Monday, November 30, 2020

Sermon Nov. 28-29, 2020 1st Sunday in Advent

Title: The unclean and polluted are made clean in God’s hands!
Text: Isaiah 64:1-9 

Facebook live: The unclean and polluted are made clean in God's hands!

6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.

God’s people have always looked for a God of power. One who might move mountains, consume and purify with fire, and make nations tremble before him. They look for an awesome God who does awesome things.

He divided the waters that hindered escape so that his children could cross the Red Sea on dry ground and get safely to the other side.

He covered the Egyptians who pursue them with the same waters that were held back for a time, and their miraculous escape becomes a flood of death for Pharaoh.

He promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, but Moses died in Moab having only glimpsed the Promised Land from Mount Nebo before closing his eyes in the sleep of death.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

We too as God’s children want God’s power to fall on those in opposition to the word. We want God’s vengeance against those who torment us. We want God to consume those opposed to the word and to redeem those worthy of eternal life, and we see those who are worthy as the same people looking back from our own reflection in our mirror.

God’s power is all consuming and in our own righteousness we too would be consumed.

On our own we can’t understand.

On our own we stand as God’s enemies.

On our own we must be consumed.

Sin must be judged and destroyed.

From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, [our sins] like the wind, take us away.

How do we know our sinful state?

Look in the mirror; look to our ailments and sickness, our brokenness is made clear.

Back ache, sciatic nerves, rotator cuff, Allergies, flu and Covid 19 are all but symptoms of the greater sickness. The last three weeks of church services from my home, self quarantine, and then last Monday another trip to the ER for Monica. Cancer and its after effects from radiation continue to consume and reveal the broken reality of this life for us all.

In our own righteous we die.

It is a promise.

It is assured.

7 There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

Today we see a baby.

Today we see a rescue.

Today we have hope.

Today we see a son.

Adam Steven VanDewater II was born in sin in the polluted garment of human flesh just as his father and mother have been.

The one who was angry at sin sent his son who came in humility and human flesh too - though without sin.

The one who was angry at sin has become the sin bearer so the one polluted by sin might be washed and made clean.

What a marvelous rescue. From death to life!

The first Adam brought death

The second Adam, Jesus, brings life so that this Adam might be cleansed of sin and stand forever forgiven in the Lord’s presence.

8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.

This is the joy that we see in this baptism!

Death to life and sin to salvation!

But not just this Adam, and not just this baptism, but all who are washed in the blood of the Lamb have received pardon. God’s hidden face is now revealed in the loving eyes of Jesus who has said, yes to the work of redemption for you!

Your sins are mine, Jesus says, and my forgiveness is yours!

As the Advent season begins we await this child, Jesus. He has come to be the savior of all. He has taken the sins of the world upon himself and has given his sinless life so that all might find rest - not in a God of power, by in a God of comfort and peace. 


Rev. Paul McCain RIP

Jesus rode over the palms of forgiveness spread in a world of sin and death in his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on a humble colt. May that be the hope this year for you and me as we cry with shouts of joy:

“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!”

That is our Advent hope!

That is our Advent peace!

That is forgiveness for you and me!

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



Monday, November 23, 2020

Sermon November 21-22, 2020

Title: Come inherit the kingdom prepared for you!
Text: Matthew 25:31-46

Facebook live: Come inherit the Kingdom prepared for you!

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

"For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" 2 Corinthians 1:20

The word "amen" is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best-known word in human speech. The word is directly related--in fact, almost identical--to the Hebrew word (aman), for "believe" or "faithful." Thus, it came to mean "sure" or truly," which is an expression of absolute trust and confidence. When one believes God, he indicates his faith by an "amen." When God makes a promise, the believer's response is "amen"--"yes, let it be so!" In the New Testament, it is often translated "verily" or "truly."

When we pray according to His Word and His will, we know God will answer, so we close with an "amen," and so also do we conclude a great hymn or anthem of praise and faith.

The word is even a title of Christ Himself. The last of His letters to the seven churches begins with a remarkable salutation by the glorified Lord:

"These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God" (Revelation 3:14).

We can be certain that the Word of God is always faithful and true, because He is none other than the Creator of all things, and thus He is our eternal "Amen."

As we come to the close of the church year it is, therefore, profoundly meaningful that the entire Bible closes with an "amen."

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" Revelation 22:21, assuring everyone who reads these words that the whole Book is absolutely true and trustworthy. Amen!

Source Unknown.

And as a result of this truth we can all be joyful.

Come; inherit the kingdom prepared for you!

When the son of man comes in all his glory, there will be a gathering of all the nations. Ever man and woman will stand before the Lord and there will be a separating. Just like a shepherd who separates sheep from the goats, those destined for eternal life will inherit the Kingdom prepared – for you - from the foundation of the world, and those who will be cast out will depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angles.

Here, Jesus tells in prophetic detail, not parable, the return of the son of man, the second coming of Christ in judgment. He is the King who will judge the righteous, those who will inherit eternal life, were worthy, and those cast out will go away to eternal punishment.

It is interesting that the two groups, the sheep and goats are both under the Lordship of Jesus, who comes to judge and both hear similar but opposite statements.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Contrasted with:

42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

Both the sheep and the goats reply, “When did we see you” and do this for you or not do this for you? And you and I might ask ourselves the same question.

To this the Lord replies that when you did it, or did not do it, to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

As we all this weekend prepare for Thanksgiving let us all look to all of our blessings and to those who are in need.

"In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children:

'Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world rejoices. /Who, from our mother's arms,/Hath led us on our way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today.'

Here was a man who knew thanksgiving comes from the love of God, not from outward circumstances.

Don Maddox. (From a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, by Gary Wilburn)

Who has been the least of these that the Lord is speaking of the least of these my brothers?

Matthew Chapter 10 can give us a clue.

At the sending of the disciples Jesus warns those who would be Apostles,

7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.

9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

Jesus warns of the persecution to come saying:

17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.

Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

But also comforting,

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

Those who receive the message of the gospel receive the messenger and him whom he has sent, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ himself. It is the work of all who have given testimony to the word of God and the saving work found only in Christ Jesus our Lord, which are those who are the least who are hungry and fed, thirsty and given drink, a stranger that is welcomed, naked that is clothed, sick and visited and even comforted in prison.

It is also those, who being in need, are brought the comforting good news of the gospel so that the working of the Holy Spirit can bring to faith those who also will go forth to share this same good news with their neighbor.

It is at Thanksgiving that we too remember those less fortunate, it has been a difficult time for us all this year but even more so for many in our world, It is my prayer that we all look to the needs of others as we share the love of Christ opening an opportunity for some to reach the lost with the good news of salvation found only in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Those who did these things for the least of those my brothers did it also for Jesus.

Those who receive the Kingdom, to them Jesus says: ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Come; inherit the kingdom prepared for you!

Even though it is not your works, not what you have done but what he, Jesus Christ has done, it a fruit of your faith. Receiving the word of truth, the gift of God and those who are sent to proclaim that truth is a gift of our heavenly Father and by the working of the Holy Spirit you believe, you feed, you welcome, you cloth, you visit, you comfort and you are blessed.

To this Jesus says to you: ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Come; inherit the kingdom prepared for you!

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

For you are called blessed, righteous and prepared to inherit the kingdom

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen"

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


Monday, November 16, 2020

Sermon November 14-15, 2020

Title: God’s joy is your joy in Christ! 
Text: Matthew 25:14-30 

Facebook live: God's joy is your joy in Christ!

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

With these last two weeks in the church year we hear the really good news that all believers long to hear.

Enter into the joy of your master

This is really good news for those who are prepared, with lamps full of oil just like the wise virgins from last week’s lesson. But just like last week, there too are those who are foolish and who are ill prepared for the coming of the master, and who also when Christ returns, will find themselves hearing words of rejection, terror and judgment.

Jesus in preparation for his passion and the time of his departing tells a parable about a man going on a journey. Who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. And then he gives them a portion of his property to manage according to their ability.

15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

We’ve talked of the value of a Talent before and most recently in September. It is the equivalent to a 100 days wages and depending who you are and what you earn it might be quite a lot. But for you and me and thinking in our day to day a talent could be a quarter of our annual income.

We also see that the one, who had been given the most, went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. He took what he had been given and with the ability given him went and doubled the master’s investment. He used what had been gifted to him in ability to grow his master’s kingdom.

The one who was given the two talents, made two talents more. He too did with what he had been given in ability to grow the master’s kingdom. Finally the one who was given one talent, did what the master had not expected,

18 But he … went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

He took what had been entrusted to him and buried it.

In this parable we have to look at it on the surface and also at what greater biblical meaning is Jesus pointing at. First, the money given to the first two servants brought a return. In money matters this is always good.

As my boss told me many years ago when I was first hired to work in his business, “When you work on commission you have to prepare for the times when you will have a bad month. You must first produce, then save and then invest.”

His point was that once you receive your pay check you must invest some of it so that it produces a return that is greater than the investment you began with.

Servant three didn't understand that, it wasn't even invested, so that it brought some interest on the investment from the bankers for the master. It was buried and brought no return.

20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Remember we already said that 5 talents of money was a very large sum but the master here refers to it as being faithful over a little and promises to set him over much. This too happens for servant two in much the same way.

In our Biblical understanding we all are made sons of our heavenly father and of the word himself, Jesus Christ.

We have been given the gift of faith and made partakers of the Kingdom of God.

We have all been gifted richly by our loving God through the working of the Holy Spirit and at the end times and upon Christ’s return will give an accounting of what we did with the gift of God in Christ Jesus that had been given to us.

Did we believe and receive the gift?
Do we feed and strengthen the gift?
Do we share with others the gift?

For some it is using our gifts within the church for others it is in the world and for some it is in both places reaching the fullest return with what you have been gifted.

It is you and me.

Now don’t get me wrong, the parable is not about money, it’s not about giving, saving or investing but it is about the word of God Jesus Christ the true gift of God and what ultimately is done with it for the kingdom.

Upon Christ’s return you will either receive the joy of the master by his gift and his work alone, or you will shut the door of faith with unbelief, burying the word of God, which by the Spirit’s work brings faith, and then, just like the servant who buried the master’s gift, there will be those who blame God for their own rejection of his free gift.

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Those who believe that the gospel is hard, fear the Lord’s return.

Those who think that a loving God would not judge those who reject the gift of grace and faith are also those who themselves reject the means of receiving eternal life, which is given by faith in Christ through word and sacrament.

Christ welcomes all who by faith trust his work and believe. He has gifted each one of us with the blessed gift of faith and by his working through the holy Spirit we believe and serve our Lord Christ in blessedness and holiness and:
Enter into the joy of your master!

We all have been gifted to serve the Lord and his kingdom. May we all find joy in his use of each one of us for his greater purpose so that you will:

Enter into the joy of your master!

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


Monday, November 9, 2020

Sermon November 7-8, 2020

Title: Your lamps are fueled by God’s word and Spirit!
Text: Matt. 25:1-13

Facebook live: Your lamps are fueled by God's word and Spirit!

10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Well, the election is over or so it seems. There is still much to do. Some will celebrate and some will mourn but we can all be thankful that the political process is over … at least for a few weeks.

After Abraham Lincoln became president, before the days of civil service, office seekers besieged him everywhere trying to get appointments to various jobs throughout the country. Once, confined to bed with a fever and exasperated, Lincoln declared to his secretary, "Bring on the office seekers; for I now have something I can give to everybody."


As we look to this gospel text and parable today let us begin with a few verses that precede this reading today from chapter 24. Here Jesus, is speaking with his disciples and says:

42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.


44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

And finally:

50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know

So the text today speaks of the end times and being prepared.

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

In the parables that we have studied previously, the kingdom of heaven and the joy that awaits those who believe had been described as a Wedding feast. There were those closed with wedding garments and those who were not. There was also a casting out and a weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And now the word continues, for the disciples and our benefit, with the foolish and wise virgins who took their lamps and while the wise had oil in their lamps and the foolish did not and while the bridegroom was a long time in coming they were unprepared for the time of his arrival.

Being unprepared is not a good thing.

Last Sunday it got really cold and windy. Leaves were blown down and all around. It was a reminder of what is around the corner … winter!

It would be easy to forget and be unprepared. Thankfully we have made arrangements with our plow service here at church and hopefully as the weather turns cold and the snow flies we will be prepared for what winter brings.

Being prepared is a good thing but not all prepare for what is coming.

For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,

How much good is a lamp that has no oil in it? Not much.

We know about oil here at church and at times the candles that have had no oil in them. They may have a dry wick and no fuel from which to draw. Thankfully Erika Hoffman keeps our candle oil in stock so we might relate to the wise who …

4 … took flasks of oil with their lamps.

As we know lamps with oil bring with them light and light the way. Or, in church, the candles light our service and symbolize God’s light and presence among us.

But in our parable the oil signifies something more. It signifies the work of God by the working of his Holy Spirit that brings faith … the gift of God for we who believe.

The last 7 months I’ve been the candle boy here at church. I’ve filled the candles every week. It’s not a hard job but it is necessary. Prior to the pandemic and the shutdown the Altar Guild did the work. I didn’t think much about it. I just expected that they would do the work and we would have oil for the candles in church to light.

Since the middle of March it has been my responsibility. I do it during the week and then check it on the weekend to make sure that I did it and didn’t forget. I wouldn’t want to look foolish and have to hear,

“Pastor, the candles won’t light. Didn’t you fill them?”

Not that forgetting the candles is an unpardonable sin here at church.

But in the parable what did the foolish lose? They lost focus on the bridegroom’s coming. They lost focus on Jesus.

The faith of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit had dimmed to the point of flickering and had gone out.

What does this say to you and to me and to all who have been given this gift of faith? Should we ignore it or should we do all we can to make sure it is robust and full? Surly, it is God’s gift he brings us to faith and through that same word keeps us in the faith.

If God, through the means of parents and our family puts a plate full of food in front of us but we ignore it and don’t feed on it we remain hungry. The gift and blessing is wasted.

So to, if we ignore God’s word and don’t hear, read, or feed on it. Our faith in Christ dims and is replaced by other things of the world that cause us to focus on everything other than Jesus the bridegroom of the Wedding Feast.

To lose focus on Jesus can cause us all to fall away and to see our oil run dry. To have no fuel for the wick of faith to draw and to see the light of Christ flicker and go out.

But God has promised that where his word is, there the Holy Spirit is, to give faith in the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is only possible to believe on Christ by the gift of faith through the power by the Holy Spirit. The oil of God in your lamp is God in you and given you as a gift working faith to believe and to live as beacons of hope.

Over the last year many have placed their hope in who would be elected. National, State and local politics are important and have dominated our lives but also our hopes. Someone is always let down.

One learned politician once wrote:

The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned, but still 'tis nonsense.

B. Franklin.

At times we who have lamps are fools.

We fool ourselves into believing that we have measured up, that we are acceptable in the eyes of God, and that we will all stand before him in righteous acceptance.

While we,

Deny his word,
Deny his gifts,
Live contrary to his word

But by God’s working, Christ has made a way to give you a full lamp.
Christ has filled you with His Spirit who points you to him.
Christ has promised he would never leave you or forsake you.
Christ continues to feed you on word and sacrament so that the gift of faith continues to fill your lamp for you who trust in Him.

You too who have been filled by God’s blessed faith are wise and prepared and ready for the coming of him, who was and is and is to come, Jesus Christ our Lord!

Because of Jesus and God’s gift of faith you who believe are ready!

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