Monday, September 26, 2022

Sermon September 24-25, 2022

Title: The Kingdom gifts are in life eternal!
Text: Luke 16:19-31

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29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The story that Jesus begins to tell picks up on the theme from last week that you can’t serve both God and money – where you will love the one and hate the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Also, the week before where we learned that Jesus is the Good Shepherd that seeks the lost sheep leaving the 99 and that joy in heaven that is found when one sinner repents.

We see here a rich man, or one who has the blessings of this life and lives in an opulent manner - that Jesus says that this he does every day.

Contrasted with this we hear:

20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table.

Not a good life here as we compare his life with the Rich Man.

Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The contrast of wealth and opulence and the poor and lowly of the world is not lost on the Pharisees, Scribes and teachers of the Law as Jesus says:

15 … “are those who justify yourselves before men, [the rich man] but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

It is not in this life – wealth, riches and temporal gifts but it is given in this life.

Christ made known by the power of the Holy Spirit in the word of the Gospel and connected to the waters of Holy Baptism where God washes away our sin marking us his child.

Jesus continues the story abruptly,

22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment,

Both are dead but with two very different results; one carried to Abraham’s side the other in torment and a gulf (chasm) fixed between them.
A story is told of:

A pig who ate his fill of acorns under an oak tree and then started to root around the tree. A crow remarked, "You shouldn’t do this. If you lay bare the roots, the tree will wither and die."

"Let it die," said the pig. "Who cares as long as [I have] acorns?"

Bits & Pieces, February, 1990, p. 24.

We can all take a short-sighted view of the blessings of this life as well.

It is interesting that Lazarus is called by name and that God knows him personally - but a certain man neither knows God, nor is known by him, as a loving father knows a child.

We at times can’t see the tree and the blessings of God in the acorns that are given as a gift.

Just as the wealth and riches of this life which are given and received from God, who is the true giver of life. He gives all blessings in Christ, to us and we in service to our neighbor shine the light of Christ!

The call goes forth.

‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

The result of trusting in Christ versus trusting in riches is made clear.

The temporal blessings of this age are for … but a time … but God’s eternal blessings are given as a gift are forever.

The result of falling away for us all into trusting the “idols” which draw us away from Christ can blind us to the eternal consequences.

A few weeks ago Jesus said:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

That even those we love can and do draw us away from the savior.

Two weeks ago it was:

7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Repentant and forgiveness are God’s work through the Holy Spirit working through his word for you and me.

Last week it was Jesus speaking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money, saying:

14 … “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Today, it is the consequence of a life separated from God.

1. Eternal torment as opposed to eternal life: both are real and both are forever.

2. Good and bad: The good can at times draw us away from Christ, trusting in the things of this world where keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus can get us through the trials of this life with the focus of the blessings and riches in heaven.

3. A chasm [gulf] fixed: In some way the torment of hell is the knowledge of a life wasted not in service to God and neighbor but only to self. There is even the knowledge of those by name – Lazarus - who we could have helped but didn’t. Who is the Lazarus in your life or mine?

4. The reality of those left behind: The desire of the rich man here is to awaken his brothers to the reality and importance of repentance and faith in Christ given for the forgiveness of sins and time still for a turning to God.

5. Moses and the Prophets: The means to faith is given and revealed in God’s means of word and sacraments. Moses and the Prophets, Law and Gospel, heard and received by the Holy Spirit or connected to the waters of Holy Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit!

6. Sending Lazarus back from the dead:

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:8-10

The good news is that Christ Jesus died for you!

Moses and the prophets testify to this [the fullness of scripture] so you and I are without excuse.

We heed the working of the Holy Spirit who calls us to repentance or we continue to live as if it doesn’t matter. There will be no excuses or second chances in the life to come - but there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as the reality of a life rejecting faith in Christ, rips the very fabric of those in eternal torment for eternity.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

For you dear friends Christ calls, comforts and brings to faith by his Spirit. Just as in baptism we were made his!

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

Amen







Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Sermon September 17-18, 2022

Title: The riches of faith are given in Christ!
Text: Luke 16:1-15

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13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

In our lesson today, Jesus brings to the ears of the disciples, and all his followers, a parable or story which illustrates serving God and money.

The previous parables, from the weeks leading up to this, had been directed to the Pharisees, the teachers of the law and the scribes, and now the disciples too would benefit from the Lord’s words.

How do you deal with a bad manager? Especially one, who has not been looking out for the owner’s best interest?

2 And [the owner] called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

It is not an uncommon situation for many who serve in positions of responsibility. As Pastor’s we are called stewards of the mysteries of God. We are called to faithfully divide the word of truth, to preach both the Law and the Gospel, and to administer God’s sacraments rightly.

As managers, in companies, you are given the responsibility of managing someone else’s money and possessions and you have to deal in a favorable way with it … or as the parable says … be replaced.

Or, as my brother-n-law Mark once said in speaking of a co-worker:

“He would make a great manager, if under constant supervision.”

So in the Gospel lesson much conniving and cooking of the books ensue.

Managers at time try to figure out a solution.

4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may [still think well of me] receive me into their houses.’

For managers and for us all, self-preservation is a strong motivator. What can we do in this life to better our situation or to preserve ourselves against bad business decisions or circumstances?

5 …, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 … ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ … sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 … ‘And how much do you owe?’ …, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

The object for the manager was to do damage control.

With this scheme the shortage would disappear, or the income would look to be much smaller than the owner thought. And if he is found out, the customers would still think well of him.

It has even been suggested that the manager had falsified the amounts in the original billings and pocketed the surplus.

Certainly this is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Popular Commentary on the Bible P.E. Kretzmann Pg. 354

At a meeting I attended many years ago it was made known that a co-worker had defrauded the company. He had sold instruments for the company but kept the trade-ins for himself and sold them for his own profit. The company was unaware of the trade-ins, as the manager’s paperwork showed only a cash transaction with no trade in information listed.

The manager personally picked the trade-in instruments, the customers thought they got value for their trades, and then he sold them out of his garage – to other customers - so the company lost the profit on the trades and future company business. He made some money being very shrewd.

Faced with a financial crisis many are clever though dishonest in solving problems.

Even the master in our lesson, when he received information concerning this latest trick of the manager, could not withhold a certain amount of praise. He praised him, not on account of his unfaithfulness and his fraud, but on account of the cleverness in handling the situation and getting himself out of a very unpleasant predicament in this life.

Popular Commentary on the Bible P.E. Kretzmann Pg. 354

There was a saying that my boss told me many years ago. It was said about those who had paper wealth by speculating in internet stocks. He would say:

“Money easily gotten is money easily lost.”

10 “One who is faithful in little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in little is also dishonest in much.

Now, the world makes provision for the future, that is, they look to put themselves and their families beyond care, as soon as possible, it is the focus of their life and they make use of every possible advantage through: retirement investments, pensions, savings accounts , homes, and 401K and IRA investments to name a few.

Maybe after hearing them on the radio, we’ve all thought to call on Ric Edelman, R.W. Paul and associates or Fischer Investments to look over our money to make sure we are cared for in retirement and to get the most out of our investments and social security.
God’s children, on the other hand, often are anything but energetic and diligent in the things that pertain to God and His kingdom.

They forget that death is real and the end is coming - Sometimes much sooner than we’ve planned still we’ll all give an account to the Lord in regard to our work with the gospel for Him – in this life.

Jesus here admonishes them that they should so conduct their lives, and the money entrusted to them and as Christians should use their money and time in the interest of the kingdom of God, in establishing and extending the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Kretzmann

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating when God calls us to give of our Time, Talent and Treasure he doesn’t mean to pick one and forget about the others but to use all of our means to his glory and we get to decide how much of each we’ll give.

12 [But] if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

continued …

Interestingly, my boss’ son who mediated the affair of our dishonest manager at a meeting with all the managers of the company had compassion on the worker and showing him mercy allowed him to remain with the company, though under supervision of another manager as he had a wife and two small children.

And the true blessing and gift that God gives you and me is faith in His son.
He has given us life through the death of His son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to live suffer and die and rise again for you and for me.

This bears fruit in service to our neighbor - not by works of righteousness that we do, but by true joy in Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can joy in the faith we are given as a gift as children of God knowing that all mercy falls under His control and that he uses you and me as his hands and feet in the world to reach the lost with the comfort of the Gospel message.

You are rich and truly bless because God has given you riches in Him and they will surpass and far exceed those promised by the world.

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

Amen

Monday, September 12, 2022

Sermon September 10-11, 2022

Title: Rejoice! God has found you!
Text: Luke 15:1-10

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6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Jesus came for sinners.

That is good news, because He has found you!

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The charge against Jesus has always been harsh. “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” How might that reflect on you and me and those with whom we associate? Are you accused of being like those with whom you associate?

Interesting, is it not? Jesus came for sinners and that very fact has the Pharisees and scribes grumbling.

Father Mike Verschaeve retired as a Catholic Priest after 43 years of service the end of June 2020.

"I thank God for all of you, and you will ever be in my heart," he wrote in the bulletin.

Father Verschaeve was ordained in 1977 and I came to know him when he

came to a club I was playing at. He was a new Priest at St. Francis Cabrini Catholic church and came with my friend Jeff to hear my band. As we talked during a break he remarked, “I wonder what my church would think of me hanging out in a bar and listening to a rock band?”

And then he added: “It is probably the place I should be and the place that I could do the most good.”

When you think about it … where did Jesus spend most of his time? And who did he spend that time with?

For sure He was among the people, but here and in many other places in scripture He was with the Pharisees, rulers, scribes and the Jewish leaders teaching … calling … and at times … rebuking.

Being among the people is a good thing, both in the church and in the world but what does that say about sinners? They’re everywhere; in the church and out of the church. Those who are piously leading religious lives … or so the impression seems and those who are far away from God … at a bar … hanging out … or so the impression seems.

For Jesus and in His day the perceptions were the same. Some who seemed religious were not, and those who were seen as sinners, as in the stories of tax collectors and adulterers, were those God called to faith and used as witnesses to the working of God, through the word, in their lives by His Spirit.

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

Father Mike followed sheep. Those sheep who wondered he looked for and called back to the father’s loving arms for 43 years.

Pastor Merrell served as Pastor for 42 years and then as Pastor Emeritus for another 8. They both served to seek and save the lost with the saving gospel and to call those in rebellion back to the safety of the sheepfold.

You were lost and have been found. Jesus came for you, the one lost sheep, just as each one of us are lost at birth, born dead in trespass and sin until God claims us as his own.

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save those that were lost.” (Luke 19:10)

What sinners need is Jesus Christ and His Word and Spirit in their lives; all else is hopeless.

In Acts we read:

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Acts 15:36-39

Here Martin Luther writes:

"Here it appears either Paul or Barnabas went too far. It must have been a violent disagreement to separate two associates who were so closely united. Indeed, the text indicates as much.

"Such examples are written for our consolation: for it is a great comfort to us to hear that the great saints, who have the Spirit of God, also struggle. Those who say that saints do not sin would deprive us of this comfort.

"Samson, David, and many other celebrated men full of the Holy Spirit fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth; Elijah and Jonah were weary of life and desired death.

"No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again.

Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall.

If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too may fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again."

Martin Luther

5 And when [the shepherd finds the lost sheep], he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

The place of strength … the high Priest’s shoulders, is where the sheep is carried. In the Old Testament there is example of the making of the Ephod, which was an article of clothing worn by the High Priest of Israel:

6 “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. 7 It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together …

9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth …

12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance. (Ex. 28:6-7, 9-10,12)

Jesus carries the lost sheep that have been found upon his shoulders we find as the parable continues.

6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The joy of the Good Shepherd is … you!

The joy for sinners is that you are not so lost that Jesus can’t find you.

As He says in the parable of the lost coin:

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, Greek - ten drachmas; a drachma was a Greek coin approximately equal in value to a Roman denarius, worth about a day's wage for a laborer if she loses one coin, the lost sheep or you, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?

Jesus Christ by the working of His Holt Spirit will continue to seek you.

9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

It is a joy to find what was important that was lost because as has been said:

Objects are lost because people look where they are not instead of where they are.

Or … as might be said:
People are lost because we preach the gospel where they are not instead of where they are.

10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Rejoice dear friends! God has found you!

So just as our lesson began today:

5 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Joy in the good news that Jesus is willing and able to meet sinners – you and me - where we are.

He comes to you through the word preached and through the sacraments rightly administered and that is exceedingly good and blessed news.

He also is with you when the gospel of promise is used by you to reach those friends or strangers as a comforting balm for the hurting and sinfulness of this life … that breaks us and others … saying that the only way out is death and despair.

The comfort of the gospel is there too because Jesus is the Gospel. He is the Good News. He is the comfort, and He is the Peace.

He will find the lost because He will never stop seeking you and those who need to hear this blessed joy that:

Christ came for sinners, and you dear friends … are found!

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

Amen

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

September 3-4, 2022 Setting, I with Holy Communion – Elizabeth
Title: The work of discipleship!
Text: Luke 14:25-35

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25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

To live for Jesus is to deny life itself. Boy, discipleship is hard!

But we all know life can be hard. Harder for some more than others. You might feel the difficulty of life now or in years past. Success or failure, pressure is exerted.

How’s your health, job, family?
Do you have friends or lack thereof?
How about growing pains or just aches and pains?
And now Jesus tells these followers in the crowd:

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Sounds like a good way to help those who were following Jesus to fall away, or run away doesn’t it?

In our Old Testament lesson today we hear the very familiar call.

... choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

The idea of choosing sounds good to we who, living in a democratic society, get to choose quite a lot of things.

We can choose where we live in the country,
We choose what career we might wish to go into,
We choose whom we marry.

The call of … choose life … is often confused in the life of a Christian and applied to the work of evangelism - as though we can choose to believe just as we can choose to be born.

The gift of life is both given in our natural birth as well as the gift of faith is given in our spiritual birth from a God who came to redeem those who were unable to redeem themselves and that is why the text here today is a good one for us to understand and rejoice in.

The call of God in this text is not to the world but to God’s people Israel.

Those chosen children of Abraham whom Moses had given God’s Law written on the tablets of stone by the finger of God, were called by Him to choose to stay in the relationship with Him apart from falling away into sin, false gods and idol worship.

This keeping of God’s commandments, his statutes and rules would bring God’s blessing to them as they entered into the land that He was giving them to possess.

So too our own lives, as we cannot be Christ’s disciple without bearing our own cross.

The reality of Jesus’ call … to hate father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters … figuratively as opposed to literally, yes and even his own life, shows the difficulty of being a disciple.

This, none the less, is a serious matter meaning that we cannot let anything draw us away from the gift of following Christ and being his disciple, the gift of being his child. The gift of being marked as redeemed by him!

Some years ago, when witnessing to a friend, he joyfully came to me to proclaim that the night before he had prayed to Jesus - receiving him as his savior. What wonderful news! He, was quite happy because this had been a long and tedious process with many and various talks about Jew and Gentile, Old and New Testament, and Sabbath (Saturday)verses Sunday worship. I so wanted to help him transition into being a disciple or follower of Jesus.

To be a follower – a disciple – requires an active walk. Jesus called, “Follow me” to those fishermen. He didn’t say, “Stay where you are, I got this!”

When I first thought of going into ministry I wanted to learn, to go to seminary and to sit at the feet of the professors and to learn. I didn’t want so much the work of the pastor. I didn’t want to visit the sick, or hold the hand of a grieving family member who has just lost a dear loved one. I certainly didn’t want to do a funeral. But that is what being a pastor requires and I’ve done my share of funerals as you know.

I preach to those at funerals hoping that by God’s word and the working of the Holy Spirit some may believe. I preach here so that the Lord of life by that same Spirit would strengthen our faith and walk as disciples to one end.

St. Augustine writes:

“Why do I preach? Why do I sit up here? What do I live for? For this one thing alone: that together we may live with Christ! This is my passion, this is my honor, this is my fame, this is my joy, this is my one possession! … But I do not want to be saved without you!

Augustine’s focus was on making disciples. Changing lives with the Gospel and the gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Saying:

“When I exhort you, I [first] peer into myself. For one is a hollow preacher of God’s word on the outside if one is not [first] a hearer on the inside”

Augustine and the Catechumenate Pg 188

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

There is a cost to becoming a Christian and with that we must place Christ first.

Many put family first and it certainly is a great blessing to have a loving family but the devil uses all things to divide and pull us away from Jesus and the family can be used for that as well.

I did a baptism a few years ago for a little boy. The family doesn’t attend church here anymore though they desired baptism for their child. They had been a member once but moved … to Clarkston.

As I spoke with them about the importance of regular worship and being fed God’s word the mom said, “Well we’re a sports family and the weekends are tied up with the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings!”

It’s funny how from Clarkston to Peace is too far that being in worship even occasionally is impossible, but driving to Downtown Detroit for a sporting event is no big deal and becomes a family tradition.

It puts a bit of perspective as to what Jesus is talking about. What is it that draws you away? Give it some thought.

What is it that draws loved ones away or our kids?
The devil divides and he delight in division.

33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The great work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Cost of Discipleship comes to mind.

He writes:

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4 1937

This is the message of Jesus. Let nothing come between you and him and his saving Gospel. Some years ago, I officiated at the funeral of Betty Buchanan. Betty had the ups and downs of life that we all know. She had problems, she lost her husband in 1971; she lost her oldest son and then her youngest son as well, she lost her eyesight and largely the ability to care for herself, dementia stole her memory at times and brought the sad times of her life into view as if it was happening all over again.

On some visits she talked about her sons coming to visit her but they had been gone for 25 years or more.

But sill, the Holy Spirit was always with her pointing out that:

Jesus died for her, that Jesus carried her cares and burdens and that Jesus was always with her and would never leave her nor forsake her.

To be Christ’s is to give away all that you are (sinful and unclean) so that you receive from him all that he is. (Righteous and just)

God does the work of discipleship in you!

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

Amen













Monday, August 29, 2022

Sermon August 27-28, 2022

Title: We will be exalted in Christ!
Text: Luke 14:1-14

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10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

An Admirer once asked Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, what was the hardest instrument to play. He replied without hesitation:

“Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.” - Andy Cook

(Source: James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1988, p. 450, Brett Blair, Sermon Illustrations, 1999.) 

Humility, or pride and arrogance can drive who we are and the decisions that we make and though sin can cause you to try at times to reach places of honor for yourselves in this life. You can be comforted that:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,

In our lesson today, Jesus was in the house of a Pharisee.

And as a guest Jesus had noticed just how those who had been invited, Pharisees and lawyers, were looking to have the seats of honor at this dinner. Ordinary, feasts of the Jews were usually attended to in a more casual and informal manner, but with this diner and in the wedding feast of Christ’s illustration, rank and status among the guests was important.

… do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, Jesus says.

I always found the irony in Jesus statement here, as an invited guest to this diner, as the only begotten Son the God … who could be more distinguished? Here, God in the flesh is among them, but as was read earlier in the Gospel, the ruler of the Pharisees and the lawyers who were in attendance had another agenda.

There just so happened to be a man with dropsy in attendance at this diner.

Now, I looked up this medical condition reference and dropsy could be understood as the equivalent of congestive heart failure today.

We've all seen this condition in many of our friends, neighbors and relatives and Jesus, knowing the Law better than the Pharisees and lawyers, knows that it is quite alright to show acts of mercy on the Sabbath, so He heals the man, saying to those whose intent was to trap Him as a violator of the Law:

“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”

6 And to this question, they could not reply to these things.

So the intent of their false feast is crushed by Christ’s healing of the man with dropsy, but He doesn't stop there. He now points out the true arrogant nature of their sitting in the place of honor when one truly more distinguished than they … has been invited … and is now sitting among them.

The arrogant sinner will stand before the throne of grace covered in their own righteousness but:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

You and I also exalt ourselves at times; taking too much credit for things we’ve done in the world or in the church. You do … and I do. The sinner always minimizes sin and exaggerates virtue. It’s what sinners do. The sinner sees the sin of others clearly … in view … with no distractions. But their own sin remains masked in a veil of acceptance, false piety - which is nothing more than the quality of being religious or reverent - or indifferent.

Last weekend in the epistle we read of God’s chastening and discipline.

The Lord disciplines those he loves.

I don’t know about the Lord who is slow to anger, but I do know I have wearied people in my life. My boss of many years had a hard job.

When I began working with him, he was 23 and I was 25. We worked side by side for his dad. We were coworkers, piers and friends. This relationship lasted for over 20 years. Eventually he bought the company from his dad and became the boss. At one point he even asked me to be a signer on the company checking account placing his trust in me. But he was the boss and I the worker. We still had a great relationship and respect for each other.

But … he was the boss.

Each year we had job performance reviews and at one review, my boss was pointing out something I said or did that offended the customer. My perspective and memory of the incident was different than his because it was some time ago and he only had heard the customer’s side of the story.

It was minor and a misunderstanding and wanting to defend myself, I brought up a similar incident that had occurred where he was the offending party and the customer had come to me as the manager of the store to complain.

Here’s the point.

My boss said, “Russ, this is hard enough for me and you need to let me just be the boss and listen.” I did, and I apologized. The Lord humbled me to be mindful of his position as owner of the store and how he needed to run his business.

11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

The truth of sin taking a place of honor in your life is nothing new. Luther called it the Bondage of the Will. That our will is bound to sin and that is all it can do, but thanks be to God that because you have been raised to newness of life by God’s Holy Spirit, there is truly Good News that:

We will be exalted in Christ!

So, Jesus goes up to the host, the ruler of the Pharisees, who had invited him and He says:

12 “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Those who Christ came to redeem are the poor sinners, crippled from birth and lame, blind to God’s saving work in Christ if not drawn to believe through the invitation and working of God the Holy Spirit in them by faith.

You too, dear friends, have received this blessed invitation to His banquet feast and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb by faith. And you receive a foretaste of this feast when you receive Christ’s true body and blood in the blessed table of the Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar – given and shed for you!
It matters not which seat at the table you occupy because the host of this feast comes to where you are – bodily – in, with and under the bread and wine so that you truly receive Him, who is and was and is to come, in a real and tangible way – for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Even though these sins, sill at times work havoc in our lives, they are forgiven as far as east is from the west … not to be remembered by the Father ever again.

We will be exalted in Christ!

Christ humiliated himself so that you might be redeemed. At times we too are humbled so that another can be served, just as Booker T. Washington did in service to his neighbor.

You have a defense and a protection that will never fail because it is God Himself, not you, who will protect you because He came to live, suffer and die for each one of you and as a result you are his, the table is set, and you are invited, in fact you have already received all that is promised … rejoice!

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

Amen






Monday, August 22, 2022

Sermon August 20-21, 2022

Title: The table of the Lord is yours!
Text: Luke 13:22-30

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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:
The table of the Lord 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 the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success 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.

Some years ago while 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 days 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 and they have a seat at the table.

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 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 cannot 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!

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.

The table of the Lord is yours!

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

Amen

Sermon August 14, 2022 - Pastor Terry Nelson

Title: Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Our Faith!
Text: Heb. 11: 17-31; 12: 1-3

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17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.