Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sermon December 31, 2011 - January 1, 2012

Title: Jesus; the blessed name of our blessed Lord!

Text: Luke 2:21 (ESV)

21And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The naming of a child is an important time and wonderful joy in the life of a family. The name can have a great significance and family heritage. It can be connected to the past and to the future, as with those names that have a Jr. or III (the third) connected to them.

My youngest brother Tom when he was very little asked my mom, “Why didn’t you name me after Grandpa?” My mom said, “Oh, did you want to be called Stephen?” “No,” he said, “I wanted to be called Grandpa.”

The naming of a child carries with it much significance, as does …

Jesus; the blessed name of our blessed Lord!

After the birth of John the Baptist in the previous chapter in the Gospel of Luke we read:

Luke 1:59-66 (ESV)

59And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother answered, "No; he shall be called John." 61And they said to her, "None of your relatives is called by this name." 62And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.

The naming of the child had then, as it does in many cases now, a connection to family. John was not a name that had significance in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth until the visit of the angel Gabriel. Mary too was also given the name of Jesus by divine intervention.

This name which means the Lord who saves is in fact His mission. He who was “in the beginning with God” is now and for all time God with us. The children of Israel in the time of the Exodus had God and the promise of freedom from the slavery in Egypt. But still they grumbled.

In the book of Numbers we read:

4Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink." Num. 20:4-5

11And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

They drank from the Rock in the desert.

St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians:

1For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 1 Cor.1:1-4

Jesus; the blessed name of our blessed Lord!

5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

We too fail to see the blessing in the name of God. You and I misuse the name of the Lord so how are we better than those who doubted God’s word through Moses? We aren’t.

God, whose love for you is so profound that He would join Himself to human flesh is in today’s Gospel receiving the mark of circumcision, the mark of the covenant between God and man; the mark placed upon the very God/man Jesus Christ who is also receiving His name today.

Jesus; the blessed name of our blessed Lord!

Every moment after the incarnation, Jesus draws one step closer to completing our redemption. Every act, in the life of Jesus, is God’s action in the fulfillment of His promise for you. His circumcision and naming today are the beginning of the end for the power of sin, the corruption of the flesh and the tempting of the Devil. Jesus, by His perfect obedience to the Law will by this obedience complete the requirements of the Law for you. By the name of Jesus He will save His people from their sin. God has a name!

Jesus; the blessed name of our blessed Lord!

God too, by the power of His spirit, gives you faith to believe this blessed good news.
The Epistle lesson today is worth repeating:

23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For 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.29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

As Luther once said:

“All we who believe on Christ are kings and priests in Christ.”
― Martin Luther, Concerning Christian Liberty - Martin Luther

Today, as you look forward to all that is new upon us as we begin another New Year remember that Jesus came to earth for you. Jesus became man for you. Jesus was marked at his circumcision for you. Jesus fulfilled the Law for you and has suffered and died on the cross for you and was raised for your justification so that you will rise too …
and He lives to intercede by the power of the Holy Spirit for you.

Jesus; the blessed name of our blessed Lord!

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sermon December 25, 2011 Christmas Day!

Title: Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh! 

Text: John 1:14 (ESV) 
14And 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. 
Many of you like me, I’m sure, remember the day your children were born. For me there was the time of Monica’s pregnancy, the doctor’s visits, anticipation, worry, anxiety, excitement and many other feelings associated with the coming of a child. 

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

On the day of Monica’s last doctor’s visit she was already dilated and we hurried over to the Hospital. As the time of the birth neared and the head of the baby began to emerge; Dr. Dorfman looked up and said, “Top half’s a boy … and as the baby was born … bottom half’s a girl!” The excitement and joy of this birth blessed our family as only God’s gift of children can and we can all celebrate today:
Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh! 

The Apostle John in today’s Gospel reading chooses to begin his Gospel with words very familiar to the people of his day. ̓Εν ἀρχη “In the beginning” These were the same words that were used to begin the Greek version of the Old Testament scriptures. It would not be a stretch for the people to pick up on what John is saying here. 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

The word of God was in the beginning and in fact, preceded that very beginning and was with God and … was God. 

2He was in the beginning with God. 

He, the word of God is a person from the very beginning of the creation story. Inseparable with God, He is though distinct in person but of the same essence as God. 

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

Distinct, divine and as our creed says: “Very God of Very God.” This word would now be entering human history at the birth of this child, in a manger, in Bethlehem. 

This birth though was normal and ordinary on many levels. This baby, a boy, who at His birth would be given the name of Jesus, was like any other birth that might have occurred at this time. 

But on many levels this was a profoundly different child and a profoundly different birth. Visited by the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary during the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy this child was born of a virgin, was incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit and was made man. God in nature and man in nature together joined in this baby born to Mary in a stable. 

Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh! 

God’s, messenger, John the Baptist, was sent from God to prepare the way. He was sent to bear witness about the light, that this child, entering the world, would reconcile God and man and overcome for them sin death and the power of the devil. 

This child who is the light of the world, the world did not know. He came to his own but they did not receive Him. 

12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 

Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh! 
How is he received today? For many, Jesus was just a man who did good things, showed people how they should live with one another and unfortunately was in the wrong place at the wrong time and died a horrible death.
No God … no miracles … no savior … no difference from any other path or way we choose to believe or live our lives. 

Christ is not God in the ways of the world. Some believe He never existed and for others He was just a Jew who was crucified because He didn’t know when to bend His will to be more tolerant of other’s beliefs and ways. 

What about you? Is your faith built on the Rock that is Christ do you see yourself as a pretty good person … who does some good things … and comes to church pretty regularly … maybe even monthly but I’ve been meaning to get here more often. Our God knows how hard life can be and the trials you face as you deal with the world, the flesh and the Devil.
But there is hope and good news this Christmas day! 

From the Gospel of Luke we read: 

10And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11esv 

Ill. Martin Luther had this to say of this blessed birth. 

“No matter where you’re reading in the Bible, faith is the first mystery you should recognize. Faith is not believing that the story you’re reading is true as written. That does nothing for anyone. Even unbelievers can believe this Bible story about Jesus’ birth is true. Faith is not a natural work apart from God’s grace, as the Scripture clearly teaches. Rather the right kind of faith, the kind that flows from grace and that God’s Word demands, is firmly believing that Christ was born for you. His birth is yours and occurred for your benefit. 

For the gospel teaches that Christ was born for our benefit and that everything he did and suffered was for us. As the angel says here, “I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city.” With these words, you can clearly see that he was born for all of us. 

He doesn’t say, “a Savior was born,” but rather, “your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born.” In the same way, he doesn’t say, “I have good news,” rather “I have good news for you.” For you! “I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy.” This joy is for everyone who has this kind of faith.” 

Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh … for you! 
Today we celebrate God’s incarnation. God with us Emmanuel! 

14And 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. 

Jesus has been joined to flesh. God and man forever united at this glorious birth we celebrate today. He humbled Himself to become flesh and He kept the law perfectly … for you. He gave Himself over to be tried and convicted; to be put to death for your sins and He gives you His Royal robes of righteousness in exchange for your sinfulness. 

Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh! 
You and I and our children are born in sin. We all need to hear that Good News that we, who have been given faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word are free of our sin on account of Christ. God, at this baby’s birth, became man and through His sinless life, death at the cross and glorious resurrection gives you by the power of the Holy Spirit faith to believe in Him.
Christ; God’s eternal word made flesh … for you! 

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sermon December 17 - 18, 2011

Title: God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, for you! 

Text: Luke 1:31-33

31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 

The violinist Fritz Kreisler’s extraordinary talent manifested itself when he was only 4, and it was carefully fostered by his father. Born in 1875, he entered the Vienna Conservatory at 7, gave his first performance at 9 and was awarded its gold medal at 10. 

He went on to have an illustrious career, making his U.S. debut in 1888 and playing concerts throughout the world until his retirement from active performance in 1950 living the remainder of his life in New York City, until his death at 87 in 1962. 

Countless violin recitals occur in this country each year by students of all ages. Some great, some good, some not so good; we at times are blessed to attend and hear the very best of this God given talent and at other times must endure that which leaves much to be desired - the ordinary and the extraordinary. 

Our God uses both in His activity throughout human history. The simple act of a woman and a pregnancy, but in this case, this common activity of daily life will occur without the involvement of an earthly father. The significance of this birth will, from its humble beginnings, be recognized as the single most important action of God since He created the heavens and the earth. 

God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, for you! 

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

Just prior to this section of scripture we are told the story of Zechariah and
Elizabeth and how the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah with the promise that Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son in her old age. It concludes with: 

24After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, 

So, Gabriel, is here in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, sent by God to proclaim the Good News to Mary that she has been chosen by God to bring forth the culmination of all human history spoken of by the prophets, that God would send a Messiah to redeem His people. And here, in the presence of this young virgin an angel appears: 

28And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" 

A joyful salutation to be sure, The Lord is with you! Mary however is greatly troubled at the saying and wonders what kind of greeting this might be? Gabriel, sensing her concern responds: 

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 

Well, that clears that up. You’ll have a son, name him Jesus. Oh, and he’ll be God’s son too and sit on David’s throne and reign forever and His Kingdom with have … no … end! 

God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, for you! 

God, in his word through the angel Gabriel brings Good News to Mary. He brings comfort too. She will be the mother of God. All, the angels in heaven are rejoicing at this blessed good news as the seed of woman, Jesus Christ, who is “very God of very God” becomes “incarnate by the Holy Spirit” and will be “born of the Virgin Mary” and forever be God and man joined together in the God/man Jesus Christ who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole world, for you. 

Mary’s question is profound having a depth of meaning of great and broad significance: 34And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" Not, questioning what the angel said or asking why but knowing that God’s profound action is required for this to come to pass and simply asking how? 

35And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. 

This Virgin, by the power of the Holy Spirit will bring God’s mystery … that He will join human flesh to Himself to save us and bring about… 

God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, for you! 

But, do you believe it? Do you live it? Are you so consumed with the worries of this world that you fail to be freed to rest in Christ’s saving work? 

The truth is we all fail to rest in Christ’s work because we fail to be in His word. The word of God which brings both - despair over our sin and the comfort that in Christ we have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. 

Paul in our epistle lesson today tells us: 
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages26but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith. 

Faith … brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit through the prophetic writings and being made known by the preaching of Jesus Christ. This preaching and teaching will cause you to look at your sin, to be brought to the realization that you fail to meet God’s requirements and to see that Jesus Christ has met the requirements - for you … and that on account of His obedience to the Law, you have been given: 
God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, for you! 

Our Gospel lesson concludes with: 

37For nothing will be impossible with God." 38And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 
God according to His word “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man!” God in His omnipotence, having all power and being all powerful, humbled Himself to the place of a servant and came as the babe of
Bethlehem, for you. 

He suffered the scorn and rejection of this world to be born in a manger and to go to the cross, for you and for me. This is the Good News of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary that God world enter the world to set His people free from their sin and to proclaim peace. 

God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, for you! 

Fritz Kreisler the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn't able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase the beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector. 

Kreisler made his way to the new owner's home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it had become his prized possession and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once more before it is consigned to silence?" he asked. 

Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector's emotions were deeply stirred. "I have no right to keep that to myself," he exclaimed. "It's yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it." 
Our Daily Bread February 4, 1994 

May we also, by the power of the Holy Spirit take the message of the baby King who came to live , suffer, die and rise again for you into all the world so that: 

God’s Kingdom, found in Christ, will by the Holy Spirit, be the blessed good news that every one hears! 

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