Testament talent somewhere between $5,000 to $30,000 dollars today.

None the less it represented a large sum of money to be entrusted with.

We also see that the one, who had been given the most, went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. He took what he had been given and with the ability given him went and doubled the master’s investment. He used what had been gifted to him in ability to grow his master’s kingdom.

The one who was given the two talents, made two talents more. He too did with what he had been given in ability to grow the master’s kingdom.

Finally the one who was given one talent, did with it what the master had not expected, 18 But he … went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

He took what had been entrusted to him and buried it.

In this parable we have to look at it on the surface and also at what greater biblical meaning is Jesus pointing at. First, the money given to the first two servants brought a return. In money matters this is always good. As my boss told me many years ago when I was first hired to work in his business, “When you work on commission you have to prepare for the times when you will have a bad month. You must first produce, then save and then invest.” His point was that once you receive your pay check you must invest some of it so that it produces a return that is greater than the investment you began with. Servant three didn't understand that, it wasn't even invested, so that it brought some interest on the investment from the bankers for the master. It was buried and brought no return.

20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Remember we already said that 5 talents of money was a very large sum but the master here refers to it as being faithful over a little and promises to set him over much. This too happens for servant two in much the same way.

In our Biblical understanding we all are made sons of our heavenly father and of the word himself, Jesus Christ. We have been given the gift of faith and made partakers of the Kingdom of God. We have all been gifted richly by our loving God through the working of the Holy Spirit and at the end times and upon Christ’s return will give an accounting of what we did with the gift of God in Christ Jesus that had been given to us.

Did we believe or did we reject?

For some it is using our gifts within the church for others it is in the world and for some it is in both places reaching the fullest return with what you have been gifted.

Now don’t get me wrong, the parable is not about money, it’s not about giving but it is about the word of God Jesus Christ which is the gift of God and what ultimately is done with it.

Upon Christ’s return you will either receive the joy of the master by his gift and his work alone, or you will shut the door of faith with unbelief, burying the word of God, which by the Spirit work brings that faith, and then, just like the servant who buried the master’s gift, there will be those who blame God for their own rejection of his free gift.

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Those who believe that the gospel is hard fear the Lord’s return.

Those who think that a loving God would not judge those who reject the gift of grace and faith are also those who themselves reject the means of receiving eternal life, which is given by faith in Christ through word and sacrament.

27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Christ welcomes all who by faith trust his work and believe. He has gifted each one of us with the blessed gift of faith and by his working through the Holy Spirit we believe and serve our Lord Christ in blessedness and holiness.

We all have been gifted to serve the Lord and his kingdom. May we all find joy in his use of each one of us for his greater purpose so that you will:

Enter into the joy of your master!

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

Amen

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sermon November 11-12, 2017

Title: Your lamps are fueled by God’s word and Spirit!
Text: Matthew 25:1-13

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

As we look to this gospel text and parable today let us begin with a few verses that precede this reading today from chapter 24.
Here Jesus is speaking with his disciples and says:

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

And:

44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

And finally:

50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In light of the tragedy of last Sunday in Sutherland springs Texas we pray for comfort and peace to those affected there as well as asking the Lord to come quickly.

So the text today speaks of the end times and preparation for the Lord’s coming.

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

In the parables that we have studied previously, the kingdom of heaven and the joy that awaits those who believe … had been described as a Wedding feast.

There were those closed with wedding garments and those who were not. There was also a casting out and a weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And now we continue, for the disciples benefit and ours, with the foolish and wise virgins who took their lamps and while the wise had oil in their lamps, the foolish did not and though the bridegroom was a long time in coming … they were unprepared for the time of his arrival.

Being unprepared is not a good thing.

Ill.

Preparation has been evident these last few weeks as we’ve moved things from the offices, halls, Narthex and Sanctuary to make way and prepare for the new carpeting. It has been a long time coming … some ten years in our thoughts that we needed it and a few years in preparation to make it happen. But, until the last council and voters meeting we didn’t know if it was possible and would materialize. Day by day we don’t know what will be needed and who will be available to make things happen but we are prepared and work around the schedules that are needed.

We’ve received some donations, wrote some checks, and paid some bills and as of right now – though we were prepared to borrow money to finish the carpet – it doesn’t appear to be needed.

Preparation is not always on the minds of all.

For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,

How much good is a lamp that has no oil? Not much. We too know about oil here at church and at times the acolytes have to try to light candles that have no oil in them. They have a dry wick and no fuel from which to draw. We also have at times had lights with burned out bulbs. How helpful is a light that is out? Not much.

4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

As we know, lamps with oil bring with them light … and light the way. As do fresh bulbs in our EXIT signs. But in our parable the oil signifies something more. It signifies the work of God, the gift of God and the working of his Holy Spirit that brings faith … the gift of God for all who believe. So what did the foolish lose? They lost focus on Jesus, and their faith had dries up. The faith that is a pure gift of God and not of our own doing … had dimmed to the point of flickering and had gone out.
What does this say to you and to me and to all who have the gift of faith by God’s Spirit?

Let us look at Matthew 7 and what Jesus had said to his disciples and the crowds after the Sermon on the Mount.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

What is it to do the will of my father who is in heaven? In John’s gospel we have a glimpse in Chapter 6:

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

Ill.

This past Sunday tragedy once again came to our country. But this time it came to a church and those who were worshiping - as we are - sitting in God’s house and hearing God’s word.

How unthinkable it is that in a place of worship evil came. How unthinkable that as they prayed and sang hymns of praise to our God the brokenness of sin broke through the doors of that little church in a death hail of bullets.

How unthinkable some of the comments were:

“The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”

They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.

No need to go into all the tweets of those in support of this viewpoint as it pertains to Christians, prayer and those opposed to the faith or those who replied in opposition to these heartless statements. To say things once again became political would be an understatement.

Last Sunday’s Bible study was on the Beatitudes from our gospel reading.

2 And [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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.

Had only the gunman been touched by the gospel and brought to faith then too his flask of oil would have been full and the outcome would have been very different.

If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”

Jesus himself prayed from the cross:

42 … “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive,”

41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked [Jesus], saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

Dear friends, we who have lamps are fools too at times.

We fool ourselves into believing that we have measured up; we fool ourselves into believing that we are acceptable in the eyes of God and that we will all stand before him in righteous acceptance.

The truth is that apart from Jesus and his Spirit working … my lamp is empty. Your lamp is empty too … and so are the lamps of all who trust in their own way.

But dear friends, your lamps are fueled by God’s word and Spirit!

Christ has made a way to give you a full lamp. Christ has filled you with His Spirit who points you to him. Christ has promised he would never leave you or forsake you. Christ continues to feed you on word and sacrament so that the gift of faith continues to fill your lamp for you and me who trust in Him.

Christ was feeding those dear souls at the first Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas too, and by his Spirit they are with the Lord.

You also who have been filled and are continually being filled by God’s blessed faith as you remain connected to his word and sacraments and are wise and prepared and ready for the coming of him – whenever and however that may come to pass.

Because of Jesus and your lamp of faith fueled by the Holy Spirit you who believe are ready! Come Lord Jesus!

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

Amen





Monday, November 6, 2017

Sermon November 4-5, 2017 All Saints Day observed

Title: Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!
Text: Rev.7:9-17

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

[As I sang with the congregation the opening hymn For All the Saints and the Sermon hymn We Praise You and Acknowledge you, O God  the Holy Spirit made it clear to me that I needed to preach a different sermon than what I had prepared. Those places are  bracketed off. It was the first time that I felt compelled to go off in this way and it was a blessing and well received. Thank you Lord!]

[Reflections on All saints Day]

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What a picture the book of Revelation gives us!

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

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

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

Their cries of welcome led up to the cries of “Crucify Him” and the cross of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and now these cries of death are completed in the heavenly cries of glory in the gathering of the multitude before the throne of grace who have been brought to faith in this same Jesus Christ, crying:

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

What had been anticipated before the cross is now fulfilled. What had been a triumphal entry for Jesus is now a triumphal fulfillment for you and me though the cross of Christ and though you - of many faces are many - you have been adopted into God’s family and are now His child, a child of His own choosing because:

Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!

Ill.
A story is told of a couple had adopted a baby boy after trying to have a baby for five years. To their surprise, a short time after the adoption, the mother discovered she was pregnant, and she later gave birth to a boy. One day when the two boys were eight and nine years old, a neighbor came to visit. Observing the children at play, the neighbor asked, "Which boy is yours?" "Both of them," the mother replied. The neighbor persisted. "But I mean, which one is the adopted one?" The mother replied, "I’ve forgotten."

Randy Aly

That is the good news for you too. God knows you are His child. To see you is to see Christ. Unfortunately, we all fall short as his children.

[Additional thought of God’s Saints here at Peace now and in years past reflecting of visits with past members, hospital calls and those who have departed and recent visits with past members and the loss of a charter member.]

Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Being brought to faith in Baptism makes you part of this great number from every nation and from all tribes and peoples and languages. And that was the good news for those early believers too. They knew that this Jesus who had died on the cross was the same one taken up to heaven was the same Jesus who said:

[Additional thoughts]

Behold, you are part of that great multitude that no one could number! (Rev. 7:9)

Dear Saints … the Kingdom is yours!

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sermon October 28-29, 2017 Reformation

Title: The Freedom of the gospel and Truth in Christ has set you free!
Text: Romans 3:19-28

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Fredrick Douglas once said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet [deplore] agitation are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.”

Frederick Douglas

Martin Luther certainly felt the thunder and lightning that he did not expect when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg castle church door on October 31, 1517. What he intended for theological debate and discussion caused turmoil, divided the Christian church, and marked the beginning of what we know today as the Lutheran Reformation. The freedom that we who name the name of Christ received is in the Son and because of His wonderful work you are free in Christ!

Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, began by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy that we who today benefit from this blessed freedom found in the Gospel message, will continue together with the whole church to reach the lost with this same gospel message.

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

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

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

[Interestingly LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matt Harrison posted on his facebook page that 1/3 of all LCMS members are adult converts.]

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

You are free in Christ!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Luther was free and the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t be the same.

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

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

Ill.

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

The changing of our heart from being God’s enemies to being at peace with God is all God’s work.

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

This led Luther to the Diet of Worms, in Germany to hear the charges of heresy, in front of the Emperor Charles the V, which were brought against him and to give a defense for what he believed, taught and confessed. This happened on April 18, 1521, 436 years to the day of my own birth, so I felt a certain kinship with Luther as I wrestled with my own religious upbringing.

It is to [papal legate] Aleander that we owe the eyewitness account of Luther’s arrival in Worms:

I had already concluded my letter when I gathered from various reports as well as the hasty running of the people that the great master of heretics was making his entrance. I sent one of my people out, and he told me that about a hundred mounted soldiers, probably the Sickingens, had escorted him to the gate of the city; sitting in a coach with three comrades, he entered the city [at ten in the morning], surrounded by some eight horsemen and found lodgings near his Saxon prince. When he left the coach, a priest embraced him and touched his habit three times, and shouted with joy, as if he had a relic of the greatest saint in his hands. I suspect that he will soon be said to work miracles. This Luther, as he climbed from the coach, looked around in the circle of his demonic eyes and said:”God will be with me.” Then he stepped into an inn, where he was visited by many men, ten or twelve of which he ate with, and after the meal, all the world ran there to see him.

Oberman, Heiko A. Luther Man between God and the Devil, Yale University 1989 Pg. 198-99

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lutherans say in article IV of the Augsburg Confession:

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

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

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

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

Matthew Block writes in First Things of the Evangelical Catholic tradition:

Jaroslav Pelikan in his 1964 work Obedient Rebels, attempted to situate Lutheranism’s place in the catholic tradition writing:

“Martin Luther was the first Protestant, and yet he was more Catholic than many of his Roman Catholic opponents,” Pelikan quips in the first sentence of the book. “This paradox lies at the very centre of Luther’s Reformation.” The rest of the book is devoted to exploring this [Lutheran] movement which was, at one time, both Catholic and Protestant.

https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/12/the-evangelical-catholic-tradition

Martin Luther brought the thunder and lightning but not to be a agitator - but to restore the Gospel. To give the peace of God to we who are bound in sin. To bring true freedom to those bound by the Devils lies … that we can do anything to merit forgiveness.

Let it be proclaimed!

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

You are free in Christ!

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

Amen




Sermon October 21-22, 2017

Title: The Father has given you all you need!
Text: Matthew 22:15-22

[And they said to Jesus] 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

When Sgt. Ray Baarz of the Midvale, Utah police department opened his wallet, he noticed his driver's license had expired. Embarrassed at having caught himself red-handed, he had no alternative. He calmly and deliberately pulled out his ticket book and wrote himself a citation. Then Baarz took the ticket to the city judge who issued the fine. "How could I give a ticket to anyone else for an expired license in the future if I didn't cite myself?" Baarz asked.

Source Unknown.

Holding yourself accountable is important as we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. We are compelled to live within that tension - between the spiritual and civil realm - every day of our lives. So daily we must remember that:
Christ has claimed you and made you His!

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his words.

The Chief priests and Pharisees had not been doing well with Jesus.

Previously in the parables they had been thrown out of the vineyard, having had the vineyard given to other tenants (Matt. 21:33-44) and last week they had ignored the invitation of the King to attend the wedding feast, (Matt 22:1-14) and unless you are clothed with the proper wedding garment which is - not certainly the filthy sin stained rags of our own righteousness – but the righteousness that comes only by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord and His finished work.

To say that the Pharisees are not happy would be an understatement and they begin to plot and make plans to trap Jesus. They want to catch Him in something that they can then accuse him of and turn him over to the authorities to have Him tried and ultimately … have Him put to death. This way they are sure that they can get rid of him once and for all.

6 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians …

The disciples of the Pharisees went to Jesus and also brought some of the Herodians with them. The Herodians are only mentioned 6 time in the New Testament and there is some debate as to whether they were a political party distinct from the Pharisees and Sadducees and supporters of Herod Antipas, or were actually soldiers in Herod’s court. Either way … the Pharisees were bringing politicians or soldiers with them to Jesus, and that was neither meant as a way to get Jesus’ political support or to have him enlist!

… saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

This is what might be called … painting a picture.

“Yea, yea … we believe everything you say because we know you’re telling the truth. You don’t care with other’s say … even if they are the religious leaders so why don’t you say it in front of these politicians or soldiers of … Herod … yea … and of course we mean you no disrespect!

So ... 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

So, speak up so these Herodians can hear you.

Ill.

Church and State has been on the minds of many over these last few years. Much has been brought to light what churches can do to protect their rights and conscience as it pertains to a changing culture. One thing that became very clear is the need for we Christians to register to vote. The more true believers who take part in the process and exercise their right as citizens to vote in a biblical way, the more biblical and pleasing of an outcome we might have. But as Christians we also need to be informed voters.

The Pharisees and the Herodians – politics and soldiers - too had an agenda.

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” as if they didn’t know 21 They said, “Caesar's.”

You and I know the laws. We know what or whom has been placed over us whether it is the laws that are on the books, or the police officer that has just given you a ticket for an expired driver’s license, or political official who has just voted in a way that is contrary to your desire and even God’s desire.

We are all called to proclaim God’s truth in light of civil persecution. We are called to love those who persecute us. If the laws call us to do something contrary to God’s word we need to sand firm and use our ability as citizens to also exercise our rights to bring about change.

Ill.

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him joyfully, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?"

The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god."

When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night air.

When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you."

God answered, "Abraham … I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?"

Thomas Lindberg.


The things that in this life may grieve us as Christians grieve our loving God as well. But He who is righteous is long suffering.

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 2:9

God is slow with you and He is slow with me. Not giving up on us and our failings but calling and bringing us by the power of His Spirit to believe. God in Christ has suffered with us for some of us many years as we at times choose to fall away from His word looking to what society and the civil leaders tell us what to believe and do. He is long suffering towards us and we need to be long suffering to those we encounter that also don’t see things as we do.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

This image is very much simple to see. The question of should we pay tax is simple answered by Jesus give to Caesar or give to the State what it requires but then it becomes a bit harder. Give to God what is His.

You are called to respond to the call of the gospel. The Pharisees and Chief Priests had been called and they had refused to care for the vineyard and ignored the invitation to the wedding feast. We too look to things other than the things God’s desires and drift away from Him and his word. God’s desire is you and you fully trust in Him.

He has claimed you and made you His!

Despite the trials of this world God has sent His son to take the fullness of His wrath you deserve. It is finished Jesus said and you are no longer accountable. He has died for all flesh, heterosexual as well as homosexual and calls you to repentance. Broken as you are He restores, forgives and calls you to be his child forever. Your sin is never beyond his redemption.

Christ has claimed you and made you His!

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

Amen

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sermon October 14-15, 2017

Title: Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!
Text: Matthew 22:1-14

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Yes, the Lord gives us daily opportunities to be his witnesses in the world.

This is LWML weekend. We celebrate the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in witnessing the love of Christ to a broken world and all that they do to bring this witness of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins to those who need to hear.

Many in our congregation have been or continue to be Christ’s servants through this faithful ministry. But at times others in our midst and in the world see the call to witness about Jesus and what he has done for us fall on deft ears.

The work of the flesh, the world, and the devil can bring to nothing what God intended for good.

Many opportunities are missed. Have you missed an opportunity? I have. The question always is, “Why did I forget to tell them about Jesus?”

22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.

So Jesus moves right from the master and the vineyard parable from last week to the parable of the wedding feast. The chief priests and the Pharisees had just realized that Jesus was talking about them as the ones who would be removed from the vineyard and it would be given to other tenants.

Now, with the wedding feast parable He once again paints the picture of those who will be welcomed at the feast.

4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’

Jesus calls all to come. He welcomes all who believe and trust in Him

5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

The chief priests and Pharisees are once again singled out as those who having abused the vineyard and the servants sent to get the master’s good grapes and now in this parable, they are the ones called to the feast but pay no attention or continue to abuse the servants.

So like the master in the previous parable who will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants:

7 The king [too] was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

So He tells them to:

9 Go … to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Both … bad and good … those who, to human eyes appear to be worthy, and those who we might assume would never be invited, too are called.

It is very good news that:

Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!

The LWML – The Lutheran Woman’s Missionary League is and has been at the forefront of bearing witness for 75 years this year. What a great accomplishment. There Bi-annual budget to serve the needs in our area and around the world for this Biennium 2017-2019 is 2,075,000. Included in that mission outreach are:

Mercy house for woman and children in Flint
Christ for Veterans and Families in the CMS
LCMS International Missions
Lutheran Children’s Books for Families by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation
Lutheran Hour ministries
Labor of Love Lutheran Brail Outreach to name a few totaling $2,075,000 for mission and ministry outreach for these next two years. Thank you ladies!

Those little mite boxes when gathered together grow and it was a blessing for me a few years ago to serve as the pastoral representative for our local LWML.

Ill.

A story is told:

A man was headed home late from a wedding reception and had about a two hour drive when a friend said to me, "Remember that for every mile you drive there are two miles of ditch".

He said, “I was in the car before that really sunk in, and then it hit me, for every path we walk, there are two miles of ditch along the journey inviting us to veer off the road. There are twice as many chances to stray away from God [into the ways of the world.]

Few of us ever intend to go into the ditch. No one just drives down the road and says "Hey I'm going to drive into the ditch" For most of us, it is simply hugging the shoulder of the road and little by little we move ourselves from the patch of following Jesus and somehow we end up off the road and in the ditch.

The gift of grace and faith becomes rejected and little by little the wedding garment is removed as you once again put on the filthy rags of your own self righteousness. Those rags unfortunately are so comfortable at times that you might not even notice the change. But the reality is there - reject God’s word, reject God’s gifts, return to the ways of the world and if not you or me … maybe it is someone we love.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’

The wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ. It is give to you by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. You are clothed with it in baptism and made Christ’s disciple and follower. The garment of Christ identifies you as one invited to attend the feast and your place is secure at the table.

You are seated there now … in Christ … you have on the wedding garment and by the work of the Holy Spirit he will bear fruit tin and through you.

Amen