Category Archives: Sermons
God is Making you… His People
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you are the people of God!
- Missing at the Feast…
It was a card table, probably purchased back in the 1950s. It came out for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, with 4 folding chairs that were far sturdier than they looked.
At 18 to 19, just starting to date Kay, I understood that I would be sitting there with her 5 and 7-year-old nephews, Kay’s 14-year-old niece, and Kay.
It was the kiddie table, and we were the younger folk there.
I did think that there would be a time when I could move to the adult table; I just didn’t think it would take until I was in my fifties.
As we share in the Lord’s Supper, we are in the present moment, and yet we are also part of that great feast when Jesus returns. It is what we are looking towards, yet we are a part of it as well, as with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we praise God, our heavenly Father.
There is no kiddie table at that feast, for we all have matured and become complete in Christ.
And we see that promise in the passage read earlier from Jeremiah.
- The Difference Between the Covenants
Jeremiah describes how people related to God in the reading. “I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them…
It sounds more like Israel acted like a toddler rather than a partner of God’s. I picture Israel as a toddler having to be brought to the table, seated, then getting up to see what’s happening everywhere else. What’s on their plate? Is their chair better than mine? And, of course, causing all sorts of spills and breakage, left behind as something else catches their eye.
The world is not different today, and neither are many of us in the church. We want what we want when we want it! We often “unintentionally” redesign Christianity to be more consistent with what we wish… rather than allowing God to conform us to the image of Jesus.
It’s easy to throw a tantrum against God, demand what we want…that we cry and howl and tell Him to get lost. Heck, even at the last supper, the disciples fought over who was better…
And Jesus bows down… and takes a towel and washes their feet….
- Preparing them for the new covenant…
And in doing so, shows them a new way…
We often talk about foot-washing as an example – this is how we should serve others. But Peter had to learn something first – to let Jesus wash his feet, for boy, they needed to be cleaned….
We need to be drawn into this relationship, this covenant with God. We need God to do what He’s promised to do, the promises we’ve been looking at – God’s work.
And that is seen easily this night. Everything about the Passover points to his sacrifice in the morning – a sacrifice he looked forward to – because of the joy of Jeremiahs’s promise being fulfilled.
- How God puts His instructions inside us…
Here it again…
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
That is why Jesus says this is His blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. The Body and Blood shed for you that all your sins, including those tantrums, are forgiven.
This is why we are here… this is what it is all about… God with us.
A new relationship that goes beyond anything we can think or imagine.
A relationship where God comes to us feeds us, and makes us know we are home… for we are His people.
So let’s celebrate – with the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…
God is Making Your Body Change!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you as God transforms you!
We started last week looking at this theme of “God is making you….” A look at the work that Paul wrote to the Philippian church, saying, “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ.
Last week we saw that God is making us righteous. That His masterpiece is recreating us in a way that there we are holy, that there is no sin we can be accused of, that we are innocent. So we are not just allowed to be in the presence of almighty God; we are expected there and welcomed.
This week the work is described as Jesus taking our weak and mortal bodies and changing them into glorious bodies like His own!
Imagine that – our bodies will be perfect and glorious. No more aches and pains, no more need for physical therapy, no more medicines, no more diets… no more sin affecting us, not only spiritually, but physically.
Sounds like a much better change than, say… moving your clocks ahead one hour!
We need to understand the change… and compare it to our feeble, broken down, sin-damaged bodies…. Lives that are so ugly and pathetic that even discussing them causes Paul to cry.
The Enemies of the Church – conduct
Paul describes those who aren’t changed this way, “18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction….”
No wonder Paul is crying! These people he is crying over are people he cares for, people he was raised with, and they are, in context, his people. He wrote about them to the church in Rome,
1 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. 2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3 for my people, my Jewish brothers, and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 (NLT2)
Each of us has similar people in our lives, or at least we know of them. People who walk about, not knowing the love and peace of God. They reject Him because they do not know Him. But here what makes them different…
Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
Remember how we define a god. A god is what you turn to in time of trouble for help. It is who or what you depend upon to get you through life.
Which leads them to brag about whatever helps them in their time of weakness. Another way of phrasing it – they glorify that which exposes their weakness and shame. They end up defending the very things that hurt them, the same things that cause their brokenness – because they do not realize that God can save them from the brokenness… they accept it as reality and then defend it.
We aren’t just talking about sinners like Putin. We are talking about anyone who doesn’t count on Jesus and turns to other things in place of God…and these are people we know- and people we pray for…
The reason Paul would cry is simple, he was once like them, as we were. He describes us that concept this way, “3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. Titus 3:3 (NLT2)
But notice – he said once… for our transformation – God making us into glorious bodies – is already underway!
A Different Schematic – Syn-mimic
Ezekiel describes the change as getting rid of our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. In other places – our mind is replaced with the mind of Christ, or we are dressed with Christ.
Here, Paul describes the change with two ideas.
The first is to follow the pattern of their lives on Paul’s life. The picture words there are we get to be born and mimic from! Our new life in Christ should be that we move like Paul as he mimics Christ! Where Jesus moves, we move in reflection of His love and mercy….
The second is the word for change –the idea of changing the schema -the word and concept from which we get the idea of schematic. Or, as we would say these days, God makes a DNA level change in us. For the computer geeks – a complete reboot with a new operating system.
That is the work God is doing in us – a complete change!
What is fantastic is both these things are God determined – and God-driven. He changes us in a way that allows us to live, mimicking Christ, for Christ lives in us. He changes the schematics in us, miraculously recreating us…
The challenge is being patient with the change in our lives and those around us! But know God is at work… and here is the amazing thing…. He makes this change with the same power by which everything is cared for by Him.
The same power that entered into the world, and healed people, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in every believer. God is drawing into a relationship every one – as He works through us….
Like the family who Marvel contacted – because they needed a minister for a memorial service. Or the people Manny and Gloria invite to the Tagalog Bible Study, or Violet inviting people to Family fun night…
Or any of you are praying for 8 people… to simply see Jesus revealed in their lives.
You see, those tears of Paul that we have for others, know that it is part of this change in us. We see their emptiness and brokenness and realize that as we find healing in Jesus… so can they… so we want to help them find it!.
This is the change He makes in us… a change that will be complete when we see Jesus face to face…
And until then – the very idea that God is at work in you – and will complete that work… should help you know His peace – which you dwell in… for the Lord is with you!
(hear a slightly different version of this sermon – at our church YouTube Page… bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
Celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus
† I.H.N. †
May the peace of God, our Father who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, transform you in a way others can see… and may that transfiguration cause others to worship Him.
- Shutting Peter up!
As I read and re-read Luke’s recounting of the Transfiguration, I tried to imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. He wasn’t having the best day…
He fell asleep on Jesus’s discussion with Moses and Elijah.
Then Peter managed to put his mouth into action prior to thinking or even asking what Jesus wanted to do…
Then he was terrified by the storm cloud surrounding him after he screwed up…
In between all that – he had to deal with seeing Jesus differently than he would ever see him…. Revealed in all of His glory, revealed as God.
I get all that. I can fall asleep kind of quickly, I can get scared by storms, and I can, as most guys can, put both feet in my mouth with room to spare…
But what I didn’t understand was how one thing happened. Luke describes it in a straightforward phrase, “They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen!’
Somehow Jesus got Peter to shut up about the most outrageous miracle Peter haver seen to that point.
Peter, the one who couldn’t shut up – silenced…
What he saw – was that incredible… so powerful… and the promise with it so intimately personal – it changed him.
Peter had to wait until after the resurrection to share the story. We do not; we get to celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus! We get to celebrate His being revealed in all His glory… to us.
- Reactions to the glory of God – First – Fear
There are two reactions to God’s glory being revealed. The first is simple – it is fear.
In Adam hiding after eating the avocado and Moses at the burning bush, you see that. As described in the epistle, you also see it when the people of God saw Moses reflecting the glory of God…
They wanted no part of it; it terrified them, much as hearing God the Father’s voice terrified Peter, James, and John. Collapse in fear level terror. Solomon and the people of God knew that fear at the dedication of the temple, just as Isaiah knew.
Simple reason, without Jesus to explain the difference, all we got is that God is pure and perfect and hates sin…and we’ve sinned.
Even the reflected glory of God in Moses’ face was enough to terrify the people of God. As Paul wrote about – they cannot understand the truth – the truth that would set them free – that God loves them and would save them from everything…
And without that knowledge – collapsing in fear is pretty much what you get.
- Reactions to the glory of God – second peace
Compare that kind of fear to the reaction of Peter, James, and John. Seeing Jesus in all His glory, along with the two of the three greatest heroes in the Old Testament, they … they fell asleep?
No terror, nor fear, no collapsing or losing control of their bodies… they rested. They had found that kind of peace in the presence of Jesus.
Imagine that – being so restful – so at peace, that you could sleep through a miracle of epic proportions?
That is the difference that Jesus makes in our lives – because of Him, we can be comfortable in having the fullness of God’s glory revealed all around us.
By the way – this isn’t just my idea – this is what Martin Luther said,
Thus it was that the three apostles who saw Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor were not afraid of them, because of the tender glory in the face of Christ [Luke 9:32]. Yet in Exodus 34[:29–35], where Christ was not present, the children of Israel could not endure the splendor and brightness in the face of Moses, so that he had to put a veil over it.
I love the way Luther phrases it – they weren’t afraid – because of the tender glory in the face of Christ…
And that was before Jesus headed to the cross and died for their sin, and for ours. It was before He instituted the Lord’s Supper – the place where we weekly encounter the glory of God, the love and compassion that are demonstrated as God gives us the Body and Blood of Christ.
IN our interactions with Jesus, whether it is studying His word, prayer, or the sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, or the Lord’s Supper – we see the glory of God so different than the people of Israel do…
We see the glory of love demonstrated to us as Jesus served, healed, taught, and looked forward to the cross for the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2)
Knowing this, we can rest – and even sleep.. peacefully!
- Now, what do we do?
Now the challenge happens, as we wake up and realize we are in God’s presence…
We could be like Peter – and simply do what makes the most sense… except we don’t have to build tabernacles or temples. We have a perfectly nice one here.
Hopefully, we don’t need the storm clouds to come out and the sky to crack open with the voice of the Father…
We just need to hear – and treasure what Jesus has to say to us…
Treasuring His love and glory enough to just do it…
Like loving enemies and praying for those who persecute and oppress us…
Or going and making disciples of nations, baptizing them and teaching them to treasure all God has established…
In both cases, the goal is the same – to help people experience the glory of God – the kind that comes as they see the tender glory of Christ’s love for them, as they enter into His presence, as they realize what the cross and empty grave mean…. as they respond to you, as you tell them…
The Lord is with you!
Well – that is true – but I said you would be telling others this – and hearing them respond back…
Reassuring you of the glory of God and the peace that surpasses all understanding – for you dwell in Christ… and share in His glory! AMEN!
 Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 35. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
“Rain Gear, CHECK!”
1 Peter 1:3-9, Isaiah 43:1-3, Isaiah 48:16a
† In Jesus Name †
In the midst of these storms of life, may the grace, the mercy and the peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ clothe us, as the Holy Spirit sustains and comforts us, His people! AMEN!
Could this be you?
There you are, hiking at 8,000 feet in the towering pines of the San Gorgonio wilderness. Suddenly, a black cloud rolls over the ridge and within minutes a major mountain storm is upon you.
The last thing you want is to get drenched, so you take off your pack and reach for your rain gear… but you forgot where you pack it! By the time you find your rain pants, the rain has started to soak through your clothing. While searching for your rain jacket you begin to panic, did you pack it at all? Finally you locate your jacket, but you are starting to chill. Shivering you put away all your wet gear you pulled out during your frantic search, then discover the pack cover, but too late, your pack is now thoroughly soaked…
So starts Clyde’s trail chat about a critical aspect of hiking – the Rain Gear – Check! As he told me about it, and we talked about this very sermon, this very day, it became apparent that it was to be the theme for the sermon. Not just preparing you for storms on mountain trails, but preparing you for the storms of life, the very kind of storms we who love him, and know him, have witnessed him endure in this last year, and actually saw him thrive in, in the last weeks and months.
As we talked about this message, Clyde told me of the Rain Gear Checks that caused him to write the article. His infamous “inspections” where he would call for the CHECK, then inspect and share how each person would have survived. Those well prepared would be described in terms of being safe and functional. Others would have lost food but would have been dry, and others would have suffered hypothermia and become a burden to the group of hikers, and perhaps, given the remote nature of some hikes, not survived the vicious mountain storm. Does this lecture sound familiar to any of you?
Clyde the Pastor
I can imagine a fervor in Clyde, to see those he trained to hike, be protected and healthy and well, and to know the accomplishment of a successful hike, even through the storms. I can see that fervor translated into a pretty…. Straightforward and maybe brutal assessment – because he knew the dangers of being caught unprepared in the storm – and to make the scouts uncomfortable before they left, or in practice, was better than being unprepared and suffer on the trail.
It’s that attitude which made him a good friend, and a man I looked forward to serving beside as his “mentor” in ministry, even as he taught me much about life, and faith. And it is the attitude that is behind this sermon. Clyde was very concerned about those who would be here, and where you are at in life. A pastor’s role in serving his community is the same duty as the trail boss on a hike, its ensuring the safety of the group – until it reaches its destination. And Clyde, whether or not he was ordained, as a vicar at Concordia, as an elder and deacon in this place, or guiding a bunch of scouts in the wilderness, is a pastor at heart. He wants you each prepared to survive the storms of life, and to do it in a way, that leaves you able to see the power and majecty, not of the storm, but the one who protects you in it.
Are you ready for the storms? Are you going to survive this storm? It’s time for a spiritual Rain Gear Check…
The Storms of Life
As sure as mountain storms come up both unexpectedly and with a ferocity that overcomes all that is in its path, so too, do the storms of life.
Some storms we create, through our inability to love God and realize that His plan for our life, and our inability to live at peace and love each other. Such storms are based in sin, which can simply be defined as not loving and trusting God, and not loving our neighbors. Sin can cause some of the most vicious of life’s storms, which literally can affect generations, and often – those but innocent victims, caught in the crossfire of others. You can’t prepare against such storms, and often our reactions cause the storms to grow in their strength.
Other storms are not attributable to a specific sin, but are the result of living in a broken world; Illness, economic struggles, natural catastrophes. Such storms happen to those who are right with God, and to those who turn their back on God. These storms loom large and dominate our thoughts and lives.
Like the unprepared person backpacking, such storms cause us to scramble, and trying to find a way to deal with them. We look through our hearts and minds, looking for something that will protect us. If we only scramble harder, if we only create some new way to deal with such storms, if we can only find a way to cope. All the while, the storms are beating down us, wearing us thin, and destroying more and more of our life.
The Answer to the Storm
Clyde knew about storms in the mountains and about storms in life. He knew that surviving was found in knowing that the preparations had been made, and that there was protection and a refuge available. That preparation was the key to the peace we saw in him, in the midst of the pain and the suffering, in the midst of the medications, and the chemo and nausea.
He relied what we see in Peter’s epistle,
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
It is our faith, our trust, not in our preparation and our pack, but in God himself, that sees us protected from the storms of life. Christ’s resurrection from the dead, guarantees that Clyde has been raised from the dead as well. Peter’s comment about our new birth into a living hope is echoed throughout scripture, and in one passage in Galatians, is described in this way,
“26 for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, 27 since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. “ Galatians 3:26-27 (NJB)
HE is our rain gear, and it is in our baptism that we are dressed with all that it takes to protect us in these storms of life. Perhaps one of the greatest myths about our faith, is that miracles are the effect of strong faith. Yes, miracles happen, but the nature of faith is the assurance that whether it storms or not, we are ready, we will survive, shielded and comforted by God.
Perhaps it is difficult to grasp, but that uniting with Christ’s resurrection is possible because we have united with His death in our baptism as well. Suffering and even death takes on a different focus then. It becomes proof, not just of our faith, but in the faithfulness of the God in whom we trust. Peter said it this way
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
We begin to realize that incredible truth, that in Christ death’s sting is never permanent, it is never complete. Our friend Clyde, who would ask us to check our faith this day; was sure of the peace that would fully encompass him in Christ.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that in Christ, Clyde lives, even more than he lived in our presence. Freed of the cancer that entrapped his body and laid it waste, he is also freed of the sin and spiritual storms of life that had the same effect. He is part of what we refer to in our worship service, where we hear, “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven…
And as we sing that tomorrow at Concordia, as it is sung here at St. Paul’s, know Clyde is singing it with us, as all the saints of God gather and proclaim God’s power and holiness.
Summary of the Matter…
Here then is the Faith-gear – CHECK. Our faith is not a matter of our own personal strength, but in realizing the power, the peace, the refuge we have in Christ, whose words were written these favorite words of Christ.
The Lord says, “I will not forget you ever, for see, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”
For those hands were pierced, so that all that would separate Clyde from God would be found without any power, and that Clyde could rest in peace, witnessing the glory of the one who made the mountains upon which Clyde so loved to hike.
Those hands were pierced for you as well. So that “38 nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
Clyde, one more time, today, calls us to consider where we are at. To know that the preparations have been made for the storms of life, and to survive for eternity. Having made the journey, he wanted to guide us, and in that, not pointing to our own efforts, but to the cross, and to the baptismal font, where God has clothed us with Christ, and assured us of sharing in His glory, for He has marked us as His…
Trust in Christ then in the midst of this storm, encouraged by our dear friend, rest in the unsurpassable, indescribable peace of God which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN?
Keep Your Enemies Closer!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ transform you into people who call people to come closer… to you… and therefore God!
As I was working on this sermon about Joseph and his brothers, I would type out the title. Thinking about how God was working in their lives, I would look at it, and something seemed wrong.
It was the exclamation point. Maybe it should have been a question mark.
Keep your enemies closer?
Na… back to Keep your enemies closer!
Well, wait a minute… closer! Closer?
Which you think works better as a title might depend on who’s shoes you are wearing and what your agenda is…
But either way – make sure you repeat to those people what Joseph said to his brothers, Please come closer! And bring him here quickly!
Don’t Be Upset – Don’t Be Angry
Even though it has been a decade or more, Joseph knows his brothers all too well.
And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.!
The first reaction to sin is denial, but they cannot do that anymore. The one they sinned against is standing right in front of them! So they go to the second and third steps in the getting caught process.
Fear – pure fear. Translated here as being “upset.” To be caught by the person who you sinned against, and for that person to have all the power and authority to do whatever he wanted to, to you. The amount of fear that would create – could probably be seen and even smelt.
And so Joseph says… calm down, don’t be upset!
The third step for a sinner caught in sin is to beat themselves up over it. We are all pretty good at that, aren’t we?
“Don’t be angry with yourselves!” he says to them – as fast as their mood is changing.
Even as God says that to us today.
Did you sin this week? Did you sell out Jesus? You thought everything would be perfect if you could get rid of God, sending Him away?
You will stand before Him, just as the brothers had to stand before Joseph.
Don’t be afraid or anxious; His desire is to draw you close….
Don’t be angry with yourselves; God the Father sent Jesus into captivity, just as God sent Joseph into Egypt. Hear Joseph’s words again,
God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you!
Hear that – as Jesus says it to you from the cross! As Jesus dies, our life would be eternally spent with God the Father!.
God has sent me ahead of you to (the cross) to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here (to the cross!), not you!
So come closer, and don’t be upset or angry with yourselves…. God is in control….
Our hope – understanding grace like Joseph… bringing enemies near to embrace us!
I can imagine that the brothers saw themselves as Joseph’s enemies when he called them to “come near.” They struggled to believe how blessed they could be in the moment the truth set them free of their past and present sins.
But there he was… just as Jesus is for each one of us today. Ready to cry with joy over us, even as Joseph did as he embraced first Benjamin, then the rest of his brothers.
It is what we need to pray for, for those people who should be our brothers and sisters but struggle as they think they are our enemies.
Even as Jesus brings his enemies closer and reveals us to His brothers and sisters, Joseph could look back at what God did, what He was doing in providing for all the people of God. As He did, he found the ability to trust in God’s plan, in what God provided.
That is how we draw people to Jesus… we fall in love with Him as we see what He is doing in our lives, and we realize “our enemies” need to see it happening to them as well.
In our prayer circle – I had you put two names – the names to pray for, that God would come to be so natural to them… that when they walk through those doors, you dance with joy. These might be the people that betrayed you in your life, the way Joseph was betrayed. Or they may be the people you sold off into slavery. Either way, these enemies are drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Are revealed to be your brothers and sisters!
Call them to come near, tell them, “please come closer!.” Describe what God is doing, how you see God using the worst challenges in life as blessings,
And when that happens, weep because you are so overwhelmed with joy!
God is with you – so calling them to come closer. Praying that they do… is simply bringing them into the presence of God. AMEN!
The Call Never Changes
Isaiah 6 & Luke 5
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as you are formed for the works God has planned for you in the future, as you walk with Him through this life!
- Called to Train
Andrew Murray, a 19th Century Missionary from the Netherlands to South Africa, wrote,
“Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.”*
While we need to carefully unpack that statement, it is quite true. Every person part of this community, young or old, is called to live for Christ.
Each of you is called to do God’s work, no matter what else you do, no matter where you do it.
The challenge is not to think that serving God is what saves you. Instead, salvation looks like these men’s lives: a relationship like Isaiah and Peter enter into with God. An intimate relationship resulting in a joy found in walking with Jesus throughout life.
And as you are called to walk in this journey, you are following in Isaiah and Peter’s footsteps, for the call never changes…
- Called into God’s Presence
The first part of the call is finding ourselves in the presence of God. For Isaiah, that was the incredible vision of heaven, seeing God in all His glory. It must have been overwhelming, to say the least, to see the angels ministering to God, praising God, seeing how God’s glory envelopes the entire world.
Peter and Andrew’s call was somewhat different. Their call happened at the end of a long night of fishing- long because all their hard work resulted in nothing but sore bodies and frustrated attitudes. As Jesus taught, and then the miracle – catching fish when and where you aren’t supposed to catch fish, led Peter to the same conclusion as Isaiah. “I have been called into the presence of God….”
- Called into God’s grace
Once called into God’s presence, both Isaiah and Peter had the same reaction,
5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.
To me, that they could talk while seeing God’s glory is amazing!
They were both aware of two simple facts…
The first is that God is so incredibly holy and righteous.
The second was how they described themselves.
for I am a sinful man. And I’m such a sinful man.
But that is where the second part of the call comes into play.
For these men were not sinners in the hands of an angry God, they were in the presence of a God determined to be merciful, a God who loved them, a God who had a plan for their life….
And even as they are called into God’s presence, they are called into His grace…into receiving His forgiveness and pardon. Hear that clearly….
He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid!
God doesn’t call us in this life to punish us. He calls us into His presence to purify us, and so both Isaiah and Peter are calmed, and their sin dealt with…so that they can see the last part of their call into the presence of God
- Called to Minister to Others
What happens to Isaiah and Peter next is important.
Not because it happened to them… but because the call of God never changes.
Remember Murray’s statement?
“Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.”*
Peter is told he will become a fisher of men, so he will. Isaiah responds to the same call that brought him into the presence of God, saying, Here am I – send me! I often hear that like this…
Send me! Send me! Please send me!
For that is the response. One early church describes it this way,
“The Lord does not say unequivocally whom he is sending. He leaves the matter vague so that the prophet might respond to the call voluntarily. When Isaiah responds, he does not do so out of rashness or overconfidence but out of trust. For his iniquity has been removed, and he has been cleansed of his sins”
And Luther adds, “But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.”
Sharing God’s love is always a matter of faith – of trusting that God has sent us into that place, using whatever gifts, whatever knowledge we have – no matter whether we are 9 or 90, a preschooler or a Ph.D. A fisherman, a tax collector, a student, a pastor, a financial guru, it doesn’t matter… We are called into this relationship… something so incredible, we need to bless others by bringing them into it.
Most of us will be like Peter, just fishers of men called where we live. As we live, called in the presence of God, saved by the cross of Christ, the end result is fantastic… sinners end up in heaven.
Just like we will be…. So my friends… when you are in the presence of God… hear His call… and go where He sends you…trusting in Him. For you dwell in His presence. AMEN!
* Andrew Murray, Working for God!: A Sequel to Waiting on God! (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1901), 35.
 Wilken, Robert Louis, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich, eds. 2007. Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. Translated by Robert Louis Wilken, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich. The Church’s Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
How do I Get Like That??
† I.H.S. †
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform us, that our lives are lived in praise of God!
- Intro – I so wanna be this excited about my faith!
When I read the Psalm preparing for this week, I immediately wished I could always be this excited about my relationship with God.
The second was to blast the translators for missing out on their punctuation. I mean, this is how they wrote it…. (read flatly)
“15 I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.”
Compare that to this (pumped up!)
15 I will tell everyone about your righteousness! Though I am not skilled with words, all day long, I will proclaim your saving power!
How I wish I could, every waking moment of the day, find the energy to be like that. Even more, I want my sermons to reveal the amazing love that God has for you, that that was your attitude and behavior.
- Young and Old
One of the lines I really want to look at in this passage is verses 17-18. Hear those again,
17 O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. 18 Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
Again, I love the energy of the Psalmist and the idea that God has been teaching us from our youngest moments. For it is often in our youth, or our earliest days walking with God, that telling others about the “wonderful things God is doing” occurs. That is an amazing time in our faith, as our dependence on God just soars.
- Present things – aren’t the future –
But there is the second half of it there – which is all too real. As we go through life, there are times when we might wonder if God has abandoned us. Times where our understanding of God wavers and where we don’t see His power and mighty miracles so easily.
Where did God go?
Why don’t we see Him at work in this?
And while we respond “and also with you,” we aren’t so sure He is with us. The Psalmist was there – and prayed accordingly.
That is why He could also rejoice – for he knew, “20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth!21 You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again!
That is the kind of trust, the kind of faith that we should have! Not the type that denies the downtimes exists but embraces them – knowing the promises of God for the future and for our eternity.
That is trusting God. That is finding joy knowing His promises overwhelm the present challenges that we face. God will restore us, even as He restored Job. And He will comfort us, His presence there, always.
That is what I desire each of you have, even more than I want it for myself. The confidence that allows you to look past these days of COVID, these days of uncertainty, knowing the love of God will sustain you.
- Look to His wonders – to His faithfulness – to His righteousness
For it is by knowing His promises that we can join in worship with the Psalmist,
22 Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises! O my God. I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel! 23 I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me! 24 I will tell you about your righteous deeds all day long!
In the adult Bible Study, we will also talk about this as we end chapter 8. Promises that God will use everything to bless us, and nothing can separate us from God. But that is the same focus David has here…
That God will be dependable, that what He has promised – He will do!
And that realization should get us excited… We can sing and shout for God has made us His own!
He has done what is right, and He has made us His own children. As we are invited and drawn into His presence, we know that that is the purpose of this sermon, this service.
To help you know this. God loves you, has saved you, and you are welcome in His presence, both now and for eternity.
And knowing this, may you realize that you dwell in peace, even though you can’t explain how wonderful it is. And until we are before His throne, that peace of heart and mind is guaranteed to us in Jesus. Amen!
Lift Up Your Eyes and See!
They are coming to you!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to shine… as you reflect God’s love and glory into the darkest aspects of life!
- Epiphany is not a one-time event!
On January 6, the church throughout the world celebrated the feast of Epiphany.
Simply put, it is celebrating the recognition that the light of God’s glory entered the world, and the prophecy from Isaiah 60, read a few moments ago, was fulfilled.
My question for you is…
Before I ask it, I want you to know it will tell me a lot about this church, its trust in God, and its future.
It’s all on the line; everything depends on your answer to this question!
When was the prophecy of Epiphany fulfilled?
How many people think it was totally fulfilled when the caravan of wise men from the east showed up?
It’s a decent thought – but the answer is wrong…
If the church is to grow – it has to understand Epiphany better!
Good thing we can take care of this – this very morning!
Epiphany isn’t one day in history to be remembered and preached about once a year. It didn’t stop 2000 years ago when the crew loaded up the camels like a band packing up from a concert.
Epiphany is an ongoing, everyday celebration. The more you realize it, the more this church will grow, as the glory of God shines from this place, for God’s glory, reflected through your lives… will change this community. For Epiphany – the light of the glory of Christ – will draw people to Him.
You will see it as you grow in your awareness of His glory in your life.
- The Darkness
Isaiah gives a great idea of what life is like before the light of Christ shining forth from our lives,
He describes it as a “thick darkness covering the earth” and a “thick darkness covering the people.” The idea is the kind of darkness that sucks the air and all hope from you.
We have another name for that darkness – it is sin. The damage it does is brutal as it destroys everything, relationships, families, our sanity. Sin creates anxieties that aren’t normal – it causes us even to fear death.
In fact, many of us react pretty negatively when our particular sin is confronted when we are revealed to be in the darkness….
If you don’t think so, come on up, and we’ll take you through the ten commandments and see your reaction!
We don’t even need 10; listen carefully to these words from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession…
For, there is no law that accuses us more, that does more to make the conscience enraged against the judgment of God, than this summary of the whole law, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” For who among the saints other than Christ dares to boast of having satisfied this law?
I love how the reformed noted that – confronting our sin causes us to be enraged – as if God doesn’t have the right to confront us and bring us to healing. We react – How dare God show us that we don’t love Him more than everything else! Doesn’t he realize there are far worse sinners over there in Azusa, or maybe over there in LaVerne…
That shows how powerful sin is – theologically, we will all agree that we are sinners. But if we dare deal with sin… its darkness consumes us, just as it did prior to the beginning of Epiphany.
The change begins…
That consuming darkness is only brought up in the Old Testament to talk about the glory of the Lord shattering that light. Initially, this refers to Jesus, and the star focuses on Him, which guided the wise men to Him….
But it likewise is God’s light dawning in our lives, as we are drawn to Jesus.
For when the Lord is with you…… there is Christ, His glory, His love.
That is what I mean when I say Epiphany didn’t end when the last wise men departed. As long as Christ is Immanuel – as long as He is here, then the light of God’s glory illuminates our life.
So when scripture talked of Jesus, saying He will “see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and exult,” it is talking about us as well!
Our eyes wide open! We are experiencing the multi-dimensional love of God, which is beyond all explanation – and the peace that comes from knowing you are loved and forgiven and welcome in the presence of God. In His presence where His glory makes everything brighter than the brightest day – where everything is cleansed and perfect – for that is why Jesus came, that is why He died and rose.
And people are still coming
There is one last thing to talk to you about this morning…
Scripture promises And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
The Magi represented the nations, but this promise is for more than that – notice the children of God being gathered together. Sons and Daughters finally coming home from wherever they were, no matter how far off they had wandered.
There is your hope – dear people, it doesn’t matter how far people wander from God – the Spirit lights up the lives of the people of God as we resonate and reflect the love of Christ in which we dwell. God’s glory will illuminate their life, as the word of God is heard, as they are drawn to faith…as they are given hope.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, know you are loved, know God loves the people in your community… and let the hope of His love shine through you – a beacon to all the lost.
For you dwell in the peace of God, which is beyond all comprehension – and He guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
 Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
“The SIxth Sola –Serve God Alone!”
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ amaze you to the point where you only serve and worship God.
Three Solas, Five Solas, or is there a 6th?
If you look on the church’s back wall, you will see the early rallying cry of the church. A simple cry, expressed by the word “Solas” or in English, Alone.
We are saved by Grace ALONE, through Faith ALONE, in Jesus Christ ALONE!
Later they would add – as revealed in Scripture alone, to the praise of God ALONE!
That’s a pretty good rallying cry! It is a simple phrase, and people have remembered it and preached on it for 5 centuries.
But I think in today’s Old Testament reading, Tom stumbled across a sixth sola. Or maybe it is a part of the fifth, the one that all the others and everything is to the glory of God ALONE…
What is said over and over in this passage Joshua is to serve or worship God alone.
So the question today… will you take on Joshua’s challenge… and serve and worship God ALONE?
Serve, or WORSHIP?
Just for clarification, the words in English for serve and worship are the same in Hebrew. It has even more profound meaning – to acknowledge that the Lord is God. Therefore our actions are in response and obedience to Him.
What that makes clear is that there is no difference between serving God and worshipping Him. The word is really about that we are His, and we do what He gives us to do.
And we do that because we trust Him.
Luther explained it this way,
The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but all works are measured before God by faith alone.
The point is simple – serving God and worshipping Him is when we are doing what He’s asked us to do, and we do it because we trust and love Him, and for no other reason…
So if we clean our house to honor our parents, or because we love our wife, that is worship. If we lead worship or preach or teach because we want people to be able to praise God for what He has done and is actually doing, that’s worship. If we, knowing God has called us all to make disciples, ask friends or relatives or even a person we just met to church, praise God.
God calls us to do all those things, and to do them in love is worshipping and serving Him. He is our Lord, and because He loves us, we want to make Him happy.
But will we follow through and do so?
Struggling with worship and serving God.
In the time of Abraham’s father, Terah, people didn’t know about God, so they found other gods to serve and worship. They did not know Him; therefore, they did not know any better.
But the people that walked with Moses and Joshua from Egypt did, and they struggled with false gods – from the golden calf to so many other things they wanted to care for them…, and they serve, and they enslave themselves to other things… false Gods, idols
We do the same thing today, though maybe more or less sophisticated. Who or what do you do when facing stress? What do you do when life just is upside down? When you don’t understand what’s going on…
There is your god, and if it isn’t the Trinity, that god is an idol, and it will become your master. It will enslave you, as it has so many others.
And Joshua is saying, no longer.
Choose today – that idol, whether it be another religion or a version of God that you know contradicts scripture, whether it be a sin-filled coping mechanism, whether it even is another person.
Choose believer; will you trust in God? Will you depend on Him. Will you worship and serve Him alone?
Now is the challenge – its time to put away the idols
The people’s answer was simple – they took stock of what they had seen God do in their midst. Hear their words,We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. 17 For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. 18 It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.”
Notice that people based their faith on what they knew God had done even before the cross and the resurrection!
He rescued them! He provided for them! He cared for them! And amid pressures, He preserved them.
Even as He did for us at the cross! Now, the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us because of Jesus.
This is what keeps us focused on worshipping and serving God ALONE. The answer is considering what he’s done for us.
Look at the cross… receive His body and blood at the altar. Consider how God is providing for you…
And allow Him to teach you how to live, how to worship, how to minister to those caught in this broken world, and know you dwell in His presence.
Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!
100 years…. A lesson
Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.
Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.
One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.
They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.
That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!
And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.
In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.
When do we pray for God to take our life?
In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.
Hear his words again,
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)
There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊
We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.
The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.
Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.
And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!
“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”
And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.
He was relying all on his own power and reason….
And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.
The second error he made is found in these words,
“for I am no better than my fathers.”
While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.
He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.
He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.
Just as God will do so here, in this place…
But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.
We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.
How did God consecrate Elijah’s life
We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.
It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)
He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…
Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….
And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)
The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.
But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.
He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.
And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.
This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.
This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way,
27 To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)
This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…
To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;
Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.
The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.
This is most certainly true.
So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!