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