Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sermon July 20-21, 2013

Title: Christ is the Good Portion!
Text Luke 10:38-42

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a first grader that became curious because her father brought home a briefcase full of papers every evening. Her mother explained, "Daddy has so much to do that he can't finish it all at the office. That's why he has to bring work home at night."

"Well then," asked the child innocently, "why don't they put him in a slower group?"

C. Swindoll, Growing Strong, p. 213.

As we today think about all that we do, the things that need to be done and the little time that we have, let us remember that :

Christ is the Good Portion!

Now, in our lesson for today, the wonderful Martha and Mary story that we’ve all heard many times before, it seems that Martha gets a bad rap at times.  Poor Martha, doing the work and all that she could to take care of the Lord’s needs, having welcomed him ( and those who were traveling with him) into her house while her sister Mary only sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to His teaching.

Jesus and his disciples had been traveling as the sending of the 72 prepared the way. The Lord’s peace obviously rested on this house as Jesus was welcomed in by Martha. Now, you know how things can go when you have guests, expected or unexpected. The visit may have been expected but the time of Christ’s arrival may not have been, and even if it was, I have yet to see a hostess who didn’t still fret over the preparation, making sure that all things were in order.

Martha was determined to see that the needs of Jesus and those with Him were met, I’m sure, with exceeding abundance and that Jesus was distinguished as a beloved guest in her house. Mary on the other hand knew who was now visiting in her home and she was not to be taken away from her Lord - no matter what earthly things needed to be done.

Paul Kretzmann speaks of it in this way:

We have here two forms of service, each done to the Lord, each with the best of intentions, the one with the work of the hands, the other in listening to the words of eternal wisdom. They need not clash, but have their worth.

At some point and as I’m sure you can relate - Martha gets frustrated with her sister. Martha is doing all the work by herself so that Jesus can be properly served in her home and she has lost all patience with Mary – who, I’m sure, remains oblivious to Martha’s dilemma.

She finally has had enough of it and in a tone that speaks of her frustration says:

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Christ is the Good Portion!

We’ll I know my wife has been there and maybe you can relate. Guests coming over for something and daughter’s reading a book, son in his room and dare I say dad sitting in his chair … reading … eh homework … yeah that’s it homework … and Seminary homework if it makes my less than enthusiastic joy of cleaning up for family, friends … whatever … a bit more understandable and bearable.

“Would somebody please clean the upstairs bathroom!” might be a common command. “Russ, will you take out the garbage … and when you’re done with that please set the table?” Martha, I mean Monica, might be heard calling. I think to myself … “But, I’m reading Godly stuff here … and attending to my holy seminary duties … in a comfortable … reclined … position.” But being that I am the garbage man of my house I get up and do what I’m told.

Monica’s focus is on our guests, whom ever that may be, and that they get served in the best way possible. Me and the kids, a bit less joyful in service, even though we too want our guests served in the best possible way … we just don’t want to DO the work.

Now, I’m sure that if Jesus was coming to your house, you would all want to sit at His feet and listen to the wisdom that he has to say just like Mary … right?

Me responses might be:

“Well, the ball game is at 1:00 pm, I sure hope his visit doesn’t go too long and get in the way of that.”
“I’ll be at my friends … tell Jesus hi for me and I’ll catch Him next time he comes.”

“You know … I don’t really like him … He’s your friend … why does he have to come over anyway?”
These can be examples of how we all regard God and His word at times. It can be inconvenient to find time for God as there is always something else in life to do. But, the word of God that we have in our Scriptures today, is the same word of God that sat talking to Mary – the word made flesh - and the same comfort Mary received from Jesus, so that she forgot the cares Martha wrestled with, is the same comfort you too can receive by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Martha and Mary were both focused on Jesus but in different ways and the Good News that we learned from last week’s lesson reminded us that as followers of Christ God uses you as his in the world.

But you can’t lose sight of Jesus. You need to know him to be able to reflect him to a dying world. And while the cares of the world can consume you and me at times you must always remember that:
Christ is the Good Portion and the food for our spiritual life!

This past week we saw Martha and Mary in action. VBS was a joy for all and especially for me to serve at and to be able to see all the preparations that needed to be done to be ready for the kids and all those who came to reflect Christ to these children that were ministered to. Some were the Martha’s that made ready the space, food, games, set up the church and prepared the lessons. Mary’s only focus was Jesus and the message of hope and peace to those precious little ones given into their care. Together the setting and message of hope came together like the yarn of a beautiful afghan that these children can be wrapped in today, tomorrow and always because God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.  (Heb. 4:12)


It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess."He said."And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you - the one who was willing to give himself for me."


As you think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remember He was the one who was willing to give His life for you. Not, that Martha’s preparations for Jesus’ visit were not good, but Mary couldn't see what needed to be done because her eyes were only fixed on her Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Christ Jesus is the Good Portion!

Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, came down from heaven for you so that, 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. (2Cor. 5:21) The portion that you receive by faith is God’s righteousness and this is by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the portion that He takes upon himself is your sin which separates you from him. What God takes from you and gives to you is the eternal life in him that we who are in Christ share.

Christ is the Good Portion!

Like our opening illustration, don’t let this life consume you so that, Christ the good portion, is ignored while you go about all that needs to be done. Remember that it is He who has come to live, suffer and die for you so that in Him you might have life and have it to the full. Christ is the good portion and He has come for you so that you might live in Him.

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


Sermon July 13-14, 2013

Title: You are Christ’s hands in the world!
Text: Luke 10:25-28

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

There is a cute story of a father and a daughter.

Laurie, when she was about three one night, requested Dad’s aid in getting undressed. Dad was downstairs and she was upstairs, and ... well. "You know how to undress yourself," Dad reminded her. "Yes," Laurie explained, 'but sometimes people need people anyway, even if they do know how to do things by themselves."

William C. Schultz, Bits & Pieces, December 1990.

The wisdom of a child is at times quite telling.

In our text for today we read of a lawyer who stood up to put Jesus to the test. Now, this is not to be a sermon which lifts up or puts down the noble profession of attorneys. But it is the word of the Lord and we can all learn an important lesson.

The question that is asked - “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  - is a bit odd. How do you inherit anything? It might have been more direct if he had asked, “What must I do to earn eternal life?” because that is the question so many what to know.

In my business background we we’re always taught to answer a question with a question so that you could better get to the real objection. So Jesus, being the best at fleshing out the true meaning to the question that is asked of Him replies with a question.

26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Having the ball back in his court the lawyer recites the word giving a summary of the Moral Law correctly, according to Deut. 6: 5; Lev. 19: 18.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And I might add that he probably said it with a bit of boastful pride too!

Well, finally getting to the real objection, Jesus turns the prideful attorney’s answer back on himself when He says:

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The truth is, as Jesus quite rightly points out, no one, not even one who rightly knows the scripture can keep the Law of God perfectly. To know the Law and to keep the Law is two very different things. And, this command to love your neighbor as yourself really pushes us well beyond what we can do. Shoot, for many of us we can’t even love ourselves so how are we going to love others?

But, despite falling short God uses you and me, His children, and:

You are Christ’s hands in the world!

You too, as we all do, tend to put Christ to the test. It’s the same word of God today as it was for the Lawyer and the same requirements that God demands and at times many believe they actually love God and their neighbor enough.

645 baptized and 453 confirmed members here at Peace but we worship less than 100 on a weekend. Now granted some have moved away and some attend elsewhere and have not yet asked to be removed from the roles. But, many just don’t come, maybe thinking that they’ve loved God enough and like the lawyer ask: “And who is my neighbor?”

God works through means and for better or worse that’s you and me. We are God’s hands in the world, bringing the love of Christ to a dying world and also to real people. As we learned last week with the sending of the 72 they went proclaiming peace and healing with the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

Sometimes your neighbor needs a helping hand, when the ways of the world bring grief. At times it is a prayer of comfort to let them know that you understand and will stand with them. At times it might require a word of rebuke when they are going the wrong way in this life and as the church it might require a word of warning from us that to be away from God’s word and sacrament and the gift of worship and fellowship that He calls to participate in may lead to no communion and fellowship with him at all.

400 plus members of Peace need a call from their neighbor. If you care about a member that you know that doesn’t attend give them a loving call. If they have needs look for ways to help. Remind them that God will never leave them of forsake them even if they’ve forsaken the assembly here at Peace and have self-excluded themselves from the church and the gifts God so longs to give them.

You are and need to be Christ’s hands in the world!


There is a telling story about:

Jack had been president of a large corporation, and when he got cancer, the corporation ruthlessly dumped him. He went through his insurance, used his life savings, and had practically nothing left. A pastor visited him with one of his elders, who said, "Jack, you speak so openly about the brief life you have left. I wonder if you're prepared for your life after death?"

Jack stood up, livid with rage. "You self-righteous Christians. All you ever think about is what's going to happen to me after I die. If your God is so great, why doesn't He do something about the real problems of life?" Jack went on to tell them that he was so despondent at leaving his wife penniless and his daughter without money for college. He then ordered them out of the room. Later, the elder insisted they go back and so they did. "Jack, I know I offended you," the elder said. "I humbly apologize. But I want you to know I've been working since then.

Your first problem is where your family will live after you die. A realtor in our church has agreed to sell your house and give your wife his commission. "I guarantee you that, if you'll permit us, some other men and I will make the house payments until it's sold.”Then, I've contacted the owner of an apartment house down the street. He's offered your wife a three-bedroom apartment plus free utilities and an $850-a-month salary in return for her collecting rents and supervising plumbing and electrical repairs. The income from your house should pay for your daughter's college. I just want you to know your family will be cared for."

Jack cried. He died shortly thereafter, so wrapped in pain and the death that this life is promised to bring. But he experienced God's love from a neighbor even while rejecting Him and it is hopeful that he repented and by the Spirit turned to Christ. His widow, touched by the caring love of others, and the gospel message of hope did turn to Christ, serving others as she had been served.

Death and the Caring Community  by Larry Richards and Paul Johnson

God uses his broken vessels to be Christ’s hands in the world!

Christ uses you too. By God’s Spirit in you, He brings the message of hope to those who need to hear. At times it might just be a caring hand at a time of need because Jesus cares for all His children.

You care because Christ cares. He is the true help we all need in this sin covered world because Christ took the punishment of sin upon Himself you receive the cleansing bath in baptism marking you as a redeemed child of God. Though you still sin in this life Christ can use you and your hands for His work. By caring for other they see the caring love of God through you and as God’s word is proclaimed by the Spirit they believe in Him and are his child too.

You are Christ’s hands in the world!

God’s peace and healing comfort to you in the blessed name of Jesus!

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


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sermon July 6-7, 2013

Title: Christ rejoices in the harvest!
Text: Luke 10:2-5; 16, 20

2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’

16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

There is a story of Jean Frederick Oberlin, a minister who served in 18th century Germany and France. You might recognize the name - as Oberlin College was named after him.

One winter, he was traveling by foot when he was caught in a severe snowstorm. He soon lost his way in the blowing snow and feared he would freeze to death. Despairing at his situation, he sat down not knowing which way to turn. Just then, a man came along in a wagon and rescued Oberlin. He took him to the next village and made sure he would be cared for. As the man prepared to journey on, Oberlin said, "Tell me your name so that I may at least have you in grateful remembrance before God." The man, who by now had recognized Oberlin, replied, "You are a minister. Please tell me the name of the Good Samaritan." Oberlin said, "I cannot do that, for it is not given in the Scriptures." The man responded, "Until you can tell me his name, please permit me to withhold mine."

Source Unknown.

Anonymity - which is the quality or state of being unknown or unacknowledged - is for many the way God uses those He calls to serve His greater purpose.

In the Gospel lesson today our Lord appoints a large number … 72 as our text reads to go in pairs, telling them:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

As we learned last week in the Gospel lesson, Jesus was resolute as He set His face towards Jerusalem. His time on earth was moving towards the cross and his atoning and vicarious death for you. This sending of workers into the mission field would be no easy task as Jesus Himself says when He says, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. This calling and sending, for those 72, would bring the same anger and rebuke that was leveled at Jesus. Many who serve the proclamation of the Gospel today see and feel this as well.

The provisions for these who are sent fall to those who welcome them into their homes and this is where the Lord’s peace rests and remains. And this also should be the earnest prayer of all Christians, that the Father of all grace and mercy would send forth laborers into His harvest field, making many young men willing to heed His call into ministry … and those who are served by these men would willingly take upon themselves the joy and privilege of supplying their needs while attending to these duties.

Kretzmann Commentary NT Vol. 1 Pg321
16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

These messengers were sent to bring peace and healing to a dying world. They were sent with the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The Kingdom of God was embodied in the incarnate God/man Jesus Christ and some would reject this good news … sending the dust of their town off the sandals of those sent in condemnation for their rejection. Though at times the comfort and peace of Christ is rejected … service to the Lord remains joyful and:

Christ rejoices in the harvest!

Peace and healing. Two wonderful and good things; but in our day to day not always appreciated or received. At times when we have peace we push others to the brink of anger, instead of taming our own tongue and keeping things peaceable. At times we break friendships and even sever families requiring God through repentance, to bring forgiveness and healing to those in need.

Christ’s rebuke though, to those who rejected His messengers in Chorizin and Bethsaida which were two towns, almost side by side, on the shores of Lake Gennesaret, though great miracles had been done in their midst, the words of eternal life and love out of the mouth of Jesus had made no impression upon them.

Even Capernaum, the Lord’s headquarters during His Galilean ministry, would receive the full measure of His wrath on the last day and be forcefully thrust down to hell.

Pretty sobering … and a word of warning here for us all …

Though Christ has called us to faith by word and sacrament and has been in our midst for years, decades, and even generations, in both the written and spoken Word of the Gospel; how often, is He (Jesus) neglected and overlooked in the homes of his children! No Scripture, or family devotion; and no regular church attendance for some; -- how might Christ’s rebuke to these cities reach into your home and mine as the dust of His judgment is kicked off His feet and settles at the feet of those who have turned from His loving call?

Kretzmann Commentary NT Vol. 1 Pg322

If you reject His love you receive his wrath. But even in the Lord’s rebuke there is hope.
Tyre and Sidon, heathen cities whom the Jews despised for their idolatrous practices and beliefs, Jesus said, would long since have repented, covered with sack-cloth, and ashes.

Though you fall and maybe even many times hope is in God’s work in you.

Spending time in the hospital with some and in home visits with others recently, the truth of God’s abiding peace and comfort becomes evident. Families at these difficult times are brought back to the reality of life and death issues. Even in dire situations the Lord works on the hearts of those He loves.

As I visited with a family at the hospital I was asked how I went from working in the piano business to being the pastor here at Peace. I related the story of my mom’s dying from cancer in 1988 at 57 years of age and how the Lord used this time in my life to call me back into relationship with Him. I told the story of not knowing what to pray for and calling out in my grief, finding comfort in the Lord’s Prayer. I told the story of the Lord leading me through a strange path and a few churches to this place that I am at and serve. I was able to sing the good news that has been given me in Christ, to a family and house that is hurting as death nears and the peace of our Lord and savior Jesus is resting upon them and His healing touch is there to comfort and bind up the broken hearted.

Friends, the good news is really good news as the 72 returned rejoicing!

“Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

But Jesus though he reminds them of the great power that they have in His name also cautions them …

 20 … do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Christ rejoices in the harvest!

Martin Luther had this to say in his Lectures on Galatians:

Christ says, (Luke 10:20): “Rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.” When this is a joy of the Spirit and not of the flesh, the heart rejoices inwardly through faith in Christ; because it knows for a certainty that He is our savior and High Priest and outwardly we demonstrate this joy in our words and actions. The faithful rejoice also when the Gospel is proclaimed, and when many come to faith and thus the kingdom is increased.

Luther’s works Vol. 27 Pg.93-94

Christ’s joy is to bring peace to your house in Him. In Christ you receive the comfort of eternal life because His promise is to never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)

Christ’s call is to:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, as you 7 cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. And we are told to 8 be watchful, because the devil, your adversary, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Though he prowls, in Christ you have eternal security and Lord’s promise that your name is written in heaven.

In Christ you can rejoice that you are part of the His harvest!

While it is not important to know the names of those the Lord uses to bring His Gospel message to the lost. It is important to know that He knows you, and that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.

God’s peace and healing comfort to you in the blessed name of Jesus!

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