Monday, January 27, 2020

Sermon January 25-26, 2019

Title: Christ will make you fishers of men too!
Text: Matt 4:12-25

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

We are in the Epiphany season. What does Epiphany mean? For those in the world it means Jesus Christ being made manifest or being made known. The Messiah had been long expected by Israel. For the Jews in our day he is still looked for and expected. When will he come they wonder?

For many in the world this season means playoff football and clearance sales. For you and me it also means tax season and paying what you owe or possibly getting a refund - time to think … time to gather … time to prepare your tax statements and W-2 forms.

For some it is time for a vacation. It’s cold out, let’s pack up and go someplace warm!

For those in the church it may be some of these things or all of the above.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus leaves Nazareth and goes into Galilee, to Capernaum by the sea so that the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

What does it mean to follow Christ?

In a sense it means:

16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,

It is God, working in the world and through his means of making himself known.

In Jesus’ day … he walked by the Sea of Galilee and called two brothers who were fisherman, Andrew and Simon, saying:

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Their response was to follow him … immediately!

So to with James and John his brother a short time later, 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Not all who saw the light of Christ followed.

Why some and not others is the age old divine question? Why are some brought to faith and believe while others resist and reject? Only God knows but John does shed light on the will of those in darkness in Chapter 3:

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

And so too our epistle lesson confirms:

18 For the word of the cross is folly [or foolishness] to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

So it is God’s power to save and man’s will to flee light and love darkness.

The inherent will to sin is strong in all of us. We all fall short of God’s expectations and for some, our sin calls us back to the darkness of inequity that we love. Why some and not others?

It’s been said:

Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.

Source Unknown.

The Gospel is really good news but let us not forget Christ’s call:

17 … “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The turning from our sinfulness is first – necessary - before the gift of forgiveness is received.

When we are brought to faith God gives us his Spirit and calls us to follow him.

For many of us God’s call came in the waters of Holy Baptism when we were washed and called to a life of holiness.

For some it came later in life as God’s word took seed in their heart bringing them to faith and belief in Christ’s finished work for their redemption.

Each begins with God’s work that is received, but it is our faith and it is our belief none the less.

Ill.

I went outside last Monday. The sun was out and shinning down. It was still cold but when the sun broke forth from the clouds it warmed me.

I did nothing … I simply received the warmth. I had nothing to do with the sun shining but it was really me who was warmed, it was my joy, it was my smile on my face but it was still cold! Man! 12 degrees is cold in the middle of January Sunny of not!

So, if the faith we have is a gift, and the belief we share brings us the joy of forgiveness, why do so many love the cold darkness of sin and keep heading in that direction?

Last weekend a bird flew into my picture window. It was a morning dove. It hit pretty hard and was laying on my hose real. A small hawk looked like it was chasing it. It was alive and I was able to bring it in the house, placed it in a laundry basket with a lid and let it rest a few hours to see if it might get its senses back. After a few hours Monica and I took the basket outside and it flew a short distance. I thought I might pick it up and place it back in the basket a while longer. When I tried to pick it up again it flew to the end of my yard. The care it had received was forgotten and getting away was paramount.

Birds are creatures of habit.

Christians at times are as well.

We have our dwelling places of happiness and hope in this temporal world.

What we see at times as success is really defeat. The idols that we build for ourselves continue to fail. I’m reminded of the fellow on Crescent Lake Road that has a small bus all painted up with a Detroit Lions logo and stripes, a real Party Bus! Though it never really has anything to party or be excited about – same old Lions right.

But I did see hope – He got a newer bus and painted this one too with the lions logo. Can you imagine … the lions have let him down for so long he needs another bus! Where is your Party Bus of hope? What in this life will bring you comfort?

For those not here it obviously is in something else. What, where, whom …

Many find their peace at home, with sports and with other pastimes away from church and having no interest in Christ or his gifts I know it’s not you who come because you’re here and that is where Christ has promised to be!

He is here by his word to bring about repentance.
He is here in absolution, to comfort and forgive you.
He is here body, blood, bread and wine to unite you to himself in the sacrament of the Altar.
He is here as a washing away of sins in baptism and a bestowing of his Spirit that calls you to believe.
He is here … so why do so many stay away?

It is the devils desire to have you not attend at all! So he will make being away as comfortable and joyful as possible and he will make attending as difficult and troublesome as possible.

Of course we at times in our own sinfulness do and say things that drive people away but the Lord will prevail. He will pursue the lost so that when they fall so low as to reach bottom only his turning by the Spirit will give hope. Those who are afflicted will be healed and those comfortable in sin will be brought low.

Just as Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people so too he is here when his word is preached and his gifts are given for the forgiveness of sin.

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men is Christ call in Baptism and throughout the Christian life. His means are here. Come and receive his gifts!

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

Amen


Monday, January 20, 2020

Sermon January 18-19, 2019 – Life Weekend

Title: Behold the Lamb!
Text: John 1:29-42a

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

This weekend we celebrate the gift of Life from conception to God’s calling us to our eternal rest. Whether in the womb, childhood, adult life or old age, life is precious and gift of God. We, who are born in sin unto death, receive rebirth by God’s work in Christ, bringing us in relationship to him and back to the original righteousness he intended.

We are his workmanship and reminded … in the beginning of:

God’s creating work.
God’s all powerful word.
God’s illuminating Spirit hovering over the waters.
God’s breath of life, that was breathed into the formed dust of the ground giving life to that which God had created,

Male and female he created them. Gen 1:27c

We think of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, the fall into sin … and death came.

My friend Paul’s daughter Michelle was born on June 9th 1980 three months premature struggling for life. Her sister Diana had been born one year earlier but after 48 hours of life in the NICU had died in her father’s arms.

Michelle wasn’t expected to survive, and if she did the doctors warned, she might be brain damaged and blind. But survive and thrive she did. Fast forward 18 years, Michelle graduated 3rd in her high school class. It had been her dream to be a pilot and serve our country as her grandfather a WWII veteran and B-52 pilot did. She had the grades, was physically able, and after receiving an appointment from Congressman John Dingell she went to the Air force academy. Interestingly her boyfriend at the time went to the Naval academy.

As graduation neared, he had a leave of duty and decided to go home before Christmas. The weather was mild for December – not much different than the weather we’ve had this year. It was a dry and warm day visiting with his parents and friends so he took his motorcycle out for a ride. The car didn’t expect or see him as he entered the intersection. He was killed and Michelle, her dad, his parents and friends were devastated.

The wages of sin is death. Rom. 6:23a

But God proclaims in our gospel reading today:

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

What God had created perfect and what had been broken by the fall of man into sin, God will restore through this lamb, this savior, this man Jesus.

Proclaimed and pointed to by John as God’s lamb, who takes away the sin of the world.

Life is precious gift and when death comes we are all devastated.

I wrote Michelle a note of comfort not knowing what to say. I don’t even remember the exact year this happened. I can’t remember what I wrote or said except to say that in some way I prayed that God would bring Michelle comfort and peace and get her through this difficult time.

32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son[ of God.”

Michelle had a distinguished career having flown in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As she was preparing for one of her deployments, Paul’s wife Rebecca said to him, “I’ve been praying that Michelle meet a nice young man!” Paul thought to himself, “Well, that’s nice but she’s going to Afghanistan! There’s little chance of that happening anytime soon.” Well, we kept her in prayer during the long months, and as her deployment was coming to an end Paul got a call from Michelle in Germany on her way home. “Dad, she said, I’ve met a boy!” Rebecca just smiled.

Jesus is the Lamb of God.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

Jesus is the Sacrificial Lamb

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
1 Peter 1:18-19

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:24

Jesus is the Mighty and Victorious Lamb spoken of in Revelation.

Revelation 5:6-12

… I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain … 9 And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

Michelle and Justin returned home from Afghanistan. The families got to meet and get to know each other as Justin was from Ann Arbor. Life was good. But, Michelle had one final deployment before her service to our country was concluded. Her final tour came, but rather than let her go alone, Justin volunteered to go as well, though he had completed his tours and could have stayed home.

True love, dear friends, looks to the needs of another.

John’s testimony points to Christ

No longer is Jesus a babe in a manger
He is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. Col. 2:9
He is God for us.

He is God’s Son, marked for death so that you may be his child marked for life!

He, Jesus, is God in the flesh, God’s redemption, God’s Messiah, the King of Israel, the kingdom of God among you, God’s peace and your redemption.

Michelle and Justin received the rank of Major and finished their final tour oversees and moved back to Colorado. They were engaged and married in October of 2015 having retired from active military duty. He now is a pilot for Southwest and she teaches English at the Air Force academy. They have been blessed with two beautiful children. I was blessed to baptize their daughter Kalais. God’s comfort and peace has come.

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.”

It is God who desires all to see Christ.

At times it is during the trials of life that the Spirit makes him known.

It is at times in the lives of others that we can see by that same Spirit God’s work more clearly.

And it is at times like these that we need to share and shine forth all that God has made known and done for you and me through the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!

Andrew … found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus.

This Good News is something to shout about!
This Good News is something to share with others!

God has overcome the wages of sin, death so that by his Spirit we too have life in his name!

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

Amen

Sermon January 11-12, 2019

Title: Baptized into Christ is life from above!
Text: Matt. 3:13-17

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This weekend begins the season of Epiphany. Christmas is no more. Christ Jesus is, Emmanuel, God with us, and from the visit of the wise men bearing gifts celebrated January 6th the Epiphany season begins.

Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord. At Christmas a babe is born in a manger, he is named and circumcised, the wise men visit and make Christ known to the world, and now the man Jesus comes to the river to be baptized by John.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.

Jesus came down to John … and we might ask why?

Why would Jesus come to John?

He certainly didn't need to repent, because He was not born in the natural way and conceived in sin.

He also didn't come down to John like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who came in unbelief, and in an arrogant and mocking manner … rejecting God’s council against them.

But he came as those who were sinners and who needed repentance, though He had no sin.

John was certainly surprised to see Jesus coming:

14 … saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

John recognizes Jesus for who He is … “the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)

So the question is why does Jesus come and seek Baptism - as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove?

For He here takes your place and my place and stands - in place of all - who are sinners, and since all, especially even the arrogant people who do not acknowledge that they are sinners, Jesus must become a sinner for all – even for those who reject him. He has come and has taken on our sinful flesh and will take to the cross … in His passion, the full weight of the sins of the world which He bears.

P.E. Kretzmann

Baptism is either the work of God or the work of man. It is either something God does and gives to us or it is something we do for God.

So Jesus answers John:

15 … “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus here confirms John’s previous statement in a sense saying “You are right John. It is not I who needs baptism … but I have come for this purpose.” It is God’s purpose in Christ to be marked in your place so that you and all born sinful might be saved.


Here is not Jesus as example. Here we do not see Christ baptized and say,

“Oh, I should be baptized like Jesus too.”

His is a bloody baptism. His is a baptism of death so that you might have a baptism of life. In Christ’s baptism Jesus is marked as God’s beloved son in whom the Father is well pleased. God is pleased because Jesus is the once for all acceptable sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

In baptism we too are acceptable to the Father, not because we model Christ in our actions but because we receive the gift he has won on our behalf. This changes us from dead in sin to alive in Christ being buried with him in Baptism and raised to newness of life.

The Reverend Phillips Brooks who lived in the 1800s in Massachusetts said:
“No man in this world attains to freedom from any slavery except by entrance into some higher servitude. There is no such thing as an entirely free man.”

Phillips Brooks (1835- 1893)

That is true in one sense. We are always in this life bound to our sin. All that we say and do is filtered through our sinful flesh. We are a slave to sin or as Martin Luther has taught in his book the “Bondage of the Will” … “we are all in Bondage to our sin.”

But Paul brings joy to light in our epistle for today when he says:

6 … 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Baptized into Christ is life from above!

One of the church Fathers – Tertullian, wrote of baptism in this way:

The primary principle of Baptism is that the Spirit of God, who hovered over (the waters) from the beginning, would continue to linger over the waters of the baptized.”

Tertullian – De Baptismo IV (ANF 3:670)


This is made possible for you and me because:

16 … when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
In Christ is where the favor and pleasure of God rests!

For just as, after the waters of the flood, by which the old sinful world was killed and taken away — a Baptism, of the world so to speak—a dove was sent forth from the Ark and was the herald which announced to the earth the removal of God’s wrath. After returning with the olive branch, this too became a sign which to this day is a sign of peace.

So too by God’s heavenly gift —we emerge from the waters of Holy Baptism our sins removed and washed away by the dove of the Holy Spirit, and in Christ Jesus God is well pleased with you and me having God’s peace sent out from the heavens, through Christ’s Church, which is a type of ark.

Tertullian – De Baptismo VIII (ANF 3:672)

Epiphany is Christ being made known to the world. We understand the visit of the Wise men and the gifts that they bring to worship our Lord.

But the real gift is not brought to Christ but is given by Christ.

His gift is his very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. By His taking on humanity he was marked with His creation and with you and me. When He was baptized by John he received the weight of sin poured out on him as the chief of sinners, though he remained sinless.

He went to the cross with your sin and the sins of the whole world on him and received the wrath of God’s punishment that we deserve. And because of his atoning work - you and I receive what we don’t deserve - God’s favor on account of Christ.

Those baptized at the font received that same forgiveness.

Marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, we are washed clean in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit and are given New Life and New Birth of water and the Spirit!

We are made God’s Child and have been adopted into His family – children of Abraham - and given the inheritance of heaven and life eternal in Him.

Baptized into Christ is life from above!

Christ has made a way for all to be found in Him through the holy flood that is baptism. The means he gives is faith in His finished work, given to you and me as a gift by God’s Holy Spirit, working in and through Baptism. Daily rejoice in God’s simple way of bringing you to him through water and the word.

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

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sermon January 4-5, 2020

Title: All blessings are yours in Christ!
Text: Eph. 1:3-14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Life seems to be as bad right now as it has ever been. Maybe you feel it and maybe you know it too?

A year or so ago I got a text from my brother asking me to give him a call and if I had a moment to talk. It wasn’t uncommon and I quickly returned the call.

“Hi Ron, how are you?” I asked.
“Not good,” was the reply.

My brother sounded spent. His voice was soft and lost. It was not our normal conversation. He told me that he had got a call from his son and that Vince’s childhood friend had committed suicide. His parents went away for the weekend and he was staying at their house to watch the dog. They called and talked to him as they were leaving to make the trip back home from Grand Rapids. Two and a half hours later they found him in their home dead from a gunshot wound.

They didn’t know he owned a gun.
They didn’t know there was a problem.

They didn’t expect this … and even though my brother and nephew had lost touch with this young man after high school nobody expected this – family or friends - from a college educated 25 year old with no history of family or life problems … nobody expected this.

Stories like this have become all too familiar in our day. I can’t remember a story like this growing up. Sure there were deaths and some tragic when I was growing up. A classmate died in a fire, another of cancer, a younger brother of the guy who sat behind me in homeroom was murdered by a family friend. Tragic for sure but all three would have been here had not the fire, the sickness, or the evil deed of another prevailed.

We end one year and begin another with joy and sorrow. I received a picture of my brother, Ron’s new grandson Henry, born the day after Christmas. Joy and smiles abound! He even looks to me like my brother as a baby. What a joy to their family.

I read online also with sadness the story of a small plane crash in Lafayette, La. that killed Carly McCord, a 30 year old sports reporter and daughter–n-law of LSU coach Steve Ensminger, along with four others. Tears and sadness abound. What a tragic family outcome just after Christmas.

At times like these, God’s blessings can seem distant or small in comparison to the weight of life trials that comes upon us - at times in our lives - that we didn’t anticipate or expect.

When joy or sorrow comes we need to be reminded of hope. Not just hope for a better tomorrow but hope that surpasses all human understanding. And that is what Paul puts to scroll in the opening of his letter to the Ephesians.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Our blessings are not in the joys or sorrows of our earthly lives but in Christ and in him we have every spiritual blessing promised in Christ and delivered to us through God’s work. No matter the joy or sorrow we face.

Each New Year we have the promise of a better day ahead and that the sorrows of the year just ended can be better as we look to our future and what tomorrow might bring. Often times as we look back we see all that this life didn’t deliver and the hope for tomorrow became much the same as before or simply a life of ups and downs.

Despite the ups and downs though Paul reminds us of God’s calling:

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

You stand … not marked in sin but marked in him … as holy and blameless!

Think about that! You are set apart and marked without fault.

In this life you stumble and fall. You miss the mark and are overlooked. You argue and fight and feel at times hopeless but in Christ you are holy and blameless.

Why? Well, its God’s love!

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

It is God’s will that you be his child.
It is God’s will that this happen in Christ.
It is God’s will that no matter your success or failure in this life …
… that in Christ, God’s grace and favor come to you.

We were brought forth in sin, conceived in sin, and in sin death comes – we are filthy and whether through sickness or tragic circumstances like my classmate Sylvia dying in a house fire at 14, or Marc dying from cancer as the Allen Park Jaguar football team won the league championship, or Kevin -brother of Kent and Keith who was killed at the hand of a family friend, tragically and senselessly.

In the world life becomes death.
In Christ death becomes life.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Temporal and heavenly realities are ours.

Tears in this life will come. Will you lose a job or get one? Will a loved one die or will life be added to your family? Will yours be tears of sorrow or joy?

Only God and the future know for sure but I’m sure it will be some of each as we continue in this life both with our families and our church family and our community and national families as well.

The reality of need and of promise, of blessing and curse don’t always come at the proper or desired time in this life. At times our need often remains while the hoped for blessing seems to be to those Ephesian readers and then to us as well.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

It’s all ours because of Christ.
It is all ours according to his will and purpose.
It is all ours to the praise of his glory!

Where?
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, 

The word proclaimed and the word connected to the water in Holy Baptism.

When? 
When you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

When we were marked in Christ as forgiven, through the gospel proclaimed and sealed in the sacrament of Holy Baptism by God’s working.

Who?
14 who is [God’s] guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.

God the Holy Spirit in you.

Why?
Simply to the praise of his glory.

It is simply his love and grace and favor on account of Christ that God has marked you as his. No work and no merit. No sorrow or joy. No right or wrong.

Just Christ, for you 
Just Christ, in you 
Just Christ, with you 

In times of life that have no explanation.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

In Christ!

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

Amen