Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sermon Dec. 8-9, 2018 Second Sunday in Advent

Title: In Christ you are purified!
Text: Mal. 3:1-7b

And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

To refine is to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities: It is during Advent that we wait for the one who would come to purify and refine us by his blood, shed at the cross.
In Christ you are purified!

3 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.
In Malachi we learn that God prepares the way. In our gospel for today we learn, it is through his messenger John the Baptist that God’s way is prepared.
The herald is the one who calls those who hear to repentance.
Just prior to our reading in Malachi God had said:
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words.

Ill.

I don’t know about the Lord who is slow to anger, but I do know I have wearied people in my life. My boss of many years had a hard job. 

When I began working with him he was 23 and I was 25. We worked side by side for his dad. We were coworkers and piers and friends. This relationship lasted for over 20 years. Eventually he bought the company from his dad and became the boss. At one point he asked me to be a signer on the company checking account placing his trust in me. But now he was the boss and I the worker. We still had great respect for each other. 

But … he was the boss.

We had reviews each year and at one review, the boss was pointing out something I said or did that offended the customer. My perspective was different than his because he only had heard the customer’s side. It was minor and a misunderstanding but … here’s the point. 

I brought up a similar incident that had occurred where he was the offending party and the customer had come to me as the manager of the store to complain.

My boss said, “Russ, this is hard enough for me and you need to let me be the boss and listen.” I did, and I apologized, and was mindful of his position as owner of the store.

The children of Israel didn’t get it.

But you say, “How have we wearied him?” [And the Lord answers through the prophet] By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

The people wanted justice against those “others” who have offended and wearied the Lord. But for them … they tell God, “Leave my sin alone. It’s not that bad … in fact … let’s call it good.”

And these were God’s priests who were not honoring the Lord’s name as well as the people of Judah who had a broken faith, desecrating the sanctuary of the Lord by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. Mal.2:11

Our own blemishes and brokenness are made clear daily. With my own boss I wanted justice - just not against me. Don’t point out my fault. We all stumble … and from my perspective, his was a greater fault where mine was merely a misunderstanding. And true as that may be from my point of view … it didn’t matter. Because, he was the boss … not me, it was his business … not mine, and really it was a review and he had a right to point out my error. It wasn’t even grave it was just the one who is in a place to judge saying, “Be aware of this, and avoid this … for your own good and the good of the company.”

I learned a great lesson and our reviews from then on … even if I didn’t agree with him, I listened, paid attention, and obeyed what he wanted me to do.

But judgment will come swiftly,

... against the sorcerers [idol worship – having another god],against the adulterers [worship of self], against those who swear falsely [trusting self and using the Lord’s name in vein], against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages [coveting that which is theirs], the widow and the fatherless [those who need support], against those who thrust aside the sojourner [not loving neighbor as thy self] and do not fear me [they have no reverence and respect for the creator of heaven and earth],
says the LORD of hosts.

So who can stand, and who can endure this judgment and this Judge? Must we be consumed in the wrath to come?

Malachi speaks for the Lord when he says:

For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

Ill.

Some ladies met in a certain city to read the scriptures and make God’s word the subject of their conversation. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse. ”And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

One lady’s opinion was that it was intended to convey the view of the grace of Christ, working in them and she proposed to visit a silversmith and report to the study group what he said on the subject.

She went and without telling him the object of her visit, wanted to know the process of refining silver, which the silversmith fully described to her.

“But Sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes madam,” replied the silversmith, “I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be too long in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”

The lady at once saw the beauty, and comfort too, of the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Christ sees it needful to put His children into a furnace. His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back, and said he had one more thing to say … that he only knows when the process of purifying was complete, by seeing his own image reflected in the silver.

Author Unknown

In Christ you are purified!

God in Christ has redeemed you and marked you as his own he purifies you as he make you in his image sanctifying you, making you holy and set apart as God’s chosen child.

One redeemed by this Christ child that we wait for, will hear upon his return:

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matt. 25:23

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

Amen

Sermon Dec 5, 2018 Advent Midweek 1

Title: Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!
Text: Luke 19:28-40

“37b… the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

The Advent season is here! It is a time of beginnings or beginning again. We all need those times to begin again and Advent gives us that time. It is the new church year where we once again anticipate the coming Christ and the salvation that he would bring. It is a time to look at the beginning of his coming and the hope that his incarnation, or his becoming man brings. As we ponder these beginnings I want to share a beginning with you.

On Transfiguration Sunday, February 3, 1963, 37 Charter families began Peace Lutheran Mission of South Waterford Township. At the end of 1963, the membership of Peace was 50 communicant and 104 baptized souls. Rev. Richard Feucht, who was the Missionary at Large for our Michigan District was the first pastor of Peace. He served the congregation for 5 years from 1962-1967. As of today Peace continues serving the needs of the body of Christ here in Waterford, and as the sixth pastor of Peace and some 55 years later I look forward to the continued work of God here in this place. And what is that work? To bring the message of salvation to those who need to hear.

It is a time of new beginnings for us as well and not surprising that our salvation and the coming of the Christ child began in a way that was most unexpected.

Luke tells us in Chapter 1 of his gospel:

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

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

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

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

Our gospel today speaks of the triumphal entry of Jesus, the man, riding into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey – because he has need of it. These too bookend accounts … the announcement to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son who would be called holy … and the son of God, this Jesus, who would ride into to Jerusalem to the cries of the people:

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

This Jesus … who we wait for at Advent as the coming King – this babe in a manger - comes to us as the King eternal in our daily lives, as we remember our baptisms and receive his true body and blood with the bread and wine – for the forgiveness of our sins.

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

But how blessed is this coming - this Jesus - for you? Is it an anticipation of what God blesses you and me with daily or is it just another season in the year? Do the troubles in our day lead us to this coming king or away from the king of glory into self pity and doubt?

For many are leads away. Only you know how your relationship with Christ is affected with the troubles of this life. It is though the devils delight to cause you to fall away from the faith. It is his delight to have you see Christmas in a secular way and not through the lens of Jesus as the coming savior. It is the sinful flesh that we all enjoy and give in to that makes a mockery of his death and life eternal won at the cross. It is the mask of our own brokenness that we at times hide behind, showing a peaceful exterior where a sinful burden hides.

Ill.

In Basel, Switzerland each year the good protestant townspeople have a festival in which they all don masks and go through the city doing things and going placed they would never consider doing/going under normal circumstances. The mask, which veiled their identity emboldened them to do these things. One year, the Salvation Army, concerned about the abandonment of moral standards, put up signs all over the city, which read, "God sees behind the mask."

Dr. Kenneth Gangel, Scofield Memorial Church, May 22, 1983.

Whether a wanton sinful behavior or a brokenness of heart. The coming Christ child brings peace. This peace passes all human understanding and is brought to you through God’s word of forgiveness on account of Jesus … this coming King and savior … born in a manger.

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence as she carries the child to Bethlehem. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the Godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

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

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his [greeting], but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is hypocrisy. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man is to be put off. Similarly, when lightning strikes a tree or a man - it does two things at the same time; it [tears] the tree in two and swiftly [kills] the man, but it also turns the face of the dead man and the broken tree towards heaven. So the grace of God terrifies, pursues, and drives a man and turns him towards God.”

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

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

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ. Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived you hear the word of God through his appointed means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit believe. When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

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

What looks so ordinary … a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger … is very substantial. God himself has come down, humbled himself by becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation in him.

Blessed is the coming King … Jesus!

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

Amen

Monday, December 3, 2018

Sermon Dec. 1-2, 2018 First Sunday in Advent

Title: The Lord is our righteousness!

Text: Jer. 33:14-16

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

41st President George H. W. Bush passed away Friday November 30, 2018 at the age of 94. Only 4 years ago he was skydiving. Much comes to mind when thinking about this president. My brother was in the Navy and stationed in the gulf on the USS Ranger and in the first wave of planes sent in. Many emotions come to mind. One thought also comes to mind and that is of a healthy, elderly ex-president that in the last years of his life was confined to a wheelchair.

In 1846 former president John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke. Although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. Daniel Webster described his last meeting with Adams: He said, "Someone, a friend of his, came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, 'I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.'"
Today in the Word, April 11, 1992.

In dealing with the battering winds:

[Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39

We also struggle with the trials and storms of this life knowing that the day is coming when the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, returns in glory for His bride, the church; and for that we wait. We also prepare during this Advent season to welcome the babe in the manger who came to fulfill all righteousness and is … our righteousness!

Jeremiah’s text for today also brings with it the Lord’s promise of restoration; both the restoration of the divided kingdom as well as the fullness of restoration. Previously the Lord had said:

10 “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. Jer. 29:10

And now says:

15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. Jer. 29:15

Justice and righteousness!

God will both condemn sin … and forgive and set free.

Bill Kreuger and I went to an active shooter training for places of worship put on by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. In the training one Rabbi asked how we should deal with the fact that we are open to strangers, want to be welcoming, and look to reach those with the word of God; to be kind and to teach.

The Lieutenant answered, “That’s a tough question: You want to be kind, and helpful and we as the Police want them up against the wall, hands up, and want to see their hands! I would say … you need to be somewhere in the middle.”

Both Just and Righteous.

Jeremiah had a tough job. As the court prophet for King Zedekiah he brought God’s word to the King. At times God’s word through Jeremiah could proclaim blessing and joy and at other times it could proclaim judgment and sorrow.

Judah was in bad shape. They had been falling away from God and His word and trusting in their own righteousness. Even Zedekiah’s name in Hebrew means “Just” and “Righteous,” though he was anything but.

David was anointed to be King and called by God as one after God’s own heart.

But King Zedekiah was hearing judgment from God through Jeremiah’s proclamation and it was only a matter of time before God’s judgment would come, and it came in the form of King Nebuchadnezzar and the entire Babylonian Army, who carried the entire nation away into exile.

So what do you do if you’re the King and you don’t like what God’s word says? You continue to trust in your own righteousness, and your own reason and understanding and lock God’s prophet up in the prison of the palace so you don’t have to hear it.

It’s what Zedekiah did, and at times it’s what we do.

But the joy that our lesson today proclaims … and the blessing we wait in anticipation for this Advent season is:

The Lord is our righteousness!

Don’t you too at times shut up God’s word in your own prison of indifference or rejection? When God’s word condemns my sin, it is often easier to reject the truth God’s word points out than to turn in repentance, asking for forgiveness and receiving the forgiveness and absolution God so desires to give you and for you to hear.

For Zedekiah the judgment of God would come through the Babylonian Army. Where might your judgment come from? For you and for me and through the ages, the Army that many times caries us away is found in our own wisdom, understanding and reason. What God’s word says, and that which we can’t understand or wrap our arms around, we often reject as foolish or only intended for a certain place and at a certain time.

We set ourselves up as God’s judge - and determine what is and what is not relevant to me.

Our society, or Kingdom if you will, is being judged by God’s word. The truth is we are falling short as a nation. We are all going our own way, as Israel did in the Book of Judges, having everyman doing what was right in his own eyes so that only a generation or two later … they neither knew the Lord or what He had done for them. -Book of Judges Chapter 2, 18, 21

How or when we get carried away into our own exile as a nation remains to be seen. But, understanding and reason is a constant battleground.

As Martin Luther stated in one of his Table Talks:

He said:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against [God’s] divine Word, treating with contempt all that [comes] from God.”

—Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.

But even though we fall short there is still reason to rejoice because:
The Lord is our righteousness! 

In those days, as also today, God’s word brought judgment and blessing and for those who needed to hear, just as we need to hear, listen:

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

The promise of a savior, Christ the Lord, would spring forth from the righteous branch of King David. He, Jesus, would execute justice, fulfilling at the cross God’s work of redeeming mankind from sin and the works of the Law which cause many to stumble and fall short, trusting in their own works and own righteousness but you … are FREE!

By the power of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and trust in a foreign righteousness, one outside yourself, and by that same Spirit you cling to Christ and the eternal hope for which He came.

The Lord is our righteousness! 

16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

He is our righteousness indeed! He has come for you and as we wait in joyful anticipation this Advent season for the coming of the babe in the manger … which is Christ the Lord, we know that He came for you and me.

But how, you might say, can I know and be sure that he came for me?

By faith through baptism and the preaching of the gospel, God has called you to believe and be His child.

Or as the Apostle Paul put it in Rom 10:9-10 that we discussed in our Men’s Breakfast Bible Study:

9 That, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Simple faith and trust in Christ.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

In Christ the promise of righteousness is fulfilled for you!

The Lord is our righteousness … that we might become the righteousness of God!

And now just as President George H.W. Bush has left the tent of this earthly existence for his eternal rest we too, in the tent of this physical life see it continue to fade away.

But, Christ has come in the flesh … in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior, who having redeemed you from sin, death and the power of the Devil now clothes you with His righteousness now and forever more.

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