Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sermon Dec. 25, 2017 Christmas Day

Title: The radiance of the glory of God is given you in Christ!
Text: Hebrews 1:1-6

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Twenty years ago the question was posed in an email to me and other church members who were engaged in a bible study at a small church I attended.

It simple read: “Are there Prophets today?” The question was asked in regards to discussions that had arisen during the study. Some believed and had wondered if God still gave special revelation to people today – speaking to them directly – or in the same way that he had in the past? Many answered the email with thoughts, opinions and speculation.

After carefully thinking about this question I replied with the first 30 world of Hebrews 1.

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

In a grand way the letter to the Hebrews opens: In many and various ways God long ago, spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but at the end of these days spoke also to us in His Son.

He did not give the revelation of the salvation to come at one time and in its entirety, but bit by bit showing one fact concerning the coming Messiah and now another, revealing first the fact that He would be born of a woman, then that He would be of the seed of Abraham, then that Judah was to be His linage, and then that He was to be a son of David.

At other times, in this Son, we see his deepest humiliation, and then his highest triumph and exaltation.

In many ways God spoke of old: through institutions, or sacrifice, sometimes by parable, or psalm and sometimes in a dream or vision. Thus God spoke in the times of long ago. But that was not His final speech or his revelation.

And that is not to say that he is bound to never do that again.

But, he is bound to truth so that those who claim to be speaking for God better be darn sure that they are speaking truth … whether heard by dream, vision or audible voice or speaking forth what God has already said in his word, and it better be in accord with the truths of scripture.

The son is his appointed heir. But as Luther states: Everything that is said of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation must be ascribed to Christ the man, for the divine nature can be neither humiliated nor exalted.

Jesus Christ, God’s son according to His humanity has been appointed Heir of all things. According to this humanity and God’s will, he should be Lord over all things created and the universe should be in subjection to Him.

He is the rightful Heir of the eternal God and all that is his. The worlds and all things were created through Him and everything as we know it came to be through His almighty power.

Jesus Christ, in his humility and in his divinity, the second person of the Trinity, distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit as to persons, is nevertheless one in essence with Father and Spirit, and Himself the Creator of the world.

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E Kretzmann NT Vol. II Pg 439


Like many I took philosophy in college and had to read many philosophers at the seminary. To say it got a bit tedious would be an understatement. If I never had to read Immanuel Kant or RenĂ© Descartes again would be too soon. I apologize if you are a fan … though looking for meaning in self and what is known … leads many Philosophers to unbelief and atheism.

One such Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, and being near the end of his life told Pierre Victor: "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God."

His fellow philosopher, atheist, and long-time live-in companion Simone de Beauvoir retorted: "How should one explain the senile act of a turncoat?"

HIS Magazine, April, 1983.

Certainly, we who have been brought to faith in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit know and understand the work of God in the sinner and an eternity that awaits you and me who believe. I hope to meet Jean-Paul Sartre in heaven and maybe, just maybe he will be able to enlighten me to the benefits and value of philosophy?

At Christmas the coming of the Christ child reveals what God had long ago and in various ways spoken by the prophets. Through God’s revelation in these last days we see the flesh and blood of his means to conquer sin, death and the devil born to a virgin in a lowly stable. What had been spoken of … is now here to see in a tangible way as God’s word reveals it to us.

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

This God, who in the beginning was the word, and this Word was with God, and was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God [and] 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

He upholds the universe because according to the word of God all things were made by and through him.

But it is not in his deity and in his power that he restores all things but in coming as a child, for you, and being what we are that he finishes and fulfills all that was spoken of him in times of old and by the profits.

After making purification for sins …

This child, this Jesus came to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin. He came to restore the relationship between God and man. He came to die in your place and rise for your justification; which means he came to be what you and I couldn’t be. God’s son, begotten of the Father, 6 … when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”

This child, this Jesus, this God/man … came for you.

… and he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

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


Sermon Dec. 24, 2017 Christmas Eve

Title: The Father’s Love, Begotten in his Son Jesus … for you!
Text: 1 John 4:7-16
Readings - Isaiah 7:10-14, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Of the Father’s love begotten, Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

The Father’s love is made known to us – you and me - in the sending of his son Jesus the promised incarnate son of God from eternity past the Alpha and Omega the first and the last.

In the beginning when God spoke all things came to be. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. God’s Christ – begotten of the father – born of a Virgin for you!

O that birth forever blessed, When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

We hear this Good News in the words of our gospel tonight.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The fall into sin brought death. All are born in death and live a life of death. You and I apart from Jesus and faith created by the Holy Spirit - have no hope. But that is the Good News of a savior who saves, redeems and calls from death to life. It is Good news tonight; it is good News tomorrow; it is good News because it is redemption, restoration and resurrection from death to life eternal.

This is He Whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected, Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!

In the past God spoke through the prophets of old as the writer to the Hebrews says but in these last days he has spoken through his Son.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (God with us)

God’s word made flesh, Jesus Christ, was spoken of, was prophesized and foretold, that the plan of redemption would come in God’s time and in God’s way. But who is this Jesus … and more importantly … as Jesus asked his disciples … who do you say that I am?

Your answer to this question determines quite literally life and death. 

This humble child that now lies in a manger is truly the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whether he is your King and your Lord depends on faith in him, this Jesus who created the heavens and the Earth, lived, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead for you … to bring peace to this broken world.

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

Dear friends we speak of heaven, of angels singing, and of all bowing before the King, no silent throng but mighty voices. It is impossible to imagine the perfection of heaven but we can get a glimpse … in this child in the manger – the Jesus. The Perfection of God’s only begotten son sent down from Heaven and wrapped in swaddling clothes … would grow into the man Christ Jesus.

That God would become man shows the value of his life for you and your life in him.

Since the incarnation when God, born of a virgin, became man - no longer is God separate from you on a mountain, or speaking to a prophet for you. Now in his flesh he has come to unite his death, with your death, and his life, with your life, so that in him we are made righteous by the power of the Holy Spirit by faith.

John’s epistle confirms this when he writes:

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

God remains hidden. He reveals himself by his Spirit through the word. If you wish to know him don’t look into the heavens as the angles told the disciples as they looked up as he ascended before them.

11b …This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11b

The ascension is not the end.

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

The eternal victory is found in Christ’s glorious return to judge the living and the dead. Death is no escape. All will be judged. Some will depart to be with the Lord and others cast into … a hell of their own choosing.

The good news though is that the Lord is on his throne and he still calls those who have ears to hear. Listen, come, and drink the living water for the river of life that is Jesus.

As my Professor Peter Scare wrote on his timeline on facebook:

Cain lives in every heart and each of us must die. Who then can raise the brother slain? Christ alone is Able.

He is Able in the real sense and in the figurative sense. Unjustly killed Christ overcomes sin, death, and the devil for you. He is able to raise you up by the power of the simple things … water and word, bread and wine … for you and he continues through his church to make disciples.

Let the little children come to me he calls and as a little child born in a manger he came to be the savior of the world. And as the God/man in death he fulfilled all righteousness for you so that you too might be righteous.

As our epistle reading ends:

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment,

Have no fear for in Christ you are forgiven and he has a place of everlasting comfort for you that awaits all who believe and trust in Christ.

Because as [Jesus] is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

But you are perfect in him … evermore and evermore!

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

Sermon Dec. 23-24, 2017

Title: The Holy one of God came for you!
Text: Luke 1:26-38

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

In our reading today, we hear of an unpretentious young woman, a virgin named Mary, who has a visit from an angel. What started in this small town of Nazareth would lead to a manger in Bethlehem where a baby is born who will be called holy—the Son of God.

The traditional text of the Annunciation of Mary by the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 speaks of the conception of our Lord which is usually celebrated in the church year on March 25 nine months before the birth of Christ on Christmas day.

This announcement from the angel calling Mary the favored one, and telling her that the Lord is with you! You can understand that this visit was very troubling to Mary. Even to the point of the angel saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

So too we who are afraid with the struggles of our daily lives which can cause fear, can find comfort.

Do not be afraid. Fear not. You too have … favor with God.

And though you don’t hear the announcement from the angel as Mary did:

31 That she … will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus. You can have the same comfort in the child who she will give birth to, 32 … will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and is your Lord.

[And he has been given] the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Yet, we too hear the blessed result just as true as if the angel had visited us with the same good news as we read in our epistle lesson for today:

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— Romans 16:25-26

It is through that same word of the Lord brought to Mary that brings comfort and peace for you and me.

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord’s presence overshadowed the temple of Israel. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

God has called you too, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to a special purpose by faith in his son, and through this he called you and has made you his child by this same faith. And by faith you are brought into fellowship with the creator of the universe and have peace with God.

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his [greeting], but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is [silly]. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man [our sinfulness] is to be put off.

Luther’s works Vol. 32. Pg 40 Fortress Press

True repentance brings sorrow for sin that only the comfort of the good news of the gospel can cure. It cannot just be an appearance of repentance because appearances can be deceiving, but must be a true repentance and brokenness that turns away from sin.


There’s a story that during one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"

"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."

Bits & Pieces, November 12, 1992, pp. 19-20.

It’s the appearance of work, versus real work or the appearance of repentance, versus true repentance? It’s like those times when the children say “Mom … I’m not feeling well. Can I stay home from school?”

The statement and the truth of its meaning may not tell the whole story.

Mary though hears the truth of the angel’s words after she asks:

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

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

Luther says through the word of the angel, which is the word of God brought from his messenger, Mary conceives:

“ … Mary, the pure virgin, had to contribute of her seed and of the natural blood that coursed from her heart. From her [Christ] derived everything except sin that a child naturally and normally receives from its mother. [If] he is not a real and natural man, born of Mary, then he is not of our flesh and blood. Then he has nothing in common with us; then we can derive no comfort from him.” 

LW Vol. 22 pg. 23

For in him God saves his people from their sin. The power of the most high, the Father, through the Holy Spirit, conceives Jesus the son in Mary. The whole Godhead is involved though only Christ takes on human flesh.

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ.

Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived … you hear the word of God through his means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit you believe.

When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

Because Jesus’ name means savior you have salvation in him. And by him and his work receive the forgiveness he won for you.

What looked ordinary, a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger was very substantial. God himself has come down, becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation.

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


Monday, December 18, 2017

Sermon Dec. 16-17, 2017 3rd Advent Service

Title: The witness of Christ is in you, rejoice!
Text: John 1:6-8

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light …

The Definition of a witness:

A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen, and heard … without being deterred by the consequences of his action. 

S. Briscoe, Getting Into God, p. 76.

Being a witness of the Love of God in your life can be difficult. It is hard to articulate, at times, what God has done for us – in Christ. Sharing your faith joyfully can be a challenge in the world and in the lives we lead.

I spent many years witnessing to a friend at work. It must have been 10 years before he came to me one morning with a smile on his face and said: “Russ … yesterday I got on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and I received him as my Lord and savior!” What a joy to hear and what a blessing it is to have an impact in the lives of friends, family, and loved ones.

My friend Mark is a gifted musician and composer as well as a skilled woodworker and before he made that revelation about his own faith in Jesus, he was putting on a concert of his music with a number of very skilled musicians and had a packed house at the Unitarian church in Birmingham where the concert was being held.

I had been witnessing to him at that time for a number of years and just before the concert he came up to me with a smile on his face and said, “I’m going to thank God … for my musical gifts and blessings in front of the crowd tonight!”

I knew it was a stretch for Mark to do this but:

I looked at him I said, “That’s nice Mark … but God has a name.”

For him, it was enough, he thought, to thank the generic God, but for those gathered who may trust in other gods, all gods, or no god, having a distinction is important.

At the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies 20 years ago Richie Furay a member of the hall inducted in as a member of the Buffalo Springfield and a pastor since 1974 thanked his wife of 30 years at the time, family, friends, and band members … but then said his thanks … “to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!” It was bold and there was no mistaking whom he worshiped.

A bit later in the program, Graham Nash who was also being inducted as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in mocking sarcasm, as only someone being led by a different spirit said:

“I also want to thank god … because I think she’s great!”

It is only that name of Jesus that we indeed find salvation, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

The witness of Christ thankfully is in you, so rejoice!

Last week we looked at John the Baptist, who was the messenger sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Today, in the gospel reading, John is a witness to the priests and Levites sent from the Jews who asked him:

“Who are you?” The religious elite wanted to know who he was, why is he was baptizing, and if he’s is a prophet?

John confesses the truth that he is, “Not the Christ,” not Elijah, and not even a prophet but he does confess to who he is:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He is the one prophesied and spoken of in Isaiah, who would herald and proclaim the one who would follow him, but who would also be greater than he and whose sandals, John … was not even worthy to untie.

The Jews expected the Messiah of power and John tells the truth in his interrogation and nothing but the truth – so help me God - when he says that he is not the one they expect, but is the one who makes the way, making straight the way of the Lord.

He calls all to repentance, so that they might turn from their sin and place their trust in the one coming after him, who he calls the light of the world. That is who John bore witness to.

We all fall short and fail to bear witness to the light of the world that is Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior.


This past Sunday we had our Christmas program. The children bore witness in a real, though humorous, way to the truth of the biblical story. That this child born in a manger, is human and born of Mary, but also that this child is something more … that this child is “Christ the Lord” the savior of the world.

Bearing witness in the years to come, in the public square might become more difficult as the focus of religious freedom and those who oppose it will try to limit our freedom to speak the truth in love and may limit us to no farther than the door of the church you exit.

22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us.


In The Mask Behind the Mask, [author and] biographer Peter Evans says that actor Peter Sellers played so many roles … he sometimes was not sure of his own identity. He was approached once by a fan who asked him, "Are you Peter Sellers?" [To which he answered], "Not today," and walked on.
Today in the Word, July 24, 1993.

As we struggle daily as both saint and sinner, both born again and born in sin, we might wrestle with that distinction at times when our Christian witness falls short.

We know we’ve missed the mark as, a witness to Christ in our life by are actions. Do others see in us Christ … or the sinfulness we are bound to? It’s probably both? But, if only we had known we were being watched we might have acted in a more Christ like way.

Or, like the story of Peter Sellers, when someone sees us in our daily live and wonders, “Are they a Christian?” Would we answer by are actions or lack thereof … “Not today!”

John the Baptist came as a witness to call to repentance those who like you and me are born sinful and unclean. He came to prepare the way for the one who would “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

It is this one who came, begotten of the Father, begotten before all worlds, who would take on human flesh at the incarnation so that all separation from God, whether mountains or valleys would be made smooth. That by his birth, born of a Virgin and made man, that he might restore what had been broken by sin.

So too you, who have been brought to faith by that same light of the world, Jesus Christ, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and by faith believe.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thess. 5:16-18

It is that witness and light that shines forth in you as you joyfully bring God’s word to those who need to hear. It is that peace and comfort that you have received and also proclaim to others and it is that witness of Christ that as Isaiah proclaims binds up those broken by sin, releases those who are captive, and brings good news to the poor.

As we joy in Christ’s first coming and rejoice at this babe born in a manger, we too wait … for his second coming when he will gather his children, you and me, and all who are brought to faith to himself.

The witness of Christ is in you, rejoice!

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sermon Dec. 9-10, 2017 Advent 2

Title: Jesus has come and will come again!
Text: 2 Peter 3:8-14

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

"Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind."

Leonardo da Vinci.

My dog Abby is a big girl. She is a Rottweiler and close to 100 lbs. Patience is not something she thinks about or is interested much in. when I go to put her out in the backyard she waits, just long enough for the door to open before bolting out to play. She understands wait but is not much interested in it. And while we tell her to wait … she does so … but just enough to show that she hears us and is listening. But in reality she is ready to bolt at the slightest hint of Okay.

In his second epistle the Apostle Peter writes to fellow believers to be patient, to make ones calling and election sure by living Godly lives;

5 … [by] add[ing] to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

He assures his readers that he and those whom God called to be prophets and Apostles were not following cleverly invented stores but were eye witnesses of Christ’s majesty and by the Holy Spirit they spoke as God directed them.

He warns of false prophets who teach falsely and will bring destructive heresies that lead many away into blackest darkness which is the realm of the devil.

18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

We might ask: What has mastered you … or me?

And certainly we see this leading astray in our day as false teachers, in the church and in the world, support lifestyles and choices contrary to scripture - twisting the word of God to champion abortion rights, Euthanasia and the homosexual lifestyle in all its forms.

3 Above all, you must understand [Saint Peter continues] that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?

And certainly many over the last 2000 years have asked this same question causing some to predict when Christ would return contrary to the teachings of Holy Scripture.

The doubting of the word of God had occurred in Peter’s day - and has been occurring since sin came into the world - and we see it today and live it daily in our lives – for though forgiven we still sin daily. Peter’s hope in his epistle is to leave an enduring hope in Christ through his writing to his readers … and to you and me. That hope is still a blessed hope because it is in Christ, the word made flesh, that he was an eyewitness to. His word is not made up from stories but is real and foundational and shows that the Lord is not slow but patient …

8… toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The Advent season lets us all watch and wait for the blessed gift that is the child Christ Jesus – God with us – whom Peter saw and heard and was called into following and made an Apostle so that by the call of Christ he might feed the Lord’s sheep. It is the call of every pastor also to lead and feed the sheep given under his care and as under shepherds of the Lord’s flock to also bring the truth of God’s word to each and every hearer so that all might come to repentance.

As the gospel reading for the day attests:

2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” —
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

It was John who came out of the wilderness to prepare the way, to bring a baptism of repentance that would find its fullness in the words of our Lord Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

George Gallop wrote some 30 years ago: “There's little difference in ethical behavior between the churched and the unchurched. There's as much [stealing] and dishonesty among the churched as the unchurched. And I'm afraid that applies pretty much across the board: religion, per se, is not really life changing. People cite it as important, for instance, in overcoming depression--but it doesn't have primacy in determining behavior.” 

George H. Gallup, "Vital Signs," Leadership, Fall 1987, p. 17.

In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church's integrity problem is in the misconception "that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior." He goes on to say, "It is revival without reformation, without repentance." 

Quoted by C. Swindoll, John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, p. 16.

We as Lutherans understand the Saint / Sinner distinction that though forgiven we sill sin and by God’s Spirit we desire to be more holy and sanctified by God’s work in us. Though we daily fall short we remember also daily that we are baptized and marked as God’s child and return to God’s house to hear the blessed absolution each week in the divine service. 

During Advent we wait and we watch but we too are seen and heard. We are called to repentance by God’s Holy Spirit and are also call to faith by that same Spirit so that Goodness, Godliness, self-control and love as St. Peter says should be evident in our lives.

8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you wait and watch - and hear and receive – God will increase in you the blessed hope that is Jesus, and bring you to true repentance and joy, so that in him you receive the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.

By his work you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with that blessed hope wait and watch for a new heaven and new earth that are promised and will be brought to bear by our loving God no matter how long it takes – just as he has brought you into the loving arms of the savior and has forgiven you all your sins.

In the season of advent we know that Jesus is coming. But we also know that Jesus has come, and will come again!

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


Monday, December 4, 2017

Sermon Dec. 2-3, 2017 Advent 1

Title: Rejoice, and be glad, for in Christ, the King of glory comes!
Text: 1 Cor. 1:3-9

9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Peace is such a precious jewel, that I would give anything for it but truth.

Matthew Henry

On this first Sunday in Advent we too joy in the blessed word of God and the truth that it shines of the coming of that word made flesh, in the Christ child, Jesus our Lord.

During Advent we wait and prepare for the gift that comes with his birth on Christmas morning. The grace and peace that Paul speaks of to the Corinthian church came down from heaven and is given for the salvation of the world by our loving Father in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Advent is not only a time of waiting but also a time to focus, and for we who call ourselves Christians, to focus on the gift given in a manger, for the reconciling of the world back to God.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians begins with thanks. Thanks for the grace of God given these Christians in Corinth.

5 that in every way you were enriched in [Christ] in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

They had been enabled and enriched in speech and knowledge as God gives this gracious gift in Christ. But many in the church had become divided; there were factions some following Paul some, some Apollos, some Cephas who is Peter and even some say they follow Christ to which Paul asks a rhetorical question. 13“Is Christ divided?” Certainly the answer is no! To which Paul says: Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? – And we would attest to that today that baptism is in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as Jagger was baptized today.

But Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is dealing with factions and factions divide, churches, families, and friends. When the focus is not on the gift but the receiver the devil begins to work to split the seam as a split in a piece of wood continues on its course until a small hole is drilled in its path to stop the split from continuing.

Martin Luther says in his commentary on First Corinthians:

“In this epistle St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be one in faith and love, and to see to it that they learn well the chief thing, namely, that Christ is our salvation, the thing over which all reason and wisdom stumbles.”

“Preface to the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians” (LW35:380)


There is a story of a missionary in Africa who gave a Bible to one of the African men. When it was given to him, the man hugged it close and expressed great appreciation for the precious gift of God’s Word that the missionary had given him.

But when the missionary saw him a few days later he noticed, that the Bible looked like it was already falling apart, and that many of its pages were missing. The missionary asked him, "What happened? What did you do to your Bible? When I gave it to you I thought you considered it to be a treasured possession."

The man replied. "Indeed, it is a very precious possession. It is the finest gift I have ever received. It is so precious that when I returned to my village I very carefully chose a page and tore it out and gave it to my mother; I chose another page and gave it to my wife and finally, I gave a page of God’s Word to everybody who lives in my village."

Melvin Newland Ridge Chapel

We may smile at that, but what a testimony or, as Paul says:

6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.

The message of God’s Word was so wonderful to this man given the Bible that he wanted to share it with everyone he knew! How different it is for you and me today where the word of God is mocked, neglected, put on a shelf and for some never even read or heard – and these may be those who claim to be even members of the church.

The word of God and the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, are not the chief things that we naturally cling to, but that which we, with our own reason, wisdom, and understanding stumbles over. If you've stumbled and fallen you know how foolish you feel and look. You know what you thought you were going to do … but instead did what you did not expect. Those who stumble need help to get back on their feet; they need help at time to do what they intended and even help to see that what they did so they can better focus for the right outcome.

Advent is that time.

7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s comfort to the Corinthians is your comfort and it’s the comfort for all who wait for his coming … this Baby King, born of a Virgin for the salvation of the world.

It is this child who became man and who took the sins of the world upon himself as he went to Jerusalem on the untied colt because the Lord Jesus had need of it. It is he who entered in, as many spread their cloaks on the road as well as branches they had cut from the field shouting …

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9b-10)

How quickly those joyful shouts changed just one week later to crucify him! Crucify him!


If left to our own devices we might all act like the Salesman I read about. He was waiting to see the Purchasing Agent so he could submit his Company’s bid. While he was waiting, he couldn't help but notice that his Competitor’s bid was sitting on the Purchasing Agent’s desk. Unfortunately, the actual figure for the Competitor’s bid was covered by a coke can. He got to thinking: “How could it hurt if I just took a quick look? No one would ever need to know.” So he reached over and lifted the coke can. But his heart sank as he watched hundred’s of BB’s pour out from the bottomless can and scatter across the desktop.

It was a test set - up by the Purchasing Agent … and he failed it.

K. Edward Skidmore Castle Hills Christian Church

We have all failed what God requires and have fallen short … missing the mark … not just by what we have done but by who we are as those born in sin … and bound to sin. It is through our nature as sinners that we are separated from our loving God, and also it is also by his work, and who we wait for this Advent season, that we are reconciled back to God in Christ.

Because Jesus came as true God and true man and he knows your every need. Though tempted by sin he knows your weakness too but he was able to keep the Law perfect for you as only God could. Because he died in your place and rose from the dead, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and will rise too.

And because this God came down and humbled himself on your behalf, you can have what you could never have; fellowship with God again, by faith in the blessed life and death of his son who was raised to newness of life for you and for all who trust in his coming.

Rejoice, and be glad, for in Christ, the King of glory comes – for you!

Just as that man in Africa was given a Bible and the gifting of God’s grace by his holy word was shared with all whom he came in contact with. So to, by God’s word, we are brought to faith and by the same word of God and we too are saved. May this waiting during Advent bring you the joy of God in Christ and may his glorious word comfort you in his peace.

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