Category Archives: Sermons

Who Told You? A Sermon on Genesis 3:8-15

church at communion 2Who Told You?
Genesis 3:8-15

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that instead of seeking a hiding place from God, you should seek the refuge you find in Him!

Who Told You?

In today’s first reading, the one from Genesis 3, there is a question that God asks Adam, one that is relevant to ask today.

Who told you?

Specifically, who told you that you were naked, literally that you were exposed, who told you that your sin was visible for all to see?  ( who was all anyway?)

How did you find out you had sinned, how did you come across that information?

Where did this guilt come from that drives you to do things that are as unnatural as the sin you are trying to hide?

As I thought about this question, it came to me that you and I need to ask that question today as we have to deal with our own brokenness, with our own sin, and the damage it does to us.

For I think we’ve been taught about sin in such a way that we react to it as Adam did, hiding, getting defensive, shifting blame, all in response to the guilt that convicts us far more cruelly than God would.

So who told you that you were exposed, that your sin was something so horrible that you had to hide?

Who told you to pass the blame?

As Adam was anxiously dealing with the idea that God found him.  As God asks Adam who told you that you were naked, did you eat of the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  While all that is scrambling his mind, he comes up with an answer.

Not my fault God!  It’s her fault, you know, the one YOU gave me.   She gave me the fruit, and because she is a blessing from you, I listened to her.

And since then, some men have avoided that problem, simply by not listening to their wives!

Of course, that causes other problems, and is just as sinful!

But who told Adam that the best way to deal with sin was to pass the blame?  To hide behind Eve, rather than hiding behind a tree?  Who told him that he wasn’t responsible for stopping Eve from falling into sin?

In trying to defend himself, to justify his own sin, Adam finds himself guilty of more than one sin, he finds himself shattering more relationships and allowing sin to get a better and better hold on his soul.

We do this all the time, and so does most of the world.  When we fear getting caught when we know the guilt and shame and embarrassment that comes from doing something we know we shouldn’t do or refusing to do something we should.

Who told us to do that?  Who told us that we needed to be defensive, that a defense even needed to be given?  For that is as much of a lie as the temptation to sin was in the first place.

Yet Adam does it, as will Eve, who will follow the pattern and play the blame game, blaming the snake for deceiving her, for leading her into temptation.

Who told us to hide, to try and escape from God’s notice. Who told us to hide behind others, trying to get them to pay for our sin?

Who told you about Eve’s offspring?

I am not sure where we get this idea to hide from God, but we do it all the time, don’t we?

What we need to hear, is the last verse of the passage, for it tells us how sin is to be dealt with.  It is the very first prophecy about Jesus in the Bible, what Luther called the “proto-gospel”.

You see it on the painting on the cover of the bulletin, as the offspring of Eve crushes Satan and all his minions on the cross.  Even as the serpent sees Christ die, Satan’s efforts to dominate, to lead people away from God are crushed.

This is what we need to know!  That sin, Satan, and death are crushed at the cross of Christ.  We have been made free!

Seeking Refuge, not Hiding

There is something that drives us to hide from God, and from others, like our parents, our spouses, our children, even our pastor, when we sin.

It is ironic when we run from God when we hide behind someone else, I think what we are trying to do is to find a place of rest, a place where the effects of our sin are negated, and we think hiding will provide it.  We don’t understand there is an option, there always has been.

We can seek refuge in God, instead of seeking a hiding place from Him.

Instead of laying the blame off on others, Christ will willingly, even joyfully remove it.

Seek refuge, not a hiding place.

Which means seek a refuge in God, we allow Him to remove all the guilt and shame, all the anxiety over punishment, all the anxiety of having our sinfulness exposed to the world.

For that was why He was looking for Adam and Eve, and until the cross, why He put them out of the garden.  Not as a punishment, but to sustain them until Christ’s death and resurrection would cleanse them from sin, and they and all who trust and depend on God were given refuge, in the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

For there we find life, and peace that is beyond compare or comprehension.  For in Christ we are kept secure, our hearts and minds are in His possession.  AMEN!!!

The Evidence Within, a sermon on 2 Cor 4:5-12

church at communion 2The Evidence is Within
2 Cor 4:5-12

† I.H.S. †

May the gifts of God’s mercy and peace become so integrated in your lives that everyone can see and praise God that Christ lives in you!

Can you keep going?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see my first two churches.  They are 115 miles from here, in a desert community called Yucca Valley.  Saw a lot of friends at one of them, as we gathered to pay respects to a man I helped trained in ministry.  He was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks after he was installed as a pastor at his first church.  Drove by the other, my very first church.

During the drive I back, I did a lot of thinking, about why I’ve been doing this twenty years as a pastor and years before that as a chaplain.  I thought about my friend, who at 62 started seminary to become a pastor, and who died a week ago.  I thought my own mentor that retired in that place whom I was able to see. And I thought about some of the challenges that fellow pastors and ministers are facing…

And I heard again these words of St Paul that were read this morning…

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

I’ve seen that statement become true not just in pastors’ lives, but Christians who live all over the world.  Some face physical threats, in places like the Sudan, or China.  Some are harassed and mocked because of their faith.  Some face challenges in the inner city, or in churches that struggle to survive, both financially and because of conflict.  I know a younger lady, with a master’s degree in International Business, who set that aide to be a missionary among the refugees in Turkey, while her sister is working at an orphanage school in Nigeria.  I know people who serve in churches as teachers or setting up everything every Saturday for Sunday service, who volunteer thousands of hours.

Not one of them does it for the accolades or the applause. Just like the Apostle Paul in that passage  – we don’t talk about ourselves. Those who know and follow Jesus serve each other and the world for Jesus sake.

Because God has shown the light of His glorious light into our hearts.

That is why all this is here… To help people know that…

Why?

In verse 6-7, Paul explains why people would embrace suffering,

. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

The light that invades the darkness…A darkness that affects our hearts and oppresses our very lives.

The darkness has a name, it is called sin.

What is this thing we call sin?  Basically, It is failing to love God and hear His voice as He shows us how to live.  It is failing to love Him and all those around us, helping them. even those that count themselves, enemies and adversaries, because God loves them and would invite them into this incredible relationship with Him, that would make them our family.

Sin can seem as little as a tiny lie or breaking an oath or gossiping about someone.  It can seem as big as murder or theft.  In every case, it works to destroy relationships, it plunges us into darkness.

This is the darkness God’s love shatters.

The love that we see in Jesus, as He died to remove all that darkness, all of the burdens, healing the relationships that have been broken.

That is what the cross is all about… the payment for the sin, but in order that we can be in fellowship with God, so that we walk with Him, not only during this life but eternally.

That is the reason for the forgiveness of sin, for the forgiveness of those times where we put ourselves first and forget God and others.  Yet despite the damage we’ve done, and may still do, God is willing to deal with it, He has dealt with it.  By dying on the cross for us, and rising from that death, so that even death cannot separate us from Him

This is what it means for Him to shine His glorious love into our lives, by revealing to us the love that erases the punishment, in the life and eternity, that we would have earned.

The Evidence

It is that glory that you see, in the lives of people that are willing to give up everything, fame, fortune, salaries, comfort, their own pride, even the right to be angry at someone who has hurt them.  This is the love you see, as someone gives up their comfort, or even their retirement, to serve others, This is the glory you see, the evidence that Jesus lives in us, even in us broken down older folk.

God loves us, and wants to cleanse all of us and make us His own people. His own children.   It is then we know the peace of God, which goes beyond all comprehension, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Transformed Minds: The effect of the Resurrection. We have life together… (with Him) Acts 1:12-20

church at communion 2Transformed Minds: The effect of the Resurrection
We Have a Life to Live, Together (with Him!)

Acts 1:12-20

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ surround us with peace, even as He guides our work together in Him!

A Test of Faith 

Most of you know I wasn’t always a pastor, for a while I was in management, and my undergraduate degree is in Organizational Management.

This is probably most surprising to some, but for a while, I was pretty decent at managing things, from restaurants and bookstores to a divisional department at Pepperdine.

When I became a pastor, I found out that not everything in management theory is transferable to church, and it is taking me over 20 years to determine what things will work, and what things do not.   One of those things is finance, personnel management quite fit either, and another is leadership development.

Look at today’s reading from Acts, I mean who would ever tell a CEO or COO to pick a replacement for the Board of Directors by flipping a coin or rolling a dice?   I mean what if our nominations committee did that… they just gave us a list of names of all qualified people for each office, and we just rolled a die to see who the next president, vice president, secretary and treasurer were?

Anyone want to take a chance at that method?  Let’s see, who would be qualified to be the next congregational president?  Al? Jim?  Bob?  You guys meet the qualifications, so we add you to the list…and flip a coin and let’s see what happens. Okay?  For vice president, all the names, and let’s roll some dice!

How much faith does it take, to hear God, and trust in an ancient way of asking His guidance that basically accepted that guidance based on a flip of a coin, or a roll of the dice?  We’ll get to the faith in a moment.

Replacing Judas ( to do what?)

That’s what they did, they cast lots, like the Urim and Thummim to choose who would replace Judas among the Twelve.

We know why he had to be replaced. In his actions we see the damage sin can do played out completely.  He didn’t trust Jesus, and so Judas betrayed Jesus, trying to force him to do what Judas thought was right.

That’s not only a sin we are all capable of, it is a sin that most of us are guilty of this week, and often enough to realize the guilt and shame that would drive Judas to death.  For that is what the guilt and shame does, when we realize the damage we have done, not listening to God or obeying His word.

Without Jesus, what happened to Judas would happen to us all,

Obviously, replacing Judas was important.  It is the first act of the church after the Ascension.  But one of the questions to ask is for what reason was Judas replaced?  Was it to be a leader or ruler of the church?  Was it to be a VIP on the Board of Directors, or to be the new Chief Financial Officer?

I mean we must have structure in the church, and these twelve and their roles are pillars in the church. So what does scripture say the role he was chosen for was.

Hear scripture again,

21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

Witnesses of Jesus Resurrection.  That is the role of the Twelve.  In Greek, they were the twelve Martyrion, the me who would be witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I wonder if Matthias and Barsabbas were volunteered for this?

That is the critical role of the church, to bear witness to the fact that Alleluia, He is Risen!
All other roles, whether elected offices or hired positions work to make this one task, being a witness to Jesus possible.  Which brings us back to choosing, and having faith in God in that choice.

How do we get that kind of faith?

So where should the faith come from, that leads us to trust God’s leading in choosing who will do this kind of work, or any work today?  It doesn’t matter whether it is a vote, or a flip of a coin, or whatever method, it doesn’t matter.

We have to trust God for whom He calls into leadership through the church.

Verse 14 and verse 2 show the secret.

“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer” and “they all prayed”.

They were gathered in the presence of God and communicated together as one! It is where the church finds unity, it is there where our dependence on God is encouraged, nurtured, strengthened, where we encounter God’s mercy as others show it us as well,

As one pastor shared it, Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

It is not because of our own strength that this happens, it takes God weaving us together, splicing the places where we have become frayed.  It is in the peace that the church is the church, that it bears witness to God’s love.

It as we find our lives in Jesus that things become clearer, and we simply focus in on the mission, of bearing witness to His resurrection, and our resurrection in Him.

For a Paul quotes,

27  “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)

That’s what the world needs to know, and you and I are sent to share that message, a message of great hope, incredible peace, all sustained by His mercy and love.  AMEN!

The Effect of the Resurrection. Part III Losing our ignorance – a sermon on Acts 3

church at communion 2

The Effect of the Resurrection
Transformed Minds,
Part III:  Losing our Ignorance

Acts 3

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ circumcise your heart, cutting away all the ignorance, hatred and sin. Leaving you holy, transformed in heart, soul and mind.  Amen!

I need a break! 

Over and over this week, there is one phrase that I kept on wanting to explore.  It is one I think I understand, but there are times, where I wonder what it would be like to experience such a time.

The phrase is, “times of refreshment”

I mean if our weeks at all were similar, you don’t know what that means either.

I mean it sounds like those days when we were young and were playing baseball or in our case hockey, or whatever, and after sweating and running around I the hot sun, we all had a cold glass of Kool-aid, then dove in the lake, or a friend’s pool

That sounds refreshing!

In our reading from acts, it is not just a time of refreshment that is promised as God transforms us, as our sins are wiped away, buts times, seasons of it. Time upon time of living in that refreshment, that time when the soul is healthy!

But as to what such a time is today, I am not sure.  You might say I am ignorant of such a time, but it sure sounds nice!

How could they be that ignorant?
As Peter discussed all of those who were involved in crucifying Jesus, he doesn’t call the people and their leaders, evil.  He doesn’t say they are wicked, or bad.  Instead, He says that they were ignorant, that they didn’t know better.
Now I suppose it is better to be called ignorant rather than evil. Still being called ignorant is not really fun to hear. In this case, where they rejected and crucified the Messiah, despite Pilate’s protest, it seems impossible.  How could they not know Jesus was the Messiah?

I think before we go any farther, we need to understand what ignorance in the Bible is.

It is not about having the data about something.  It goes deeper than that, and in fact, that depth is the key to defining ignorance and overcoming it.

We talked about this term last week, when the two disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and they didn’t know it was him.  The word isn’t talking about simple recognition, it’s the term that indicates understanding someone the way you can when you live with them for year and decades.  When you can finish their sentences for them when you know how they are feeling and what is on their hearts.

It is what, for lack of a better term, I call having an intimate relationship.

Not that kind, though oddly enough, the same word in Greek and Hebrew describes that as well.
They crucified Jesus because they didn’t understand Him.  Despite all the scriptures telling them about the Son of God, they did it.  They sinned.

Much the same as we do when we choose to sin.

We forget Jesus, we don’t understand or really, deeply know God.  And so, being ignorant about Jesus, being ignorant of God, we ignore the way He planned for us to live, a life of love and peace.

And a God draws us to Himself, as He brings us to repentance as He brings us to this transformation where we allow Him to cut away the sin, and the guilt and the shame, the ignorance is removed as well

And what we find out when we enter this relationship is that God loves us, He cares so deeply for us.  He makes us whole and brings us a peace.

That is what the ignorance was hiding, that is what we couldn’t know when we didn’t understand God.  And it was that way until God started to work in our lives. Until He brought us to repentance, to that place where our souls find healing, much as this lame man found healing.

Everything changes when we realize how much God loves us, how unwilling He is to be separated from us.

One pastor, in explaining how a church service is organized, explained this love of God in this way.

This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.

This is why we do what we do, why we worship the way we do, and study the Bible and pray, and remind each other of the Lord’s presence, for the more we do, the more we know Him, in a way that is so full of peace and joy.

It is as we see this God, revealed to us, that the power of sin is broken, that it is wiped out of our lives that we are free, that we finally find the love that we so need, and the peace, and the refreshment until He comes and restores all things…as He has promised.

So let us pray…

Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection, part 2: One heart and mind

church at communion 2Transformed Minds….
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2  One Heart and Mind
Acts 4:32-35

 In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus transform your heart and mind so that you united to Jesus, and to all who are His!

God’s Mega Blessings

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we heard a description of Concordia, and I want you to hear it again.

God’s great blessing was upon them all.

This is us.

Blessed, overflowing with the grace of God, overwhelmed by the presence of God, and if we take a moment to take a breath and think about it, or better, to look around us, we shall see it.

For we see the work being done in each other.  We may be completely oblivious as to what is going on in our own lives, but we see what is going on around us, and the peace that is found here.

I can look around the room, and see the same thing Luke described in the early church, a place where people are united in one hear, one mind, the very transformation that comes from knowing that….

Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

and therefore, (we are risen Indeed!  ALLELUIA!)

This is a natural transformation, actually supernatural…

As we look at the description of how the church interacted in this passage, it seems either naïve, r some socialistic plot, at first.

Karl Marx who used a description gathered from these verses to describe his perfect society, describing it this way, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

And wherever that has been attempted by law or by forcing people to believe it, it has failed.  Not because the idea is wrong, but because the transformation has been forced, rather than allowed to happen naturally,  It is put upon the people that this is the way they will live, rather than allowing love to cause it naturally, to be driven by the spiritual desire to love those around us.

We do that to often, even in the church, when we try and change people’s behavior without seeing their hearts and souls transformed by God, resurrected and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit draws them into Jesus, into His death and resurrection.

This is a long habit, dating back to the Pharisees, and probably before.  When they didn’t want the tax collector or the prostitute in Church.  When they paid more attention to the outside appearance of the individual, and the broken and different were sent away.

We want people to live generously, we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to give up the sins that so damage their lives.  What we want for them is good, if we don’t guilt them into it, or promise them some special blessing from God, if they only act the way we think God wants them to think and act,

It happens more naturally than that, or it might be better to say, more supernaturally than that…. For God moves us, His love transforms us.

The testimony causes it…

That is what the rest of the verse had mentioned,

The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.

The blessing that was upon them was delivered through the testimony that Jesus was no longer dead, that Praise God, He is risen….

And as the apostles proclaimed this, the people realized all the promises of God were poured out on them, for they were forgiven, cleansed, made the holy people of God our Father. They had become brothers and sisters of Jesus, counted no longer as servants, but as friends.

The gospel is not just the testimony of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is the testimony of what this means.

We are His, we are free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, God present with us, who comforts us, empowers us, and transforms us.

To use our motto, that is why we, the people of Concordia, are the broken people, who are finding healing in Christ, help others to heal.

It is why Cyndee and Carol and Linda find such joy in gathering women together for special events, knowing that they will bring joy into their lives.  Or why Jim and Manny had a few guys over for the first men’s time yesterday.  It is why Hank and his team from both congregations raised the money, and why Hank was down here each day, checking on the work.  It is why we help people who’ve lost homes or send Bernie back to Sudan, or why you sent me to China a few years ago.  It is why we have Al constantly talking about benevolence, and he doesn’t just talk about it.  It’s why we have Nancy keeping her prayer book and encouraging others to pray. It’s why Missy sets her anxiety aside to guide our worship, and why these people smile over here, as they hear your voices sing louder than theirs… I could go on and on, but this is the evidence of God working  Just as they did in the early church, each person helping the rest… not thinking about themselves.

We want others to know the love we know, or as Peter describes in His epistle, to be people with a future and a hope.

The love that we find here at the altar, its why a 2-3-year old will cling to it, not understanding, but knowing this is a special place. For many of us older folk as well… for here, reminded of how deep God’s love for us is, the resurrection becomes more than history, it becomes our life!

It’s the love given to us in our baptism, and that becomes more real each and every day.  For Ezekiel promised that God would change us,

The gospel is that God loves us, and cleanses and transforms us, something seen as we grow in love for one another, in a naturally supernatural way…..

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)

A love that brings us together, one heart, one soul, for ours is His heart, His soul….a love that causes us to dwell in His peace… united to Him… AMEN!

Let us pray!

as an added bonus…. the notes from Bible Study  (let me know if I should continue to post these!

What is Concordia
A Look at the Body of Christ


Why should we study what the church is?

If we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, then can’t all this come about naturally (Jer 31:34)?

 

Is the church in the day’s of the Acts of the Apostles better or worse from the church today?

The Lutheran Confessions describe the Church this way:
1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.

2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.[1]

 

Does this resonate with what we heard today in the sermon?  What caused the transformation in the believers?

Is Concordia the Church, or just part of the Church?

 

What does it mean that all the believers ( those having faith) are of one heart (kardia) and mind (psyche)

is this passage talking just about sharing money, or is that just an example?

What do people “need” in this church?

 

 

Back to being a witness to the resurrection.  What does that mean?  How can we be that today?

How do the sacraments fit into that? (1 Cor 11:26 &  Titus 3:4-8)

So are the sacraments still being a witness to the resurrection?

How much of one kardia and psyche do we realize during the sacraments?

[1] Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

 

The Transfigurations: The Light Shines! A sermon on 2 Cor. 3:12-4:6

church at communion 2The Transfigurations: The Light Shines!

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the transformation God is working in your life, as the Holy Spirit causes you to shine with God’s glory!

Two transfigurations?

If you looked carefully at the title of the sermon, you would have seen that the word transfiguration is plural.  You would also see the reading the sermon is based on is not the reading of Jesus transfiguration, that amazing day that stunned Peter, James, and John as Christ was transfigured, right before their eyes. 

Can you imagine being there, having Jesus revealed in all of His glory?  Would you drop to the ground in awe, or would you put your foot in your mouth like Peter did?  John would speak of it later with these words,

 14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

But this sermon is not about the transfiguration, it is about the transfigurations.  It’s not based on the Gospel according to Mark, but what we call the second letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.

It’s about the transfiguration the Holy Spirit is working on this morning, the transfiguration that is occurring to you and to me, as the glory of God is seen in our lives.

And because this is about our transfiguration, it, of course, it is about Christ being revealed to us, in all His glory as well.

What blinds you?

For the Jews in the time of Jesus and Paul, the Old Testament served as the veil which Paul describes.  Oddly enough it was voluntary at first, as people were so troubled by the glory and love of God that they couldn’t even look upon a reflection of the glory seen glowing in Moses.

They choose the veil, and they hung on to it as if seeing God, would overwhelm them.  Paul identifies that veil as the Law, the Old Covenant that allowed them to focus on all the law, on all the minutiae. On all the ways they can try to prove they are God’s choice, or on all the ways they fail and fail to see God’s mercy that is available to them.

But we have our veils as well, things that we think hide us from God, or at least His holiness, His glorious love from us.  Our veils are just as much a challenge, and we choose them and bind them about us.

The first veil is the one the Pharisees and Sadducees often wore.  It is the self-righteous we wear, that would melt away if we compared it to the glory of God.  We might consider ourselves good because we go to the best church, or because we have the better political beliefs, or because we don’t sin as blatantly as others.  We try to measure up to God’s law, well at least the commandments we haven’t overtly broken.  I mean, no one here murdered anyone this week, or committed adultery, or robbed anyone else…. Right?   ( I won’t mention “bear false witness- gossip” or “be envious of others homes, spouses, job, pets, – but I will project that on the screen!)

The other veil is self-condemnation, looking at all the rules and realizing that we can’t keep them, about living with the tears and shame that comes from hiding behind a veil, and realizing how we are wasting away in a prison of our own making. Thinking that because we can’t overcome sin and self-centeredness on our own, that this means we will never escape how it crushes us.

And we, who think we can hide behind a veil… often move from being self-righteous to being self-condemned, fluctuating day by day, sometimes far more frequent.

The veil stops us, but how can it be removed?

Only God Can And Has

It is removed when we trust in Jesus, as we depend upon Him to keep the promises made to us, about cleansing us from the sin we so hate.

This is the work of the Spirit, as we are turned to the Lord, as the Spirit takes away the veil, as Christ Jesus is revealed, and His work is made known.  As that happens, our lives are being changed,  our lives begin to reflect Christ, not as a mirror would, but something deeper.  For the Spirit begins to transfigure us, this is the same word that Mark uses in His gospel.   We are transfigured as we look to Christ, as we dwell in Him!  We begin to show His glory, as the Holy Spirit makes this happen!

We are changed for the glory of Christ didn’t just reflect from our lives, but as it made its mark there.  His glory, which we stand in awe of acts like a branding iron, forever marking us as His own people, a people who become more and more like Him. What a glorious thing!

It is why Paul says we can be bold, so assure of God welcoming us, His children, into His presence.  It is why we don’t give up, and why we strive to do things the right way, keeping this powerful word of God straight, undistorted, focused on Jesus, reveling in the fullness of His love!  It is so incredible, as Paul says, we don’t want to talk about ourselves, but rather the love of Jesus, and are willing to serve people to help them know that!

That is why Paul said we work so hard trying to reveal Jesus love to others. Hear His words again,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

The assurance of sharing in His glory, the assurance of being loved by the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit!  For one with Christ, you are being changed into one who shines with His glory.  This is the transfigurations!  Rejoice and rest in His peace!  AMEN!

Knowledge and Love: A Sermon on 1 Cor. 1:8-13

Kids phoneKnowledge and Love

1 Corinthians 1:8-13

†  In Jesus Name

 

As you experience the length and width, the height and depth of God’s love for you, may your knowledge be tempered by the love that God creates in your life, as you live your life through Him

Given a choice.. which will you choose for those you love?

There is a cute picture floating around the internet, of one of these.

It says above it, “it doesn’t matter how old or mean you are, when w toddler hands you one of these and say’s ‘it’s for you’, you take it and start talking into it.”

I think that is pretty much true, and I am tempted to try it on some of you afterward.

It’s because we care for our children, or grandchildren, or nephews or nieces or students. Or in the case of the teachers, our students. We love them, and they can melt the hardest heart.

So I want to think of that kid, who could get you to answer one of these.  Close your eyes, picture them in your mind and answer this question.

If you could choose what would be said about them at the end of their lives, would you desire it to be said they were geniuses, or that they loved and cared for the people around them and made a difference in their lives?

Not a difficult decision, or at least I would hope that it wouldn’t it be!

And in our gospel reading this morning, this is what the apostle Paul is talking about. And it is what we are talking about this morning, Knowledge and love.

Importance versus building up the community?

If I may, I would like to use a personal example.  When I was younger, there was this game called trivial pursuit.  Some of you may be familiar with it.

I loved it!  And I was…. pretty good at it.  Enough so that I usually won and proved the apostle Paul correct when he said, knowledge makes us feel important.  Some translations phrase it a little differently.  Knowledge puffs us up talking about our egos, and our minds.  And then one day, I looked at the name of the game again…

Trivial Pursuit.  What I was doing was chasing after what was trivial, what was meaningless.  And in the end, about all odd bits of knowledge were good for was putting little pieces of plastic inside another piece of plastic and annoying some friends.

While there is a lot of knowledge that isn’t trivial, there are enough examples of people who think they are more important than others because they have the knowledge given to them.  I won’t list the occupations, but I bet you are thinking of one or two professions that act that way.  Or you see yourself in this.

That is why Paul will say in chapter 13 if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (NLT)

Instead of focusing on knowledge, Paul tells us it is love that builds the house, in this translation, it translates the house as church.  But the concept works the same in the church, in the home, or in the community we call home.

In each, in our homes, in our church, in our community, it is love is what binds us together, it is love that makes that bond strong and causes us to grow as a family.

The challenge is loving others the way we love the kid handing us the phone.

In the example Paul uses, he talks about how this love changes us, using the example of food offered to idols.

For him, with all the knowledge of one who was a leading Jewish theologian and became the greatest of Christian pastor-theologians, the idea of food offered to idols was silly.

The idols were carved pieces of wood or rock, metal fashioned to look like how man imagined God to be. And because there was no inherent power in them, because they weren’t gods, eating the food someone else dedicated to them was of no great importance.

But it was of great importance to those who didn’t know different.  They saw the world as a cosmic battle between these false gods and the One True God who came to us, love us and died for us.

And while knowledge would say debate with them and show them the truth, love said that we needed to remember they weren’t ready for to hear that; be patient.  Winning the argument isn’t worth driving them from Jesus. We can go without being proved right in the small stuff, we can even go without that piece of bacon wrapped shrimp or stuffed pork chops rather than cause them to stumble and do what they thought was wrong.

It’s not worth the fight, it’s not worth the debate.  Such debates can destroy faith, but love puts it in the correct priority… and eventually, love will straighten it all out.

How it happens

But how do we love others, especially when we some people are just darn difficult to love?  And how do we teach our children, grandchildren, students and other children we come into contact with to love like Jesus loved us?

The answer on how to love like that, how to make a difference in someone else’s life isn’t found in some instruction manual, it isn’t found in a series of podcasts or videos.

It is found in knowing that we are God, as Paul said,

There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.

It is found in living for and in God that we find the love that changes us.  It forgives and removes our sin, and makes us holy, set apart to love God, to love His people.  It is something that is realized more than learned, something that we spend our life growing in, and as He changes us, we love, even those others see as unlovable.

For that is what knowing God’s love does, it changes us, and it gives us hope in the middle of what seems a lost and broken world.  That is why we are here, and why we have a place for kids, who will hand us a phone, and learn from us how to love.  As we learn it from God our Father.  AMEN!

He Makes His Home with US! A Sermon on John 1:1-14


Ratzinger on the IncarnationHis Presence Blesses Us as

He Makes His home among us

John 1:1-14

† In Jesus Name †

May you realize the joy and peace God gives you, as Jesus comes and makes His home, right here, with you!

Home for the Holidays

Maybe it is a certain smell, or perhaps an ornament you take out of the box, or it’s a Christmas Carol being sung in a certain way, but most of us have something that takes us back “Home” for the holidays.  You know, that place that exists in time, that defines what your heart knows as being home, as life is perfect.

For me, it is sitting at the piano that now sits in my aunt’s basement, much as it sat in my grandfather’s basement. It was there, playing Adeste Fideles and the First Noel that was a moment I define as being “home”. There are things that remind us of those precious days. And for those who are blessed, you can find more than one example of them.  Maybe it is this year that you will find the scene of home that will etch itself in your memory as being “home for the holidays” The time where being with friends and family when peace reigned and was so real

In our gospel reading this morning, we see an incredible statement about being home.

So Jesus became human, and made his home among us.

God became man and found a place to live. Here, among us.

Not just with the apostles back in the day, but here, with you and me.  He in our lives, where He still lives and reigns today.

In these incredible deep and complex words that start John’s sharing of the good news of Jesus, these words are the ones we most need to hear, the words that are the most mind-blowing, the hardest to make sense of,

Jesus became man, and made His home among us.

The Theology.

There is a lot in the passage, from the teaching about the Trinity to the description of the world rejecting Him.  Theologically, we could spend weeks going over the first five verses.  And the “who is God?” questions would still not find answers to satisfy everyone.

The next few verses, talking about some not recognizing and rejecting him, while others would be born again, not a physical birth but something more incredible, being born as children of God.
Theologians have talked and argued and wrote about such things since the first century.  Words longer my arm have been used by experts to determine exactly how God did what He didn’t describe.

These verses are all important – please understand me, we have to struggle with them, we need to work them, but tonight, we need to realize this.

God came and made His home among us.
His Home.

Other translations use the word dwelt with us, and that isn’t a horrid translation, but it doesn’t quite give the passage the full incredible joy that should overflow as we hear this.

First, because the word isn’t just dwelt, it is to tabernacle, to set up a residence with us.  For someone in the first century, this was setting up the permanent tent residences in which you would live.  It is setting up a home.

There is another sense to this, the idea that the verb is aorist tense.  It doesn’t have a definite time period, and in this case, not a specific end.  It’s not just about the day Jesus was born, or end the day He was crucified and died.

What this means is that we can say this.  Even as He came and made His home among the apostles, He is still coming and making His home among us.

And like the apostles, we behold His glory, we get caught up in His love, we find healing for our hearts and souls in His mercy, we find hope for our tomorrows, for He is present, and promises to never leave or forsake us.

He is here. He has made His home in our lives.

This is the place He calls home.

As we come to the altar, may you realize the glory you behold and the peace of God that will make you realize that you are home with God!  AMEN!

His Presence Blesses Us, as He Makes Us Holy! A Sermon on 1 Thes. 5

church at communion 2His Presence Blesses Us, as

He Makes us Holy!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

 In Jesus Name

 The Blessing

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your dependence on Him, as God fulfills His promise to make you Holy!

 How many of you…

A serious question to start with this morning.  

How many of you are always, and I mean always, joyful?

Honestly?

How about this one?

How many of you never stop praying? Every moment, of every day?

And how many of you can you say you are thankful for everything God is doing in your life and has done in the last six months?

Has anyone been able to answer all of those questions positively?

I couldn’t, either.

Which is why the apostle Paul urges us to do so if it was common to do, he wouldn’t be urging his readers then, or us now, to do so.

But rather than hear him urging us to do so, because he knows we will benefit from it, what we usually hear just causes us guilt, and maybe some shame.

Why can’t I do what God wants me to do, our mind says, why can’t I be the person who knows joy every moment, the person who is always thankful, the person who always trusts God and gives to him all that worries us in prayer?

And so what is good advice turns into something we feel we can’t live up to…

And what about this? (Stifling the Spirit)

Then there is the challenge that Paul presents in verse 19, where it talks of not stifling or quenching the Holy Spirit.

The word there in Greek means to suck dry, to dampen, to take all the punch out of it.

It explains it a little clearer in the next verses, as we see the challenge to not dismiss those who claim to speak for God but to test them.

To see if they speak what is Godly and scriptural, what is good.

Does it teach what scripture says, to first love God and then love our neighbor?

Does it work within the guidelines God sets up in the Decalogue, the ten commandments, or in Philippians where Paul instructs us to Philippians 4,

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

If it fits within those guidelines – this is good, hold on to it, hold onto it!

Grasp it!

Don’t let go.

If it pulls you away from God if it causes you to put yourself before showing love and mercy to others, if it is contrary to any of God’s commands, then drop it.

For it is bad, it is evil.

That is the simple test – if it helps you know God and shows love to your neighbor – hang on to it.  If it doesn’t completely stay away from it.

And if you do that – living joyfully, giving all your burdens and anxieties to God, and being thankful in all things becomes something that you can begin to do, for nothing is impeding the work of the Holy Spirit!

Here is where it happens!

If we struggle to do the things we should do as God’s people, then we need help.

The Holy Spirit provides that help and more, as the Apostle Paul also states in this passage.

“Now may the God of peace make you holy, in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!”

You see, it is God who saves us, who makes us, and keeps us blameless

This is the blessing that comes to those who trust in God and are baptized, as we are united to Jesus at His death for us on the cross, and with His resurrection.

Not just forgiving our sins once, and leaving it up to us, but giving us the promise that in Him, every sin is forgiven.

That as James writes, we can confess our sin and know He is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

It is that ongoing ministry of God, His keeping us blameless through His words, through remembering the promises of our baptism, to the promises here as we commune with Him at the altar, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

You see, being holy, isn’t about being perfect.

We can try.

We must try!

But holy at its root, means to be set apart.

If Dr. Larry in his chemistry lab doesn’t set apart certain pieces of equipment to deal with this chemical and not others, explosive things might happen!

For example, his students could accidentally make nitro-glycerin.

(By the way, that is why Pastor Parker was never allowed to take chemistry!)

Certain things need to be set apart for everyone’s good.

That setting something apart is what is at the meaning of the word “holy.”

and the other word which translates from the same Greek word, “sanctification.”

God makes us holy, in every way, as the Spirit brings us to life in Jesus, and then keeps us holy, giving us the desire for that relationship.

When we do sin, the Spirit reminds us and urges us to run to God and ask for forgiveness, depending on His promises.

This is how God makes us holy, His special people.

As He does so, we are thankful to Him for all He does, assured that He loves us

We learn to continually pray, giving to Him all that concerns us in prayer, all that worries us, all that grieves us.

And we live in joy, knowing the love and mercy and peace of our God.

For He has promised, and God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful!  AMEN!

One more time, hear the blessing and promise the Apostle Peter gave us today,

23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

Amen?  AMEN!

Blessed to Be in His Presence: Free from Blame and made Partners: An Advent Sermon on 1 Cor 1

church at communion 2We Are Blessed to Be in His Presence

Free from Blame and Made His Partners!

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

  I.H.S

 As the Apostle Paul desired for the Corinthians, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace!

 Thank God you belong to Jesus!

An observation I heard more times than I could count yesterday is one familiar.

“How do people get through this without Jesus?”

“How does the secular world deal with this?

And to be honest, I don’t know, but I have an answer to their problem, at the end of this message.

So when I got back to church yesterday, and I looked again at the passage, what caught my eye more than it did before was Paul giving thanks to God for his people and the grace He’s given, for they belong to Jesus.

And so memories of after the service came back, so many of your faces, resonating with these words of Paul.

I have to thank God that it the grace He has given so evident, as is that you belong to Jesus, you are His!  All of the words of comfort you offer each other confirms it, as we seemingly do it month after month, year after year.  The gospel I share with you from up here, or in the MPR, I get to see them lived out far more clearly, as the riches of God’s gifts is seen in you.
I don’t have to prove His presence is true, you know that, even if you are little hazy about all the details, we cannot deny that God carries us in times like these.

Look at what we do, this isn’t possibly without God’s work being true

I don’t know how often you think about Jesus coming back, never mind are eagerly waiting for His return.  Most of the time for me, it is a prayer of desperation, a prayer because I don’t know how we are going to cope any longer, or dare I say, how much more of a challenging life we can endure. 

That’s the same kind of feeling Isaiah had in the Old Testament, when he cried, Lord, just burst open the heavens and come down!!!!

We’re waiting Lord!  Just rip open those skies and get down here!

I mean what are you waiting for Lord?

We’re not the first people to struggle, and we aren’t the only people who think the struggle’s gone on long enough.  According to the Book of Revelation, even those in heaven, those who testified to God’s love cry out, “How long, O Holy and true Lord, how long until the suffering is dealt with?”  (Rev. 6:10)

God’s answer to them is rest a little longer, the number of your brothers and sisters aren’t complete.  Remember that please.  That the number isn’t complete….

The church is like Maxwell house….

So how do we endure all the suffering?  All the pain that sin causes in our lives?  If God won’t come and take us all home right now, how will we get past tomorrow?

How can we endure to the end?  How will we be strong and faithful from this moment until Christ returns?

While Jesus isn’t coming back for the final judgment yet, He promised that God would never abandon us, that He would never leave us alone.  Here he promises it again,

“He will keep you strong to the end,”

But it doesn’t end there, there is more , “so you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus returns”

Hear that guys?  All blame!  By guys I was talking to the men who are to blame for everything!  You know who you are!

Seriously, that promise is twofold.  The first is that God will personally sustain us, and keep us strong until Jesus returns.  The second is that we will be blameless – completely righteous, innocent of all sin, completely cleansed by God, our soul completely healed.

What we can’t do, He did already.  For our strength comes from our being untied to Jesus’ death and resurrection in our baptism, in God claiming us as His, for it is when we were united to Jesus that we became His, new creatures, that He fully cares for and sustains.

Because of Him we were sinners, and now we are forgiven, righteous, holy, and this is how Jesus will find us, the very work He did on the cross made it possible, and made it happen

Partnership with Christ – from His death till He comes again

So let me bring back up the idea of how people get through this life without knowing God.

It’s not supposed to be that way, and in fact, even as God planned for us to be blameless and holy, and strong to the last drop, he planned for those people who didn’t know His comfort.

Just as the Father sent Jesus to us, Jesus sends us to them.

You heard me right, that’s what the idea the Apostle is getting to, when he says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what He says, and he has invited you into partnership with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Our partnership, our communion, our fellowship with Jesus is so complete, we share in His vocation of Savior.  Not that we are crucified for their sins, but they hear about that incredible act of love, and the resurrection through us.  They hear of the love of God that will sustain us through this seemingly broken, shattered life.

And our words will confirm the work of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Him, as we share the hope we have.

They don’t have to go through this life without Christ, and certainly, we know that God doesn’t desire that they go through life without hope, and for that reason, He isn’t come back yet…

You and I are Jesus partners, have been since our baptism, and through us, through the gospel, we share with family and friends, they will know that God is with them as well…

And then on the days when they like us are broken and exhausted, or tire of crying, and dealing with the guilt and shame of sin, they will know the power and beauty and strength and peace found in these words,

The Lord, who loves you, is with you!

AMEN!

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