Monday, August 26, 2019

Sermon August 24-25, 2019

Title: In the Kingdom of God his table is yours!
Text: Luke 13:22-30

29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

When I was leaving my long time job prior to my ordination my assistant manager and I went over some things to help in the transition. We discussed what being a good manager entailed and decided on two words: Good decisions. As we continued to talk about the importance of good decisions in our work and where they came from we decided on one word: Experience. So how do you get experience we thought? Two words: Bad decisions!

Today In The Word, November, 1989, p.23. Adapted

When you think of the good or bad decisions you’ve made in your life it is comforting to know that our good works don’t get us in and our bad decisions don’t keep us out because Christ has made us alive by his Spirit and:

In the Kingdom of God his table is yours!

22 [Jesus] went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.

As we’ve discussed over the last few months, Jesus was resolute on His way towards Jerusalem. He was not running there but was diligently going on about His business to get there.

Along the way He did what He loved to do … teach!

As was the case with Jesus and His teaching and what happens often when teaching through the Bible, questions come to mind. Such was the case here. As Jesus went about His business someone in the crowd of followers who had been accompanying him says:

23 … “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

Seems like a reasonable question. Who will be saved and how will it be determined? Again, as has been the case before, Jesus uses this question to answer and teach. The question might have been asked differently though, not so much, “will those saved be few”? But, will I be among them?

This is how Jesus answers this important question.

And he said to them,

24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

To those who see salvation as a cooperative act, it might seem to them that this work of striving is the work they do to enter in through this narrow door.
Christ is the door of entrance and we can know this from the epistle of St. John the 10th chapter where Jesus says in verse 9:

9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Those who enter in do so by faith in Christ. Those who cannot enter have been trying to make their own way and the key they’ve been trying to use to unlock the door will not open it because the key is faith in God’s only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.

So Jesus gives this example in illustration:

25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

What a harsh reality. The door will not open. No pleading, no solution, a bad decision that has no happy ending - though the experience learned is written in the bible for our learning - at the time of judgment some will be excluded for lack of making use of it. The truth is that the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit have been active … but rejected.

Some who call Peace their church home reject God’s gift too. They make little attempt to hear God’s word or receive his gift of faith in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. How sad to think that they too might hear, “I do not know where you come from”

To all who reject the gift of faith might not the cry be:

26 … ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’

The riches of temporal blessing and success, or mere apathy blind the way to the cross for many.

The figure of [Jesus] the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes [and looks at] success [as] its standard.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Don’t you see that whatever you do as a means to find the measure of your worth in the eyes of God - through work, acts of love and caring, success in life, charity – amounts to nothing that can open the door to eternal life.


Awhile back I was visiting with Duane and Eleanor brown in their home. Their son Steve was there and he told of a funeral he recently attended. The gentleman who had passed Steve had great respect for. He was a mentor to Steve in his younger day when he had attended the Center for Creative studies, helped him with his art and was active with helping in the community. Steve saw him as a role model and person to emulate. As we visited he turned to me and said, “Pastor I had no idea he was an atheist!”

Steve was heartbroken. The fact of an eternity separated from his friend brought sadness and tears to his eyes.

28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.

Those who hear Jesus hear the words of eternal life. Faith is created and the Kingdom is theirs.

Those who in their sinfulness look to other means to open the door to salvation, or good works apart from God’s means by faith, will find the door locked and they themselves cast out.

It’s sobering to think about? Some come to church … but only go through the motions failing to trust the promises of God. Some have even stopped coming at all, thinking life too short or their lives too busy for making time on Saturday or Sunday to be in worship. Especially, in the summer when the weather is so nice, I too was even tempted to stay take a weekend off. But Monica and I went to Christ Lutheran in Milford for their 7:00 Pm service on Monday night to hear and receive God’s word of forgiveness.

All churches just like here at Peace seem to experience a drop off in attendance during the summer months. Some go to the cottage, some attend elsewhere if out of town, it’s part of summer in Michigan. But, some get drawn away into other joys or just lose interest and don’t come at all.

Sad but true, and some, who’ve been given the gift of faith by the working of the Holy Spirit, will find no faith at all in that day, because it has died to the ways of the world.
But Christ still comforts:

29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
The truth is that some will not enter because of a lack of faith. Jesus tells the people that the door is opened by faith in Christ alone and Jesus is that door. Trust in him is the key and it is the gift of faith which you can not earn but is freely by God’s Spirit so that you and I and all who believe can enter in.


Luther says that all of us come to church as poor, miserable sinners with an empty sack. We have nothing to give God. We confess our sins and receive forgiveness – in the blessed absolution, a gift from God, which we put in our sack. Over and over in the service we receive gifts: grace, mercy, love, the Word of God … A multitude of blessings! All of these gifts go in our sacks. We leave the service with a sack over-flowing with good gifts from God. We take our gifts home, and we share all the goodies we received with our neighbor!

Pastor Matt Harrison in a sermon at the national Youth Gathering

God gives His gifts to you. He forgives you. He blesses you and you receive his gifts from his word and through His sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This he freely gives … to you. And He calls you to come, as you are to His house because you are his child and he wishes to bless … you.

God’s grace is nothing you deserve; it is nothing you can earn; and it is only received by faith in the finished work of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. And you have been given that gift of faith in Christ and you receive his forgiveness in Christ and you are his Child in Christ and you will enter through the door that is Christ Jesus … because of his call and work in you.

In the Kingdom of God his table is set and it is yours!

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sermon August 17-18, 2018

Title: By faith you are covered in Christ’s love and forgiveness!
Text: Heb.11:17-31; 12:1-3 Luke 12:49-53

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac,
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents,
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land,
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
3 Consider him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

In our gospel reading Jesus says:

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable, [broken and retched] world -- and might even be more difficult to save.

C.S. Lewis, quoted in Against the Night, Charles Colson, p. 139.

It’s like the story of the school teacher who lost her life savings in a business scheme … by a swindler. When her investment disappeared and her [dreams were] shattered, she went to the Better Business Bureau. "Why on earth didn't you come to us first?" the official asked. [“Well], she said … I didn't come because I was afraid you'd tell me not to do it."
Jerry Lambert. (modified)

You see … the truth is … we want to believe the lies.

In a way it explains the cross. Not as peace and comfort but as agony and death.

Not as accomplishing anything good … but only something bad that shouldn’t have happened, we think.

What truly lies beyond the cross … the resurrection of Jesus and salvation that he gives is unable to be seen through the eyes of self and can only be received as a gift through the eyes of faith.

By faith Abraham believed that God was able, even to raise Issac from the dead, from which figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Heb. 11:19

Jesus says:

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!

What fire is Jesus talking about? Why is he anxious and distressed? And what does baptism have to do with it?

Well, the fire is the wrath of God cast down from heaven on the earth as punishment for sin; and yes Jesus wants it done with and finished. He also has a baptism to be baptized with – not of washing away sin - but of receiving the sins of the whole world upon him so that God’s wrath might be focused in one place, on Jesus, once and for all. That brings Jesus great distress because his baptism is a bloody baptism.

As Christ was baptized by John he was marked for you and me and all as our substitute. As the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the word, Jesus saw the Spirit descend like a dove 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The father was pleased because Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice. Without spot or blemish, he could stand and receive God full wrath and make payment for sin with his sinless life and death in your place. And with that – his death on the cross - God’s wrath would be appeased and paid for.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?

Well yes, we want to believe that.

Jesus said to bring the little children to him and not prohibit them.

He hoped to gather Jerusalem to himself like a hen gathers her chick under her wings.

He told the woman found in adultery to go and sin no more after her accusers left and Jesus said neither do I accuse you.

So yes, we want Jesus to bring peace. But he says:

No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.

The devil delights in division. He delights in apathy. He delights is discord. He delights in death. He delights in whispering in your ear. He delights in us having faith in ourselves.

“You’re a pretty good person. You’ve helped many people in need and done good things. You know right from wrong and there are certainly many others who do much less than you. God will be pleased with you!”

Families are divided. The church is too. The world is broken in sin.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?

Jesus says: No, I tell you, but rather division.

Dear friends, the brokenness of this world will not get better.

I saw this quote online this week:

“This society in which we live is radically changing. What previous generations saw as evil is now embraced as being good. It is a dangerous and slippery slope upon which we stand when we reject what Solomon called the beginning of wisdom – the fear of God.”

— Ray Comfort

But Christ has secured your rescue- by faith – not in a world that will be destroyed but in Jesus who died for you and rose again from the dead.

“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Heb 11:18

In the first chapter of Matthew we receive this genealogy: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Matt 1:2

Our Epistle continues:

22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. Heb 11:22

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. Heb:11:29

The Gospel in Matthew reveals:

5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. Matt 1:5

31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. Heb 11:31

King David’s great grandmother was Rahab whom God had used so that:

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

The genealogy concludes: 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matt 1:16

By faith we too have rescue. In Christ who is our hope and our deliverer!

The genealogy continues for you and me as well as we think of our grandparents and our parents on down to ourselves and our children.

As my own would read and you can write your own as well.

And Michael was the father of Albert, and Albert the father of Russell, and Russell the father of Amy and Jonathan, and by faith in this same Christ and his baptism into death a death on a cross we too have the promise that just as he was raised from the dead we too will rise.

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


Monday, August 5, 2019

Sermon August 3-4, 2018

Title: Christ Be My leader!
Text: Col.3:1-11

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Jesus says in our gospel reading for today:

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

In a sense Jesus is asking, “What is your focus, hope or trust?”

Paul in our epistle reading for today is asking his Colossian hearers their focus, hope, or trust and to put on the new self, to live in the new hope which is their life in Christ - to set their minds on things above and not on things that are on the earth.

Perspective is a wonderful thing. The further you get away from something the smaller the object appears. The view from above can make the enticements vanish and problems seem not as consuming. But, perspective can also be viewed from below, in the midst of turmoil and through the coveting of the flesh where the joy of Christ can be so far away and hidden from view that you can't see Jesus. The Colossians, were losing their focus on Christ. They were being pulled in different directions.

Some wanted to pull them back to the Law and its requirements. Col 2:4

Some wanted them captive to philosophy, empty deceit, and human tradition, according to the world. Col 2:8

Some wanted to pass judgment with questions of food and drink, a festival, new moon or a Sabbath. Col. 2:16

And some were feeling disqualified for not measuring up by those who were puffed up and self righteous. Col 2:18

You might know how this might feel.

Death though is the universal equalizer.

Satan stamps us at birth as his children, Dead to God, as we discussed last weekend. He is our father and we are his offspring as Jesus reminded the unbelieving Pharisees in John Chapter 8 saying:

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

But for the Colossian believers and you and me we are now marked, Alive in Christ in baptism, by the working of the Holy Spirit for all who believe, as we have died to self and have now been buried in baptism and raised to newness of life by faith in Jesus.

Where is your focus and perspective?

Are you looking at self and the things of this life or are you looking to our hope in Christ? We like the Colossians can all fall victim to our sinful flesh and the working of the devil and have our perspective turned inward.

In this life - that which looks bad [loss of loved ones, jobs and the like] God can use for good and that which looks good [earthly pleasures] the devil can use for bad.

Paul says:

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:

That maybe easier said than done in this world where we live daily.

I’ve shared in the past some of my own failing in sermons – guitars and banjos, bikes – both the pedaled and motorized verities. Even riding mowers once captivated my focus. When you have to cut the grass a riding mower can become an idol too.

For some maybe it’s the cottage, the 401K, the good
life in retirement, sports, reunions, favorite restaurants, music and clubs, life on your terms and your way each and every day. 

For others it’s the phrase: “I’m spiritual not religious.”

“I believe,” they say, “I just don’t go to church.” Or, maybe it’s we who say for them, “They believe, they just don’t come to church.”

Let me put it another way by analogy.

If I said, “I love baseball.”

But, I don’t like watching it. I don’t like going to a game. I don’t like playing it. I don’t like participating in it. I don’t like reading about it. But I say, “I love baseball.” You might question my love for the game.

Can God bring you to faith on your road to Damascus? Absolutely!

Can God open the eyes of the blind like he did with Paul by the sending of an Ananias to restore sight? Certainly!

Can God promise that thief on the cross – being close to death - that today you will be with me in paradise! We know he can!

But God also desires to work through the means he has provided, of word and sacrament, and he has promised to be where they are rightly preached and rightly administered. Where Jesus is, his gifts are delivered to those in attendance and his gifts bring hope, forgiveness and life. That is his church gathered in worship.

Paul calls everything - apart from Christ - idolatry.

Name your poison he says, immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire or coveting. We are victims of it all, you and me, our children and grandchildren, friends and foes alike.

We all look to remove the spec from our brother’s eye while not seeing the log in our own eye. All earthly passions can point us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

6 On account of these Paul says, the wrath of God is coming.

If Christ is not your leader certainly another god / idol will fill his place and the wrath of God awaits all not covered in his righteousness.

7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

In the world, but not of the world we might say.

I myself feel like Paul - Chief of sinners though I be - I have been given so much in Christ and yet I stumble and fall daily. Sin covers even my good works so that my own pride can negate the work of God.

Forgive me and all Lord, who in anger speak evil of a fellow believer.

Forgive me and all Lord, and help me pray that your wrath be lifted off those who think wrongfully of your church, so that they may also receive the full blessing of your care.

Forgive me and all Lord, so that the malice of thought and the slander of speech may be buried from our lives, and may you by your Spirit turn our coarse and obscene talk into voices of praise.

Let this life of faith become a new life in Christ daily, as we die to self and live to Christ remembering his work, restored in the image of the creator who desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Remember this, God has many children but no grandchildren. All who come to faith become his child. We therefore must pray, witness, and encourage those in our life to desire and cherish what God has done for them and in them by his Spirit.

11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, [or] free; but Christ is all, and in all.

And I might add for all.

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