Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sermon June 16-17, 2012

Title: Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom!

Text: Mark 4: 30-32 (ESV)

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Dear friends,

There is a scene in the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where nearing the end of his quest, Indiana, reaches an opening in a cliff but for him to continue on he must take a leap of faith to reach the other side.

As he looks out at what is before him he sees a chasm below that is seriously deep and a distance way too far for him to reach or jump to on the other side. He has followed the directions in a book his father has given him. He faces a dilemma. What to do?

Finally as the scene climaxes and sweat pours off his face, he raises his leg and stepping out in faith walks off the face of the cliff. His foot lands on a solid bridge that was invisible to his sight. From his viewpoint there was no way to the other side. What we are shown as he continues across is that the perspective of the cliff face, on the other side, concealed the bridge that was there right in front of him. In his leap of faith … perspective is everything.

So too in our lesson for today … Jesus had been sharing with His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God and using parables to explain their meaning. Jesus talked about seed and the sewing of the seed and how it took root and grew or didn’t depending on the soil where it landed.

And we read in Mark Chapter 4 starting at the 4th verse:

4 Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.”

The good soil produces an increase … growing … 30 … 60 and even 100 times the amount of seed that was planted!

The Gospel message proclaimed and by the working of the Holy Spirit …

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom!

Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God in our text today, as if a man should scatter seed. The image is vivid in our minds … at this time of year as we plant gardens or take vacations … driving around the state and seeing the many farms and farmers planting seed in the ground … expecting a yield come harvest time.

At the time of our Lord’s lesson in the Gospel reading for today, the blessing that we know of running water, at the turn of the tap, and hoses that get the water to the plant … was far off in the distant future. And so the man …… who had sown seed, sleeps and rises … night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; …the earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

29 …But, when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus continues to speak in our Gospel lesson today about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the mustard seed … a seed so small that when it is sown, into the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth … 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

God’s kingdom grows when and where He wills because:

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom!

The leap of faith that was taken in the fictitious movie by Indiana Jones was staged and it was achieved by sleight of hand and movie magic … but the reality of the powerful tool of the Gospel given in word and sacrament to you by faith is still for some … no big deal.

Even here in church the seed of the word is scattered and falls upon different soil. Some falls on the path … being left where it fell for the birds to find, some on the rocky soil and it sprouts quickly in the service but upon leaving church is scorched by the sun and the cares of the day. Other seed falls among the thorns, which can be those of you who really don’t want to be here and grudgingly come, but the word gets choked and yields no grain. But, some seed falls on good soil and with you the seed of the word takes root; it sprouts and grows – very slowly at times. But, with joy you leave here, sharing the word and the love of Christ producing a yield of 30, 60 or even 100 times!

For others … You might come to church or choose not to. You might have opportunities to tell someone outside this church about Jesus … and forget to. You might even fail to recognize the true body and blood of our Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Communion … and even at times and feel like you are … well … like the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.

You might feel that what you say won’t matter or that what you say won’t have the eloquence of speech of others or that what you say concerning Christ … won’t work to expand God’s kingdom. The doubts you feel … many feel. But Jesus tells you in this parable that God will take your imperfect speech, He will take even the slightest and smallest witness … through your failed stuttering and muttering about Christ and His saving work and grow His kingdom 30, 60 and even 100 times. The word which has been sown will not return void!

We read in Isaiah Chapter 55

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Just like the tiny mustard seed … which seems at the beginning …so insignificant … God will grow this seed to unbelievable dimensions over time so that the riches of Christ reach so far out that even those that don’t want to come to church and those that don’t want to hear the message of salvation will be transformed through the word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom!

The word of God is power. We’re told in Romans 1, by the apostle Paul:

…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16)

I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate my point:


You see … the story about Christ and His saving work can’t be heard … if no one tells the story. If you think that someone else, better than you, will come along to tell the story later … all that may be heard by your friend, neighbor or relative is silence. The word of God is the power and the seed that is sewn unto salvation for those that need to hear the Gospel, and by this power – God - will transform hearts and grow his kingdom now and for eternity. Sometimes it is a very slow growth but understand God is working and His church is growing.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but we have plenty of room here at church in this service and have been on a downward trend these last 10 years. It’s time to sew the seed of the word and trust that God will use the smallest, slightest and weakest witness about Himself to grow His kingdom. He will bring the truth about Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit and plant, in the lives of others, the seed of the word and grow the church to unbelievable yields. He gives you the power to change lives … by His word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, as a fellow builder of the kingdom of God.

There is a poem that poses a question we all need to ask ourselves. It’s called Builders and Wreckers. As you listen to this poem consider the work of God and the tiny mustard seed and what can be done by the power of the God’s Spirit in the lives of those who build the kingdom through our failed abilities and efforts … by God’s word.

Builders and Wreckers

As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled,
And the men you'd hire if you’d want to build?"
He gave a laugh and said, "No, indeed,
Just common labor’s all I need."

"I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders take many years to do."
And I thought to myself, as I went my way
What about me, which role do I play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my work as best I can
And patiently sharing the Master’s plan?

Or, am I a wrecker who walks to town
…Content with only tearing down?
"O Lord let my life and my labors be
God’s work, built up for eternity!"
Author Unknown

Friend’s, the power of the gospel will build the kingdom of God. Through the weakest of speech and the slightest of skill, the power of God will use even your smallest of efforts, in proclaiming Christ to a dying world, to do His will and bring His people to faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Those that are bound in this life to sin, death and the devil are set free by the power of the Gospel message and believe. The kingdom of God is found only in Christ and His saving Gospel which is the Good News and the message of salvation for everyone who believes.

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom!

God comfort you with this truth now and forever!

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


Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Great Lakes Banjo is finished. Thanks to Mark Zimmerman who replaced the finger board, inlay, frets and binding and did the set up and Randy Costew who finished the resonator and neck, I have a newly restored Great Lakes Special Banjo built in 1977!

LC-MS President, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, enjoying my Great Lakes banjo at the Pastor's conference in Frankenmuth, Michigan.   May 15, 2012.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sermon June 2-3, 2012

Title: The fullness of the Godhead in Christ!

Text: John 3:16-17 (ESV)

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Dear friends,

I think that in these difficult times that we live, there is a word that is heard quite often … it’s called diversity.  We are also encouraged by society to embrace diversity or be looked upon as narrow minded and self absorbed individuals. Well, for all of us diverse individuals here, we must ask the question: What is diversity?

Diversity can be defined as:

Of being composed of differing things, and especially the inclusion of different types of people as people of different races or cultures.

We are at the same time, called on to be unique.

Unique can be defined in this way:

To be the only one … or … being without something equal to or quite like … you for instance. Sometimes a person can be called unequaled or unparalleled which can mean to have distinctive characteristics that makes you unique in a way, or the only one.

It is always a unique and diverse experience to preach on Trinity Sunday and to try to bring to our understanding God’s word and the concept and nature of God, presented in the writings of Holy Scripture. It is a job, to say the least, that is utterly … inscrutable! And, with the Trinity, this simply means … that it is difficult to understand and that it is something really hard to figure out!

But God has made a way and we will look a bit closer at His way for us to grasp and understand the Trinity because God has given us:

The fullness of the Godhead in Christ!

In our Gospel lesson today we read the very familiar story of Jesus and this man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus. Now, this man Nicodemus was even a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council of the Jewish Church and we find this out a little later in John’s gospel. He came to Jesus by night, somewhat fearing his colleagues, who’s dislike for Jesus was very clear from the beginning of His ministry, and also partly because he wanted to be with him by himself and not be disturbed. He felt a growing concern and dissatisfaction with the Jewish leaders, who were condemning Jesus’ unique and diverse message. This means that Jesus had one message, that His message was unequaled in the world, and that it was for all people regardless of race, culture or standing. Nicodemus believed that this new Teacher had something wonderful to say and should be heard and he had a desire to know more.

Nicodemus tells Jesus that he and a few others had come to the conclusion that Jesus was a Teacher that had come from God. They recognized in Him a divine message but not at all an understanding of Christ's divine nature. These Jews to whom Nicodemus belonged had simply drawn their conclusions from the evidence seen before their eyes. God had confirmed the teaching of Jesus by miracles and the testimony that brought conviction to all of them. Jesus commanded their attention with the wonders He performed and they clearly indicated the power of God beyond all question. There was no doubt of God's being with this man Jesus. The knowledge of Nicodemus and the others went so far as to even recognize in Jesus a prophet on a level with those of the Old Testament, but it did not go so far as to accept Him as the Messiah.

The position of Nicodemus is shared by many so-called Christians today. Their confession of Jesus completely conforms to their own reason. They believe Him to be a great Teacher and they praise His loving kindness shown throughout the scriptures. But they do not want to acknowledge Him as the only true God and the Savior of the world. They still see and embrace the idea of diversity and many different paths that lead to a loving god and the unique way that each person finds their way to their own truth.

But Jesus tells Nicodemus and all of us that:

The fullness of the Godhead in only found in Him!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus can’t quite grasp this concept. “How can these things be?” he asks?

Jesus brings the work of God into focus.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The working of God through the water and Spirit in the sacrament of Holy Baptism brings even a tiny child into the kingdom of God.

Many people wrestle with Christ’s unique claims? How about you? Let’s look at a few others:

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Or how about:

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

And from John chapter 12:

“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

And finally:

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

When we read Jesus’ own words, we see the diverse nature of God and that this nature is composed of different peasons, and that also God is unique, the only one … being without something equal to or quite like.

Jesus lays it all out for Nicodemus:

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, - that’s another me statement - the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

It is hard to understand the concept and unique nature of the Godhead and the diversity of the Trinity of God

… but Jesus, connects His work for the salvation of the world to that of Moses, who put a serpent on a pole in the wilderness so that when the people of Israel looked to it, they were healed and lived. We too can look to Jesus for salvation and know that:

The fullness of the Godhead can be found only in Christ!

In Colossians 2 we read about God in Christ and this becomes a bit easier for us to understand:

9 For in him (Jesus) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

The diversity and uniqueness of the Godhead is found in Christ.

10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Friends … Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is the fullness of God, and how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. You who have been buried with Him in baptism have been made alive by the working of the Holy Spirit who, as we also heard last week - is God in us - and having pointed us to the cross of Christ, we see that the record of debt - which is our sins – that the debt has been canceled, because your sins have been nailed to the cross with Jesus.

Somehow … and we can’t expect to figure this out, because it’s part of that inscrutable Trinity of God and that fullness of God is found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The cross that I wear has a unique depiction or representation in art of the Trinity of God. It shows Jesus Christ who has been nailed to the cross and behind the cross you see what represents the Father, with His head, just above the cross as his hands reach around the cross holding up and sustaining the arms of Jesus, all the while the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. It is a simple reminder for me, that when I look to Christ … I see the fullness of God … and this fullness of God is found in the diversity of the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit who in unity in the Trinity of God remain unique and through the work of Christ set you and me free from the bonds of sin, death and the Devil forever.

The fullness of the Godhead in Christ!

Today we will partake of the fullness of God together when we come to the Lord’s Table and receive the true body and blood of Christ given and shed for you. That is to say, that we partake with “the communion of saints” or in and through the sacraments, we have become partakers of the holy things of another world.

Martin Luther had this to say about the communion of saints:

“…because Christ and all the saints are one spiritual body, just as the inhabitants of a city are one community and body, each citizen being a member of the other and member of the entire city. All the saints therefore are members of Christ and of the church, which is a spiritual and eternal city of God, and whoever is taken into this city is said to be received into the community of saints, and to be incorporated into Christ’s spiritual body and made a member of Him.”

God has made you a member of Him in baptism, He sustains you and all the saints by His true body and blood given and shed for you. Christianity is unique in that it is the only religion where God come down and reveals Himself to us. God, in Christ, has come down for you and He lived a sinless life, suffered a horrible death, died and was buried and rose again for your justification – which means that you are declared not guilty in the sight of God and by His Spirit, God has called you to believe this Good News.

3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, - not many - and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

The diverse nature of God also is seen in the diverse nature of those he chooses to save. He, desires that all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth!

God comfort you with this truth now and forever!