Category Archives: Sermons

There is Another Way: A Lenten Sermon on Romans 4


church at communion 2There is another Way

Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

 In Jesus Name

As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!

Parenthetical Statement

 In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis.  They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…

They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”

That seems simple.  No law, no breaking the law.

Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us.  They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”.  A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.

You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.

For one thing, it’s impossible.

For another… well you will see.

We can’t avoid it – because of Adam

Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.

All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.” 
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it?  You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!

Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.

Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…

You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.

Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.

 Hear David’s words again,

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”

This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed.  This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!

Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.

Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand.  Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.

That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart.  Paul gets this as well,

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.   1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.

His friends.

Let that sink in.

Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
His friend.

That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.

During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.

And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,

to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.

And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin.  And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.

AMEN!

Love is, Jesus is, We are! Never Jealous, Boastful, or Proud


church at communion 2Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud

 In Jesus Name

 As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!


Love IS

 Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself.  Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.

Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.

We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.

Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.

But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?

Jesus Is

The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.

He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.

There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.

And what to be proud of?  That He could do miracles?  That He could teach thousands?  That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?

What good would any of that have done.

Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved.  He was love!

We Are

So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness?  How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration?  How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?

The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him.  And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,

As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.

As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others.  He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough.    Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.

But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……

It is then I understand these words of Mary,

46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49  For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51  His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)

And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,

16  But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace.  AMEN!

 

 

 

Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness! A Sermon on Micah 6


church at communion 2Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness

Micah 6:1-8

 I.H.S. † 

 May you rejoice today, as you consider the promises of God, made to you and to all people, as He teaches us about His faithfulness!

All Rise… the court is in session:

In today’s sermon, we see an interesting civil court case, one that has some very interesting testimony and a wonderful surprise or two…

Like many civil trials, there is a complaint, and sort of a counter-complaint.

The adversaries are talking about who has kept their part of the deal, and what that means.

The trial is not what you would normally expect, for Man and God going to trial.  It is not one where man is on trial, to see whether a man is guilty or innocent.  Nor is it a trial as someone tries assert that the evidence given to mankind demands a verdict, that God exists.

It is more like a case for what they used to call an “alienation of affection,”

Man’s complaint

The trial opens with God inviting mankind to state their case against Him.  What promises did God make, where in the covenant did God fail? Our carefully planned out points of complaint are seen on the next slide. (Blank)

Yes, there they are….

Now you might be saying that there are plenty of things I can complain about.  The existence of heart diseases, cancer, poverty, hunger, and the lack of peace seem to come right to mind.

Remember, the case is about the alienation of affection.  Did God break his promises to Israel.  Did God break His promises to us.

And there is little evidence that He did, no, there is no evidence he did.

His surprising complaint

We then get to God’s complaint.

It’s then the case becomes clear, for He doesn’t shred us (or Israel) for our sin, for all the disrespect we show to authority, and pain we’ve caused to others lives.  He doesn’t go after us for adultery, or what we’ve taken from others, for our gossip or our jealousy and what it causes us to do.

Instead, hear God’s complaint….

“O my people, what have I done to you?  What have I done to make you tired of me!”

Really?  Of all the things that God could complain of, He complains that we’ve grown tired of Him?

Really?

That sounds… weak?  wimpy?  Like God is a lovestruck teenager, whose girlfriend was stolen by the class president/football team captain?

“What have I done to make you tired of me?”

Could God really be that in love with us?  Does He desire to call us “His” that much?
Epiphany reveals to us that he loves us that much.

Not just infatuation, but pure desire, pure love, and His work proves it.

And His case is.. What?

God will go on to make a case, that there is no reason for us to be alienated from Him, there is no reason to deny Him the affection he so longs for.

Remember the rescue from Egypt?

What about the time that prophet was paid to curse you and blessed you instead?  Do you remember that?

Do you remember me?…..

Do you do something to remember me?

God tells them what He’s done, as he says, in the midst of your rebellion, from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal’s caves, I did everything to teach you about my faithfulness.

God wanted to instill in Israel the idea that He’s not giving up on them.  He wanted them, just like He wants us, to count on Him, to count on Him in the way that a God is supposed to be counted on by His people, by His beloved children.

That’s a challenge for us, to know this love, which is why we have to remember, to see it again over and over.  TO think back daily on God proving that faithfulness as He cleansed us from all sin.   TO think about it as God calls us to remember the Body broken, the wine that was spilled so that we could be with Him, now and for eternity.

That’s why God doesn’t need all the sacrifices, that’s why we don’t have the blood of calves and rams and more oil than you can count.

That’s not what He’s after, He doesn’t want complete submission and surrender, and lives spent in trying to pay back the cost of all we’ve broken.

God wants our affection, our presence, our love.

And in Epiphany we celebrate Him revealed that to us, as Christ comes to love us.

Micah 6:8

Which brings us to that final verse, as God tells us what is good… and what He wants from us.

TO do what is right – or to put it another way, to live in this relationship where He is our God, and we are His people. To love His cHesed, to know that loving kindness/mercy/love, that loyalty, and faithfulness He has for us, and to walk with Him, realizing what it means to be His beloved.

Those things, we don’t tire of, those things will cause us to be in such awe, those things will draw us into His glory and love.

No, they have done those things – for we are in Epiphany, the season celebrating His presence among us, and our presence in Him.   AMEN!

 

 

I Will Trust in My God! A sermon for the second week of Epiphany!


church at communion 2Epiphany!
I will Trust My God!

Isaiah 49:1-17

 In Jesus’ Name!

As the light of Christ’s glory shines in your hearts, may you know how great His mercy, how complete His peace, and how deep His love for you is!

Is it him, or me?

When we look at a prophecy in the Old Testament, there are some things we have to consider. 

How was it in originally fulfilled.

Is it primarily about Jesus during the time from His incarnation to his

But there is a third application of the prophecy – whether it is just a lesson for us, revealing Jesus, or whether it is directly applicable to us.  For example, in the 23rd Psalm, or in Psalm 51 or 139, the words are as applicable to you and me as they are to David.

But what about today’s selection?  Is it like those Psalms that are more about Jesus, or the ones that tell us more about ourselves?

Are we the ones who were named by God before our birth, while in our mother’s womb known by God?  Or is it Jesus?

Are we the ones hidden in the shadow of His hand, who serve God the Father and will bring Him glory, or is it only Jesus who is so aimed, whose words will cause people to know God’s decision that declares them righteous?

Who is this passage about?  Jesus, our Lord, the one who brings the light of His glory into our darkness, or are these words of Isaiah about you and me?

Al – don’t say it!

Could He know the despair?

If I were to make the case that it is about us, what would seem to make that point is found in verse 4.

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

That sounds like something you or I would say, far more than it sounds like something the only begotten Son of God would say.

Think about those words for a moment.  Do these words of despair sound like they would come from the mouth of the Lord Jesus?  From the same lips that blessed bread and fish and fed thousands upon thousands?  From the same lips that calmed storms, and called the little girl and the widow’s son and Lazarus back to life?  Could Jesus, who forgave the adulteress, and healed the blind and paralyzed, could he have uttered such words of hopelessness?

Doesn’t this lead us to think these words, therefore, must be just about you and me?

Or is this what the writer of Hebrews means when he says,

15  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. 16  So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (MSG)

If so, then this passage could still be about Him.  If it is, then we have a God who doesn’t just look down on us, but can be there for us, knowing the challenges.  He just doesn’t sympathize with us, this God who lights up our darkness with His light, it is His empathy that drives Him to do so!

If this passage is about Jesus, then it brings a whole different understanding to our faith.  It isn’t n vain, and it isn’t a leap.  Our hope is an expectation, just like Jesus’ faith is expressed back in verse 4,

“But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.

Somehow, Jesus was able to trust the Father, He was able to leave it all in the Father’s hands.  Dealing with Peter and James and John and the wishy-washy disciples, dealing with Herod and the religious leaders who wanted to kill him.  Dealing with the rich young ruler who walked away.

Did Jesus know those days when it seems like nothing works, that nothing makes a difference, and simply trusted in the Father’s will?

yes.

It is both, because we find life, in Christ!

So is this passage only about Jesus?  Or can we utter those words as well?  Can we leave it all in the hands of God, trusting in God to see us through?

Is He the only one who God formed to be his servant?  Is he the only One who God uses to bring back those who’ve wandered off, to bring salvation to all who are far off, even to the ends of the earth?  Who will see the powers and authorities of this world bowing before?

While it is about Jesus, it is about us as well, for we find our lives, the lives the Holy Spirit calls into existence, cleansing us from sin, in Christ Jesus.  It is true of us because it is true of Him.  For in the book of Acts Paul tells some gentiles in Athens that their poets had it correct when they said, “In Him we live and move and have our being”.

That is what it means to be in the season of Epiphany, to share in the glory of Christ Jesus.  This is what it means for Him to be here, shattering our darkness.  As we realize His presence anew every time we commune at the altar, every we time we hear His voice speak to us, as the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to create life within us!

We see this the last verse, where Isaiah says to those in Christ, it is the LORD, the faithful One, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you…

This is not about the one who is spoken too, it is not about their faith, but the faithfulness of the LORD who speaks.  It is about His faithfulness in saving us, in lighting our way, in ensuring we endure, ensuring we hear His call of us, by name.  The name for the church throughout scripture is this very term – the chosen or called ones.  Called by name, kept in the hand of God, given a message to deliver to the nations.

This is our life, spent in Christ, our journey in the light of His glory, the glory that came when He came to dwell with man, and in our baptism as the Spirit comes to give us this wondrous life.

This is our focus during Epiphany, this is why we sing, as we recognize His glory has appeared here, where the Lord is with you!  AMEN!

More or Less – A Sermon on who we are during Advent


church at communion 2More or Less
Matthew 11:2-15

† Jesus, Son & Savior †

As we continue our journey through Advent, my you be blessed knowing that neither God’s grace, nor His presence will ever be far from you…

Some Concern

As we hear about John sending His disciples to ask Jesus if He is truly the Christ, the Messiah, the one Chosen and set apart to save humanity, there is both comfort and concern.

The comfort comes from knowing that John’s faith was challenged, even as my faith waivers now and then. Perhaps more often it is now rather than then.

It is not uncommon to know that feeling that leads to John sending out his people to ask.  Even though John knew in the womb that Jesus was the Messiah, even though John saw the Holy Spirit and Heard the Father’s voice when Jesus was baptized.  Even though we sing John’s song, the words he said the day after the baptism –

“There is the Lamb of God!  He who takes away the sins of the world!”

Now I can hear John crying out the words added to that liturgical hymn…. “Lord, grant me peace.”

That’s really what is behind his question about whether Jesus is the Messiah.  As John sits in the dark, dank jail cell, with breaks only to confront the man who is sinning, sleeping with his brother’s wife.

“Jesus, are you truly the Messiah or do I need to find peace somewhere else.”

It’s comforting to know I am not the only one to ask that… it’s concerning because if John’s faith couldn’t withstand the challenges of life,

how can mine…?

Compared to this greatest of the prophets, the man who testified about Jesus while in his mother’s womb…. Who are you and me?

And how can we have the faith to endure?
More Concern

As the gospel goes on, as we read the words St Matthew, the insignificance of my faith seems to multiply.

As John’s disciples leave, Jesus starts to praise John to the crowds.

John wasn’t weak and hollow like a willow reed.  He wasn’t spun around easily by life, or bent and broken by the storms.  He wasn’t a fashion plate, he wasn’t rich and famous, yet people flocked to hear him speak, which tells us he was not just a powerful speaker, he had a message that people needed to hear, and desired too, even if it was painful!

He was a prophet, and more than a prophet.

And people came to hear him, they couldn’t stop themselves.

Jesus says that as great as John was, and no who has ever been born is greater, he can’t be compared to the least in the kingdom of God.

Ouch.

What hope does that give us?

How do we compare to the prophets of prophets?

How can he who is so much more than us, and so much less than them… Hearing that, how do we know joy, on this third day of Advent?

Listening and Understanding

To understand this, we have to listen to Jesus,

He says, about John being the fulfillment of the promise of Elijah’s return, that those who have ears to hear should listen and understand.

Understand what?

That he is our Messiah. Just as He was John’s.

It’s the same answer, the answer to John, and the answer those who listen and hear.

Hear the answer to John again,

the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.*.’ ”

It took me a while to see it, but the answers are the same – and the challenge is seeing that Jesus is the Messiah.

Not just the He is here to save the world,

He is here to bring you and me, and every other broken person we know, into the Kingdom of God.

For those He heals and cleanses, the poor souls that hear the gospel, the good news, and cling to Him, they are the ones dwelling in the Kingdom of God.

They are those who are greater in faith than John the Baptist.  “They” includes you and me.

That’s you and me, for we depend on the promises of God, that He will never leave or forsake us, that He will let nothing divided us from His love.

You and I have been raised to life with Christ, we dwell with Him.

We dwell in God’s kingdom by His invitation, by His declaration.

So we are more, even as we see ourselves as less.

We need to know this, we need to count on the fact that we are children Of God.  We live in His kingdom, we can’t run from Him, because He abides within us.

He is here, he dwells with you, and though we can’t sustain our faith based on our observations, He sustains us anyway.  That is why He came.  That is why John/Elijah came and set up his ministry.

That is why Jesus points to his ministry, and the important prophecy about Elijah’s return, these all point to Jesus’ role as the Messiah.  They point to His role as the one God sends to restore His people, to give up His life, to redeem us from the bondage of sin, to make us pure and holy in the Father’s eyes.

As the Messiah – as He is lifted up on the cross, he draws us into the Kingdom of Heaven, we become its citizens, we become the children of the King.

We are there, secure in Him, our hearts, our souls, our faith, and trust sustained, even on the dark days, for it is about His strength, His power, His love…

Love that never fades…Love that provides peace, and comfort, and when we see Him providing that love,  we even know the joy that shatters the darkness. Love that we can see, through the word, as He reveals Himself in the sacrament, as He renews our spirits.

AMEN!

 

 

A Sermon Parable: Pastors and Deacons are simply Speedbumps!


concordia-lutheran-button-only-logo-1-copy3.jpgOf the men I have taught and trained to be deacons, few have worked harder than Chuck, and few thought he could handle the work.  Yet he is a natural, enthusiastic evangelist, one who is always sharing the love of Christ in very down home simple ways people remember.  As part of his training, he delivered this sermon.  ( All deacon sermons preached at Concordia are written with my oversight, assistance, and approval.)  He aced this one, as people responded to its simple message, praising God for the grace, the love and mercy we’ve received.  – pr. dtp

Chuck’s Parable:
Pastor, Bob and I are Speedbumps, 
that you Need!

In Jesus Name

 (Take a deep breath, and silently pray, “Jesus, may the words of my heart and the thoughts of my mind be acceptable to you, and may the words reveal to these people your love”  )

My prayer for you this day is that the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draws you to them, as the Holy Spirit fills you with love and mercy.  AMEN!

Introduction – Meet your speedbumps!

Part of what I learned this week has to do with verse 20 in the Old Testament.  It says there,

20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins.

As pastor and I talked about these “obstacles”, I thought they were like big speedbumps.  Things God puts in your way to cause you to slow down so that you stay alive.  In this case, staying alive spiritually.

The pastor asked me what those obstacles, those speedbumps were.

And after a few moments, it came to me.

Pastor, and Deacon Bob and I are the speedbumps!

I kinda like that.

That’s my story, my parable today.  Pastor, Bob and I are speedbumps, speedbumps you need!

We have to be pretty big speedbumps as well, for we need to slow you down enough for you to be still, and know God is God.  Which means you need us to be speed bumps.

That has two parts,

Part 1

and Part 2.

So let me tell you about part 1.

part 1 – slow down, so you don’t die in your sins

The first reason I am a speed bump is to help you is to warn you about sin, and the consequences of it.  That isn’t easy, or pleasant, so God helps us keep focused on it,  He tells us,

17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 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.

That sounds pretty serious.  If I don’t remind you that the wages of sin are death, then I would be responsible for you spiritual death – not just physical death, but spiritual, eternal death.

I don’t really think I need that threat – I want you all to be in heaven because I love you. But that is what it says, maybe in case I get annoyed at you someday.  (SMILE)

And if you get annoyed at me, well, I might have annoyed you about something less important before.  This is important.

You need to know God takes sin seriously.  We weren’t meant to live life following other Gods, or not using His name right.  We aren’t supposed to murder each other or be unfaithful to our wives, or gossip about each other.

We are to love each other. And if we don’t, that is sin.

Reason #2

The second reason that Pastor, Bob and I are speedbumps in your life is to get you to slow down enough to become repentant.  Repentant is not just being sorry, it means to be transformed, to be made new in our heart and mind.

That isn’t easy.

Imagine my garage is like your soul, and everything in it is your sin and unbelief.

You need to slow down, to put less and less into it, or you will not be able to walk in it.  And the first reason, speedbumps slow you down.  In the second reason, the speedbump gives time for the garage to be transformed.  That’s a nice way of saying that God has to clean out all the stuff in our spiritual garages.  He must clean out the garage so well that it is as clean as Carol’s kitchen.

That’s what we call a miracle.

Come to think of it, anyone needs a corner cabinet?  Talk to me later if you do.

Oh yeah – we need to become repentant.  That’s God’s work, that happens as we hear the gospel proclaimed, whether it is heard at church, or over lunch, or even in my doctor’s office.

That cleaning out is repentance, it is the change our-our heart, soul, and mind that happens because Jesus died on the cross to make it happen.  He took that penalty of death that each of us deserved….

He died so that we might live eternally.

He died because the Father poured out all of his wrath, all of his anger, all of the punishment we deserve on Jesus.

So we can be cleansed, so we become not just sorry for our sins, but so we become repentant.

conclusion.

I am up here, to be your speedbump, to get you to slow down enough so that you know God’s love, to help you to slow down enough when you walk up here and kneel down, so that you are still, and as you eat the body and drink the blood of Christ you know He is God.

And I pray that Pastor, Bob and I are good speedbumps and that God will work through our preaching, our teaching and our giving you the body of Christ.  Because God is working in your lives, you will know His peace, the peace of God that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

Ready, Are We? A Sermon on life as We Await Jesus’ Return


MarkJ AdventReady, Are We?

Matthew 24:36-44

I.H.S.

 As you encounter the grace, the mercy, and love of God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, may your desire to experience His presence grow, as will your desire for Jesus to come again!

2 A.M. Somewhere….

Most of us picture Jesus returning based on a passage in First Thessalonians,

16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NLT)

We see him, His long hair and robes flowing in the wind, his hand stretched out and a look of pure serenity on His face, with just a few high clouds in the sky, and the sun shining brightly, but no obscuring his glory.

But did you ever think – that somewhere when he returns – it will be 2 a.m in the morning?  That somewhere people will be sound asleep; and in another home, a mom will be feeding her baby, as some will be taking their delivery trucks out, as bars and clubs close.

And somewhere, in the midst of their lives, at some time of the day or night, some people will be engaged in sin. Someone will be cursing using God’s name, and another forgetting to pray for an enemy.  Someone will be killing with physical weapons, and others simply using their words to do damage as significant.   Some will be committing adultery, and others gossiping., and some, just struggling to depend on God who they can’t see.

And out of the clouds, whether 2 p.m., 2 a.m. Jesus will return.

Our gospel tells us we must be ready always, for Jesus will not only return, but he will also return when you least expect it.

So as I share God’s love this morning, I want you to think about a couple of questions.

First – Do you care?

The first is challenging, well, they both are.  But here is the first question:

Do you, or do you think the church cares about whether Jesus is coming back?

Is it on your radar at all?  Do you wake up in the morning, and wonder if this will be the day?   Do we ever consider it given our decisions to do this or that?

Do we even think about Jesus coming back?

Think about that for a moment.

second – why?

if you do think about Jesus returning, the second question comes into play.

Why do you want Him to return?

Is it to escape the pressure and depression that this world and the evil in it causes?  I have to admit; there are days I don’t want to hear any news, to see any headlines.

Is it to stop having to struggle with life and the complications we have in our lives?  Complications like aging and sick bodies, challenged relationships.  ( Great line from Skorpion  – Thanksgiving is about having meals with people we don’t get along with the rest of the year!)

Is it to stop having to deal with our sin, our guilt, shame, brokenness?

When we pray for Jesus to return – is it to be rescued from something, or to be delivered into the presence of God?

That’s what the issues were in Noah’s day, they forgot about the presence of God in their lives, and they lived life without thinking about God.

And to be honest, many of us get trapped in the same kind of life.

Unaware of God, and only turning to Him to be rescued.

Walking with Jesus is much, so much more meaningful than that. Eternity will be so much more than simply being free of the crap of this world!  Eternity with God is dwelling with Him, in the purest peace, the most mindblowing joy, in fellowship divine.

It is to live, as we are being drawn into the glory of God…..

And it will happen… sooner than we have prepared for…

Ready, Are we?

 

SO then, the questions change a little….

How do we get ready for Jesus to return?

We turn to the words of Paul in the epistle…

12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes,

This speaks of two things – first our baptism, and the incredible work of God that started there, as God cleanses us from all our sin, just as He promises. But it also speaks of repentance – the continuing action of our being transformed – what we see when we confess our sins and expect God to keep His promise there as we and then the question of how we stay read

14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this speaks of baptism too – as God the Father clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, in His holiness.  As we see the work of God drawing us closer, and it is so incredible, so peaceful and so joyous that we begin to desire it more and more.

And we see that not only in baptism, but here as we kneel, as we receive Christ, as we have a glimpse at our relationship with God, and the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love for us, this endless joyous love.

Advent?  TO desire Jesus presence, to have nothing hindering it, not guilt, no shame, no brokenness, this is what advent is about – and why we desire Him to return…

And may that desire grow – as you know His love, as you dwell in His peace.

AMEN!

Crafting Serenity: A Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King!


church at communion 2

Crafting Serenity

Col. 1:13-20

† Jesus, Son & Savior †

May the Grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace seen in action as He brings us from darkness to life, may you know so clearly that grace, that you dwell in His peace!

Made Peace – Crafted Serenity:

In the last verse read from Colossians this morning, we hear something that Jesus has done.  It is accomplished, done, competed, and yet we don’t’ always see it.

It is a great description of what reconciliation really is, what the cross accomplishes,

Hear the words again,

He made peace with everything on heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

He made peace…made peace.

It actually can read more powerfully than that…

He crafted serenity…

 Crafted Serenity….

I hear those words, and for a moment I am taken back to Lake Ossipee – to a place where you can barely see the homes on the other side of the lake, when the colors of the fall include just about every color imaginable, and the lake’s waters are so still there are no ripples… just calm serenity, with a brief breeze or a snowflake fluttering down….

A bit different than life lived on the 91, 5 or 605 freeway.

We need to note that God isn’t saying He will craft serenity later, that this peace will be made at some future point.  It’s not happening in some undefined period labeled “soon”.

It is a tense that originate in the past – and keeps going – that crafting serenity, that making peace hasn’t stopped for a moment..

But that raises the question….

Why doesn’t our spiritual life seem more like that serene day standing at the edge of a beautiful calm lake, and why does it too often seem like I am standing in the middle of that freeway at 5 p.m.?

Who is this?  Who are We not?

That peace is the creation of God, created as Christ’s blood was shed on the cross.  The Christ we worship and praise, the Christ who is the visible image of our invisible Father. He’s been there forever, in Him everything – including us is created.

He created it all – everything in heaven and on earth!  Everything we see and can’t see, and He is supreme over all creation holds it all together.

And that is where we struggle, and often why we don’t know peace.

That He is Creator, we don’t have a problem with, it is that we want to be supreme, we want to be in charge, we want to make it all work out.  That is the root of all sin, the idea that we think for a moment, or we are tempted to think that we know what is best for us.

And so we go off on our own, we walk away and do what we want, what we desire. Even today we struggle with this idea that Jesus is not only our Savior but our benevolent, loving Lord.

Rather than learning what He desires, rather than seeking Jesus first. we choose what we want, what excites us, what we think might quench our cravings, or what we think might lead us to comfort or peace, or rest.

That’s why Paul goes back over – it through Jesus God created this all. From the beginning, He was in charge, not us.  For if we look to our own efforts to find the rest we desire, all we will do is find the consequences of our sin, of our rebellion, our throwing off God’s desires.

We have to set our desires aside and hear Paul’s confession – Christ is the head of it all, everything that was created was created for him, and for Him,

Which means all things, everything was meant to be defined by it’s relationship to Christ.

For He is God, in everything. Over life and death, over the new resurrected life that we have been given, as Christ drew us back to Himself.  For that is what reconciliation is, retuning that which was changed beck to its original – apokatalsso- to bring back, to restore, to make right.  To take us out of the darkness we entered and bring us into the light of His glory!

And that is what Christ did and is doing – making everything in heaven and earth the way it should be….you see that, even as He hands on the cross and reconciles the thief to Himself.

The work that was planned before creation, that was revealed at the cross!

That’s why we are in awe

That is why we are here, to see this work of God revealed.  As He calls us to Himself, as He reconciles us to Him, recreating us in His image, recreating in us His righteousness, guiding us.

It is why we listen to people read the bible, why we confess what we believe, reminding ourselves of His return, it is why we listen to a sermon, that forces us to consider our struggles, and know He is the answer to them.

It is why we know we can pour out our burdens here in prayer, and then come here to be given the Body and blood to eat and drink, to know that He has crafted for us a serenity, that He has fashioned this place where everything is set aside and we see what heaven will be like, where He gives us this peace, a peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Jesus.  AMEN!

499 Years Later How is YOUR Re-formation Going?


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

499 Years Later
How is YOUR Re-formation Going?

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the mercy of God our Father, poured out on us as we were untied to Jesus in Baptism, be as real, as reforming our lives and God’s church.

Does History Guarantee our Reformation?

There was once a group of people who thought themselves good, who counted their spiritual heritage back across the generations, for they knew God had worked across those generations, and had often preserved His people. They did what they were told would make them holy, they regularly met and celebrated the promises of God. They ignored their sin, often while condemning the sins of others.

It sounds like the descendants of Abraham, doesn’t it?

Could it be said of Lutherans, even Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Lutherans, Even the people that gather here at Concordia Lutheran Church, even those here right now?

I think Jesus’ answer to us would be the same to those Jews who needed to be freed from sin, as He calls us all to be disciples, to remain in the truth He instills in us, to celebrate the truth that indeed sets us free!

To put it in another way, to be able to answer the question,

“499 years later, how is your re-formation going?”

Or do we know that the Holy Spirit is at work, reforming us!

Are we still enslaved to sin?

Jesus told them and told us, that if we are sin, we are enslaved to it, in bondage to it, that it set a trap and caught us in it, a trap we cannot easily escape.  That’s why you can’t escape it at times, or the guilt and shame it can cause.

Ever lay awake at night, wondering why you said or did something, or have it come back to haunt you?  Ever feel the suffocation of shame, as you think, if they only knew how bad I was, they would never forgive?

One article I read said that Luther had an over-active sense of guilt, a by-product of depression, and a burdened soul that created the Reformation to find comfort for his broken soul.

Would we all have souls so hungry to be found righteous, and haunted by our own unrighteousness! Would we all seek out the comfort God offers to those who are broken, and would we all point others, in need of us, to the comfort the cross offers!

For we need relief of being ensnared by sin, we need to hear that we’ve been freed from it, we need to know, in the midst of broken lives and a broken world, that there is peace!

That’s why Jesus points out that in their slavery, they may seem to be part of Abraham’s family, but they are slaves, people without rights, who aren’t part of the family.  They lived in the illusion of it, while still in bondage.  But if they would follow Jesus, if they would walk with Him, learn of Him, and find their place in Him, they would be free.  They would be transformed.

We need to be transformed, which was the hope both the Reformation and the Restoration movements offered.

We need to see our reformation and restoration both personal, and permanent.  To declared us free from the power of sin, freed to become the children of God!

We are part of that family

That was the freedom, the comfort, the relief Luther, and so many before and after found.  In being a disciple, not just someone who learns by sitting in a classroom, but one who walks with Jesus in every aspect of life.  Where we let God form us, even disciplining us as the Holy Spirit works to reform and transform us.

This is what happens at the Cross when we are united to Christ’s death and His resurrection, that is where our personal reformation begins, ever as Paul wrote to Titus.

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. 4  But—

That is us, back when before this happened>0

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT)

This is the teaching a disciple of Jesus remains in, the fact that He saved us, baptizing us in water and the Spirit, cleansing us from all sin.

That is where our confidence in being part of God’s family comes from!  Not from anywhere else!  That is where our reformation happened, even as it is revealed throughout the rest of our lives, and completed on the day of Christ.

And knowing that leaves us in a place of peace, A peace that is found as we remain in Christ Jesus.  In that peace, we find the stillness needed to know He is God, and we have not only been freed, but we’ve become part of the family.  AMEN!

Breathe on Me, Breath of God


Breathe on Me, Breath of God
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, breathed out into you as the scriptures are read, remind you that you dwell in His peace!

 A Cute and False Statement about the Bible

Maybe 20 years ago I started seeing bumper stickers and tee-shirts with one of those cute Christian slogans on it.  The slogan is pretty popular, and somewhat cute, but it is wrong, and spiritually, it is not just false, it is deadly.

Basic
Instructions

Before
Leaving
Earth.

It is wrong because it reduces the exhaled words of God into a rule book, a guide by which we could live the perfect life.

Yet many of us, including me, have used the inaccurate acronym a time or two, not thinking that it could lead people to frustration, and turn them into either hypocrites, or worse, causing them to give up on the church.

First – if you look at it as a rule book, a guidebook, it is anything but “basic”.

I mean the Old Covenants has over 613 commandments, – that doesn’t sound, “basic”.

And the summary found in the New Covenant – Love God with every part of you – heart, soul, mind and body, and to love your neighbor, not the one you like, but the other one, as you love yourself.

Does that sound like easy, simple instructions?

And do you think you can achieve that level of maturity prior to leaving earth?

So I think we need to understand what it means that God gave us His word, and what He makes it useful for.

What Paul sees as an urgent need

In the second paragraph, Paul urges Timothy and all who read this letter to announce, to proclaim, to teach others the word of God. To bear witness to it, because of the hope it gives to those who will hear it.

He is insistent on it, he urges us to do so because the need to hear it is urgent.  We don’t urge people to do something that is common and simple.  We urge them to do something that is critical, that is needed.

And he urges us to be ready, whether it is convenient or not, even when it requires us to patiently correct people, to even rebuke them, and to encourage them with our teaching.

Not easy tasks, but ones we are urged to do, because this is why we have scripture, and it will make a difference in their life, and ours,

A difference that God wants to bring about urgently.

Because He loves us, and He wants us with Him, to know His love, to share in His glory.

By “us” I mean us all!

All, no matter what language we speak, no matter where we were born, our what languages we speak, or what political candidate we support or criticize.

God would have them hear of His love, and Paul reminds us of this and urges us to do it, for these are people Jesus died to save.

What scripture does – Gives specific wisdom

This is the message of scripture, the message that Timothy learned, the lesson that made him wise, and that wisdom was for a purpose –

to be saved.

Saved from, but more importantly saved into a relationship where we can believe in, trust, and depend on Jesus Christ.

This is what scripture teaches that we are to remain faithful to, the very things that were passed on to us, and o which we pass on to the next generations, even if it means we suffer in order to do it.

This isn’t basic, and it isn’t just some instructions – as if you have to assemble it.

It is revelation, an unveiling of reality, that affects our lives here and now, and from this point forward into all of eternity.  The Holy Spirit uses these God-breathed words to breath life into us, to give us faith.

This salvation is worth it, this being brought into the presence of God is that amazing.

Not just to be cleansed of all sin and shame
Not just to be freed from all guilt and resentment
To know we are loved
To know we will spend all eternity with our beloved Lord and Savior.
And that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, our comforter.

This is what scripture teaches us, this is what we rejoice in, this is the life which God reveals to us, as He breathed out the scriptures, and they breathed life into us.

This is where we remain faithful, depending on these promises.  This is where we stand, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether we prosper or suffer.
For in Him, we have found a peace that is beyond all understanding, and we are  guarded, our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

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