Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sermon July 28- 29, 2012

Title: The Abundance of God works within you forever!

Text: Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Dear friends,

When we talk about abundance I’m reminded of a story from my youth. I was raised like many of you in a very typical middle class household. We considered ourselves comfortable but never well off but I don’t remember lacking anything. My dad never bought new cars, but he worked on cars as a hobby and sometimes helped friends out who needed their car tuned up or serviced. He always bought cars that were, like new and only a few years old.

At one point my mom, who didn’t need to drive when we lived in Pennsylvania, decided to get her driver’s license and my dad bought a second car for her to use. It was after school and my two younger brothers decided to surprise dad when he came home from work by washing mom’s new car. We’ll they didn’t quite get done with the hood when my mom saw what they were doing and came out to take a closer look. She was stunned! My brother’s wanted to do a really good job and please mom and dad so they got best cleaner they could think of to use … Brillo pads!

Needless to say, dad was not too happy and it took all the strength and power of the Holy Spirit working in him to keep him from blowing a gasket and killing my brothers. My dad … though he didn’t swear using conventional run-of-the-mill words that get tossed about today by every person this side of heaven, could yell “CHEESE and CRACKERS” in such a way as to make a sailor blush - and my brothers run to their room. The abundance of God’s grace and the love of God worked within my dad at that trying though funny time and:

The abundance of God works within you forever!

The truth is Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church here is quite frankly a letter from a father to a child. Fathers have great responsibility and Paul wanted to pass on some important information and wisdom to his children.

Earlier in Chapter three, Paul had laid out his credentials to them –

2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me (Paul) by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

… Assuming that you have heard … perceive my insight … revealed by the Spirit. Paul has established who he is to them in Christ. He is their father in the faith and though there are and have been some who begin to doubt, as will happen at times, their place and standing in Christ Paul confirms that:

6 This mystery is that the Gentiles (… these fellow non-Jewish believer in the Ephesian church) are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

They are God’s children through the Gospel and brought to faith by the Spirit. But, Paul is not with them at this time and is writing to them from the cell of a prison in Rome where he is confined. His thoughts are not far from his children though and he begins in our lesson today by bending his knees in prayer for them. Prayer - the power God gives his children … His church, to reach into the heavens and speak to the Father through His Son, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther expresses Paul’s thoughts in this way:

“I must lie here a prisoner and cannot be with you nor help you in any other way, only that I can bend my knees, that is, with all humility and seriousness pray to God that He might give you, and work in you, what neither I nor any other person can do, even if I had my liberty and were with you always.” Paul Kretzmann Vol. 4 Pg. 274 

There were doubts, there were grumblings there were false prophets attacking God’s church and Paul, sitting in prison prays for his children in Ephesus directing them away from the false teaching and false gods of the Devil, the world and the flesh and he points them to the Gospel promise that:

The abundance of God works within you forever!

Unfortunately, many today and some in our own church don’t see the distinction of what we believe teach and confess. There is a failure to understand how false teaching can enter the church and wreak havoc on the flock and as Pastor Merrell spoke about last week; regarding the work of faithful shepherds who preach and teach the word of God - rightly dividing the word of truth and faithfully administering the sacraments. There is false teaching in this world as had been the case in Ephesus when Paul was writing his epistle.

A recent article from last weekend speaks of a trend that is happening for many young people and probably for some at our church as well. It’s been termed, “Church Hopping.” Now this trend isn’t speaking of someone who moves into a new area and goes to St. Stephens one weekend and maybe Peace the next and then St. Trinity on the fallowing weekend trying to find a new church home. This trend might have a person attend Peace and even be a member but on subsequent weekends attend other churches regularly on a rotation or felt needs basis.

One gentleman who attends three different metro churches says:

“When I’m looking for a "contemplative" and "Quakerish" type of worship experience, I might attend Missio Dei, a church linked to the Mennonite faith or I might also attend Woodland Hills, a non-denominational church because I enjoys the "charismatic" services but also on some Sundays I attend Solomon's Porch, an emergent Christian church in Minneapolis that is "laid back," where instead of pews, congregants sit on sofas around coffee tables.”

He continues: "I've never been able to find one church that answers all my needs, spiritual broadness and experience. By being broad like this … it's a richness … It's like, would you rather be narrow and have two friends or have a lot of friends in your life? And that's kind of where I'm at. I can't be narrow anymore."

Jesus say in Matthew 7:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matt. 7:13-15)

The truth of God cannot be manipulated by felt needs. Many try and when the church fails to meet the need of the individual whether it be better coffee, softer pews that take on the form of a sofa or music that entertains, the Divine Service becomes me centered instead of Christ centered. The Spirit can’t point to Christ through truth and error. The word either points to where we fall short in our quest to reach God and fulfill the Law on our terms or it points to Christ who has fulfilled the Law perfectly for you and me.

The preaching of Law and Gospel is what we who serve Peace here are to do faithfully. At times it is hard to look at a fellow sinner and point out the sin of gossip or cohabitation, drugs and alcohol or whatever sin you wish to put on the list. We all fall short but it is the work of those faithful shepherds who under-shepherd God’s flock, at times to point out sin to an erring brother or sister in the Lord so that they turn from his sin, repent … and be restored receiving absolution, the forgiveness of sins, in the name of Jesus.

Too often, the answer to this type of Christian discipline is, “See you later Pastor! I’ll go to another church that will meet my needs and not judge my sin or I just won’t go at all!”

But to remain faithful shepherds we must, as Paul did with the Ephesians, care for them as our own little children, in prayer and in teaching bringing the brunt of the Law when necessary and the sweetness of the Gospel in repentance. After Paul finished his letter to the Ephesian church he had Timothy his companion and son in the Lord deliver it for him and most probably read it to the Ephesians which makes the words of St. Timothy in his second epistle all the more compelling:

2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Dear friends: The abundance of God is found here at Peace, in word and sacrament and God’s Spirit will continue to work within you forever!

God’s word rightly preached is truth. The truth that Jesus Christ the son of God came into the world to save sinners, like you and me, can be that blessed comfort for a weary soul.

As I began with Paul’s words from our epistle I now close with those same words:
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
The abundance of God works within you forever!

As my brothers found out years ago with my dad’s car. Even good intentions can at time cause pain to others and also as my dad found out … at times God needs to speak through our actions. Even though my brother’s intentions were good they produced the wrong result. My dad knew that and by the Spirit reacted in love. God reacted in love too by sending His son Jesus to take the punishment for our sin and the sin of the whole world. When God looks at you He doesn’t see your sin … He sees Jesus and His righteousness that covers you and by the power of Holy Spirit continues to point you to Him.

God comfort you with the good news that:

The fullness of God’s abundant love works within you forever!

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


Friday, July 13, 2012

Sermon July 14- 15, 2012

Title: God has adopted you, and in Christ you are His child!

Text: Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

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. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption 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.

Dear friends,

In 1952 a probation officer in New York City tried to find an organization that would assist in the adoption of a twelve-year-old boy. Although the child had a religious background, none of the major denominations would assist in his adoption. Said the officer later; “His case had been reported to me because he had been truant. I tried for a year to find an agency that would care for this needy youngster. Catholic, Protestant and Jewish institutions wouldn’t take him because he came from a denomination they didn’t recognize so I could do nothing constructive for him.”

If the principles of Christian love had prevailed in the Bronx in 1952, perhaps a good home could have been found for that young, mixed-up boy. In fact, providing a better environment in which to grow up might have changed history. For, you see, the boy was Lee Harvey Oswald: The man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

As today’s lesson begins, we learn from the Apostle Paul the great blessing of adoption, especially in light of sin and rebellion … and that God adopted, in Christ, those Christians in the church in Ephesus. He begins:

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,

Paul, who is speaking in his letter to the church in Ephesus, has spent close to three years, with this mission congregation during his third missionary journey, pointing them to the cross and to the reality that they have, in Christ.

During his time in Ephesus Paul proclaimed the truth in and among the people and for some background we read in Acts 19:

8 And he (Paul) entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way (which is what Christians were call then) before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10)

The Jews had been and were a blessed people. God brought them out of bondage in Egypt. He promised to bless them:

In Deuteronomy we read:
4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. (Deut. 28:4)

Paul in his letter here is not speaking of temporal blessings, house or home, children or family, things of this world or blessings of the earth, but is only speaking of spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. What is that … you might ask?

We might listen to the words of Jesus to find out:

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23.)


24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matt. 7: 24-25)

… And what is that rock but the rock of Peter’s confession:

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah; for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matt 16:16-17)

God has adopted you, and in Christ you are His child!

But what “IS” being in Christ? Is it something we do? Is it a decision we make? Is it a desire we have or is it something that is completely outside of us; something given as a gift? Paul continues:

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

Being in Christ is, according to Paul, God’s work. He chose us in Him! (In Jesus) And, to be in Him is to be in Christ. So, when did this occur? How did this happen? The text tells us that before the foundation of the world; that before God said … “Let there be light.” You were chosen … you were called, you were set apart, but not like the nation of Israel … which in our Old Testament lesson today hear the word of the Lord’s condemnation through Amos:

9 “the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
And I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

It was a hard word given Amos to preach: King Jeroboam would “die by the sword,” and Israel would “go into exile away from his land” (Amos 7:10–11). And for this Word, Amos was hated and threatened. Do you ever see hatred and threat against Christians in this world? The news out of Kenya this month is alarming. This is from the Catholic World News from July 02, 2012:

Kenyan Christians killed in terror attack on church

At least 17 people were killed, and many others seriously wounded, in an armed assault on a Christian church in Garissi, Kenya, on July 1.

Armed men killed two guards, and then threw grenades into the African Inland Church. When worshippers ran outside they were hit with a salvo of automatic gunfire.

Although the perpetrators of the attack were not immediately identified, Kenyan authorities strongly suspect the al-Shabaab terrorist group, which is actively in neighboring Somalia.

The truth is that while we still reside in the relative peace of being able to worship in a free country that honors religious freedom. And, just last Sunday we’re able to take our worship outside, gathered together in celebration corporately under the peace of the Lord’s blessed good weather in our pavilion.

The truth is, as Pastor Merrell pointed out last week in his sermon, the symbol of the cross is an offence, causing condemnation and scorn by some, in our own country and violent actions by others, in Kenya and around the world. How long the Lord’s protection will remain on us in the United States? Only God knows …

But, Paul tells the church in Ephesus and also us that:

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

A few definitions:

Predestined: To fix upon, decide, or decree in advance; to foreordain.
Adoption: To take into one's family through legal means and raise as one's own child or to take up and make one his own.
Purpose: The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal.

The Lord decided in advance and aimed as a goal to make you his own child.

He predestined, preordained, called and chose … you! To be His child … you have been selected to be in Christ, and for some of you God called you in your Baptism when He marked you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. For others, you heard the word of truth preached and that word took seed in your heart and you, by the power of the Holy Spirit … believed.

But this is not to your glory or for your glory … but only:

6 …to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved …

And who is this beloved? Is it you or is it me? No! It is Him who came and took on sinful flesh that He might be made like you in every way, yet without sin, so that He might stand in your place and suffer God’s full measure of punishment for sin – for you - and pay the price and debt in full, so that:

7 In him (in Christ!) we have redemption through his blood; that flowed from Him and from the cross for you and for me, so that we would receive the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

John Chrysostom in his Homily 1 tells of this blessed exchange of being in Him when he says:

He (God) hath given the Beloved, (Jesus Christ) for them (you and me) that were hated (and outside of His love in our sinful flesh). (But,) See, how high a price he sets upon us. If, when we hated Him and were His enemies, He gave the Beloved, (our blessed Lord and savior Jesus Christ), so what will He not do now (for you and me), when we are reconciled by Him through 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.

God has adopted you, and in Christ you are His child!

10 …as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

God’s desire in Him … in Christ … is you; and all that are your neighbor, whether in this city, state, country or around the world. He desires and wills that all will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Even those evil ones that threw grenades in to that church in Kenya, killing 17 of His children, He desires them too.

Hard to believe, but so is the free grace given each one of us who when we look in the mirror and see the sinful flesh that is you and me and know, who we are and what we are capable of … and have done - we would all blush in shame to have anybody, fellow believer or not, know the truth of our sin.


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,

Inheritance (definition): which as many of you here know can come from hereditary succession to an estate or title or the right of an heir to succeed to property on the death of an ancestor or, something that may be legally transmitted to an heir.

God’s will is your adoption in Christ, and the inheritance you receive and have already is every spiritual blessing in Him. It is the eternal blessed hope found only in Jesus Christ our Lord!

12 so that we, (Paul comforts the Ephesians) who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

But, we too receive hope and comfort because:

13 In him, you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, and were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee, - which is a promise, an assurance, that attests to the pledge that something will be performed in a specified manner by which one person (Jesus Christ) assumes responsibility for paying another's debts or fulfilling another's responsibilities; in keeping the Law of God perfectly which we were unable to do.

Christ Jesus is the Guarantee ...of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
God has adopted you, and in Christ you are His child!

Adoption is a wonderful thing and can bring real blessings to our world. Some famous adoptive children that have risen to greatness in this life are Gerald Ford and  Bill Clinton, who were elected  President of the United States, Steve Jobs – of Apple fame and I would find it hard to imagine life in our world without many of his innovations also musicians Eric Clapton, and Faith Hill to name a few that have brought pleasure to millions but the adoption that means the most and brings the greatest joy is the adoption into God’s family for you and for me in Him!

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 Jesus our Lord and Savior!
God has adopted you, and in Christ you are His child!

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