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