Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sermon Dec. 25, 2018 Christmas Day

Title: The blessed hope has come in Jesus!
Text: Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Many of you like me, I’m sure, remember the day your children were born. For me there was the time of Monica’s pregnancy, the doctor’s visits, anticipation, worry, anxiety, excitement and many other feelings associated with the coming of a child.

This was especially true with our first born. What would it be, a boy or a girl? At that time, we could have been told to a relatively high degree of certainty but we chose to wait happy to accept what the Lord would bless us with.

On the day of Monica’s last doctor’s visit she was already dilated and we hurried over to the Hospital. As the time of the birth neared and the head of the baby began to emerge; Dr. Dorfman looked up and said:

“Top half’s a boy … and as the baby was born … bottom half’s a girl!”

The excitement and joy of this birth blessed our family as only God’s gift of children can, and now with the Christ child we can all celebrate today that:

The blessed hope has come in Jesus!

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

What had been anticipated during Advent has now appeared. God’s salvation for all people has come in a means most peculiar … a baby boy wrapped in cloths … lying in a manger.

This good news when proclaimed by an angel to the shepherds in the fields brought great fear.

10 [But] the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2: 10, 13, 14

God in Christ has brought peace between God and man and all who are found in Christ have God’s favor on account of this child of lowly birth.

The blessed hope who is Jesus!

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

What you and I are called to do … we can’t. We miss the mark and fall daily into the sinful desires of a sinful people. But Jesus has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has humbled himself to be our substitute, yours and mine, and to make a way where there is no way.

God’s child has renounced ungodliness and the passions of this world and has lived the God pleasing life according to the Law of God and fulfilling every requirement in this present evil age – for you. He has done what you and I could not and he has given this all to you. This grace of God appearing in this child for you has been made know by the power of the Holy Spirit working in you to believe.

But now it is this child, this babe, this baby King in a manger who looks to be for many who see him … not a King … not the Lord … and certainly not the savior of the world, but only a child and a baby in weakness.

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

In weakness he came but in glory he will come again. God’s creation fallen into sin waited for this day. This day when God would come, the blessed hope of salvation in Jesus name, in this Christ child, because he is the one who will be the one to redeem his people from their sin.

We celebrate his coming today too in the joy and peace he has won for us at the cross – by his death and resurrection.

Because:

14 [He] gave himself for us, to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous [or have great zeal and joy] for good works.

And you might ask, “What are these good works?”

Those who were following Jesus asked him:

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 [And he] answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6: 27-29

Jesus - this baby - is the sent one,

Begotten of his Father before all worlds,

God of God, Light of Light,

Very God of very God,

Begotten, not made,

Being of one substance with the Father,

born in a manger … for you.

This God who came in weakness lived a sinless life … for you.

This God who came in weakness was handed over, tried, convicted and nailed to a cross … for you.

This God who came in weakness was buried and three days later rose from the dead … for you.

This God who came in weakness showed himself to his disciples and to more than 500 others … for you. 

This God who came in weakness ascended to the right hand of God and he intercedes … for you.

He will come again in glory at the appointed time to take you to where he is because in Christ you are seen through the veil … which is Jesus Christ the righteous one, and in him you are forgiven, redeemed and adopted into God family!

The blessed hope has come in Jesus … for you!

An interesting map is on display in the British Museum in London. It's an old mariner's chart, drawn in 1525, outlining the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote: "Here be giants," "Here be fiery scorpions," and "Here be dragons." Eventually, the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: "Here is God."

Unknown.

Well, as we celebrate the Christ child and the coming of Jesus and His incarnation we see in a manger, a baby boy and say: “Here is God!”

The blessed hope has come in Jesus for you! May you joy together with the church of God as we celebrate his coming and all he came to do for you and me and all who are a far off … all whom the Lord our God will call to faith.

A Merry and blessed Christmas to you!

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


Dec. 24, 2018 LSB Setting IV with Holy Communion Christmas Eve
Title: In Christ, God’s love is yours!
Text: 1 John 4:7-16

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

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

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

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

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matt.1:20b-21

The fall into sin brought death. All are born in death and live a life of death.
You and I apart from Jesus and faith created by the Holy Spirit - have no hope.
But that is the Good News of a savior who saves, redeems and calls from death to life.

It is Good news tonight; it is good News tomorrow; it is good News because it is redemption, restoration and resurrection from death to life eternal.

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

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

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

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

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

The Peace of the world is in Christ!

Dear friends we speak of heaven, of angels singing, and of all bowing before the King, no silent throng but mighty voices. 

It is impossible to imagine the perfection of heaven but we can get a glimpse … in this child in the manger – the Jesus.

The Perfection of God’s only begotten son sent down from Heaven and wrapped in swaddling clothes … would grow into the man Christ Jesus.

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

Since the incarnation when God, born of a virgin, became man - no longer is God separate from you on a mountain, or speaking to a prophet for you.

Now in his flesh he has come to unite his death, with your death, and his life, with your life, so that in him we are made righteous by the power of the Holy Spirit by faith.

John’s epistle confirms this when he writes:

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

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

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

The ascension is not the end.

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

The good news though is that the Lord is on his throne and he still calls those who have ears to hear.

Listen, come, and drink the living water for the river of life that is Jesus.

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

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

As our epistle reading ends:

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

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

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

But you are perfect in him forever!

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

Amen











Sermon Dec. 22-23, 2018 Fourth Sunday in Advent

Title: In Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!
Text: Luke 1:39-45

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

A few years ago in adult Bible Study we learned that Bethlehem Ephrathah means “the house of bread.” It will play a special role in God’s plan as the prophet Micah records in our Old Testament reading for today:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

This “house of bread”, Bethlehem, would become the place where the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior would come down to save His people from the power of sin, death and the Devil’s working in their lives. From this tiny town the salvation of the world would emerge.

Mary, who just a little bit earlier in Luke’s gospel reading, would have a visitation from the Angel Gabriel, announcing that she would have a very special role to play in God’s plan for restoring the gulf that was fixed by sin between God and man and we also have heard these past two weeks how John the Baptist would be used by God to prepare the way.

Today our Gospel reading moves back a bit in the story, some 30 plus years, to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, another women used by God for a very important role. She would bear the prophet, John, who would be the greatest of all prophets as Jesus said in our Gospel reading from last week,

28 I tell you … among those born of women none is greater than John.

But this visit of Mary to Elizabeth was a bit different.

Mary with joyful energy and as the text says, “Arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,” and came to the house of Zachariah, where she greeted Elisabeth, just as you or I might great a relative or dear friend. But then God performed a miracle. By the working of the Holy Spirit this unborn son of Elisabeth, at hearing Mary’s voice, was filled with the Holy Spirit. And so too Elisabeth, by this same Spirit acting in a miraculous way, also filled her as she spoke:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord (by special gifting of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth was given the knowledge and trusting faith to know who this child Mary was carrying truly was) should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:42b-44)

In Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!

So what does the knowledge given you by the Holy Spirit about Jesus bring you? Is it an unstoppable kind of joy that might even cause you to leap?

If you’re like me, I joy in Christ … that he has given me freedom from sin … but the Christmas season can be a drag at times too. Having worked in retail sales for most of my adult life I have found it hard to get joyful working extra hard and being consumed with all that needs to be done – during the holidays.

Many find the Christmas Season extra hard to deal with. Suicides are a major concern this time of year. My nephew’s friend committed suicide the beginning of this month at the young age of 25 and Jessica Starr, the weather newscaster on Fox, did the same at the age of 35 just this past week shocking her Fox family and friends. If you had some joy looking forward to Christmas this year it can fall away quickly after this kind of news.

Now, add to all of this the fact that this child, this babe from Bethlehem, this Jesus, would become an offence to many.

He is an offense in our world for sure so much so that Merry Christmas has become just another happy holiday – handed down as corporate policy from the board rooms of many companies so that the true blessed meaning of Christmas has been neutered into just another sale or Hallmark or Lifetime movie – or lost altogether. Sound familiar?

The message of who Jesus is, who this child is that we wait for this Advent season … the one who caused the child in the womb of Elizabeth to jump for joy - this child Jesus Christ - came to conquer the power of evil and brokenness in this world, for you and for me.

Ill.

An old post was shared on Facebook this past week and I saw it from my former college professor Dr. Pat O’Connor. His post said, “I’m not sorry I missed this.”

“BREAKFAST WITH SATAN SATURDAY DECEMBER 14”

The reality is … it was a prank a few years ago and the spelling change was quickly fixed by the school and locked with a padlock on the sign.

School pranks are nothing new. Many years ago when I attended ARNO Elementary school in Allen Park we students who were in 3rd or 4th grade would think about climbing on the school roof where it had the letters A-R-N-O for Arno and wondering what it would take to take off the A and the R so that the building said NO SCHOOL.

We actually thought we wouldn’t have to go!

What about the future? In this PC and full inclusiveness cultural world that we live in, could we see Satan worshipers calling for equal time with Santa and Jesus at Christmas? It is not out of the realm of possibilities. What would they serve at their breakfast … Hot dogs, Tabasco sauce, maybe Deviled eggs?

It is not beyond the pale.

Don’t let the season be defined by the ways of the world.

Because, in Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!

For John in the womb and Elizabeth, the joy that is the Christ child came in a miraculous and unexpected way through Mary’s visit.

We too receive the joy that is Jesus Christ our Lord when He calls us to gather together in His name; where we receive his word and his sacraments giving us both faith and joy in this Christ child who came to free sinners, like you and me, from the enemy of our sin, from the death that it has brought to all who are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, (Psalm 51.5) and finally to join us to Him who is God in the flesh for all eternity!

Our Joy is in the Christ child and that is for whom we await. He came for you and by the power of the Holy Spirit he gives you faith to leap for joy from the womb of death that you are born into, and by that same Spirit He lifts you into his loving arms never to let sin, death or the Devil pull you from the eternal life he gives.

In Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!

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

Amen




Sermon Dec. 19, 2018 Advent Midweek 3

Title: In Christ you are raised up!
Text: Luke 7:18-28

22 And [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Back a few months ago Trudy Berousek took a fall at her home that required surgery, a stay at the hospital and rehab at the Neighborhoods of White Lake. You might remember that I had made an unannounced call to her home where she called for help as I knocked on the door. I saw her last week and she is doing great and we had a great visit and she received the Lord’s Supper.

I also say Marilynn Wendt this past week. Her car accident was in July and she is still in rehab but the good news is she has been cleared for full weight bearing on her leg and if all goes well she might be home on Christmas Day for a visit as she prepares to move home on a permanent basis and make a full recovery!

God is good!

The work of John the Baptist was talked about this past weekend. He was the one who would prepare the way, for another … but who?

The disciples of John had been reporting all these things to him and many of the healings. You might remember Jesus’ healing the Centurion’s servant. It is recorded earlier in Luke chapter 7 where the Centurion says:
“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof … But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; … 9 When Jesus heard these things, … and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:7-9)

Or, the funeral procession of the widow’s son from the town of Nain that Jesus came upon. And Jesus said to her also in Luke 7:

“Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched, the man and he said, “Young man … I say to you, arise.” And he gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:14-15)

So this is the question that John wanted his disciples to answer …
“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John knew that his own calling was to prepare the way … to be the one crying out in the wilderness … to point his followers to the messiah, the Christ, the one who was to come. The question that they asked of Jesus, “Is it you? Are you the one? What should we tell John?”

Jesus, answering them said:

22 … “Go … tell John what you have seen and what you've heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Christ is the one to come, and we can rejoice in this Good News!

Ill.

It is been a busy time of year. Many of our members are on my mind as they with health concerns. Christmas Caroling to some of our shut-ins was a joy but seems after just three weeks, so long ago. Our mid-week services conclude today and then it is on to the weekend services and then on to Christmas Eve and Day services.

This past Saturday as I sat at my dining table having some breakfast when my phone rang. It was Ginny McDonald calling to tell me she was in the hospital. I was able to go see her in the afternoon and bring her communion, prayer, and a visit before coming to church.

Some years ago Pastor Tom Fisher from Rochester did a sermon at one of our Pastor Circuit Meetings about God interrupting lives through the preaching of John the Baptist. My life was certainly interrupted by Ginny’s call, Marilynn Wendy car accident and long rehab, Trudy Berousek’s fall at home and hospital and rehab stay as well.

Pastor Fisher’s message said, "We must always be prepared for being interrupted by God". This interrupting opens us all up to God’s will and is one of the core objectives of the Advent's message; … prepare ye the way of the Lord!"

My life, like yours, is interrupted by both joy and sadness. As we wrestled with the illnesses of those in the Hospital and rehab – Kim and Maddie Deckard, Pastor Merrell, Monica and I were also blessed by the joyful faces of God’s older children as we sang Christmas Carols to them.

… rejoice in this Good News!

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus asks and wants to know a very important thing from these disciples who were following Him.

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings' courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.
Is there no one greater than John? This prophet who would prepare the way for the Lord? When you think of some of the prophets; Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and on and on and John … is the greatest of all of these …

Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Rejoice in this Good News!

You, who are the least in the Kingdom, are greater than John! Think about that! Christ has lifted you up. He has redeemed you. He has made you His own. He has called you to be his child. He has washed you clean in the blood of the Lamb. He will feed you on His very body and blood given and shed for you.

You who deserve death have been given new life in Him. Rejoice in Him!
Martin Luther who was not only a great theologian and defender of the faith but quite a good hymn writer as well wrote this little hymn that it a great comfort for all who live this Christian life of faith:

“Feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving;

My warrant is the Word of God—[nothing] else is worth believing.

Though all my heart should feel condemned, for want of some sweet token,

There is One greater than my heart, whose Word cannot be broken.

I'll trust in God's unchanging Word, till soul and body sever,

For, though all things shall pass away ... HIS WORD SHALL STAND FOREVER!”

― Martin Luther

This Advent as we watch and wait, know that there is one who knows you and has known you from the foundation of the world and has called you to be His own child.

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

Amen

Monday, December 17, 2018

Sermon Dec. 15-16, 2018 Third Sunday in Advent

Title: In Christ, you are redeemed!
Text: Zeph. 3:14-20

O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.

As we move through Advent together we look to the joy of the coming Christ child, and the gifts he continues to give us as we wait for his glorious return.

In his message, Zephaniah the prophet speaks of the joy that Jerusalem would enjoy after God’s judgment. The people of Judah had not obeyed the Lord nor drawn near to him being - rebellious and defiled - and the leaders of the people, those officials within her borders who were both public officials and religious leaders who acted as roaring lions; and calling them evening wolves [who] leave nothing till the morning Zep3:3

This sounds like today doesn’t it?

I would say we see this during a political election year like we’ve just experienced - but it never seems to end. When one election cycle concludes the next election cycle begins. There seems to be no peace or rest. But in comfort … Zephaniah reassures Jerusalem.

The LORD within her is righteous;
he does no injustice;
every morning he shows forth his justice;
each dawn he does not fail;
but the unjust knows no shame. Zeph. 3:5

For you and me, those who also are unjust and know no shame, the work of John the Baptist rings clear.

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

The prophet Zephaniah, whose name means "Jehovah Hides" proclaims God’s word and will, to those who need to hear. To those who neither know the Lord nor have been brought to faith by his working it is only a word of condemnation. But God’s chosen, after repentance is worked in them, will be comforted.

Judgments will be removed, and enemies will be vanquished. The Lord will be in their midst.

he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph. 3:17b

Ill.

There is a difference between forgiveness and restoration. Some wrongly assume that saying you’re sorry is enough. Sounds like the apologies we hear at times doesn’t it?

A truly restored relationship requires recognizing and confessing guilt and real repentance which may very well include restitution when possible. 

K. Edward Skidmore - Sermon Central

Zephaniah’s comfort was intended for his hearers when he said:

18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
19 Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.

Just as Jesus proclaimed to the two disciples of John:

22 … “Go … tell John what you have seen and what you've heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Luke 7 :22-23

But the greater reality of these two proclamations God intends for you and for me.

Those carried into exile in Babylon were comforted that Jerusalem would be restored and Ezra restored God’s word and Nehemiah helped to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem – as we studied this past fall - but God reminds us all the full restoration would come in Christ as the promised Messiah who would save his people from their sin and make a way where there was no way. Through the child that took on flesh and became man we have access to the Father and have peace with God.

The early church also learned this lesson through Peter’s preaching.

In chapter 3 of the book of Acts, Peter calls those who could hear his call to:

19 Repent therefore, [you hearers] and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21

We look forward to beginning the Acts study in the New Year.

As you wait this Advent for the coming Christ child and his blessed second coming remember that you are his, through the washing of regeneration because:

Christ loved [his body] the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, [making her holy] having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

You are cleansed because the Lord has made you his by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit and in that:

In Christ, you are redeemed!

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

Amen

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sermon Dec. 12, 2018 Advent Midweek 2

Title: God prepares the way for Jesus and for you!
Text: Luke 3:1-14

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Preparation is necessary in many parts of life:

My friend Paul Ruehl released an album in 1985 called Star of the Morning. On it was a song “Every Valley shall be filled” based on this text from Isaiah. Paul asked me to play guitar on the song and most of it was straight forward but when it came to the solo I wanted something a bit different. What I ended up with was a backwards guitar solo!

It involves a technique that of flipping the reels of tape over and reversing them on the spools and then recording on a different track while listening to the song going backwards … while trying to play guitar in a regular way. You start also at the end of where the solo is and work your way backwards to the point of the beginning of the solo.

If it sounds a bit difficult … it is. It took much thinking, preparation, and work on my part to have a good result - and then after it was done - I had to hope that Paul would like the end result. Thankfully he did.

In our Gospel reading it is God who prepares the way for his Son!

Luke is fascinating with the detail that he gives:

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The call to repentance for and by John was not a teaching ministry. He was not called to pastor the Judean countryside. He was a herald proclaiming what God had given him. To call to repentance all who would hear, repent and believe that … This (Jesus) is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The call for this second midweek in Advent is much the same. Prepare is the word on our advent banner this week. But, what do we prepare? Is it the decorations on the house and on the tree? Is it all the gifts that we need to buy and cookies that need baked? Is it traveling plans and vacation daydreams that drive you? Normally for me it is all nativity sets Monica has that and we put up? I think we actually have 12?

The truth is you all get pulled to something and you prepare for something. Only you know what that is. For us this year our preparation was different as we prepared for Monica’s surgery. Now it is to prepare for her return home and recovery.

But the call of John the Baptist is to you and it’s to me too. We are called to repent and look to the one who came to breathe life by His Spirit into those, who like the people called by John himself, recognize that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Ill.

This year we went Christmas caroling at many of our shut-ins homes. As we were singing I noticed a schedule left in the songbook from 2014. Lucille Schreiner, Betty Buchanan, Dorenne Ridge, Louise Garlinghouse, Ted Prueter, Hilda Klein, and Ed and Virginia Blasius were all on the list. Only Ted and Virginia remain with us while the others have finished their course in the faith having been prepared for when Jesus would call them home.

We have no idea when this Christmas is actually going to be the last Christmas with these dear Christian friends and loved ones. We need to love those close to us every day because only God knows when he will call them home. We make plans for this year and even next year... and the ones we love are always in our plans. Prepare to make this Christmas a wonderful one … especially with those you love because God’s time is not our time.

Prophets sent from God like John the Baptist are called to speak forth what God has given and called them to do, and those who heard … received a washing of repentance in John’s baptism.

His call to repent was different from the one day, the collective Day of Atonement where confession of sins was publicly confessed. This was a spontaneous response by God’s word through John’s prophetic preaching.

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.
False pride in the Law and its keeping was the M.O. of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were too rational to believe the inspired writings and they received rebuke from John. True repentance is a turning away from that which leads to death - from our sinful condition - and a return to that which saves.

And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Sin leads to death now and in eternity but repentance and faith by God’s Holy Spirit lead to life and life everlasting!

John’s washing was in preparation for the one who would come as a child. One who would ride into Jerusalem triumphant; one who would be tried and sentenced to death, a death He didn’t deserve, and one who as John said:

Is coming after me and is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Those unprepared will be cast into a Hell of their choosing; a casting, that upon Christ’s return will be Fast, Furious and Forever!

But for you … who have come to faith; who have been given pardon; who see the Christ child and have been prepared by God Holy Spirit for His coming return in Judgment and Glory. You, His wheat, will be gathered into his barn, His house, his Kingdom … forever.

The hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem reminds us:

O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born in us today.
The great glad tidings tell:
Oh come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

LSB 361

As you prepare all that needs done this Advent and Christmas season; Joy in the Christ the Son of the Living God who came to call you by His Spirit and redeem you by His word of forgiveness to be his child and with him forever.

God prepares the way for his Son!

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

Amen

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