Friday, March 30, 2012

Sermon March 31- April 1, 2012

Title: The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord!
Text: Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord!

A story is told of a pastor at the close of the service, how a stranger came up to him and said, "I don't like the way you spoke about the cross. I think that instead of emphasizing the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach Jesus, the teacher and example." The pastor replied, "If I presented Christ in that way, would you be willing to follow Him?" "I certainly would," said the stranger without hesitation. "All right then," said the pastor, "let's take the first step. He did no sin. Can you claim that for yourself?" The man looked confused and somewhat surprised. "Why, no," he said. "I acknowledge that I do sin." The pastor replied, "Then your greatest need is to have a Savior, not an example!"

The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord!

On this Psalm Sunday weekend we rejoice in the truth that we have a savior and not just an example. The very Son of God prophesied in the book of Zechariah, Being just and possessing righteousness as would be the first requirement of a true ruler, and bearing or carrying the salvation with Him which the Lord had planned.

This humble servant who came down from heaven was not in the form of your everyday earthly King. This King and Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, would rise through lowliness and suffering to the strength and glory which was hidden in Him in the state of His humiliation, and which now is leading in one short week to His trial and crucifixion at the cross.

10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,

The ways of the world and its Kingdoms are built by the power of the sword. The reach of man’s conquests is stretched into territories of his choosing. The chariot, the war horse and the battle bow come down on the unsuspecting to the glory of the one wielding power. Power in might brought to bear over people places and things by the gods, Kings and rulers of earthly Kingdoms.

The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord!

In our day and age we too see the power of the sword wielded upon others. Those with much prey upon those who have little. Power is displayed in the battle for land or in the battle for influence. Religious differences call for tolerance in our land. Real persecution comes to the Christian church daily around the world but with many of us its inactivity, non-involvement and quietly keeping our Christian worldview to ourselves. To profess and publicly acknowledge God -is fine - as long as He doesn't have a name and as long as that name is not Jesus! Once His name is mentioned you are politically incorrect because you proclaim with all Christians from all time:

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:10)

And now this Jesus, coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Is:

The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord!

and he shall speak peace to the nations;
… Or in another translation (and He shall speak peace unto the heathen - which are those apart from the Gospel), this being the very meaning of His Gospel-message,
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

This humble King, Jesus Christ, by his very death and resurrection will bring peace, the peace that passes all human understanding to the very ends on the Earth.

The reaction to this message of peace for many is the catalyst for anger.
Egypt’s Christian Coptic Church has been hit very hard by those opposed to Christ, torching the structure of churches and then looting and burning nearby Christian-owned homes and businesses.

The Mar Gerges burning is the third church in Egypt in seven months, to be burned down by a mob. Additionally, numerous other churches have been looted or otherwise attacked, including a New Year’s Eve bombing at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria that left 23 dead and scores critically wounded.

Peace only comes by the way of truth and Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life. C.S. Lewis has said:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort; if you look for comfort you will find neither, and in the end you will only find despair.
C. S. Lewis

The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord brings peace, comfort and truth, for you!

Kirk Cameron, Who was on the TV show “Growing Pains” back in the 80’s as a teen actor has been an out spoken advocate of traditional Christian values.

Cameron was asked his views on gay marriage during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.

"Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for life till death do you part," says Cameron. "So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't."

Morgan then asked the born-again Christian if he thought homosexuality was a sin. To that, Cameron replied, "I think that it's unnatural. I think that it's - it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."

Kirk Cameron sat for an interview with Ann Curry of the Today show. Curry asked him to comment on the firestorm that followed his recent comments about homosexuality during an interview with Piers Morgan.

"I was surprised, frankly, that people were surprised by the things that I’ve said. I have been consistent for 15 years as a Christian. I’m a Bible-believing Christian. What I would have thought was more newsworthy is if I had said something that contradicted the word of God, if I had contradicted my faith."

Cameron is on to something here. Our culture is not threatened by those who abandon the Christian faith, but by those who uphold it. It is not newsworthy that liberal mainline churches have abandoned Christianity’s 2,000-year-old sexual ethic or that Roman Catholic politicians routinely take stands that contradict their church’s teaching. What is newsworthy is that there are still some Christians who will not change their beliefs in order to accommodate the ever-shifting sexual views of the prevailing culture
It’s not Christianity that has changed. Our culture’s tolerance of it certainly has.

11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

God has set you free from the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. As our triumphant King Jesus Christ rides today into Jerusalem. His path to the cross from His baptism, where He was marked as the chief of sinners for you, also points to His ride today as a triumphant ride that in a short while will accomplish the freedom for all sinners of all time - for you.

12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.

You are set free from your sin because Jesus came for sinners! He came to set you free. He came for you! He gave His life at the cross to pay the price God demands to satisfy His justice and you are free. You are truly free!

He (Jesus) did no sin and we all acknowledge that we sin and are sinners. Our greatest need has been fulfilled because we have a Savior:

The Coming King of Zion - Jesus Christ our Lord!

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


Monday, March 19, 2012

Confirmation 2012

While confirmation came a bit early this year. The students were ready and they are just a great group of kids! God's continued blessing upon them as they continue in their Christian walk!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sermon March 10-11, 2012

Title: Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? 

Text: 1 Cor.:22-25 (ESV) 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

Dear friends, 

There is a scene in the movie “Annie Hall” where Wood Allen’s character is standing in line at a movie theatre and the man behind him is talking to a lady about the influence of TV and media on society. He’s speaking about Marshall McLuhan – an English professor who wrote an important book on the subject called, “On the Media.” 

Woody Allen continues to look and speak to the camera when he says: “What can you do when you get stuck on a movie line with a guy like this behind you?” 

He turns and speaks to the man directly: “You don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's work”— to which the man replies: “Really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture, so I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity.” 

Woody then does a really funny and insightful thing. He says, “I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. Come over here for a second?” He brings the man out of the movie line where Mr. McLuhan is standing and says to him: “Tell him.” So Marshall McLuhan looks at the man and says: 

“I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” 

The scene ends with Woody Allen looking straight at the camera and us and saying:

“Boy, if life were only like this.” 

Sometimes man’s wisdom can cause him to trust in his own reason and understanding, leaving little room for anything but an idol made out of his own self-serving image so: 

Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? 

Churches at times have problems and it’s nothing new. When you build something with broken pieces caused by sin they at times fail. The Corinthian church had plenty of problems. 

Paul heard about it through Chloe’s people. Many had determined to follow Paul; some were following Apollos some Cephas and some had chose to follow Christ. So Paul asks: Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? 

God confounds the wise so that we like children rest in Christ! 

There were some who, through their own wisdom, reason and efforts thought that they could find their way and make peace with God. They would be confounded or confused in their efforts. God keeps Himself hidden. He conceals himself from them. No amount of human effort, by the wise and learned of their day, can find Him and that is why God is so confounding to them. To confound is an interesting verb. It causes one to become confused or perplexed, to fail to distinguish and to mix up, to make something bad … worse, to frustrate or even to damn. 

The scribes and the Pharisees of Israel saw themselves as the caretakers of the wisdom and understanding of God’s Law. The Law showed them all God demanded and what He required. “This we can do, they thought.” The Gospel remained hidden from them because it is only found in the finished work of the God/man Jesus Christ and to whom He chooses to reveal Himself to. 

Those who were seeking the Father on their terms didn’t find him. The Father and Son know each other intimately. To know the Father they must know the Son and the Father can only be accessed through the Son by His revealing. 

19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, 
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 

Wisdom had entered the church at Corinth and it enters the church here at Peace as well. 

Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? 

We too can find ourselves looking for God apart from His revelation. We too need to be compelled to cast all our cares on Him. But we too can fall short as we, through our own reason and understanding, seek to make peace with God and know the father on our terms. 

You must accept the Son just as a little child does. Through the waters of Baptism the fullness of the Father is known through His revelation in Jesus Christ, His Son our Lord. Belief is not attained through reason or effort but only through faith by God’s gracious will. Many today still fight against this. 

Many unfortunately though hope to direct God through their own wisdom in choosing what part of His word applies to them today. Many question the working of God - even in the baptizing of an infant because it doesn’t fit their understanding of freedom won (a decision that they make) as opposed to freedom given (a gift received). 

Many still want their vote to count and to find God on their terms! Those who do through their own wisdom might hear God say something similar to what Mr. McLuhan said: 

“I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. Why you ever thought you could reach me through your own reason and efforts is totally amazing!” 

I spoke to an inactive member of our church recently as I was making calls one evening. When I asked why they had stopped coming to church the reply was, “Well, I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” 

I then asked if they were attending another church and the reply was, “I did for awhile until they started teaching some wacky stuff!” 

Sometimes the best gift the Lord gives us is the word properly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered so we can also discern truth from error. In Love, we all have all had that benefit of Pastor Merrell’s faithful service here for over 30 years rightly dividing truth from error and through the working of the Holy Spirit giving faith to those who will believe. 

Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? Is it God’s means of grace or just wacky stuff? 

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 

And then Paul concludes: 

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 

Paul then tells them: If there is to be boasting … 

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 

Ben Franklin had this to say about foolishness: 

“The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned, but its still nonsense.” 

The cross is foolishness to those without the Spirit. Highly educated or little education, it doesn't matter. Apart from God's Spirit working and calling us by the Gospel we have no way of sharing in God's saving power by Faith. 

God, in love, goes to the cross for us. 
God, in love, gives us faith to believe. 
God, in love, sustains us in that faith through His word and sacraments. 

There is a wonderful illustration I’d like to share with you: 

It’s a story of a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her, “Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing.” To which the girl replied, “Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday school, that whatever Jesus touches, He changes.” 

Christ crucified Wisdom or folly …? 

God has given you faith. He has called you by the gospel to believe. Those that believe He gives eternal life and you are covered by Christ’s righteousness. As was said earlier …

“Boy, if life were only like this.” As Jesus Christ has said … “It is finished!” 

By the power of the Holy Spirit in you God will see you to eternity now and forever. 


Friday, March 2, 2012

Sermon March 3-4, 2012

Title: Christ our King wore a crown of thorns for you!

Text: Mark 8:29-33 (ESV)

29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Dear friends,

During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, "Sir, I am a corporal!" The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again."

Christ our King wore a crown of thorns for you!

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus will teach his disciples an important lesson.

Traveling northward Jesus and his disciples came into suburbs of Caesarea- Philippi. This region, of which Caesarea was its capital, had been built on the site of a former village on the eastern slope of Lebanon, near the source of the Jordan River. Philip was tetrarch and called the new city Caesarea, in honor of the emperor Caesar but to distinguish it from the city of the same name on the western coast of Palestine; he added his own name as a distinguishing mark - Caesarea-Philippi – named after Caesar and Philip!

Most of this region was beautiful and prosperous and Jesus took this time of walking with His disciples to talk and impart wisdom to them and to ask them an important question. To get at this He began by asking them about the people.

“Who do people say that I am?” 

This probing question, Jesus asked to really set up the real question He wanted to ask them.

28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” 

This question was not addressed at anyone in particular. It was a question for them all. It was asked to inquire in a frank way what they believed and confessed. The question Jesus asked and wanted to know was what do you believe and who do you say I am?
Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 

The answer of Peter can be understood properly only in this sense: That as Peter spoke … he spoke the confession of them all and for them all: “You are the Christ.”

They declared it as their firm conviction that this Jesus, their Master, was the promised Messiah, and they connected to Him all the attributes with which the prophets had given this greatest of all prophets. The confession of Peter is the confession of all the disciples and all true believers of all times. 

But quickly this understanding of who Christ is changes as He begins to teach them the truth of what He came to do.

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 

Peter would have nothing of this! He just confessed for himself and for all the disciples that Jesus is the Christ; the Messiah who had long ago been prophesied to come and save God’s people. Now he pulls Jesus aside to set him straight …

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 

…can you hear him? “Jesus, hold on here … you’re the Christ! We are now looking for this earthly King that will defeat our enemies and set up his Kingdom here on Earth! I was expecting this sweet palace job. I was expecting to have this office next to you in the palace and my own region to exercise influence and rule over. Yea, yea, yea, Caesarea- Philippi would be a great place to for me, Peter the Great, to rule over!”

33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

It was here that Peter put his foot in his mouth, in his very impulsive way; He had an altogether different idea of what the work of the Messiah, Jesus, was. Peter here proved to be the very adversary of Christ; it was Satan himself who was attempting to hinder the work of redemption through Peter. Peter’s rebuke of Christ had nothing of God's will in it, but only that of man … weak, sinful man, that cannot understand God's ways and works.

Christ our King wore a crown of thorns for you!

You too fall victim to your own sinful desires. You’ve failed to do the will of God in your lives. You grumble and you complain, you gossip, you fret and worry about what others haven’t done and the wrongs that have been done to you … and when I say you … I mean me too!

We all can easily see the sin of others - better than our own. Removing the plank from our own eyes before attempting to remove the speck from our brothers … is seldom done.

And, as Peter received rebuke for his statement to Jesus it fell too on the ears of the other disciples and to us as well. They all felt the reproof, though it was directed at Peter only.

What about us today? What about churches that remove the cross because it is and offence to some and attempt to function as nothing more than social clubs for the Christian looking to be perpetually entertained and sustained with programs and designer coffee and self-help books to living a better life and being a better you … now?

“Get behind me, Satan!

In the suffering and death of Christ - His divine wisdom and our human ways and methods part company. The cross of Christ is foolishness and an offense to human ideas, but is in reality divine wisdom and divine power from our Lord and savior Jesus

Christ our King took upon Himself a crown made of thorns for you!

35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 

Jesus here is giving the disciples another lesson. This world and all it holds and even their life will pass away.

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Christ our King as he made His way to the cross would wear a crown of thorns for these disciples and for you!

The Good News is that you and I who name the name of Christ are covered. You are covered because Christ our King has come and has takes the rebuke of the world - for you. He has had the sins of the word, yours and mine - placed upon himself.

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He willingly gave up His life so that you and I can live with Him in eternity. We have peace with God by faith. From our epistle reading today:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:1-5)

God has reconciled Himself to us through Christ and has freed us from our sin and guilt by His blood.

Christ our King wore a crown of thorns and gave up His life for you!

In our opening illustration we read of the help of the commanding officer who said:

"Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again."

Our God has come and has taken our punishment. He comes to us here in word and in sacrament and comforts us that our sins have been paid by the blood of Christ. We will receive His true body and blood in the sacrament of the altar to strengthen our faith in His saving work and we bring our prayers of thanks and petitions to Him knowing that He hears our prayers and intercedes for us to the Father on our behalf.

Christ Jesus our King and savior.

By the power of the Holy Spirit in us will see us to eternity now and forever.