Monday, December 30, 2019

Sermon December 29, 2019 - 1st Sunday after Christmas

Title: In Christ we have been set free!
Text: Gal.4:4-7

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Years ago at St. John in Rochester where I attended Dr. James Bolt, who was principle of the school, told a story about his son who was learning to drive. He had his learners permit and while dad was at work was practicing backing the car out of the garage and pulling it back in. As Dr. Bolt was getting home he said:

“I noticed my wife and son waiting for me by the garage. As I walked up I could see the look of fear and sadness on my son’s face. As I got closer I could see that my wife wasn’t too happy either. Upon further investigation what I found out was that as my son practiced pulling the car in and out of the garage … on one of the times he was pulling the car in … he stepped on the gas instead of the break … and pushed my table saw into the family room!”

“It was at that time that I had a really good lesson of Law and Gospel. As I looked at my son I saw that he knew quite well what he had done wrong and I didn’t need to remind him of that. So I gave him the gospel saying, you’re lucky your mom and I love you!”

In Christ we have been set free!

As the opening illustration points out, children are under the care of their parents. In ancient times as well as today the law places the well-being of children to the authority and care of their parents and guardians.

“At the time of Paul, the minor was legally about in the same position as the slave. No act of his had the sanction of the law, unless it was performed through his legal representative. He was under guardians, or tutors, and stewards, or trustees, until the time appointed of the father, who might even make a provision to limit the heir’s right to his property beyond the age of legal majority.”

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 2 Pg. 245

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is an important letter as it points to the sufficient work of Christ Jesus over and above the demands of the Law that had been perplexing the Christians of Galatia. Though they had been recognized as Christians, and James, the head of the Jerusalem Church spoke of no circumcision for gentiles at the Jerusalem council, Paul in his letter has to once again distinguish faith from works.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (no longer are you like a child or a slave under the care of a parent or guardian that will look out for your needs) 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:25-29)

You too:

In Christ we have been set free!

Here Paul distinguishes that the Law was a guardian before Christ came. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Your sinful nature sure wants to place you back under a guardian. It wants to take your freedom in Christ which has set you free from the curse of the law and bind you in bondage again to your sins that have been forgiven in Christ.

And many times, you who have been forgiven … stay bound to your sin … why?

Oh, I suppose it is because we are sinners from birth and can’t let go of our guilt.

The Galatians too, as noted in the text have been brought back into bondage by the Jews who are zealous for the law. They have great zeal to keep what time and again they know they can’t keep but try and try they might. Many try at times to justify themselves instead of receiving the free gift of forgiveness found only in Christ.

But not you or me! We never worry about the law, regulations or requirements in our lives!

When I was taking my seminary classes,
I wasn’t concerned with what the professor required, what I should read or how I could best pass his class with a good grade. Nope … not me! Sure ....

Do you see how we all are creatures of the law?
We all need and love to follow regulations.

The law is a natural for us and it is easy for we who love to have a list of requirements so we can measure how well we meet the demands, rules or even what the professor or our boss, husband or wife requires.

But, there is good news for the Galatians And for you and me from Paul with one of the most blessed texts that I know:

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The truth is the Galatians had been set free but continued to climb back into their jail cell of the Law thinking that they can do what it demands. Christ has set them free by his all sufficient sacrifice. He paid for their freedom and nothing that they do can add to their freedom. It is finished as Christ Jesus said from the cross

These Galatians are sill Abraham’s offspring, called son’s of God through faith …

… when? 

At their baptisms when they … put on Christ. No longer, Jew or Greek, neither slave nor free … no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is salvation that binds no one to any work, but truly comforts all to the Good News that on account of Christ you are free from what the Law requires because Jesus came and kept the Law perfectly for you.

The Law still has relevance though because it shows you where you fall short and stops you with the knowledge of right and wrong and even guides you and me in how we should live. But for Paul the message that he wanted to get across to the Galatians is that their freedom is truly free on account of Christ and His sacrifice for sin once and for all!

You are free dear friends! You are forgiven in Christ!

There is nothing that needs to be added to Christ’s work. All that needs to be added is you … called by the Holy Spirit to believe, having your name written in the Lamb’s book of life … you are Christ’s, forgiven because of His work and needing nothing more but the faith in His work that is given you by God.

There is a great quote by Patrick Henry that reads:

“I have now disposed of all my property to my family. Though 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; but if they lack that, and I had given them the entire world, they would be poor indeed.”

Source unknown

You are rich indeed because you have your heavenly Father’s love on account of Christ. Because of him you are forgiven and have put on Christ Jesus. The sin you were born in has been exchanged for the righteousness of Christ and you have received His fullness and love by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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

Amen

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sermon December 25, 2019 – Christmas Day

Title: Christ the King the word made flesh!
Text: John 1:1-14
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The early church leader St. Augustine was once [stopped] by a man who showed him his idol and said, “Here is my god; where is yours?”

Augustine replied, “I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show, but because you have no eyes to see Him.”

Source unknown

Today through the eyes of faith, and at His incarnation we see in the manger, a baby the Christ child and say: “Here is my God!”

Christ the King the word made flesh!

John 1:1-18 has been one of my favorite sections of scripture. It expresses the deity of Jesus Christ, His glory that he has with the father and the abundance of His name which is full of grace and truth.

In the beginning, God, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit parallels in John 1:1 what is said by him in Genesis 1:1.

As God, in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, so too we learn from John’s gospel that “in the beginning was the Word,” that the “Word was with God.” And that “the Word was God.”

What is evident in Genesis 1 is that God is a plurality as creator and that His Spirit hovered over the face of the waters and that God spoke and said, “Let there be light.”(Genesis 1:3)

This is in John’s gospel elaborated, expanded and explained … as the Word, that from the beginning … was with God and that He was God and that through Him, through the “Word,” all things were made.

In Genesis the light that God set forth by His “Word” is the light of men and though the darkness cannot overcome it, this light of the “Word” continues to shines forth.

God’s light that shines forth in his Word and whom God is made known by, is revealed by the One who has seen God and is God and to whom his children believe and know his name.

This name of the “Word” is the eternal name which John came to testify to, so that the world might recognize him … the eternal God.

YHWH, is the name by which the Word, from eternity, has been made known to the world and by revelation and by faith we know Him to be Jesus.

Christ the King the word made flesh!

Not all see the “Glory” that is only revealed by faith in the Christ.

Not all see salvation in him; because it is made know by that same faith and working of the Holy Spirit.

But though not recognized, salvation is there – in the child - none the less.

The writer to the Hebrews says that this Christ child:

3 … is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

He came in the flesh so that those who are unable to see … that was you and me and in fact the entire world born in sin …

could be made righteous,
could be made new,
could be born again …
born anew … from above … born of God … and given new life in Him.

The world doesn’t want to hear this, and the world doesn’t want to see this, and that is what makes this child and this birth ever more amazing!

Because he came anyway, despite the hatred … despite the sin, he came for you.

Ill.

This past year I was summoned to the bedside of dear member Trudy Berousek. More than ninety years of age, she was stricken with congestive heart that would prove her fatal illness. As we talked and prayed, over the years knowing that God’s call home would come for her, she said: "Pastor, I’m ready to go home. The weakness of old age was on her, and the pain of sickness, but there was no gloom. It was light of Christ in her. The joy of Jesus!

Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

And that’s how it is with God! From its very opening pages, all the way to the end of the book, the Bible is a story about how God has pursued us with joyful love … an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to come home … to his house! And we do that in this life through the gift of grace by faith! It’s an amazing privilege.
Christ the King the word made flesh!

The joy we feel today is reflected in Christ, the child in the manger that we celebrate today. Though given as a gift there was a real price to be paid. This very son of God came to redeem the world by His life, death on the cross for you, and his glorious resurrection assures that you will rise too!

Today you too need to see Jesus for who He is; the author and finisher of your faith. He is the one who has taken away the sins of the world and in Him you have life eternal – because his gift is perfect!

The good news is that through the working of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and through the means of grace, of word and sacrament, you are continually built up in Christ being made holy in Him, this beautiful child of Bethlehem that was prophesied long ago.

The truth that we are given in this Christ is not fiction. It is the true and blessed working of our Lord to redeem the lost, you and me. You have been forgiven and are found in him. Rejoice in this blessed gift of God!

Christ the King the word made flesh!

Do not fear what this world gives but see what God gave, in his child … in his manger.

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

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

Amen

Sermon December 24, 2019 - Christmas Eve

Title: God proclaimed is Christ the King!
Text: Heb.1:1-6

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God's angels worship him.”

Twenty plus years ago the question was posed in an email to me and other church members who were engaged in a bible study at a small church I attended.

It simple read: “Are there Prophets today?”

The question was asked in regards to discussions that had arisen during the study. Some believed and had wondered if God still gave special revelation to people today – speaking to them directly – or in the same way that he had in the past? Many answered the email with thoughts, opinions and speculation.

After carefully thinking about this question I replied with the first 30 world of Hebrews 1.

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

In a grand way the letter to the Hebrews opens: In many and various ways God long ago, spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but at the end of these days spoke also to us in His Son.

God did not give the revelation of the salvation to come at one time and in its entirety, but bit by bit showing one fact concerning the coming Messiah and now another, revealing first the fact that …

He would be born of a woman, then that
He would be of the seed of Abraham, then that
Judah was to be His linage, and then that
He was to be a son of David.

At other times, in this Son, we see his deepest humiliation, and then his highest triumph and exaltation.

In many ways God spoke of old: 

through institutions,
or sacrifice,
sometimes by parable,
or psalm and
sometimes in a dream or vision.

Thus God spoke in the times of long ago. But that was not His final speech or his revelation.

And that is not to say that he is bound to never do that again.

But, he is bound to truth so that those who claim to be speaking for God better be darn sure that they are speaking truth … whether heard by dream, vision or audible voice or speaking forth what God has already said in his word, and it better be in accord with the truths of scripture.

The son is his appointed heir. But as Luther states: Everything that is said of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation must be ascribed to Christ the man, for the divine nature can be neither humiliated nor exalted.

Jesus Christ, God’s son according to His humanity has been appointed Heir of all things. According to this humanity and God’s will, he should be Lord over all things created and the universe should be in subjection to Him.

He is the rightful Heir of the eternal God and all that is his. The worlds and all things were created through Him and everything as we know it came to be through His almighty power.

Jesus Christ, in his humility and in his divinity, the second person of the Trinity, distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit as to persons, is nevertheless one in essence with Father and Spirit, and Himself the Creator of the world.

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E Kretzmann NT Vol. II Pg 439

Ill.

Like many I took philosophy in college and had to read many philosophers at the seminary. To say it got a bit tedious would be an understatement. If I never had to read Immanuel Kant or RenĂ© Descartes again would be too soon. I apologize if you are a fan … though looking for meaning in self and what is known … leads many Philosophers to unbelief and atheism.

One such Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, and being near the end of his life told Pierre Victor: "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God."

His fellow philosopher, atheist, and long-time live-in companion Simone de Beauvoir retorted: "How should one explain the senile act of a turncoat?"

HIS Magazine, April, 1983.

Certainly, we who have been brought to faith in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit know and understand the work of God in the sinner and an eternity that awaits you and me who believe.

At Christmas the coming of the Christ child reveals what God had long ago and in various ways spoken by the prophets. Through God’s revelation in these last days we see the flesh and blood of his means to conquer sin, death and the devil born to a virgin in a lowly stable. What had been spoken of … is now here to see in a tangible way as God’s word reveals it to us.

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

This God, who in the beginning was the word, and this Word was with God, and was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God [and] 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John 1:2-3

Christ upholds the universe because according to the word of God all things were made by and through him.

But it is not in his deity and in his power that he restores all things but in coming as a child, for you, and being what we are that he finishes and fulfills all that was spoken of him in times of old and by the profits.

After making purification for sins …

This child, this Jesus came to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin.
He came to restore the relationship between God and man.
He came to die in your place and rise for your justification;

which means he came to be what you and I couldn’t be.

God’s son, begotten of the Father,

6 … when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”

This child, this Jesus, this God/man … came for you.

… and he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

You have God’s love, in Christ
You have God’s peace, in Christ,
You have God’s forgiveness, in Christ
In Christ you will spend eternity with him!

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

Amen

Sermon December 21-22, 2019 4th Sunday in Advent

Title: Christ the King is Jesus!
Text: Matt. 1:18-25

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.”

During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her wanting to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. She refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds what was required. When he asked someone why he couldn’t buy the supplies he needed, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood--the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely.

Our Daily Bread, October 11, 1992.

Our joy is nearly complete! Soon we celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, not in holiday joy of man made origins that is merely here today and gone tomorrow, but in a joy that is truly a divine gift of the God Himself, who at His incarnation, born of a virgin, became man so that through Him the forgiveness of sins and salvation might be freely given.

So the Gospel reading for today tells of the dilemma Joseph faced. His betrothed – or the one he was pledged to marry, had been found to be with child.

Not through the course of natural events but by the Holy Spirit, Mary was pregnant.

Before a betrothed virgin was formally given in marriage, Mary had made a pledge and promise – a betrothal contract if you will, to marry Joseph to be faithful to him … and to be his wife. There was no cohabitation during this betrothal period but the betrothed virgin would use this time to prepare and put all things in order at her father’s home for the upcoming wedding.

This contract was as binding as a marriage was and Joseph is also called “her husband.” The fact that a “divorce” was required to break the betrothal shows the seriousness of this legally binding contract. To be found guilty of adultery during the betrothal period would have caused Mary to be subject to the punishments that the moral law required.

Now Joseph, even in this tenuous situation … being a just man and unwilling to put Mary to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

True love looks to the needs of another and Joseph, though he didn’t understand the situation … was still loving … towards Mary in how he thought he might dissolve the contract not causing he shame.

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.
(Matt. 1:20)

Through this awkward betrothal, God Himself took on flesh and became man to endure the shame and guilt that you deserved, nailing your sins to His cross some 30 years after His blessed birth.

Christ the King is Jesus!

Our loving God and savior Jesus Christ could have left you to the fires of Hell and damnation. It was not His sin for which you and I are condemned but the sins and brokenness of this corrupted world. The sin of rebellion is alive and well as seen daily in print, TV and online. Life is directed to self interests rather than to serving others and Christmas has become nothing more than a two month push and economic indicator of the retail well being of our country.

The “Christmas spirit” we are told comes to life as people focus on the joys of giving gifts and celebrating family and friends and the love we share for and with one another. But, true love came down from heaven, in the form of a babe in a manger, born of the Virgin Mary who was called by God to this special task.

“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.”

Christ comes to you and to each and every one of us, dear friends, not by our Christmas spirit but by the working of the Holy Spirit, who calls and gathers all who would believe to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord through faith in His blessed work.

Christ the King is Jesus!

Martin Luther had this to say about the human heart:

“Hearts are polluted with idols and vain thoughts about God, lust, and other vices which arise from the fact that they do not have a sound knowledge of God. All of this our fine bath attendants neglect; they are only concerned that their bodies and clothes should be clean. But, O God, cleanse Thou my heart, that I might acknowledge Thy will as it is, good and gracious, lest I be led away to wicked opinions by wild speculations about God.”

Martin Luther – LW Vol. 12 Selected Psalms 1 pg. 378

“Take a look at your own heart, and you will soon find out what has stuck to it and where your treasure is. It is easy to determine whether hearing the Word of God, living according to it, and achieving such a life gives you as much enjoyment and calls forth as much diligence from you as does accumulating and saving money and property.”

–Martin Luther

http://dailychristianquote.com/dcqluther.html


True joy is not found in the things you work to possess, but in that which you receive and which you are freely given that you could never work for or truly deserve.

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). 

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

True joy, dear friends, is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord! This Christmas, may the joy of the Christ child, this beautiful babe of Bethlehem who came down from heaven to bring you himself, the divine gift of salvation, comfort and peace wrapped in the human flesh of Jesus our baby king.

As Theodore Roosevelt found out when Clara Barton refused to sell him the supplies he needed: He was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!"

Well, the Apostle John said much the same thing in his first epistle:

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. (1 John 4:13-15)

Confess it, say it and ask for it for salvation is found in Christ alone!

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

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

Amen

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sermon December 14-15, 2019 3rd Sunday in Advent

Title: Christ the King is God with us!
Text: Matt. 11:2-15

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

There are times where you are unsure or doubt things in this life. You might feel unsure of how you’ll live up to other’s expectations. Or whether you can accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourselves. You might even doubt those you’ve place your trust in. But one thing you need not be unsure of is that:

Christ the King is God with us!

Doubt and being unsure was a problem for some of the disciples and followers of John the Baptist.

“They brought to John an account of Christ's work, of His preaching and its effect, of His miracles of healing and the astonishment of the people. John himself, filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth, having been a witness of the revelation of God and being thoroughly convinced of Christ's Messiahship, that He was the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, had no doubts concerning Christ and His mission. But the few disciples that were still clinging to him showed no inclination to leave him and follow the greater Teacher.

"It is certain that John proposes the question for the sake of his disciples: for they did not yet think Christ to be He whom they should believe Him to be. And John had not come to draw disciples and the people to himself, but to prepare the way for Christ and bring all men to Christ, making them subject to Him ... But when Jesus began to perform miracles and was widely spoken of, then John thought he would dismiss his disciples from him and bring them to Christ, … so that all would cling to Christ and become Christians; and he sent them that they might learn, from Christ's words and works themselves, that He was the right man of whom John had spoken."

P. E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 Pg 61

John knew that the Lamb of God was Jesus and it was his intent to continue to point to Christ and though many of John’s disciples had begun to follow Jesus, others needed to be brought to Christ so that they might also believe.

What is different today? It is unbelief, caused by sin which clouds understanding and reason in unbelievers and those who have been brought to faith but have fallen back in to unbelief.

The life of this corrupted world, filled with sin, death and the working of the devil can take the focus off of Christ and cause apathy or a lukewarm faith that is quickly turning cold and dead to Christ not recognizing Him for who He is … the savior of the world.

Ill.

There was once a flock of pelicans that happily fished off the coast of California. One day, a fishing company began cleaning their catch at a nearby dock, where it was convenient for them to cast the discarded fish scraps into the water. The pelicans, drawn to the daily ritual, soon gave up fishing for themselves and settled into a more domesticated existence. Life was pretty good for these pelicans, at least until the fishermen discovered that there was a market for fish scraps. Abruptly, the free meals ceased.

Despite this regrettable change of fortune, the pelicans continued to show up every day at meal-time, only to go away with empty stomachs. It wasn’t long before the lack of sustenance began to take its toll. The unsightly appearance of the emaciated birds eventually drew the public’s attention, and experts were called in to investigate the cause of their plight. For some unknown reason, the pelicans no longer seemed able to access the abundance of food that teemed just below them in the sea. After a thorough investigation, it was concluded that the pelicans were starving to death because they’d forgotten how to fish! Have you ever heard of anything so absurd? Pelicans were made to fish. But they had forgotten who they were and what they were made to do.

Sadly, there is a spiritual parallel to this, and it’s just as puzzling. It’s when a child of God forgets who they are and how they are to access the profound blessings teeming just below the surface of their everyday life. We suffer from spiritual amnesia when we allow our doubts and fears to rob us of the joy and fruitfulness that would naturally be ours. Believe what God says about you and you will thrive. You are His beloved child, fully accepted, and profoundly valued. You have been given great and eternal purposes to fulfill. Those who forget who they are in Christ waste away.

Dr. Mitchell Dillon

[Stories of God's work with a new job for Justin, how his father saw it as God's work and blessing and how God's blessing  kept my youngest brother's son Dylan from being in the room during the shooting in Pensacola where 3 Navy officers were killed.]

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

John was sent to prepare the way so that you might rejoice in the coming of the one who would save you from your sins. But not only you, for Christ came to redeem the world corrupted by sin and to give, by the power of the Holy Spirit, faith to believe this blessed good news.

We rejoice today that God was not so callus that He walked away from our failing and sin filled life but has sent his son to be the very sacrifice that you and I could never be. He came in that manger; God joined to human flesh so that He might take your place and be both sacrifice for sin and savior for the world.

Rejoice that God did not forget you in your sin but sent his son.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation which means the turning away of (God’s) wrath by an offering- by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Rom. 3:23-25)

Rejoice that you are forgiven in Him.

The Coming of Jesus brings joy for all who are found in Him!

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

Amen

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sermon December 7-8, 2019 2nd Sunday in Advent

Title: Christ the King’s way is prepared!
Text: Matt. 3:1-12

3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord
make his paths straight.’”

As we prepare for the coming of the Christ child we joy in the wonderful joys of the season that help us remember the gift that came in a manger and to prepare ourselves:

Christ the King’s way is prepared!

The story of John the Baptist is one of a herald (a town crier if you will) who calls sinners to repentance preparing the way of the Lord. This time of year should bring us all to remembrance for what … and for whom … we wait.

John was quite the character as our reading describes:

4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their 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 Sunday in Advent is much the same. Prepare is the word for this week. But, for 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?
How about the nativity sets we have, here at the church, or at home?

The truth is we all get pulled to something and we prepare for something.

Only you know what that is. 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 past Monday I read the news that former Heisman Trophy winner and Auburn Quarterback Pat Sullivan had died. He was 69 years old.

According to a statement from the Sullivan family, Sullivan died peacefully at home Sunday morning, surrounded by his family.

“He was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and fought a long and difficult battle as a result of his treatments,” the statement reads. "The family is appreciative of everyone’s outpouring of love and support.”

I remembered Pat Sullivan but was not a follower of fan. What caught my attention was his age … 69. At 64 myself, he was a contemporary, and of my generation. It hit close to home but so did caroling this past Sunday. No Virginia Blasius or Trudy Berousek this time. How much I enjoyed their visits and friendship. How much I miss them and all who rest in Jesus that I have been blessed to care for as the Lord’s under shepherd.

There is no way of knowing how long any of us have. We can’t assume that this Christmas will be like last year’s. We can’t know who will be with us and who will be with the Lord. But we can know that …

Christ the King’s way is prepared!

John’s call to repent and to prepare was effective preaching. Jerusalem, Judea, and the entire region about the Jordan were going out to him. Prophets sent from God like John are called to speak forth what God has given and called them to do and they received a washing of repentance in John’s baptism. This call to repent was different from the one day, the collective Day of Atonement where confession of sins was publicly confessed. This was spontaneous response by God’s word through John’s prophetic preaching.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

False pride in the Law and it’s keeping as was the M.O. of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were too rational to believe the inspired writings 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.

9 And do not presume 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. 10 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 Fast and Furious!

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.

As we joyfully sang Christmas carols this past Sunday to our home bound members, I’d like to recite the final verse from the sermon Hymn, On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry for us to ponder today.

All praise, eternal Son, to Thee
Whose advent sets Thy people free
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.

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.

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

Amen

Sermon Sermon Dec. 4, 2019 Mid-week Advent Service

Title: The Father’s love restores us.
Luther’s Small Catechism the Apostles Creed First article
Text: Psalm 80:1-7

80 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! 4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors and our enemies laugh among themselves. 7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The Creed
The First Article
CREATION

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given
me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.

He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.

He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.
All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

This is most certainly true!

"I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here: and this idea of a creating hand refers to God."

http://atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com/2012/07/sartres-conversion.html

These are the words of French philosopher, author, playwright and atheist John-Paul Sartre near the end of his life. He was reviled by his mistress and fellow atheists as a senile traitor.

As we wait in anticipation this Advent season for the coming of the Christ child, we look to our loving Father who created us in his image. Who with his all powerful word brought forth all things and who commands us in the 1st commandment:

That you shall have no other Gods.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther writes that if you were to ask a child:

“My dear what sort of God do you have? What do you know about him?

The child would say, “This is my God: first, the Father, who created heaven and earth. Besides this One only, I regard nothing else as God; for there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.”

Readers Ed. The Book of Concord pg 399 CPH

To this God - the psalmist cries: 80 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel.

God - the shepherd of the flock of his people whom he created is called upon.

As the shepherd of the flock, God himself, cares and leads his people Israel.

You who lead Joseph like a flock

You Lord God heavenly Father, truly lead all of your children, who trust in you, just as a shepherd leads his flock. You are the Good Shepherd are our shepherd.

But what God created perfect,
and what he saw as good,
and what after his creating work he rested from ...

... that same work has been broken. It is this break and fall into sin from our first parents Adam and Eve that the psalmist calls to the one true God who is:

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim,
And he calls him to shine forth.

When we call on God in the benediction, we call upon him to make his face shine on us and to be gracious unto us. To once again bring forth the rescue needed for fallen man and to make a way where there is no way.

3 Restore us, O God;

Give to us o Lord, the original righteousness that was ours, given to us in creation!
let your face shine,

Give to us o God, your gracious favor once again!
that we, who are broken by sin, may be saved!

Who among you doesn’t know the fallen  nature of man?

Who among you has not seen the result of this broken creation, in your life and the lives of your loved ones?

23 For the wages of sin is death, Rom 6:23

Who among you understands that death is not by God’s ordaining, and was not part of his plan for creation?

For creation has been changed and broken by sin. So too you and I, and this life we share, is lost to the corruption and brokenness that has fallen upon it.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.

A old storekeeper in Maine refused to buy a salesman's goods. "You must remember, young fellow," he said, "that in this part of the country every want ain't a need."

Source Unknown.

The wants of this created world can be many. The desires that we seek can point us all away from the one thing needful. The condition of our standing before God and whether we stand condemned or restored is what the joy of Advent brings.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The Father’s love does indeed restore us.

So we cry forth with the psalmist:

7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The shinning face of the Father is turned towards his children in Jesus Christ our Lord who he sends to bring about our redemption. The restoration of life, in this babe in a manger, is what we wait for, and it is this love that the Father has for us … that he gives and showers upon us.

And while the wages of sin is death, as the Law of God condemns you and me, the good news is made clear as St. Paul continues in second half of Romans 6:23:

But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Father sends the son to restore the world broken by sin.

He in love comes in the person of the Christ child in a manger to be a substitute for what man could not do.

He comes to make right what had been made wrong by sin and to 3 restore us, O God.

There is a wonderful story about Katherine and Martin Luther in Roland Bainton’s fine biography “Here I Stand”:

At family devotions one morning, Luther read Genesis 22 and talked about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

As he finished, his wife Katherine said,

“I do not believe it! God would not have treated his son like that.”

"But, Katie," Luther quietly replied, "He did."

50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Spiritual Giants by By Warren W. Wiersbe pg. 14

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

Amen

Monday, December 2, 2019

Sermon November 30- December 1, 2019 First Sunday in Advent

Title: Christ the King Comes for You!
Text: Matt. 21:1-11

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

The Advent season is upon us! The time of Christ’s coming is near!

Surprise and wonder and stirring are all good descriptions of the anticipation that accompany us all as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. With the beginning of Advent the focus is on the baby Jesus as you and I together watch, for this long expected Messiah.

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to the Daughter's of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The coming of Jesus into the city was prophesied by Zechariah the prophet and was now being fulfilled. Some in the city wondered who this is. That Jesus came in humbly, on the colt the foal of a donkey and not as the Messianic King who would come to rule this earthly kingdom was a different entrance than most expected.

Though He was welcomed with; “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

As Jesus traveled over the cloaks and palm branches that had been spread on the road in honor of his arrival, how quickly this joy would turn to despair and doubt and hatred for this humble man who came as the baby king to reconcile and restore the relationship between God and man.

Anticipating the “Holidays” as it is called in the world can bring grief for many. Shopping and buying gifts for those we love can become less loving and more stressful and you may find yourself being led away from the manger … or even walking and running away of your own accord.

What you seek, at this time of year, may be different than what the Lord desires you to receive.

Hope in the holidays may blind you of the hope of the Christ child and the true gift his coming brings.

It may be the good intentions of relatives, friends, and coworkers, X boxes, holiday hours or advertising or it may be sadness in the hope for the holidays that never comes … or a family divided by divorce and simply broken in grief.

In this broken world death can be very close and life a precious gift.

Ill.

2-1/2 year old Michelle Funk fell into a creek swollen by runoff from the winter snow near her home in Salt Lake City. Her brother saw the accident and called their mother, who searched for Michelle before calling, 911.

Within eighteen minutes, rescue workers began a search. When they found no trace of the girl, they reduced the outflow from a reservoir that feeds the creek. As the water level dropped, rescuers saw the child's arm sticking out of the water. She was wedged against a rock, and there was no evidence of an air pocket.

When rescuers finally pulled her from the water, 62 minutes after her mother's call, she was very cold and blue. She had no pulse and was not breathing. Her pupils were fixed and widely dilated, as they would be with severe brain damage or death. A monitor detected no heartbeat.

Nevertheless, rescue workers began cardiopulmonary resuscitation, forcing air into her lungs and blood throughout her body. They continued it in a helicopter ambulance that flew her to the hospital …

As death loomed there was also hope. Hope in re-warming procedure used for those dealing with severe hypothermia so as to restore life … but how far could they go?

In the operating room, the doctors delicately inserted tubes into the narrow blood vessels of the child's groin and connected the tubes to the machine. It began pumping, and slowly her temperature began to rise.

When it reached 77 degrees Fahrenheit, she gasped. Then the doctors detected a faint heart beat. After 53 minutes of re-warming, Michelle was removed from the machine and sent to an intensive care unit. As the days went on, Michelle's brain activity showed steady improvement. After two weeks, she smiled when she heard her parents enter the hospital room. After three weeks she whispered a few words, and by four weeks she used four-word phrases and sat up for 10 seconds.

By the time she left the hospital, more than two months after the accident, she talked at the level of a 3-year-old and her motor skills were normal, except for a slight tremor in her hands that soon disappeared.

http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/26/science/the-doctor-s-world-ingenuity-and-a-miraculous-revival.html?src=pm

Where death was a certainty … we see a child, hope, and newness of life.

Through the God given talents of the “wise men and women” headed by Dr. Robert G. Bolte at the Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah … life from certain death was given back to a family in despair.

In the midst of death, despair and all that the world can bring upon you there is hope because:

The blessed Jesus, the Christ child and his coming, is your salvation!

Hope is not a blind hope but a hope understood and reasoned in faith. It is a hope from God’s own hands given as a promise in his word and brought to life by the Holy Spirit through the word proclaimed and sacraments given and received. 

Life re-warmed, so to speak, is life not rekindled but … life restored, born from above, born from death itself as we all have been born dead in trespass and sin. (Eph. 2:1)

But Paul comforts in his words to the Romans today:

11 Besides this you know the time … that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

The hope for you and me is the anticipation of the child. But not just any child … for this child is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus Christ himself! This hope in Him is not something you seek out, look for or find but it is a hope given from God to a lost world covered in sin by the joyful coming of a babe … in a manger.

Today we watch … knowing that salvation has come in the one who entered into the joyful celebration and triumphant entry into Jerusalem and also that He came as the babe … foretold of old and received in the manger stable because … there was no room ...

Christ has made room … for you.

He has made room also for all the cares and trials that consume you. Everything that brings sadness He carries for you so you can see the joy in the simple things of life, a kind word, thanks given, a need met and hope for life forever in him.

The blessed Christ child and his coming is your salvation.

Christ the King Comes for You!

Christ has been promised and has come and will come again. The truth is evident by faith given in this blessed joy and eternal hope. You have this joy given in Christ and as you watch for His coming this Christmas remember that Christ has brought you from death to life. You were redeemed from the spiritual death given in birth and have been promised a place with Christ forever.

Watch … and see by the working of the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ do all that He has promised.

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

Amen

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sermon November 23-24, 2019

Title: Thanksgiving is found in Christ’s forgiveness!
Text: Luke 23:27-43

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Martin Luther once gave a brief, simple, but expressive eulogy upon a pastor at Zwickau in 1522 named Nicholas Haussmann.

He said, "What we preach, he lived," - Martin Luther.

It is also fitting with end of the church year upon us, that the end of sin and death also be proclaimed and heard in Christ’s cross of triumph.

For what we preach, Christ lived and died for!

The story of the cross is one of pain and suffering but also hope. As Jesus was led away following His trial towards his impending death,

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:32-33)

The cross of Christ is either death or life depending upon your perspective. Take the two criminals for instance:

One rebukes Jesus saying:

“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

The perspective of the first sees not the wages of sin and the death that sin brings. His call to Jesus is to save, not from the once and for all death that we all must endure, but his call is to save me from this temporal death now, that will at some point in the near future, for him, need to be paid again and in full.

No one will escape death in this life because sin has made sure of that. So, for thief number one, the cross of Jesus is a failure and of no great value for him because it leads only to death for Christ and Him.

Thief number two sees the cross of Christ through eyes of hope when he says:

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And recognizes that the condemnation is right and just when he says: 41 for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

The mirror of the Law, written on his heart, has shown him that his deeds are indeed the result of sin and that he is being rightly condemned but in Christ he finds hope when he repents saying:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Today too, the cross reflects either death or hope for you and for all broken by sin in this corrupted world as well. The perspective of the cross from our sinful nature can only see the death that sin brings and a hopeless future bound to death like the bonds and ropes that bind all flesh to the wood of their own cross … void of hope.

Ill.

Timothy George writes in “Giving Thanks in Hitler’s Reich” of the life and death of German pastor, Paul Schneider, who preached the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1937 a sermon on Psalm 145:15-21, which says:

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

He began by acknowledging how (inconsistent or incompatible) it might seem to be giving thanks “in this year of our church’s hardship.” Yet this is precisely what the psalmist calls us to do—to give thanks for the material blessings of harvest and home and also for the generous gifts of God in Word, sacrament, and worship. Yet God’s Word does not come cheap, Schneider said. “Confessing Jesus will carry a price. For his sake we will come into much distress and danger, much shame and persecution; Happy the man who does not turn aside from these consequences.”

He was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp and on July 18, 1939 put to death for his proclamation of the word of the gospel. But while there, this Preacher of Buchenwald as he was known, “Wholly and without fear … bore witness of his Christian faith. He called the devil by his name: murderer, adulterer, unrighteous, monster and throughout this witness … he presented the grace of Christ together with a call to repentance.”

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/11/giving-thanks-in-hitlers-reich/timothy-george

And just like thief number two who cried:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

True thanksgiving is only found in Christ’s forgiveness!

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Paradise is not found in worldly wealth or in a pristine uninhabited Island. But it is found in the bloody cross of the God/ man Jesus Christ who willingly bore the sins of thief one and thief two on His cross placed between them.

And though one thief judged Jesus and his death as a failure and proof that the filthy rags of his own righteousness were the same rags and covering that Jesus wore, the second thief saw through repentant eyes the one true hope and victory over sin, death and the power of the devil.

Dear friends, hope in Christ is not only a thing of the past. It is not only a hope for those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus but it is the true and certain hope for you and for me too.

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

We live in the hope of the cross but also in the hope of the resurrection and of Christ’s future return in glory. As our epistle for today comforts us:

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

As you gather together to celebrate the Lord’s blessing of family and friends this Thanksgiving, joy in the eternal thanksgiving of Christ redeeming grace!

He will gather his church on the day of His return, raising the dead in Christ first and joining the physical body of his saints, incorruptible, forever, and forgiven in the blessed name of Jesus.

A truly happy and Blessed Thanksgiving indeed!

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

Amen

Monday, November 18, 2019

Sermon November 16-17, 2019

Title: Christ is our Blessed Hope!
Text: Luke 21:5-28

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Abraham Lincoln wrote in proclamation for “A National Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer.” On March 30, 1863: 

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power. … But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. 

― Abraham Lincoln

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Redemption requires destruction. Before something can be rebuilt it must first be destroyed. To make new again requires demolition.

As Jesus and his disciples walked through the temple, some of His disciples remarked in admiration on the Temple itself, on its various buildings, porticoes, halls, and chambers, and especially did they mention the beautiful stones, the huge marble monoliths, which formed the Corinthian columns, and the gifts that were consecrated to the Lord, the many articles of adornment which were so noticeable throughout the Temple.

P.E. Kretzmann popular commentary on the Bible Pg. 378


Jesus then tells them of the things to come:

8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

Jesus warns His disciples that it is easy to be deceived into following false, messiahs and false gods. To know the true God is to know His word and to follow His teachings only.

He warns of wars, trials and persecutions when He says:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

The coming end will not be a time of joy and for His children there will be a time of persecution.

… they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness.

To speak the gospel to those who persecute you, Jesus says, is a time for witness. It is a time to proclaim the gospel.

He will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict and promises that you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and that some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated, he says.

He tells them of the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies and the destruction that will come:

20 “… let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.

This will not be a good time:

For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.

24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Trial and persecution are coming. You see it, read about and know it firsthand. To be a Christian means you will be an offense to some as Christ was and offense.

Ill.

Beginning in the late 1890's, the Boxers rebellion as it became known was made up of - members of a secret society of mostly peasants in northern China called the "Boxers" by the Western press – who began attacking Christian missionaries, Chinese Christians and foreigners in northern China. These attacks eventually spread to the capital, Beijing, in June 1900, when the Boxers destroyed railroad stations and churches and laid siege to the area where foreign diplomats lived. It is estimated that that death toll included several hundred foreigners and several thousand Chinese Christians.

https://www.thoughtco.com/1900-boxer-rebellion-1779184

Today the persecution is not from a fringe group of peasants in Chinese society but from the government itself. Churches closed, pastor’s imprisoned and followers in hiding. The church is being demolished physically and psychologically.

On October 19 of this past month, in the latest blatant attack against the church-at-large in communist China, Chinese government authorities tore down a megachurch's building in the Funan, Anhui region, starting the demolition while the congregation was worshipping. The church's pastors were also arrested and detained.

Government officials did not provide any documents ordering the 3,000-seat church building's demolition. But they did produce arrest warrants for leaders Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao. Both pastors were detained on the charge of suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disturb social order."

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2019/october/war-against-the-faithful-chinese-govt-tears-down-church-building-as-christians-worship

Can the persecution come to your country, your church and even your home too? We already see the beginnings of it. Sin affects us all. The sin of others can and will affect you. How might we react if the wrecking ball started tearing down Peace in the middle of the service as it did for our Chinese brothers and sisters last month?

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

Apart from faith no one can come to God or call on him as a loving Father. The cross of Christ is an offence. It says that God and salvation in Christ is an objective fact and that the humanistic and rational thought of the day that says that all ways lead to the heaven and to the same loving God is false.

The Blessed Hope of the Christian is in the one outside ourselves who came down from heaven Jesus Christ. You do not need to ascend to God because he humbled himself and came down for you and he will return as he has promised

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

But then:

27 they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The fear of persecution is met with the joy of redemption. The joy of eternal life found only in Christ. This is the joy that these believers knew awaited them and that they were not abandoned … but rescued in Christ. In His death they too would find life … and find it abundantly.

The truth of trials is real but so is the rescue by Christ for all who believe. Officiating at my dad’s funeral brought this reality home literally for me. Here was death, close and personal but so to the eternal hope that Christ gives to you and to me. That in Him we all who believe will spend eternity together. It is a comfort when you morn and it is a joy that will take away the tears of sadness because Christ has wiped them away and replaced them with the tears of joy in the resurrection; in reunion in heaven one day; in a forever not covered in sin and death and the devil will no longer have the power to accuse and condemn because he and death will be cast down to the pit of hell forever.

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Titus 2:13 ESV

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

Amen

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sermon November 9-10, 2019

Title: You have been raised and are seated with Christ!
Text: Luke 20:27-40

37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

In 1972, Laszlo Toth, a 33 year old distraught Hungarian, walked into St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome with a hammer hidden under a raincoat over his arm. He climbed over a railing and began to smash the Pieta a beautiful sculpture by Michelangelo of Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding the crucified Christ at the Vatican. While the damage was great, shocking and heartbreaking to those who witnessed the attack the officials made every effort to as humanly possible restore the treasure.

The fall into sin brought separation between God and His creation. You have been severely damaged, so much so that you are brought into this life dead in trespass and sin. So what did God do, throw away his perfect creation and begin again?

No!

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The Gospel reading for today tells a story of Jesus’ meeting with a group of Jewish leaders. If you remember from the lessons over the last two months about Jesus and His dealing with the Pharisees, Chief Priests and scribes.

Now, the group, the Sadducees, denied the resurrection and they also denied the existence of angles and didn’t accept the authority of any books of the Old Testament except the first 5 books, which were also called the books of Moses. 

So they came to Jesus with a question:

28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Well, there are a few clear truths here:

Seven husbands will surely bring about the death of any woman!

But, the Sadducees real objective was to put Jesus on the spot with this creative story as a means to dispel the truth and teaching of the resurrection.

But Jesus, as has been seen trough out these discussions with the Pharisees, Chief Priests, Scribes and now the Sadducees … has an answer for their trickery.

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Now this didn’t sit well with my wife when she first this verse. “You mean I have to put up with him in this life for all these years and he’s not bound to our marriage in heaven?” Well, Jesus then gives the Sadducees a bit of Moses from the book of Genesis in answer to their question:

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28)

God gave marriage for procreation (for children), to fill the earth … to be fruitful and multiply and Jesus continues his thought when He says:

36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are (all) sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

So rightly Jesus tells them that at the resurrection all who are God’s children will be in Heaven and will not be marrying or being fruitful and multiplying because all who are to be there will be there because of God’s choosing.

Now, their argument is not about marriage but about the resurrection. So the contention from Jesus hits them right between the eyes.

37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord … the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 

38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

Those even in our midst also deny God and his power and work.

How can an infant who is baptized believe?

How can Christ ascend to the right hand of God and still present in the sacrament?

How can God take on flesh and blood and be both divine and human?

How can God who is eternal die on a cross?

How, as the Sadducees ask can the dead rise?

If you think of it this way; There’s life—the life we live right now, day by day. Then we die, and there’s life after death—when the souls of those who believe in Jesus go to be with him, while their bodies are left behind. Then there’s “life after life after death.” That’s the Last Day resurrection of the body when your body is reunited with your soul. That’s what Jesus was talking about: The resurrection of the body. There’s still more to come. Life after death communion with God will have a final day resurrection of the body.

The Sadducees said, “There’s no more.” Jesus said, “There is.”

Concordia pulpit illustration Vol. 23 pt 4 – Rev. Glenn A. Nielsen PhD. (Note: The phrase “life after life after death” comes from an interview with N. T. Wright conducted by Preaching Today at the 2008 National Pastors Conference.)

And the more that God gives … is not a fallen world filled with sickness and death and marriage - or divorce and remarriage - even seven husbands for goodness sake.

But a forever eternity with Him, as we who are the bride of Christ are set free from all that this broken and all that is corrupted in this sin filled life.

You dear friends are made new forever by the atoning blood of Christ!

Like the beautiful sculpture that had been damaged and broken in pieces in this life, breaking and corrupting its beauty … you too have been and will be fully restored to your created beauty, free from sin and death and the power of the devil by the one who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light raising you forever to be with him, Jesus Christ our Lord!

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

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

Amen

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

November 2-3, 2019 LSB Setting I with Holy Communion All Saints’ Day
Title: You have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus!
Text: Rev 7:9-17

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The list of departed Saints in the bulletin is a list of active members here at Peace who are now resting in the arms of Jesus. I’d like to tell you about one, Hilda Kline.

The back corner of the church will never quite be the same. It was where Hilda sat – some time by herself and many times with her family. It is where she got up to go sing with the choir - when we had a choir - and when she was able. It is where her walker rested when she sat in the pew when walking became difficult, and it is where the wheelchair was placed when it became her mode of transportation.

I would go and visit her at Autumn Ridge – her home away from home -asking how she was doing … she would always say in mock consternation: “They’re always pushing me around!” Referring to her wheelchair and the way she needed to go. A slight smile coming across her face – like it was the first time she thought it or said it. As I would wheel her to her room or to a guest room to talk, she might exclaim, “See, you’re pushing me around too!”

Hilda was a fixture in my life here at church in many ways. Not only as pastor but for many years as a member here, singing in the choir or leading bible study that she always attended when able, or singing at her beloved home where the Christmas Caroling was made that much better because Hilda joined in to sing with us and we received some of her famous cookies.

Our first reading today gives us a picture of eternity:

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

This heavenly picture has some wonderful and awesome truths depicted as well. There is an uncountable multitude – more than you can even imagine. This multitude is made up of people like you and me … real flesh and blood people. And they come from every nation and tribe – people from around the world – dressed not in the rags of their own unrighteousness but covered in white robes, the robes of Christ’s righteousness … and carrying palm branches!

Wow! It sounds like Heaven is a very real place too. Because to speak of palm branches … we might reasonably assume palm trees, but the image that also comes to my mind is the glorious ride of Christ into Jerusalem and the waving of palm branches by the people:

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9)

Their cries of welcome led up to the cries of “Crucify Him” and the cross of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and now these cries of death are completed in the heavenly cries of glory in the gathering of the multitude before the throne of grace who have been brought to faith in this same Jesus Christ, crying:

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

What had been anticipated before the cross is now fulfilled.

What had been a triumphal entry for Jesus is now a triumphal fulfillment for you and me though the cross of Christ and though you - of many faces are many - you have been adopted into God’s family and are now His child, a child of His own choosing.

That is the good news for you too. God knows you are His child. To see you is to see Christ. Though we are born in sin and death awaits us all, we are made new, washed clean and adopted into Christ by the working of his Holy Spirit.

As I continued to visit Hilda in her final year her son Jim texted me that she wasn’t doing well one evening and I replied that I would go in the morning for a visit. When I got there at 10:45 Hilda was laboring. The aftermath of her stroke had taken her smile and banter away. As I sat by her bedside I read her the 23rd Psalm – one of her favorites and then these four Psalm passages:

Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I prayed and concluded with the Lord’s Prayer and then I said,

“Hilda it is okay to go and be with Jesus. We who remain behind will be alright. When he calls - go, rest in his arms.”

I got a text from Jim at 11:50 as I pulled into the church drive. It read:

“Marie got a call from Autumn Ridge. Mom passed away.”

“Heaven is now mom’s home.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Being brought to faith in Baptism makes you part of this great number from every nation and from all tribes and peoples and languages. And that was the good news for those early believers too. They knew that this Jesus who had died on the cross was the same one taken up to heaven was the same Jesus who said:

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Dear friends, every one of those Peace members on our insert today have a story to tell just like Hilda’s, and there are countless others who are not part of this sheepfold but have been part of your lives and mine. They have trusted Jesus just as you and I do and we honor their memory and all the saints who from their labors rest, but more importantly we are honored by our loving heavenly Father who has brought us all into relationship with him through the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Son.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
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.”

Behold, you are part of that great multitude that no one can number! (Rev. 7:9)

Dear Saints … the Kingdom of God is yours!

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

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

Amen

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sermon October 26-27, 2019 - Reformation

Title: Fear God and give him glory!
Text: Rev 14:6-7

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

The word of God is truth! It is the essence of Jesus - the word made flesh. It is the word revealed as we learned last week in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he writes:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

It is this eternal gospel that Luther hoped in and wrote for our benefit in his Large Catechism about the second article of the creed:

[27] I believe that Jesus Christ, true Son of God, has become my Lord. But what is it to become Lord? It is this, that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and all evil. For before I had no Lord or King, but was captive under the power of the devil. I was condemned to death and, entangled in sin and blindness.

http://bookofconcord.org/lc-4-creed.php 27

It is this truth that Luther found joy and peace in.

It is this joy and peace that the Reformation blossomed and gave way to.

It is the bondage to sin that Luther felt and was crippled by.

It is the freedom in Christ that brought him peace.

It is a peace that we now share in Christ who made peace with God and has given that peace to you and me by faith in his saving work.

The eternal Gospel spoken of in Revelation is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world in our gospel reading in John.

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

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

To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them – who takes rest in them - is one who accepts and acts in accordance with those words.

Martin Luther had this to say about discipleship in his lectures on the Psalms:

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own. We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.

And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you and I as well:

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

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

He said:

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

But later he found the eternal gospel and blessed peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:

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

Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin? Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and Peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament? Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?

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

The truth is you are all bound to sin and its cravings. You desire to do the will of your sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will and as a result you fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is deep down we all are worse and worse. The more you get to the core of who we are in our fallen human condition the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning by our first parents Adam and Eve.

But Jesus reminds His hearers and you as well that:

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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

7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Rev 14:7

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

The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place;
The shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin;
The death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty;
And the burial in a tomb meant for another;

In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid. But, the tomb and death was meant for you!

Jesus took your place, He took your cross, He took your death and He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't … life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness because …

… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

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

Amen

Sermon October 19-20, 2019

Title: Christ is made known through the word!
Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Two men had an argument. To settle the matter, they went to a judge for arbitration. The plaintiff made his case. He was very eloquent and persuasive in his reasoning. When he finished, the judge nodded in approval and said, "That's right, that's right."

On hearing this, the defendant jumped up and said, "Wait a second, judge, you haven't even heard my side of the case yet." So the judge told the defendant to state his case. And he, too, was very persuasive and eloquent. When he finished, the judge said, "That's right, that's right."

When the clerk of court heard this, he jumped up and said, "Judge, they both can't be right." The judge looked at the clerk of court and said, "That's right, that's right."

Roger von Oech, Ph.D., A Whack on the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1983, p. 23.

Truth is Truth! "That's right, that's right."

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Ill.

In a recent poll, light is shed on the paradox of religiosity vs. decreased morality, or God’s truth vs. our actions and how we live.

According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81% of the American people say they agree that "an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." (That truth is determined apart from God’s word and teaching in our case.)

This interesting thought is key to the paradox that that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands … on behavior … or Christian values.

Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy and us:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Truth - when it is God’s word - is Truth!

At times life and society tell us what truth is to be believed – whether marriage is between a man and a woman or whether we can celebrate this gift from God in any way we choose. Whether even,

27… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:27-28a

Today even gender is no longer a physical determination of male and female but a psychological determination as many see fit - and society in its many forms - in many ways has bought into that truth. How someone sees themselves, or feels about themselves, becomes the determining truth or reality.

Ill.

An interesting video that I saw on line has a white man of about 30 years of age and around 5’-8” in height on a college campus asking students what they would say if he told them that he is 6’-4” tall.

Most smile a bit and say: “Well who am I to disagree with your truth. If you see yourself as 6’-4” than I guess you are 6’-4”."

When he pushed it further and asked how they might react to him being 6’-4” and Chinese they smiled and said: “If that is your reality then who am I to argue against you?”

Finally, when he claimed to be a 6”-4” Chine woman, one student said: “Oh come on!”

You see, if you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then truth is determined by the reality of the individual. If we believe that the child in the womb is just a bunch of cells then removing it is no different than removing a tumor that is benign or cancerous.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then there are many paths to the Father as some claim, and Jesus is not the savior and only way that he claimed to be.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then you might be a pretty good person from your perspective and not dead in trespass and sin as Paul writes the truth of our condition in Ephesians 2.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then everlasting life is given to all apart from faith in Christ and the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary and accomplished nothing.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then the rich man from our lesson a few weeks ago was not in torment in hell and he could have easily gone from death to life just by changing his reality.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead and you are dead in trespass and sin.

But truth is truth … when it is God’s word …

That is what Paul keeps telling young Pastor Timothy: Preach the Word.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

As Christians we have the truth and we know this by God’s gift of faith alone.

Jesus prays for his disciples in his high priestly prayer of John 17 when he prays to the Father:

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, [dear friends we’re here for the duration] but that you keep them from the evil one [from sin, death and the power of the devil]. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them [or keep them holy and separate from the world] in the truth; your word is truth.

We are kept in the truth, as we gather together to hear the truth of God’s word, as we receive the gift of forgiveness of sins in our Lord’s word and sacraments and then we go forth joyfully with that same word of comfort and peace to seek those who remain dead in trespass and sin.

For St. Timothy and for you and me all the road remains the same as Paul reminds him:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 

4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths [or lies of the evil one as the time now shows]. 

5 As for you, as it was for Timothy, always be sober-minded, [clear headed and knowing that the truth is truth] endure suffering, [that is the reality for all who believe] do the work of an evangelist, [preach the word and comfort those in need the truth you have been comforted with] fulfill your ministry.

We have been blessed by faith with God truth may you all by that same faith be steadfast in receiving God word as truth for and always.

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

Amen