Category Archives: Sermons

It’s All Useless! A sermon and another sermon in the service – based on Isaiah 49:1-7

Useless!  It’s All Useless! ??
Isaiah 49:1-7
† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that your life and your ministry is not worthless!

The Feeling of Uselessness

There are times in life when you will put all your effort into your work, or into the work you do here at church.

But when you sit back at the end of a day or a week, you look and wonder why you worked so hard.  You wonder why you tried so hard,

And yet, you seem to have accomplished so little.

There are still bills to be paid, dishes to be done, there is still a pile of tasks at work, and the church doesn’t seem to grow the way you would like.

It is not a good feeling, and it can tempt you to despair.

to wonder why things aren’t getting better

to wonder if they ever will.

My friends, we aren’t the first to ever wonder that!

In fact, that is part of our reading from the book of Isaiah. Part of our reading this morning was this,

He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” 4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Is. 49:3-4

I’ve had days like that, where I know that my actions and thoughts should be bringing God glory, that they should have some tangible results, and yet…

So how do we deal with this feeling?

Why does it exist?

First, we have to identify where it comes from.

The first is simple and often overlooked.

Satan would try to cause us to believe there is nothing to our relationship with God.

He would love to paralyze us, blinding us to the work God is actually doing in our lives,

and through our lives.

You heard that! God does the work through us!

The second cause is our own sin,

When we want to play God and determine the impact and effect of what we do.

You see, we aren’t the ones who determine the results of the actions that God calls us to do, and the Holy Spirit guides us and empowers us to do.

When we demand to know the results, we usually have demanded to determine the actions as well.

What we’ve forgotten is what Paul taught the Corinthians,

5  After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6  I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7  It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NLT2)

That is what is comes down to sometimes, we want to determine the growth.  We want to be in charge, rather than letting God be in charge.

We try to get the results we want, and ignore living and ministering to others in the way He has directed us to live.

Loving Him with all our heart, soul and mind.

Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. (depending on God’s love to make this happen)

When we demand the results, per our standards, per our expectations, we need to go back and double-check our actions, our plans, and see whether they are in line with His commands.

And if not, repent, and seek the forgiveness that God graciously plans for us.

The Real Answer

The person Isaiah writes about found the same answer, and the way to measure the results.

Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” Isaiah 49:4b (NLT2)

That’s a challenge, to simply place all that we do in the Lord’s hands, to let Him determine how He will use what He directs and empowers us to do.

He is God remember?  He is with us!  His Holy Spirit dwells in us, gives us the gifts that we have to use in loving Him and loving each other!

Our reward ultimately is when He tells us, “well done, MY good and faithful servant!”  Matthew 25:21NLT2

That reward is what is guaranteed when we leave it in His hands!

Remember He makes what is righteous, righteous, and in cleansing us from all sin and unrighteousness, even that is judged righteous!

Without having to worry about how we will be judged, we can simply look at what we want to do, measure it by how it loves God and our neighbor, and if it does, go with it.

That’s why I tell people in the English service, whatever idea you have for this church to minister to others, let’s pray about, make sure it loves God and our neighbor, and ask God to bless it, and do it!

Leaving the results in the hands of our loving, heavenly Father.

Remember, He cares for you… and for the people around you.

He sent Jesus to correct all the times we try to be in charge, when we try to manipulate the results, and when we despair when we don’t get what we want.

Conclusion

That’s why the cross, and that is the final proof of this passage.

You see, the passage isn’t just about us. At the cross, one could easily wonder if the work of Jesus was useless! He had spent his life investing in the people of Israel, and in 12 guys, all of whom betrayed Him.

Sounds useless to me!

What value was it?  He didn’t cause great revival during His life, he couldn’t even get 12 guys to get it right.

Yet, His reward is that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess He is Lord.

No, His reward is greater than that. His reward is our homecoming, our relationship with the Father, that He invested His life, and death to re-create

If Jesus didn’t love the Father and love us, the cross makes no sense. But because of that love, it makes sense, and it is rewarded!

Loving the Father who loves us, loving our neighbor, even if they would crucify us…  or just make our life inconvenient, and less about…. Us.  That is how we live in Christ, that is what makes our life incredible.

We can do that because of His forgiveness, because He heals our souls, because the Spirit, given to us in baptism, empowers that and makes it happen. Look to Him, fall madly in love with God, pray, and let us serve Him together!

AMEN!

God’s Plan in the Spotlight! A sermon on Ephesians 3:1-12

Epiphany – In the Spotlight
Ephesians 3:1-12

In Jesus Name

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ enable you to live out the plan brought to life in Christ’s coming – that we are to live boldly and confidently in God’s presence!

  1. The Plan… Hidden

This week was the anniversary of the birth of one of the great Christian philosophers of the last century.  J.R.R. Tolkien is probably best known as the writer behind “the Hobbit” and “the Lord of the Rings.” But one of the things we should rejoice about from his life was his impact on a fellow writer and philosopher.

Eric Metaxas tells us how Tolkein joined Jesus on Jesus’ mission one night on a walk with his friend Jack. He didn’t beat the gospel into him, in fact, he only alluded to Jesus in one question, about whether all the myths could have some source in an event that was real, that once God did invade reality.  (https://stream.org/j-r-r-tolkien-helped-lead-c-s-lewis-faith/)

His friend Jack, the angry, arrogant agnostic who disliked any discussion bordering the religious, was only nicknamed Jack. His given name was Clive Staples Lewis – one of the best-known Christian writers of the last century.

Joining Jesus, in this case, was simply a matter of shining a light in Lewis’s life, and letting the Holy Spirit work illuminate the plan that God had for Lewis, the same exact plan He has for each one of us, from the prophets and the wise man that adored Jesus at His birth, to you and I today.

It is simply a plan of illuminating God’s plan in their life, revealing His love, and His work in their lives.

This is what Epiphany is all about  – putting God’s plan in the spotlight – for all to see.  That is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, that we saw this morning, this wonderful plan, with a wonderful result.

  1. The Plan Revealed

Both Tolkien and Lewis talked about writing a lot, and you see a similar style in them. The main characters are always aided by a more mysterious and powerful character. In Tolkien, it is Gandalf, a servant of a Deity never quite revealed. With Lewis, the guide was Aslan, who was also the destination.

But in the journeys, as in many good stories, the plan that these guides had was not fully revealed to those making the journey. That keeps a reader, or moviegoer interested, as the plan is revealed step by step.  For those on the journey, it is a bit frustrating.

I want to know where I am going, how I am going to get there, how much earlier I have to plan to leave, so I actually leave on time and leave enough time for a bathroom stop or five on the journey.

During the Old Testament, the journey wasn’t always well known, they wandered for years, and they still didn’t understand the tabernacle or the Temple and what they pointed to, in fact, many today still don’t understand.  Paul knew…. And he talks about the plan,

Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

  1. The Plan Explained

You see the plan for the journey there.  The plan includes who is on the journey, and how the journey is accomplished

The ones on it are those who believe the good news, what we call the gospel.  It doesn’t matter whether we are Gentile or Jewish, what matters is that we believe, that we depend on the Good News. – the news that God loves us enough that Jesus would die for us.

And the way the journey happens is simple  – we receive all these blessings because we belong to Jesus.  That in our baptism, we are united to Him, we are made one with Him, in His death, and in His resurrection.  This is the incredible mystery we confess when we sing the Memorial Acclimation – that because He died, was buried and rose, we, who were dead in our sin, rise with Him! And when He returns, for us, we will be with the Father forever!

How do we say it around here?  Alleluia!  He is risen indeed! (He is risen! Alleluia) and therefore, (We are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

His plan, it has been since the beginning, that our salvation would occur as we are intimately tied to Christ’s death and resurrection, as we are intimately united to Him!

  1. The Result of the Plan

The plan doesn’t end with the journey though, like our salvation, our being saved. Whatever epic, whether Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, or even Star Wars, the destination is arrived at, in a place where peace finally reigns.  They got the idea from scripture of course, and their novels are based in a hope truly seen in scripture.

Oddly enough, they all arrive at the place where they started, with the difference being the peace that is known, finally. That is why I call the destination, “our perfect home”  Paul will describe the plan’s destination this way:

11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

We have a hint of that home now, for as we presently dwell in Christ’s presence, and He in us, we have the shadows cast by this reality to comfort us. For we dwell with Him now, and yet, we are still on the journey to the point where we see His return. To the point where we boldly enter the presence of God our Father, confident because of the work of Jesus that we belong there.  AMEN!

 

Passionately Committed: A Christmas Eve Sermon on Isaiah 9:2-7

 

Altar with communionPassionately Committed
Isaiah 9:2-7

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, mercy and peace of God so flood your life that you realize how passionate God is committed to you!

The overlooked words

Have you ever had a conversation, where the main point that you were trying to make was overlooked?  In fact, the little stuff, that was dependent on the main point, became the focus of the conversation?

That happens continually when pastors prepare sermons.  In fact, I have questions I ask myself every week, that I put in place to try and protect you from me doing this with scripture.

The first question is, “where is the law in the passage, where do we find ourselves disobeying God and doing what we want”  If is followed by “Where is the gospel, where does God heal our brokenness”

But there is a final question, “how is the intimate relationship between God and His people revealed?”

Those questions, especially the third one, keep the main idea, the main idea. For all that we do here, from the candles to the tree, to the manger which will have the baby in it soon, it is all to reveal that concept, that God is passionately committed to you.

That other stuff – just describes the real truth

You see some of the words of the prophecy of Isaiah on Christmas cards, on banners, quoted every year, Let me reread them, from the King James,

6  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

Those words are an incredible promise of Jesus’ birth, and His life, death and resurrection. To call one born on a women Mighty God and Everlasting Father is incredible.

While I have preached 20-30 sermons on all of that verse, and sung those words in the Messiah, that isn’t the main point of those seven verses.
The key point – the passionate commitment/zeal

They, like the idea that the darkness we all walk in will be shattered by God’s glory, and the joy we will have when God breaks sin’s hold on us, all point  to one simple point, explained in the last verse:

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

The Lord, God almighty is passionately committed to making all this happen.

Why?  What is He after?  Why would he zealously and passionately committed to sending Jesus to make all this happen?

Because He is passionately committed to you, that’s what this is all about.
God loves you with every part of His being!  He is committed to making you His own, to help you through life, to help you deal with sin, to help you live life, with the confidence of the joy set before you – that you will spend Christmas in His presence.
This is why we are here; this is why we sing Hallelujah, and Joy to the World, the Lord has come.  He has come to be with you, to love you, to help you depend on Him.  AMEN!

What’s in a Name? A Christmas Eve Sermon from Concordia (Matt 11:18-25)

Altar with communion

What is in a Name?
Matthew 11:18-25

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, prove to us He is Immanuel, God WITH Us!  AMEN!


I’m confused – Do I call him Jesus or Immanuel

Once upon a time, I managed a fast-food restaurant.  It was the rule back in those days to call the managers by Mr., or Mrs., or Ms. and their last name, and cooks and cashiers by their first name.

That was always a challenge for me because, at 22, I had a closing crew that was all older than I was at the time.  And having my elderly 40-year-old cashier Su-lin from Thailand, or Maximino and Guillermo, two brothers in their 30’s from Oaxaca call me Mr. Parker just didn’t seem right.

Su-lin had a problem with pronouncing Dustin, so as we were talking one night, she asked me what the name Dustin meant.  I told her and Max piped up – so we can just call you Pedro.  Fine with me, don’t like Dustin that much.

But it made it confusing for the rest of the staff, looking around when one of the three of them called out – Pedro – help!

As I read the story about Joseph from Matthew’s gospel, I thought of the confusion!

Matthew tells us the angels told Joseph to name his foster Son, Jesus.  But then says that this was to fulfill the prophecy that he would be called Immanuel.

So which is it, Jesus or Immanuel?  Which do we call him?  Which is the proper way to address the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Maybe looking at what why would call Jesus will help us figure it out.  Or maybe there is more to a name than how we yell at them from across the room!

Yah-Sozo

The angels say, “you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  Pretty simple, and that is what His name means.

Yah – short for Yahweh – God’s name in Hebrew, and Yasha – to make free, to preserve.

In that name, we hear an incredible message, that Jesus came to save us. As the angel says from our sins, from our brokenness.

That is part of the gospel message – that because of Jesus, we won’t face the wrath our sins deserve.

But as the television ads say, there is more, something greater than this life, which is found in what the Old Testament revealed that people will call Him.

Immanu-El

The other name Matthew tells us the Messiah will be called is Immanuel!  A word that reminds us that God is immanent, that God is immediate, that God is here, with us.

This is the purpose of Jesus saving us, to spend time with us, not just on Christmas and Easter, but every moment of our lives. This is His goal in saving us, His goal in the incarnation and birth, the life and death on the cross, it all ends up with this simple concept,

Immanuel.

God with us.

His dream, His desire, repeated over and over in scriptures, “for I will be your God and you will be my people.

AMEN!

An Advent Sermon Series: The Relationships of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Genesis 44-45)

Concordia Christmas Eve 2015

The Relationships of Christmas Past
Genesis 44:30-44

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life, and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…

Haunted

I can imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels.  His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,

How it must have ate him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.

Still, he had to look down, and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…

Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.

Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.

Our Relationships of Christmas Past

For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family.  Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.

Others are missing for a different reason.

Our sin.

Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same.  We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous.  Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father, (not even thinking of Joseph) we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades…

Or can I?

I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle.  If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,

I could easily share in the words of Judah,

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.

As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah did, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”

It is hard to hear God answer no…

So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”

But our Brother can..

It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.

But that isn’t why God says “no”

He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief, and anxiety.  The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.

This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent.  We stand before the King who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us?  It is as this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…

We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to hear it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.

“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!”

______________________________________________________________

The Relationships of Christmas Present
Genesis 45:-18a

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A Quick Review of the past

Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.

We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.

So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…

In this moment!

Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.

Not our sin this time… “theirs!”

You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this.  But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.

Joseph’s attitude:

If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”

If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!

If only… we could love more than we hurt…

if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.

My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…

But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.

The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present

There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.

That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.

It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.

It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.

and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,

It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…

And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind.  AMEN!

__________________________________________________________________

The relationships of Christmas Future
Genesis 45:16-21-25-28

In Jesus Name

May the grace mercy and peace of God enable you to see the result of God reconciling us all into Himself.

The Journey Past and Present

This advent we’ve already looked at the Relationships of Christmas Past, those times where we have not been there, the times where our sin has dramatically impacted relationships, much as Judah and His brothers betrayed and sinned against Joseph.

And we saw how Christ did what Judah could not do, taking on the punishment we deserved.  Knowing that gave us hope for the relationships we broke in the past.

Then we looked at the Relationships of Christmas Present, and saw the relationships shattered by the sins of others.

We saw Joseph find the grace that comes when we realize God is at work in our lives, and that all things work out for God, even the things that people planned ot hurt us.

Now we get into the look for relationships in our future.., including those of the past and present.  It is the hope to which each of the previous weeks pointed to, it is the hope of advent, it is the hope that parable of scrooge pointed to as well – relationships healed by the power of God

What the King has in mind

When the news gets to the Pharaoh and his leaders that Joseph’s brothers had come, the reaction is amazing. Here is how it reads, “When it was told in the palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, the king and his officials were happy”  But “happy” is then seen in the reaction – “go get them, I will give them the nest of everything. They can eat and enjoy it all!”

That sounds more like the meaning behind the Hebrew there… which ranges from “it was very good, to delightful. Pharaoh was excited = you see his reaction – give them the best Joseph – the best of whatever I got!

That’s a picture of heaven, not the getting the best stuff, but the excitement of the Pharaoh is the excitement that God has, in seeing us “come home!” It is the regathering, the people that matter to God, His people whom Jesus died for, finally ending up where they belong!

It’s that joy we need to see tonight, the joy of God as He sees us as we are in Christ – reconciled together.

That is why Pharaoh includes this instruction as well, “They can leave their possessions behind,”  

The more we understand God’s delight, His joy for His people to dwell in His presence, the more this makes sense.  We don’t have to bring all the baggage we carry in this life!

Pharaoh provided everything they needed, just get in the chariots and come!

This is what God does for us, providing everything we need to dwell with Him, not just during the hard times of this life, but for eternity.

But the excitement – go get the people – bring them!

This amazing Pharaoh is as much a picture of God our Father as the Pharaoh 425 years later will not be!

I Must GO – His Son is really alive!

Up to this point in the story, Jacob has been distressed and depressed. And when the moving chariots get there, I love his reaction,

“My son Joseph must really be alive, and I will get to see him before I die.”

It reminds me of Joseph’s words,

26  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! 27  I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:26-27 (NLT2)

What makes the difference here is the interaction, Jacob will see his son, Job will see God, we will encounter Jesus,.

A son, once thought dead is found alive, and not only is he alive, but he is reigning and sits at the right hand of the King, Jacob’s life changed dramatically.

Just as Jesus has risen, and not is He alive, He reigns at the right hand of the Father, our lives have changed, reconciled, restored. He is truly risen!

Therefore, We ARE RISEN INDEED,

And when we see Him every relationship will be healed, will be made whole, as all dwell with the Lord, who has forgiven our sins, and united us all in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

Advent Streams: Singing – a sermon on Isaiah 35:1-10

Altar with communionStreaming to a Joyous Place!
Isaiah 35:1-10

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to sing!

Getting excited…

I had a great conversation (well, we sent messages across the internet) with a promising young theologian this week. He went to the youth group here back in the day, and he asked me some questions about advent.

As we were talking about the idea that Advent is just as much about the Second Coming as Christmas, you could see his mind spinning and a grin break out as he wrote:

“The hope is that the whole of creation can finally Shabbat (that is rest)!

:” and you can wrap in that from the winter (sin) comes the new spring and the new life”

“I like it.  I mostly remember the songs and candles of Advent. But it’s awesome to really dig into what the message is all about”

And finally,

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation.  The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

He gets it, that advent is not about looking back to the past, because Christmas is beautiful and the kids in Sheep hats are cute, but advent is about looking forward to the second coming and getting excited about what it means.

The first time, Jesus came and dwelt in our presence.  This time, He is coming to bring us back, so we can dwell in the Father’s presence.

You saw a description of that day when even the wilderness and desert will be glad!

Of all the cool things that will happen, I want to focus on two this morning,

Here is the first…

Those who can’t speak…

Hear the first part of verse 6 again.

“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Now, I look forward to the day when not one member of Concordia needs a cane or a walker, but they are lining up to go in the bounce house after

But what I am looking more towards is when those who cannot speak sing out for joy.

Interestingly, this is not just any song, it is the song of Jubilee in Hebrew, the rejoicing when every debt is cancelled, when everything is restored. It is the most joyous of sabbaths, the greatest rest in the presence of God that could be known in a lifetime.

That is what the people that can’t sing, learn to sing.

That is what being in the presence of God, and knowing how much he loves you does. It happens when we realize that He has taken care of all our sin, when everything we’ve ever done that has hurt someone, betrayed them, crushed their spirit is forgiven, all of it. I think it will be something like this,

Free at last! Free at last, praise God Almighty I am free of sin… at last!

Or maybe more like this…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow…praise Him all Creatures ..(and let them sing it out)

Streaming in..

If you think that was something now, imagine what it will be like in a year, when there will be 60-100 more people here?

Or what it will be like with a couple billion here, around the throne of God.  All excited because Christ has returned, the walkers and canes are tossed aside, and we are singing God’s praises. And all the other blessings are being realized.

When we see Jesus, who died that we might live eternally.

That bore the cost of sin so we didn’t have to,… not that’s not right.

He bore the cost of sin, so we could be with God the Father, forever.

That’s why verse 10 means so much, and so amazes me.

10  Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Imagine how great that procession is going to be, every person for who Jesus died for, every person healed of everything, from blindness and being unable to walk to cancer and heart diseases, and most of all, healing of the damage that sin has done to us.

Ransomed, all the debt paid off we will flood into heaven like a flash food.. the mega crowd of billions heading to see God, to worship Him, to praise Him, to hear Him welcome us all home.

This is what we wait for in advent, and get a little foretaste of, every time we hear we are forgiven, every time we hear He is with us, every time we remember what He promised here, and see it again as another person is cleansed in the waters of baptism… We experience His presence, as he takes our cares away as we realize our prayers are answered, in ways more precious than we can imagine.

It is just as Brandon noted..with one thing added in… the Trinity.

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

And every time Jesus meets us here, as we gather, and once again receive His Body and Blood…

This is advent, a time of now and not yet, a time where we glimpse a little of what it will be like when He returns because He has dwelt among us….and we beheld His glory, just as we will, even more clearly when He comes among us, and we dwell in the Father’s presence.  Amen!

The Relationships of Christmas Present – an Advent sermon

The Relationships of Christmas Present
Genesis 45:-18a

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, so that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.

A quick review of the past

Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.

We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.

So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…

In this moment!

Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.

Not our sin this time… “theirs!”

You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this.  But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.

Joseph’s attitude:

If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”

If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!

If only… we could love more than we hurt…

if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.

My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…

But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.

The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present

There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.

That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.

It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.

It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.

and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,
It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…

And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind.  AMEN!

The Relationships of Christmas Past

Advent Midweek ThemeThe Relationships of
Christmas Past
Genesis 44:30-44

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…

Haunted

I can’t imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels.  His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,

How it must have eaten him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.

Still, he had to look down and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…

Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.

Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.

Our Relationships of Christmas Past

For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family.  Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.

Others are missing for a different reason.

Our sin.

Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same.  We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous.  Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father (not even thinking of Joseph), we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades….

Or can I?

I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle.  If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,

I could easily share in the words of Judah,

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.

As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah prayed, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”

It is hard to hear God answer no…

So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”

But our Brother can…

It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.

But that isn’t why God says, “no.”

He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief and anxiety.  The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.

This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent.  We stand before the King, who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us?  It is at this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…

We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to listen to it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.

“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command, I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!”

They Didn’t Know, but He Did!

They Didn’t Know,
But He did
Luke 23:27-43
† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ help you to know that you will be with Him in paradise.

They Didn’t Know – 1 Cor. 2:8

I have a confession to make.

When it comes to politics, I am slightly… okay… mostly… apathetic!

I like to blame it on scripture, you know, passages like Psalm 146,

3  Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. Psalm 146:3 (NLT2)

Or Psalm 118

8  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT2)

I mean –I can justify my apathy there, can’t I?

But if I am honest, it is because I have known a few politicians in my life, and I don’t understand them, or a system where what is popular is better than what is right by God’s standard.

I’ve even got one more passage that talks about people in power, one that nails their lack of knowledge clear. Paul tells the church in Corinth this,
7  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)

Jesus saw this as well, as he looked out on those who were crucifying them and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

They didn’t know what they were doing as they crucified Jesus, and what they really did not understand was that they were doing exactly what they needed him to do/

Hear that again, in their ignorance they did exactly what God wanted them to do, what He needed them to do.

They crucified Jesus.

He did

When Jesus forgives them, he does so with full knowledge.  Not just the experience of the crucial pain of the cross, but the full knowledge of why He was hanging there. To be able to say “you are forgiven”. To be able to say to us, as we realize the depth of our sin, rise, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more…. Only to be ready to tell that to us again the next time.

Presently I am reading Luther’s little pamphlet on meditating upon the cross. It is powerful, not just in the depth of walking us through the depths of our sin, but helping us realize the love of God that causes Jesus to volunteer to bear that pain. He chose it, knowing over and over from where the Triune God inspired the Old Testament, that He had to suffer and die!

Time and time he told the apostles it had to come about, that He had to die for them, that He had to die for us.

They didn’t see it coming, the leaders didn’t, the people didn’t, and Jesus died, which would have never happened if they truly understood and lived their lives knowing He was the Son of God..

And the thief realized it…

Only one man that day, dealing with the pain of his own sin, realized what Jesus being the Messiah meant. The man being crucified next him. 

Hear this man’s words again,

Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Do you realize how crazy this is to say?  How insane/

They are hanging there, on the cross, both about to die! To die! 

Hey Jesus, when this is over, can I be part of what you’ve got coming next?  Please?  I mean, really Jesus, and as he leans to speak to Jesus, the pain once again robs him of all His strength.

please..? Can you imagine the joy that comes from hearing Jesus response? 

I am not sure if he even heard the word, day….. or maybe the word paradise.

He heard what was in between though, “YOU will be with ME”

“You will be with me”

That is why Jesus came to the cross, to be able to say those words to that sinner.  To that man who spent his life doing what He shouldn’t do, and not doing what he should do.  The kings and leaders who crucified him didn’t know this was Jesus’ intent.  Neither did all the people who cried “Crucify Him” and mocked him.

By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, this man knew… and he heard the sweetest words.

Words that every sinner can hear.  Including you and I.

Jesus says, “you will be with ME!”

And as we hear that, all else fades away. 

The sin, the shame, the grief, the pain. The doubts, the anguish…. It all faded away faster than this man’s life was, for he hear Jesus’s words…

We need to hear that, even as we struggle with out own brokenness and apathy.  We need to realize that all things – – including Jesus dying for our sins, works out for good, so even the ignorance of kings and leaders can, as well.

“You will be with ME!”

You will be with ME!

We indeed are with Him!!  AMEN!

Let us pray….

This Place is Wonderful but….
Luke 21:5-28

 † I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, and help you endure until we get to our final destination.

Wow…. Look at all this!

I think I understand the disciples, and their awe standing in the midst of the Temple, the place they went, because God had put His name there.

When I walk around this place, there are memories and feelings that will always come to mind. The disciples had to show Jesus the stonework and the memorials, in awe of what God had done there, what He revealed here.  And though this church is not as impressive as Herod’s Temple, there are precious memories of God at work in His people here.

Memories of tears shed together, memories of laughter, some memories that combine the two in a twisted dance.

I cannot imagine Jesus walking with us here, and saying, ““The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

I wouldn’t want to hear it, I can’t imagine this altar rail here, or the baptismal font gone, or even the pulpit I hide behind, as I play my guitar as we sing. 

For just as the disciples looked at the Temple as the place, the place they could meet God, so too I can’t but see faces, present and past, as they met God in this place.

And so I understand their reaction of shock, as Jesus spoke… this place will be completely demolished..

When is it coming?  Uhm?

The disciples begin to recover from the words of Jesus, and then they make it worse, they ask, when is this coming?  What do we look for?

I wonder if they want to make sure they aren’t there, or what?

You see, the temple had been looted and destroyed before. Because of sin, it had been destroyed and abandoned.  I can’t imagine this happening to this place, but even so, there will be a day when this place doesn’t matter anymore.

Jesus looks at them, and knowing their hearts, it must have broken His to reveal what has to happen before the end comes..

Even so, He will answer them honestly and scare the heck out of them. He’s going to tell them about false prophets, wars, earthquakes, famine, plagues, terrifying moments, miracles, persecution, people charging you with false crimes and dragging you into court, betrayal by family members, and just about everyone hating you! All sorts of lovely things! 

Sounds like a normal week around here?

Seriously, all he is saying is between that time and the time when temples and churches will have fulfilled their role, life is going to be rough,  It is going to be impacted by the sins of billions of people, those in the past, and those presently alive.  Jesus tells the twelve that people will kill “some” of us! Paul describes this as the earth groaning under as if in childbirth! 

In the midst of the list there are a number other things,

Did you catch the part about miraculous signs from heaven?  Even more importantly, did you catch two very important words to hear…

DON”T PANIC!!!

In the midst of the grief, the pain, the anxiety as we hear about all these horrid things, and we see them happening, DON’T PANIC!

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me there is nothing to panic over… I immediately look around to see what should cause me to panic!  Heck, if certain people were to tell me that, I would assume that panic is and underestimation of how I should react!

Why should I panic if God reminds me that there will be a day when this place is not longer here?  I can tell you why.  I look around and see what God has done.  I see the communion rail, and think of the kids that would not leave it, including a 50 year old named Chris, because this is where they experienced Jesus presence.  I think about the back seat, back by the sound board and I think of Warren giving me a thumbs up, Or Mando, Or Clyde, or the two original Concordia Deacons who challenged me to find something in this room that would show the gospel…

Churches and Temples matter because they are places where we regularly found God’s presence, and therefore could rest and find peace In these sanctuaries, in these places that are holy, because we know we encountered God here.

And though we know better, the concept of change, and even loss threw the disciples into a panic!

In the midst of the brokenness – look up… your Salvation is near!

What we have to remember, what we have to know, is that God isn’t tearing us away from what we love, to abandon us in the day of judgement. We aren’t going to stand there, wondering if we are going to heaven or hell. We don’t have to fear suffering His wrath, suffering and struggling more with sin and doubt. The ark of the covenant won’t be needed, as Jeremiah promised, neither will the font and the altar.

All these things are simply the shadows of the reality of Jesus.

That’s why he tells us “Don’t panic” and why angels say “don’t be afraid”, “don’t be anxious”

Jesus tells them why, just as He tells us, . 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man* coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

It is an interesting word, this word “salvation”. Not the usual word, but the word for destruction – specifically the destruction of all the constrains us, all that has bound us up, all that has stolen from us joy, all that has made life challenging. Everything is redeemed and restored.

We may lose the shadow – but we never lose our Lord!

There is our hope..

Don’t panic, don’t fear, look up and see your Lord, coming to set you free,

And until then, He keeps you safe… no matter what, and yours is the peace of God which passes all understanding.  AMEN!

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