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