Monday, November 19, 2018

Sermon November 17-18, 2018

Title: Be strong in the Lord!
Text: Mark 13:1-13

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.

During these final weeks in the church year at the end of the Pentecost season – the season of the church - speaks of the end times and the second coming of Christ. It is a time, where sinful eyes only see destruction, deception, and death. But for we who have been redeemed and made new in Baptism, we see through the eyes of faith … hope and delivery in our loving savior Jesus.

13 And as [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

The Temple mount in Jerusalem has not been rebuilt since it was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 AD.

The Jewish historian Josephus writes in the War of the Jews:

"...the rebels shortly after attacked the Romans again, and a clash followed between the guards of the sanctuary and the troops who were putting out the fire inside the inner court; the latter routed the Jews and followed in hot pursuit right up to the Temple itself. Then one of the soldiers, without awaiting any orders and with no dread of so momentous a deed, but urged on by some supernatural force, snatched a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier's back, hurled the flaming brand through a low golden window that gave access, on the north side, to the rooms that surrounded the sanctuary. As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes.

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/jewishtemple.htm

From the time of Christ until this very day we are in the End Times. This life and our world are vanishing, as it were, before our very eyes. Wars and rumors of war have come and gone and remain on the horizon, and having just observed Veterans Day, we too are reminded of the unrest and turmoil that has been and continues to be part of our lives.

8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

It hurts to see this. Intercity churches torn down, closed, or repurposed. Rural and suburban churches declining or struggling and Christians around the world persecuted for their faith and the aftermath of hurricanes and fires leave a path or destruction leaving us numb, hurting and questioning.

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

Leaders step up with the promise of hope - at times using fear to marbleize their base and to overcome their foes. Enemies are defined and labeled and some who speak up are shouted down or hunted and hounded out of the public eye.

Wars and earthquakes are but signs … the destruction of a way of life are justified some would say as and with the promise of a better life in a new world to come. The social divide in our country … continues.

Jesus says it will get worse … and personal:

12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.

A bleak world awaits us all. But there is a greater concern, as Jesus says:

5 … “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

The life of the church has been falling away for generations.

Nations and Kingdoms continue to rise against each other and this is only the birth pains we’re told. We’re not there yet. So, keep watch and be on your guard.

The disciples expected Jesus to make things alright in the world – to restore the Kingdom as they understood it - to Make Jerusalem great again - and we do too.

Ill.

Our church sees the signs too.

Average attendance in 2005 was at 160. Today it’s 73 for both services.

At our pastors meeting we are going through the Pastoral epistles of Paul to St. Timothy.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:8-13

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9
for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

I would love nothing better than to see our church vibrant and return to how it was when I first attended … where the church had overflow seating for Christmas and Easter and we seemed to be on an upward trend. But many of our once active members who had built this church and sustained it through the years have been called home, some have moved away or are unable to come, and others who once came … have fallen away.

These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

This is a harsh reality. It is a hard pill to swallow. It tears at the very fiber of every pastor, called worker, and lay servant of Christ who desires to see the church grow and prosper under their watch.

Jesus says to his disciples:

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

It is the witness … not the building;
It is the witness … not the numbers;
It is the Gospel … of Jesus Christ that changes the heart and brings to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit those called to believe.

10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

This has been going on since the church was founded on the day of Pentecost and will continue until the Lord returns. We must continue to proclaim the Good News and the truth of Christ Jesus in a world of sin and doubt to family, friends, and strangers. It has been going on for over 2000 years and will continue by the word of the gospel to call those who have fallen away back to faith and the arms of a loving savior.

And while buildings may fall and the stones may be torn down with nothing left standing; while some members may become apathetic and listen to the world, their own sinful flesh, and a devil that calls them away from the truth, God will continue to call them back by his word, through his Spirit, to an eternity that he has won for you and me at his cross.

Luther said in a sermon for the advent season:

The rejection of Christ does not happen only with [others] but also among us, for the high and mighty scorn us because of our gospel and sacraments. What folly [foolishness], they say, that I should let myself be baptized with water poured on my head, supposedly to be saved thereby; or that some poor parish preacher, barely able to put a coat on his back, should pronounce forgiveness and absolve me from my sins; or that by receiving bread and wine in the Sacrament I should be saved. On that basis they despise a Christ-preacher.

And he concludes:

But no one ought to despise Christ in that way, for he is our Saviour and seeks to give us everlasting life. It ought not faze us that he comes in poverty. He requires neither armor, nor mounted cavalry for his message; but simply proclaimed: "Whoever believes in me shall have everlasting life."

Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, House Postils I.35-36. Sermon for Advent I, 1534

It is the strength of the Lord that will sustain you and me and this church until the end. By God’s word and Spirit we who hear and follow will be saved because he promises that:

… the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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

Amen

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sermon November 10-11, 2018

Title: Rich and poor … in Christ
Text: Mark 12:38-44

44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Founding Father Patrick Henry once said:

"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not [Christ], and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."

Patrick Henry.


Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

No. This isn’t going to be a sermon on stewardship and giving. This will be though, about being given and receiving. You see our God is a jealous God. He wants it all!

4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4
Even those whom you and I would cast off … he desires!

Jesus says:

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,”

Beware of them!

They are seen publicly; they have the best seats in the house; and are honored at the feasts and gatherings.

No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians, though the image might be appropriate. Being seen, having the best seats and being honored is a desire we can all fall victim to. At times we see it play out in our lives. At Weddings, those guests of importance are placed at a table near the bride and groom, while those who are acquaintances are seated back in the corner and away from the action.

You might see it in black tie affairs or charity balls where the people with means pay a heavy price to be seen at the table of the well known … being seen and even well known maybe in their own right. Some, like Jesus suggests in the Gospel reading, may have gotten there:

40 [by devouring] widows' houses

Breaking the 7th commandment and stealing our neighbor's money or property, or getting them by false dealing … taking advantage of those less fortunate.

Jesus says, “They will receive the greater condemnation.”

But joyfully, it is Christ who has made you rich!

Ill,

There was a time that you purchased your seats at church. This may seem odd because we seem to have fewer and fewer sell outs here at Peace. But there was a time that churches paid the bills they had by selling the best seats in the house to those who were prominent and well to do and could pay for the best seats in church.

Today we might see it as those who sit courtside at a basketball game right next to the players and the other well-to-do’s being seen in the place of honor.

When Abraham Lincoln was first elected President it was customary to pay for the best seats in church and St. John Episcopal Church, near the White House, had been established as the “Church of the Presidents.” It vied for his attendance along with New York Ave. Presbyterian Church. Both had pew fees for the best seats so St. John offered to give President Lincoln the Presidents pew for no charge - seeing that it would be beneficial to them to have the President in attendance at their church. Instead, Lincoln, being the enigma that he was, paid the fee at New York Ave. Presbyterian Church and attended there - not wishing to be seen in the place of honor in the President’s Pew he chose a more humble seating arrangement.

41 [So Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

The one who is the true Temple sits down in the temple to watch. Remember Jesus saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:9, speaking of himself and his passion. Here Jesus sits … and watches … and he sees many rich people put in large sums.

That in of itself is not bad. The giving in support of the work of the church is good. God works through means as we Lutherans often say. We see it in God’s economy of word and sacrament working through pastors as jars of clay that dispense God’s gifts not from us … but through us.

It is God who works through means so your gifts and offering are not needed by God in of himself, as it is in fact all his anyway, but he gives to you and me so that we can be of service and serve the work of the church and our neighbor.

So the object lesson that Jesus here teaches brings to light a great truth.

42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

Certainly she was not rich by human standards. But she exhibited a sacrificial giving not out of earthly wealth but out of spiritual wealth.

Those who gave much were giving out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”

Our God is a greedy God! He wants it all!

You see … he wants you. He wants you to know him. He wants you to trust him, because he gave everything for you. His only begotten son Jesus Christ took of human flesh and humbled himself and became man so that he could be your substitute and stand in your place and give his life so that you might live.

Jesus gave up everything for you. The widow gave all she had as a testament to where her trust was placed. But how did Jesus know her faith against the others?

God’s all discerning eyes look at the heart and every life and every heart lie bare before him.

It is made all the more evident to me as I visit the shut-ins. Their desire is to give even when they can’t. Some can and do, and do so very generously, while others are barely able to make ends meet. I always remind them that it is the work of the church to bring Christ to them in their need as James chapter 1 reminds us:

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

“Many who live in abundance decline to give or give too little for fear that they will not have enough for the future” RH Lenski Mark Pg. 559

We cannot copy this widow’s act of giving and match the gold she gave in the Lord’s eyes, but by faith and placing your trust in the same Lord, Jesus Christ, you will have riches in heaven. The same riches she had and same Lord she trusted.

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

Amen

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sermon November 3-4, 2018

Title: We live to die … and die to live!
Text: 1 John 3:1-3

2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We live to die … and die to live.

For Lutherans the celebrating of the Reformation and All Saints Day are back to back on October 31 and November 1. This past week that occurred on Wednesday and Thursday. It has been our tradition here at Peace to celebrate these days on their observed weekends so the Reformation was celebrated last weekend and All Saints Day this weekend. In past years I’ve used the first reading in Revelation or the Gospel reading in St. Matthew for the sermon text but this year if was the Epistle reading in 1 John that caught my eye.

3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

As we think about the love of God, this love it is made known to us in the God man Christ Jesus our Lord, the perfect son, begotten of the Father from eternity. But it is not in the incarnation that our hope is found, though God becoming man put into history the perfection of God’s redemptive plan to restore all that had been lost and broken by the fall into sin.

Paul in writing to the church in Corinth laments:

22 For as in Adam all die, 1 Cor. 15:22a

The world and all people are brought forth in Adam. We are all brought forth in sin and death awaits us all. The life we live for good or bad gives us only what this life in Adam gives – life - for a time.

At times there is joy, and at times there is sorrow, and at times our hopes and dreams in this life culminate only in death and a separation from those we love and hold dear.

But, Paul doesn’t leave his hearers or us in despair for he concludes this verse with these comforting words:

… so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22b

We are made alive in Christ, not in Adam.

In Adam the sin of the fall clings to us from birth. We see it throughout our lives. We die, not to receive heaven, but because –

… the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23a
Paul loves to proclaim life eternal because it is what we are all guaranteed.

In Adam though that guarantee is an eternal life separated from a loving God.

This is NOT good news!

To die apart from Christ means that you will never see or hear the great multitude, 10 crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

But in Christ, Paul comforts the burdened heart saying:

But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23b

That life eternal begins not upon our death - but at our Baptism when we are born again from above!

In Baptism we are marked as God’s child and put on Christ through the washing of water and the word. Titus 3:5

By the working of the Holy Spirit in Baptism we believe in Jesus and our life in Adam is changed forever. We are no longer dead in sin but are made alive in Christ!

As the Apostle John writes in our epistle for today:

2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We shall see him - this Jesus - not as a terrible and wrathful judge ready to condemn us for our sin, but as only begotten son of the Father who sees us in through the veil of Christ and is well pleased. The favor of God on account of Christ is yours – not because you have lived a good life, but because Christ Jesus has lived, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead – for you and me and for all who hold this blessed hope.

All Saints Day brings to mind loss as well. We don’t have to look very far to see an empty space when a beloved member of Peace once sat. In life we are all destined to die and in death those who have gone before us leave a void in our own lives where they had been present.

We also think of our loving friends and family members who have departed this life for eternity, returning to their resting place as we wait together for the Lord’s return. In Adam we all die and we will all rise at the coming of the Lord but only in Christ are we to be with the Lord forever.

55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15 55b-56
While we mourn the passing of our beloved friends and family members we also joy that their promised eternity is in Christ!

We live to die
 
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

… and die to live.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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

Amen

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sermon October 27-28, 2018 Reformation

Title: Forgiven, Forever, and Free Indeed!
Text: John 8:31-36

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

Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy found in the freedom of the Gospel message, and continue together with the whole church to proclaim that truth to reach the lost with this same blessed good news!

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

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

To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them [who hears the word with the intention of following] – or is one who accepts and acts in accordance with the word of God.

In our Gospel reading for today Jesus tells the Jews and you and me as well:

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

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

He said:

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

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

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

Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin?

Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and Peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament?

Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?

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

Martin Luther writes:

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

He continues:

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

Behold, that end is the way of the cross.

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

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

― Martin Luther

Saying in essence: Hear me! Listen to me! Abide in me!
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

The truth is we are all bound to sin and its cravings. We desire to do the will of our sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will and as a result you and I fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is: deep down we all get worse and worse.

The more you get to the core of who we are in our fallen human condition the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning by our first parents Adam and Eve.

But Jesus reminds His hearers: To Listen to him!

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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

Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by his own binding.

The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place

The shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin

The death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty and the burial in a tomb meant for another …

In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid.

But, that tomb and that death WAS meant for you!

Jesus took your place,
He took your cross,
He took your death,
And He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't …

Life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness

Salvation is all of God and not of man. That is the message of the Reformation.

Luther restored the gospel truths about Christ and His merits that had been lost, covered by sin in the church and the focus on earthly rulers, once again by shinning the light of the gospel on Christ’s work, for you.

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sermon October 20-21, 2018

Title: With God all things are possible!
Text: Mark 10:23-31

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

(Raising hand)

Who bought a Lotto ticket! Who wants to be a Billionaire?

We all can get caught up in that frenzy. I can put my hand down because it is my wife who does my dirty work! We see wealth as the answer to our problems but in reality with wealth come other problems and especially the ones that keep us from seeing the true joy in Jesus rather than the temporal joys of the world.

Last week we spoke of treasure in heaven and how so many people see their treasure here on earth in what they have or do. The rich young man in the gospel last week went away disappointed because he had great possessions instead of following Jesus and the eternal reward that is given. Many in this life also follow material gain while at the same time giving up the nourishment needed for spiritual feeding.

A friend of mine who makes his living teaching guitar always keeps Sunday as his day of rest where he doesn’t teach or play gigs … and the Lord knows that he could use the money. But instead he goes to church and focuses on his spiritual feeding and family time. He’s told me once,

“God always meets my needs … rarely early … but always on time!”

Jesus, in speaking to his disciples about those who trust in riches or wealth says:

“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

Remember the young man went away disappointed because he had great possessions. And Jesus then adds:

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

We all know how hard it is to just thread a needle don’t we? Have you ever sewn or tried to sew a button on? I have … it wasn’t good. Thankfully my wife is good at it.

So, then the image that Jesus is giving the disciples of entering the Kingdom of God by any means other than, 8 by grace … through faith is what we have to focus on.

Camel … eye of a needle … you get it. It is quite literally impossible!

So the things of this world and all of the accomplishments you and I achieve won’t measure up in God’s cup of salvation.

So the disciples ask:

“Then who can be saved?”
Who can meet the requirements?
Who can get through the eye of the needle?
Jesus tells them:

“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

We can’t do it.
We can’t achieve it.
We can’t buy it.
Heck … we can’t even steal it!

But … we can have it none the less.
In fact … we can have it all … because:

This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

But we want to boast don’t we? We always want to share the good news of our team winning don’t we? It seems that way with so many.

Working on Saturdays and Sundays for most of my adult life sucked all the interest out of football for me, both college and pro. I don’t have a favorite team and really I’m happy to see Michigan and Michigan State do well. I really don’t follow football much, and it is more likely that you’ll see Monica turning on the game than me. I must admit though that this Michigan / Michigan State football weekend looks to be an exciting one.

Our lives revolve around what we do, how we prepare, what advantages we find, and how we perform. Some struggle and some excel. Both Michigan and Michigan State have had great wins and hard loses. We live and die with the teams we follow and we see it in our own lives.

Success and failure is all part of our own game of life too. We live with the ups and downs of family and friends.

We try not to let the successes or failures define us.
We try not to get too high or too low.

Work hard, do your best, provide for your family, but see the greater gift – not in the success or things of this world - but what you have received that you could never earn, the gift of grace and faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”

Last week Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then Christ compelled him to come follow me.

But he went away in sorrow because he had great possessions.


Martin Luther in speaking in his lectures in Genesis says:

“Do not fear those, says Christ (Matt 10:28), who kill the body, house, and other things, what of it? These things have to be left behind in any case.”

He then continues:

“For neither Peter nor Paul even though they were saintly men, had better flesh than we have.” They too, were children of Adam, [broken in sin] just as we are. Paul sometimes glories and boasts as if he were already victorious over all evils. Sometimes he complains pitiable about fears within and fighting’s without (2Cor.7:5).

Where was that completely invincible hero, that victor over all hell, then?”

LW Am. Ed. Vol.5, Pg 27

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,

[And in this life] persecutions, and in the age to come [but they will also receive] eternal life.

We will have tribulations and persecutions but also, heaven … and eternal life. That is fully on account of God, in Christ, through the Spirit’s work.

The first will be last and the last first!

We have Christ’s assurance of eternal life and the word of Jesus is always trustworthy and true. Those who trust in him and follow him have what he has promised … eternal life.

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

Amen

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sermon October 13-14, 2018

Title: What we lack is found in Christ!
Text: Mark 10:17-22

20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

As I began my week last Monday I said half jokingly to Debbie our secretary at the church, "I just did a sermon this weekend, I can't believe I have to get another ready!" But, that is how it is for you and me. We receive the Lord's forgiveness in worship and them stumble through the week both dead in sin and forgiven in Christ and we need to come back and receive that forgiveness once again.

"I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto you all my sins and iniquities ...

Yes, that is who we are dead in sin. So we come back each week to hear the Good News and it is for that reason that I prepare a sermon each week that shows us our sin and also shows us our savior so that we can be forgiven, comforted, and renewed as we go back into this broken world for the week that lies ahead.

17 And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Isn’t that the question most ask? What must I do? What can I expect? What do you expect of me?

We ask it in all aspects of life. We ask it of parents, at school, with friends, or groups of friends. We ask it as we grow older, at work, and at times we rail against those expectations. They expect too much.

How can I measure up to that we think?

As a hockey fan I look forward to the Red Wings season. Some might say anything less than the Stanley Cup is a failure. But with a new team and so many young players hew can that be our goal?
For some fans only achieving the ultimate prize … makes it a successful season. The Tigers are done again this year and the Lions are new once again and just getting started.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The rich young man asks Jesus in our gospel lesson for today. As a rich young man he has achieved much success in his life.

Ill.

To give you some perspective, how many of you know the name Dustin Moskovitz … No one?

Well, he is a billionaire. On May 18th 2012 he became an instant billionaire. He was the third employee hired by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. He was in charge of their technology and was so excited to get involved that he taught himself computer code over a weekend. He left the company in 2008 to peruse other interests, but in May of 2012 when Facebook went public he received over 5 billion dollars for his shares in the company. Like the man in our gospel lesson today … he is a rich young man.

At 28 he became a billionaire … at 34 he is worth over 12 billion dollars.

So Jesus asks first: “Why do you call me good? And tells him, No one is good except God alone.”

Jesus here sets the stage for what God requires. No one is good except God alone. But trying to go a bit deeper with this young man Jesus lays it out.

19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness [or] defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

Jesus gives him half of the commandments. He says for a start, how do you do with these? And remember Jesus hasn’t asked him about the table of the law that deals with God.

You are to have no other Gods, do not misuse the name of the Lord your God and keep holy the Sabbath day.

Jesus just asks … how do you do with these interactions with your neighbor in the world?

The rich young man answers:

“Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

And I’m sure there are people who think that they measure up well. “I’m pretty good they think.”

The Red wings pre-season record was 6-1 six wins, and one losses. In the eyes of we who are fans that was an acceptable record. May be this year won’t be so bad? If they win the Stanley Cup, we as Red Wing fans would rejoice! As the season begins that are in last place in their division …

0 wins
2 loss
2 overtime loss

But perfection for God is so much more than what we as fans expect.

Winning the Stanley cup would be great but perfection in the Lord’s eyes requires no mistakes, no goals against, no injuries, no penalties, no overtime - in fact the other team can’t possess the puck at all - because if they have the puck you’ve missed the mark by not having the it. No missed shots because every shot has to go in the net.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Even as good as Miguel Cabrera is or has been, he makes an out almost 7 out of every ten times he comes to the plate and we revere him as a great hitter when our God would require 10 hits out of 10 at plate appearances.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Jesus loved this young man so it may seem a bit funny what he says next.

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

You only lack one thing. It’s your stuff. Jesus say, “Sell it all and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven!”

22 Disheartened [by what Jesus had said to him], he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The other part of the law, the part about this man’s relationship between his stuff … and his God … has now come to light.

He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

It is not sinful to have stuff … as long as your stuff doesn’t have you I heard a pastor once say.

Ill.

Guitars were my idol. I grew up wanting a better guitar. When I got that a nice acoustic guitar was next on the list on needs. After three my dad didn’t know how many I had. It was just a pile of cases in my room.

Joe Bonamassa is a guitarist. He is really good. I saw a meme on Facebook where he was standing on a stage with 20 or 30 guitars and it seemed as many amplifiers. The caption read: “Teach your children to love guitars and they won’t have money for drugs.”

It’s funny but true. My mom always knew where I was … down the basement with my band practicing. It kept me out of trouble but not focused on Jesus. My friend Rob, a great guitarist once said, “I use to worship the wood in my hands but now, by grace, I worship Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the wood of the cross, for me.”

By God’s Holy Spirit he takes our eyes off of self and points us to Jesus, his cross, and the salvation he won for us there and the glorious resurrection that followed.

Where is your treasure?

The possessions we have, the work we do, and the things we save and treasure … the guitars for instance … will not measure up in God’s eyes. It is after all already his and it has been given to you … and how you use it can certainly benefit those in need, physically and spiritually.

There is nothing to be earned, because it has all been given. There is nothing to do, because it has all been done. Because of Christ, the good teacher, you have received God’s favor. Not for what you have or what you have done but because of what Christ has done for you.

The treasures on earth pale in comparison to the treasure God has in heaven for you.

What we lack is found in Christ!

Jesus says: come, follow me!

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

Amen

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 6-7, 2018 LSB Setting I with Holy Communion
Title: The bride of Christ, the bridegroom of man!
Text: Mark 10:2-16

9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is when you agree to spend the rest of your life sleeping in a room that's too warm, right next to someone who's sleeping in a room that's too cold.

Contributed by E.J. Graff.

2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test [Jesus] asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Divorce has become all too common. It is all too common in the world and among Christians as well. The Pharisees were coming to test Jesus asking if it allowable for a man to divorce his wife? I spent many years in the sales business and one of the key teachings of sales is to: answer a question with a question.

So Jesus, being one of the best at it asks:

“What did Moses command you?”

And the Pharisees reply:

“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
What they are really asking Jesus in a roundabout way is this:

“Moses said that is lawful for a man to divorce his wife and send her away. What Jesus, do you say?”

In Creation God made all things good, even saying in our Old Testament lesson for today:

18 … “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Gen 2:18

So Jesus calls them out on their question because what God has made good sin has broken. Their hardness of heart is opposed to God and his design so that a law was given to allow divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness.

And Jesus answers them:

“Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

So the word of God is in conflict. The man and the woman shall become one flesh and the Law of Moses allows for a divorce for reason of unfaithfulness.

Not really … but "because of your hardness of heart," Jesus says.

One of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today is also perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

“Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/


We may think that.
We may know other Christians that are divorced.
It may even be you that has suffered a divorce.

During the 36 years of my marriage to Monica we have known someone, family, friend or acquaintance that

Is divorced,
Has been divorced,
Or is going through a divorce.

The brokenness of sin gets to the very core of who we are as sinners. Adam’s choice to sin has cast God’s perfect creation into the chaos of dead in sin – and dead to God.

God created marriage perfect.

Adam and Eve were created as a perfect couple – “a helper fit for him”, God says in Genesis. But where Creation gives way to corruption by the fall into sin all things – marriage too – have been broken.

If you think about it, unfaithfulness in a perfect creation is impossible, but in a corrupted and broken world it is all too common.
Jesus even says to his broken world disciples:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

The six commandment:

You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

It sounds good on paper but in a broken world it’s hard if not impossible to keep.

But Jesus came to restore all that was broken. The sin of separation from God has been restored and redeemed in Christ.

The idolatry of self in marriage just doesn’t work.

The two have now become one so that in all things - in marriage / in Christ - the focus is placed on this unity.

The article that I mentioned earlier about the statistical divorce rate among Christians being about the same as the world is wrong.

Here’s the truth…

People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

What appears intuitive is true. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes—attend church nearly every week, read their bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously …

Living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples—enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public, and unbelievers.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/

There is no guarantee of a divorce free married life but being in the word is a great help. You see, in Christ you are a new creation. Set apart as God’s child and fully forgiven in Christ. When two in Christ become one there is something bigger than the individual to unite them. They become one in marriage and one in Christ.

This oneness - sees the woman as bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
This oneness - becomes subject to her husband as unto Christ.
This oneness - loves his wife as Christ loves the church.
This oneness - is no longer two but one and in Christ.
This oneness - can endure the trials of sin, death and the power of the devil because …
Christ is the Lord of husband, of wife, and of family.

Many enter marriage with the hope of “A happily ever after!” – This is nothing more than a fairy tale apart from a unity in Christ.

The Marriage can even become an idol, made in the image of husband and wife where hopes and cares are placed in failed sinful beings rather than in Jesus Christ as Lord who came to restore all things in him.

Paul in speaking about idol worship in 1 Cor. 10:23 says,

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

This is also especially true with the neighbor we are united to, and in unity with, within our marriages.

While sin remains a part of our life and the world we live in … it is also true that in Christ all things have been made new; so when Christ rules your life and your marriage together, all things work better with Christ as the head.

love and cherish those blessed children God has given you.

Children are a blessing that results from the union of man and woman.
Children brought to Christ are welcomed by him.
Childlike faith receives the Kingdom of God.

With child like faith we all have entered the Lord’s courts let us together with Christ love and live as one in Him being received as his beloved children.

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

Amen

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sermon Sept 29-30, 2018

Title: Prayer, Proclamation, Love, and Peace!
Text: James 5:13-20

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Source Unknown.

Our Epistle reading in James begins:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

At times, we can all feel this need. Who among us hasn’t suffered, or been cheerful … or sick?

For some though, suffering is an ongoing problem. It may be long term physical illness or depression that consumes one’s life. I’ve seen both and neither is fun to deal with.

James calls those who suffer to prayer.

Prayer brings the one suffering to the one who suffered too. Prayer brings the one who hears our prayer and those who pray together - and through this union prayer brings comfort, peace and healing. The suffering servant Jesus himself, hears and answers our prayers. At times we crave comforting answers … at other times we struggle to hear any at all. Sin brings death and suffering to us all. It is a result or our life broken in sin.

At times there is also joy in your life and when those times of joy are yours James says to … sing!

It comforts and focuses our joy in the true giver of joy … Jesus Christ our Lord. Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs – or as the word φαλλετω (Psalleto - singing psalms or even playing on a string instrument) not only fill our hearts and lives with the joyful music, but with the words of God’s truth so we can be connected to the joyful giver of peace and forgiveness.

Playing this music as well can bring great joy.

Luther on music:

Martin Luther said, "The devil takes flight at the sound of music, just as he does at the words of theology, and for this reason the prophets always combined theology and music, the teaching of truth and the chanting of Psalms and hymns."
"After theology, I give the highest place and greatest honor to music."

Martin Luther.

Proclamation

Music brings great joy and so does singing for and with those who cannot get to worship.

Visiting the sick and bringing the proclamation of the gospel to those in need go hand in hand.

James says:

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Ill.

Pastor Merrell and I have been blessed to visit and pray for those who are ill. Before Dorenne Ridge passed we had an opportunity to visit her - though she hadn’t seen either of us for quite a while and was moved away from our area for her care. When I told her who we were she smiled her acknowledgement. The visit brought the anointing balm as a reminder of God’s Holy Spirit that indwells all believers and the Lord’s Supper to one in need. Sins are confessed and forgiveness proclaimed and received. I am always comforted when a dear brother or sister in Christ prays for me … as we together pray for one another.

Too often we forget that prayer has power. It is not that we control God but that we cast all our care upon him, knowing that he hears and answers our prayers.

Or, as a friend of mine once said;

“God always answers my prayers. He’s just never has been early with the answer … but answers in his time and way.”

God answers because he loves you and in Christ we love others because he first loved us.

How do we display his love?

Love

Love is silence--when your words would hurt.
Love is patience--when your neighbor's curt.
Love is deafness--when a scandal flows.
Love is thoughtfulness--for other's woes.
Love is promptness--when duty calls.
Love is courage--when misfortune falls.

Source Unknown.

Certainly this is not the ways of the world.

The word of God is rejected by many and even believers forget the wonderful word during times of trial and troubles.

During a time of great depression for Veretta Cheal I brought my guitar on a visit to sing a few hymns with her. It gave her comfort in the midst of trial and soon after she had a time of peace in her life.

God uses us all where we are. Through our own gifts at times he gives comfort, peace and joy to those who suffer.

Peace

Peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of trouble, but is rather the confidence that He is there with you always.

Source Unknown.

Martin Luther found peace with God when he found the gospel. What had been for Luther the trial of life as he struggled with Gods righteous justice - that sins separated us from God and as sinners we, in the sight of God, must be condemned - became a joy on account of Christ. Because of Christ as our substitute who stands in our place and receives God’s wrath as the once for all sacrifice for our sins we by faith receive his reward by faith as God’s beloved children in whom he is well please.

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. 5:1

Because of Christ and by faith we have peace with God.

Christ’s peace is your peace by faith.
Christ’s peace is freely give in the gospel
Christ’s peace is not received by works of righteousness.
Christ’s peace is a gift to be shared with others.

Let us close with the prayer that we began:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Source Unknown.

Prayer, Proclamation, Love, and Peace!

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

Amen

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sermon Sept 22-23, 2018

Title: Christ was delivered to death and delivers you to life!
Text: Mark 9:30-37

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

At times we all can see the value of our work and service we give as greater than that of others, even though everything that we have is received as a gift from God.

Jesus begins to teach his disciples about his ultimate goal, and the mission and reason for his coming … saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

This is a hard saying for the disciples to hear and our text says …

32 … they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Maybe they were thinking, “Who is the Son of Man as this is a reference to God and what about killing him and after three days rising from the dead?”

Certainly it was a confusing statement from Jesus and not understood by the disciples to the point that they were afraid to ask as we Lutheran’s ask:

What does this mean?

As Christians the questions of life and faith are connected to our very being. We at times see God’s word through the lens of our own desires and needs. We value our own opinion and use it to interpret scripture rather than letting scripture interpret scripture. We try to make scripture say what we want it to say instead of understanding it in the context and way that God has revealed it for our benefit.

The disciples want to know and have discussed among themselves on the way and even arguing who is the greatest. Jesus knows, but asks, “What were you discussing on the way?”

It reminds me of a parent asking a child what had happened … and you get the silent treatment … like they know this was wrong but we wanted to do it anyway.

Remember from last week’s reading the father’s voice from the crowd calling out and pleading to Jesus?

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” … they were not able …

And now they argue among themselves … about who was the greatest.

Ill.

Pride can be a terrible thing.

G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate conspirator [upon his] released from prison said: "I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy.”

“I have never failed me."


The Christian Century, Sept. 28, 1977, p. 836.

Liddy needed to consult Ben Franklin where he wrote:

There is perhaps no[t] one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Benjamin Franklin, from his autobiography.

There is a difference in taking pride in the work you do and thanking God for giving you the gifts and ability to serve … verses the pride of thinking oneself better than those who can’t do or help in the same way as you.

The disciples were seeing themselves with the latter focus rather than the former. How do we each measure up in regards to that same question? I’m sure we all fall short at times.

So it was time for a family meeting. Jesus called them all to gather together.

35 And [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Wow … there’s a turn of phrase for you. To be first requires being last to lead … you must serve all. Parents know that. They lead by serving – first they serve their spouse and as a married couple they become one flesh and think and act with the others needs in mind. And certainly if they have children they do all for their child. They live there life in service to the needs of their children.

Don’t believe me, just ask a parent what they are doing and you will hear, “Well, Monday’s we have dance, or soccer, or confirmation or … you name it. Children are dependent on their parents for everything and parent serve their need at least until they teach them the valuable lesson about taking care of themselves.

So Jesus gives the disciples and us an object lesson.

36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

A wonderful picture of this reality is seen when parents bring their children to baptism and serve the needs of those who are unable to serve themselves.

The greatest in the Kingdom are those who receive Jesus, and you and I can have great joy as well in the gift given us as we joy in serving the needs of those who we have responsibility over.

Let us not, groan and make noise daily whether what we do or what others don’t do in the work or the way we serve when it is God who has done all for our benefit.

Rather, let us like little children, cared for by loving parents and our heavenly Father, joy in all that has been done on our behalf so that we too can, as servants, serve the needs of those who have been place in our care; and care for those that we come across with the love of Christ and the message of forgiveness found only in the gospel of peace.

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

Amen

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sermon Sept 15-16, 2018

Title:Sept 15-16, 2018 Setting III with Holy Communion
Title: The word of God casts out and restores!
Text: Mark 9:14-29

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Life and death and love and caring are human emotions that have been seen and felt in our own lives many times over the years. It may be a dear family friend who passes away, the sickness of an elderly parent or child, or dear friends and their children who you’ve seen grow up and felt their celebration and joy as well as sorrow and pain.

At time we are brought into the lives of perfect strangers who we comfort or see their grief from afar. The loss of a child is especially hard to deal with and understand. We at times can feel the pain as if it is our own loss.

Last week our text showed us the compassionate Christ as he opened the ears and mouth of a deaf mute who then “spoke plainly.” Not only having his ears and mouth healed but being given the gift of speech, immediately, as Mark so often says in his gospel account.

In today’s reading:

14 And when they [those that had been following Jesus] came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Jesus is known to the people as the one who brings peace, comfort, healing and the things that you and I also find of great value when things in our life need help. And here a voice from the crown answers Jesus’ question.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

A father’s pleading for his son. “I brought him to you … but your disciples were not able.”

The disciples fell short! They missed the mark! What was needed … wasn’t given … to a man in distress.

I can relate, how about you? Have you missed the mark? I think we can all agree with St. Paul.

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. … 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:18-24

At times we miss the mark by things we do and at times by things we don’t do.

Ill.

Last weekend Rally Day was lightly attended. In the past it has been a great even with many beginning the regular schedule with a pot luck and return to Sunday school and Bible Study. I must admit to feeling a bit dejected at the 43 who did come. As I reflected on the weekend on Monday and the sermon for this week … “Oh faithless generation” spoke to me. I felt the weight of burden lifted from me as I looked to the Lord’s good work from last weekend. We welcomed six men members – two couples through transfer, a shut in transfer and an adult instruction and profession of faith and we have has the blessing of visitors in our midst.

Our faith is weak when we look to self and inward. Our focus need to be outward to Jesus and his cross for there is where true salvation and hope is found.

Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring [the boy] to me.”

What I didn’t want to hear from my boss, the disciples now hear from Jesus … pain and disappointment from the Lord of Glory at their falling short.

Jesus takes control, “Bring him to me.”

The solutions for the problems we face are always best helped when the focus is on Christ. Because the evil foe is Satan and the forces of demonic activity that perplex and attack us and those who remain lost in the world.

This father is grieving for his son as he has been plagued with this demon “From childhood.” We might reasonably look at our own sinful condition and malady as those brought forth in iniquity … conceived and born in sin. Psalm 51:5

But though we have been freed by Christ Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit, we still remain in our sinful flesh … both Saint and Sinner.

On the one hand we are freed by the grace of God in Christ and have received all things being made new, but at the same time, we are bound to our sinful flesh and wrestle with faith and doubt, belief and unbelief!

The call … “I believe; help my unbelief!” is the call of a believing soul tormented by a demonic foe. We too call daily to God to lift the burden of sin we carry and to comfort us, and bring us peace … the peace … that passes all human understanding.

“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

We too are born into this world dead to God, and it is by God’s command:

“19 Go … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” that we receive life eternal promised from the lips of our Lord.

Having done a number of baptisms of little children, it always reminds me of this passage when they are baptized because when baptized there is crying out and convulsing. The devil cannot remain but must flee. Where light is, darkness flees.

“He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Death, raised to life and caring, through the sacrificial love of the God man Jesus Christ are what God has given you.

The picture in the today’s lesson shows the condition we too are born and wrestle with. But it also shows god love and power to bring us both from death to life through the means he has provided of word and sacrament but also show the picture of the final gift of God when:

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Dear friends,

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52,56

God brings peace, comfort, victory and belief through his means!

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

Amen

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sermon Sept 8-9, 2018

Title: Hearing, we proclaim the Good News!
Text: Mark 7:31-37

36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

31 Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus was traveling through Sidon along the Sea of Galilee. As we might remember from a few weeks back, the disciples had crossed over the sea after the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus came to them walking to them on the water.

The crowds had followed Jesus who had fed them, healed them from illness, and he cast out demons and they are now in the region of the Decapolis – a region of 10 cities near the southeast corner of the Sea.

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The healings of Jesus are numerous in the gospel accounts. At times it is by faith in Christ that we see healing: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” The old woman thought to herself who had been plagued by the flow of blood for many years in Mark 5:28.

Or, it is by the healing touch of Jesus and the words of Christ’s own command, “Little girl I say to you arise!” as Jairus’ daughter was raised from death to life in Mark 5:41.

In today’s reading a deaf mute is brought to Jesus. He neither knows nor understands what is going on. He can’t hear and his speech is muted and unintelligible to those who are around him.

… and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The people knew of Jesus and his healing touch. Those who brought him to Jesus begged him to lay his hands on him … as if the laying on of hands from Jesus was the magic formula of healing and required to make one well and whole again.

Jesus sees the problem … here is a man who is deaf and mute.

Ill.

If you know someone who is deaf or have interacted with them before, you know that they communicate in ways their own. Those who use sign language know that communication with the deaf is highly visual. Our own Michigan District has an active ministry to the deaf and many churches work to accommodate the hearing impaired.

At Rev. Dr. Jacob Heckert’s funeral this year, while the service went on there was the traditional speaking of the liturgy as to accommodate those like me who can hear … and there was the signing of the liturgy for those who can’t.

Pastor Tom Dunseth who’s family is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Hartland provided the signing for those members and friends who came to the service so that they could more fully participate.

Communicating with the deaf is special and unique.

Jesus understood that.

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.

We can speculate, as many do, that there was something significant about Christ’s touch and fingers in the ears, or that the spit upon Christ’s fingers that touched the man’s tongue … brought about a miraculous healing. But what I believe Jesus is doing here is communicating. He is speaking to the deaf man in a way that he could understand.

Taking him aside privately … away from the crowd … Jesus now can have the man’s attention without distraction. How often have you or I who hear … needed to get away so we can speak to someone privately, so the noise of the crowd doesn’t distract us?

Jesus gets his attention.

The text says he put his fingers into his ears. Again not the healing but showing that he understands what the man’s problem is and that he intends to correct it. You can almost see Jesus show his fingers to the man and reach to his ears as if to say, “I understand your problem.”

And now we read: … after spitting touched his tongue.

Again in the language of the deaf Jesus wants the man to focus on the problem of his tongue and lack of speech and that he desires to heal these problems. You can see in the depiction on our bulletin cover the man sees and understands what is about to happen. He is fixed on Jesus.

Your maladies and mine are greater than hearing loss and being unable to speak. You and I and the man who is deaf and mute in our lesson for today are born dead to God and as a result we are unable to come to Jesus and receive the spiritual healing we need and that Christ desires to give. It takes an act of God to satisfy God’s justice and in Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased. It also takes an act of God to bring you and me from death to life by God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit … working through the word … opening our ears to hear … so that we believe in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

34 And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, not as a means to the healing, or a hope that God the Father would answer Christ’s prayer, but as a sign communicating the heavenly healing that he was about to perform, and a point of our own sighing in our own prayers mediated by God.

and said to him, “Ephphatha,” The common Aramaic language of the home intended by St. Mark to give us the very word Christ spoke … and what it means, “Be opened.”

Jesus has the man’s attention, privately; he shows what he intends to do with his ears and his mouth; that he understands his problem and he is willing and able to help; and he looks up to heaven, the place of all good and comfort, healing and peace and says “Ephphatha, … Be opened.”

35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

The healing of Jesus is complete, opening the ears and mouth of the man who was deaf and mute. And just as the man was healed and “spoke plainly,” as the gift of language was given him, you dear friends, too have had Heaven opened, the place of all good by Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, and have received comfort, healing, and peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Interestingly, Jesus as he does at times tells them to “tell no one.” And what do they do? They tell everyone! [And] the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

You know that feeling too, don’t you? When we pray for good test results and they come back good what do you do?

You tell everyone! You joyfully proclaim that good news you have been given for all to hear!

There is even better news than the good test results you get and that is the good news that in Christ all things have been made new again. No more sin, death and the power of the devil to fear because Christ has opened heaven to you and me who were once closed to God as his enemies but now have access to him as his children, having been given faith freely in his son.

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

And he brings we who were dead in trespass and sin back to life.
He has forgiven your sin and you have God’s favor on account of Christ!

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

Amen

Sermon Sept 1-2, 2018

Title: Your protection is in Christ!
Text: Eph 6:10-20

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Songwriter: STILLS, STEPHEN, Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. http://www.metrolyrics.com/for-what-its-worth-lyrics-buffalo-springfield.html

For What it’s Worth - the anthem of the unrest of the late 1960s, 1967 in fact … from the pen of Stephen Stills and the band Buffalo Springfield. The Vietnam War raged on, along with the draft and the draft dodgers who went to Canada; Kent State, and the students who died protesting at an Ohio University, an institution of higher learning. Richard Nixon and Watergate; the White House tapes and on and on … this was a hard and turbulent time in our nation’s history.

Today seems headed in a similar direction. Social unrest in the streets fill the headlines. Confederate statues come tumbling down, pro choice or pro life, politicians vying for mid-term election wins, and protests going on around the country. Battle lines are certainly being drawn, politically … socially … and morally.

Christianity and the church are being attacked from within and without. Young people are speaking their minds ... by their very absence from church – parents, grandparents and we the church are concerned.

In 1966 Time Magazine, on its cover asked the question: “Is God Dead?”
23 years ago Joan Osborn asked the question, in her hit song from 1995,
“What if God was one of us” you might remember the chorus:

What if God was one of us / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make His way home?

Today many may wonder and ask this same question as they struggle with the brokenness of their lives, in a world that is spiraling out of control, with ... it seems like … little ... or no hope.

Paul tells the Ephesian church to,

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Many Christians today take this as their marching orders from God to get in the world being ready to do battle and to fight the righteous fight for truth, justice and moral purity. And while we are told always [to] be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (1 Peter 3:15) we are also told to do this, with gentleness and respect.

For Paul reminds us who the enemy really is.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, - not against those who appear to be the enemies we face - but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The darkness of the devil and his demons are the ones railing against Christ and the victory won at the cross.

The target is on you too. To cause you to fall back into the darkness that you have been rescued once and for all from.

God’s armor is for your protection.

Paul tells the Ephesian church and us to:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand [or stand firm] in the evil day, days just like today … not to battle but, to stand firm … not to fall again into darkness and the temptations of the devil … but to rise, being clothed with Christ daily!

With the image of battle lines being drawn and battle armor being put on … belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and sword Paul says that we are really armed and fitted with truth, with righteousness, with peace, and with faith through the Gospel, the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

You dear friends are clothed in Christ with the armor of God and his saving gospel!

In the Joan Osborn song, the writer Eric Bazilian asks:

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to His face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

Songwriter Eric Bazilian, Published by HUMAN BOY MUSIC http://www.metrolyrics.com/what-if-god-was-one-of-us-lyrics-alanis-morissette.html

When the Joan Osborn song was climbing up the charts and I was still pretty active playing music with a few bands back in the mid 90s I wrote a song in answer to “What if God was one of us?” It was simply called, “God was one of us.”

As a Christian rescued by Christ and shown mercy in the face of my own depravity I could only sing God’s praise for what he had done for me. We are not called to faith to escape the trials of this world, for from the words of Jesus himself he says:

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

But, in spite of these trials we are to sing the truth of God’s rescue in Christ. To call, by the power of the saving gospel, those to faith by the word of God through the working of the Holy Spirit, that in spite of the devils lies that question “did God really say” from the Garden of Eden, to the lie’s of our own day which questions the existence of the historical Jesus, our own sinfulness, or the working of the devil in the world, 

God was one of us!

He came to live suffer die and rise again just for you and me.

You are God’s child not because of your efforts, but because God desires you.

You are God’s child because he died for you and freed you from the curse of the law that you and I could never keep … with even 99% being a failing grade.

You are God’s child because by his Spirit he called you to believe the word of the gospel giving you faith and raising you from being dead in trespass and sin to newness of life in him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The song asks the question:

If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

Jesus gives answer to questions in Matthew to the sheep and the goats when he says in Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Matt 25:31


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. Matt 25:34

But the questions the righteous will ask:

37 … ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King [Jesus in glory] will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matt 25:37-40


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

Amen

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sermon August 25-26, 2018

Title: Love, Submission and Jesus!
Text: Eph. 5:22-33

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Stephen Beck writes:

Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: "YIELD." Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge and to my destination. On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction. To my surprise, I saw another YIELD sign posted. Curious, I thought, "I'm sure there was one posted on the other side." When I reached the other side of the bridge I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both ends of the bridge. Drivers from both directions were requested to give right of way. It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision. When the Bible commands Christians to "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions.
Stephen P. Beck.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands
… as to the Lord.

25 Husbands, love your wives
… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Which one is harder? To submit to ones husband as you would to the Lord … or to love ones wife as Christ loved the church? 

I would submit that they both are pretty difficult or darn near impossible for we who wrestle with sin in our daily lives to do. Sin taints all of who we are, and everything we do so that even the good we do is covered and infected with sin.

Paul continues:

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

That sounds reasonable to me as a husband. It’s nice to know that my wife needs to hear, and listen, and submit to me as the church does to Christ.

But … there is more:

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 

Now … that, is a bit harder

Husbands are to love their wives as he loves himself, and cherish he, just as Christ does the church.
Well … what if the husband doesn’t know Christ? 

Or, what if he is not a follower of Jesus? How does this impact married life?

Quite a bit I would maintain.

… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her [make her holy or set apart], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [just as you were washed and marked as Christ’s child] 27 so that [Christ] might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Husbands are to present themselves to Christ in submission … and their wives should be sanctified or set apart unto Christ as the husband is the head of the wife … and … the head of the family in all things.

This, dear friends is not power … but servant hood.

Ill.

I remember the first time I came to realize that it was my duty to be the spiritual head of the family. I didn’t want to do it.

What! I thought. Wait a minute. Monica would be way better at being the spiritual head of the family. She could do the table prayers, and she could teach the children the bible stories … and she could ... and she could …

But, everywhere I went in the Bible (by this time the Lord had, by his Spirit, drawn me into the word) - as I kept reading and trying to find a way where I could pass off this responsibility - the word kept telling me:

“Russ! It’s your job! You are to be the head! You need to do it!”

So what does this say to the Christian who has fallen in love with an unbeliever?

Be careful! Marriage is hard enough when you have the uniting focus of faith in Christ as your guide.

But without Christ … it can be a devastating proposition.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Ill.

My friend Aaron Neilson on Facebook just had his 4th child a little boy they named Boaz Michael Neilson.

Boaz is an Old Testament name from the Book of Ruth. In the story, Naomi’s daughter-n-law Ruth will not leave her mother-n-law but follows her back to Bethlehem, Judah. While there she gleans in the field of a near relative named Boaz. The story concludes with Boaz redeeming his relative Elimelech, Naomi deceased husband’s field and property and also Ruth as his wife. Ultimately, Ruth has a child Obed, who is the father of Jesse who is the father of David, a King after God’s own heart.

Ruth from the country of Moab is redeemed by Boaz and we see her again mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1.

Boaz is a Kinsmen Redeemer a type of Christ we see as the two become one flesh the linage lead to King David and ultimately to Jesus Christ himself. In marriage the husband is a type of Kinsmen redeemer, the two have become one. It is no longer we who live separate but we live as one in Christ. Can you see the dilemma of those who are unequally yoked to an unbeliever and the difficulty that may result?

United as one and united in Christ brings not always peace as we all struggle with sin in life and marriage but it also brings a greater union outside oneself in Christ. In submission and in love towards him we live as one husband and wife, united as one flesh, one couple, one purpose and one hope.

As Paul concludes:

33 … let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Love, Submission and Jesus!

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

Amen

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sermon August 18-19, 2018

Title: Let the light of Christ shine in you as one alive!
Text: Eph. 5:6-21

8b Walk as children of light
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Empty words, we’ve all heard them … are words meant to deceive, to put off, or to fill one’s own agenda. The sons of disobedience hear and follow. Those opposed to Christ and his gospel continue to go the way of destruction, but we too who have been brought to faith by God’s gifts give way to the call of darkness and fall in sin.

7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

Don’t get sucked in, Paul tells the Ephesians. But what were the Ephesians getting sucked into … and does it apply to you and me?

Paul says in verse three and four that preceded our text:

3 [That] sexual immorality and all impurity or [coveting] must not even be named among you, and he concludes: 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking … but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who [covets], [which is to desire that which is not yours] … has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Harsh words indeed and the Ephesians were falling short then, and Christians today fall short too. When desires, feelings and societal norms go against God’s word and truth … the result is that darkness [the realm of Satan] reigns.

You and I feel it too. Sin is a powerful force that in thought, word, and deed we can all give in to … and its desires can lead us away from the truth that God intends.

When Paul speaks of sexual immorality and all impurity he is not just speaking of same sex attraction, (though homosexuality would be included in his rebuke) but of all sexual sins outside of God’s design of marriage or in the context of marriage that defiles that union.

Whether perpetrator or victim there are no winners when sexual sin rears its ugly head.

There has been so much in the news over the last year or so. Powerful men who took advantage or their positions in the Hollywood entertainment machine to prey on young women; TV celebrities; people of prominence, and the church is not immune either.

(Reuters) - A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania released the names on Wednesday of 71 clergy members and seminarians accused of sexually abusing children since the 1940s, acting in advance of a release of grand jury findings on clergy abuse in the state.

“I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children,” Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg said in the statement.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pennsylvania-romancatholic-abuse/catholic-diocese-names-dozens-accused-of-sexual-abuse-in-pennsylvania-idUSKBN1KM686

Paul cautions the Ephesians:

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

And here’s the key …

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

The light that exposes darkness is Jesus Christ and his word of truth. And it is not to use God as a means – claiming “I believe” - while denying him and living in sin using Christ as a cover. But through repentance it is God’s desire that you be restored freely by faith in Christ through his saving Gospel and working of the Holy Spirit. And also by the light of the gospel that your light shines in the midst of those in darkness so that they too might come to faith and believe.

Paul speaks of coveting as well, or desiring that which you don’t have … and this can also be things we desire or people.

As Luther says in his explanation for the 9th and 10th commandments:

We should fear and love God that we may not [find] seek to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it … (9th commandment)

… [nor covet], force, or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty. (10th commandment)

http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php

Darkness and light … lies and truth … you can’t ride the fence.

The primary election in behind us but the general election looms large for November and I’m sure that the ads will reflect this in word and deed.

Everything you do untimely says something about who you are. So:

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, Paul says, don’t let the world, your sinful flesh or the devil be your guide. And all too often we can fall silent in the face of evil.

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Joel Fritsche a career missionary suggests that this might be a stanza from an early Christian hymn. It certainly could be with this image of dying and rising and awaking from death that you and I who have been brought to faith understand.

[Aretha Franklin is another high profile person that just passed away ... In my previous life in the retail music world the company I worked for rented pianos for concerts, repaired her piano from smoke damage from a fire at her home and sold her a Bosendorfer grand piano for her new residence ... relate some personal stories.]

Death is the great equalizer for us all. Whether you are the Queen of Soul or just one of us we all need to have Christ and be brought to faith to have a eternity with him. That changes who we are and how we live.

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here in the Divine Service God calls us to come. To be fed on word and sacrament. To receive God’s favor on account of Christ, and to go fourth, in a world of darkness, with the light of the gospel of peace – the very word of God – and it is this word that brings those who are dead in sin and darkness to God’s marvelous light of forgiveness.

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

Amen

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sermon August 4-5, 2018

Title: Walking with Jesus in gentleness and humility!
Text: Eph 4:1-16

4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Humility, gentleness, and patience or - bearing with one another in love - sure don’t sound like the world I live in. At least if you watch the news, spend time on your computer, or check the timeline feeds on your phone or social media account.

You members who are not online or active with facebook or twitter accounts are not immune either. You’ve either heard about it on the radio, read about it in the paper, or have firsthand experience with it while you drive, shop, or go about you daily lives.

Rude and aggressive people who also happen to be impatient are all around us. The world is full of them. Guess what … so is the church.

As the body of believers we live in the world too. At times the world breaks into our lives with rude, violent, and unkind people and attitudes that can shake the foundation of who we are, causing in us a response that is no more humble, gentle, or patient than what we’ve experienced.

It is easy to take our eyes off Jesus; and Paul here is calling the church in Ephesus to refocus. Not only to see Jesus and all he has done for them but to reflect him in words, actions, and attitudes living as his followers wherever God has placed them in home, work, or church.

3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. NIV 1984

From Confirmation class we learn how the Law works as curb, mirror, and guide. It stops bad behavior, reflects our sinfulness to us, and directs us in a better way to go. Feeble attempts to keep the Law miss the mark as we actually at times think we measure up. It can cause a condescending spirit in us to see ourselves as better than others – especially as brothers and sisters in Christ - as pride grows and replaces humility.

Ill.

This past Sunday Alan Trammel and Jack Morris were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I remembered briefly seeing both men at my previous work as they came in to look at pianos. I didn’t wait on either of them as it was another salesman that got the opportunity. Both of them were polite and nice, though neither bought a piano from my place of business. As I remember, both bought a competitive brand and I believe it was Jack who commented to his wife, “We’ll always have a house big enough for the concert grand,” or something along those lines. It may have been a true statement, but confidently cocky is a phrase my boss use to describe successful people at times.

Moving ahead 30 + years or so, their Hall of Fame speeches showed men humble and gentile with their words and patient in their delivery looking to soak up the moment while they considered their accomplishments and the important people in their lives.

While thanking his mother Alan Trammel said,

“She would tell me, If you ever make it to the Major Leagues, I want you to be humble like my favorite player, Stan Musial.”

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2018/07/29/detroit-tigers-alan-trammell-hall-fame-speech/860198002/

But Jack Morris – the harder edged, confidently cocky, we’ll always have the big house for a concert grand guy, began his speech with these words of thanks:

“I am humbled and honored to be with all of you today. Above all, I give thanks to God for His many blessings.”

And he ended with:

“God blessed me with a gift and it was meant to be shared with others. My life in baseball has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for everything.

I want to thank you again for sharing this wonderful day with me. Praise be to God. Thank you.

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2018/07/29/detroit-tigers-jack-morris-hall-fame-speech/860426002/

Confident … yes, but not so much cocky.

Paul in his letter wants the church then and now to know that there is one church, one body of believers, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all … and you, like the church in Ephesus, have been bought with a price.

The death of Jesus is the gift and the price. Because he has risen from the dead and has ascended on high, we too who trust in him will rise and ascend. But only because he died in our place and descended, proclaiming victory over sin, death and the power of the devil can we ever understand the height that he has ascended too.

Humility is hard … success builds pride. Pride can see not the gift or the giver but only the reflection in the mirror. The mirror of the Law - shows us our sin – SOS. But it requires an act of God through his Holy Spirit to SOS – see our savior.

Hall of Fame honors, World Series wins, money, success and fame can cause a cloud of selfish pride to obscure the mirror that reflects who we truly are apart from Christ – lost and condemned creatures that we are.

But thanks be to God, he has made a way for the mirror to clearly reflect our true condition and to provide the means of comfort for a burdened soul … the word of God.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, NIV 1984

God’s gift comes to us through humble means.

Apostles – called by God in Christ to proclaim the way the truth and the life in Jesus and to write by inspiration of the Holy Spirit all that God had given them to do.

Prophets - Those who in many and various ways God spoke through in the past pointing forward to the coming hope that is Jesus.

Evangelists – Those sent to take the good news to the far reaches of the world to bring the lost into the fold.

Pastor’s and teachers – Shepherds that care for God’s flock, called to proclaim the full council of God, feeding God’s sheep, giving his gifts and teaching his children the truth of the word and their standing as his redeemed children. I am blessed to be here and called to serve you.

12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

God’s word is truth.

Paul’s desire is that the church knows the word of God …

knows the gift of faith …

knows the reliance on one Lord, one Faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all.

Only then is it possible to reflect humility, gentleness, and patient as we live as Christ’s body of believers in this broken world. No longer, children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Not being deceived by the ways of the world and the cunning of the devil or being drawn away through men who twist the word of God, deceive the flock, and build their kingdom on the backs of the faithful.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Reactions to the truth can cause differing responses. It can cause rebellion, anger, pride and arrogance by those in opposition to the word and the truth it proclaims or by the working of the Holy Spirit it can cause humility, gentleness, and patience in your life and mine as we live out or vocations as Christians.

Jack Morris sounds like a man changed by the word of God.

You too have been changed. May the joy of that change be a reflection in all you say and do waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13 ESV

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

Amen