Category Archives: Sermons
Concordia Lutheran Church
January 15, 2023
Glorious! (Not useless)
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the glory your life will bring them!
- Arguing with God
Have you ever met someone who had to always be right? Who if I said my stole was green, they would say, no, it’s red?
Sometimes people are like that when they are 3, or entering their teenage years, or sometimes as we get older, we think we have to correct those youngsters….
We all go through that stage, or stages.
We see that in the Old Testament reading today.
God says Isaiah – Your life (and all of Israel’s) will bring me glory
Isaiah responds, “Not so fast God, my work is useless, and I wasted all my energy! Got nothing left!
Basically this guy, one of the greatest of all the prophets, claiming his life is useless, does the most useless thing imaginable.
He argues with God.
- Is this the prophet, or Jesus
I thought to use the word irony, the idea of uselessly arguing with God that his life was useless. I think a better was to explain it is…. silly.
I think we’ve all been where Isaiah is, we don’t see our hard work making any impact. The things that might have worked in the past don’t seem to work anymore, or maybe we just don’t have the patience we used to have.
It really doesn’t matter how the feeling develops, but that feeling that everything is vain, empty, worthless, useless.
The problem is that we can’t see 20 minutes into the future, never mind 20 hours from now, or 20 days.
But it is comforting to know we aren’t the only people to feel this way. Isaiah obviously did, as did Jeremiah, Moses, David, and so many others.
And here is the kicker – this passage is a prophecy about the Messiah – so even Jesus was tempted to feel this way. Understandable of course, having to work with Peter and keeping the Tax Collector and the Anti-Tax, anti-Government Simon the Zealot from killing each other.
But that is where the strength comes, for only Jesus could easily say, “I leave it all in YHWH’s hands, I will trust God for my reward.”
That’s were we need to be, in the middle of feeling useless, but the only way is to trust completely in God… and in what He promises. The only way to have that much faith, is to be united to Jesus, to His death on the cross and the resurrection. Otherwise—such faith is impossible!
That our lives will bring Him glory and praise.
- God’s Long Range Vision for Us… in Christ
That means there has to be something abnormal, something glorious about our lives. Our lives, like Isaiah’s are going to cause people to praise and see the value of what God is doing in our lives.
Verse 5 begins to describe that, about Isaiah, about Jesus, about us.
5 And now the LORD speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The LORD has honored me, and my God has given me strength.
It is one thing to realize that God honors – which simply means to place high value on Isaiah’s work, and it is simple to see that about Jesus…
But what about you.
Do you know that God formed you in your momma’s womb, and has a plan for how you are, like the prophets and like Jesus, to work in His kingdom? Part of your life is to help people come back to God.
No matter how far they have drifted away.
In Isaiah’s day it was bad. People were worshipping other gods, people were not faithful to their families, and to their spouses. People were even taking their newborns and sacrificing them to an idol by heating up this brass statue and tossing their babies into its glowing arms.
IF God was able to use Isaiah and Jeremiah to return people like that to God, how much more can we see it, because of the work of Jesus at the cross!
He goes on to describe this some more,
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
These promises are far more than about Isaiah, they are about Jesus, and because Jesus dwells in us. We’ve seen people baptized in Cerritos, and Nebraska, in Papua, New Guinea and the Sudan, in Turkey and Cameroon, in China and the Philippines because of what people in this church has done. We’ve seen relatives come to know Jesus, and we’ve seen people who have gone away from God come back.
So will we see more of this? Of course.
And here is why,
God chose us in Christ, and because He dwells in us, the mission of Jesus continues through each one of us.
We aren’t Jesus, but our lives bring God the Father glory, because we are united to Jesus. That is what the sacraments do, whether it is remembering our baptism, hearing that our sins are forgiven, or receiving His body and blood, they remind us that because He died and rose, we have died to sin and have risen with Jesus.
What you do this week, as you trust in Jesus, as the Holy Spirit guides you, as you love those around you, including the unlovable – will draw people to the Father through Jesus. There will be people in heaven because of Jesus working through you…people in heaven, not in hell.
And because of that, God will be glorified – because of you, because of the work Christ does through you.
This all happens through the work of the Holy Spirit, because of Jesus, who protects you – your hearts, your minds, as you dwell in the peace of God, a peace that doesn’t make sense, but which you’ve been called to, by name.
† Jesus, Son and Saviour †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, which you were meant to receive—united to Jesus, be evident in your life!
Close your eyes for a moment, and picture one of the Christmas Trees of your childhood. You see the packages there, all wrapped up nicely, the name tags properly hanging off of them.
Your eyes spot that one package, prior inspections tell you that this one is yours, and for some reason you know this is “the present”.It doesn’t include the socks or underwear or flannel pajamas (he we all didn’t grow up in California!).
It was that present. You knew it.. and you wanted to rip it open first!
Do you remember what that present was?
Now move your vision to the stable, and the manger, and realize that the present there was done with more thought, with more care….hear the prophet Isaiah’s words about this present…
For a child is born TO US… a Son is given TO US.
It is as if, on the manger, there is a tag on the manger.
To; The child I love.
So let’s look at this intimate, influential, immanent gift from which we are inseparable!
For the prophet teaches us a lot about our incarnate Lord Jesus!
- Wonderful Counselor–Intimate
The first words to describe Jesus is that He would be a Wonderful Counselor. The comforter whom you can tell anything too, knowing that they will support you through the crisis, through the time of reconciliation, through the time of healing.
There is nothing you can say that would shock Him, for as God He knows your deepest and darkest secrets… and loves you still. This is the most intimate of relationships, one that goes beyond all defenses, for God knows you better than you know yourself
- Almighty God—Influential
The second phrase of the description is that Jesus, this child born TO US, this Son given TO US is that He is Almighty God. That power is wielded on our behalf, both to defeat our enemies of Satan and death, but also to change us, to transform us, giving us new hearts and minds that are Christ’s.
This powerful influence of God is beyond anything that can be described, as He uses all He is to transform and protect His people.
This is why Paul prays that “you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT2)
This is the Almighty God—who has come – and uses that might to influence everything for us us
- Everlasting Father—immanent
The next thing this child born to us, the Son given to us is takes a while to wrap our heads around. He is our Eternal Father.
From the Creation of the World to the recreation of the heavens and earth at the Judgement Day, Jesus, who is one with the Father, reveals the Father to us.
He is always our Father, always therefore us, because He has loved us and will love us. We call Jesus Immanuel as
The Lord of all, is our Father, and welcomes us to pray to Him, to ask for help, to let Him be our dad, for that is part of the revelation of the child being born to us
- Prince of Peace—Inseparable
The last description of Jesus, the last title in this list, the result of His being sent to us, given to us is that He is the Prince of Peace.
And as He comes to u-bringing that peace into our darkness, into our times of doubt, into our times where peace just doesn’t seem possible. Where it is beyond our imagination, but that is exactly what God’s peace is, – beyond all understanding.
I can tell you that, I’ve had too many experiences where peace should not be known. Times of doubt, times of anxiety, times of fear. And yet, in the midst of trauma, there is Jesus, the one born and laid in a manger,
the one who is Immanuel – the Eternal Father whose is always there,
The one who is Almighty, and uses His power to influence every aspect of our lives,
All because who is the Wonderful Counselor who intimately knows us.
This is the birth of our God, who dwells with us.
† Immanuel †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the love of God, which pours out blessings upon us.
Christmas day in the early 70’s was fun, even though the Parkers weren’t wealthy. We weren’t allowed “downstairs” until 7 a.m. Usually about 5:50 a.m. my brother Stephen and I would sit on the very bottom stair – technically not on the first floor—but we could see the tree – and were close enough to be warmed by the woodstove.
What I didn’t understand as a kid was my parents. They didn’t seem in a rush to open their presents, they just smiled and cheered us on as Stephen, Kelly and I opened ours.
I understand that now, as the joy they had was really watching us revel in the gifts we were given.
I think that there is a lot of God seen in that attitude, to revel, not in what you receive, but in what you gave to others. Even if it was only a life-savers book, that would be devoured by New Year’s!
As we look at the gospel today, as we see Jesus revealing to us the Father, and the heart of the Father, we need to see God’s joy, as we discover the gift He gives us in Jesus. And the gift Jesus gives us, that John writes about in verse 18.
- Near the Heart!
18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
This is how it works. Now one knows the Father’s heart like Jesus, and His mission is to reveal the heart of God to people who are anxious, and unsure of where they are in life, never mind where they are going. People who are broken by the world, broken as their health suffers, broken by the sinful acts done against them, broken by our own sin.
Without Jesus, what would we know of God? Our Lutheran Confessions tell us we would have no idea of the Father’s heart, no idea of what it means for God to be merciful. Without Jesus’ revelation, all we could expect is eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But Jesus reveals God’s heart to us…
- Revealed God wants to be present in our lives
My parents love to watch us open presents, as they saw the eyes grow wide with each new discovery. In the same way, God the Father enjoyed the sense of discovery and joy that Adam and Eve had in the garden.
Those walks in the garden, those times of joy were long missed because Adam and Even being tempted and sinning. But we see how much God desires that relationship and Jesus comes and dwells with us, and according to Matthew, promised that God will always be there for us…
This is the heart of God—the God who would spend every moment with us, enjoying our discovering the work He’s done for us.
- Revealed God’s love and dependability never fails
Has anyone ever had a roommate who wasn’t exactly who they expected? Maybe it was a good thing—like you found out they were a chef… or one roommate—whose parents lived with us for 2 months, and did all our laundry, cooking, housecleaning. There are other stories, I am sure some of them are horrifying!
For God to come and dwell among men must have had all sorts of expectations.
More rigid rules?
Best behavior at all times?
That was not the key thing John took away, the part of Jesus that reflected the heart of the Father. It was something far more incredible,
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
This is what mattered about Jesus, that he was full of an amazing merciful love, and that he was faithful, dedicated and true to His people.
Both words love and faithful are interesting translations. Other translations will use Grace and Truth instead of love and faithfulness.
The words in Greek are heavy in meaning – and can mean love/grace. We get the word charity from it, which has been a synonym for active love and care for a long time.
What John and the other apostles realized is that God the Son, and therefore God the Father loved them, was charitable towards them. Even for the Jewish people, this was unexpected, who would anticipate God being that loving.
It has been a long time since “true” was used regarding relationships. Being true is the ultimate version of faithful. No other interest: nothing but fulfilling the promise made in the relationship.
Jesus would be the ultimate partner, the ultimate friend, and He reflects the love and faithfulness of the Father.
- Revealed God’s glory
Therefore, John can say, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
What is God’s glory? Simple, it is His love and faithfulness, shown to us as He dwells with us. Therefore, we celebrate the birth of a baby in a remote village, in a powerless nation, nearly 2000 years ago.
His glorious unfailing love and that He is true to all He has promised. This made a difference in the life of John and all the apostles. It is what makes a different in 2000 years of His people He calls together; it is what makes a difference in our lives today, and we pray it is what makes a difference in the lives of those around us.
God is with us…. And therefore, we dwell in His unexplainable peace. AMEN!
(if you want to hear this service, please check out the worship service at bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
† In Jesus Name †
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,Christ, give you grace and peace!
I could leave the sermon with just the blessing, a simple blessing that plus or minus a word, begins every letter Paul writes to the churches.
If you all believed this promise, if you all knew that God gives you grace and peace, and you shared that with all your relatives, friends, neighbors and enemies, and lived life counting on it… well – sermon is done… let’s get to communion!
The problem is that little three letter word “may” in the translation. It doesn’t sound… solid enough.
Is it going to happen? Is it just Paul’s dream for the church in Rome? In my case, if someone says something good “may” happen, my instinct is, “what will I do that will mess this up”
That’s why we have to take a step back – and to understand that this “may” is not dependent on us, but on the who Jesus came to be, and the promise of God that is ours, because of Jesus.
In this case, “may” means, “this will definitely happen…”
- The evidence
So what gives Paul so much confidence in blessing people like this?
The short answer is the gospel—the good news.
1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Romans 1:1-2 (NLT2)
Paul tells us he was called by God to speak.
Not only him but God promised this through the Old Testament prophets over and over throughout scripture.
The reason we have confidence that we will have grace and peace because of Jesus has been communicated over and over, it was ingrained in the people of God, even if they didn’t understand it.
The promise was there, and Paul revealed it was there—now. As it is for us now…as we will see.
Paul will then say this,
The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here is the summary: Jesus is who the prophets said he would be. He was the promised Messiah, the Savior who restore David’s kingdom, who would restore the people of God, whose arrival would result in an eternal, everlasting kingdom.
So he had that going for Him, fulfilling that part of the promise. But then, the mystery that was promised – but never seen before.
Jesus, the Son of God, the one who would lie in a feeding trough when born, would be raised from the dead.
We consider this often around here, not just at Easter
Alleluia! He is risen! (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!)
And therefore, (We are Risen Indeed!)
And at every baptism, and every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we realize that we’ve died with Him, so that we may… no we will live with Him.
“He is, He IS Christ our Lord”, Paul tells us.
And before we can come up with another excuse… he makes us understand we are the ones Christ died for, and rose for…
5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
You are included.
That’s my privilege. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past, or what you are presently struggling with guaranteed. God raised Christ from the dead—for you.
His Body was broken, His blood was shed—for you.
Look at the blessing
- Grace and peace!
Therefore, you know this blessing is more than a casual “may”, and a fond wish for a friend.
This is the blessing that has been planned for you since before the foundation of the world
Grace – the gift of salvation. And let me be absolutely clear—salvation is not having sins forgiven. That is what leads to salvation.
And let me be clear—salvation is not the forgiveness of sins. That is how we are saved. Salvation is the relationship that is guaranteed.
I was reminded of that in one of my devotional readings this week. Eugene Peterson wrote,
“The way a pastor uses the language is a critical element in the work. The Christian gospel is rooted in language: God spoke a creation into being; our Savior was the Word made flesh. The (pastor)/poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship,”
My role, just like the apostle Paul’s is not to lecture you, not to teach you Greek or Hebrew, or make you feel guilty about your past. Some of that may happen along the way—but my one purpose, the way I am to use my words, is to make sure you know the grace of God–which is the relationship that Christ claimed for you. It is why you were redeemed.
It is what makes Christmas and Easter special, this incredible relationship we have with God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Therefore, we are here…to know God’s grace…
And knowing that, we find ourselves at peace.
Knowing this love, knowing all the promises God has in store for us, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
This is what it is all about—this incredible relationship.
This is what makes the difference now, and for eternity.
Knowing He is here, knowing the grace that accomplishes this—may you realize this peace which is beyond understanding… as Jesus keeps you in this peace, your heart and mind secure in it.
† Iesou, Huios, Soter †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the love revealed in the lists they made about Jesus’ work—2000 years ago, and today.
Intro: Don’t turn away…
I want you, for a moment, to put yourselves in the place of John the Baptist, as he awaits the return of his disciples. He was in prison, and like many of the prophets of old, it was for living the life he was called to live, a life walking as God directed. In prison he find himself deep in thought, he begins to wonder, and to doubt…
Before you ever say you wouldn’t…consider John the Baptist, and the reading tonight.
Here is the greatest of the prophets, the first one to recognize Jesus, even while they were both in the womb. I can’t even imagine the conversations they would have had while they were teens…
And at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.. and proclaimed that He is the Lamb of God, who would take away our sin…
Yeah–the Agnus Dei comes from this guy…
And while in prison, he struggled. So much he had to send his followers to ask Jesus… are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting… or should we keep looking?
It almost sounds like John was the unfaithful, broken, weak and unstable one that needs to be invited to come see that Christ was born.
Jesus responds in a unique way, not challenging John’s doubts, but giving them a list to pass on to John.
He didn’t condemn John for his lack of faith—He ministered to him, even though he wasn’t right there.
Jesus sent a list to him… a list?
If I were John, I would want a miracle. I would demand one.
I can hear him saying, “Jesus—we’re family, I’ve given it all for you—why don’t you help? Why don’t you get me out of here? If you are the Messiah….why aren’t you…”
Jesus helps him focus and gives him a list that matches the list in Isaiah we saw Sunday.
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 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. Matthew 11:4-5 (NLT2)
In other words, tell John, whose father was a priest, and studied the Old Testament deeply, that the prophecies are coming true. Jesus wanted him to know what was happening, that all pointed to not only John being saved, but all the world would have the blessing of salvation opened to them!
Just take the Isaiah’s checklist – John I am doing all that and more…the news that God is saving the Jews and the Gentiles is being preached – and it will be preached until the end of time!
This is what John knew was supposed to happen, but life Got in the way…
Instead of a lecture, or being mocked for his lack of faith, Jesus reaches out to John, and assures him with words John knew well. He recalls the promises made in the Old Testament, so that John can be re-focused on the ministry.
Don’t turn away… because of me.
I think this is where we need to go back to the beginning. And hear the words that sound shocking at first,
‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’
I think I hear those words at first as judgment – you blessed if you don’t turn away when you realize who Jesus is. A lot of translations make it sound that way….
But it is just as likely that it means that we don’t turn away because we are in Christ.
Try reading it this way,
God blesses those who do not turn away—because of me.’
You see, on our own, our faith struggles and fails. But when we remember He was born, he died for us, that is something quite different, far more powerful, far more precious.
When I say the closing blessing of a sermon, it is always based on this concept – that you know you dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, for your hearts and minds are kept in that peace by Jesus, – this is what John needed to know it is what we need to know.
We don’t fall away and get condemned by Jesus, for it is His responsibility to keep us in Him, and in knowing that we are truly blessed!.
Whether we are grieving, broken, struggling, in prison.
John kept ministering…
In fact, it is after his disciples return that John does significant ministry, instead of with the crowds, with the leaders of Israel, including Herod. So much so, that Herod is grieved by having to kill John, tricked by his new wife and daughter.
Jesus didn’t blast him, didn’t deny him the opportunity to minister. He reached out to him, showed him what God promised to do, and that it was getting done.
And lifted John back up off his feet, and reminded him of the ministry God had called John to..
And if you are struggling tonight, if things seem rough, God will do that for you as well.
That is what Advent is about – being there with John, and hearing that God is with you…that He is saving you – for that is what He promised, and that is what the lists in scripture show. AMEN!
And may you see revealed this peace of Christ in which you live, as Christ keeps your heart and mind in it. Amen!
Visions of Peace III
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize you dwell in the most incredible and unexplainable peace!
- The Promise
Have you ever talked to someone who, though speaking English, was using the technical knowledge that is known only to people in their own work?
Maybe they are a lawyer and tossing around terms that you think might have been Latin, or a doctor talking about your health in medical terms that have 16 syllables per word. Maybe it is an engineer, or someone talking about crocheting.
Pastors aren’t immune to this either. IN fact, one of the many reasons I miss one certain person’s presence, is that she always signaled me when I used to many theological terms, and didn’t define them. She does it with such grace that I could never be offended by it, but that she wants to know what I am saying… is a wondrous thing!.
One of those technical theological terms is the word “gospel.” We know it is something I am suppose to preach, that you all are supposed to share with loved one, neighbors, friends, even enemies…
We know it has something to do with God’s love, and with Jesus, and the cross.
But the gospel is more than that…
The gospel, completely revealed, is what Isaiah describes in our Old Testament reading this morning…
It is heavenly…
And that is why Isaiah says to share it,
“With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. 4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
I don’t know about you—but I could use some strength and encouragement!
And the gospel should do that—as you look for the incredible change in all of creation that comes with Jesus’ return!
- The Party
For someone who had to deal with wars and oppression, Isaiah has an incredible vision for life in Christ.
He describes it so incredibly! Places where there is little life just explode with life. I am not sure if I would use the deserts and wilderness and the flowers that appear over a few hours.
So I came up with a different example.
Everything comes to life as fast as Christmas decorations proliferate stores and streets at the first opportunity. Think about how fast everything changes!
I mean ever here—yesterday at 10 there were the poinsettias and by noon—everything was different; the tree is up and lit, there is green all around, there is the sense that Christmas is near.
But it is not just how things look that changes.
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. 6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. 7 The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived!
What an incredible vision this is!
Imagine if after church we had a basketball game, and Tom and I were running full bore up and down the court, doing things we haven’t done in 20 and 30 years?
Imagine everyone with hearing aids being actually able to hear what their wives are saying and responding to what is said!
I shouldn’t keep saying, “imagine” as if this is some kind of naïve, idyllic pipedream.
I should say “look forward to” for that is the gospel, that is the truth. We are looking forward to this, not just thinking it might come
God has promised. He has sworn it will be true and guaranteed it with the blood of Christ.
This is what we long for, when everything broken in our lives and in the world… is made brand new….
Including our hearts and souls… everything is made new as we celebrate in the presence of God, our Creator, our Redeemer, the One who draws us into a special relationship with Him!
- The Way
That relationship was described in the of Acts as those who were “followers of the Way,” probably with this passage from Isaiah in mind. This is well before we were known as Christians or little Christs.
To be on the way means we are walking with Christ, for He has ransomed us, in order to walk with us on this way home.
Here it described again,
There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. 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.
I would equate this as going on a plane trip—from our baptism to heaven is simply walking up the ramp from a plane to the terminal.
The excitement is building—we know we’ve arrived; we are where we are supposed to be. Now more hassles, no more security checks, no more struggles. Just the excitement of being at our destination.
That is where we are at right now, because Jesus came.
We are almost there, at the point where we will see God face to face…
Because Jesus came into our world—all our troubles are taken care of—all our weaknesses and instabilities. All our guilt and shame…
We are in His Kingdom even now… and those who depend on Him, and come to love Him, will rejoice…
For Jesus Christ is born, and was born for you. AMEN
He’s Making His Lists
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ flood over you, as you realize how God has planned for and desired an intimate relationship with you!
- Wisdom from our youth—Three lists
The average sermon takes 8 hours to develop—and another 4-5 to write out the manuscript, which then is the basis for what you hear.
I said basis, anything good said beyond the manuscript is God caused… anything odd—blame me for!
For tonight’s sermon, the preparation time was shortened by our youth considerably! As we looked at the passage a couple of weeks ago, their conversation is the basis for this sermon, as they talked about what was important for me to communicate to you!
Our theme for Advent is the idea that God made a bunch of lists in the Bible, to help us understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, to be our Savior. There is a lot about Jesus, and the Bible neatly organizes it into lists for a reason.
To overwhelm us knowing that Jesus is, and that He loves us and works on our behalf, and to help us see what His work accomplishes in and for us.
In tonight’s passage from Isaiah 11, there is not one, not two, but three different lists the youth identified. We are going to focus on lists two and three, because when I asked which list I should focus on, they divided on lists two and three, and then realized you need list two, the things Jesus would do, to see list three, the effects of those actions in our lives…
So let’s get into List #2
- List two – What Jesus Did!
So here is what Isaiah said Jesus would do, things we know He has done and is doing still.
First, it says he will delight in obeying the LORD – that is God the Father.
How did Jesus obey the father? Well, Paul describes it this way,
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5 (NLT2)
God the Father said to Jesus, “Go save them – and bring them Home!” And that is what everything else sets up.
That’s why Jesus doesn’t judge us based on our appearance, nor will Jesus ever listen to rumors and hearsay about us! No matter how many sins Satan will accuse us of, Jesus will cover each one. (that doesn’t mean we go commit more!)
Jesus will give those who are broken and poor justice, and make fair decisions for those who are exploited and oppressed. Again—this is both physical and spiritual – some people are physically poor and exploited and others are spiritually so. In each situation, God is there, working in their lives. (Which probably means we should do the same!)
That is the power of God’s word at work, when He declares those who are broken are healed, those who are imprisoned are free, when those who are alone, are those He gathers and invites into the deepest relationship.
So that’s the work in list 2, and here is the effect in list three.
- List three – The Effects of His actions
The third lists detail the results of what they were to expect Jesus to do. Simply put, it seems like His coming was to provide them a life of peace that is crazy!
All these natural enemies resting side by side, Wolves and lambs, Leopards and goats, Lions hanging out with small calves—that just sounds crazy! Isaiah will up this idea of of peace though.
Anyone want to take an infant into a cobra den?
Or let a toddler play with a bunch of rattlesnakes?
God’s work in our lives is leading to a place where everyone is that peaceful! Who are the people that are your enemies, your adversaries, those that damage you, whether unintentionally or intentionally? They cannot do so, and if they are, or become believers, they will be as close as your closest friend, and you will rejoice in that!
The Apostle Paul talks about the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in us, and that is what happens! God at work in all who believe in Him, and calling others to that place!
First, He judges us, and instead of finding us guilty as charged, He makes us righteous, cutting away all the sin and all that goes with it. Then He puts changes our heart—and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and makes us more and more like Jesus.
And then we learn from Him to live in His peace… to even love and pray for those who do not know that peace… That is why He came… that is what we need to see!
That is why these lists are here—to get to know Jesus, to see what He is miraculously doing, and to see the profound impact on our lives, and our world, and to provide for us a future that is amazing…
He is our God, and we are His people. AMEN!
In the Same Way…
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to be incredibly happy—no matter what you are enduring for His sake.
The Pursuit of Happiness!
How many of you like or liked surprise tests in school?
I guess I should have asked how many of you remember school before I asked that!
Well you have a pop quiz this morning.
You need to tell me which of the documents the quote that follows comes from.
- The Constitution of the United States
- The Bill of Rights
- The Magna Carta
So here is the quote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So which is it?
What—weren’t all your pop quizzes filled with trick questions? 😊
So do you agree with the Declaration of Independence? Do you think that we have the right to pursue happiness?
Be careful—this might be a trick question as well!
So if you want to be happy, scripture this morning had a surefire way to be happy.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
There you go, to be happy just follow Jesus! Then people will persecute you and say all sorts of evil things about you!
But you will be happy!
- The Standard
SO the next question—what does it look like to follow Jesus in such a way that people will persecute us and say nasty things about us?
Seriously, most of us know how to get persecuted. There is always that one person who we can irritate, even without planning it. We might even enjoy it! But then they try to get us back!
But to get persecuted for Jesus, because we are like Him, is a different story.
The Beatitudes show how Jesus lived, how we can live, when we are focused on Him. It all starts with our need for God! It all starts there, when we realize that we are poor in spirit. You usually don’t think of Jesus as poor in spirit, but hear how Paul describes Jesus.
7 But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being ( Philippians 2:7 (NJB)
That emptiness is what being poor in spirit is about. Whether we are wounded by someone else’s sin, or broken by our own, or simply choose to live humbly, dependent on God the Father for everything.
That is what makes believers different, what has made those people we look up to spiritually, so amazing. They could depend on God during challenges, during good times, too. We have seen that in so many of those who have gone before us here. They knew God was with them. Whether it was Pastor and Mrs. Meier, or Clyde or Armando, or Barbara, Tony and Wanda or Bonnie, or this year Kurt, Joan, Ben, Valter, Diana and Chuck over the last year.
The rest of the Beatitudes make sense after you realize you are completely reliant on God.
Because you realize your need for God, if you are mourning, He comforts you.
Because you realize your need for God, if you are humble (and rely on Him), then He gives you everything.
Because you realize your need for God, if you want real justice, God provides that on judgement day.
Because you realize your need for God, you see the mercy that you wanted others to know, shown to you.
Because you realize your need for God, the Holy Spirit changes your heart of stone for a heart of flesh.
Because you realize your need for God, because you are His children you work for peace, where peace seems impossible,
Because you realize your need for God, you do what is just and righteous in God’s eyes, even if there is a cost to you. And there are times where the cost will be high, because others don’t like being just, when you decide to help others rather them. Or when you show mercy to those who don’t deserve it.
(of course—why would you need to show mercy to someone who doesn’t need it.)
Because you realize your need for God, and He meets that need, you realize you found happiness!
When peace, justice and mercy are seen as a major thing in your life, no matter the cost, you are showing the work of the Holy Spirit as He guides you into becoming more and more visibly like Jesus.
But that will irritate people who don’t understand God.
That is where the persecution comes from!
Not from being considered holier than thou, or from being judgmental. When we deal with people in bondage to sin, our demeanor should be like Jesus’ demeanor
That is why all these characteristics show God has blessed us, that He is with us, that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. It shows us we aren’t alone.
God is with us.
As He has been with His people since Adam and Even and Cain sinned.
Because God is with us, in the same way, He was with the prophets and martyrs and all our examples who have depended on God.
This is where happiness comes from, God who loves us, who has promised us a great reward in heaven, who walks with us know, blessing us in our need. AMEN!
Is it that Obvious?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace, peace, and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in your life be…obvious.
Hook: Oblivious to the obvious
It is very clear that the very first word in the first reading this morning was not needed!
It shouldn’t have to be used!
It is completely understood!
Everyone can see the point without explaining it!
It is so simple, and everyone should “get it”
At least, people should be able to understand it.
The word obviously can only truly be used where it is unnecessary. Because, if it is that obvious, do you really need to tell everyone it is obvious?
I mean if you ask me what’s wrong when see me rushing towards a restroom with a plunger in my hand, do I need to waste time saying, “Obviously, a toilet’s overflowing!?”
Or if you ask Bob what’s wrong when you see Bob kneeling by his left rear tire with another tire and a lug wrench in his hand, does he need to really say, “OBVIOUSLY, I have a flat tire!”
Or when the Sherriff pulls you over, and do you have to ask him if there is something wrong? “Obviously, you were going 85 in a 30 mile per hour zone!” (Or was that me?)
We should know those things—just like Paul and Luther and everyone else in their days–would understand clearly what was obviously wrong.
- Luther’s Obvious Problem
Here the scripture again,
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
This part of the passage, was indeed quite obvious to young pastor Luther. Nothing bothered him as much sin, and it haunted him. It caused him great distress. He would recount many times this story,
When I was a young man at Isleben, I went with the rest in procession, on the day of Corpus Christi, and had on my priest’s attire: it happened that I was in such sort affrighted before the Sacrament, which Dr. Staupitz carried, that I thought I should have fallen down stark dead. Now when the procession was ended, I confessed, and opened my grief to Dr. Staupitz. He said, ‘O! your thoughts are not Christ’s
Obviously, Luther felt that he had no excuse, he knew he was guilty before God. And God’s word did indeed show him how sinful he was…
Just as it shows me how sinful I am, and how sinful each one of you is.
Obviously, if I am that bad, that horrid, I don’t belong up there.
If all there is, is the law which condemns us, if all we know of God is the judge who shows we are guilty of sin, and deserving of condemnation, we are without hope.
I should also note that while we may deny we are sinners, or deny our thoughts, words and deeds are sinful.
Usually, we go one way or the other… we fight and deny that our thoughts, words and actions are sin… or we look at them and condemn ourselves in disgust.
This should be obvious, left on our alone, life is shattered, broken, and the thought of being in God’s presence should cause us to experience terror.
- Paul’s point..But now….
Paul’s word “obviously” is going to be countered by something…but before I get to them – I want to share a little more about Luther and his mentor. Luther wrote,
“Staupitz used to comfort me with these words: “Why do you torture yourself with these speculations (about your sin and damnation)? Look at the wounds of Christ and at the blood that was shed for you. From these (your eternal destiny) predestination will shine. Consequently, one must listen to the Son of God, who was sent into the flesh and appeared to destroy the work of the devil and to make you sure about (your eternal destiny) predestination.
What Staupitz was trying to show Luther was what Paul talked about in the Romans passage,
25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. Romans 3:25 (NLT2)
He goes on to write,
27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. Romans 3:27-28 (NLT2)
We are made right, by God. We just need to trust Him at the promises he always made in the church.
For someone so haunted by his past and present sin, this news was radical. We are fully forgiven, fully cleansed, declared as righteous and holy as Jesus is, because Jesus was our sacrifice. Jesus’ body shed for us, His blood spilled out for us, as the sacrificial offering.
The word there is a very special word – it talks of the sacrificial blood poured out on the Ark of the Covenant, once a year – which covered all of the sin of all of the people of God, covering it for a year… til the next sacrifice would do the next for the next year’s sins.
Christ’s blook cover’s all sin, for all time.
- It Is world changing…
This is what changed Luther from a guilty, shamed crazed monk into a pastor who wanted everyone to know that Christ has set them free.
Luther would struggle with a lot of the other stud in the church, both with the Catholics, but even more with reformers like Zwingli and Kaarldstat – men who would dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit.
But his core–and you see this in the Small and Large Catechism – is what Jesus does to cover the obvious problem of our sin, to bring us clean and holy to the Father, where something becomes even more obvious… God Loves us.
and we are His, for God gives us the ability to depend on Jesus’ love and work in our lives.
Knowing this , we experience the peace of God, which passes all understanding, as our hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Table Talk:.
Are you the one?
† I.H.S. †
May the love of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you have to give Him thanks!
Are you the one?
A friend of mine asked a bunch of his preacher friends if it was possible to preach the on the gospel reading in a way that praised the man who offered thanks, without making the other nine look bad.
I considered his words as I was completing the sermon yesterday. The question impacted me enough to change up the sermon to answer it.
I don’t think you can speak of what the 1 experienced, without looking at what the 9 would miss out on, because they didn’t recognize Jesus working in their lives.
And that is the critical lesson for this day. Will you be the one whose faith will see them saved?
Or will you be the like the nine, who Jesus talked about when He said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
We need to be like the 1, and not the 9. We need more than a rescue from a real and present trauma.
We need to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, enough to see what He is doing, and value Him and His role in our life…
Law–we need healing—from sin, of memories, physical, mental, spiritual
Like many churches, this gather of lepers started out right. They gathered together to offer each other comfort and support during trauma—and leprosy was a horrid trauma they had in common.
They even reached out together to find help. I am pretty sure that Jesus was not the first rabbi they approached, begging for some assistance, any assistance.
Not sure they knew healing was in the offer…
In the same way, the church, this church, needs healings to happen. There is no doubt, and we cry out “Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!”
But what do we mean by that?
Mercy, what we call compassion which compels action to address what?
That is part of the question.
I don’t know if they were asking for financial assistance or healing, for someone to bring them food and water or take messages to their loved ones. All were things that they struggled with, cut off from the world by their disease.
And the cry for compassion – how many times had it gone unheard, never mind unanswered?
How many times have our cries for help gone unanswered by others, as we have tried to deal with those things that afflict us?
I need to be clear – their trauma wasn’t the issue here, nor were they looking for some compassionate act… those are the things the church does for each other, as we cope with our brokenness.
That part is all well and good – and they even reached out to a Rabbi—a man everyone said taught about God’s love.
So where did their sin come in?
Jesus says – Go.. for us—as we are going – we can begin to recognize the healing
The separation occurs, as they all obey Jesus – to go show themselves to the priests… and as their bodies are made healthy…
All good so far—all great so far!
Can you imagine—if all the cancer and heart disease and arthritis was healed in our church tomorrow? Would we be excited?
Would we be off like a rocket to celebrate? To show everyone how healthy we were? I am not even sure there is a sin by action in this! Nothing they did was wrong…
Remember that sin isn’t just what we do, say or think…
It is also what we fail to do..
In this case, their sin was not recognizing God in their midst. They didn’t make the connection between heir healing and the presence of God, and so didn’t think about how they were healed…
Somehow, the Samaritan made the connection. He realized this could only be God that would make this difference in his life.
He saw God – and realized God’s compassion—and had to go back…
He had to praise and show God that he valued what God was doing in his life. That is what mattered. The relationship Jesus initiated by responding to a cry for compassion—that meant more to this man than the very healing he needed…
A relationship that Jesus acknowledges—when He tells the man stand up — your faith has SAVED YOU. Not just healed you – that is one word, this is the word for salvation, deliverance.
This is the difference—the nine had a good desire and a good request! Nothing wrong there.
But they missed it, the chance to know the love of God that makes more of a difference. Nine miss it—one sees it—and glorifies God
It probably is a good thing to define what it means to glorify something, or someone. It means to recognize the value of the thing or person that far exceeds anything else..
That is what the Samaritan, the odd man out of a group of odd men out realized. The love show to him, while he was cleansed of leprosy was something he needed more of..
And it was all his.
et’s come back and give thanks – and realize we are saved not just healed as we trust in Him.
We haven’t been cleansed of leprosy, but we’ve been cleansed of our sin.
Think on that again…they sin that would kill you spiritually, that would cause your heart and soul to rot, God cleansed you of…but for one reason.. that you would come to treasure your relationship with Him, as much as He treasures His relationship with you…
Which is why we are here… to fall to our knees, and share in Christ’s body and blood, treasuring God’s work in us, kowing it was His work.. in us. And trying to struggle out words of thanks.
For we dwell in His peace, that passes all understanding – in which we are guarded by Christ himself. AMEN!