Category Archives: semons

The Early Morning of the Cross: A sermon on Mathew 26:36-47

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

We could not.. so He did!
So Go Ahead and Rest?
Matthew 26:36-47

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May you find in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ God’s grace and experience true peaceful rest!

  • What was Jesus’ Body Language

I wish I was there in the garden.

I wish I could see and hear Jesus as he came back for the third time, and found the disciples asleep, and said,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?

Did his voice betray His emotions? Was He so tired and anxious he couldn’t control his feelings?

As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?

How much did they realize that a few days later, they would be guaranteed a rest…

  • They Could Not, Neither Can We!

If there ever was a night for Jesus to be frustrated with the apostles, it was this night.

It starts off with two apostles fighting like 4-year-olds about who gets the best seat, the one next to Jesus. DaVinci thought John won the argument – for he is pictured next to Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. They argue, and Jesus teaches them a lesson by bending down and washing their feet.

The evening gets worse as Peter once again says that his will and intellect are better than Jesus’. Nope, I am not going to let you care for me, Jesus. Nope, no way in…what was that?  Err… Uhm.. let me re-think that….will you, please, and wash not my feet but everything while you are at!

Then that thing with Jesus, but if you heard the first gospel tonight, which apostle thought he was capable of betraying Jesus? That hit me this week in preparing; each of the disciples thought they could possibly be the one who would betray Jesus…

Sounds like guilty consciousness!

Hmm… I wonder how many of us would have asked?  If you think you would not have, a straightforward question.

Have you betrayed him today? Have you chosen to sin or simply overlooked that what you are doing is sin?

Then you should have said, “is it me, Lord?”

As if that wasn’t enough, they kept falling asleep when the Lord Jesus needed their encouragement.

Finally, after He tells them it is okay to rest… they will run away, deny him and stay their distance.

I am not trying to make you feel guilty, but I want you to understand this… you are not any better than James or John, Peter or Matthew.

We could not avoid sin… and knowing that means we need to rely on the message that has been shared all Lent long.

We could not…so He did…

  • Go Ahead and Rest

With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

I choose to hear this given the theme. Jesus looks on us weary, broken, crushed by sin, and unable to save ourselves and says that we can rest because He was treated as a sinner by sinners.

What we cannot do, He did, staying awake through the anxiety, through the pain, enduring the wrath of God, and enabling us to dwell in peace.

How stunning it is to hear Him tell us to rest in that case! How grateful we can be for what He has done!  How grateful for what He was doing this night and into the darkness of the morning!

This is the love that makes a difference in our lives! The love that would intentionally do what we cannot because of our sin.

But because He did, we can experience peace, the purest peace, and the love that goes past all understanding.

We need to know this… especially when we are weak, when we are so weary, we can barely focus.

He has not abandoned you or me.

He chose to love us… and do what we could not.

….

SO let’s find that rest, as we let Him once again cleanse us from sin and all unrighteousness, and celebrate as He gives His Body and Blood to sustain us.

We Could not… so He did! Let this pass!

We Could Not..So He did:
Let this pass… but
Matthew 26:36-47, 1 Peter 1:6-9

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father help you to look to Jesus when you can’t endure.

  1. The Chalice…

The prayer of Jesus in the Garden has always been fascinating to me. Let me set the scene again,

37  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this Cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

He knelt there, in the Garden, and thought of the suffering her was going to endure… that He was going to embrace.

The Cup of suffering,  the Cup that the Passover foreshadowed, was His to drink.

How he got to this point, through the Last Supper, amazes me… and here in the Garden…he would do what I could never do…

He drank deeply of the suffering…

2. The Cup That Needs to Pass

There are two types of suffering.

Suffering because we deserve it, and suffering when we don’t deserve it.

To be honest, I do not like either!

It is one thing to suffer because I screwed up. You know, the consequences that happen because you overate and felt sick.  Or perhaps, someone, now one here, drank too much as has a hangover. Or maybe you didn’t walk away from that fight…

It is another thing to suffer because you don’t deserve it. The illness, the accident, the economy, or COVID…or perhaps you

In the midst of either, we struggle. We gripe and complain. We may get depressed and ask why me…, and we don’t ask God to let this pass.., we demand it, claiming that good people like us shouldn’t suffer so much.

I hate to say it, but we often sin in the way we deal with discomfort and suffering, not trusting the God who has saved our very souls…

He Took the Cup!


There is a third kind of suffering.

The kind of suffering where you take on the suffering someone else deserves.

The parent who tries to save their child from the consequences they deserve might be an example. Or the friend or co-worker who covers for another person.

But Jesus took on so much more, the agony and pain of every sin, the wrath of God.  Not just to cover it up or to enable someone. But to really deal with it. To embrace the agony that only He could deal with.

He knew that when He took the bread and the Cup and taught once again what He would do for us…

But now in the Garden, the threat takes on a new dimension, and  He embraces it all….

Knowing the pain, knowing the agony, the betrayal…

He does so… because He loves us.

We can’t deal with the Cup of suffering. We can’t deal with what we deserve, the consequences of our sin and error. So he did.

And He wants to make sure we are with the Father, forever.

This is what Lent focuses us on, the incredible love of God that embraced the suffering in the Garden and the cross…

So that we could be whole, and the damage of sin eradicated… but more importantly, that we would spend our eternity with Him.
This is amazing.. and leaves us in awe… for He loves us.

For the will of God was to take the Cup of suffering, to offer to us the Cup of salvation.

Think of that, as you come and drink, as you receive the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sin.

Think of that, as we come… and lay down all that we suffer, and place it in His hands.

Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 2 – We Hear His Call!

Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 2
We Hear His Call!
1 Samuel 3:1-10

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be a call in your life that you always answer with great joy!

  • A poor night’s sleep….

As I read the reading about the young Samuel learning to interact with God, I felt terrible for Eli, the prophet-priest.

The poor guy has gone blind, his kids have turned their back on God and on him, and this little kid keeps leaving the tabernacle to come to wake him up.

Eli, Eli, did you call me?

imagine you have had a long, long day, you just get to sleep, and you hear this voice…

Eli, Eli, wake up, did you call me?

and then, just as he went back to sleep,

Eli, Eli, wake up, did you call me?

He might have been thinking, “Go back to bed, you little brat!”

If only they had recognized where the young man was resting…

if you and I only recognized where we find our rest….

If you and I only could recognize the Voice calling out to the world.

  • In the Presence but not knowing it…

If you were all Old Testament Scholars, you might pick up where little Samuel was sleeping. He is sleeping in the sanctuary to ensure the oil lamps on the Lamp of God do not go out. That puts him over in the corner of the Holy Place. He was probably not far from the thick curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holiest places.

That is the place where God’s glory sat, over the Ark of the Covenant and its seat of mercy. This is where God promised Israel that He would be…. For them.

Even so, Samuel didn’t recognize the Voice of the Lord. He is sleeping just a few feet from the glory of God, hidden behind the curtain…

He didn’t recognize the Voice… and the Bible explains why…

Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.

Someone forgot something!  Eli had never taught the young child to listen to God.

Eli was getting that repetitive message because he sinned. He didn’t teach the young man how to listen to God. Here was the man of God, whose own sight was failing, wasn’t preparing the future generation to see God.

That is the priest’s job to make sure young believers, whether 4, 54, or 94. And we are all part of God’s priesthood! We need to be the people that God uses to draw others into the presence of God and help them learn to hear His Voice.

not Bob’s, or Chuck’s, or mine

We need to help them hear God’s Voice.

Samuel would learn to do this, as he would help all of Israel hear God, and then he would try to help King Saul and the then King-elect David hear the Voice of God.

But first, Eli needed to realize that God was calling Samuel. He had to wake up and notice this. He needed to look past his own blindness and see what was going on in Samuel’s life.

That means we must get by what blinds us, what causes us to go to sleep…

We must know we dwell in God’s presence as well. For then, we realize that their annoying cries are simply a misguided attempt to answer the call of the Voice of God.

They hear His Voice, but how will they recognize it unless we help them come to the point where Eli guided Samuel.

“Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’ “

We can help them be still, to know that God is God…. Help them find the rest that replaces the stress and anxiety in this maddening world.

But we have to be there, in the place where we are listening to God, where we hear His Voice cry out to us…even as we respond, “Speak Lord, your servants are listening.”

  • How is calling you to do? How will you serve?

I can see parallels for everyone here.

We are like young Samuel, trying to understand Who is calling us.

We are like tired old Samuel, with eyes tired that no longer want to see 2020…yet God has called us to guide others to dwell in His presence and to hear His Voice.

The thing that they had in common, that you and I share with them, was the call of the Voice of God.

The call that draws us nearer to Him, that draws our attention to the altar, to the places where He has told us He will meet us, places where He reminds us of the cross, and the resurrection. Places where He pours out His mercy, and His forgiveness

Come and listen… and then help others hear Jesus call….

And hearing the Voice of God…telling you He loves you…and inviting you to partner with Him in your life and ministry, you will dwell in His peace.

For Jesus keeps you there.. your heart and mind. AMEN!

The Vision of Joy! A sermon on Isaiah

The Vision of Joy
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11


Jesus, Son, and Savior

May you enjoy the grace and glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

What was Going Through His Mind?

The Old Testament Reading this morning was the basis for a sermon before. In fact, the sermon was one of the shortest sermons in history.

It is recording in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4.  And after reading the first two verses from Isaiah, the preacher said this,

“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:17-21 (NLT2)

I would have thought this would have caused great joy… but it did not that day.  They decided to kill the person who read the passage from Isaiah….who dared to give them a Vision of Joy…

I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as He looked forward to that sermon, knowing the joy that He set before Him. Was there a massive smile on His face, knowing He came to do was now, finally going to happen?

Imagine if a scientist had to break the news that he had discovered a simple, easy cure for COVID.  Imagine the smile he would have on his face as he approached the microphone that all the challenges it has caused were over!

Yeah, what Jesus had come to do… was a billion times better.

And I get to show you that today!

What He Had Observed

Consider what God looked down upon, that Isiah describes,

There were the poor,
There were those whose hearts were shattered
There were people who could not leave the horrid situation they found themselves in…
There were people who lived, prisoners of their own choices, of their own sin, which was crushing them.
There were people mourning,
There were people in despair,
There were people living in lives lived in ruins

Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

One of the points we have to understand is that when we are crushed like in this time, by what is going on around us and what is going on inside us, God knows…

That is why the Apostle Paul says,

8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)

Been there, done that.

And then I forget it and start the process all over.

I need to hear Jesus calling; I need to hear Him describe what He will do again.

The Vision of what was coming

Usually, I focus on the bringing good news, the comforting the brokenhearted, the release of those locked in and the freeing for those imprisoned, and the other ways our salvation is shown.

But today, I want to look at a specific one of the changes that happen because Jesus said that this prophecy is full.

Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10  I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.


This is the greatest thing ever.

To realize that we are the people the Lord has blessed! What an incredible realization –  we are the people the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has blessed! 

Even more than that – look at the excitement of Jesus’s words,


He’s overwhelmed with joy because of what God the Father has caused to happen.


Jesus is as happy as the groom; he awaits the wedding and life that is to come with his bride.

Kevin – you are the most recent groom around here… how did you feel in the moments before the doors opened, and you saw Susan there? 

That is how Jesus felt as He preached that day… as the relationship that He had been waiting for since the worlds were created through Him finally was here.

No wonder Jesus was looking forward to the crucifixion for the joy set before him

As he was handed the scroll..the anticipation began to build, as He red the words, oh my the joy that began to spread, and continued to, until that point, when nailed to the cross, Jesus would say…

It is done… it is finished …..

the same thing that he said that day in Galilee….will be said at the cross. 

And He says that to us today… today hear the good news, you are free from whatever crushes you, for you can see God, and you are free and blessed, for He is your God. It is done this day – to you.

Rejoice! He is your God, the God who blesses you… Today, He has done this… AMEN!

What No Eye Has Seen… An Advent Sermon on Isaiah 64:1-9

Do You See What Scripture Sees?
Week 1: What no Eye Has Seen
Isaiah 64:1-9

Jesus, Son and Savior

Do you see?

It used to be that we knew that Advent Started on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. There is now another way to know when Advent starts. It starts the Sunday after Black Friday. You know, the day when some people are out there, looking for things to buy other people for Christmas, while buying themselves a new television?

But Advent has started, our march towards Christmas, and towards eternity. As we journey looking towards Christ second return, as we relive what the people were feeling as they were waiting for Jesus.

For while scripture describes both Jesus’ incarnation and His second coming, while it sees it in vivid detail, we have about as much of a clue as the shepherds who were told by a million angels what was true then.

The Incarnation has happened! God is here to rescue His people!

uh…the baby in the feeding trough?  It is going to save us?

yeah…. And wait until you see how!

and to us, wait until you see what those who wrote scripture described as coming!

What we want to see?

What I want to see is what Isaiah called for in the beginning of the Old Testament reading.

Here is the way it is translated,

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! 2  As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! 3  When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.

Here is how I would translate it…

Lord, we need you! Rip open the sky and come down! Show all Your Creation Your power!  Show them, like you showed the people who mocked Noah, and the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and the 60,000 Midianites who got slaughtered by 300 of Gideon’s men.  We need you now Lord, what are you waiting for?

Oh how I want God to come back and show His power, just as Isaiah asked, just as Paul foretold when he wrote to the church in Thessalonica.

16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord.   1 Thessalonians 4:16 (TLB)

Our challenge….

There is, of course, one problem with God showing up right this second. 

Isaiah noted that problem as well,

But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? 6  We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. 7  Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy

I want to make sure you realize that Isaiah didn’t say “you were angry with me”. He didn’t treat sin as if it was okay that he was okay with God while the rest of the people weren’t. Their sin stained him, his sin stained them.

It may not seem fair, but the evidence of our sin is that we live among sinners. To put it bluntly, that we haven’t helped others deal with sin is sinful in itself. If you don’t believe me, look at what Ezekiel says, 18  If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
Ezekiel 3:18 (NLT2)

We have sinned, and most of us don’t plead for mercy, calling on God to provide what only He can…for all of us…

And Yet.

Rather than feeling guilt about what you cannot change about the past, and about those who you need to help by warning them, I would call you back to something said in Isaiah…. To make sure you have the full picture.

4  For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!

In the midst of the brokenness, we wait for Him! There is the answer. To keep looking expectantly to wait for God to rip open those skies, and to realize something else.8  And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. 9  Don’t be so angry with us, LORD. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.   Note that it says “us” here again.

Don’t be so angry with us… look at us… and see we are all your people….

It takes a lot to pray that kind of prayer. To realize that God is at work, and that we can stop trying to re-create ourselves, we can stop trying to pretend we are someone we aren’t, and admit we need God to rip the heavens open and save us, all of us.

He did once, and laid in a manger, and slept with a rock or boat’s nets for pillows. And was beaten, and hung on a cross, and died for us… that WE could live with Him. And Jesus will rip the skies open again, and what happens for those who are waiting for Him, will be beyond anything we can imagine… anything we have seen, anything we have ever heard, for will see a God like you, face to face.

And until that time, our hearts and minds will be protected by Jesus, as we dwell in a peace that gods beyond all comprehension.

Revival: Realized! The Power of Imagination

Revival: Realized!
The Power of Imagination
Matthew – 22:15-22


† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ revive and renew you, as it did on the day you were baptized! And may you see what God has image’ined you to be!

The Hot Sauce Experiment

I am not sure who tried the experiment first, but it was all the rage in high school, a long, long time ago. ( Maybe before Danny was born?)

You took a penny… and old penny you could not determine which side had Lincoln’s image, and which was the  and put it in Del Taco hot sauce, and a day later… it was shinier than brand new!  (Results of current test if possible)

The reason I bring this up, is that God has a vivid imagination…..

And He does an even better job that Del Taco in creating us to be that image… not matter how we have been aged by sin, and the brokenness of this world. He imagines us clean, revived, and an image of us that we might not even recognize, were we to see our lives the way He does!

And we get to see that imagination at work today, as Noelle is baptized!

The Image corrupted….

As the Pharisees and followers of Herod plot to trick Jesus, they thought they had him. One, the conservative religious folks, with the a-religious secular leaders of the day. They had the question that would trap him, one answer would lead him to be condemned by one, the only other answer they thought of would lead him to be condemned by the other.

They had him! 

And he flipped the question around, and if they heard the answer, they would realize they were both caught….

Give to God what belongs to God.

Give what to God what is made in His image!

Did you know we were made in God’s image? 

All of us.

From the youngest of us, to the oldest.  Does not matter if we are retired, work, or go to school. Doesn’t matter the color of our skin, or how many tattoos or scars are on our Body. Nothing matters, for what God will reveal us to be is in His image.

Doesn’t even matter how much that image has been obscured by sin. Idolators, those who use Jesus name like a cuss word, those who don’t take time for God, those who dishonor their parents, those who murder, have been unfaithful to their spouse, or unfaithful to who they will be are cleansed. Those who cheat and steal, those who gossip, and those who are jealous and try to get what others are given, all of them…

Forgiven, cleansed, Revived and made alive in Christ!

God is far more effective than hot sauce!

Give to God…what is made in His image.

One of the things that I realized as I read through this, this time, is that Jesus is speaking to the leaders – and He is telling them to give to Him all they are responsible for, who were made in the image.

In this case, this is what Danny and Christy, and this church is doing today, as we baptize Noelle! We are testifying that Noelle is made in the image of Jesus, that God created her, and in His imagination, she would be His perfect child. Nate and Nicky – you are as well! Christy – you were once baptized here, and Danny.

Each one of you – each one here who believe and is baptized will be in heaven, every single sin forgiven, because Jesus died on the cross to restore the image we were created in… who God, with all His glorious imagination, created us to be…

His children.

May Noelle, and every one of us remember that… every day when we think of our baptism, and look in the mirror, and realize we are God’s kids!

AMEN!

Now lets get to the good part!

The Baptism of Noelle

Come Back to Me, and Never Be Abandoned – a Lenten Sermon on Isaiah 42

3/25 Lenten Midweek Service

Come Back to Me
And Never Be Forsaken
Isaiah 42:14-21

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace and peace of God assure you that you will never be forsaken, that He will always be with you!

Why not End at verse 16? –

As I looked at the reading and started to plan out the sermon, I was tempted to shorten the reading from Isaiah by last few verses.

After al, the primary focus of my message is verse 16, and the promised actions of God, as He rescues and guides us, and promises to never, ever forsake us.

So why not drop verse 17-21?  Why not just focus on the positive part, and leave these verses behind?

But those who trust in idols, who say, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned away in shame. 18  “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! 19  Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the LORD? 20  You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”

 That is some pretty serious stuff, these warnings against trusting and depending on something besides God. We have to hear those warnings, we have to realize our need for God to act, for God to get to us, for God to rescue us, to get to the goal, that we will find that we have come back to God.

Remember the Call

Remember, that is the call…as we’ve looked at for a couple of weeks now, this idea that it is time to “come back to God” to be reconciled to Him.

We know this is God’s desire, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come back, that all are transformed.

We see this attitude, this desire in verse 14-15, where God cries out, where God, in his desire to be with us, flattens mountains and gets rid of rivers and pools in His desire to get to us.

Quick side note – this isn’t God crushing the idols as some might suggest. I’ve read enough of the bullshit out there saying that the corona pandemic is God crushing idols we’ve set up.  Idols like athletes, movie stars, finances and other things we chose to trust in, instead of turning to God.

But in verse 17, those idols still exist, and some people still choose to trust in them. They aren’t the big idols as much as the things we turn to when stressed, the things we “can’t do without”. Idols that we even unconsciously cling too – the things that pull us from God. We have to release them – otherwise, we will simply replace them.

Back to the desire of God, this is His greatest desire – to see us return home like the prodigal did, as the Holy Spirit grants us repentance and transforms us!  We have to realize that this is His ultimate goal, so great is His love for us.

Which makes it even more… challenging, if we reject His presence, if we continue to choose to place our trust in other things. He’s not going to force us to walk with Him. But nothing will be able, nothing is able to separate us from His love,

Nothing has been since the cross.

For that is when God flattened everything, to make it possible for us to have come back to Him.  He made it possible by coming to us, and drawing us to Him, as He was raised up on the cross, and united us to Him there – so that in being united to His death,w e would also be united to His resurrection.

Look at this power of this promise…

In verse 18-21, Isaiah’s words challenged those who still were blind and trusted in idols, because they didn’t have too. People who were blind were those that Jesus led on the new path, those He guided on an unfamiliar way.

The way of grace, the way of complete forgiveness, the way where the darkness of sin is shattered by the light of His glory, the light He brings us into. Where we had stumbled and tripped by temptation fell into sin, that too is now smoothed over, as our sin is cleansed.

And never ever will He abandon us, or forsake us!

We need to realize that – that God who came to us, that we could have been found to come back to Him – even as we were blind, He promised to not forsake us!  How much more so now that He’s invested the Body and Blood of His son into our lives!

This is the message of lent – the love of God which draws us back to Him, through the cross of Christ. That we can leave the emptiness and isolation, the blindness behind, for God will be with us, and guide us.

Or more precisely, as He is revealing Himself, cleansing us, healing us, we realize that God is drawing us home,

and throwing us a feast…

The Kingdom of God is a Pizza! A sermon on 1 Cor 1:10-18

The Kingdom of God is Like a Pizza
1 Corinthians 1:10-18

 I.H.S

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you enjoy your role in others’ lives and their role in yours.

  • The Kingdom of God is Like a Tripoli’s Pizza

Growing up, one of the great treats was going to the beach, and the best part of the trip was stopping at Tripoli’s Pizza. It was an incredible treat, so much better than the other pizzas that we would get back home.

Little 4-inch square simple cheese pizza.  Occasionally, if it had been a good week for my folks, there would be Pepperoni on top.  But there was something about it, the flavor was incredible, from the dough to the sauce, to the cheese. It was perfectly put together and it hit the spot. Always the same, always good, always hit the spot. Not sure what was in the recipe, or it was the salt air of the beach, or what it was.

It was good and right…and perfect, and nothing compared to it, heck nothing still compares to it.

The Kingdom of God is like that…

Until sin enters into the picture.

  • Dividing the Pizza Up

And if we bought an entire pizza, as opposed to the normal 2 slices for a quarter, the battle royal between my brother, sister and cousins began. Everyone wants their particular slice, usually the corner with the extra pizza dough.

Or if we were blessed to get Pepperoni, there would always be one person who would count how many slices were on each piece, and if they didn’t get as many pieces as the others, oh my gosh, the battle that would ensue!

The world is like that, everyone wants what they want, everyone wants to make sure they get what they consider is their right, and what they consider is “just.” It’s not just the world though, it can happen in the church.

As it did in Paul’s day, as they compared who they followed, whose teaching, or who baptized them.  In Greek, it is even more divisive, as it reads, “I am Paul’s!”  “I am Peter’s!” “I am Apollos’s”, and some, even more, condescending said, “nana nana na na, I AM CHRIST’s”!

It wasn’t just then either, Martin Luther said it this way,

In the first place, I ask that men make no reference to my name; let them call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine [John 7:16]. Neither was I crucified for anyone [1 Cor. 1:13]. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, would not allow the Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I—poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am—come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name? Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teaching we hold.[1]

That lasted until after he passed away – and then the Evangelical-Catholic church was renamed…. The Lutheran Church.

You see, what this is all about isn’t who we follow, not really.  It’s about me getting mine, it’s about my pride, my superiority.  It’s not about doctrine, most of the time, it’s about me getting the corner piece of pizza, the one with the extra half slice of Pepperoni!

  • What if we are the pizzas

Here is here the sermon flips. I said the Kingdom of God was like a pizza, not like eating pizza. We aren’t the ones fighting for “our” piece, or for equal shares of pepperoni.  We aren’t in control of the church, or our community.

God is.

That’s a good thing!

Some of us are the dough, some of us are the sauce or the various spices in the sauce, some of us in this community are the cheese, others are the pineapple or anchovies.

O wait, Tripoli only made cheese pizza.

Again, God makes life – life, our lives, masterpieces. He’s the cook and the One who writes the recipes.  He pulls all the ingredients together, mixes us all up and makes it a masterpiece.

While those not focused on God think this is foolish, we realize it is something so much more. We see it as God at work, bringing us together, putting each of us into the mix in just the right place, at just the right time.

Sure we have to be cleaned, and cut up, some of us have to me squashed or grated or tossed about like Pizza dough, but that is where faith comes into play.  We trust in God’s work in our lives, knowing the incredible thing He is creating.

That what happens when we are brought into the faith, God puts us in just the right place.  You see, in my analogy, the Kingdom, the Body of Christ is the pizza. Christ is the pizza, and we have our place in Him, together.

We can count on His love and mercy, and His amazing wisdom when we don’t get what we want when we don’t think it is fair when someone else gets more.  Because He has promised at the end there is something amazing that He is preparing,

That is why Paul didn’t use all his 50 dollar words in writing these letters because the message of God bringing us back is so necessary for us not just to hear, but to understand.  What why the cleansing of our sin resembles washing, why our celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection is a feast, where again we are told this is where the relationship is defined, where we are welcome to be honored guests, part of the feast.

We have to get this – the love and care that God takes in making our lives, with the outcome in mind at all times.

For then, with the goal in sight, we can rejoice, and let Him do His work in our lives.

AMEN!

 

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 45 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 70–71.

Let’s Go See Jesus – A Christmas Day Sermon

Altar with communion

Let’s Go See Jesus
A Christmas Day Sermon

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to desire to dwell in the presence of Jesus more and more!

How dare they?

How would you feel if you went to the supermarket tomorrow morning, and the doors were locked shut… and not a staff member was to be seen?

And then you headed over to your favorite restaurant, to use the gift card someone gave you, and it was closed.

Frustrated, you start to head home and realized you needed gas, and the gas station was closed, and the pumps turned off.

I imagine that would be the same response as the owners of all the sheep around Bethlehem if they had gone out to check on their shepherds on the first Christmas Day…

Think of it, all these employees just left their jobs, and took off to go see a little baby, lying in a manger?  It wasn’t even their own child or grandchild.

But they took off, and they enter the village and go to the stable, and as they stare at this little baby, mumbling about angels, and being woken up from a sound night sleep and praising God for finally sending the Chosen One, the Messiah.

So who was back with the sheep?

Would we dare to leave it all behind?

So here’s my question, knowing what they did, and why, would you leave your work if an angel showed up and told you Jesus was here?

Not some ceramic doll, but if Jesus was truly here, would you leave your Christmas gifts behind, you plan for lunch or dinner?  Would you drop all the other “stuff” in your life, would you forget your plans, would you be that irresponsible?

We need to be

If you wouldn’t, or If you say you would do it later, in a day or two, then I have failed our calling.  I need to make sure you understand what it means for Jesus to be in your life, for Him to dwell with you!

Enough that everything and everyone else in your life takes second place.

Not just because He forgives your sins, but the real reason, our fellowship with the God who loves us, the God who came to dwell among us, and whom we will dwell with for all of eternity.

That is why He came, and laid there, for shepherds to see, and praise God to all who would listen. That’s what Mary pondered, that this little one she carried would save, not just all of Israel, but people that will be gathered from every language and tribe and tongue.

The one named Yahweh Save, and who is Called God with Us!

This Baby Jesus, who you came to celebrate today, and receive in the sacrament. He is not just the reason for the season, but the reason for your life. A life He longs to share with you, the good, the bad, the sinful, the holy, all of it. He longs to be yours, and you to be His.

So as the shepherds left everything to find that which mattered most, I pray you see Him revealed to you in this message, and in the sacrament, and because of that, in every moment of this day and week.

Knowing you are His, may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.. AMEN!

 

Center Stage: The Cross – A sermon on Galatians 6:14-18

Centerstage:
The Cross
Galatians 6:14-18

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May God’s peace and mercy be upon you, as you live knowing this, you are a new creation, the very people of God

Where do we find contentment?

The Apostle Paul desired that he would never, ever boast in anything except the cross of Christ.

Not in His favorite sports teams

Not in a promotion, or an award given at work

Not in his citizenship or Nationality

Not even in the academic grades or the sports accomplishments of his children or grandchildren.

That makes some sense, even as we know we do those things regularly.  When we look a little deeper at the word behind the word “boast,” the lesson gets a little harder.

The Greek word means to be proud of or to be satisfied and content with your situation or accomplishments. 

Should I go back through that list? 

We find many things that we find contentment, many things in which we find satisfaction.  Paul would have us only find contentment, only find satisfaction when we looked there, at the cross which reminds you that God loves you enough that Christ died… for you!

Nothing is more important in your life than to know God loves you.  Seeing the cross at the center stage of our lives, yet…

The Law – The world rules

That is why Paul talks about the need to see our interest in the world crucified, and the world’s interest in us terminated.  This is hard to comprehend at times, for how do we live in the world and yet, as Jesus tells us, not be of the world?  How can we deal with the family and friends we might lose, the jobs we might have to turn down, all because they do not understand?

It is not easy,

I need to say here we don’t lose them because we annoy them with our condescension, or pretend we are holier or more special that they are.  We better not lose them because we condemn their sin, while ignoring our own.

But the ability to dwell miraculously in peace, and receive God’s mercy will create a difference, and not understanding that is challenging.  As is the change in priorities that occurs when we are transformed by the presence of God in our lives.

The Transformation

You see, God starts transforming us, the moment He claims us in baptism.  We might not even realize the difference He is making, But we become something new, something different, as we experience His love.

We live differently, what the Apostle talks of, to live by this principle, the principle is this: that we are the new people of God.  In Greek, this is the word canon. Not the kind I would like to play with, but canon as in the Biblical Canon.  It means the rule, the form, the standard that we can be measured by. 

Luther talks about something similar when he talks about the third use of the law, that we live in a peace and mercy that affects our life, causing us to live as new creations.

While the world may not understand it, God changes us.  It is why kneeling here is so incredible.  It is why Al when he stood here and baptized his granddaughters was crying for joy.  It is why people, when they hear that they are forgiven, every sin from murder to those little white lies that haunt us, feel as if they were released from the greatest of burdens.  This is the transformation!

It is something the world just can’t understand, this remarkable peace and grace of God which defines us, when we remember that we have been made the children of God.

The Mark How does that happen?  Paul describes it this way, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.

The stigmata in Greek.  A Reference to the marks, the wounds of Christ.  For it primarily means the mark left by the healing of injured tissue, in a way, a natural tattoo.

But it is deeper than that, because Paul says it is a mark that shows that he belongs to Jesus.  A mark that tells us we are His, that we are united to Him and His death on the cross. We bear that mark of the cross, the stigma of it, for with it we were baptized , marked and sealed, so that not only do we die with Christ.

We live with Him as well.

Which is why I make the sign of the cross during the creed, because of His cross, and our death with Him there, we will rise from the dead and living in the glory of the Father forever! 

And until that day comes, when all men will be judged, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, comforting us, transforming and guiding us, as we live as the new people of God… AMEN!

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