Category Archives: semons

Faith in Action is Blessed: Matthew 5. Sermon manuscript and video of service link 11/4/18

Annual All Saints Service – Matt 5:1-12 

Faith in Action….is Blessed!
Matt 5:1-12

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ open your mind to see how God has, and is, and will bless you!  AMEN!

 

The Shopping List

If you were going to start a new project, part of the process is making sure you have the material you need to complete the project.

Whether it is making a fancy dinner, or building a shed, or, in our case, building the church.

You need to make sure you have everything you need because once you are started, stopping to go get a missing peace slows down the process, and could even require you to start all over.

The reading from the gospel of Matthew this morning provides such a shopping list.

Matthew lays out the kind of people we need to build the Church.

Not just the service in Mandarin, or the service in English, and not even Concordia.

But the Church throughout the world.

These blessed people are the components to the Church, and a church that contains such people very simply grows.

Are we so described?  

So if we are going to look at Concordia, as a part of the church, let’s see how we do.

In the English translation we use, the first item is, “those who are poor and realize their need for God.”  Do we have such people?

Do we have people that continually see their need for God, and desire to dwell in His presence?

What about people who mourn and grieve.

Not just because we have lost someone, but also because of the brokenness in the world, and in our lives?

Are we all humble?  Are we all meek and willing to deal with people in a caring manner, not being competitive or angry?

Do we all hunger and thirst for justice? Real justice, not just justice that favors us?

Do we all show mercy?

And how many of us can say our hearts are pure, that we never ever sin, or even think sinful thoughts? Or who work for peace in every situation?

We could go on and talked about the rest of the checklist, but it looks like we are already falling short of who we need to see the God designed built.

There might be a few people here who meet one of the checkboxes, but none of us meet all of them.

I also am pretty sure that there are some boxes, especially the mercy and pure in heart that has no boxes checked,

Not one.

We are blessed!

But what if we are looking at the wrong thing to check off?  What if, instead of what we are described as, we find the box to check off is the “being blessed”?

As an example, we can find people who are blessed because God has shown them comfort.

We can find people who are blessed because they have been shown mercy,

We can find people who have become pure, because their blessing is having seen, having encountered God.

Now the passage takes on a whole different perspective.

It focuses on the work of God.

It focuses on the blessing.

As we and every person in the church should focus upon.

God’s work, God’s blessing, poured out on us!

Those who are poor and need His presence (all of us!)  are blessed

Those who grieve and mourn…  are blessed

Those who have nothing, but will inherit everything… are blessed

Those who need and desire justice… are blessed

Those who need mercy… are blessed

We are blessed by God, we know His presence, His comfort, his justice.

The Greatest blessing

You see, that is what makes the Church grow,

It is what will make Concordia, both the multi-cultural ministry in English, the ministry in Mandarin thrive and the Tagalog ministry grow.

It isn’t because of how intelligent, charismatic and good-looking your ministers are.

(And that’s probably a good thing! )

The reason a church grows, or the Church grows, is when it realizes how God has blessed every single one of us.

When we realize we have received mercy, and we are satisfied by God’s justice.

When we realize we will inherit the whole earth, and the Kingdom of God.  When we realize we have been comforted, when we realize we shall see God,

These are the blessings poured out on us, even as Jesus was loving us and dying for us on the cross.

Even as our sins were paid for, and cleansed from our souls.

Even as we are given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the glory of God.

this is who we are, those who depend on God, and trust in Him, for we know..

We are blessed!

AMEN?

AMEN!

Faith in Action: Makes Sure! A Sermon on Hebrews 3 (with video of the service!)

Faith in Action…
Makes Sure

Hebrews 3:12-29

I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin.  And when they come to support you, that you will let them.

Be Careful

I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death.  They avoid death,  if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely.  (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)

The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.

In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include  a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.

Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….

For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.

Who Was it?

We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.

The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled.  Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.

And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.

They didn’t believe.

For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.

They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled.  They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts

And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.

Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.

We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him.  Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.

For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time.  We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.

We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses.  We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.

And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!

Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)

It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.

It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.

I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.

You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body.  And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.

We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.

So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.

You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall.  It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…

Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments

We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.

As James wrote in His epistle,

19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)

So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God.  Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

Faith in Action: It Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality

Worship Service 10/7 Faith in Action

(above link takes you to the link for the entire service!

Faith In Action V
Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality
Hebrews 2:1-13

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God, the love, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you that you can never ignore it.  AMEN!

 Overlooking the Treasure given

It was sitting in a garage, next to an old doublewide trailer in a small high desert town.  Covered with some canvas tarps, realtor after realtor overlooked it.  After all, the doublewide trailer was old, and while kept nicely, needed a lot of restoration.

In fact, our agent suggested removing it and just putting a brand new on in its place.  The value was the property, with its beautiful trees, and the redwood decking, and the 3 car garage with a playroom

So, curious what was next to the 1940’s pickup, under all the tarps, I lifted the tarp.  And there, underneath was a car. And oh… what a car.

A 1965 Shelby Cobra, a car worth more than the double-wide, the garage, the acre of land.  It looked like it was in mint shape, just simply forgotten about.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come with the house.  Yeah – I asked if the old vehicles on the property came with the property.

The son who inherited the house, and was trying to sell the property, had not forgotten what his dad had treasured.  But he had neglected it over the years, and so instead of being driven, it had sat, with tarps piled upon it.

What a waste!

Even more of a waste is those who live as if they didn’t know Jesus, as if they didn’t know He loved us, as if they didn’t realize the mercy and forgiveness that would bring healing to our souls, the souls so shattered by sin and its companions, the pain-filled and shame, and grieving over our brokenness.

This is the strongest challenge to the idea of faith in Action, for we need to hear about God’s reality, and really let it soak in and heal our souls, even as we help others heal.

We need to hear, and soak in God’s reality, for that is what faith in Actions does.

Every Violation, Every Act of Disobedience

I want to read the first two verses of our reading again,

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

If we don’t remember God’s truth, it is too easy to drift away, to be swept away in the rapids of life.  For that is what sin does, it picks us up, and takes us for a ride, until we are so far from where we should be.

God is serious about this, every violation of the law, every one of them is punished.  As is every act of disobedience.

No excuses, no negotiations, every violation, every act of disobedience. No exceptions, no mulligans.

Every time we have been jealous or envious,

Every time we’ve gossiped, sharing rumors or even the truth with the intent of hurting someone’s reputation.

Every time we steal, or take advantage of someone, not giving them what the items is worth.

Shall I go on, and expand on adultery or murder in thought word and deed, or how we disrespect our parents or those in authority?  How we don’t treasure the time God would have us rest and relax and heal in His peace or do I need to mention our disobedience as we fail to pray, calling on His name as He urges us to do?

Every sin, every violation of the law committed or by failing to act in love, every moment lived in disobedience, punished.

Do we hear that?

I am not sure we do.

Jesus tasted death for everyone

What I think we hear is,

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience will be punished.

and what is actually written is

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

 there is a big difference between will be and was.

And that is the truth, the gospel that we can’t neglect.

It is said in a different way toward the end of the passage,

and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.

Past tense, suffered, past tense, tasted, past tense, was punished.

We need to hear this, we need to celebrate it, we need to understand and cling to the hope tightly that Jesus paid for every violation of the law, every act of disobedience, and therefore we are free from the guilt, the shame, the eternal consequences of our sin.  Because Jesus suffered death for us, because he tasted death, fully embraced it for everyone.

That changes everything.

We realize it, our lives should resound with praise, with gratitude, with living life in an incredible way…

Not ashamed is He!

And then this of this…

11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

You and I, all those who trust in Him, or will come to trust in Him.  Who live life, trusting in Him, depending on Him for this work He does, making us Holy.  He sets us apart for a life with God, a life where we relate to Him as His children, where we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

This changes everything, far more than finding a quarter of a million-dollar sports car under some tarps.

This is life. so don’t neglect, it, rather explore the love of God who does this for us, bringing us into our salvation, this amazing wonderful life, free from guilt a shame, a life that will last enterally, with our incredible Father.

AMEN!

Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Is in Dialogue
James 5:13-20

† I.H.S. 

May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them

People in trauma

The people that James was writing too sound like us.  Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia!  Hear how James describes them

verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14  ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.

Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.

As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?

This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches.  But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.

Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way.  And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.

Pray.

There is an answer

Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other

Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick  call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins?  Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.

Pray… Pray… Pray…

Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for  reason.

We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.

It is what you do first, and always.

Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.

That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray.  It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.

But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.

James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather.  That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)

You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.

In other words, he is a man like us!  And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,

24  “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)

God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.

And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.

To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.

We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.

Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.

This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life.  That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,

Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
[1]

So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  AMEN!

[1] Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Faith in Action IV – Come Close

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Comes Close
James 3:13-4:10

IHS

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer to them, and overwhelm you with love and peace, as you help draws others in!

Divided Loyalties

Have you ever been caught between two friends who are fighting?  Both whom want you attention, who want you to be on their side?

What if one has been a longer friend, who you have had a lot of fun with over decades, and the other, while a close friend, is somewhat newer?

But what if this newer friend is the one who is right?

That is the picture we see in the apostle James’s letter this morning.  Even as he urges us to draw close to God, he recognizes the draw of the world on us,

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world

This divided loyalty is something that creates trauma, that causes us more problems, yet the hold of the world on us is so strong, even though we know how broken it is.

It so challenges the relationship we have with God, it so prevents our drawing close to God!

The Struggle with Zeal….

James talks about the world’s ways using primarily two thoughts in this passage.  Bitter Jealousy and ambition.

Bitter Jealousy is described as sour, or poisoned zeal, a desire to chase after something for the pleasure it brings. The second problem is related to it, the ambition that drives us to get what we want because we want it.  It is a word that is used to describe mercenaries, those who do what they do only for the rewards that they will receive.

Not for love, not out of honor.  Just for what they get out of it.

No wonder James calls such things worldly, unspiritual and even demonic.

He even notes this self-centeredness can influence our prayers when we pray for what will give us pleasure, what we want and desire.  As our desire grows, we find ourselves justifying what we do to get what we desire, eventually we don’t even consider the cost.

For what we desire demands our loyalty, and we find ourselves involved in a war….

And remember, James isn’t writing this to heathen unbelievers, he is writing it to believers, those struggling to live life in a broken world, torn between God and that world.

He is talking to us.

And we struggle with being caught between the world and God all the time if we admit it.  It isn’t just about pleasure, it can be about seeking comfort, or security, or happiness, when those things are more important to us that God, or other humans.

We see this all the time in the lives of others, especially those who think different than us, as we oppose them, not interested in justice as much as being right.

So how do we break free of the grasp the world has on us?  How do we break free of the sin that so easily ensnares us?

The Healing Humility found before God

I think most would suggest that James is teaching that the hope is found in the humility that he mentions a few times in this passage. Particularly these two places
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom

And

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

Yet in both these statements, humility comes not from our work outside of God’s presence, in the first it comes from understanding God’s ways, and in the second place, it comes as you are before God, as you are drawn close to Him.

This is where our hope is found, this is where the power of sin, driven by our desire for what we want is broken.

For it is when we experience the love of God, that real humility comes into play, as we stand in His glorious, wonderful presence. When we realize He loves us, that is when all else falls away, and we simply and humbly find that with Him, we can dwell in His merciful, loving peace.

For what else is there, standing in front of God, but realizing His love and peace?

Prodigals Lifted up!

It is from there, simply in awe of His love, that God’s will makes sense.  His desire that we would love each other, and even those who drive us crazy.  It is there we can see the needs of those around us and find ourselves responding to them way before we respond to our own wants and desires.

It’s that kind of thing I saw in the eyes of one man this week, whom the church provided a stack of gift cards for, who was amazed that we would care for him, and his family.

That is what happens when our loyalties are less divided when we give up being prodigals and come to the altar, when we come home. As God sees us before Him, in awe of His love, humbled to be in His glory… and He lifts us up as He gathers His children to His side.

As we wait for that day, I pray you come closer and closer to God, as you realize that you dwell in His peace, the peace that is beyond explanation, as He guards our hearts and minds!  AMEN!

Faith in Action: A sermon on James 2

church at communion 2Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18


In Jesus Name

May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!

Faith isn’t invisible

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,

1  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.

We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.

That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.

And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live.  It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,

it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,

Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.

So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.

so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.

Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike started an ad campaign this week.  Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator.  Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,

This is their new slogan,

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,

I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.

Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it.  And act on that faith.

The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help

In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.

I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:

How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.

How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.

How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?

How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?

How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them?  A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there

How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.

O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy?  Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.

But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.

Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord

When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.

These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.

For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,

Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father.  That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.

It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!

A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.

For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!

Chew on This! A sermon on John 6:51-59

church at communion 2Chew on This

John 6:51-59

†  IHS  †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to contemplate the love you experience, as you eat Christ’s body and drink His blood, and remain in Him!

Bothered by an Attitude

The disciples of Jesus today had an attitude and said something I just can’t believe.  It bothers me a ton, as a pastor and as a fellow disciple.

This is what they said, This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”

And a moment later, they did something that shouldn’t just bother us, it should bring us to tears.

But there is Jesus, who has fed them, healed them, taught them in such a manner that they are in awe, and they don’t want to listen to Him.  It is too hard to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them.

Even though it promises life, and life eternal.  The life lived in joy in the promise of God. Rather than simply giving up trying to understand, rather than refusing to accept Jesus teaching that He was the Bread of Life, they needed to do something…

They needed to chew on what He told them about Himself.

just like we do.

They left the Building… would we?

They didn’t. And not only did they not accept it, in verse 66 they did something even worse.

They walked away.

They abandoned the man they thought was at least a prophet, and very probably, the long-awaited Messiah, the hope, and savior of God’s people.

They couldn’t accept what He said, so they gave up.

They walked away from the free food, from the healings, from seeing miracles happen.

They walked away because they didn’t understand, they couldn’t accept it.  Despite the evidence, despite the miracles, the teaching, the food

They walked away.

But many of us do as well.

We don’t like what God reveals to us in scripture.

The simple lessons about what is right and wrong, the lessons about loving your neighbors, and your enemies, the lessons about the fact that we all have sinned, or how the church and the family should be arranged around mutual submission as we will hear in next week’s lessons.

We don’t understand, we think we can never accept it.  Some leave. Others just ignore the parts that make them uncomfortable or say that it may have been that way in Jesus’ day, but its changed now….

And we walk away, ignoring the blessing.

In the case of Jesus talking about eating His body and drinking His blood, we walk away from the promise of eternal life.

We need to stop ignoring what we don’t understand, we need to stop giving up on what is hard to accept and just chew on what God gives us, what He reveals to us for a while.

Chewing on the Words that give life…eternal life.

I’ve used the word “chew” intentionally during this sermon, even as I titled the sermon “chew on this for a reason.

I am not talking just about thinking about and deeply meditating on the Lord’s Supper and what it means.  Though doing that is a very healthy exercise, especially when you are struggling life.  For the Lord’s Body and Blood, what he calls true food and true drink, reveal a lot about His love for you.  But that is not what is talked about here.

Where I got the word “chew” is from the Greek.  Up until verse 53, when Jesus talked about eating the Bread of life, eating His Body, he used a generic term for eat.  (Phage) But in verse 53, he changes the word to another Greek word, the to chew or chomp down on what is in your mouth.  (trogon)

Jesus isn’t just talking about understanding the imagery of the Lord’s supper, he is talking about participating in the act of remembering Him, eating His body and drinking His blood, in and under the bread and wine.  Communion is not just an intellectual or heartfelt thought, it is receiving these gifts, and trusting what Jesus says they are.

His body, His blood, given and shed for you, given to help you know your sins are forgiven. Given to help you know you are in a relationship, a relationship defined by the covenant.

it is like our benediction for the service, turn a couple of pages over to it. These last words of the service,

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is for you! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Here, as we receive the bread, as we drink the wine, we experience the love of God, the love of God that is far beyond anything we can understand.  Chewing on this is not about in-depth thought, it is about the awe of communing with God, experiencing His love. You can’t comprehend it all.

And that’s okay… for knowing you are loved, knowing the width and length, the height and depth of His love for you are more than our brains can process.  This time at the altar, this time of communion with God is beyond words, for we know His love, and accept it.

We know it in our heart and in our soul, as Christ makes us one with Him.  Not in a magical way, but in a holy sacramental way. In a way, we experience that unity, as we trust Him at His word, and come and share in His feast.  As we eat His body, as we drink His blood, and find that we remain in Him, that we have a place with God. A place made secure for our heart and mind, by Jesus himself.  AMEN!

 

 

 

What Brings the Greatest Pleasure? A Concordia sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14

church at communion 2

What Brings the Greatest Pleasure?
Ephesians 1:3-14


† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you as much pleasure as you receive it and share it with others as it brings God!

 The Pleasure of a Job Well Done

This week I had to drop off nine cases of books at Concordia University. Mark Siegert, one of the professors in the Cross-cultural Ministry Center and I used dollies to bring them from the car to the building, a distance of about 100 feet up a gradual hill.

As we finished, we both laughed.  For we both managed bookstores before we got into ministry, he ran Concordia’s and I ran Pepperdine’s.  Back in the day, we would unload with our crew, shipments of 200 plus cases. And barely be tired.  That day, we were both exhausted after three simple trips! On the way back, I thought of those days, I remember the feeling after a long day shuttling cases of books, and watching the sun go down over the ocean, drinking a coke with my employees.

There is something special about doing a good job, and the sense of pleasure from accomplishing it with people you call your friends.

If that is so, how much more pleasure would God have, from accomplishing His greatest work, and celebrating it with those he loves?

The Job He Has Done

In Paul’s epistle to the church in Ephesus, we heard this morning about the work of God and the pleasure it gives Him.   In fact, Paul was so impressed, he told us about this work of God in 12 ways, which I want to go over again.

1.  He blessed us with every spiritual blessing as we are united to Jesus

2. He chose us to be in Christ to be holy and without fault, any fault, as He looks at us!

That I think is a bit of work!  At least in my case!

3.  He adopted us into His own family! He did this, again, by uniting us to Jesus, to His death and resurrection!  This wasn’t just down to make us happy, to give us joy, but this is what said gave God the greatest pleasure!  Making us His kids in every sense of the Word.

4.  He poured out His glorious grace on us, for we belong to Jesus

5. He is so rich in Kindness He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son

We need to pause here, and stop and think that Jesus’s blood paid for that sin you committed on Wednesday, yes, that one sin you thought you could hide, that no one would know about.  He paid for that sin, with the blood poured out, there on the cross.

We need to understand this, not just the thousands of sins that we commit over a lifetime, but that sin that haunts us, that we fear if it became known, it would ruin us. That sin, as well as all the others, paid for so that we could be adopted.

6.  He will bring everything together as one, at the right time!

What a day that will be, no more division, nor more struggle!

7.  Because we are united to Jesus, we have an inheritance waiting for us, we have a place!

8. Because He chose us, everything in life will work out according to His plan!

now there are days I don’t understand how everything works out into His plan, and I have to be honest with that.  There are those times I don’t see it, yet, what gets me through those times is refocusing on His plan, on His desire that all would be with Him!  When I refocus on that, the suffering is still there, but somehow its grip on me diminishes in strength. For the more we look to Him, the surer we are of His love, and therefore His promises

9.  Even though others were saved first, God made sure that because we have heard His word, He has saved us as well!

Number 10 in this recounting of God’s work is amazing, and I wish we had hours to go into it.

10.  He identified us as HIS! He picked us out of the lineup and said, you are mine, and He did this by giving us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, just as He promised long ago!

11. The Holy Spirit, given to us in baptism is the guarantee of the promises He gave us.

This wonderful comforter counted here as the guarantee of our salvation is just eh beginning of it.  Again, another sermon series could be on each of these points that Paul is sharing with the church in Ephesus!

and the final one, something that expands on an earlier point.

12.  He purchased us to be His people.

We are His people, and this is the work, the thing God has labored at, and suffered to see happen.

We are His, identified as His, adopted as His, united in Christ’s death where He paid for all our sins and freed us from them so we could have this wondrous relationship with Him!.

And someday, the sun will set for a final time, and all of us will arrive home.

This is what brings Him pleasure, not the

And find God rejoicing, with the largest of smiles, pleased at the work He has done, making us all His own.

Christianity is not just about getting us to heaven or avoiding hell, it isn’t just about doing good and not doing evil.  It is about being in a relationship with God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ whose blood was shed so that relationship would become possible.

Not just for you and me, but for every broken person that Christ died for, for every person He would save, for every person that God would adopt, for we know the pleasure it brings Him.

May he work through each one of us, helping us to see many more come to hear His of His work in their life!  AMEN!

 

How Ministry Works – A Concordia Sermon based on Mark 4

church at communion 2How Ministry Works
Mark 4:26-34

I.H.S.

 May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you mature in trusting God and serve those around you!

 Cornfields of Dandelions?

As we look at the kingdom parables in our gospel reading this morning, I imagine you think the Farmer creates a farm like the ones we may be had driven by, where the seeds are planted in nice neat rows.

But the scripture says he throws the seeds, just slings them across the field, so a better illustration would be those beautiful flowers that spread their spores across the fields of my youth.

You know, those lovely things we call dandelions!

The spores fly where ever there wind blows, and overnight your beautiful yard is covered In bright yellow flowers, though some might call them weeds.

That is how the Kingdom of God is, as the seed of the gospel is blown about, and creates life from seemed barren, lifeless, and even dead.  Yet that seemingly dead and lifeless seed, like the spores on a dandelion, produces incredible abundant life.

Without any manipulation of the farmer.

Which is why Jesus shared this parable with the disciples, and with us.

We’ve lost control!!!!

The first commandment is, I believe the simplest, and yet the hardest to put into play.

“You shall have no other gods to rival me. 4  ‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. 5  ‘You shall not bow down to them or serve them.; Exodus 20:3-5a (NJB)

That bow down part needs to be explained a little.  In the culture of the time, it was more than a mark of respect, it was a mark of submission, of recognizing that the other person was responsible for you and had the right to direct your life any way they wished, including ending it.  It was the kind of complete submission that occurs to one who has lost a war, or who really trusts the person they bow to, knowing the character of the person that they entrusted themselves to, as they bowed.

TO have a God means to trust them with your life, to run to them in times of trouble and need, and to trust their compassion, to trust them to make things right.

There is a problem with that, and it is not a new one.  It is the reason Jesus told this parable.

We like to be in control, we like to know the outcome of our days, and whether the times we endured are worth it.  We want to be able to have the right to question God and tell Him how we want the universe ran, or at least our tiny corner of it.

So too in the church, the challenge is to be focused on the gospel, on sharing God’s love as far as we can fling it and trusting the Holy Spirit to provide the result that our Triune God desires.

Except it always doesn’t work quite the way we like, and the Kingdom of God, which we would like to see nicely organized and ordered, in our opinion, seems messy and slow in its growth, and we can’t stand not seeing what is happening.  We can’t wait for the blade to explode out of the seed, and the heads of wheat to form, and the plant to mature.

So we might get impatient, and rather than trust God, we trust ourselves.  We strive to control and determine how and when growth happens. And in making ourselves God, we fall deep into sin.  Believe me, it is easy to do, to become distracted from sharing the reason we have hope in what seems to be a dark and trying life.

It is pretty easy to move from frustration to sin, from impatience with God’s process to trying to take over and play God ourselves.

And yet the seed lies there, about to burst into life, all under the control of God, and not ours.

So how do we learn to trust Him, to look to Him to provide the growth, while still planting the seeds?

Time to find rest in the trees!

The other parable gives us the idea of how to do so, as we realize the seed of the gospel is simply Christ, who was planted in the ground.

This seemingly simple man, in the most remote part of the Roman Empire, dies, killed by his “own” people, those that claimed to follow God. And even as He is planted in the ground, the apostles had no idea of what we think of as Christianity today.  They could see nothing but pain.  Yet in His being planted, life is formed and created in us.  A Billion people have found life in Christ, and in the second service, as a lady is baptized, another finds rest, like the birds that find a home in a mustard tree, safe deeply within from the predators.

It is when we know we are there when we can breathe deeply, and rest, and realize how God cares and provides for us that we learn to trust Him when we learn that He is the Lord of the church when we realize that He is God.

For we find our refuge and our hope in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in the promised God gives us, as we are united to Jesus in our baptism.  He cleanses us of all our brokenness and all the times where we’ve tried to play God.

This is what God does, hiding us so completely in His grace that we simply trust Him, that we simply relax and know His love, so incredible that we simply get back to work, throwing out the seed of the gospel, the very love of Jesus.

The gospel that draws people into a relationship deep within Christ, a place where we are revived and renewed, as we dwell in His love!  AMEN!

I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life!

church at communion 2The Gift of Pentecost:
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and Giver of Life
John 15:26-27-16:4b-15

In Jesus Name

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!

The gifts of Pentecost 

Advocate, Paraclete, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, these are words that describe the incredible gift gibe by God to us in the Holy Spirit.

The gift was given to the church at Pentecost and given to every member of the church ever since when God cleansed them with water and His word.

That is the great gift of Pentecost, that we can count on, that we can depend on the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us life, and life that is full, for our brokenness is healed.

25  I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26  I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27  I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)

 This is the Advocate, the Spirit who will testify to us all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts, transforming us, this is the Spirit that came because Jesus went to the Father until the day He returns.

The World’s Sin

One of the things that Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will do is convict the world of its sin.

But Jesus is very clear about what sin is, and what the Holy Spirit will convict us of, which is not trusting and depending on Jesus. That is the bottom line, sin is not having faith in the promises Jesus has made us.  To lack faith is to not believe in Jesus’s words, His promises of love, His promises to guide and shepherd us.
That is where sin begins, in the attitude or action that proclaims, “I know which way to go, God,!” or “I know what is right FOR me” rather than hearing, “this is the body broken FOR you”, “this is the blood shed FOR you – for the forgiveness of sin!!”

That is what the Holy Spirit is going to remind us of, that the Spirit, our Advocate/Comforter/helper who will convict the world of its sin, of it’s not trusting God and depending upon Him…

I want to go back to verse 8 for a moment,

And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

Between Conviction and Judgment

I asked a bunch of people this week this question:

When you hear “judgment” is your first reaction negative or positive?
It was not surprising that most said negative, even one lawyer who said “always negative”.  (do I want him defending me?) Note in the quote in scripture, there is something between convicting us of sin, and the coming final judgment.

The righteousness of God.

There is what the Spirit reminds us of, most of all.  That God is just and righteous, but that righteousness includes fulfilling in us what is lacking, healing what is broken, forgiving that which is marred by sin.

The Spirit picks us help, helps us, comforts us, acts as our counselor, our advocate in these situations.   The Spirit’s role is to bring us to Christ, to help us to cry out to God for mercy, even using the term of endearment, ABBA!

You see, putting the righteousness of God in between our realizing we are sinners and the final judgment turns that judgment from something negative into something positive.

For those who come, by the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, that judgment of God is this.

“You are righteous, innocent, holy, and mine!

That is what the insertion of God’s righteousness does, it makes sinners who trust in God holy.  That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Lord and giver of life.

And this is what Jesus is talking about when He promises that the Holy Spirit will testify all about Jesus. Everything that Jesus has been, and done, and will continue to do.

That the Holy Spirit would comfort us, counsel us, help us, come alongside, be our advocate, and testify to us of the love of Christ, which draws us to the Father so we can live in peace.  AMEN!

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